30 November 2007

Day 30 - Ta da!

I made it! I blogged every day for a month. I made it through the saga of my family, the good, bad, funny, and ugly. Hope it was fun to read, and it was a good thing for me to get everything down. I hope to get more stories on digital recording from my grandparents when we are there next weekend. Maybe I can get on record grandpa's impression of the gossipy immigrant grandmothers that lived in their building in Brooklyn when they were first married in 1946...his sense of humor hasn't changed in 90 years one bit.

Our family is pretty ordinary, but still, there's a lot of good people. As cliche as it is, I've come to appreciate these people more, the decisions they've made, and how they've treated me through the years as I've grown up a part of this wacky clan. I think Jim think's we're all a little nuts sometimes, especially when conversation at family dinners inverably turns to bathroom habits and jokes about grandpa and pooping and trying to make mom laugh so hard she has to excuse herself between giggles to go pee lest she lose bladder control at the table. But that's just who we are and I love everyone of them.

29 November 2007

Excitement on Day 29


Ok, it's not mine yet, but it is in my driveway, I have a temporary registration, We're taking it by our mechanic at lunch time to get checked out, and if all goes well, we'll be sealing the deal with the dealership this weekend. Instead of being 14 years old, it is onl 4 years old with almost 100,000 less miles on it. We were offered a whole $500 for my car, and I think they felt bad for us and took $250 off the new car price.

Natalie was a champ considering we were at the dealership till almost 10pm, however, she still woke up at 6:45 this morning. I have her down for a morning nap before we go off to therapy, but she hasn't fallen asleep yet. Hopefully some downtime in her crib with books and stuffed animals will be enough to get her pleasantly through the morning. On the flip side, if no AM nap means she'll sleep for 3.5 hours in the afternoon, I'm all for it.

28 November 2007

Day 28

Some random facts as we wrap up NaBloPoMo:

My mom once dated two guys named Mark at the same time.

My dad went to high school with Anna Quindlen. She was the year behind him. He likes to point out that the year he was editor of the school paper, they won some prestigious award. The year she was editor? Nothing.

My brother is an aerospace engineer, but we got the same math score on our SATs.

One of my grandmother's (dad's mom) best friends is the aunt of Robert Sean Leonard. Doesn't do much for me now, but back in the day, when Swing Kids and Dead Poets Society were my absolute favorite films ever, this was a really exciting tidbit to learn of.

My great grandfather's (dad's mom's dad - the Russian Jew) left Russia because of the pogroms.

My mom has performed at Carnegie Hall.

My dad published a book, not that you'd ever want to read it (it's about corporate credit and collections).

27 November 2007

Day 27

I think the only person I haven't introduced here is my brother. Sure, there are great uncles and 2nd cousins and others, but they aren't people I know and few I've even met. My brother is six years younger than me, so young enough that we fought almost our entire growing up, but by the time I went off to college, he was starting to be human and we started being friends. When he went off to college, I made sure I was the cool big sister who went big boxes of cookies for his whole dorm and other goodies. I even had one of his friends grab the phone from him when we were talking to tell me that I made the best damn peanut butter cookies in the whole world, even better than this kid's mom.

Tim is a good kid. However, he's gotten mixed up with some bad girls. Not bad in the law-breaker kind of way, just bad in the way a big-sister doesn't want her little brother getting mixed up with girls like this. Needy, high maintenance, controlling, manipulative girls. You know the type. Supposedly he even proposed to his latest girlfriend, but we think they broke up. We're not idiots, we know how to look up people on myspace and she's listed herself as single for the past few months. Tim won't tell us, we think he's embarassed by how he's behaved. Oh yea, and the fact that he pretty mush
disowned his entire family from college graduation till a few months ago. He's only just starting to become human again, occasionally calling me and my parents just to chat, actually coming to visit for 10 days over my grandfather's birthday. Last time I saw him, I was 8 months pregnant. He's never met Natalie.

Part of the problem is that he's wicked smart (he's an aerospace engineer for the Air Force), but really dumb when it comes to common sense. He really is a good kid who has worked hard at school, sports (made it to states in high school for swimming), is reasonably well liked, and has turned out pretty cute (not to mention that swimmers lean muscular body that always had the girls at the pool where he lifeguarded swooning). I think he'll grow up just fine, I think a lot of what is going on is that he's a 23 YEAR OLD BOY. Explains so much.

I thought I'd throw this one in for comparison's sake. This is grandpa in his navy days. Anyone see a resemblance? My brother denies it, but there is no doubt we are all part of the same family.

26 November 2007

Day 26

Grandma died thanksgiving morning. She had left instructions to be cremated and her ashes buried back in Detroit in a pre-bought plot next to her husband. Logistics had everything happening about 3 weeks after her death, which worked out perfectly with my final exam schedule. Nothing like being picked up immediately after your psych 101 final to go straight to the airport and from there to Detroit in mid-December. This was the one and only time my family has ever flown together. Tells you how exciting our family vacations used to be.

The following day we met a lot of mom's family at the grave side. I don't remember much except fighting back tears and how frickin' bitter cold it was outside. In the midwest, they don't have headstones in their cemetaries like we do out east - they have these pretty brass plaques set into the ground. Makes the cemetary look like a park with lovely rolling hills instead of a cemetary. All the arrangements were helped by the fact that one of my 2nd cousins is a mortitian/funeral director. Always a handy person to have around. We also think he's gay, and his hobby is buying mansions in Grosse Pointe and fixing them up and decorating with his ever growing collection of antiques. Since it was the holidays and he had the biggest house, we went there after the service for a luncheon.

Micheal, my 2nd cousin, had just hosted his annual christmas party the weekend before, so there were lavish decorations all about. He had had carolers on the 2nd floor landing, a string quartet in the 3rd floor BALLROOM, and a harpest in the front parlor (And this wasn't the house chosen for the historical society's decorator's showcase. That was the next house he bought). He also had had an army of Polish grandmothers cooking for this party, so we ate a lovely luncheon that was suplemented with an insane amount of incredibly tasty leftovers. Micheal also has a bull mastif, who is HUGE, but acts like a little lap dog. Except for the drool. Ew. The drool. But he was so loving. The dining room table seated 20, so for the most part, we were all able to squeeze in, even the dog scarfing for crumbs would just push chairs aside to get through.

This is one of my favorite family memories, chatting with these people I hardly knew but who were so important to my mom. Hearing stories about my grandmother from other people's points of view. There was a lot of laughter and we left feeling full of food and family. Going home was a much better trip than going out there for sure.

25 November 2007

Day 25

I feel I should explain last night's post a little more...Headache: wierd weather patterns moving in plus time of month always make my head ache. Today my sinus's were all swollen, so I hope it's not a sinus infection in the making.

Body sore: Jim borrowed a pick-up truck from work and I helped him load it up with over 600lbs of junk and crap from our shed and yard. All things we inherited when we bought the house. Like a rusted out industrial sink. A bucket of car jacks. A box of rusty nails. Bags of cement mix that had been left outside to solidify. A trash can full of used bathroom tiles. We've only made a dent in the crap with 3 trips to the dump, and there are at least 4-5 more trips to be made. So at least 2 more weekend with a pick-up truck and lots of heavy lifting.

Passive aggressive sister-in-law: no idea how to sum this one up, except that my plans for a nice dinner in front of a rented movie with Jim were ruined because of her commitment to not commit to anything, meaning she and her cousin (Jim's cousin too who she hogged for the day), didn't show up till it was time to start prepping dinner, I didn't have enough for four, so I thought I'd wait to cook till they left, which didn't happen for 2.5 hours. We had frozen burritos instead. Not as nice. Turns out we rented the wrong movie anyway, so the night was a total bust. I did have a hard cider and it went straight to my knees. Yum.

Tomorrow starts a new week, the last of November, and Jim is back to work. Nice having him around for 4 days, but at the same time, it is more like 4 days where Natalie and my schedules get just enough off that by today, we're pooped in 12 kinds of ways. Looking forward to a little routine again.

24 November 2007

Day 24

Headache. Body sore. Sister-in-law passive aggressive. Must go to bed.

(but look! I'm posting!! silly, yes.)

23 November 2007

Day 23

Back to the NaBloPoMo saga...

So Olga marries Pete. Twelve years later (um, fertility problems you think? Remember they were Catholic...) out comes their first child, my mom, at a teeny 5lbs. Two years later Pete is dead and there were no other siblings. Fast forward to 1986 - grandma has had a massive heart attack, quadruple bypass surgery at the Cleveland Clinic, and she's still living alone in her duplex in Detroit. Mom and dad decided it's time to move her in with us. Thankfully, she brings some money to the house hunt and we're able to move from our tiny little ghetto neighborhood in semi-urban NJ to a nice new suburban development with lots of kids our age across the Delaware river in PA. Since it was a new build, it was cheaper to have them make alterations as they built than to buy something older and hire contractors. The one thing mom regrets: Putting bi-fold doors separating our space from grandmas instead of a wall.

It was a joy living with grandma. Oh the stories I could tell. She was manipulative, excellent at laying on the guilt with a trowel, and oh, did I mention the kicker? She loved my brother more than me and wasn't afraid to make this known. I could go on and on about the things she did, but I wont. I've already burdened my poor therapist with those stories. No need to torture the 2.4 people who read this site.

On the flip side, she was a model of healthy behavior. When she moved in with us, I think mom and dad only planned for her to be here for a few years. She lasted 11. Way longer than her cardiologist expected. Another fun thing in my family, and this goes for both sides, is that everyone has gotten type II diabetes in their old age. Grandma, however, was meticulous about her diet and kept it totally under control and was on minimal medication for it. As for her heart health, she walked every day, even if it was fridgid out, she'd do laps around her living room. She walked so much around our neighborhood that everyone knew her for blocks in all directions. Her heart was so weak, in later years she would have these "episodes," spend two days in the hospital for observation, and than come home. Turns out these were little heart attacks, little because she didn't have any big chunks left to die off in her heart, only little bits.

The last little bit went out on her Thanksgiving morning (who knew the timing of these posts would be so spot on?), 11 years ago. I don't know the date she died, but when you die at home on a holiday morning, that's the day people are going to remember you died. She went peacefully, in her room, with family cooking away in the kitchen and the dog snooping around. The coroner had to come to assert that it was a natural death (When the paramedics saw her shoebox of medications they were pretty sure there would be no issues), the whole neighborhood was out to watch them take her away and offer condolences, the pastor came over, mom was a wreck so I ended up doing most of the cooking in order to keep busy. However, the turkey ended up being freezer burned. We all had a good laugh at the end of a long day over how nasty it tasty, grandpa (dad's dad) thought it was fine and ate most of it, which made us laugh even more. The next few years we went out to eat for thanksgiving. Not to bad as you still get leftovers and no one has to do dishes!

22 November 2007


Thirty seems like a good number, so here goes:

30 things I am thankful for:

  1. Natalie (duh)a roof over my head
  2. enough food in my fridge
  3. a car, albeit a clunker, to get me around
  4. parents that mean more to me now than they did 10 years go
  5. grandparents
  6. the awesomest sister-in-law ever
  7. the awesomest brother-in-law ever
  8. a paycheck every other week
  9. talents and skills like sewing and craftiness
  10. neighbors who have become so much more
  11. old movies with Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn and such
  12. Natalie's friends
  13. an awesome pediatritian
  14. boobies that are still making milk
  15. a warm bed
  16. a fantastic hair stylist who makes me feel so good
  17. amazing friends who feel like family
  18. my brother who is coming around
  19. antidepressants
  20. my therapist
  21. consignment shops and people who get rid of perfectly good toys and clothes
  22. living near the city
  23. despite some quirks, a (relatively) healthy body
  24. my college degree
  25. chocolate
  26. a husband, mostly because I don't know what I'd do without him
  27. coffee and good books
  28. good memories of friends past
  29. being in love

21 November 2007

Bad news

I did NOT get carded at the liquor store tonight. So sad.

Badder news, Natalie is fighting off a cold or something. Hopefully it's just croupe; we did some steam treatments last night and today which helped and she doesn't have a fever and is in good spirits.

But good news, which I feel bad for enjoying, when she's sick, she's extra cuddly and I could sit up all night rocking with her under a fuzzy blanket if that's what it takes for her to sleep comfortably. Nothing like a warm little toddler body curled in your lap, especially that of a toddler who Never Sits Still. Ever.

Day 21

Mom's dad, Pete. Don't know too much about him, only what mom knows. That's because he had a heart attack at the age of 42 and died. Mom was only 2 and doesn't remember him at all. One of the coolest things ever is the fact that I was able to look up on ellisisland.org the ship's log that recorded my grandfather's arrival at Ellis Island in 1922. Thank God he had a brother named Zigmond (Uncle Ziggy), because there were a lot of Polish Piotre's that came over. And their last name, while not a Polish equivalent of Smith or Jones, it's close. So amazing to see his family and their names, where they were headed, if they could read and write, etc. At ellisisland.org you can print copies of these records, which I did for my mom, and she framed. It's so amazing.*

We know his family first settled in western PA near Pittsburgh before heading to Detroit. In PA, he worked in the coal mines. Later, he worked for the railroad. I only ever met two of his brothers, Ziggy and Tony, they were both brilliant engineers who lived into their 80s or 90s. That side of the family kind of dropped most contact with my mom and her mom after Pete died. I think my mom had polite contact with her two uncles and a couple of cousins and that's it. Which is why it was odd that when Uncle Tony died a few years back, my mom was 3rd in line in his will. She didn't ask for anything from his estate except for any photographs and/or family documents found in the house. Amazing that she got some, since the two cousin's in front of her on the will were really grabby. Everything was in and out of court for ages as these cousin's tried to get every last penny they could, but finally a box arrived at my mom's door. I hope she can find some answers in these old documents and photos.

My great grandmother on this side never came to the US to stay permanently till after WWII. This means she lived in Warsaw through the occupation and all those horrors. So many questions I wish I could ask her, but, too late. I don't know that my mom even ever met her. Supposedly there are still some relatives in Poland, but we will probably never met. I would like to get over there someday, I hear Warsaw is beautiful, and I know the food would be damn good.

*I tried looking up people on my dad's side, but man, they had much more common names and so far I haven't had any luck

20 November 2007

Day 20

Mom's mom, Olga, also known as Busia (Polish for grandmother) - wait, her name is actually Alexandria, but for some unknown reason she was given the horrid nickname Olga - grew up the daughter of Polish immigrants. She didn't speak English till she started school, and she started a year later because she was small and they didn't want her walking to kndergarten in the Detroit winters. Later she skipped a year so it all evened out. She had four brothers and one sister. Growing up, when her parents went out, Busia's mother (my great grandmother) would lock up her brother's clothes and make them wear dresses. That way she knew they wouldn't be sneaking out of the house while their parents were away. Evidently great grandma was fiesty, spoke perfect English, but made her children and grandchildren all speak to her in Polish. I only know about 5 words in Polish, which is a shame considering Busia lived with us for 11 years. Oh, I hadn't mentioned she lived with us yet? That's the main reason I'm in therapy and we'll get to that in another post.

As for Busia's siblings, I met most of them, I think. Aunt Jenny shared the other half of a duplex with Busia in the late 70's/early 80's. Aunt Jenny was a little wacky. My dad remembers her trying to feed him a peanut butter and avocado sandwich from the avocado plant she had growing in her kitchen. Busia's brothers all worked for the automotive industry at one point or another (who didn't in Detroit in that era?). Two were marines. All that's left are two spouses, Aunt Lorraine who is ancient, FIESTY (swears like a sailor), and lives with her daughter and great granddaughter on a farm, and Aunt Betty, who is just ancient and somehow still hanging in there. Lorraine and Betty were kind of outcasts as they were *gasp* GERMAN girls marrying into the family. Somehow I find this funny that they are the only ones left. Yes, I have a sick sense of humor.

19 November 2007

Day 19

Back to the family. So mom. She's an interesting character. She grew up speaking Polish and lived in an immigrant community in Detroit. She has 53 first cousins between both sides of her family. Funny, since I have ZERO. That would be because mom was an only child. Both her mother and father came from large families, my grandmother was one of 6 and my grandfather was at least one of 6, possibly more. That's 10+ aunts and uncles, close to 20 when you count spouses, and all of a sudden 53 first cousins doesn't seem that odd. She's really only close with a handful of them. In such a big family, there are always the wacky ones, like the cousin who's been married and divorced from the same woman three times (currently they are married), the other cousin who wrote a redneck book about throwing a champagne wedding on a beer barrel budget. Then there's the stories of uncles and cousin's getting in a knife fight at a family wedding with the Italian wedding reception going on at the catering hall next door. Nice.

Back to mom. So in this crazy huge family of hers, she and one of her cousins are the only ones to have left the Roman Catholic church. For a while in high school she went to mass with her mother and then would meet a friend and her family to go to a protestant service at a Bible church downtown. This totally affected my view of religion and denominations and all growing up. Hard habits to break, and I've apologized to one Episcopalian college boyfriend for not being able to understand/communicate with him about our differences. Anyway, this was a big deal since it meant my grandmother always wanted my mom to marry a nice Catholic boy and come back to the church. Too bad she met my nice Baptist dad in college and stuck with him. Grandma tolerated him, but anytime my brother or I did anything wrong, we were "just like your father."

Lot's of drama on mom's side. And it only gets better. It's like "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" except Polish instead of Greek. Those uber-religious immigrants know how to lay on the guilt real good.

18 November 2007

Day 18

La la la la la...look, I'm posting! Just so I can say I completed the NaBloPoMo Challenge!

Crazy day, started with husband being an asshat, took too long of a nap in the afternoon (I blame Natalie who slept for over two hours), had to rake leaves before dark as tomorrow is collection day in the county, and am sitting at the computer with 10 more pages to edit. Just 10! I'm so bored, I don't know if I can make it. Perhaps if I get off the damn internet I'll get it done...

17 November 2007


To James and Nikki, it was a beautiful wedding! Always fun to see a friend get married, especially when he's never managed to find just the right girl, gone on lots of first dates but hardly any second ones, put up with people trying to fix him up, and then meets the perfect girl. You two are so cute together and we wish you the best for many years of happiness.

On a more selfish note, it was so nice to have a "date" with my husband. To get dressed up (was looking hot if I must say so myself, thankyouverymuch), go out, have adult conversation, eat good food, and partake in our friend's special day. Not to mention Natalie got to spend the day with one of her favorites, "aunt" Christy, who spoiled her rotten and totally tired her out. THANK YOU.

16 November 2007

Day 16

Mom. I'm not sure where to go with this post. I love my mom dearly, but like many mothers, we have our differences and there are things she's said and done in the past that have not only pushed us apart, but are things that come up in therapy. Fun, eh? We didn't talk much at all when I was growing up. She wasn't someone I could talk to about boys and stuff. So I kept a lot of that bottled in. I only told her about Jim shortly after we started dating because I knew there was something special about him and I knew mom would shoot me if someday I was serious about this guy and we were on the verge of engagement and she didn't know anything. Now there are still things we don't talk about, but I've come to appreciate her more now that I'm a mom, too.

I don't know how she got to be all uptight and judgemental (she would claim she isn't but it's so not worth arguing with her about because she really is). Back in her younger days, she was quite the social girl. In high school she once dated two guys with the same name at the same time and her mother would just tell her "Mark called" with a smirk and not tell her which one. She was also engaged before she started dating my dad, and all I know about that guy is that he gave her the Don McLean American Pie album.

I could go on for about 16 posts in the ways behind why we didn't get along and she contributed to my screwiness, but I'll save that for my therapist. As a mom, I've come to appreciate her more than ever and love her more for how she raised us at least when we were young. The fact that she took so much of her time and gave so much of herself to me and my brother - teaching us in the kitchen, allowing us to make messes, encouraging our creativity and love of reading, taking us on adventures even if they were just to the creek behind our neighborhood. These are all things that I want to do and be for my daughter, and realizing that mom was like that, too, means so much.

15 November 2007

Day 15

It's rainy, dreary, I want to nap, but I have 41 more pages to edit by the end of the day. Thank goodness my mother's helper comes this afternoon - nothing like a little accountability to make you get things done. I also plan on skipping out for a few while she's here because errands + toddler + rain = suckiness.

Natalie got rain boots yesterday - timing couldn't have been more perfect - and she's obsessed with them. They are green and I think are supposed to be frogs. She was so bummed there were no puddles to stomp in yesterday, but was thrilled to try them out today. That was after I wrestled her into clothes. She didn't seem to understand that it was a little too wet and chilly to go out today naked like she prefers at home. She spent much of the morning in just a diaper and her new boots. Seriously, I don't think she could have looked cuter.

Tomorrow we switch gears and start on mom's side. The "fun" side, a.k.a. "the reason I'm in therapy" side.

14 November 2007

Day 14

Dad. He's one of the smartest, wisest, most solid men I know. He's always been there for us, he's always been such an excellent example of a true head of household. In later years I've come to be able to talk to him more without the emotional whoo-haa of talking to mom. That being said, he's still a dad.

He was only 24 when I was born, which came to explain SO MUCH when I was suddenly that age with guy friends also in their mid-20s. Duh, no longer makes me wonder what the heck he was thinking when I recall the fact that he wanted to name me Duncan if I was a boy - so that if I was either a swimmer or a basketball player, he could call me "Dunk" for short. Thank God mom talked him into Brian if I was a boy. And thank God he talked her into calling me Kathryn if I was a girl instead of Renata like my mom wanted (only Renata I've ever known was the bug eyed librarian at our college library).

Dad's dorm picture from the University of Michigan circa early 1970s shows a bunch of really hairy guys, half with cigarettes in their hands, the other half with drinks, and then this tall, skinny guy in the back with a crew cut and a mustache. Guess which one was my dad? He likes to brag about how the guys once spiked his orange juice but he caught on and didn't drink it. I try not to crack up in his face, because looking at that dorm picture? Dad was *that guy* who was just asking for his OJ to be mixed with a little vodka or for a pot brownie to be slipped to him.

We finally broke him of the tube sock habit a few years back and we're working on the comb over. He's also gotten somewhat better in the kitchen. However, when I was in junior high, he quit his job to start his own consulting business out of the home (mom had just gone back to teaching after 14 years as a stay at home mom). This meant he was Mr. Mom for a bit while things got off the ground. Some of his infamous dinners he cooked for us include pizza chicken, norwegian (not swedish) meatballs, and rubber pancakes. My brother and I do not let him forget about this, even when he manages to pull off something good in the kitchen.

It's been fun watching him turn into a grandpa with Natalie. He's a total mush and spoils her like we were never spoiled as kids. And she loves her grandpa so much, I think because he's very silly and gives lots of zerberts on her belly and such. Anyway, I love dad, nerdiness and all. How he ended up with mom, I'm not quite sure. I think she's the first girl he ever dated.

13 November 2007

Day 13

All these stories so far have been about my dad's side of the family, leaving just my dad and his brother. My uncle, Bruce, is the cool one. They are five years apart (my dad is older), but Bruce never married, left the nest for further away, was always the fun one. Bruce is the one I could always talk to about school, boys, music, movies, whatever. He coaches swiming and has had kids go to the Olympic trials before. He's also worked as a travel agent and traveled a lot. Now he's in travel marketing for a big media conglomerate. He's come a long way. Last year he got Jim and I ipod's for a Christmas/birthdays/belated wedding gift. He was struggling when we got married and I think just slipped ups $50 cash for our honeymoon during the reception. Evidently the fact that he couldn't do more bugged him, so one day these ipod's appeared from the FedEx man. Our family is not one to do grand gestures, so while it was fucking awesome to get an ipod for a gift, it really means so much more.

The other fun thing about Bruce? We* think he may be gay. Curious in our evangelical uptight prudish family. Back in his travel agent days, he had this friend...they always traveled together. When he moved even further away to take the job he has now, he became friends with this other guy, Sam. They supposedly do everything together. Travel, hang out, whatever. Sam isn't married either. Bruce also has the stereotypically gay fantastic taste in decorating (he's remodling his condo and is using italian river rocks for the interior of his shower, hello, straight guys don't think of this) and he's always been the best dressed, even in his heavier days. This is something I KNOW he didn't get from any other member of his family (ok, grandpa in his youth probably had some style), especially not his older brother. My dad dresses like a dad and has since he was 12. There are so many other subtle things that make us suspect it. We wonder if Bruce will come out when grandma and grandpa are dead and gone...

Can you tell my family doesn't know about my blog? Ha!

* "we" is me and Jim :)

12 November 2007

Day 12

Little mom-mom's parents, what I know of them, is pretty cool. Her father, my great-great grandfather is the only relative of that generation to have been born in the US. He was from an old New England Scottish family, and the rumor goes their family came over on the boat after the Mayflower. That side is also somehow related to John Paul Jones, the founder of the modern navy. I don't know much else about him.

My great-great grandmother, however, has a pretty interesting story. She was born in Calder Castle (yes, same as in MacBeth), the oldest of SEVENTEEN children. Unfortunately, her father was a younger brother and therefore didn't inherit the title of Earl or the castle. He was in the wool business and his ships were burned in the New Orleans harbor during the civil war. Bummer. Somewhere along the line, my great-great grandmother, Beatrice, came to New York like so many others of my relatives. There she met her soon-to-be husband, and they were married on December 24th, 1894. I know this because I've been wearing her wedding ring since I was pregnant and my fingers got too fat to wear my rings. I love her ring - it's a wide yellow gold band, simple, with flowers engraved on the outside and the inside says "GFS to BCC 12/22/94" - that's 113 years ago this December. Amazing.

6 years later my great grandmother was born, and they had a few other children, but they were all dead (I think) before I came around. My grandmother (dad's mom and little mom-mom's daughter) has a silver ladle with the Calder family crest that she got from an uncle on her mom's side. This is special because things like this aren't supposed to be pased down through the girls - supposedly one of Beatrice's brothers lived with her (and her husband? I don't know) later in life and he had the soup ladle which went to her when he died, then to little mom-mom, and then to grandma (and not her brothers, I don't know why there either). Someday it will be mine and I love this little piece of history and the story behind it. We don't have great heirlooms in our family, but instead a soup ladle. Still pretty cool.

11 November 2007

Day 11

Little mom-mom was so cool. Writing about her makes me really wish she was still here to talk to. She was still so spunky in her later years, even those last few at the nursing home. Most of the other old people were only half with it so she was the reigning bingo champ. We'd go and visit on sunday afternoons and she'd be in the big sun porch playing bingo and she always won and she'd always pick the big bag of m&m's for her prize to give to me and my brother (who was only 5 at the time of her death). My mom tells the story of one time when my brother went to hug her. She had stopped wearing a bra in her later years - too hard to fasten so why bother was her philosophy - and one time Tim went to hug her and her boobies hugged him back and supposedly there was a shocked look on his little face like "what the heck just happened there?" that my mom says still brings tears of laughter to her eyes.

My grandparents weren't all that great as grandparents go. While we were growing up, they did a lot of travel, and while good for them and all for getting out and living, they never offered to take my family (who was pretty poor at the time - we didn't need to go to europe or anything with them but a family trip to florida would have been nice), and we rarely saw them. Seriously, even though my grandparents lived 45min away, we saw them 3-4 times A YEAR. That's Thanksgiving, Christmas, maybe Easter, and either a memorial day, 4th of july or labor day picnic for good measure. And once they started getting old and not getting out, that's when we started seeing more of them. The last time they traveled was to our wedding 3.5 years ago. About a year after that they moved into a retirement center and somehow they haven't moved into the assisted living section yet, but we think that's right around the corner. Wish we had more time with them when they were vibrant and alive and living life, instead we get a lot of them when they are dull, sit around a lot, and can't control bodily functions. This sounds so mean, and maybe it is. It's just that the contrast of their later years to the vibrant life in the face of old age little mom-mom or my mom's mother (sooooooo much to say on her when we get to that side of the family) lived to the end is so drastic.

While I hope they stay alive long enough for Natalie to remember them, regardless of how long that is for now, she's not going to have the chance to remember them like I remember my great grandmother. I worry that she's just going to remember enough of those old slightly smelly people who complained a lot to say "yea, I remember my great grandparents, whatever." Which is another reason when we go to grandpa's 90th party in a few weeks we've GOT to record some of his tales. I think grandma is probably a lost cause, but he at least still has a hint of that former twinkle in his eyes.

10 November 2007

Day 10

Grandma's mother, on the other hand, is one relative I knew somewhat well as she lived to be 89 and died when I was 11. She always had this ugly ass urn on her coffee table filled with m&m's. My mom has it now and she promised (when Natalie is older of course) to keep up the tradition. She also had this cabinet in her kitchen that grandma remembers being at her grandma's (my great great grandmother) house. Little mom-mom* used to go in there to get keebler grasshopper cookies for us. Now it's in my office full of nerdy supplies and files, but it smells exactly how I remember it from growing up. And when we get our kitchen fixed up, it's going to reside in our dining room and keep serving pieces and stemware and such in it.

When people as kyou to pick three people, living or dead, who you'd like to invite to dinner, little mom-mom is top of my list. She was a total spitfire in her day. Born in 1900 in New York, she told stories of renting horses and jumping the fence at Central Park to go riding. And if a horse was left dead in the street, she and her friends would jump on it's stomach to make it's tongue stick out. She also rode in an open cockpit bi-plane (makes me want to hurl just thinking about that) and was a flapper. She met her husband because he worked at an ice cream shop in Asbury Park that was owned by friend's of hers. How else would the daughter of Scottish immigrants fall for a Russian-Jewish guy? I wish there were pictures or I could go back in time and see her when she was younger. I think we'd be good friends.

Little mom-mom was also the one who supported my mom the most when I was born. Since we were in Jersey and mom's mom was stilli n Detroit at that time, mom was stuck with her mother-in-law for advice - the woman thought breastfeeding was disgusting, little mom-mom was the one who told grandma (her daughter) to shut up and let Sue nurse me. I also found out later that when grandma was born in 1923, everyone breastfed, but little mom-mom couldn't get enough supply. Hmm...makes me wonder if so many of my female problems are hereditary... Anyway, she's someone I wish I could talk to now.

*Dad named her "little mom-mom" when he was a kid, because she was short, and his other grandmother was tall, so she was big mom-mom. Little mom-mom was also called "old roundbottom" because she was a bit rolly polly and in later years, we all liked to drive with her in the middle of the back seat and dad would take the curves fast so she would roll back and forth. She thought this was hysterical.

09 November 2007

21 Months

Sweet little Natalie, you are officially 21 months old today. Not really a milestone month, but man, you are growing in leaps and bounds these days. Not really getting much bigger, but the words that come out of your mouth astond me and your daddy. You are a voracious "reader" who has taken to going to bed each night with no less than 7 books in bed with you. It also helps that I can get you to bed by suggesting, after I've read a book at least twice, that maybe your animals would like you to read it to them. You love this idea and enjoy being tucked in with your books and surrounded by your little stuffed friends as an audience. Actually, so long as you have an audience, you are in top form. Fortunately this makes going to social events with you a breeze. You do your darndest to engage people in conversation, flirt, dance, and make people laugh. Forget sitting and cuddling, the only time you do that I know you must be twelve kinds of tired.

We went to so many pumpkin patches in the past month I was really getting tired of all the dirt and dust and allergies every time. But you loved each and every one, seeing all the farm animals and other children fascinated you to no end. You picked out "pumpums" all over the place, pointing them out with such joy and excitement every time you saw one. You seem to love pumpkin's so much I figured we'll keep up the festive fall display on the dinning room table with a couple little one's just for you.

Another of your latest obsessions is your alphabet puzzle. What scares us is how good you were at it out of the blue. All of a sudden you started putting pieces in the right spaces instead of whinning till mommy or daddy did it for you. You love letters and pointing them out wherever we are. However, you really only know "e" and "y" and sometimes "a." That's ok, as much as early reading is cool, we're not in any rush for you to grow up that much quite yet. We love you sweet Natalie, the most fabulous thing to come into our lives ever.

08 November 2007

Day 8

Grandma. She's pretty boring. Takes after her mother-in-law in recent years, has been nicknamed "Queen Junie" lately. She's real good at complaining, and while some things she has good reason to whine about, other things are pure attention getting. This is confirmed by the different stories she tells her two sons who live 1200 miles apart. In her younger days, she was a flaming red head, so I hope that recessive gene comes out someday, if not in Natalie, then in one of our fictional next children. She also has no ass, as compared to grandpa's gigantic one. My dad takes after his father but my uncle takes after grandma. His pants can never stay up. Grandma only started wearing pants in the past few years (dresses only till then) when my mom introduced her to the joys of jersey knit lounge pants for wearing in rehab after a hip replacement.

Grandma's father died when she was little, so I never met him and she didn't know him all that well either. He was born ON THE BOAT between Ellis Island and Kiev. We're not sure if his family was Russian or Ukrainian (although back in the day they were one in the same), just that their ship sailed from Kiev. Cannot imagine giving birth on a ship 100+ years ago. Yikes. However, grandma did spend time growing up with his mother, her grandmother, a good Jewish lady who taught her to make a mean motzah ball soup and eat gefelta fish. Grandma celebrates her Jewish heritage on the high holy days by making her grandma's motzah ball soup and serving with pork chops. She thinks this is funny since she was raised presbyterian.

07 November 2007

Day 7

So, going back before WWII, and to how grandpa came to be the fun guy he is. Obviously much of that came from his father's German side. This is because his mother, a Scottish immigrant who came over BY HERSELF at the age of 13 was a total prude (which also explains how he came to marry my stuffy uptight grandmother - probably some residual oedipal issues). She lived to be 94, but I was only about 4 at the time she died, so I only have vague memories of visiting her at the presbyterian home she lived in - long driveway, lots of trees, big Victorian looking houses, a sunny sitting room with other old people, and me dancing in circles. Her nickname (not to her face of course) was "Queen Annie" because she just had that air about her. My uncle tells the story of how visiting her at the nursing home once she was coming down the stairs and didn't notice that her stretched out with no elastic left underware was falling down below the hem of her skirt, and how he had to chase after his grandmother and pull up her underware and she never noticed. Now her mother, my great-great grandmother, worked for a photographer in Glasgow, so my grandfather has a portrait taken of her by this photographer in the 1880s. It's amazing. I wonder if that's where my love of photography might have come from...

Now the fun loving Germans: Granpa's father was from Hambourg, and if he wasn't born there, then his parents (my great-great grandparents) were, but I think he was. Now imagine: You are German immigrants, in New York, and the stupid US government declares prohibition. Evidently grandpa had some aunts who always had dates during that time thanks to a wicked family bathtub brew. What's funny is that my family are all staunch conservatives who don't drink, swear, dance, and my mom likes to proclaim that she's never seen an R rated movie. Now I only found out recently that my grandfather was a life long smoker till the day my dad was born and he quite right there. Grandpa was in the navy, he was half German, I *know* he was a beer drinker back in his day. I think my brother and I inherited the most from grandpa than from other relatives...that bit of a rebelious streak that's not really a rebelious streak, it just is in light of the rest of the family. We also got the German blond hair and blue eyes from him. I always thought of myself as pretty all-American looking, till I had an overnight layover in Frankfurt and kind of freaked out that so many people looked like we could be related.

But I digress. I think I've covered the main highlights of grandpa. Tomorrow we'll start on grandma, who isn't all that exciting herself, but whose parents rock.

06 November 2007

Day 6

Now, my grandfather's war stories aren't the fodder for Clint Eastwood to turn into a WWII epic. More Farley or Coen brothers I think. But regardless, it really is an example of how the "greatest generation" really is the Greatest Generation. Imagine the world of 1918 when my grandfather was born. 90 years later, look where we are. Will there be as many technological, political, or social changes as he's seen in our lifetimes? Somehow I don't think so. Sure, we've got middle eastern terrorists, but I think they are still a distant second to the horrors the Nazi's wrent on Europe back in the day. Stories from this era fascinate me. I remember a classmate's grandfather coming to speak at school about being a German Jew during WWII. About how he escaped auschwitz thanks to an SS officer with a conscience who looked the other way when he and a few others snuck through a whole in the fence in the middle of winter. Just a wee bit different than golfing in Bermuda.

If you head over to mom's side of the family, her grandmother (her father's mother) never came to America to stay till after WWII - she lived in Warsaw through the whole war - occupation and all. While they weren't Jewish, they were Catholic which wasn't very high up on Hitler's favorites list. My mom was never close to this side of her family, so we don't know much about this woman, my great-grandmother and the family that stayed with her during the war. Did she take part in some form of underground resistance? Did she help Jews to escape the city? I'd like to think she did because the opposite would just be awful to admit. On my mom's other side, she had an aunt (mom's mom's sister) and a cousin (mom's mom's sister's daughter) who died in aushwitz. I wish I knew more about these people, all of them. I'd like to honor them, what they went through, what they meant to the larger world they were living in. Perhaps this little blog post can be a start to that.

05 November 2007

So cute

Hectic afternoon, I'm finally getting around to checking work email and such. Natalie is in her room, next door to the office, reading to herself. Her latest favorite book is "Grandma Rabbity's Visit" where grandma rabbity is coming to visit, and all these different vehicles go past the little rabbit's house, until at the end grandma rabbity comes on her motorbike. Natalie is in there, turning each page saying "noooo, noooo, noooo..." until she obviously get's to the end and says "ga-gee!" which is what she named Jim's mom on her recent visit. It's flippin adorable.

Day 5

So grandpa. He was in the navy during WWII. He worked in the optical lab on a "mother ship" - the ship that submarines came to and from for supplies, information, etc. (probably not the proper naval definition, but how it was explained to me by him). First he was stationed in Bermuda. Rough, ya know? The most treacherous thing they did was go scouting for German underwater mines. But he also played a lot of golf. He worked in the optical lab making and fixing lenses for guns and cannons and whatever other weaponry and scouting equipment needed it. Part of that job included cooking the lenses for whatever reason in the lab's special ovens. One night there was a movie night for the enlisted men. Grandpa and his lab buddies stole a turkey from the officer's mess and cooked it in the optical lab ovens. While it was cooking and the lovely scent of turkey was wafting across the ship, they went up on deck to the movie night and started spreading rumors about the officers setting up this movie for the enlisted guys while they enjoyed a turkey dinner. Then they went back to the lab and feasted.

After Pearl Harbor, their ship was sent to Hawaii. He got to go through the Panama canal which is kind of cool. Again, rumor has it there was that nurse in Hawaii...After that they were going to be sent to the Paciffic theater and they made it all the way to China when the war ended and so they came home. Only casualty on their ship was someone who died while cleaning his gun and it accidentally went off. Grandpa stayed in the navy for a few more years and later worked for the Port Authority in New York, climbing onto ships to do customs paper work and that sort of thing.

04 November 2007

Day 4

Some more about grandpa -

He grew up in Brooklyn and was a bit of a ladies man. Back in the 1930s, he and a friend shared a 1929 model A with a rumbleseat. They used to cruise the city picking up women. The story goes that he always took the girls to church with him on Sunday, but it was pretty much always a different girl. How he ended up with my prudish grandmother, we may never know. She was a girl at the church he and his family went to, so I think they knew each other for years. Grandma was a flaming redhead and quite a looker in some early pictures we've seen of her. Anyway, my mom has a whole cache of jewelery from my grandfather. It's things he gave to other girls who gave them back when they broke up. Like a really pretty amythyst ring mom wears a lot. Since grandpa and grandma had two boys, and grandma refused to wear jewelery that had been purchased for another woman (scandal!!), I think grandpa was excited when dad got married and he had a daughter-in-law to give the jewelery to.

Grandpa was also in the navy (lots of stories there), and rumor has it there was a nurse when he was stationed in Hawaii (after Pearl Harbor, when nothing happened in Hawaii for the rest of WWII). He won't talk about it, but we're hoping grandma dies first so we can get the story out of him after she's gone.

03 November 2007

Day 3

While Jen had some good ideas for what to write about (expect a 30 things people would be surprised to know about me list around the big 3-0 in january), I think I'm going to write about my family. There are so many stories, ones I've been witness to, others I've heard about. A lot of the tales are truly amazing, and some are hysterical.

To start, My family is all pretty much immigrants. Mom's side is 100% Polish (and roman catholic), which means she has 52 first cousins. Her father was born outside of Warsaw and came over in the 1920s, while her mother was born in Detroit but her mother's parents were from Poland, the south part of the country I think. Dad's side is a mix - he has two Scottish grandmothers, a German grandfather, and a Russian-Jewish grandfather. Dad's family all ended up in Brooklyn where he was born and raised till they moved to Jersey in the late 50s. Basically, there is only one of my ancestors (a great-great grandfather) who was in this country before the 1890s. I'm proud of this fact for whatever reason, I think it's really neat.

For today, I leave you with this: My grandfather (dad's dad) is turning 90 next month. He's always been a bit of a character, but as he gets older, he's starting to lose his sense of what is proper, and we had a stunning example of it a few months back. My uncle was visiting from Florida, and he went with my grandparents to the dining room at their retirement home to have dinner. It was a friday, and while the wait staff is usually in white and black with neckties and all, on friday's the get to dress down. Grandpa tells the hostess "I like when you all dress down. I bet you'd look good dressed down to your bra and panties!" My uncle practically crawled under the table from embarassment and later calls my dad to tell him the story. Dad said grandpa was in the backgroud yelling about he couldn't understand why what he said was wrong, how it was a compliment afterall. We are all equally mortified but at the same time, (a) it doesn't surprise us that grandpa is turning into a dirty old man and (b) we find it flipping hysterical. While I want to apoligize to that poor hostess, I also want to ask her if she was able to keep a straight face.

02 November 2007

Day 2

Man, haven't had a second to think of a theme or something to write about for a month. Trying to come up with something other than me, depression, toddler wrangling, annoying husbands, etc.

How about 30 days of 30 boys I've kissed? Damn, I don't think I made it to that many before getting hitched. 30 days of my favorite foods? Probably not good for somebody with eating issues. 30 days of Paris? Since I was only there a week, my stories would probably get boring after a while. Must keep thinking. In the meantime I leave you with this:

I got up the nerve to email T on monday and he hasn't written back. Feeling like a royal dork, but then again, knowing him, knowing he's at frickin Harvard (thank you google and T having a very unique last name) getting his Phd, there is a very good chance he just hasn't had a moment to sit down and write. Oh well. Not holding my breath, but still secretly hope he writes.

01 November 2007


November is National Blog Posting Month.

I will attempt to do my part.

This is all I can handle for today.