ER Stories

There are few memories from parenting that trump ER visits. We had the pleasure of another one yesterday. I say the pleasure because our “baby” is almost 23 and she is really spectacular when it comes to not complaining about the big things…the little things get to her…but the big ones, she is magic. Long story short, new bike, first time back on the trail after a long winter, freedom, speed, a moment of sheer bliss then…BOOM. Who knows what it was, a crack in the path, a stick, or a rock. What ever it was took her down and took her down hard. Weird thing is I was home working and watching Molly’s Game at the exact moment this happened. Molly was taken down by a frozen pine twig, ruining her skiing career. Weird connection. Anywho, Dad to the rescue retrieving her, getting her to the ER, and then calling me once things were a bit settled.

You know things are not fine when a phone call starts with Hi, it’s me, Olivia is fine.

I have had a lot of those calls. My favorite was from the principal of the elementary school, Hi Mrs Nemec, the kids are fine. Then she starts giggling, a nervous infectious giggling. Like I said, everything is really fine, but we have a little situation with Jacob...laughter in the background…he was on the playground and another child put a…pause to contain herself…another child put a…I am thinking what could another child have put on him? A tattoo? Ok, Jacob has a wiffle ball stuck on his index finger. We can not get it off, we all tried, the nurse had the custodian come up with industrial clippers but that did not work either, it is too thick. He needs to go to the ER. Now you might think a parent receiving this call would be shocked, but not I. Jacob had already been to the ER for (at different times) swallowing a penny, swallowing a magnet, and having emergency surgery to clear his lungs after aspirating chicken (tip, don’t let your child watch America’s Funniest Home Videos while eating chicken fingers). To the ER we went, and after hours waiting a cranky old doctor told us he was going to yank the ball off…then set the finger if he broke it. Jacob looked at me like is the man INSANE and decided to remove it himself, after numbing his finger by putting ice chips in the ball…he powered through it. Needless to say I did not pay that ER bill. Knowing when to retire from a good turn of service is a skill this doctor did not possess.

Olivia ended up in the ER as a baby, two trips to the pediatrician with repeated assurance of her being fine lead to a near disaster. Parents should trust their instincts. Thankfully grandma was watching her on day three of the illness…and doctors are no match for super grandma instincts. The pediatric ER in Greenwich Village was packed. She was so dehydrated, so tiny, they could not find her vein for an IV. They put her in a crib that looked like a cage. My baby in a cage. The nurse jumped to the sky when she came in for vitals and found me in the crib cage with my little peanut. Olivia needed cuddles…and if she had to be in there, I would be in there with her. Being 5 feet has its perks.

Being thrown from a horse, acute appendicitis, drilling into one’s leg on building crew… such such fun. The stories that get told and retold. I have my stories…climbing the tree to my bedroom window and the branch breaking two stories up. Walking around “the point” barefoot and having a huge chunk of glass removed by a woman so nasty she could have been wiffle ball doctor’s sister. Falling off the roof at Fire Island, then my mom doing the same 5 minutes later, a boat ride back to the mainland and a joint ER visit that left the triage crew calling their friends over to hear the story (the ladder leading to the roof was upside down…twice…my poor dad). Memories that get passed on because we were lucky…and the stories ended well.

Sigh. My Olivia is banged up, she will be hurting for days, there will be therapy and it will be tedious, but broken bones heal. The little baby across the hall from us last night has a much tougher battle. He had surgery last week on his feet and was in two hard casts, he was admitted with a high fever. The doctor explained the casts need to come off, there might be an infection in the wound. The mom alone and scared agreed to call the surgeon to get their opinion. The on call service answered and tried to put her off, she was so calm and polite explaining “I understand what time it is, but my baby is in the ER, we need to speak with him right away, my baby is very sick, I need your help. I need you to wake him…now please, he is only a month old, my baby is only a month old.” The surgeon called back and spoke with the doctor, and they were going to move forward…I could hear the mom crying in relief.

When Olivia and I left at 4:30am I looked to put faces to the voices of the mom and baby. Mom was in the bed cuddling him, he would not be alone…and he had the first of his many ER stories under his belt, one month into his beautiful life.

Small Acts

The youth group leader who took the time to reach out for a chat after a group of friends dropped me like a hot potato. The woman who hired me to serve and clean up after her glorious parties…always giving me an extra twenty, that she called “only for fun money”. The college professor who pointed out my clavicles as I took my humiliating turn modeling for sculpture day, these, see these, these are beauty. A friend taking the time to create two wedding cake toppers (he wasn’t pleased with the first), and drive them to Queens from Philadelphia, and then stayed for the day making pastel colored almond pouch giveaways. A mom with two babies of her own cooking a weeks worth of food for us so we could enjoy our newborn. These are some of the people who quietly changed my life with their kindness…kindness that still touches my soul 20, 30, 40 years later. Swoon.

My kids were non-traditional learners, working hard for every grade, using tricks to do what came easily to others. People would make remarks like YOUR kids get services? Umm, yup, even the most talented artist might need glasses…there is nothing wrong with receiving help. Anyway. Anyone who has been to a 504 or IEP meeting knows it is like getting naked in Grand Central Station…at rush hour. The team (teachers, counselors, education advocates, and parents) sit together and review the child’s strengths and weaknesses, and make a plan. Raw. Greg and I would hold hands and listen…these people really knew our kids, they cared, they wanted them to succeeded. Then it would be our turn…and every single time it went like this…We. We. Um. Okay, I am going to cry, but it is not a sad cry, I am just so overwhelmed and grateful…thank you for caring about our kid…and the water works would begin. After the first few meetings the counselors would show up with “The Nemec Tissues”. Kindness.

Recently, on the last hill of my walk…I noticed a car slowing down. I have the glorious ability to turn as red as a tomato when exercising, strangers have pulled over in concern for my wellbeing. Ready to respond with No, thanks, I am fine, just trying to lower my BMI! Thank you!…my friend popped open her window. This rock of a woman, who it seems can not be ruffled, always a voice of reason and calm…started crying and launched into a “thank you for helping my kid soliloquy”…water streaming down her face. I stand listening, thankful for her words, grateful for our chance meeting, wishing I could offer her one of “The Nemec Tissues”, and thrilled that some very small acts of kindness mattered so much to her and her child.

This week has been rough, it seems like people are itching to be divided, using both the most ridiculous and most devastating reasons to stay on “their sides”. The lack of kindness people show when it is needed most saddens me…so I have been thinking back, back to those who have changed my life with gracious bits of goodness. To this day, they are proof, that small acts of kindness…really count.

Bitter Sweet

March 11, 1996 at 12:03 AM my water broke in our NYC apartment and my adventure in motherhood began. Just a year before on March 11, 1995 I was dangling my feet in a groovy mid-century modern hotel pool in Ft. Lauderdale, drink in hand…continuing the celebration of my bestie’s wedding. Great location, friends, lots of drink…and a bride and groom who were so lovely together you did not question the match for a minute. One of those weddings where everyone was happy and their beautiful life ahead was not in question.

March 11, 2021, early morning, feeling a bit blue about not seeing my son on his 25th birthday, but thankful for a Zoom celebration later in the day, I get to work. The morning explosion of texts from my girl friends started popping up. Happy Birthday to Jacob, Happy Birthing Day, miscellaneous stuff, then…then from my Lisette, today is our 26th wedding anniversary. I am not great about remembering other people’s wedding anniversaries, even if they had the best wedding ever, and there are no handy FB reminders. This wedding anniversary, this one really counted…because Lisette was taking care of John 24/7 as he neared the end of his life. He was at home and they were at the waiting stage. All that needed to be said, had been said…it has been six years since his late-stage cancer diagnosis. All therapies traditional and non had been tried. Now they were just waiting for his beautiful strong body to let go.

Lisette is my sister from another mister. Often mistaken for the same person when we lived together after college in Peter Cooper Village, we were known as “the one who bakes”, or “the one who chats with everyone”. I was the baker. I was on the verge of marriage. Lisette was in a relationship with a less than worthy gentlemen…who in the end moved on…to prefer gentlemen. Then she met John. He worked as a bellhop while looking for a creative job, living in a closet-sized apartment on the Lower East Side above a fish store. He did it the hard way…on his own…and he was a complete success. John was the salt of the earth and was head-over-heals in love with Lisette, and for that I loved him.

John. The nicest guy in the room, the best smile….the giggle. Always there to teach me about music or this weird new thing called the internet. Most of what he said went WAY over my head, he always saw it in my eyes and would giggle saying you have no idea what I am talking about do you? Then he would break it down.

John. My brother Fred had decided to enter a radio contest. The contestant who best promoted the station K-Rock would win $25,000. Greg filmed Fred all over Manhattan…parades, NYC Marathon, Morning TV shows, rush hour at Grand Central…they were everywhere. Fred dressed as “the K-Rock superhero” (wearing shorts, a cape, a curly wig, and a shaved K…of chest hair) greeting people as they went about life. After viewing the nightly footage my thought was, this needs a really good editor…you need John. And of course, John came through, he edited the hours of footage and put it to amazing music. He patiently taught my husband the magic of storytelling through editing. And in a shock to us all…largely due to John’s goodness and talents…they WON. Swoon.

March 11, 2021, early evening, Greg and I are chatting about Lisette and John and their situation when a bing comes in. John just passed away in my arms.

Full circle, full heart, full closed shape of your choice…their beginning as a married couple and him departing this earth in her arms…on the same day.

March 11th…their souls connected forever.

John, completely swoonie over his Lisette… I can just hear him saying “Isn’t she awesome”

Brave?

Recently a few people went out of their way to tell me how brave I am. I do not consider myself brave. According to many, admitting that my BMI is over thirty is an act of bravery. Well ok then, I guess I am brave…and fat. As of today, I am also vaccinated (Rd 1) because I had the “strength” to admit what anyone with eyes can see.

Being overweight causes many reactions in people. I know this because I have been itty bitty… and I have been chunky…right now according to a math equation developed in 1830 by a man…I am obese. Thanks Adolphe Jacques Quetelet…your chart is creating such self-hate that people are refusing to admit their BMI even if it means they can get a vaccine that will save their lives. Bravo.

When you have had the gift, yes, gift, of experiencing life at many different weights you see people as they really are. When you are fat…most people do not say you look beautiful as you enter a room, people don’t compliment your outfit, your picture is taken less, and you are not worthy of peoples kind words, or a desk job greeting people…you lost that right with your “lack of self control and gluttony”. The host asks if you would like a “little” cake, like it is a challenge. The thin person, on their third glass of wine, teeth stained purple, is offered drink after drink. No issue celebrating…as long as it is with alcohol. When you are heavy your workplace buys t-shirts with the definition of inclusion on them…for a celebratory Inclusion Day event…but does not order one in your size (true story, this just happened to someone I know). Everyone is included but you.

Smoking, vaping, drinking, drugs…choices…hardships for people with the unfortunate body chemistry that makes controlling their impulses crazy difficult, the pulls that trip them up…their addictions. Food, there is no choice…you must eat it…you are tempted daily, hourly, minute by minute. There is no cold turkey option with food. Think about that. No option.

In the past year I have been given the gift of time, less work hours and more hours to cook really lovely meals, stay on top of needs and wants of those I love, learn a few new crafts, read, and organize my spaces. After a year of this gentle and cozy life…and after finding out my BMI means I am obese…I decided that it was time to focus on me.

What I learned is…there are vitamins that help with the spectacular mid-sectional developments women go through after 50, there is a calorie reduction plan that suites every person, sleeping 8 hours a night matters, exercising 2 or more hours a day and drinking 64-80 ounces of water…will all help you to successfully lose weight. I am down 9.5 pounds in the last 3 weeks. I feel great and I am proud. I am also furious at the judgment towards heavy people. You know what? Losing weight is expensive. Buying fresh produce and low-fat proteins is a privilege. Losing weight takes a lot of time. Committing to daily exercise, food prep, and shopping takes hours and hours of time.

Time. You know what I used to do with my time before the pandemic? Worked full time including nights and weekends. Kept two children, a husband, and many animals alive and organized. Was the event/holiday planner for the extended family. Ran a household…and did between 15-30 hours of volunteering and free design work for those in need every week. During that insane period of my life I did not have the luxury of peeing twice a day, let alone 15 times due to the “correct” amount of water one must drink. There was no free two hours for exercise. My life, my choice…and for those who happily accepted my hospitality or benefitted from my volunteer work…think twice before judging my weight. Think twice before judging anyones weight. Please.

I do not like double standards…all addictions suck. So to you liberal, save the world, don’t be racist or sexist adults who sit back and laugh along with your kids when they make fun of a fat person walking by, not ok. To you people who insist being overweigh is due to laziness or gluttony, take a break from your judgement and go do some volunteering. To those who struggle…I am sorry…I see you, and you count.

If I lose 10 or 100 pounds…I am still me. I notice how you have treated me at each and every one of my weights. Me…I am a person who tries to make this world a better place…and you know what?

I AM BRAVE… brave enough to call you out next time you are a fatist.

Women

A friend posted a question in honor of International Women’s Day…name five women who have influenced your life. No relatives, nobody who is currently active in their pursuit of goodness…five women from the past. So I replied, hit return…and of course two seconds later I wanted to edit. How could I have left off Frida Kahlo? I stand firm on my Harriet Tubman declaration because she is everything. But if I really took my time thinking before writing…Frida would have been there instead of Jane Goodall. I mean the art, the attitude, the eyebrows. Frida, how on earth did I leave off Frida?

I am very fortunate to be surrounded by spectacular women. My first plan for the accompanying photo for this Swoon was to make a collage of the women who make my life better, possible, meaningful. I started collecting images, smiling from ear to ear…my ladies, my squad, my pod…my lifelines. Then I started to sweat. What if I left someone off…this was not Frida, these were people I did not want to risk hurting. I needed to cover family, 54.5 years of friendships, bosses, clients, teachers, my kids friends and my friends kids, the women I volunteer with, the little girls next-door…impossible. Stop. I used pictures of my ancestors (Armenian left and German right), and mom, me, and my baby girl in the center. My everything.

No offense to men, but this is not your day. There have been a few men in my life who have influenced my whole being. I can count them on my hands…and not use all fingers. The women…I can not count them, there are too many. That is a good too much to have.

Women…they run countries and actually stop the spread of pandemics. Women…they create life while still living a full life. Women…they are able to multi-task like no other. Women…their love is endless. Women…when you find the right ones, they only want the best for their friends. Women…really can do it all (even though they shouldn’t have to).

Women. Gotta love them. Women. Respect them. Women. Cherish them…because anyone who is reading this knows…life would be a shit show with out them.

March 5, 2020

The house was freezing, it was still dark. I jumped out of bed 10 minutes before my alarm went off, I always seem to wake up before the alarm. It was going to be the best day. I turned up the heat so the house would be cozy. Packed some seltzers, muffins, and bananas…just in case. Walked the dog, hurry Jasmine, do your thing, I don’t want to be late. Checked arrival status, all good. Off to Newark.

Classic rock, The Pretenders, I love The Pretenders, they remind me of Greg. Potholes galore, must be in the Bronx. Growing up my parents would announce “we’re home” every time we hit the Queens border and the potholes began. George Washington Bridge, lower level, winter filth still coats every surface. I love NY. Twists, turns, side roads, thanks Waze, you have saved me once again. Newark arrivals, pull over on the curb until the cop makes me move. “WE ARE HERE”. They are here. I love the red-eye…an extra full day together. Driving slowly, so so slowly…allowing them to get out of the building…I will do anything to avoid looping around.

I see them, weaving through traffic, laden with their maxed out carry-on bags. I scoot out of the car in the middle of the road, open the hatch, hugs while people beep. The cop does not dare to say a word.

Chatting, whining, laughing. He is here and I can give him a squeeze anytime I want. Bliss. What’s the plan mom? So many plans. Sleep this morning, lunch with friends, dinner then the play in the city. Dad can’t come, he is painting the high school set. Opening night at the HS is tomorrow, oh, and a party, a huge party at our house for everyone involved in the show. I have tickets for you and your friends. Sunday we will have a chill day. Monday we can have your birthday party. Invite who you want. If you meet friends in the city please take the car, no public transportation because of this virus. Just wash your hands…a lot, it will be fine. Don’t hug anyone at the parties. Only hug me.

It’s been a year since those spectacular few days together…before the world changed. Today, there is light at the end of the tunnel, it will not be another year…I am thankful for our health.

Those People

Those people that change your life…strangers…maybe you meet them once or twice. Those people that changed your life because they meant so much to someone else. Because they were such good role models, such good teachers, such good givers of advice. You hear story after story. You feel like you do know them, but you don’t.

I am forever grateful for Ms. Stasi, the famous Ms. Stasi, so many stories. She taught my husband to draw, to see, to create…but most of all she gave him the confidence to reach for the stars, to get out of his comfort zone, to take big risks…to brave the world.

Without Ms. Stasi I would not know my husband or my children.

I am…forever grateful.

I am not a crook…

We were driving our Olivia to a precollege summer session in Vermont. I was anxious, my baby was going away for the first extended period of time, and we had started a little late…I hate to be late. Driving through Connecticut I did that thing…that gradual and clueless acceleration that leads to 88mph in a 65mph zone. I did this on our honeymoon too, in Wyoming. I had never seen a straight flat road with no other cars before…I clocked at 100mph that time. Anyway, back to Connecticut…I was pulled over. The cop came to the window and asked me if I knew how fast I was going. The poor man, what should have been no sir I didn’t…became…oh my gosh no, how fast was I going, we are taking our daughter to a college summer session and I am so nervous and upset, it’s a mom thing, I am a nerd, I teach Sunday school, I am so sorry, I am just so nervous…I did not get a ticket. The fact that I did not get a ticket annoys my husband. You played the Sunday school teacher card, that is shameful. But to be fair, I am a serial oversharer and I had no idea what was coming out of my mouth…it just came out…and do note, the Wyoming cop did not find it remotely charming, he slapped me with a huge ticket.

My first run-in with the law was when I was 16. The gaggle of kids in my universe would wander the neighborhood with cases of beer and loud music blasting from a boombox. One night we ended up in front of my house and the police drove up asking us to disperse. I walked up to the officer saying something like you can’t make us disperse, this is my house…bad move. My parents were asked to come outside and I learned a very valuable lesson…never talk back to law enforcement. I have never seen my father so angry. The color of my skin allowed me to walk away with only embarrassment. Privilege.

I currently have very little design work, so when word that the second round of PPP loans for small businesses came out, I was pleased. My accountant offered to apply for me, no brainer…yes thank you. I was denied. Why? I have all the right paperwork, I filed my taxes in February, and my business was down enough to make me poster child for a loan. What could the problem be? Then I heard back from the accountant, he asked, do you want the good news or the bad news? Good please. We figured out the problem. Bad please. They say you have a criminal record.

I am not a crook! I am a Sunday school teacher…remember?

I have spent the last two days doing criminal record searches, getting credit reports, visiting my bank, asking the local police department for my non-existent criminal record, and finally…visiting my lawyer.

Things I learned…
• My credit was not breached. Woot woot.
• Getting your own criminal record (or lack thereof) is not as easy as it should be.
• Your local police chief can write a letter declaring you a good citizen with no convictions—in your hometown, which is amazingly adorable, but not so helpful.

The official letter stating I am not a felon has been sent to the powers that be. Now I just wait…but I wait with dear friends texting me positive thoughts, amazing accountants jumping through bureaucratic hoops, and wonderful lawyers who go above and beyond at the drop of a dime. I might not have a loan but I have an amazing support system.

Swoon.


Black and White

I have had the pleasure of watching the taping of The Martha Stewart Show a few times. My sister-in-law worked on the show and was gracious enough to get me tickets. Each time we received an email saying…show up on time, wear bright colors, no black clothing. Um, that is a problem for me. I tend to wear black, with a touch of black, and then maybe a sprinkle of white. A huge pair of fun earrings, some hot pink lipstick, a pair of fun shoes…done. Finding a vintage mint green sweater to wear for taping, I was set, mission accomplished…flexibility is good.

I love black and white…stripes, dogs, bathroom tile. Growing up my parents had a rental house on Fire Island, a wise investment, it paid for our college educations. It was also a ridiculous amount of work…that they did themselves. Fall and spring meant we kids entertained ourselves while the parents scrubbed, painted, and fixed the house for the next rental season. As I ran in and out of the house with questions and wants…I experienced visual joy each time I entered…black and white checked floors, white modular hand-built wood daybed couches, and red metal fireplace in the corner. The 1960 Barbie Dream Home come to life. Black and white with a touch of color. Swoon.

Black and white… spectacular for clothing, decor, design…not so good for life. In life I aspire to be more gray. It is oh so hard. I am so firm in my beliefs but so are others…and a world in black and white just doesn’t work. I wake up daily trying to be more gray, trying to be understanding, trying to see the goodness of the blend. Flexibility is good.

Art, frames, shirts, shoes…black and white spectacular. Swoon.

Warm Hearts

Weekends in my early twenties were pretty glorious. I would run to Penn Station after work and stand in the sea of people staring at “the board” in the Amtrak waiting area. Weekend bag clutched in front of me, cause you know, New York. Discman on, listening for the click click click of the board announcing trains, avoiding eye contact with yucky businessmen. Weaving through bodies to my stairs, my train, my weekend. Greg, Philadelphia, and nothing to do but chill. Sleeping in, futon on the floor, sun coming in the window…picturing our futures. What would our kids be like? He wanted them to have my complexion, eyes, and smile. I wished them his smarts, tush, feet…and most of all, his amount of body hair.

I am Armenian. I state this a lot because well, being Armenian somehow takes up a big part of your being. Food, stubbornness, warmth, and…hair. Lots of hair. My son was born pretty bald, when his hair came in it arrived perfectly coiffed, a living Ken doll. People used to ask us where we got it cut. We didn’t, it just did that perfect hair thing. As he aged he got cuts, sitting in a little race car sucking on a lollipop while the hairdresser cut, and cut, and cut, wow, he has so much hair…a comment to be repeated throughout his life.

After a year of no professional haircuts due to the pandemic Jacob finally decided to bite the bullet. His hair was huge, his beard was out of control, he had resorted to wearing hats…a beast. He will soon be back in the office and I send him texts with hearts, kisses, and comments like “dress for the position you want”, “first impressions matter”, and “you are so much happier when you feel confident”…so, he got a haircut.

Jacob knows how to make me swoon. He sent me a picture from the chair, wearing a mask instead of sucking on a lollipop, hair cut short short short…perfection.

FaceTiming last night he fessed up that the barber only trimmed the sides of his beard, he did the rest…he didn’t want to take off his mask and he was over the reaction his Armenian neck usually gets from barbers “you have the hairiest neck I have ever seen”. Sigh sigh sigh. Oh my dear child. I get it. Your uncle gets it. Hairy faces, chests, backs, tushies, legs, toes. We are hairy people, but as Grandma says, hairy people have warm hearts.

One thing led to the next and somehow I found myself saying Oh my gosh, have I ever told you about my first waxing experience? Young, new cute 90s (very high cut) bathing suit, Fire Island, and co-worker convincing me to get “it” taken off, I was ready. Walking into the room with a magazine, figuring if one has to have a stranger up in their business, one might as well pretend to read. Leg up, very up, ankle at my ear…a former gymnast. The Eastern European woman in a lab coat goes directly to the “work area” and with a very thick accent says something like wha da mess, why you wait so long, when you have done last, oh my god dis take forever. My husband and daughter cracking up from the bedroom they were refinishing down the hall…my son laughing, eyes popping out of his head…3000 miles apart and we were together.

Sometimes oversharing connects people…and my mom is right, I do have a warm heart.