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!

The Shed

It seems a simple enough ask. “Kat can you get me a hammer”. Nope. Finding a hammer at Fire Island might mean going to the kitchen to the tool bin, or going to the new tool shed between houses, or going to the newly named Annex, which used to be the shed. It’s confusing. Most of the time the hammer is on the floor near a recent project. We are not known for putting things back around here.

In the old days we had “the chemical shed” a snarky name given to the building pictured here. It was over 100 years old when we replaced it. Held up by paint and “Allison’s birthday roses” which grew through it…weaving in and out of the slats. It was the home of many generations of mice (and chemicals) and it was a hazard. The boys built the new shed, shelves, floor, hooks, and lock. It was gorgeous for a month. Now it is a less charming version of the old shed. Exteriors can be changed but we stay the same in the inside.

The charm of the old is slowly fading out here. New sheds, big TVs, ice makers. It happens slowly, especially for us, but it is happening. Family nights playing charades, sardines, or Monopoly are now spent going out or watching movies. Patching together miss matched sheet sets no more, we order online and ship them out. Cool air from the ocean breeze replaced with AC “you can’t rent without AC”. Less mosquitoes with closed windows…a win…I guess. It is a more convenient life, more comfortable…but sometimes I miss the challenge of it not being so easy.

New houses, huge houses, ridiculous beautiful enormous houses going up all over, our town is one of the last where you can still get property for “a deal”. Little beach shacks from 1900 being torn down, dismissed…all charm, no rentability.

The house is almost ready for the next group of renters. People who choose our cottage because it is not big or “done”. People who want family time and game nights, dinners outside after a day at the beach. We happily share our little bit of heaven with them. Hoping they enjoy the beauty of doing dishes together while chatting…because there is thankfully no dishwasher…yet.

Keeping Balanced

Life is getting back to normal, by normal I mean crazy hectic. Getting Fire Island ready for the renters, drinks with friends, lots of work, dessert nights, extended family dinners, movie nights in a neighbors yard, birthday celebrations, planning vacations, gatherings with co-workers, graduations and celebrations…I am not complaining. Ok, I’m on the verge of complaining.

BPL (before pandemic life) our family schedule used to be so full we didn’t have time to enjoy all of the goodness, it was almost a chore. DPL (during pandemic life) we had nothing, we savored the gift of time and quiet…but we longed for our people. Now that our calendars are filling up again I need to remember balance.

Balance is tough for me. I thought I learned it DPL but I am noticing I did not…I enjoyed it, but it clearly did not take hold. Over scheduling is back. We are once again juggling a lot of living…and at the moment it is still all good.

My new goal is to note when the resentment of having too much to do starts to sneak back in…and take a break before it makes me grumpy. In the meantime I will drink my bourbon, plate my lovely dessert towers, and keep the cheese drawer full and ready to go. I will smile til it hurts watching my husband run across the yard giving kids wheelbarrow rides…then laugh at the scene when the kids realize they can’t reciprocate. It isn’t often Greg is called “too too heavy”. We will welcome back neighbors who moved during the pandemic, and toast those that are leaving soon. We will party til we feel full and then we will stop and recover…and then we will start again.

Welcome back world, I missed you.

They could not make it budge…sheer joy.

Kiss the Sky

That’s me and my dad…30 years ago. It’s one of my favorites from an amazing day. Taken just after he told me he was proud of who I had become and amazed at how calm I was (the photographer had to remind me to get dressed, I was happily chilling in cutoffs and a t-shirt an hour before the wedding). Then, as the music started, just as we were about to walk down the aisle, he asked me the question all dads should ask their daughters…are you sure, we love Greg, but you need to be 100% sure. I was sure. He smiled and off we went. What I love about this picture is it kinda looks like I was holding him up. The truth is…I was, he was shaking and on the verge of tears. Once down the aisle, when he was supposed to release me to my man, we had an extra long hug…an oh no, is he going to let her go hug. I loved it.

My dad was a typical dad from the 70s, commuting to work, reading the paper while sipping coffee and smoking, tennis, volleyball, fixing up the house, doing the bills…he loved us dearly but my mom did most of the kid related stuff. He was always good at saying I love you, ahead of his time on that one, affection usually came in the form of a slap on the thigh while driving in the car, no eye contact, just a slap then shake and an I love you Kat, I miss that.

Side note: as I suspected in May, I have seen no OpEd articles on why Father’s Day should be obliterated. No stories about how it is not fair because some people had bad dads, or some people no longer have dads on this earth. I guess those emotions only apply to women, celebrating male parental units is totally fine. Sigh.

Celebrating my dad even though he no longer is physically here is a choice I made early on. He passed away when my kids were young, young enough to only kind of remember him. I wanted my kids to know him…his likes, his quirkiness, his humor, his gentle nature, and his incredible smarts. We celebrated Dia de Muertos with an altar with all the things he loved when they were young. We eat Entemmann’s cakes, licorice, and donuts in honor of him on special days (tough work but but we power through it). We talk like he is still around, Jacob, you look just like Papa when you sit like that…Olivia, you are so funny, Papa used to come up with great answers to games just like you. They know their Papa just like kids who get to see their grandpas in person. He lives on.

As with Mother’s Day I feel for those who do not have nice relationships with their fathers, and my heart hurts for those who no longer have a dad to hug. I understand the later, and it does sting. That said, the best way for me to honor my dad is to have a nice day, maybe with a little extra sweetness in it, maybe a little chat with him while I walk on the beach…and most definitely, with a kiss to the sky.

I love you dad. A lot.

Happy Father’s Day to all who are celebrating it. A special shout out to the wonderful father of our two kids, there was never any doubt in my mind you would be a great dad. To all the Uncles, Brothers, Grandpas, and good men who take time to make this world better…thank you and enjoy the day.

KGS GHV JKL

This is a Swoon that will change your life…because once I tell you what the letter combos above mean, you will never be able to unsee it. Your mind will create little blurbs from the license plates no matter how hard you try to stop it. I’m sorry.

Kat & Greg Snuggle. Greg Hugs Via. Jacob Kicks Leah. Sorry Leah…it just pops in and I do not edit. I am not sure when this started, and I assume it will go on for the rest of my life…whether driving or walking in a parking lot, my mind spins little stories of the ones I love. It is kind of comforting.

Greg has his own game while in the car, I will be happily scrolling on my phone, listening to a podcast while he is driving and suddenly…I get a Wet Willy…Greg Slobbers on Kat (GSK) or a pinch (GPK). I will immediately look up and have to guess based on his action and the car in front of us. It can be quite startling to get flicked (GFK) out of nowhere…he keeps me on my toes. Sometimes I feel like I have taken on the role his younger sisters fulfilled for his first 19 years…especially on long car rides.

We had our 30th anniversary date yesterday. Just us, 3 hours of driving for strawberry and asparagus picking, antiquing, an outdoor meal, and just being out in beautiful air while enjoying spectacular scenery. Cleansing. We arrived home to realize we had picked enough strawberries for our own festival, so we did a quick distribution to those in need of strawberries. My mom graciously cleaned and removed the stems of 12 cups of fresh berries. A beautiful batch of homemade ice cream, frozen baggies for smoothies, crushed berries with lemon and a bit of sugar for future drinks, pancakes, and ice cream…glorious. Then we made dinner together and the four of us watched a movie. What a day. A perfect day.

I have watched people celebrate anniversaries with big trips to Italy, buying a boat, or sporting new diamond ring. The twenty year old me dreamed of this stuff…oh so romantic…but I can honestly say I had the most swoon-worthy day…simple, silly, and full of goodness.

Here’s to the next 30…Swoon.

30

Thirty…a number that has popped up for me quite a bit in the last three days. I choose to take it as a sign. I am not sure what the sign means, but it must mean something.

Thirty. Recently I was talking with a dear friend whose teenager is not so great at putting up with the bullshit of her peers, an old soul. I told her the story of waking up on my 30th birthday and feeling like I was finally the age I was meant to be. It was like everything all lined up and made sense. I died at a ripe old age the last time I did this life thing. A senior staff house keeper in an English society family, think Mrs Hughes on Downton Abbey. Taking care of people, knowing how to serve and give parties, being in the background getting it all done. I believe we have all lived many lives, and have more to come. If we allow ourselves to remember our past experiences…our current stay will be much easier. Old souls like my friend’s daughter and myself have not been teens for a long time…we prefer the company of adults, we prefer to avoid the drama of teendom, we can not wait to get the hell out of high school. I feel for my friend’s daughter but I do not worry about her. It’s great to have your best years ahead of you…peaking early is overrated.

Thirty. My husband and I have been married for thirty years. That. Is. Crazy. We are both perfect for each other…and exceptionally horrible together…with a whole lot of boring normal survival in-between. The thing that makes us stick with it is knowing that some more perfect might be just around the corner, like a promise of an ice cream cone after a long drive. It is not easy, but it is worth it. Thirty years of adventures, struggles, joy, kids, grief…moments that make life worth living. That is almost 11, 000 days, which seems ridiculous because some days feel like they will never end. Time is funny. My in-laws celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary two days after we got married. They were SO old, I worried if they could make it to a Broadway show on their own…you know, being their 50s.

Thirty. I am selling my Peloton. It is just not for me. I would love to be like those people who wake up eager to be yelled at while sweating to the 80s with Tiffany…so not me. Tiffany, feel free to take your perky attitude and thigh gap and jump in a lake. I would much rather take a walk or dance to the 80s in my studio…alone. Posting things for sale is difficult for me, I am a giver, not a seller…I don’t have tag sales, I have free piles. That is not an option with a ridiculously expensive piece of exercise equipment that has been used 10 times then ignored. After much interest then many we can’t because situations…I found a buyer. She is thrilled and I am thrilled for her, she wants to lose 30 pounds…thirty.

Thanks to a reminder from my countdown to all things good daughter…in thirty days I will see my son. We have not hugged since 5am on March 10, 2020…it will have been 69 weeks…or about 483 days…but who’s counting. That is a long time to not be able to hug my baby. Swoon.

I have no clue what all this Thirty-something stuff means…ha Thirtysomething, I used to love that show about “old” people. Sometimes there is no meaning other than a spark to remember and connect thoughts. That is good enough for me.

Being 30.