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.

Family Fun Myers-Briggs Style

The ability to hear the voices of people you love as the soundtrack of daily living is underrated. Making breakfast for a crowd is my everything. Heaven on earth is sitting in the back seat of the car between my kids, arms overlapping, thighs touching, and the sound of snoring beside me. How sweet to have my “kid” warn out from a trip to the zoo…a blast from the past. Truth is, he was actually warn out from the previous night at a sake bar in Brooklyn…but this mom can think what she chooses.

Our weekend was one of nostalgia. Birthday dinner…pizzas from two local parlors…reliving some childhood goodness. Games and more games. Thank you mother nature for the snow, it allowed for cozy time in front of the fire, the best gift. No Broadway shows this time, instead we did the Bronx Zoo…on a freezing cold March morning…proof of parental love. Somehow over the years the zoo has shrunk, we used to walk for miles, not covering it all, yesterday we did it in 4 hours. It is amazing how fast you can travel when you don’t have to push a 90 pound double stroller or walk the same speed as people with very little legs. We watched tree kangaroos get comfy, bears squabble, and picked our favorite animals…mine was an odd giraffe who licked the wall, no leaves for him, he was a wall licker. To each his own.

A few weeks ago I was feeling a bit like an odd duck…or a wall-licking giraffe…so for some reason I decided to take the Myers-Briggs Test. I immediately felt better. My “personality” is the rarest one, no wonder I feel alone sometimes. I mentioned this to my people and that led to both Greg and Olivia taking the test. It seems my Olivia’s personality mates are at both ends of the spectrum, Tom Hanks or The Joker…she is a debater, she stirs the pot, and has a great sense of humor. I am an advocate, the planner who wants everyone taking care of, and everything in its place…Mother Teresa and Lady Gaga…I am wondering how Mother Teresa would feel about that one. Greg the creative, the mediator, the dreamer…Tolkien, Shakespeare, and Bjork.

Over dinner we told Jacob our personality buddies, and out came his phone. He took the test twice because he believed his answers could go a bit differently depending on his mood. The first time he matched mine, perfectly. The second time he matched his dad’s, perfectly…and right there were our family dynamics. I was the organizer, the caretaker. Greg the creative, the go with the flow, the dreamer. Olivia the independent thinker, the explorer, the devil’s advocate. Jacob matched both his dad and myself. It all made sense. There are times when Olivia and I are oil and vinegar, we just do not mix, then there are times when we are literally perfect together, the best salad dressing ever. She has the same sense of humor as her dad and he doesn’t take her debates personally. Jacob can go with Greg to far off la la lands, then the next minute help me organize the family vacation, he is always the mediator. When family dynamics can be introduced via science, they become so easy to manage. Another gift.

We use our together time for big discussions…what does global warming mean for the house at Fire Island…what are our “must” rides for our upcoming trip to Disney World (yes, we are Disney people, haters gonna hate but we love it)…why a medical release allowing your girlfriend to make medical decisions is important, especially when you live across the country from your family…do you know where all of the passwords are in case something happens to us. Jacob dutifully replied…yes, yes I know where all the important stuff is. I even know where dad’s important things are. I was confused. I deal with all of the important papers, the passwords, the jewelry, what on earth was he hiding, did he have secret family that needed support if he died? The look of confusion on my face must have been clear. Greg piped in, it’s true, he does…he knows where my secret Pop-Tart collection is.

Science proven again, the one with her feet firmly planted on the ground deals with important papers…the dreamer has a secret Pop-Tart stash…a perfect team.

Swoon.

Wall licking giraffe.

Sigh…

Twenty six years ago this kid came into our lives. Sigh. He was a surprise, the best surprise we ever received. I am not sure we would have ever been “ready” to have a kid. I was not even ready to have the stray cat we found on the street let alone a human. I’m so very glad he chose us as his parents. Sigh.

Celebrating birthdays has always been a big thing in our house, parties with friends, celebrations with family, morning special breakfasts, and pick what you want for dinner. It is weird once your “kids” are adults. They have their own special people, their friends, their way of creating the birthday they want. Sigh.

Every morning leading up to his birthday social media memories pop up, baby pictures, thoughts about how much I adore my kids, forecasts on the future, looking back at the past. I was going through pictures the other day so that I can post an assortment of goodness tomorrow on my guy’s birthday. I could not find the right picture.

Twenty six. It used to be just another year, no milestones…it was no ten, becoming a double digit, or 13 when they officially became teenagers. There is nothing sweet about it like sweet 16 or scary like 18 when they can go to war. There are no “first drink” celebrations like 21 or quarter of a century festivities like at 25. It was just 26.

Tomorrow is hitting me like a brick. Tomorrow he is truly on his own, he is… officially off of our insurance. Oh, he has had his own insurance for the last two years, but he has had us as a safety net. Safety net no more…he is 26.

This picture popped up in our daily group Wordle text this am. It is my son’s new family, his Ella, his Opa, and his Luna…his ladies. It made me weep. They are not dressed to the nines or posing to perfection…but they are four beings that are 100% content. That is the best gift a mommy can receive on her birthing eve.

This morning I saw an FB ask for a date night babysitter. I responded because I miss being a mom. I miss reading to kids, playing games, and giving cuddles to little bits right after their tubbies. Between my morning little guy and a few week night babysitting gigs I should have my fix…and that is just delicious. I just received a message asking if I am free to babysit this weekend, and I was thrilled to be able to say I am so sorry, I can’t…my son is flying home for his birthday tomorrow.

Swoon.

Ella, Luna, Jacob, and Europa (Opa). I can hear the purring.

Reflections

February, March, and April mean daily flashbacks to high school play production goodness, birthday celebrations, and vacations in Florida. Nanny and kids playing at the beach, insulation foam “pies”, parties, museum visits…and happy happy faces.

I am a bad mother…I completely adore when my son has a long commute home from work. On those days we chat, and since I am a failure at Star Wars, most pop culture, anything technical or Marvel…we tend to reflect on life. Last week he mentioned how insane our house was when he was a teenager. I could not deny it, it was. It was chaos, it was loud, it would not have been a fun sitcom to watch.

Then he asked why… why was it so nuts?

Sigh. Maybe because…living with teenagers is no easy trick, everything is in flux…social, educational, and emotional challenges appear what feels like out of nowhere, it is like standing on an island and hearing a tsunami warning with nowhere to go…I was just starting my own business, working at least 12+ hours a day…there were no viable medical insurance options back then for small businesses so we lived on edge, only covered for catastrophic illnesses…dad was back at school getting his masters while teaching preschool, after school classes, and college classes in another state, oh and illustrating at night…we were brought up to volunteer so anytime someone asked, we rolled up our sleeves and helped…I was still going for semi-annual checkups for a tumor removed from my mouth, it was a black cloud of stress over my head…oh, and we had no cleaning person, no lawn person, no handy person…none of it.

We acted insane…because we were, but we did the best we could given what we were working with.

One of the nice things about our kid is he completely gets it, and for that I am thankful.

Last night we were at a 50th birthday party, talk of colleges and middle schools galore. Listening to delightful people talking about struggles with their teens, the overwhelming college process, the stress. They were IN it, and I did not envy them. As we left I ran into my brother-in-laws bestie from high school, they moved to NY together in the early 90s. We got to the how are the kid’s…and he said mine is 12…on the younger spectrum of this party…I am hearing a lot of stuff that makes me really scared. I couldn’t lie so I smiled and said, oh, you should be, it is kinda hellish for all involved…but the good news is…it gets much much better.

To my dear Jacob and Olivia…I am so sorry for the insanity, take a look at the pictures, we had some fun times too! Oh, and I love you to the moon and back…always have.

Rainy days in Florida meant trips to any and every museum we could find.

Choice… (nothing to do with uteri)

I am a huge believer in choice. This is in no way a political post. This is about creating your own happy. Our choices are what make our lives bearable. We can choose to look on the bright side or we can focus on the gloom. It really comes down to that.

Many moons ago, I had a newborn and I was miserable. I was working full time, I wanted to be with my baby, life was not fair. We had a sitter two days a week so Greg could get some illustrating done without interruptions. Maria was amazing, she watched baby Jacob, taught me to make baby food, she straightened the apartment and did laundry while he slept…she never stopped moving. She was so lucky, she got to spend time with my baby. One day she told us she was “taking his whites”, this meant she was taking his bitty onsies home with her to wash and layout on her grassy patch in Brooklyn…so the sun would bleach out the stains. She was thrilled to take our laundry to another borough. Everything made her happy. Maria was away from her kids too…working…but she was not bitter…she was a beam of sunshine and wisdom. Maria made the choice to live a happy life.

The pandemic is still interrupting celebrating birthdays with my group of Pleasantville besties, what used to be dinners out, backyard drinkfests, and big birthdays away on wine tours or relaxing in a cabin… are now Zooms. Some have moved, some have underlying issues that we want to respect. We want everyone safe, so we Zoom. What we do not do is moan about it! Last night we had a blast, we did a beer flight bash with everyone doing their tastings while eating warm fresh pub pretzels. It. Was. Joyous. No I wish, too bad, if only…just fun and love…and happiness. One activity was to find a quote or song for the birthday girls. For the friend who always seems to find some goodness in difficult situations I found…

“If the storm forgets to bring the rainbow…paint your own!”

May we all paint beautiful rainbows each and every day, after all, it is our choice to do so.

Thanks to SOUL Brewing Co. in Pleasantville NY for the beer education cheat sheet and beer bundles. We all had different favorites, cause ya know, it’s all about choice. Beer flight glasses and rating sheet from the online sales giant who shall not be named, numbers on recyclable glasses painted on with paint markers. Go for it, it was super fun.

Happy Birthday Dear Swoons!

Swooning.me is two years old today, and just like with my kids, it feels like it has always been a part of my life. It kinda was. I have always felt my feels in XXXL. The need to want to share those feels combined with our friend FB…lead to swoonie posts, which lead to people suggesting a blog, which lead to….sigh, swoon, sigh…swooning.me.

Swooning is a gift to my mental health. A way to connect, tell stories, reflect, and spread hope in what was a really dark and confusing time. It got me through the pandemic, an artistic outlet when my graphic design business dried up for a bit. I am forever grateful to all who join me in swooning…all 28,000 plus people from over 60 different countries. I mean, Mauritius, Sint Maarten, that rocks. Egypt, Germany, and Turkey, homes of my grandparents and great-grandparents, seriously, it chokes me up.

This picture is taken a few years ago on my Lionel’s birthday…Lionel is my nephew who looks like my daddy, Lionel melts my heart. This bear was sitting against the cold windowsill at a local supermarket, it called to me…like Corduroy, this bear needed to be saved. I grabbed him and got on line, many conversations with strangers ensued, how can you not chat with a 5 foot lady holding a 5 foot bear? As I walked through the parking lot people smiled huge smiles, and as I drove home with my bear belted into the passenger seat, people honked their horns. Joy. I had not even given the gift and my heart was full. The FB post about this adventure popped up a few days ago, and I said to myself, ohhhhhh, this is why I swoon.

So, thank you dear swooners for joining my journey. I am not one to keep up with new hobbies, I am proud I stuck with this one. Thank you for not running away after experiencing my spelling and grammar assaults. Thank you for your comments, your likes, and your support. I am both mortified and honored that you read my thoughts.

xoxo

Things I love about this picture… the bear of course…the art by kids and friends on the shelves…the ridiculous amount of Christmas stockings purchased for next years craft fair on the counter…the butterfly on the wall from our 25th anniversary party…and the cozy, yet ridiculous outfit.