Thursday, November 21, 2013

Now, I'm a Boobleiver

by Cathy

Oprah told me to do it. Katie told me to do it. Countless magazine articles told me to do it. But did I listen? I wanted to. Really. I just never made it a priority - until I had to.

One of the perks of my job is to check out new places, products and things before others do, so that I can write about them in the hopes that those others either buy them or at least, check them out. So when the opportunity came along to get a professional bra fitting (with a complimentary bra in my properly fitted size, valued at $65) my "girls" bounced at the chance. They've been left hangin' there far too long.

Wacoal wowza! This bra is my new breast friend!

The results? Like 80% of women out there, I was definitely wearing the wrong bra size. In fact, like 80% of women out there, my current size wasn't even close to what I should be wearing. No wonder  the bra's backside was riding high and my boobage was riding low and why I tugged and pulled and lifted and adjusted all day. And overall? I just looked and felt hunched and schlumpy.

For the sake of science, womanhood and perky silhouettes everywhere, I will reveal my "numbers" to the world:

Current size: 36 B/36 C
Actual size: 34 DDD

Triple, freaking, D.

"Why are you so surprised?" exclaimed my husband along with a few of my friends. "Your boobs are huge!"

Okay my boobs aren't small but they aren't as ample as some cleavages sported by other au natural and faux boobers combined. But never in a million years did I think I was a TRIPLE D.
D. D. D.

After countless "Are you sure(s)???" from me to the fitter, she patiently explained it all to me -  the full, yet sexy coverage, the lack of side-boob spillage, the point at the exact spot on my back where the bra line is meant to hit, the fact that even though the bra felt tight, I still had plenty of give on the band and had me take a step back to examine my overall lifted, youthful silhouette. "See?" she marveled, pointing at my breasts. "This is where things should be," she said, eyes crinkling with delight.

She also matter-of-factly told me that I was putting on my bra incorrectly (we must bend over and spill into the cups naturally) and washing incorrectly (we must hand wash and air dry, but ain't nobody really got time for dat). And those hooks, by the way? They are meant to expand with your bra. You are to start with the outermost set of hooks first and once you get to the third and last set of hooks and you're ridin' and saggin', it's time to say ta-tas to that bra!

As if all of this information wasn't shocking enough, the reaction I got from my unassuming (or so I thought) family, really surprised me. I told no one about my new secret weapon - my dirty little secret. One day, I just put it on and went with it.

Scene 1:
That same day, I was meeting my husband for a quick afternoon coffee before picking up the kids from school. I parked in the Starbucks lot and walked in to find my husband sitting by the window, working.
"Hey!" I said as I hung my purse on the chair.
"Oh my God I didn't even recognize you," he said.
"Really? Why?"
"There's something, I don't look different."


"I'm wearing a new bra," I said flatly.
"Wow, you can really see the difference! Even your posture has improved!"

Scene 2:
I had my new bra on, engaged in closet eyelock when my oldest, Isabella, came barging into my room. (Knocking? What's that?)
"Hey mom, where's....OH! Hey! That's a nice bra!"
"It doesn't really look all that different from the other ones I have," I replied dryly.
"Yes it does! This one is cute. And chic! I didn't know you had bras like that!"

Scene 3:
We were, of course, elbow deep into our entrees at a Mexican restaurant with the family when my youngest decides she has to go kaka. Of course, I took her. She tends to get super chatty when she's going kaka and starts blabbing about random this, that and the others. As I was standing there, waiting patiently and salivating over finishing my enchiladas mole, she looks at me quizzically,  cocking her head to the side as she sized me up - literally.
"Mom, you look taller," she finally said.

Oh, for the love of the Lord - not her too. If a seven-year old notices...

"You think so?" I played along. "Why do you think that?"
"I don't know you just look taller, like you're standing up straighter or something. You look nice."

Apparently, a properly fitted bra can improve my posture, make me look taller, perkier, younger and more stylish! My big boobs have said ta-ta to my saggy bras and now I'm ridin' perky.

I am officially a bra-fittin' boobliever!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Running Scared

by Cathy

Last week, I had lined up a workday downtown with various store visits and meetings. Before entering one of these meetings, I had about 25 minutes of reprieve, which allowed me to sneak in a quick lunch in the form of a McDonald's Premium McWrap. I entered the waiting room/lobby of my next meeting early and as I was helping myself to a cup of water, with my lunch sprawled out across the counter and bags half-falling off my shoulder, I noticed a woman behind me waiting patiently for me and my exploded belongings to make way.

"Oh, I'm sorry," I replied, hurriedly scooping up my unraveling McWrap, careful not to spill my teetering cup of water. "I'll be out of your way in a second."

"Don't worry about it," she said with a flick of her wrist. "I know how it is. Always going, going,
going,"she laughed knowingly. "I'll tell you, you know, we're always running, things to do, places to go,
but to be honest?" She stopped what she was doing and looked me square in the eyes.

"I'm scared of slowing down."

That made me stop in my tracks. I chuckled at her and blurted out a commiserating "I hear you!" before turning away to find a seat.

Her words played over and over in my head. "I'm scared of slowing down." She verbalized what a lot of us do on a subconscious level. Enough to make me slow down and take it in.

We all bitch about how tired we are, how much we have to do, how little time we have for this or that. But really...really...if someone were to take these responsibilities, jobs and obligations away from you tomorrow, what would you be left with? What would you do??

For some, slowing down is the beginning of that end. What would it mean if we slowed down? Would it mean we might just stop altogether? Give up on life, goals, dreams and plans? Would we no longer be deemed worthy to our loved ones or to ourselves? Or would it mean that we were forced to face the stillness of life, that moment when we hear nothing but our own voice, see nothing but our own true self (which was lost long ago amidst life's plans and paths), and realize that we haven't done what we wanted to do for ourselves? Fittingly, I saw the following posted on Arianna Huffington's Facebook page today as I sat down to write this post:

Silence is not just about not talking. It's a void...a place where all things come from...all voices, all creation...when you're standing on the edge of silence, you hear things you've never heard before...and in ways you've never heard them before.  -- John Francis

For many, this type of self-reflection can be very traumatizing - especially when we don't like what we see staring back at us; when we don't want to hear the voices that come from that silence. And so we run from it. We create static to break the deafening silence that threatens to disrupt life as we know it. We keep running...scared.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hives and Lows

by Cathy

NOTE: This post was dangerously close to being called The Farts and the Pimps. You have S, Patti's daughter, to thank for the much more refined title above. :-) 
I also thought this to be scary enough to merit a Halloween day post. 

Happy Halloween!!

One of the many Sour Grapes listed on our homepage is "The Collapse of the Universe When a Man Gets Sick". I'd like to clarify: this refers to the collapse of the universe inside said man's head. The actual, entire universe literally collapsing? That is what happens when a woman (the wife, mom, homemaker and CEO of any household) gets sick.

But what happens when both parents get sick? At the same time? That my dear readers, is fodder worthy of a blog post.

A scary situation (and sight)

Several weeks ago, I contracted what was some form of the stomach flu by way of having my seven-year old vomit all over everything in our king-size bed. (This in itself? A post for another time.) I say "some form" because this virus was unlike any other stomach flu virus I've had, which usually lasts 24 hours and done. My kid had a fever after her initial vomit attack and was out for a day or two with occasional diarrhea.

Me? No vomiting, and aggressive nausea and pains in my stomach that led to nowhere except one horrific episode of diarrhea whereby my extremities stiffened and froze up rigor-mortis style, my guess, due to dehydration. As frightening as that was, what came next was even worse and completely unexpected: a rash of tiny red bumps that exploded all over my arms and legs with a spattering on my torso and back, that itched like a mother and lasted four days.

After several frantic Google searches and calls to family, I discovered that apparently it's completely normal for a virus to expel itself from your system via a rash. Since I had no vomiting and very little diarrhea, the rash is what my body went to. And me? I went crazy.

My husband had to step-up and basically take over all of my household tasks. He washed dishes (he wasn't sure how to load the dishwasher), he packed lunches (and included a hand-written note in each bag, and " come you never do that??"), he packed snacks (he plopped an entire peanut-encrusted taffy apple, still in the packaging, into my second grader's snack bag to be brought into a classroom with nut allergies galore), he cooked frozen foods for the kids and did the best he could....considering...that the flu virus was creeping its way into his system.

"I'm fading," he moaned as he came into the bedroom where I was breathing heavy with stomach pains. I was half munching on Saltines and looked like death warmed over. He fell onto the bed in shivers and began trying to psyche himself out. "It's all in your head," he murmured between gasps. "You're fine." But he wasn't, God bless his delusional soul. He was being hit by yet another version of this chameleon-like virus/monster that entered our home. And we both knew it was taking over.
For two days, we shuffled around the house burping, expelling gas, sipping Coke or some other carbonated drink. We looked (and felt) like zombies: me, pimply-rashed and hunched over in nausea, shivering from the urge to resist scratching my skin off, and he, holding himself through fits of chills and fever. We bumped mindlessly into one another, taking turns quasi-tackling the necessary everyday tasks, tossing coins for who was going to chauffeur the kids to and fro school or pack lunches (I'm really not sure what the kids ate those couple of days), overextending our very necessary bathroom visits as a form of exhausted escapism and crawling under the bed covers in hopes the other wouldn't notice. It was a nightmare to say the least and brought to mind the dreadful conundrum of parenthood: How do you take care of your kids when you cannot take care of yourself?

Somehow, as all parents do, we literally muddled through it and came out on the other side. No physical scars remain yet the emotional scars we all endured as a family will be with us always - and that is more frightening than All Hallows Eve.

Mwuah ha ha ha ha!!!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Clown Car Condo

by Cathy

We are a family of four, living it up city style. That means, we have a two-bedroom condo in a six-unit building in a bustling, trendy neighborhood in Chicago. Although we looooove our neighborhood and our place is more spacious than your average two-bedroom condo, we're kinda bustin' out at the seams.

First off, we have two girls. Girls have a lot of stuff. And since one is still a young seven year-old and the other is on the brink of teenageapalooza, the stuff varies from dollhouses, zillions of stuffed animals, coloring books, legos and Barbie/American Girl accessory overload, to an unGodly number of scarves, purses, shoes, makeup, hair products, hair accessories, techy gadgets and...clothes. My God, the clothes. They are simply. Everywhere.

Our condo goes through a sort of rebirth every few years or so, which is imperative if humans are to live there. I've purged, reorganized, rearranged, redesigned, remodeled, rethought, recycled, reused, stored and purged again all of the stuff we've accumulated over the course of the 16 years we've lived there.

About a month ago, a teenage cousin of Joe's flew in from Mexico and will be our houseguest for six months, which spacewise, translates into half a century. A whole different type of flurry ensued in the two weeks I had to prepare for this. I desperately stacked stuff into Leaning Towers of Pisa on the shelves of my closets, based on the urging of my husband to "Use the space going up!!" So dangerously high are these stacks of blankets, sheets, sleeping bags, comforters, pillows, duvets and bedspreads, that one strong breath or slight nudging of a hanger below them, will send the entire cotton/polyester blend of a mass tumbling down upon us, whereby we will literally be suffocated by stuff.

Since our guest is sleeping on a pull-out sofa in the living room, the front hallway closet, where we normally keep all of our outerwear, has now been assigned as his closet. This means, there is no rhyme or reason to where any of the former contents are stored; each one-fourth of our coats, sweaters and jackets are respectively downstairs in storage, in my bedroom closet, on the kitchen/mudroom coat hooks and a portion still stuffed into the corners of the original closet he is now using.

That closet was also being used to store my handbags. Behold, now, their temporary storage space:

Why, yes. That is the toy chest in my girls' bedroom you're lookin' at there. I have become that mom who tells their kids that handbags are more important than wads of stuffed animals. But have no fear, they aren't going without; we still have clusters of cuddly thingamabobs dangling from the rafters in their room, piled high on their beds and crammed into their closet, so as priority would have it, the plush critters from the toy chest are tucked in our basement storage space for now....or...for EVER.

No, it's not fun finding the space within an already confined space but it really is fun having a houseguest through which we get to experience the great city of Chicago as tourists all over again and whom the girls can hang out, chat and play with as the older brother they never had. And bonus! Joe and I get a built-in babysitter for some much needed time out of the house.

Now, if we could only find our jackets...

(*For more clown car fun that is our lives, check out Patti's "Clown Car Purse" post!)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Dancing with the Devil

by Cathy

"Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter's honor."

“There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games.”

 "Bullfighting is not a sport; it is a tragedy."

-- Ernest Hemingway

The above three quotes are all attributed to Ernest Hemingway. He refers to bullfighting as an art, a sport and a tragedy, respectively. For the purposes of this post, I'll take the unbiased, middle ground and refer to it as a sport. For me, bullfighting has always been synonymous with Hemingway. He made his love of Spain and Cuba evident via his novels, but specifically first brought attention to bullfighting in his novel, The Sun Also Rises.

While on vacation this past summer in Mexico, our trip coincided with a bullfighting tour. For years my husband had tried to time our visit to Mexico for this, but it wasn't to be the case until now. He eagerly, happily, excitedly plunked down his pesos and got tickets for our entire family to attend. 

I hadn't given specific thought to bullfighting. I just knew it involved a matador (or torero, as they chanted in the arena), a bull and a fight between the two, which may or may not result in the death of a bull.
The fights we saw were held in an all-season arena, in the evening, so there was no sun/shade seating to be chosen. The Plaza D' Toros was not an overly intimidating arena but there was a foreboding light within its walls and the faint smell of metal and animals. Interesting Fact: Bullfighting arenas are always round so as not to give the bull an opportunity to corner the fighters.

The performance began with a welcoming parade; basically a two-horse buggy where the horses have elaborate headpieces and the buggy holds two young, beautiful girls waving to the audience as this chariot makes a few laps around the arena. Obviously, geared towards a male audience, although the audience boasted a healthy female attendance. The two women seated behind us were louder and more demanding than most of the male spectators.

The bullfighters enter the ring to the sound of a live marching type band and gracefully yet firmly walk over to the side of the arena with the President's balcony. They are colorfully and elaborately dressed in their heavily embroidered capes, black hats and flamboyant garb of a unitard and a bolero jacket. They raise their hats in a salute to the President and the crowd. The arena empties, the band stops playing and there is an eerie silence. All eyes are on the huge, wooden, bolted door that leads to the bullpen.

In the midst of the dead silence, the sound of running hooves is heard before the door swings open and we see a 1,000+ pound bull charge blindly and ferociously into the arena. It's oddly quick for its hefty size. The expert spectator sitting in front of us, upon learning that this was our first bullfight, was more than eager to explain to us the process, the meanings, the traditions and reassure the children to not be afraid. This was a welcomed comfort for us. "These bulls are bred to be vicious," he explained as he watched my girls' faces. "They are bred to be fast, strong and to kill."

The first fight was with a bullfighter on horseback. I will spare you the details of this, but all I can say is that he did such a terrible job, he broke down in tears afterwards due to the dishonor he brought forth to the sport, got booed by the audience and left us traumatized. I was this close to taking the kids and leaving. Our fellow spectator guide explained: "This is not the way this should be done. For bulls to be killed in the ring, it should be an honor. He dishonored this bull by killing it the way he did. It should be clean, effortless and honorable." Let's leave it at that.

The remaining fights were with the traditional matadors. Watching these, when done right, I understood what our guide was trying to explain. Much like witnessing the proverbial car accident, at times I found myself not wanting to look away.

I realized that during each fight, I would go through a whirlwind of emotions - at first rooting for the matador when the bull charged out with such might that he could easily gore anyone in its path; then twinges of nervousness and sadness when the bull was weakened by the banderilleros as they pierced darts into the bull's spine; then mesmerized by the "dance" between the matador and the bull - my favorite part - whereby the matador "dances" with the bull, standing within inches of it as it charges into the muleta, or cape. One matador bravely "hugged" the backside of the bull as it twisted and turned in circles around him. It was a beautiful, artful display of man versus beast, this dance with the flowing red cloths and the matadors standing steadfast, poised like a ballet dancer, yet leaning in towards the bull, feet firmly grounded like an athlete.

Lest we forget, bullfighting is an extremely dangerous sport. We almost witnessed the death of a young matador-in-training during our event when his nervousness caused him to trip and fall backward, causing the bull to charge directly into his torso. Were it not for protectively padded horses and the banderilleros coming to his aide, he could have died. That is the point when I realized that this is real. That this was more than a sport. That anything can happen. That we can be witness to someone's death.

This is why the final act of the killing of the bull left me conflicted: it's kill or be killed. It's just a shame that it even needs to come down to this. But therein, my friends, lies the controversy of bullfighting in general. Interesting Fact: Banderilleros can only lance the bull head-on and a bullfighter can only kill the bull directly from the front. Depending on how honorable the kill is, the President decides the prize for the matador, usually in the form of one or two ears from the killed bull.

"I am not going to apologize for bullfighting. It is a survival of the days of the Roman Colosseum. But it does need some explanation. [Bullfighting] is a tragedy. A very great tragedy. The tragedy is the death of the bull. It is played in three definite acts. The entry...the planting of the banderillos...[and the mastering of the bull with the muleta which leads to the death of the bull.]"
- excerpted from the Toronto Star Weekly, columns by Ernest Hemingway, 1923

As I thought about what I had seen that night, I couldn't help but recall Jack Nicholson's famous line as Joker in the 1989 movie, Batman, asked by him of all his prey, right before killing them:

"Ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?"

Some prefer to call this a blood sport; others call it an art. There are many advocates and critics of this sport alike, for obvious, respective reasons.

It's the fight fought since the beginning of time itself: man versus beast. I will leave it up to you to determine who's the devil in this delicate dance.

Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter's honor.

Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter's honor.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Rocky Mountain High

by Cathy

Colorado has long been on my bucket list; this summer, I got to cross it off!

We landed in Denver. I had envisioned the Mile High City to be just that - a city sprawled across rolling hills, mountains, peaks and valleys. But alas, it was disappointingly flat. With my hand placed firmly over my eyes like a visor, I squinted determinedly past the buildings into the horizon in an attempt to spot those famous landscapes. After a few minutes, I made out the vague outline of mountains against the setting sky. My heart leapt! We were on our way to Vail and my eyes couldn't wait to get their fill of mountains.

You may think that it doesn't make sense to take a trip to Vail in the summertime, but for us not-so-avid skiers, this was a perfect time to check out this famous spot without the overwhelming madness that ensues when snow, cold, and throngs of people lugging heavy ski equipment are descending on these mountains.

Our family settled in to our rental car and for the duration of our almost three hour trip, we marveled, pointed and clicked away at the Colorado mountains and the countless, endless sea of trees that covered them, the snow-capped Rocky mountains situated behind them in the distance, the uphills and downgrades of the road that forced even small trucks to snail along with blinkers on, the clouds rolling in and out of view, shading the mountains black. Before we knew it, the quaintness of Vail, nestled at the base of these famous mountains, came into view and into our hearts.

We spent two days at the Arabelle in Lionshead, one of two main towns in Vail, where we swam in rooftop pools with the ski lifts dotting the runs on the mountains behind us;

We biked, walked and explored the cobblestone streets which could essentially resemble any quaint European city (and which are heated in the winter, as are pretty much all pool decks),  lined with stores, restaurants and galleries.

We rode gondolas and ski lifts up to the tops of mountains for rides that lasted up to 10 minutes. That's a long time when you're traveling "just" to the top of a mountain. 'How could we possibly go any higher?' I thought to myself as my ears popped. I literally expected that we'd be entering the clouds and I would fully expect to touch the sky when we eventually got off.

Then we were off to The Osprey at Beaver Creek, just fifteen minutes west of Vail and apparently, a much more vigorous skiing experience than Vail. In fact, two world ski tournaments are expected to be held there in the coming year, where hopeful Olympic athletes (and medaled ones as well) will be participating. There we did some more mountain-viewing swimming.

Our condo (much more popular in these parts than hotel rooms due to the advantage of the room size with respect to ski gear) was literally within arm's reach of a ski lift - the only hotel in the world that boasts this access.

We took a pass on the year-round ice skating rink in the town's center but only because we were busy taking jeep tours into two neighboring mountains and dining on some of the most innovative cuisine in the state while deer pranced across outside our windows. Oh, and the Aspen trees...I simply couldn't get enough of the Apsen trees.

Despite the altitude - at our highest point, we were at almost 13,000-feet above sea level - we were lucky to experience no altitude sickness, except for the occasional shortness of breath when we walked briskly or uphill/downhill. We kept hydrated with tons of water and took things easy, taking in magnificent vistas and panoramic eagle-eye views. We purposefully took in more clean mountain air than our lungs could handle, as if storing up for the long Chicago winter ahead. And speaking of winter, who knows? We may be adventurous and make the trek out there for some skiing - bunny slope style, of course - on the mountains of Vail. Just for the thrilling high of it.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Spider Woman

by Cathy

Just a few short days back from our trip to Mexico, I sat in the kitchen on a Sunday morning, sipping my coffee and relishing the calm before the storm: back to school, back to work, waking up. I trolled through Facebook to help me relax and start off one of my last few days of rest in a mindless state.

A local news station had posted a story about a girl in a wheelchair in Oregon who had to call the fire department to swat a GIANT spider that had somehow entered her home. At first glance of the pic, the critter didn't look very intimidating. However, zoomed in, that sucker was huge. And apparently, it was a rare, venomous type that could kill with its bite. Ironically, one of the girls' aunts was recently hospitalized after a spider bite. Note to self: hold off on visiting Oregon.

Courtesy: ABC News Chicago

I went through the rest of my day doing laundry, changing sheets, reorganizing, cleaning, and basically the hectic hell you go through once back from vacation, which immediately cancels out your vacation.

I found the car charger for the DVD player in the kitchen and went on a hunt to find the DVD player case which we had taken on our trip. After much searching, I spotted it in the corner of our living room on the floor. I picked it up, opened the velcro flap and immediately flung the case back down to the floor and let out a sharp, brief yelp. My skin was crawling with goosebumps. As if by power of The Secret, along came a spider...this time in my home in Chicago.

"Oh my God, oh my God, hurry up, hurry up get me something!" I urgently yelled at my clueless tween, sitting at the dining room table nearby humming along to some iTunes song while finishing a school project. She didn't move. The spider had flung off the case in the impact and was crawling along the edge of our area rug. This was the biggest spider I had ever seen in our house - not as big as the one in Oregon, but it sure looked like it at the moment. It was bulky and brown and just ewwwwww!
"Give me something to whack it with!"
"Huh?" turned Bella towards me. "What's going on?"
Arianna rushed into the room. "What's going on? Mommy, what's going on? What's happening?"

I had to take matters into my own hands. With a burst of energy, I leaped like a superhero over our sectional in one fell swoop and dove for the September issue of Glamour sitting nearby, with several pages cut out and strewn about. Thank God for heavy, September issues.
"That's for my collage!" yelled Arianna.
Without saying another word, I whipped back around, shut my eyes and slammed that ugly thing with all my might, simultaneously killing the beautiful Louis Vuitton handbag ad on the back page.

The girls stood speechless to take it all in and then Bella lets out the loudest screech I've ever heard - and that's saying a lot. "AhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhOMGaaaaahhhhhhhhEwwEwwEwww that is the worst thing I've ever seen!"
"It's a spider Bella!"
"Ewwww, there's a big red splotch on the floor! Ewwww, ewww!" She was horrified.
"The spider was big but it was brown, not red. Get me some toilet paper!"
I waited over the spider to make sure it was completely dead and not half-assed dead. Still no toilet paper was brought since she was in a corner freaking out.
"Really?? I killed it! It's dead!"
I walked back over to pick up the splattered spider and finally saw it. There was a dried, red rose petal sitting right next to the mess. I began laughing out loud.
"Um, saw a rose petal, not the spider."
"Huh?" she came in hopeful.
"That was a petal from the flowers papi got me for my birthday in Mexico. I had pressed them into the magazine and it flew out when I killed it."
She let out the biggest sigh ever. "Oh my God, oh my God, I thought it was the spider!"
No wonder she freaked. That would have been traumatizing if that had been the spider. She walked away relieved, yet still pale.

I wiped away the mess and was paranoid the entire rest of the day, waiting to spot giant, lurking spiders in any corner of any room, taking my phone with me everywhere I went, with my hand on the dial pad, ready to call the fire department at a moment's notice.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Ties that Bind Us

by Patti

My husband has pretty impeccable taste when it comes to his clothes. I even stopped buying things for him on impromptu shopping sprees because he is so damned picky, he ends up returning most of the things I choose. It's okay, I'm not offended; he looks good and the upside is I will never have to be one of those wives who lays out her husband's clothes for him. If you are one of those wives, god bless you and your outfit selecting self; you are selflessly performing a service for the non-colorblind of this world. And you are making your husband look presentable in the process.

Because my husband knows how to dress himself, I was surprised the other night when, just as I was heading to Cath's house for a much-needed Friday night get-together for us and our girls, he called me to our bedroom. I found him holding up a hot pink, striped shirt against some dark gray dress pants.
"Oh, are you picking out an outfit for the wedding tomorrow?"
"Yeah; does this make sense?"
"Yeah, it looks pretty good." I turned to leave, and he stopped me.
"Wait - what about with this tie?" I turned to find him holding up a bright yellow tie with some squiggles splashed across it.
"Uh... no. Waaay too much going on. Babe - I gotta go. Cathy is waiting for me."
"What about this one?" He pulled another over-wrought tie from his closet, holding it ever so hopefully against the hot pink shirt.
"Are you kidding me?"
"What am I going to do? I don't have any good ties!" He rifled through several more over-designed ties, holding each one up to the shirt, then casting it in disgust to the floor.

If it wasn't for the fact his sudden fashion tantrum was making me late, I might have felt sorry for my usually quite-abled dresser. I was surprised at the depths of his worry over choosing The Perfect Outfit for this wedding. It was as if he was the one getting married.
"Just go to Target and pick out a solid color tie," I offered, fingering the charcoal lines on the hot pink shirt.
"Come with me!"
"I told you - I have plans. You KNOW I have plans. I'm not canceling my plans to go tie shopping with you. Just pick out a solid color. Maybe even, like, a deep hot pink?" I walked out of our bedroom, leaving him in a sea of useless ties.
He followed behind me, holding up another flashy tie candidate.
"NO! It HAS to be a SOLID color!" I took out my phone and Googled "hot pink", bringing up a screen of varying shades of hot pink squares.  I chose the one most likely to succeed, and held it up to M. "Here! This would be the perfect color!"
"Please come with me and help me pick out a tie?"

At that moment, Gaucho the dog started darting frantically around the house, as if he sensed a soulnapping had taken place, and he knew that form which only appeared to resemble his once fashionable master was really a suburban, black socks-with-sandals-wearing dad from Minnesota.  I stared at my suddenly hapless, helpless, colorblind husband and vacillated between utter affection for this new, vulnerable him, and sharp annoyance because why was he sabotaging my plans with ties?

Just as I was about to cave into the guilt his sudden need for my fashion assistance was making me feel, I pictured myself holding up dress after dress, M hostage to my "does this make me look fat?" questions. Would he really be late to meet his friends on a Friday night for that? Would he really keep his macho motorcycle buddies waiting on a Sunday afternoon because I needed help with coordinating this blouse with this skirt?

"You'll figure it out! I gotta go!" I gave him a quick hug and kiss, grabbed the kid and my purse, and bolted out the door before he could change my mind. As I drove, my phone beeped, and at the first light, I looked down to find a text message from him. "At Salvation Army. What about this one?" Attached to the message was a picture of a pink tie. Covered in green paisleys. I fired  a quick reply. "NO". At the next light, he called me.
"They have so many ties here! Help me decide."

On my way to Cathy's - now a good half hour late - I had to stop at Target to buy some wine. As I plowed through the aisles to get to the wine, I passed the men's section and saw a deep charcoal tie. It was dressy and satiny and exactly right. I snapped a pic with my phone, texted it to M, and waited. Two seconds later. "Perfect."

I have to say, I felt a smug pride at the wedding when I saw M all dressed up. There he was, in his flashy hot pink shirt, his fitted dark gray suit, and the "perfect" tie from Target. There was something in knowing the science behind how he presented himself that day. There was this feeling of unity in knowing he had come to me for my opinion - even if it had annoyed me. I looked at all the other couples there that day and wondered, as I studied their wedding outfits, how much had gone into how they appeared that day. How many of them had had similar conversations the night before? How many wives had been annoyed by their advice-seeking husbands; how many husbands had smiled while craning their necks to see the TV as their wives spun before them in a new dress.... And I realized: these conversations, these moments, these intimate snapshots - both annoying and adoring - these are the ties that bind us.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Sister Summer Lovin'

by Cathy

When my first child was born, I was over! the! moon! that it was a girl. When I got pregnant with my second, I was obsessed with it now also being a girl. So much so, that I scoured Amazon for books on this and found one called, "How to Have a Girl". Yes, not only does such a book exist, but I found it and I bought it...just to make sure the odds were stacked in my favor of having yet another girl.

Why go to such ridiculous lengths, you may ask?

I was a child who grew up with a sister and I wanted nothing more than for me to have children that were sisters. The secrets, the gossip, the clothes/makeup-sharing, the advice, the countless nights awake talking, the tears, the happiness, the vacations, the boys, the experiences, the childhood we both shared and still reminisce about...THIS is what I wanted my kids to experience.

So when my second was also a girl, I was elated! Ecstatic! The happiest mom on earth! NOW they can grow up to experience that closeness. That bond. That...dislike?

I just couldn't get it. My sister and I had four years apart and my girls, five years. That should put us on the same level, right? However, when my young one got old enough to speak, understand and try to "play" with her sister, it was like watching rams butting heads. Add to that, the fact that they couldn't be more different in every possible way - personality, attitude, likes and dislikes - this was not turning out to be the romanticized Disney movie I had envisioned in my hormone-afflicted head. The fights. The frustration. The annoyance. I mused to them aloud almost every day:

"Why can't you guys just get along?!"
"My sister and I never did these things to each other!"
"Just play together NICELY!!"
"You guys are sisters and you will be each others' best friend for life. Don't you get that?!"

These would be followed minutes later by one of them tattling about what the other did. On it went like this to the point where Joe and I pondered if they were ever going to get along and I, sad that they would never allow themselves to experience the closeness that having a sister brings. Until this summer....

Magically, as if a sparkly baton came swooping into our house and bippety-boppety-booped them out of their state of hate, they began getting along.

Seemingly overnight, giggles and laughter replaced screaming and fighting. Music replaced door slamming. They began videotaping themselves on their phones, pods and pads doing silly, fun, sisterly things. They were hanging out more, making duct tape crafts together, watching YouTube and listening to music. They created their own inside jokes. Their own language. Their own humor. And the kicker? My youngest, who has asked me to lay/sit on her bed every. single. night. since she was a toddler, has suddenly stopped asking. Just like that. Now she snuggles with her sister, and stays up late as they giggle and chat the night away, the same way I did with my sister.

Sigh. Finally. Turns out that patience is a virtue that mother nature intended to take its course.

Ari turned seven years old yesterday. As I struggle through the fact that my toddler is now a young lady, I am comforted by what I see blossoming between them. Bella made her a card and put a picture on it from a few years ago. They look close...

...but now, are truly closer.

I step precariously and with much trepidation to the place in my mind where I feel like they have begun this wondrous and fulfilling journey on experiencing all the comfort and happiness that their relationship brings, as I know things won't be perfect. I am not saying that there won't be another fight or argument - there will be many. Now at least they have begun to realize, and will more so as they grow, that there is a special bond that binds them that can never be broken...


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Thank You and Goodbye: A Farewell to my Childhood Home

by Cathy


Never did two words affect me as deeply as these did the other day; they were plastered across the living room window of the house on Mozart Street where I spent my childhood. Those same windows where I eagerly awaited the daily return of my father from work and that same living room where I would undoubtedly wait and "surprise" him every evening when he walked in the front door. I wasn't expecting to see that sign - I merely drove by the building to reminisce, to see how different it felt now that my parents had officially moved out after 36 years. I was not expecting to see that sign.

Like a bullet ricocheting through my insides, those two words left my eyes, processed through to my brain, dropped down to my heart and shot right back up to my eyes in the form of waves of sobs - all within seconds. I wasn't ready for that reaction yet I knew that selling our childhood home would be like grieving the loss of loved one.

As I drove away in a bleary-eyed mess, I remembered how I was seven years-old when we moved in and I thought that beautiful structure was a castle, with its clear, diamond-shaped doorknobs, its stained-glass windows and its regal architecture gracing the facade's roof line. That castle, which  now holds all of my memories, my secrets, my dreams, my past, my life, will now be filled with others' lives, although I don't see how there will be any room left for them.

 It was the place I grew from a child, to a teenager, to a college student, to a married woman. I know too well that spot on the floor in my room where I would spend hours on the phone with boys or girlfriends. Those rounded cement decorations flanking our front door which we used as an intercom when we were playing Charlie's Angels. The front stoop, where we spent countless, carefree summer nights playing, gossiping, hanging out, choreographing dances to Queen and REO Speedwagon for our neighborhood talent show. The garage where we spent wonderfully simple Easters with our grandparents roasting lambs, and where we kept our first dog, Ginger, who ate the bicycle seat of my favorite pink bike. Where I learned how to ride a bike. The family birthday parties in the back yard. The back alley where I first learned how to drive with my dad in our white Plymouth Valiant. The familiar path to Virginia Park, where we walked or rode our bikes with our grandfather. All now distant, yet still vibrant memories.

Just last week, after 36 years of living there, my parents left their brick-and-mortar child behind. They not only sold my childhood home, but in a sense, they sold my childhood - and that of my sister's. That place that was filled with countless memories - sad, funny, memorable, devastating, fun - and every single one of those memories, relevant threads that tightly bind the fabric of our youth and ultimately, who we became as adults. The places we used to hide, the places we used to hide stuff, the doors and door frames we've written on, the places on the walls we made those dents and the stories that went with them, the hidden places in the furnace room and cubbies where we sharpied our names into the walls, the cement patch behind the garage where my grandfather, God rest his soul, carved out his initials.

The move was bittersweet in the sense that my parents had to move due to familial riffs and other extenuating circumstances, which had become more unbearable the past five years. For this reason, it was more of a relief for them to leave. For my sister and I, however, it was heartbreaking. We moved from Mozart Street on good terms, full of nothing but great memories that will always resonate into strings of stories that will forever weave the webs of our lives as we pass these down to our children. That is how we prefer to think of that building - the house that will forever be our home.

Seeing this home with moving boxes filled with our past, is something I never thought I would see.

Even worse, is seeing it completely empty.

But I didn't get to see that due to the timing of the move. My sister, on the other hand, did. I was jealous of her for having that closure, for allowing herself to grieve the loss of our childhood home in a way I didn't. She told me that after she walked through it, she stood in the foyer and said aloud, "Thank you and goodbye. I hope the next people treat you as good as we did."

I felt devastated that I didn't get my turn in saying goodbye and seeing it empty. On the other hand, I don't know if that was necessarily the best thing to do to myself. I am now content with remembering it full of life, memories and our things.

My mother told me if she was able to wrap her arms around the building and hug it tightly, she would. She put as much blood, sweat, tears and TLC into maintaining that building as she did in raising her children. That pride in ownership is what she will miss the most. No matter what the circumstances for leaving that place, the fact remains that these bricks and glass and wood that formed our childhood home will always be a part of who we are.

Just like the soul of a person gives us life, spirit and individuality, I believe the soul of a home are the people that reside within it. We give it life, we give it love, we give it spirit and memories. Whether we remain in that structure's shell or not, our soul will always resonate within it. Our history will remain fused with that brick and mortar of our past.

If home is where the heart is, then my home will always be that two-flat on Mozart Street where I grew up.

Thank you...and goodbye.

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