why

Why are we going to the living room? Why does she bark? Why did you get a new blue house? Why is there no Greg? Why do you play with me? Why is the cat? Why do you have so many Legos? Why do we walk to school? Why is there no sidewalk? Why don’t I ride a bus? Why are we on line? Why is my mask rainbows? Why are there germs? Why is that girl in front of me? Why is that boy going behind us? Why am I in Kindergarten? Why does it rain?

Why?

Up until this morning at 7:20am my list of “all things why” consisted of things like… why do my dear friends keep experiencing such hardships…why didn’t we put my wedding dress on a high shelf when our basement tends to flood…why don’t people believe in climate change when the evidence is so so so very clear…why is it so hard to stay committed to hard stuff…why can’t I appreciate both the quiet and busy, knowing it will not always be one way?

Why?

I like my new little guys list of “all things why” better than mine, most of his have answers. Because…that’s where the toys are…that is how she says hi to you…I was tired of the color beige…he is in the shower…I like you…we like cats…Legos are the best and should fill every house…driving in Pleasantville is insane…they are building a house and the construction vehicles crushed it…people who live close by don’t get busses, a perk and a curse…to check in…your mommy wants you safe and thinks rainbows are pretty…no clue, I have no clue why there are germs, but we need to respect them…she got here before us…he is polite and getting on line behind us…you are a big guy and Kindergarten is for big guys…so the grass, the trees, and the flowers can grow.

Why did I agree to watch another little man before school?

Yesterday, I would have rolled my eyes and said because I am a sucker for wonderful parents who need a break. Today, I have a different answer. I think it is because deep down I know there is nothing better for my soul than to see the world through the eyes of a 5-year-old.

Swoon.

Cleaning Legos after the flood…and before little guy 2.0 shows up

Mama Wama

I took this picture of the Fire Island fridge to remind me to breathe and regroup. It is from my Ella…Ella who sees, Ella who takes in, Ella who gives both subtle and not so subtle loves to all around her. She is my son’s girlfriend or better yet, partner. My cozy names for Ella are little bit and Ella Ella Ella, she calls me Mama Wama. I love that.

After evacuating Fire Island in preparation for Henri I planned a luxurious lazy morning… social media catch up, reading, getting some work done, and hopefully swooning. A FB post by my friend April, moved me to the point of insta swoon…the rest will wait. April is a Renaissance woman, a teacher, gardener, musician, podcaster, and visual artist. She is one of those women who inspires others, always trying new things, always game for an artistic adventure. Her morning poem touched my soul… here are a few of my favorite parts…

the rain is coming
after borrowing mom’s car
leave the windows open

a nice fresh towel
mom hung up in the bathroom
gets the toothpaste off

let’s adopt a cat
it’s not hard to take care of
when mom does it all

we know how to clean up
we bring all the dishes back
leaving them near the sink

Oh my gosh, every mom I know has been there. I will never understand any human would puts dishes in or next to a sink. What is with that?

My glorious Fire Island week, with a full nest and constant guests, with abundant moments of gloriousness, and ridiculous amounts of work…three days in I was on the verge of a meltdown. Ready to make the next meal I entered the kitchen, and there on the refrigerator was the Ella hug. The one not raised in the home, she could see, she noticed. Meltdown averted through a display of public appreciation. I went back to doing what I love…what I choose to do…what I watched my mom do in that very same house…creating a safe space where everyone can enjoy a bit of bliss, no worries or outside stress.

I go back and forth about how much we do for our kids…by we I mean the very hard working (yet privileged) people I am peers with. We did a lot for our kids, was it too much? Then I watch our kids go off to their jobs, to pay triple the rent we used to pay, understanding that the earth we are leaving them is broken, and that the political division is probably not fixable. When I see all that they deal with, and how well they adapt to their work environments and living situations I think maybe all we did for them rubbed off, maybe it is all ok.

I choose to cook for the masses, to create comfortable spaces…to be a superior carpenter of homemaking. I am blessed with also running a design firm and getting satisfaction from volunteering. Life is about choices and balance, and when it gets overwhelming, a little appreciation goes a long way…thanks Ella.

Rainy Days and Sundays

I know the name of the song is Rainy Days and Mondays. I thought it was a catchy title…but it really makes no sense and is wrong in every way. I love rainy days and I especially love rainy days in the summer. They are a break, a catch up day, a day to be.

It has been the summer of doing…of life turned up to 11. I am loving it. Reunions, house improvements, weddings, cocktails, funerals, and concerts. Life.

Last week we went to a funeral for the mom of a bestie from childhood. One of those bittersweet situations…her mom was no longer in pain, but she would be very missed by her five kids. As we hugged my friend said, “I feel like an orphan.” Nobody can replace your mom. Mary’s mom was a woman who knew how to live. When you rang the bell she met you with a megawatt smile and a “why didn’t you just walk in”. There were two choices upon entrance…run up the winding stairs to Mary’s room and avoid her older brothers launching Jets trivia at you…or visit the kitchen for some goodness, where her mom was always cooking, reading, or hanging with a friend. I always wanted to take the kitchen option…but the idea of dealing with older brothers was so foreign to me, I ran up the stairs each time. I mourn the loss of Mrs. Gallagher, but also mourn the loss of that house. The house was always hopping and full of life.

Later that day we drove to Citi Field to see Green Day. A day in the life of a 55 year old…funeral in the morning and concert in the evening. Spectacular. After asking for directions numerous times, a tour of the bowels of the stadium, and the complete lack of knowledge of the seating system by employees, we were given the coveted red bands… access to the field section. Once we proved to the staff that we did not belong on the field…the guards would not allow us access to the steps to our correct seats. You can’t make this stuff up. So we accepted the gift…we sang, we jumped, and we danced for hours. Early on Billie Joe requested the crowd live the moment instead of watching it through lenses. Put your phones away, put your phones away and live…we have waited a year and a half to live. It was five hours of sweat, smiles, and life affirming goodness.

It is raining and we are in a tiny house at the beach…but I have my family together for a bit, I have them all to myself. This is bliss, even if we are a bit soggy. Swoon.

It happened!

I have the neck. The neck Diane Keaton hides wearing turtlenecks in July, the neck my mom “took care of” when she got her lift, the neck even my older sister (with a body better than many in their 20s) can not escape…the neck.

I was in a Zoom meeting the other day with some young ‘un techies. My computer screen was tilting up, rather than the ever flattering camera from above, and there it was…the neck. Being 5ft, not many people get to see my wrinkles in all their glory and most prepubescents really do not give a hoot about the necks of their pint-sized elders. This Zoom was like being thrown into a hall of mirrors, self awareness galore, there was no turning away or fixing “the situation”… girl you have the neck and it is front and center to all in this meeting…your age is showing.

To be fair and not be a Debbie Downer…I also noticed my clavicles were appearing a bit after years of being covered in layers of comfort, and that my shoulders were a bit more defined, I noticed my jawline was not so bad for a woman of my age. These are all rewards of a lot of hard work, and I am proud of the weight I have lost and the muscle I have gained. It is not easy and every day I keep up the hard work is a day I am proud.

I held my own in the meeting, admitting that I was not the person to make their animated gif but happy to provide the branding details and assets needed for them to do it on their own…I find being honest is a very good thing in the business world. The “kids” were appreciative of my willingness to let them do their thing and I appreciated them not having condescending attitudes towards their loose necked elder. Win win.

Aging with class, appreciating the minds of the young, respecting the beauty of collaboration between generations, and embracing my ever changing being are goals of mine. Each chapter has new surprises, I hope I can accept them gracefully.

So y’all…check out this chapters neck. Swoon.

Photo after some time at the beach, thus the hair…yes I wear sunscreen.

Feeling Blue

Not sad blue…color blue. I am so feeling the color blue.

It is time to paint our house, actually, it was time many moons ago, but the pandemic hit and blah blah blah you know the scoop. I would have let this go another year if my contractor had not shown up in my driveway with two arms full of rhubarb from his garden. I love my contractor. Seeing him reminded me that we probably should not go one more winter with cracked and missing stucco. Last time Andy worked with us we were on a tight (insane) deadline, major renovations with six weeks soup to nuts to get it done. He got it done. This time I said just let me know when you have time…whenever you are ready, we will be ready. On Wednesday night at 7:30pm he called and said I will be there tomorrow am…pick your colors. I love a challenge.

At first I wanted a fairy house…which meant I wanted to paint the house green, a puke chartreuse, a color seen in nature. The house one with the trees. I changed my mind on the drive by tour of childhood memories Greg took us on in Des Moines. His elementary school was cute… but I focused on houses, and there it was…a bright blue house with so much color you could not ignore it. Blue it was…Dad blue, Yeves Klein blue, blue with a touch of red so it sings. I want the little blue house on the corner.

Dad blue. My dad had five categories of shirts… shirtless, Fruit of the Loom white undershirts, tennis polo shirts (no alligator, he did not “advertise for free” by wearing logos), white business oxfords, and… dad blue shirts for dinners out or special occasions. He looked so gorgeous in blue. Swoon.

My first introduction in color theory was from my sister. Allison is five years older than me which means nothing now…but when she went off to RISD I was still a kid and in complete awe of her…she basically knew everything…about everything. Music, fashion, art, she was the master. Allison came home for Thanksgiving from art school wearing two different shoes with a completely new thrift store wardrobe. My father (who was probably wearing a blue shirt because it was an occasion) was a bit confused to say the least. I was mesmerized. That Thanksgiving she wore blue patent leather Mary Janes with a delightful little heel, I loved them and when I expressed my love she said “that is surprising, I think of you as more of a red blue person, these have so much yellow”. Mind blown. What did that mean? They were blue shoes, where on earth does yellow or red come in?

Picking paint colors brought this all back, gray blue, yellow blue, red blue…so many choices. What looks great on the chip might not translate to the house, a 1 inch square of color is so very different covering the side of a house. Light changes color, trees change color, how on earth could a decision be made in 15 hours. It gets done because it needs to get done…and three sample-size cans of paint later we have a winner…at least Greg and I think it is a winner.

One neighbor finds the color bold. That? For the whole house? Well, it certainly is BOLD! I am thinking her meaning of bold is a bit different than mine, to me bold is secure, bright, brilliant, and fun. Another neighbor found it a bit shocking but warmed up to it, and another screamed I LOVE THE COLOR!

So many opinions start to make me nervous. I became annoyed with myself, stop caring what others think! Luckly I have a friend who is a visually brilliant soul, she is a costume designer, sells vintage finds on Etsy, creates wreaths for Biden’s home at Christmas (nice little friend brag there)…and she knows me well. She agreed to pop over at talk me off the ledge of should I or shouldn’t I. It took her 10 minutes to go from sipping coffee in her pjs to being in my driveway reacting to my color choice with class. My guess is there is no way she liked the color for her house, but she completely calmed me from caving on our choice…supportive and not judgmental. Swoon.

I am at peace with the color, it reminds me of my daddy, it feels like the Greek blue houses by the sea, it is alive and it is joyous. While my paints were in the mixer the older gentleman behind the counter helped another customer. When done he said “young man, you have a wonderful day, live your life to the fullest, it goes by too fast”. Spectacular advice.

Congratulations!

There is so much to congratulate my husband for…rebuilding the ceiling that was falling into our living room…surviving teaching high school art during a pandemic…sticking it out with me for 30 years…raising two lovely, smart, stand up for what they believe in humans…being a completely swoonie son to his parents and mine…for these things and more he deserves so so so many congratulations.

What he deserves no credit for..our new car.

Our lease was almost up. I researched options…on buying it out…getting a new lease from a different company…car options from the same company. I spoke with sales people on the phone and in person…which I hate. I really am not a fan of car salesmen. I mean do they take classes like Sexism 101 and Condescending Behavior for Beginners? I have no patience for it. So anyway, I do my due diligence and after 4 trips to Toyota, personally signing all of the paperwork (it is a business car)…it is time to actually get in the car and drive away. There on the dashboard is the sign…Congratulations! Mr Nemec. I kid you not. I saved it. Shoot me in the head, what on earth is wrong with these people? I literally just handed them numerous checks and signed every single piece of paper as my husband scrolled through his phone. They checked MY credit the day before, the previous lease was in my name. So very many clues as to who was buying this car, yet every clue missed.

I would like to think maybe they meant Congratulations Mr Nemec…you sure married a smart woman…but the rest of the note went on to say “Thank you for YOUR business”, sigh.

I get that this sounds petty, but it really bothers me, I think it bothers a lot of women. Most of my friends are working women, working women who raised beautiful families. They have lovely husbands, husbands who in many cases do not make as much money as their wives, if keeping track of that stuff matters. These women are rockstars, who keep their homes, offices, and communities in sync and running. They make this world better. Why is this so hard to grasp? Why in 2021 would there be a sign that says anything other than…Congratulations on your new car! Why does it have to be sexist?

Thankfully my husband is really funny…he can make me laugh like no other person on this earth. As we walk up to the car we both notice the note. The moment could go either way, and he picked the right path…completely deadpan he said something like “Oh nice, they are congratulating me on my new car, I hope you appreciate me”.

Congratulations to you Kat Nemec…you do have a delicious husband…and a kick-ass, do what you can to save the world, hybrid/electric car. Swoon.

NOTE: This is not about bashing this dealership…I LOVE this dealership and my salesperson was wonderful, that is why I went there. What I do not love is the assumption by the person printing out the notes that it is a man buying each and every car. Thank you for listening.

Surprise!

It’s been a while. If you go back to a previous Swoon about being superstitious… you will understand why I was away…I was channeling my Armenian Grandma and trying not to curse my upcoming reunion with my kid. No pre-happiness, no celebrating, just minding my own business. It worked. I saw my Jacob. I hugged him. I smelled him. Smelling his neck was like having my baby in my arms again, like nothing I have ever experienced. To be clear, he does not stink, there are no hygiene issues…but I forgot about the sense of smell while missing him. Surprise…it wasn’t the hug that did me in, it was the smell.

Things don’t always go as you expect them to go. We expected to reunite earlier than we did, airline delays changed those plans. 17 hours after leaving home in NY I was at the Des Moines airport…still waiting…the same amount of time I was in labor with him, fitting. Dancing with my guy outside the airport to the 80’s music being pipped in we did what we could to fill the time. Laughing every time I mistook someone for Jacob…you know, a tall blonde guy or a pudgy Asian woman…I was tired. The two of us beyond eager but Olivia wanted him first, she waited inside at the bottom of the stairs. Siblings who love each other, my heart is full. Then there they were…Jacob and Ella…we united. Jacob was surprised that I was so short, he forgot, on Zoom we are all the same height. I think he also doesn’t understand that in the past two years he has done that thing…where young men turn into men, he is a man. Surprise.

Trips to corn fields for photo ops and glimpses into mid-western life…we were covered in mud, a very confused local stopped to offer help…no thanks we are ok, we are New Yorkers and Californians, we just want to see corn grow. Shopping for supplies for potluck suppers, giving the produce men something to stare at, black jumpsuits, huge sunglasses, and red lipstick are not common shopping outfits here. I am new to the potluck, I had to learn the rules. Evidently it goes like this… *ssholes bring a bag of chips, average people bring a fruit salad, and really really good people bring a main course. We brought a main course salad, we are ok people. Watching the cousins playing on the playground…pure magic. They are so very good to each other and so very patient with their Aunt Kat, I was allowed to take their picture…it will be the album cover when they decide to release their first LP.

Weddings…I love weddings. A couple who really adore each other. Dressing up. Family. Dancing with my beautiful daughter and my 90 year old mother-in-law. Moscow Mules galore. Holding my guys hand while thinking back to our wedding. What could go wrong. Surprise…a downpour…in the middle of the vows. We sat until the bride, with a glorious huge smile on her face, released us to stand under the eaves. They continued their vows under umbrellas…glowing in perfection. Unplanned craziness only ruins things if you let it.

Family…there are a lot of us. 18-25 people for most meals. No problem. Cooking with my nephew, chopping, switching up recipes, laughing, intergenerational bonding and teasing. Amazing. Sightseeing, thrift shopping, card playing, karaoke, setting up for the wedding, putting up gutters, putting down mulch…different groups going in different directions…to then come together for the midday meal. Midwestern brilliance. Brunch for all at Grandma’s house because the hotel was not serving yet, ok no problem. Pancakes, gluten free pancakes, dairy free pancakes, eggs, potatoes, fresh fruit compotes and salads…Ella and I had it covered…the east and west coasters cooking for the midwesterners. Swoon.

My Jacob does not read my Swoons. He told me he is saving them for when I die. (insert two very raised eyebrows here). This plan allows me to write this…because I know he will not be embarrassed by my public honesty.

Jacob, it was so very lovely to see you, to hug you, to smell you. I hope we never have to go 16 months without experiencing your in person goodness again, but if we do, I know we will manage. We love you to the moon and back…and that is no surprise.

It’s My Party

I think this was July 2015… years, reunions, birthdays all blur. We had the whole Nemec crew to Fire Island. For weeks we brought out food, drink, extra towels, so many supplies we broke a wagon, an industrial wagon. Weeks of preparation for 3-5 nights of family, games, eating, and more games, it is always worth it. Seeing the cousins together, getting to know my nieces and nephews, it is delicious. Some reunions include my actual birth day. This might mean a strawberry shortcake made by the “kids” or a plant purchased and installed in our FI garden by the crew. I am a recovering birthdayphobe so it is always a little nervous making for me, but this group always celebrates in a simple and nonintrusive way. Swoon.

Birthdays. Oh I had lovely parties as a kid. My mom baked and we played games. It was so so hot, thighs sticking to the plastic seats as we played musical chairs or hot potato. Like the song, many parties ended in tears, I found being the center of attention trying. Aging into nice dinners with the family or a show in the city was a relief. My dad hated when I picked a show. Pricey, Manhattan in the summer, looking for free parking, not his favorite…but really, how can you not be happy seeing Debbie Allen in the West Side Story revival…he was not happy.

I think my real birthdayphobia kicked in the day I turned 18. I was working at David’s Cookies. My friends were all busy babysitting or vacationing so it was going to be a pretty unfestive evening after serving cookies and ice-cream cones all day. Arriving at work I found 25 boxes (at 50 pounds each) of frozen cookie dough outside the store. The manager, who was 19, decided not to show up. Propping the front and freezer doors open (having learned a thing or two from The Brady Bunch…there was no way I was getting stuck in a freezer) box by box I put the dough into its rightful place. Arriving home after a 6am to 6pm shift exhausted and a bit down…to have my mom and Aunt Jean pop out the front door while singing (screaming) happy birthday and running towards me with wild waving arms…making a complete scene for all the neighborhood to see. I walked past them and decided I was cursed. Newly minted 18 year olds can be a bit self absorbed.

The thing is…when you declare yourself cursed, you become cursed. This all went on for years, I missed out on many beautiful days because I was looking for the disaster that was about to happen. Don’t get me wrong, many times they were really crappy days, but the magic started as soon as I decided I really did not care what happened on July 1st. No planning, no expectations. Just live it as another day (with cake of course).

What I found was that not expecting goodness created such goodness. Last year in lockdown, with my son across the country, not being able to be at the beach or see friends, I had the most delightfully perfect birthday.

This year my kids surprised me with a Mother’s Day/Birthday gift…an overnight for just me and my guy…a lovely bit of quiet and calm. Having kids who really get me…who know what makes me smile…now THAT is the best gift ever. Swoon.

Flocked

flocked…congregate or mass in a flock or large group

“You’ve been Flocked”…the sign…the flocks of flamingos covering lawns all over town…the brilliance. On my run today (ha, isn’t cute that I can actually say that, to be honest it is a run/walk) I passed a house that had been “flocked”. It was beautiful. Hot pink bits of birdness popping out of the grass, a red white and blue Uncle Sam joining the fun. Cub Scouts doing their thing, bringing joy to the neighborhood while raising funds for their troop. No transfats or surgery treats involved. Swoon.

I loved loved loved Cub Scouts. I loved it because I was not a Cub Scout leader. No camping, popcorn sales, whittling, knot tying, hotdogs wrapped in cheese product, or beans heated up in the can for me. No filth. That was all for my son and his dad.

Somehow…I do not remember how (this is sarcasm), Greg and our friend Jeff were convinced that they would LOVE being troop leaders for a gaggle of very squirrely little boys. There were books to tell them exactly what needed to be done and they were crafty can do kind of guys. They were always fixing their own homes and teaching their kids how to do stuff, super patient and kind…the perfect leaders.

The boys would all go camping, or to sleep at a zoo… and we ladies and our daughters would go to a hotel. Boys caked in dirt experiencing nature and women drinking cocktails as our daughters splashed in the pool. Win win. To be fair, these were also the girls in our Brownie Troop and we too had our share of overnight trips…we camped in glorious cabins with beautiful stone fireplaces and fully stocked kitchens.

Flocked…oh my gosh the term just brings tears to my eyes. I am enjoying flocking with my people. I missed flocking. I need to write to the local Cub Scout leader and make sure I am on the flocking list for next year…it will be worth every penny.

Thanks for the memories Pack 15. You are awesome.

Really. How delicious is THIS!