Good Morning Sunshine!

Twenty three days in. I am twenty three days into my latest recipe for disaster…namely Kat’s New Years Resolution Countdown to Failure. My past projects for attaining perfection have included: returning to my wedding day weight (which I might add was “accomplished” for only one day…out of the 19,860 days I have been on this earth); exercising daily in order to complete a half marathon by spring; cancelling amazon prime and only shopping local; writing a novel; organizing every room in the house; reading a book a week; mastering 12 new crafts in a year; journaling every morning and evening; and having a unbreakable once-a-week date night with my guy…you get the picture, a yearly recipe for disaster and disappointment.

This year, thanks to my pal the pandemic, I have been forced to slow down…to spend time in my head, to forgive my faults, and I have many of them. I talk too much, I eat too much, I judge too much, I give too much, I plan too much, I care too much…it is just all way too much. When you are running a business, raising kids, keeping up your house, helping your man run their businesses, over volunteering, and the extended family holiday maven…being “too much” is how you survive, because if you slow down or stop…you might not be able to start up again.

Given the gift of time, of quiet, and of calm I have learned that maybe it is not about getting rid of my faults, but about calming them a bit…maybe it is just time to lose the “too much”.

This morning, while my people enjoyed a cozy weekend alarm-free sleep in, Jasmine and I went for a walk. Dogs understand the concept of living in the moment…with a bounce in their step they appreciate every smell, poop, and furry creature they meet. We set out on our journey with no deadlines, no agenda…just out to enjoy the world. We discovered some chalk art and a lucky penny. We experienced many 2021 smiles…no teeth, all eyes. We received a text with the most glorious picture of a friend’s parents…who now feel a bit more safe and are everything I hope to be at their age (seriously, look at those smiles and heads of hair…goals). Jasmine and I arrived home refreshed and invigorated…greeted by our happy refrigerator…covered in rainbow art and butterflies. Being content is delicious.

Twenty three days in…my resolution was to accept that it is ok to just be just enough. I wake up grateful for my healthy family and for the chance to create my day. Days where I declare three attainable goals…and if I don’t reach them, that’s ok…because tomorrow there will be another shot.

Exercise (a long walk with my Jasmine)…doing something sweet for someone (leaving my lucky penny on a bench for someone else to find)…and writing a swoon…a successful day already. Goals that in no way lead to perfection…but they made me happy, and that is enough.

My Girls

To my most amazing girls…my daughter, nieces, and Girl Scouts. To my kids’ friends and my friends’ kids. Today…today is what I have been talking about. Today we saw that hard work, goals, talents, smarts, and dreams…will not be squashed by people who fear your strength.

To my most talented girls…you are everything and you can be anything.

To my most badass girls…there is no place you can’t go, there is no person who can outshine you, take what you want, you deserve it. Sonia. Gaga. Amanda. KAMALA….badass brilliance.

To my most thoughtful and tender girls…in the past four years, when everything we preached about your potential seemed like lies…you became stronger…we told you the truth, you are the change, the change we need.

To my most brilliant girls…I love you so. Today is your day. Swoon.

Amazing, talented, smart, badass Girl Scouts…who have listened to girl power preaching for so many years…the world is your oyster.

DC Swoon

This is in no way shape or form a political post, nor is it about Batman or Wonder Woman…it is a love letter to a place I adore.

We began using DC as our go to vacation spot when our kids were little. Inexpensive, drivable, culture, lots of walking, history, science…and an Embassy Suites with a pool and 4 o’clock cocktails and munchies. Score. The joy of a weekend with a king size bed, kids on a pull out couch, two tvs, a different restaurant each night, food choices from all over the world…with the bonus of meeting family and friends from the area…swoon.

Memories.

Toddler Jacob sitting before the waterfall of inscriptions at the FDR Memorial…quote after quote touching our hearts as he asked us to read another, read another. Olivia following a map to finally reach Bert and Ernie…who had clearly been awaiting her arrival. The Women’s March and Climate March…days of connection, compassion, and love (that is as political as I am getting and I hope beyond hope it is not too political for you). The museum exhibition of crime scenes, all made as little doll house displays, used by forensic scientists as teaching tools. Portrait after portrait of leaders…those we feel lead us well, and those we think failed us, hanging right next to each other…for eternity.

Spaceships hanging with the Spirit of ’76, living together with the constant smell of french fries from the cafeteria. The Holocaust Museum, Daniel’s Story, a gentle way to teach a horrific subject. Olivia so overwhelmed she napped on a couch in a lobby between floors. Too short to see the really graphic images, she still felt the evil.

Renting bikes to experience cherry blossoms…returning bikes because there were so many people there to see the cherry blossoms. The glory of the pink carpet of petals. Olivia taking a photograph…of someone painting a picture…of someone painting a picture…pictures within pictures, a never ending loop.

Feeling the power of positive leadership and respect…monuments blanket the horizon. Name after name…touch them…watching men find their fallen friends, tears, gifts, a prayer and a goodbye. Awe for the young woman who understood that a memorial for those lost…should be about every single one of them, not a chosen few. A place for families to be with their loved ones, a place to reflect and note the volume of humans lost. Memorials. Walking through the path towards the unfinished marble…white and so very tall, reaching the sky, so very blue. Around the front MLK Jr is emerging from the stone pillow…defiant yet so tender.

Together time…mini vacations, 4th of July, weekend breaks from college, a vacation instead of a Sweet Sixteen…family. One year ago today…our last trip to DC, our last vacation, just the two of us. Museum after museum. Bourbon bar. Lovely meals. We had no clue what was ahead, no understanding of masks, no appreciation for holding hands while we ate a meal in a restaurant. No appreciation of the freedom we had…to travel, to see family, to explore our favorite places…to just be us.

Wishing one of my very favorite places strength and peace.

Cherry Blossoms by Olivia Nemec

One Can Dream

One summer day, many moons ago, my son, one of his besties, and two of my nephews saved the earth from invading All Terrain Armored Transport combat walkers. I am not a Star Wars geek…I just did a google search for Star Wars big white walking things. I could not tell you who the good guys are…and have no clue if the walkers were helping or harming. The only thing I do know is…this adventure happened.

The photo (enhanced by my Photoshop guru husband) is solely for those in the non-believing world. To the four kids on the beach, it is unnecessary proof of something they already knew…they lived it.

My son was born with the ability to make believe with the best of the make believers. He spent much of his childhood battling pirates, knights, and the dark side. He created complex stories and songs before he could clearly communicate with others…he didn’t mind, he would happily hang out in his head for hours at a time. A beautiful place.

He and his buddy could let go of this world and embrace the fantastic landscapes in their minds…where imagined creatures were friends, always treated as equals. Even more impressive was their ability to introduce these magical worlds to the little guys…inviting them to a place that so few can go.

I am feeling down, I want to see my son. I wish I had the ability to meet him on Tatooine and get a drink at the Cantina*. Maybe we will do that this weekend. One can dream.

*I googled Star Wars bar with Princess Leia in the bikini (don’t go there, there is a lot of drama about that bikini)…I then tried Star Wars bar…that search worked.

3…2…1 GO!

My heart is racing, everyone is watching. I run across the gym towards the person screaming really helpful advice…GO FASTER. I arrive, slap their hand, retreat to the back of the line…and wait for the next round of humiliation. Races, dodgeball, volleyball, oh my gosh, not my strength. When you are 9 you have not yet learned that you don’t need to be good at everything.

One competitive “sport” I am good at…getting tickets to events. I am a Broadway girl, I watch what is coming, read reviews, and like to think I know when to buy. Actually that is not true. I had no desire to watch a musical history lesson, Alexander who…sigh…I learned the hard way on that one.

Because of my emotional investment in live theater…I cherish the ability to see favorite shows more than once. My friend took me to HAIR for my birthday, two shorties, last row of the orchestra, happily sitting on the back of our seats. Not missing a beat, on the train ride home, I scoured for the perfect tickets for my crew. First row aisle for two, and a bit further back for any who might be embarrassed by the nudity…divide and conquer. Our daughter, in her flower power shirt and ridiculously long pigtails, interacted with the cast throughout the show…doing what she does best, celebrating life.

In 2001, my sister-in-law told us to see the movie Hedwig and the Angry Inch, “the little boy dancing on the bed IS Jacob”. When we finally got to view the rental, we laughed until we cried. At that time in our lives, post bath time was show time…Jacob singing King of the Road or performing some other completely over the top musical number. Feetsie pjs, thick lisp, heart felt belting, the bed his stage…a dramatic finale…spin, bounce, and collapse.

When I found out Neil Patrick Harris was going to star in Hedwig on Broadway I became obsessed. Our kids were grown, they knew the story and music well…we were going. Rumor was that tickets for the NPH run would be gone before noon. Sale day arrived, alarms set, credit cards ready…it was a living hell. I watched in horror as the theater filled up day after day. In need (want) of specific seats, I decided to once again, to divide and conquer…which meant two different transactions. I could feel the pulse behind my eyes…wait, what smells so bad…oh my gosh, it’s me. Focus woman, GO FASTER! Scroll, enter, send…now repeat for ticket purchase number two. I got them, I did it. The joy, the relief, the pride.

Pride will always come back to bite you in the ass. When sharing my epic adventure at dinner…to the completely unemotional and unimpressed members of my family…they asked the logical question, when are we going. I took out the tickets and realized that in the stressful flurry…I had purchased tickets for two different days. So much for a family experience. So much for acing it. So much for pride. So much for anyone noticing the feat I accomplished, which was a feat…even with the little bump in the plans.

Yesterday I once again experienced the panic of online ticket purchases. Vaccines became available for teachers, aides in schools, and those over 75…three of my people fit those descriptions. I researched, scoured social media, and had a buddy to share info with…I was ready. Very late the night before appointments were to go live, I noticed that people were already getting appointments. I created accounts for my people and filled in questionnaires…scroll, enter, send…oh my gosh Katharine, GO FASTER, this time it actually matters.

Three appointments scored in the South Bronx…not perfect, but what is? Early the next morning we found out there were appointments closer to home…so we redid it all including cancelling the South Bronx. Next, sending the information to friends and family…never be greedy with information, always take care of your peeps.

Exhausted after staying up way past my bedtime for vaccine grab round one, and waking up extra early for the redo…I was fried. I am not sure tickets to any Broadway show will ever be worth experiencing that stress again. The icing on the day-o-stress cake…after witnessed people panicking at the lack of available appointments…my Olivia called me “Mom, I just want to say thank you. You always look out for us and do what ever you can to get us what we need. Thanks for that.”

Swoon…she noticed.

The Blizzard of ’96

Last week I read an article about the blizzard of ’96, and given the other events happening…it was a nice diversion, a reason to remember. In 1996 I was pregnant with my first child, I had just bought a business, and I was working beyond crazy hours. The mile walk to work with what ended up being a 9.8 pound baby in my uterus was my “me time”. At my height, I was almost as wide as I was tall. Looking straight on, one might not be able to tell…but if I turned sideways, I could hear gasps or laughing, sometimes both.

I loved being pregnant and having my babies all to myself…but that winter, navigating the “snow alleys” on city street corners became a game of chess. The 4-6 foot high, one way “paths” between the street and sidewalk meant people had to walk single file…no room for negotiations. Aggressive New Yorkers would race to reach the middle first, making everyone coming towards them turn around. The problem was, with my backpack, big faux fur swing coat, and an extra large baby bump…I literally could not turnaround. Time and time again, Mr I Think I Am So Important Guy racing towards me swinging his briefcase like an exclamation point would stop in his tracks as I whipped opened my coat screaming STOP! I CANNOT TURN AROUND! They always stopped.

The first night of the blizzard of ’96 the mayor closed the city…the next day there would be little to no transportation and only essential workers should report work, it was a mandatory snow day. A time before everyone had home offices and the existence of pdfs…I was planning on a snuggle day with my guy…swoon. Sadly, my client had a different plan, excited about the thermal fax machine she purchased over the holidays, she was looking forward to working from home. She asked me to go into the office and fax her the most recent pages of a book I was designing. Sigh.

Early the next morning I waited and waited for the crosstown bus…my green coat turned heavy and white, and my Paddington hat (big red flower and all) was a dome of snow. I was becoming very grumpy. What was wrong with this woman? She knew I was extremely pregnant, she knew the city was closed. And just as I got a bit teary about having to walk…a phantom bus arrived…and across 23rd Street we slid. I got off at 5th Avenue and adjusted my internal compass, the snow was blinding, I found the Flatiron building but Madison Square Park was gone. Looking north I could see a few people skiing towards me. There were no sidewalks so I walked right up the center of 5th. The quiet, the quiet was like nothing I had ever experienced. It was literally just the sound of snow, untouched white snow. It was magical.

At the office I did what needed to get done and quickly headed out for my walk home. There would be plenty of time for cozy, and as a new business owner I had done the right thing. A beautiful experience…and because it was before we photographed every waking moment…it is only in my head, where it only gets better with time.

Coffee, Coins, and Ashes

Stirring coffee, the sound of the spoon from my childhood home clinking the mug…Dad. The only difference between the two cups, decades apart, the taste. His…instant coffee, two heaping teaspoons of sugar, and a splash of milk…brown sugar water. Mine, dark and rich, the more caffeine the better.

Searching for a photograph…scrolling endless scrolling. Never finding the image I was looking for, but coming across one from when my daughter was obsessed with rolling coins…her piles, her finds of random small objects, Monopoly pieces and subway tokens…blasts from the past. I too loved rolling coins. The feel of oils and dirt from so many strangers, counting, stacking, recounting. Working them into the paper tubes, folding the openings carefully to avoid coin explosions. The weight…rolls and rolls of metal soon to be exchanged for light paper money. Swoon.

Dad…the smell of coffee and shaving cream, the stern voice of the newscaster, the swish swish of his tie as he centered and pulled it tight…mornings. Returning home, looking through the mail, to the kitchen for a kiss with mom, putting loose change from his pockets into the brown glass jar before hanging the suit for another day. It was a one way jar, money only went in…until the day he made a deal with us kids (our family was big on deals). If we rolled the coins, we would use the money for ice cream on an upcoming vacation. We rolled $173.00 worth of coins…and we got ice cream twice…because spending $173.00 on ice cream is ridiculous no matter what deals have been made.

My dad was born in 1929, he did not waste. He would happily buy an extra house to rent out for profit, spring for a really good steak, or throw a huge party for friends with top of the line liquor…but he did not “throw away money”. Ever.

This morning I saw the blue box-o-dad. Oh the memories…the immediacy, the mortician, laughing to the point of tears. Quick decisions, being engulfed in sadness while really wanting to avoid annoying my dad, it was crazy. My mom talking with him the entire time, Hon, what do you think? Hon, what should we do? We knew spending “big bucks” on a coffin used only for cremation was not ok. Asking to see the least expensive option, we were shown a casket that only Liberace….or a toddler…would choose. Shiny purple satin…with white lace…clearly a marketing ploy to embarrass you into spending more money. After recovering from the mental picture of my dad in that lavender bit of spectacular…we picked an unadorned pine box. Next, with poise and professionalism, the salesman of all things death, showed us box after box for the ashes…gaudy, glitzy…expensive, doing his best Carol Merril from Let’s Make a Deal. Mom got another message from above, Greg should make the box. So we said, thank you Mr Funeral Man, but we will just take the bag-o-dad option and move on. I think that was what sent the poor guy over the edge…he came back with a slate blue plywood box “a transport box”. As we walked out into the Florida sunset, we high fived the the pink sky, knowing we had done it exactly as my dad wanted, simple, sophisticated, and we didn’t “break the bank”.

Dad, sigh. This time of year, pink clouds often greet me each morning and close out each day…I blow a kiss up to you and carry on. Life is good.

Coins, game pieces, hardware, dice, buttons, crushed souvenir pennies, safety pins, apartment tags, rocks, subway tokens, play tickets, i-spy fun.

The Glimmer of 2021

Last year at this time my daughter was working as a production assistant at the New Years Eve Spectacular in Times Square. Unpacking hats, moving pallets of boxes from one block to the next, guarding lines leading to pop stars taking selfies with fans…a little NYE elf in her I love to celebrate everything glory. Olivia began asking to go to Times Square on NYE as soon as she could talk…and year after year, her completely selfish parents (who had no desire to experience that living hell) told her to make a plan to tackle that wish on her own…and as soon as she was old enough…she did. After experiencing the ball drop and confetti surround her in the center of the madness (video below)…and achieving a life goal…she arrived home and declared “2020 is already THE BEST YEAR EVER”. Ummmmm.

I already feel a bit bad for 2021…we are expecting way too much of it before it even starts. It’s being declared the comeback year, a miracle, the year of back to normal. Wanting something so very bad almost always leads to disappointment. One of my learns from 2020 has been that not expecting much from holidays…has led to really awesome holidays. I am officially expecting nothing.

In 2021 famous people will die…Mick Jagger is almost 80, Sophia Loren is 87, it is not a curse that old people die. We will have storms and our snowblowers will break, normal. I hate to point this out…but the government is not going to start working just because it is 2021…politicians cannot make decisions, they refuse to work together, and most really do not care about the people they represent…this too is nothing new.

For people who believe in science and the reality of this virus…2021 will not be the year of going back to concerts, lingering dinners in restaurants, live theater, parties, family gatherings for the holidays. We will continue Zooming, protecting the people we love, and respecting the health care workers who are beyond overburdened. It will take a long time for the vaccine to be administered to those choosing to take it. People will continue to ignore facts and innocent people will continue to die. All of this is super sad, but maybe if we know what to expect, it won’t sting so much.

I am counting on 2021 being another year of growth, where I appreciate the quiet that comes with not having much work, learn new crafts, and tackle difficult recipes. A year where I embrace cleaning my own home and cooking nightly dinners instead of relying on others. Where I live in the moment…and listen more than I speak. FaceBook memories from years past will remind me not to take moments with those I love for granted…and that hugs are the best, the very very best. I promise to cherish each and every phone call, FaceTime, and distant game night with my family…because nothing is guaranteed.

That is it…that is the secret, no matter the year…nothing is guaranteed, nothing is forever, and you can’t count on something happening just because it always has. Go in to 2021 with your eyes open, knowing that things will never be perfect, and normal is in the eyes of the beholder.

Wishing you peace.

New Years Eve 2019…watching this madness from my couch…knowing my 5 foot daughter is down there somewhere.
Some people would take a selfie…others want everyone to experience the goodness. Swoon. NYE 2019, Times Square, video by Olivia Nemec.

Queens, NY

I was raised in Douglaston. My sister grew up on Long Island. My brother is from Queens. The funny thing is, we all lived in the same house. I was in my early twenties when I realized that we had different answers to the question “Where are you from?”…and technically we were all telling the truth. If you asked any of us now, I am pretty sure we would all have the same answer, we are from Queens. It is in our blood.

In Queens many worlds are interwoven. Whether one attended a NYC public or Catholic private high school…we all still hung out together on weekends. Street corners, forts made in swamps, row house basements, or spectacular homes where large screen tvs were projectors with red, green, and blue glowing lights transferring the images to the mounted screen on the wall…all were equally perfect places to gather. Transportation might be a skateboard, dad’s car, buses, subways, or the LIRR. One could pay the train fare, or skip it by hiding in the bathroom, saved funds used to buy a much needed album on St. Mark’s Place. One minute we might be shopping in vintage stores on lower Broadway…feeding my rhinestone necklace and 1950’s housewife dress obsession…the next running back to the car, hoping nobody had created a new “home” in the box in front of the illegally parked orange VW bus we traveled in, and if they had, strategically climbing over it through the sliding doors, for our escape back to tree-lined streets a block from the bay full of beautiful sailboats. When from Queens, you could switch it up on a dime.

A Queens girl can smell scam…and is able to turn the tables before the scammer figures out they have become the victim. Oh my, the poor junk remover boys in my driveway earlier today learned that the hard way. The company reached out to me… we had a deal, for x amount I would get xyz…but when the young innocent gave me the “on premises quote” of well over triple the agreed number, I just smiled. After repeating back his new quote, explaining he was trying to scam the wrong person, reworking the numbers with him…I ended up being charged $150 less than what I had offered to pay him 5 minutes earlier. I also gave him a lovely tip, complimented his shoelaces (they matched the company’s brand palette), and thanked him for sweeping up my driveway.

Girls from Queens know how to walk. A few days before our wedding we were meeting friends from Iowa at Wo Hop for dinner. As I weaved through the masses towards the restaurant, I noticed our best man looked a bit concerned. It seems he (an Iowan) had never seen a woman in NYC walking mode. At 5 feet I was the master of the bitch face…as all women had to be. Men could cat call, but depending on my mood their words and whistles might be returned with a death stare, a middle finger, a laugh, or completely ignored. As I reached the restaurant my demeanor changed…I became animated and full of life, I shared my glorious news, my boss had surprised me with a raise and a bonus, I was marrying the best guy ever…there was not a human on earth happier than I was. Our best man had witnessed the classic Queens transformation, scary to joyous…in less than a second. Swoon.

Someone just contacted me about doing an interview for a publication…they are writing about people who blog. She introduced herself as a fellow Queens girl. I am sure we will get along just fine. I am loving me my Queens feels…it feels like I am home.

To all my girls from Queens…love ya.

Masters of the don’t mess with me face. At 5 feet and 4’10″… it was a must.

The Swooniest Swooner

What do you see in this picture? Two people in love? Some pretty odd Christmas stockings? A groovy fireplace mantle? A time when people dressed for Christmas Eve…and did it really really well? A still from Mad Men?

I see my parents…my parents in their “picture pose”, him in profile (showing off his “good nose” according to my mom), and her looking right into the camera (because she did not want to highlight her Armenian nose). My dad completely adoring my mom. He did that. He was the swooniest swooner when it came to her. Every human should feel that loved.

My dad died early Christmas Day, before sunrise, before presents, probably as Santa was doing his rounds. It was long ago. When your dad has died…long ago does not mean it has stopped burning. It does not mean you miss less, it just means you don’t miss every second, or even every day, but you still miss…and memories can make you crash, or cry, or both.

This is the season of family, of big meals, of gathering…all the things my father loved most. It is the time when Oh Holy Night can bring me to tears. The season of finding it hard to breathe as Silent Night is played at the candlelight service…as the candle flame is passed I think of my dad who was not really a church goer, but who loved the candlelight service…watching his wife sing, surrounded by his family, he would say “now that’s pretty” as the church lit up in the glow of the candles. The very same comment… every…single…year. Memories.

Wishing you all the best holiday you can muster in these crazy times. Hoping you can swoon over someone, your partner, your kids, a relative, a friend, a stranger who needs you. I realize that being adored is probably everybody’s dream…but I think my dad had it right. He got so much joy from being the swooner.

Stay safe.