Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Boy Who Got Coal

Seriously, I gave my son coal one Christmas. It is forever part of my history as the year I Blew Up Christmas, but alas, for my son, he will always be known as
The Boy Who Got Coal. I need to point out that said boy, is nearly 22, but that doesn't matter. He is legend and this story is what makes it so.

I have a friend Bonny. Once upon a time we both were single mothers in Florida, trying to just live day to day and sharing our laughter and frustration in raising children. Her daughter Michelle was a true delight. Adorable, smart, funny---Michelle was the kind of child you wish for. My son too, is a child you wish for, but raising him I often wished for him to go to sleep, just for a while, so I could rest my ears from the constant barrage of, "Why? Why? WHY?" TJ was also adorable, funny and smart, but he suffered from a lack of restraint. If he believed something, he told you whether you wanted to hear it or not. And that particular Christmas, the one I blew up, he was in an argumentative stage that seemed to last from age 4 to age 9, continuously.

Back to Bonny. Well, I often harassed this poor friend with a series of traditions that would make her nuts. I had an Easter Bunny who left gold eggs and gold footprints: a leprechaun who left gold coins (chocolate) and an Italian donkey who left pajamas (long story, but suffice to say Lou Monti didn't do ME any favors with Domenic the Donkey). When I moved back to New York, I think Bonny was relieved that at least without me and my imagination, she didn't have to worry about putting out carrots for Ground Hog's Day or decorate a tree for Arbor Day.

So my first Christmas back in New York, our children were, respectively, about 8. My son was at the peak of the argumentative state and with me working around the clock, his charming disposition wasn't always appreciated by family members who were kindly babysitting him. I shared this with Bonny who then sent on a package, addressed to me, saying "SERIOUSLY, DO NOT OPEN UNTIL CHRISTMAS EVE AND OPEN BY  PAT ONLY!"

I am a rule follower. If you tell me not to open something I don't open it. So there was this package under my tree and after working countless hours  on Christmas Eve, and hearing from family and friends that my son had virtually questioned and argued about everything that evening, I was feeling less than jolly. I also had gifts to wrap, stockings to fill and when I was finished, it was around 3:00 am. Now, take it from me, this is NOT the time to make decisions of any kind. But there I was, ready to write the Santa letter and I saw Bonny's present. So, realizing it was indeed now, Christmas Day, I opened it. And there it was: the object of my undoing, a tiny bag of coal.

 Bonny had included a note that basically said, "Thought you could use this!" And at 3:00 am, again, a bad time to make any kind of decisions, it made sense to me. So along with the letter from Santa, I included the tiny bag of coal, and a sentence that stated, "This is Reminder Coal. It is to Remind You of The Reason for The Season and to listen to your family and behave or next year, I may have to bring in a big bag." I placed the letter on the table, cleared the cookies and the carrots and settled down for what was anything but a long winter's nap.

At 6:00 am Christmas arrived at my home. My son resembled a Norman Rockwell painting, dressed in holiday pajamas, Santa hat on his head and dancing in excitement. He went straight to the table and began to read the letter, his eyes lit with joy---that was until he got to the part about the coal. Suddenly tears began to stream from his eyes and he looked at me and howled, "SANTA DOESN'T LIKE ME! HE ISN'T MY FRIEND ANY MORE!!"  I have to admit it, I panicked. No amount of showing him presents under the tree, the full stockings or the part in the letter that Santa referred to the coal as only a reminder, didn't make a bit of difference. My son wandered around the house wailing, "I don't deserve anything! I got coal, I got coal, I got COAL!"

As a parent, there are many times we doubt ourselves, but I was pretty darn sure I had, indeed, blown up Christmas. Just then the phone rang and my son's father called out a bright and cheery, "Merry Christmas!"

   I whispered into the phone, "Just tell him it's reminder coal and it will disappear."
   "What are you talking about?? What's reminder coal?"
   "JUST DO IT!" I hissed and handed my son the phone. Santa must have been watching because my ex-husband, who never did anything exactly as I asked, said his lines as if he was a Oscar Winner.  
   "Don't cry buddy. Santa just sent reminder coal. It disappears right away."
   Our son continued to sob on the phone missing my quick slight of hand as I pocketed the reminder coal and stashed it out of sight.
   "No...daddy....I got...coal....and it's...HEY! HEY! It did disappear! Just like you said, Dad. You're the best!"

So that's the story of the boy who got coal. Whenever I share that story parents everywhere who think about sticking a big of coal under the tree laugh and then reconsider. Children have actually gone up to my son through the years and asked, "Did you really get coal?" and my son nods. He is now 22, but he will be forever a legend to children everywhere as The Boy Who Got Coal. Just as I am a legend with parents everywhere as The Mom Who Blew Up Christmas!

.And Bonny? Well she continues to laugh every year when she thinks about this story, that is until she needs to find a gold egg to leave Michelle from the Easter Bunny.


Friday, September 7, 2012

One Eyebrow Walking

My uncle likes to say if it wasn't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all. I'm starting to believe there is truth to that statement.

I like to, however, believe that all strange circumstances without clear cut reasoning is all part of some grand plan by the Almighty to turn all the wrong turns I have made (darn that free will) into a better course of life.

But I digress.

Since I've turned 50 I have lost (not in any particular order):

  1. My gallbladder (not my fault)
  2. An eyebrow (totally my fault)
  3. My home (a long story)
  4. My car (an even longer story)
  5. My Cat (God's decision not mine)
  6. My Husband (God, His and My mutual meeting of the minds)
  7. And job (a very strange situation of which fault can fall to a number of people and then again to none.)

My recommendation is, "Don't turn 50!"

Aside from the gallbladder, which I deserved after years of consuming Buffalo Style Chicken wings at an alarming rate, the rest sort of snuck up on me. Well, I suppose I engineered the eyebrow. I got one of those little shaver things and was trimming my eyebrow (without using the little pink guards because after all everyone knows they don't DO anything) and buzzzz, off went my left eyebrow, much to my, not to mention my husband, and 250 guests at my nephew's wedding who saw me with one real eyebrow and one drawn eyebrow, dismay and shock.

The cat was a total shock. I received a phone call from my cat's foster mother (too long a story but suffuce to say they were NOT taken from the home by Cat Protective Services), that Gracie "had gone home to Glory." Now that statement in itself had me confused. Going home to Glory generally means to me, playing the harp upstairs with the big Man ,however, my sister had a dog named Glory who sadly passed on, so saying my cat is going home to Glory  could mean Gracie and Glory were hanging out in the All-Pet Heavenly Choir. But it seems strange that a cat would hang out with a dog, but after all IT IS HEAVEN, but I digress. Apparently her little cat heart just stopped and without little cat chargers and little cat cat scans and little cat cardiologists, I guess she was summoned home to Glory...or home to uh....Glory. Either way, the news wasn't good if you were Gracie.

The husband, car, and home were all part of the same bailiwick, none of which was planned, all of which was very sad. confusing and rather expensive. But now that the smoke has cleared, I can't tell you how many times a day I truly miss my SUV.

Which takes me now to the job. Months ago, I moved over 400 miles to a teenie, weenie town outside of Rochester to take this job. I have an adorable little home, right outside of the Barilla Pasta factory and down the road from the Animal Hospital (just in case I get another cat). The only problem with this job, which will remain cloaked in mystery for the duration of this post, is the town folk of this particular teenie, weenie place likes things that are familiar, normal and expected, qualities which I certainly don't and am fairly sure, have never possessed.

I am certain that when they hired me I was like the shiny new toy on Christmas Day: a novelty, a bright-colored whiz bang of something they had never seen the likes of before. But like certain toys you get on Christmas, odd colored, whiz bang novelties that bring with them an unusual amount of bells and whistles and are often considered too colorful or too noisy to use, I was given a variety of reasons why I just wasn't fitting in. These reasons seemed to make sense, much like the reasons and rules that parents refer to in the parent handbook, but in truth, it was a lot like the small print under a sweepstakes or the line under toys that say, batteries not included. It was a letdown to be sure.

I could go into specifics, which of course would be funny in many ways if it wasn't my life, but still, I have to laugh anyway. These past 9 months I have birthed a new appreciation for some of my past jobs and supervisors, learned more about myself than I thought I needed to, met some astonishingly honest and nice people who I will clearly miss, but was also reminded that playground bullies of childhood, if given their way, will often grow up to become adults who continue pushing people around in life if things do go the way they want.

All in all, the lessons learned were well worth the price of admission or moving in this case. And fortunately, I didn't have to go home to Glory (or home to uh..Glory) to gain the knowledge that I have now. Although seeing Gracie would have been nice (although she might not recognize me without my eyebrow)!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Here's Your Teeth What's Your Hurry

I just want to be clear here---if it was up to me, which it isn't but if it were, dentists would be forced to find the least painful way in the world to do their practice. Seriously. Man on the Moon hellooo? Internet??? Frappacino!!! We can't find a way to make the dentist less...dentisty, when we have to go?

I have always been afraid of the dentist since my encounters with Mad Dr Bonime, horror dentist of Wantagh who had a unique way of working through a child's mouth.

"That didn't hurt!"
"Neither did that."
"Stop shifting in the chair, it will only take longer."

Throughout this torture, there was one song forever playing on his radio, Juan name is Juan Tonmeto...." Over head, so I could see the weapons of mass destruction, was a six hologram like owl mobile. OWLS! Not something to take my mind off the pain, no scary, scary owls that changed demonic color as they metal glinted off their sparkling beaks.

Dr. Bonime I am sure has gone to that great Novacaine needle hut in the sky but I am still here, trying desperately to deal with the fact I am facing life with some sort of denture type appendage that they can't get into my mouth because a) i'm screaming, b) I'm screaming louder, or c) I'm clutching on to the dentist's coat yelling, " HAVE I MENTIONED I AM A COWARD."

I and my big mouth.


If you are looking for a great read, check out Fully Alive by Ken Davis. I have a side view here but the book looks pretty good straight on too. I bought this book and finished it the next day and it wasn't even a reading contest! It's an amazingly funny, heartfelt, terrific guide book to the greatest adventure of your life---your life. I mean your life...truly. So visit or check out his book on or

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Tooth & Nail

I just lost two teeth.

Unfortunately, the tooth fairy was no where to be seen and I am pressed into finding a dentist. Not just any dentist. A new dentist. Not that there was anything wrong with my old dentist: I however chose to move 8 hours away from my old dentist and I doubt even for two missing teeth (fake as they are) she would be willing to make a house call.

Everything is changing these days. Parts are either coming off or sliding to areas they have no business being in.  I fail to see what is so "fabulous about the 50s" unless this is just happening in my 50s.

Since I turned 50 I lost a gallbladder, four teeth, an eyebrow (that was actually my fault), a husband (not my fault), a cat, keys, weight, sanity and at times, hope. I also found friendship, quarters (in the bottom of 3 purses), weight, keys, strength, passion, the best chicken wings I ever tasted, patience and at times, interestingly enough, hope.

I wish I could just stop time. When did I become the mother of an adult? When did my arms grow winglets underneath them that make it possible for me to become a human glider (if I so decided, but so far I haven't tried). How did I walk out the door in 1979 for a diet Tab and come back in 2012 with an Ensure?

I am still determined as ever to take a big bite out of life and enjoy myself the entire way until I've gone to glory. Live! Live! Live I say!

But I first need to get my teeth fixed.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

I want to state for the record, I am not a chef.

If I was ever to have a cooking show on the Food Network  I would be known as the Lazy Chef. No fuss, no muss, and no long winded recipes.

"Today's special will be a cheese sandwich. Take two pieces of bread. Take a slice of cheese. Place cheese on one slice of bread and the other on top. Done! Okay, if you want to get extra fancy, you can remove the plastic wrap from the cheese. "

I cannot roast, broil, baste or poach with any fancy utensils. When cooking, if it doesn't come in the freezer section, I move along. Sure, there are times I will purchase items in a bag, or a box but if it doesn't have a picture of microwave directions I know it won't be making an appearance at my table. In fact, if I tried to concoct a fancy meal, my guests would end up leaving en mass for fear of starvation. It takes me THAT long to even decide to cook string beans or peas? Chicken or Steak? Broil or bake? Fire extinguisher or emergency room?

I don't understand a lot of these kitchen gadgets, but oh, how I love to look at them. Their shiny enamel calls to me as I wander through the kitchen aisles in top department stores.

 "Omelets are easy," whisper the array of fry pans.

"Donuts are down right simple," cajole the bake sets and pans.

"Basting is beautiful," calls the ovenware.

I am seduced, and reach toward my wallet but then, all the way in the corner stands the microwave, rolling its digital timer in disgust.

"REALLY? C'mon. When was the last time you needed a souffle pan? Uh---let's see that would be--- NEVER!"

Shamed, I hang my head and go home. My microwave faces me toward my reality. We are in this together. I open the freezer and there is the easiest Chicken Marsala to make in the world.

3 minutes.


 Dinner is served.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Fair to Remember

I admit, it's a strange quest, but every year I attempt to finish out the summer with a trek to upstate New York. Yes, I have family there, and I adore seeing my sister and brother-in-law, eating wings and wandering aimlessly around Wegman's (the Mega Weg) but the real draw is to go to The Fair.

The New York State Fair seems to be a surprise to all downstaters. Whenever I mention the glory of heading there I get a lot of blank looks.

"There's a fair? A New York State Fair??"

Yes indeedy and what a fabulous array of glorious gluttonous treats, tables filled with free takeaways on everything from bunions to bass fishing and vendors galore. There's also the farm animal judging, pie judging, art displays and of course my favorite, THE BUTTER SCULPTURE.

This is art in all it's buttery glory. 800 pounds of unsalted butter (courtesy of Wegman's) creates this amazing refrigerated spectacle and I have to say, each year it's standing room only around the refrigerated showcase.

There are the Breezer-bys, the ones that don't need to look but are in the Dairy building simply to get a cup of ice cold chocolate milk at the insane price of $0.25. They look and if they see the sculpture terrific but it's no big deal if they miss it. Next come the Quick-peekers, they stand in line for a fast look but then they're outta there.

And lastly, there are the Mecca-Trekkers people like myself who press against the cold glass memorizing each detail and wondering as always, "How do they DO that??" I always stand there in awe.

Now if butter isn't your medium (and for many of the calorie counters, I can understand the desire to skip this), you can check out the Sand Sculpture.

This year, the sculpture was dedicated to the victims and families of 9/11. It was an incredible display of artistic ability, plain and simple. The artist captured the grief in a hunched figure of a fireman and the emotion of a city in pain. To see this tremendous display, in sand of all things, struck me speechless and hit me emotionally. You see, I watched the towers fall. From the window of our office building, like so many other New Yorkers and Long Islanders, I watched as the world changed forever.

I could say more about 9/11 but what is there that our hearts haven't said already in a dozen different ways over the past ten years.

 And what more fitting a tribute to how fleeting life is and how timeless love is than a sculpture made of sand.