Gifts…2022 edition

The season of giving is here and it has been a unique one for me. Our family has decided to cut way back, we really need nothing. A few token gifts, no overstuffed stockings, just small reminders that we see and love each other.

When not spending time purchasing stuff, ones head becomes more clear. I have been noticing other kinds of gifts, the kind that cost nothing.

The choir singing holiday favorites. Awaiting the last stanza where all the harmonies intensify and my favorite soprano belts it out so loud the heavens can hear. I never sing the last line of a hymn at a Christmas service. I listen and let the music fill my soul.

Articles that somehow appear in magazines or my feeds with exactly the guidance, recipes, or information I need. Some people might call it data mining. I call it the much needed gift of magic.

Watching my kids figure out the world and grow. It is hard being a parent. I tend to give and do too much. I tend to do this with everyone, not just my kids but that is a different swoon. Listening and laughing with my daughter as she reads me articles on bettering ourselves. Baking with her for two solid days. Walking into two sparkling bathrooms that she just cleaned. Reading about independent projects our son is working on during his off time from his actual job. Having him shop for us and fill our airbnb with goodness. These gifts give me hope that even though I probably did too much for them…they will be just fine on their own.

Friendship…the mutual choice between people to invest in another human. It seems there is always a new medical, family, job, kid, or pet issue to be discussed. A new batch of positive energy needing to be sent out into the universe. The gift of having people who really know you, who are always ready with wise words and strength when needed. We support, we encourage, and we love each other…unconditionally.

Walking my little man to school, red plastic nose strapped on his face, blinking in the rain. Wearing reindeer pajamas…ears, antlers and all. It’s pajama day at school, he has been talking about it for a week. He prances, he sings, and before he walks in the school he asks me… do you love the painting I made for you of mittens?, I reply, I do I do, I love love love my mitten painting so much. He tells me he knew it and there are just two days until Christmas. We have been counting the days since Thanksgiving. He is a gift every day.

On my walk home I listen to the rain and wind instead of a podcast. I look down and I see some love…right there on the sidewalk. I choose to see it as a sign from the universe that with less noise and stuff…there is more room to love ourselves. Loving ourselves is the most important gift, it gives us the clarity to love others.

Happy Holidays. Wishing you all peace.

Thankful Series…Rain Room

I was looking for a picture last night. Scrolling. Scrolling. Scrolling. BOOM. There it was…not the picture I was looking for…but this one. Rain Room at the MOMA. We got on the standby line at 5am. Manhattan at 5am on a Saturday is something. Sitting on the pocket park wall, we were with other people choosing to forgo sleep in order to walk through an interactive art experience…and others who were still trying to sleep…we had invaded their concrete bedroom.

We waited and ate our breakfast, we napped, we complained. Two teenagers, both a bit skeptical at the need to wake up at 4am on a Saturday for some awesome art, they were a bit crabby to say the least. A little after 8am the line started to move and we entered the huge mysterious black box on 54th street.

We waited and watched…and when it was our turn we stepped slowly onto the platform. We saw that others before us were not getting soaked, but our minds were not convinced. We were standing in a rainstorm, dry as a bone. The droplets danced in the light and pounded the floor. We moved our arms and legs twisting and turning trying to catch some rain, it evaded us. We could see it, hear it, but not feel it. It was 5 minutes of magic.

As we left the room my son grabbed my hand. Mom, thanks for making us get up. That was amazing. Who knows if experiences like this led him to major in interactive art in college.

I am thankful for the ability to scroll through memories. I am thankful I had kids who would wake up for my nutty adventures. I am thankful for the brilliance of Rain Room.

Thankful Series…Greg

It was time, we got a reminder that we had to clean out my husbands art room. A room nobody had stepped since March 2020. The art projects were still on the shelves…the 3:30 class was working on creating alphabet cards, the 5:30 class was doing sculptures. There were pencils on the floor and sign up sheets for Summer 2020 camps. It was a time capsule. It was before.

We were supposed to clean out the room this past summer, but things happen and stuff gets put off. Someone else needs the space so…it’s time. Anyone want some watercolors? Pencils? Scissors. We have enough for a small army of artists. 10 bags of garbage, 3 boxes of newspapers, bins of dried out paints. At least a carload of supplies still to come home and be given away or go to the High School. Watching my husband going through the artwork left behind, I tear up. The end of an era. Greg taught so many kids in his afterschool classes. Kids who needed a creative outlet that was not too structured, that was not about the end result. He taught the misfits, the quirky ones, the ones who could only concentrate while doodling, the ones with so much talent it could not be contained, the ones with little talent but a need to be around creative souls.


For almost two decades while Greg taught art…Jacob, Olivia, and I worked behind the scenes…true artists need their assistants…we baked and shopped for the openings, we labeled art, we helped set up and we sorted and cleaned up after openings. A family affair that usually ended at the diner for some comfort food, nothing is better when truly exhausted.

Yesterday afternoon, as we emptied the room we were quiet. We respected the process of mourning the end of an era while doing what needed to get done. We threw the last bags into the dumpster, we closed the lights, we picked up Olivia and my mom… and we drove to the diner, where we toasted Greg and his many years of teaching after school classes.

I am thankful for my husband, there is nothing sexier than a man who can make a room full of kids laugh, and create, and feel good about themselves. I am thankful to live in a community that celebrates the arts. I am thankful for the safe, warm, welcoming space our church allowed us to call home for his classes for so many years.

I am thankful.

Wrinkles and All

I am thankful for being comfortable to share this picture.

My gray, wrinkles, and the bags under my eyes. This picture isn’t about how I look, but how I feel when with my little morning charge. Sometimes he is a whirling dervish so we dance and battle with our fake swords…other times he feels a little tired so we just cuddle. We adore each other just the way we are.

Aging is a beautiful thing. I’m 56. I’m a bit round. I’m gray (for the moment). My skin has seen firmer days. I’m me. I feel more comfortable today than I did at 24. Age makes us wise to what is important. This picture highlights my battle scars of hard work, deep feels, and lots of big smiles. As friends struggle with illness and others pass away, it reminds me how lucky I am…wrinkles and all.

Thankful Series 2022

Oh dear swooners it’s been a bit… but November is here and so I must do my yearly thankful series, a nice way to get back into swooning.

Today I am thankful for Halloween. The ability to be who you want to be, dress the way you want to dress, explore options…hopefully without judgement. When everyone is a kid, and it’s ok. When creative, think out of the box people are celebrated and respected for their homemade brilliance. Sigh swoon sigh, when mini snickers are in abundance. Happy November. I hope you had a nice Halloween where you remembered goodness from your childhood and created new memories…and had a few treats. I am thankful.

Say yes…

Hello my swooning friends. It’s been a while.

I am learning about self sabotage thanks to Maryanne, the latest winner of Survivor. In the final leg of the show Maryanne had the power to pick someone who might beat her for the win (the nice guy) or someone who was less deserving…but easier to beat. In the end she picked person she was more likely to beat…and in her final speech she explained why this very choice was the reason she should win. Maryanne described herself as a “self sabotager”, she puts others before herself which causes her pain in the end. She explained by not picking the “nicer” person, she had for once not sabotaged herself…and for that she was already a winner. I love this so much. I too am a self sabotaging kind of gal, I think that is why I have not Swooned for so long, sometimes when I have a good thing going I become lazy. Sigh. Working on it.

I received a call from my son a few months ago…he was super chipper…Hey Mom, pause, can I ask you something? Oh boy. Was he quitting his new job, was I going to hear about a new game in development, was he contemplating lasik surgery? Can I have Fire Island for a weekend with my college friends? I love this question. Yes, of course, but it is all you dude, shopping, cleaning up, you are the host and it is a lot of responsibility! Boom. The next generation is having unsupervised friend weekends at Fire Island. My dad was smiling from above.

Then call number two. Mom, can I ask you a crazy question, you can say no, it is pretty crazy. Can you possibly pick us up at the JFK then drive us to go shopping, then out to the boat? No thinking needed. OF COURSE! I would get to see them while being UberMom, it was a win win.

So, last Thursday I headed to JFK at 6:45 am, arrived by 8:15, picked them up, found the nearest Trader Joe’s and we started shopping. TJ’s was packed with Orthodox Jewish women shopping for insane amounts of cut flowers…white roses, pink peonies, long black skirts, white Keds, and very synthetic wigs galore. I learned TJ’s is the place to go on Thursday am for weekend Bar Mitzvah flowers. Who knew. So we shop, they pick out a tiny thing of hummus, I replace with two large ones…they pick out a bag of chips, I throw in three more. Sea air makes one hungry. The checkout woman is thrilled that we will be doing our packing of the two full carts, Jacob heavy stuff, Kat light and produce, Ella the rest. The manager comments he has never seen such efficiency. Swoon. The groceries were so cheap, the kids work so hard, here is my credit card…so much for it’s all you dude…I love being a mom.

Onto repacking the groceries in the wheelie luggage from home, parking lot is too insane so we drive a few blocks to a lovely McMansion (white columns and a newly polished gold gate). I love Queens. We unload the groceries on the curb and repack and we are off…back to JFK to pick up two more friends flying in from the Midwest. Arriving just in time to get them I ask for the airline and terminal to find out…OH SHOOT…they are at LaGuardia Airport. Back on the Van Wyck where I make the point that the only person who is allowed to be annoyed with this situation is smiling…so the crabby people (Jacob) should suck it up and move on. Picked up two more passengers, drove out to South Eastern Long Island and BOOM…they made the 1pm ferry with time to get some chowder…I drive back to Westchester and am at work by 2:30. Life is good.

After their spectacular weekend the kids were getting back to JFK on their own…pulling a wagon to a boat, to a car, to a train, to another train, to the airport for a few hour wait before their flight. Easy peasy. Thinking how sad it was that they didn’t get to see Nannie, Greg, or Olivia I offered to bring the troupe to see them. We jumped in the car and headed to JFK and almost two hours later we were all hugging. The TWA Terminal Hotel is spectacular, fun pictures, hugs, nice appetizers and cool drinks, more hugs and silliness. It was a delicious end to a crazy weekend, no self sabotaging, no doing what “should” be done instead of what was right for me…living each moment and loving every minute of it.

Live life…be crazy and spontaneous…say yes.

You say you want a revolution…

Pleasantville Schools are full of pretty awesome traditions… the Kindergarten Circus; grade-level plays that culminate in high school musical extravaganzas; Walk in My Shoes day, were kids experience what it is like to have learning and physical differences; parades featuring Halloween, favorite book characters, and graduating seniors; prom dress viewing in the front circle; concerts; pep rallies and games, art shows, and…Revolutionary War Day.

Today I literally walked into the 4th Grade Revolutionary War Day march from the elementary school to Soldiers and Sailors field…experiential learning at its best. The kids are somber soldiers, no smiling for cameras, they are at war. The flash back to the joy my kids had living this incredible event was overwhelming. I cried.

I am an experiential learner…hand me a book on a day in the life of a soldier, it is a blur, the words taken in by my eyes, but never reach the “save this file” in my brain. Give me a day making ammo, putting up tents, and eating food from 1776, I will remember it til the day I die. Imagine if we all were given the gift of knowing how we retain information…the world would be a better place. Our differences are beautiful and learning is not a cookie cutter situation. Thank you Pleasantville school district for Revolutionary War Day…it is a gift.

There is another little battle going on in our little town these days…for a seat on our school board. I have been asked to run many times, and always refuse. It is important to know ones strengths, this is not mine. One…see the paragraph above, piles of papers that need to be read is my idea of hell on earth. Two…I hate meetings, talking for hours on end makes me break out in hives. Three…I have no patience for people like me…yes…me. People who know the solution to everything with out knowing all the facts, obstacles, or issues. People like me drive me crazy.

I am in awe of the two candidates running for the board. As a person who shared an office with the Mayor for years and was PTA President for more years…being in local public office is a thankless job. There are plenty of people who know exactly what should be done…forget about the history of the situation and pesky things like laws, money, and time. It was a wonderful to learn that there is always so much more to any situation than what the public saw…that things are always complicated…that nobody can swish in and change the world.

My advice for this (and every) election…experience it…do your research, watch the debate, ask the candidates questions. Learn what the position actually has the power to do…many leadership positions are not about specifics, they are about larger visions. Go with what you learn, not what people tell you…other people will tell you what they want you to know, edited versions of reality. After watching the local debate it was like the clouds of conflicting and often negative opinions became clear, and I will vote based on the clarity of what was communicated.

In the end… it’s gonna be all right.

The Plan

Last week I had my day planned. My little guy and I would have our morning together, I would drop him at school via car, then scoot out of Pleasantville the back way to avoid morning small town traffic, then off to Queens…the land of my youth. I was meeting up with my Noel, at her new house. A swoonie kind of morning before the workday began.

When my little guy arrived with his umbrella and I had to break news that we would be driving. Since walking in the rain with the umbrella hook tucked between his legs (“look Kat, no hands!”) was a treat not to be missed…this did not go over well. I told him we were going with a different plan. “Kat, I don’t like new plans”.

Explaining that the new plan meant he could watch my iPad while waiting in the never ending line of cars was a success…until the iPad went into the no internet death spiral. I am clearly not from the iPad generation of parenting. From the back seat it was declared “Kat, your plan did NOT work.” Sigh. Moving to plan number two, I gave him the phone so he could connect dots with his finger. “I did it! Plan number two is better.” Score…the app really did create calm and mental wellness.

After surviving Westchester to Queens traffic there were squeals of delight and many hugs, my brother-in-law (the best architect ever) showed up, and we were off on our adventure. How do you make a house livable for a woman who works long hours from home, her parents, and occasional overnights from siblings and 4 adult “kids”? Needs included three separate living spaces, two sets of washers and dryers, an office, a place to roller skate indoors, a large central space for extended family gatherings, and a darkroom. We measured (did you know you measure from the inside of the window, not the outside frame), made some plans, changed minds, and revisited. Oh the reality show pitch we could create from the situation. Two squeaky, pint-sized, childhood friends from New York City and a poised 6 foot architect from Iowa redesign mid-century modern houses to make them functional for multi-generational family living. Wackiness ensues.

I find it amazing that so many of my friends have their parents living with them. Empty nests and retirement seem to be a thing of the past. This picture…two high schoolers planning their futures…going to art school, working in graphic design, living in Manhattan, having families…we did pretty good with our dreams. As we readjust our mid-life period to include some unplanned situations we hope our kids notice…at least that’s the new plan.

Back in the days when selfies were taken on a Canon AE-1 with a timer.

I got you…

Monday. My kids used to be extra squirrelly on Monday mornings, now it is my little guy who is a bit off. I try to be understanding, it doesn’t always work, Mondays are hard for me too. Oscar Monday mornings are especially difficult. I am usually in bed by 10pm, staying up after midnight is not my thing.

I don’t really remember watching the Oscars as a kid. We watched Miss America…voting for our favorites, yelling at the tv, dad usually picking the winner from the first parade of states…but not the Oscars. I was a teenager when I started watching, and a twenty-something when it became a yearly thing, a party, an event not to be missed. College friends would come over, we would fill out ballots, there were prizes. The preshow parade of dresses graded by a bunch of graphic designers and illustrators, we were harsh. Crazy amounts of food for noshing, especially Twizzlers, popcorn, and wine. What a disgusting combination. People moving and babies soon got in the way, sleep became more important than long acceptance speeches.

Last night we watched the Oscars, the days of treats and wine long gone. We had chicken, a cabbage salad, and roasted veggies. The dresses featured legs and cleavage, lots of solid brilliant colors, bold and secure. Three women hosting, starting out with a bang…joking that they hired three women for the price of one man. Sad but probably accurate. Some truly inspiring speeches, Ariana DeBose made me weep, so tender and strong at the same time. Troy Kotsur signing his speech while Youn Yuh-jung looked on like a proud mom, holding his award for him. I hope he looked back to see the sea of waving hands as he exited the stage. Uniting and encouraging…until the incident.

I am not one for men hitting people to show how much they love “their women”. Dude she can take care of herself, she is badass. Your silence would have been your first win of the night, calmly educating the public about why the joke was not funny would have been your second win, the award itself would have been the third. I also am not one for mean jokes. I don’t think the pain of others is funny… not having alopecia, being overweight, or any other hardship… it’s not necessary, it’s cheap and sloppy.

Apologizing is so hard. I am pigheaded and tend to think I am right…a lot. With age comes the realization that apologizing with grace is a superpower that we should all strive for. The “apology” witnessed last night (to everyone except for the one who was hit) was painful to watch. How about I frigging lost my mind, I was nervous and anxious, the joke was cruel and it clearly upset my wife, I love my wife, I lost my cool and I am so very sorry.

It’s so easy to know what to say after the fact…or from the livingroom while in really cozy pjs and a sleeping dog on your lap.

People who know how to say the right thing are my heroes. People who make it all good with their words. People with comfort and grace oozing from their being. I am in awe of those people…and Lady Gaga is one of them. While presenting with the living legend Liza Minnelli, Lady Gaga taught the masterclass…in class.

Overwhelmed and struggling a bit, Liza Minnelli looked lost. Gaga bent down and whispered, I got you. She then read the long list of nominees and passed the envelope to Ms Minnelli…so she could announce the winner.

Will Smith said he was just trying to love and protect his wife…it was a fail. Minutes later, with three little words, Lady Gaga showed us all how it’s really done.

I got you… swoon.

Saving Wormy

I have a problem with saving. I probably save too much stuff and not enough money…but my real issue is that I get way too caught up in saving living things. My husband noticed this one day on a lovely walk on the beach. Instead of enjoying the breathtaking views and smelling the amazing combination of ocean, sweat, and sunscreen…I was throwing starfish (before they became sea stars) back into the ocean. I had to save them, all of them.

Nature does not ask us to do this, there were no yelps from the sand screaming “we are here, we are here”. They were not the Whos from Whoville asking for help, it was all in my head. Sometimes it is hard to feel feels so big.

While walking to school today my little guy saw a really healthy worm in the middle of the sidewalk. Kat! A Worm! A sun dried worm corpse flashed before my eyes so I blurted pick it up! save it!…training the next generation of savers and a Swoon in the making. After many attempts he picked it up…and even though I told him worms like mud, he decided worms like swimming in huge puddles more. Bye Wormy, you had a chance on the sidewalk, but now you have been kidhandled and flung into a deep puddle. Sigh, that “save” did not go as I had hoped.

As we walked Dillon explained the facts of worms…if they bite you, you turn into a worm…worms like mud…next time he will leave the worm alone because he didn’t like touching it. Sometimes 6-year-olds are smarter than 55-year-olds. In an attempt to save this plump little guy, I had him drown. This was so NOT going to be a Swoon.

Walking home, knowing I would feel guilty about that stupid worm all day, a miracle happened. There was Wormy, working its way across the driveway to the gardens…to the mud. Sigh. Life was good again. Okay Katharine, leave this poor worm be, you have traumatized it enough…but that isn’t me. Wormy got a nice little ride to the mud and I swear it looked up at me in thanks.

I have no idea what the point is of this Swoon, it is just a moment in time. Maybe my kids will read it someday…my guess is they can identify with the worm. Happy Spring to all.