A little of this, a little of that

It has been a funny time lately. Things have been busier than usual as I have had actual social commitments! *Gasp! Shocking, right?

My sister and her hubs were kind enough to trek down to NYC for a Saturday night to take Damir and I out for a celebratory dinner. It was fantastic! We started with drinks in Bryant park and then up to the Upper East Side for dinner at a cute spot called Vespa. Full and tipsy, we took a long walk back towards Midtown to grab a nightcap at St. Andrews Pub and then called it a night. Damir and I actually ended up staying in the city as well at a sweet little historic hotel (an engagement gift from my company as it turned out), which was a rare and lovely pleasure. The following morning we grabbed some coffee and breakfast sandwiches and had a mini-picnic in Central Park. All too soon they had to get back in the car and head back to Boston… but it meant so much to me that they came. Really.

 

And then I was invited to a bridal shower! Damir’s cousin is getting married this September and I was kindly invited to his bride’s shower, though I didn’t know anyone other than the bride and the groom’s sister-in-law who I see quite often, out of the 30 or so present ladies. Can you believe this: it was the first bridal shower I ever went to. No joke!

I am not certain about the whole bridal show plus bachlorette concept. Which for me is probably a good thing since all my gal pals are now so dispersed, I doubt I could get more than 5 close friends into a room at the same time. That’s sad. But maybe not THAT sad since I don’t think I am the shower-type. I’d rather do what my sister did: have a big gal-only party with lots of good wine and fruity cocktails.

I suppose if you have attended dozens of showers, when it comes time to yours you might feel entitled. I don’t mean any disrespect to the ladies who love showers. And it isn’t that I had a bad time last Saturday; it was nice to meet new people and everyone was very friendly. It just isn’t for me to be the center of attention opening up present after present while others sit in a circle around me and watched for my reactions; it would make me uncomfortable.

I’d rather open the loot in private.

So, how’d it go?

Some of you may be aware that when I get super stressed, or have a mission to accomplish, I get a little… um, what’s the word… bitchy. Demanding and unreasonable would also be accurate adjectives. I have a vision how how things should be done, and lord get out of the way if you don’t share that vision.

I know, I am working on it. Really.

Saturday morning was one of those mornings. Damir and I had a lot to accomplish in a relatively short amount of time, coupled with my stress of bringing my parents over to see our abode and meet Damir’s parents for the first time. There were a few not-so-pretty moments on my behalf. But thankfully Damir rocked it out of the park and did the bulk of the dirty work (all the food shopping, prep, and some last minute minor household repairs) so I could have time to shower, get to Oyster Bay to meet my parents, and have some quality time with them before bringing them over.

Have I mentioned lately that I love this guy?

Sadly Damir’s mom had to work unexpectedly, so it was just my parents, Damir’s Dad and a few cousins that live in the neighborhood who were instrumental in keeping the translated conversation going. Damir made an amazing seafood stew and a bevy of tasty appetizers. And there was wine, of which I could not partake, since I was driving the crew back to the boat in Oyster Bay after dinner.

Everyone agreed it was a success. My one and only regret is that I didn’t have the presence of mind to take a picture of everyone. Sad.

The rest of the weekend was relaxed, spent lounging on the boat. I got to have an extra evening with my parents last night since high winds kept them from sailing on to their next stop. I really enjoyed having some one-on-one time with them.

Another Big Weekend!

Well, the parents are coming via boat to Long Island tomorrow… hopefully the weather is better than it is right now. Outside the wind is blowing and the rain is pouring. But this is shaping up to be a BIG WEEKEND.

Why, you ask?

Well, for the first time I am introducing Damir’s family to my dad & step-mom. These are the first members of my family to meet Damir’s clan. This has me tied up into a couple of knots, though I can’t really imagine what could go wrong.

This is also the first time my parents are seeing my home here in Long Island. Its awkward to me since it still doesn’t feel like my home, and very little in our surroundings really represent who I am, or my taste in things. Its odd to feel like a guest inviting even more guests to a home that isn’t theirs. But I know my parents won’t judge these things.

Poor Damir will be doing more or less all the translating, which definitely puts the conversation through a siphon.

I had wanted to get a bunch of folks here, Damir’s parents, some of his cousins that we hang out with a lot, their kids, my folks, all together for a big outdoor picnic, but the weather is shaping up to be crappy and the logistics were just too much to organize. So, we’ll gather here instead.

I am anxious. I would say I don’t know why… but I think I do. This does matter to me, and as much as I want to tell you that this is no big deal, it is. At least to me.

Harmony

What a weekend!

Saturday I woke up and said, “I CANNOT SHOP FOR ANOTHER DRESS, DAMMIT!”. Seriously, I said that. Maybe not in ALL CAPS. But I said that. And then I remembered that my parents are up in Connecticut, just a 2 hour drive away, preparing their new boat for it’s maiden journey from CT to their home in Chocowinity (or something like that), NC.

I was planning to see them next weekend when they dock in Oyster bay, just on the other side of Long Island from us. But being that I vowed not to shop anymore, I realized I had a completely open weekend. So I jumped in the truck and headed north!

Erin and her hubs, Tom, were also there, so it was almost just like Christmas without the angst of gift giving. Saturday night we had some dinner and just hung out on the boat. All 5 of us slept inside, Dad and Jan in the lower berth cabin; Tom & Erin on the seats that pull out to a double, and me on the seat that pulls out to a single. Other than waking up freezing in the middle of the night, and listening to some inappropriate talk between Erin and Tom (all in jest, of course), it was a good evening.
Sunday was cool but sunny, so after a mothersday breakfast at the local greasy spoon, we took what will soon be labeled Harmony on her maiden voyage under Dad & Jan’s ownership. I am a little concerned about my folks and this boat. I saw my dad bump himself pretty hard twice, even though he is a very experienced boater. He knocked his head once really hard and got a big ole bump on his noggin. He better take it slow.

The first ride was pretty short, but successful. We didn’t break down. Harmony is not a new boat by any means, she is a classic. I think over 20 years old, but a beauty.
Their journey will take them from CT to Oyster Bay, then Cape May, NJ, Delaware (to catch my step-sister’s PhD graduation), MD, VA and several points south before landing at home. It will take a good 3 weeks, I think. I mean, the boat only goes like 7 knots, so it’s a long ride.

This is the week of vistors. Old friend David J. comes to NYC on Tuesday night and we’ll meet up for dinner. Erin and her friend Trisha are in Manhattan for a girls weekend, so I will see them on Friday night. And then of course my parents again in Oyster Bay next Saturday and Sunday.

Damir and I might take advantage of my parent’s proximity next weekend to introduce them to Damir’s family. That ought to create some good stories for you.

In Michigan


My Mom’s family, The Arados, used to congregate annually in the little town of St. Joseph, Michigan for a week each summer. It was a big family reunion where all my aunts, uncles and cousins would gather for adventures at my Great Grandfather’s old farm on lake Michigan. I don’t know when he got the house, but it had been a gathering place for the Arado clan for a long time. Our Adventures in the 70s and 80s included activities such as playing golf-cart hide and seek, scaling the treacherous bluff to get to the beach, and avoiding getting yelled at by my Uncle John. We did this every year until around 1990 (the summer I was in Italy) when the farm was tragically sold off by some relative I have never met to a real estate developer. The farm has now been divided up a broken into individual lots, however the farmhouse still stands. My mom covets it still and I don’t put it past her, or my aunts and uncle, to figure out a way to buy it back, even though the land around the old farmhouse is lost to new homes.

I got this email from my Aunt Jan today:

To: Family
Subject: Remember Michigan?

Hello Family!
Recently, your parents–the Arado siblings–had an e-mail discussion about our memories of Michigan. I mentioned this to Todd, who immediately asked why he wasn’t included in these e-mails. (After all, he pointed out, he gets plenty of forwards that are far less interesting.) So let’s open up this discussion to everyone… So here’s the deal–share with us your fondest (and no-so-fondest) memories of Michigan…

She wrote more, but I didn’t need to read further before starting to jot down a few memories. So, for all non Arado blodded folks, this is the most boring blog entry of all time. Well, lets face it, it might be boring for some of the Arado kin as well. I am not as gifted a writer as some of my cousins.

For me, Michigan (that’s what we called it, it was never “the farm” “Grampa’s House” or “St. Joe”, we all always just called it simply, “Michigan”) is synonymous with summer vacations, childhood and laughter. Man we laughed A LOT there.

La Gram in the Old Days at Michigan

First, I have such strong memories of that old house itself. She had her own creaky personality. The house wasn’t all that big, all the kids were split mostly into two rooms: the Boys Room (site of Adam’s legendary biting episodes) and the Girls Room. Also upstairs was the kids bathroom with the huge clawfood tub, My aunt Ginny & Uncle Barry’s Room (where I used to help put Jess to sleep) and Uncle John’s room which was OFF LIMITS. Why do I remember reading the book Little Black Sambo in that dimly lit hallway? From the Girls room at night you could hear the trains pass by, I remember the exact pitch of the train’s whistle. In the daytime we used to bet what color the caboose would be.

Gram and Todd

Downstairs my Mom and Gram shared a room, which smelled distinctly of Gram’s “White Shoulders” perfume; I don’t remember my dad being there before my parents were divorced, though surely he was. My Aunt Jan and Uncle Paul had a room across the hallway which, if memory serves, had a staircase to the basement. Todd and Tim generally slept down there (in Aunt Jan’s room, not the basement), they didn’t sleep in the rowdy Boys room, maybe out of fear of being bitten by Adam. The basement itself was scary. I only remember being down there once to tie-dye a shirt back in my crafty days.

The living room was rather small, and we weren’t inside all that much out of fear of being yelled at to GO OUTSIDE ITS A BEAUTIFUL DAY. When we were inside, i.e. when it was raining, we watched the Family Feud, Days of Our Lives and baseball on the big TV encased in fake wood. Or, we played games. Lots of games: solitaire, yahtzee, trivial pursuit, gin rummy, Sorry!, Monopoly… the list goes on and on. Gram would tell us not to pick grapes off the bunch one by one, but to take the entire stem. The adults had cocktails.

Some of the best times at Michigan were at mealtimes:


Eatin’ Corn on the Porch

The kids at at one table on the porch and the grownups at in the dining room area with the huge picture window (with the terrible curtains) facing the driveway. We always had the freshest of fresh produce on the table, and Gram’s salad every night. To this day, Gram’s salads are the best I ever had; I’ll have to see if she remembers her secret ingredients. There would always be Lamb night served with mint jelly, and to this day the smell of lamb reminds me of Michigan (oh, it also reminds me of the time I got food poisoning on the French Riviera, but that’s another story). Frank would cook in the kitchen and always had a smile for you. He had his own rooms on a separate cottage on the property, but not in the main house. Famous lines from dinners still resonate, such as Todd’s, “I stuck my hands in the butter” which we all thought was hilarious.

Frank was THE MAN

The golfcart gets its own special mention. I am sure it was meant to be purely functional, but the kids made it recreational. At a certain age (11? 12?) you pased a test and were allowed to drive the golf cart. We could fit 8 or 9 of us in it, if we packed it in and sat on laps. Before being allowed to drive, we would beg the nearest adult to take us on a golfcart ride PLEASE! The ride would typically go up the paved path that lead to the bluff, around and through several of the bumpy grapevines, including of course THE WIDE VINE, by the scary chicken coop, passed the white barn (scene of my boxing match with Adam), around the birch trees “look out for that pOllllllllle!”, across the shuffle board court, and by the spot where my sister Erin clocked cousin Matt over the eye with a golf club resulting in the only emergency room visit I can remember there.

I’d Kill for that hair today

Personally, I remember feeling very awkward at Michigan, particularly as I got older…13, 14, 15. I was smack dab in the middle of the age range of the cousins, too young to hang with Erin, Jeff, Matt, Liz and Trish and too old for Todd, Tim, Jess, and Peter (Maggie wasn’t born yet). Adam was closest to me in age, but we were hot and cold to each other, alternately buddies and enemies. I am sure the older kids found me annoying, but I wanted them to like and approve of me desperately.

Exhibit A: Terra’s Awkward Stage Begins at Michigan

We rarely left the farm during those stays. I remember once, in one of the later years, going to a dance at one of the towns nearby, the one song I remember from that is Billy Idol’s remake of “Mony Mony”. I think Erin almost picked up a hitchhiker that night, or maybe she just threatened to. The adults would sometimes take the kids out to a movie. Oh, and there was some deer park not too far where I bought Jess a monchichi. The summer that ET was popular my Uncles John and Barry took all the kids to see the movie but I was so darn excited to see ET that I threw up while waiting in line. Uncle John had to take me back to the house, but made me keep my head out the window for the whole ride in case I puked again. I think he had a new car. Adam and Uncle Barry didn’t go see ET, they saw Stripes instead.

Height of 80s Fashion

My Aunt Jan asked about our recollections of visitors, of which I don’t remember too many, other than the Bruns’ from Indiana who seemed scary. I think it must have been hard for the non-Arado blooded people to fit in to the group–even the spouses of my Aunts and Uncle. We must be an intimidating bunch.

Look how Intimidating

The lake was eating the land, and every summer the bluff would be more and more ragged and more land would be gone off the edge. Nearby houses were falling down the cliff, having no land left to support them. We had campfires on the beach in early years, but towards the end the beach was very eroded and it was hard to get down from the bluff. I was scared that the lake would eventually get to our house, even though it was quite a ways from the edge.

There is so much more I could write… about Tina and the caretaker, bottle rockets and sparklers, the swing set, one scary night by the chicken coop, the card shuffler, Tab Soda, bikes from the 50s, antlers, reading Helter Skelter, and playing softball in the yard… it goes on and more things keep popping into my head the longer I sit and think and write.

I miss that house. I miss those summers. I miss the chance to see all my aunts and uncles and cousins all at once, all together. Now we just have weddings which bring some together, but never everyone together. You could say, “Well, it’s too hard to get everyone together. We live far away. Everyone has their own stuff going on”. Yes, well, that’s true. But it was true back then too. My mom was recently divorced, probably close to broke and still she loaded her kids in her small Datsun hatchback to drive from DC to Michigan one summer. She wasn’t going to miss it, or maybe wouldn’t have been allowed to. The main difference between now and then was the house, the farm, that meeting point, which we had to bring us together.

It’s a damn shame we lost it.

I don’t think this parting shot was taken at Michigan, but Dino was SO Michgan it felt wrong to exclude him.

Holidaytastic

I have never worked before for a company whose busy season falls around the holidays, so my 10 years in the workforce have been blessed with nice long Christmas breaks, sometimes lasting as long as 2 blissful weeks. Sadly, this is no longer the case. November through New Year’s Day is peak season here in NYC and the city is packed with tourists needing the services my company provides. Oh, and I don’t technically get any vacation days in my first 12-months in this job.

I am fortunate this year to be able to take off Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas, giving me 5 consecutive days off. I know this is more than a lot of people out there, but still it feels short– especially since I wasn’t able to take any time over Thanksgiving to see my family. I have been working at full speed these last several weeks, so I am practically foaming at the mouth to have a few days to relax.

We’ll be heading to Connecticut where the folks have rented a house for a week. I am ever so grateful not to have to fly anywhere this Christmas, so that should make the time that I do have away from my desk all the more enjoyable.

Speaking of things that are enjoyable, I made the most awesome Christmas cookies this past Sunday, and had some fun testing the macro focus function on my camera:

Happy Halloween!

I am not doing anything special for Halloween this year, although I did just get to hit the matinee of Broadway’s Young Frankenstein which was pretty good but not really worth what some folks are shelling out for a seat (upwards of $400 for seats that are Just OK… lucky for me I got to go for free…it’s a work thing).
I am feeling nostalgic for the Halloweens of my youth. I grew up in a little pocket of Stepfordesque tranquility outside Washington DC called Hillandale. Lawns were huge and well tended with large oaks, pines, maples and birch trees… perfect for hiding Halloween goodies and pranks. The neighborhood was flooded with kids, and since it was a pretty small area, you knew everyone and who lived in each and every house and they would greet you by name when you rang their door, “Ohh Terra, you look like a pretty princess this year!” The only thing we had to worry about was avoiding the neighborhood terrors, the Solomon brothers. Man, they were mean.
Halloween was a big event for adults and kids alike. The adults went to parties; I remember a photo of my Mom and Dad, still married at the time, dressed up and playing some game where they had to eat marshmallows or doughnuts off a line of string while their hands were tied around their backs. I think my Mom was dressed like a brick wall and my dad was a carpenter.
Speaking of my mom, she made us elaborate costumes on her sewing machine. The most memorable for me was this awesome clown outfit she made for us.

I remember vividly that last Halloween I went trick-or-treating. I was in the 7th grade. I dressed up as a mime in a store-bought costume. I knew at the time this was it, I already felt too old to be participating, it was the last time to run around a neighborhood and score free candy. By then we had moved and running up to houses of strangers wasn’t nearly as fun as it was in Hillandale.

I used to hoard my candy. Paranoid that my sister or brother would come into my room and steal my stash, I hid it all over the place like a squirrel preparing for winter. Behind books, in pockets, under pillows, inside the stuffing of a teddy bear, in a crevice of a floor board, anyplace that would fit those tiny Hershey squares. Then, after a few days, I wouldn’t remember where I put the little pieces of chocolates and colorful rolls of smarties and come June I would find a piece of stale, old candy, long forgotten. Sure, I still ate it.

Lucky for me, as an adult, I made friends with (mostly) ladies who also have a good time throwing a festive costume party now and then, and not always waiting around for Halloween to do it. The downside is that none of these lovely women live close by anymore. Hey, anyone know any normal, fun, nice, exuberant and bright women who live in Long Island who want to throw a party? Tell them to call me.

Happy Halloween, friends.

I. Am. An. Asshole.

I shouldn’t have posted that blog last week in which I joked about the office curse.

I am an asshole.

Unbeknownst to me, on that same day, my elderly grandmother was admitted to the hospital in very serious condition. She has since been released, but the prognosis isn’t great. Blood clots formed in her lungs and did some damage to her heart. She is now resting at her home in Chicago, which is exactly where she wants to be right now. She isn’t in any pain.

I am not really superstitious enough to believe that my posting had any affect on Gram’s health, but still it also has made me realize that it was pretty insensitive.

I am thinking of heading to Chicago next weekend. She won’t necessarily know that I am there, but I want to be there for my Mom and other family members. Once again I curse the fact that I am far away from my family, and to be with them when they need a hand to hold proves harder than it should be.

Post Party Blues and a New Resolution

Man, I had such a good time with my family in Vermont, it is almost painful to recap because I am already nostalgic for them.The early part of the week was relaxed and fun, hanging out with my super adorable nieces and celebrating my brother’s birthday. Erin and Tom’s wedding which filled the latter part of the week was perfect in every way and multiple people came to me to say that it was the best wedding they had ever been to. How can you not love a wedding reception where the new husband and wife enter the barn, yes, a barn, shimmying and sashaying to the theme of Sandford and Son?

Perhaps the shining best moment was when the sweet priest, who gave an awesome homily by the way, announced the newly married couple for the first time to the standing room only congregation and a cheer so loud rattled the walls welcoming the new union, tentative at first then growing to catcalls and howls of happiness, that two lovely people finally found eachother and sealed their relationship at the tender age of 38. The first marriage for both. It was one of those moments where time stops and everything is right.

I became supremely emotional when it was time to drive away and make our way back to Long Island. The kind of emotional that dissolves into incoherent and inconsolable sobbing. So much circled in my head, it was hard to wrap my arms around the escaping rebellious emotions. Sadness to waive goodbye to my sweet nieces who will each likely be a foot taller, or more, before fates manage to bring us together again (will they remember Auntie Terra?), sadness that my family continues to dissect and bisect in ways I had not predicted, joy over the perfection of the week and my happiness for Erin and Tom, and stress about returning to New York, my home, which still holds so much uncertainty for me (a brand spanking new job. Again.)
I have to resolve now, here and now, that I must be more proactive at finding more ways to reunite with my family. They are such a loving, fun and dynamic bunch! I cannot sit by and just let another 3 years pass before seeing my loving brother, sister-in-law and their sweet girls again. In my father’s toast to the bride and groom, he paid homage to the family and I am honored beyond words that he referred to me at the “glue” of our clan. Repeating this now, days later, still makes my eyes swell with fresh tears. Our family is tough, we all live in different states now, that span all angles of the country. Somehow I have to find away to sew the seams of those distances. If not for them, as a collective group, then for me and my personal relationships with each individual.

But How?

I don’t exactly have a situation that allows for house guests, so it is up to me to cover the distances. In a new job where both time off and compensation not exactly what one would hope for, I have to get creative. *Sigh. Solutions are elusive, so feel free to offer up suggestions. But I am determined.

Here are a few of my favorite shots from the week. The other 200 are loaded to my flickr account: