Monday, February 18, 2013

Sibling Differences

Ask anybody and they will tell you that there are people on the branches of their family tree exactly like my Aunt Gloria.   No children, loveless marriage, obsessed with her dog, martini drinker, snobbishly passionate about art, ballet, and orchestra, and unable (or unwilling) to relate to anyone under the age of 16.

Until I reached early adulthood, I never quite knew if my Aunt Gloria realized I existed.   Technically my great-aunt, (my grandfather's sister), she and her husband George were a permanent fixture at  holiday dinners.  After planting the obligatory welcome  kiss on my cheek (which I always tried to wipe off without her seeing), she only had eyes for one - just one - of my parent's three older sister Bev.

Something about my sister's personality captivated Aunt Gloria, and a result, Bev became the lucky recipient of her attention.   At the time, I told myself it didn't matter, that my aunt was old and snobby and crabby and that I didn't want to talk to her anyway.

My brother Steven, six years my junior, didn't seem to care.  But to me, it really did matter...

It mattered a lot.

She liked Bev better than me, and, not understanding why, in the mind of a painfully shy preteen girl....I came to the only rational conclusion I could at the time.....I must not be good enough.

As an adult, I can now look back and not fault my sister at all for being on the receiving end of my aunt's affection.  And in fact, in the waning years of her life, I reconnected with Gloria, and I feel blessed that, before she passed away, she had the chance to meet my 5-year old daughter Melissa (now 15).

Gloria treated my sister different than me because quite simply, she is different from me, just as all siblings have those remarkable, unique characteristics that set them apart.  As adults, we develop a deep love for our siblings, and celebrate our differences, as I have certainly done with both my brother and sister.  But as children, in most families, sibling rivalries abound, leading to jealousy and hurt only made worse when an adult who should know better showers one sibling with more love than another.  Like my Aunt Gloria.

Fortunately, as a mother, I have not had to cope with the pain of witnessing my own daughter suffer this kind of emotional confusion when adults favor one sibling over another.  I inherited my beautiful step-daughter Jessica when she was in the throes of her teen years.  However, by the time her sister Melissa came along, Jessica had entered young adulthood, living a life of her own.  My daughters, though so incredibly close, never lived under the same roof, and the two decade span between them keeps them immune from typical sibling battles.

Not so for my dear friend Angelica's sons Chris, 16 and Brandon, 13.   Incredibly close in age and with each other, they could not be more different in personality.  Recently, they told me about a negative experience that brought back memories of my own childhood, and my Aunt Gloria.

In response, I gave Chris words of support that I wish someone had shared with me. I told him, "Brandon is awesome because he's Brandon.  You are awesome because you are you, and don't ever change who you are because the people that come into your life who matter will love you for who you are."

Indeed, I speak from experience.  I have long since grown out of my painful shyness, yet the fundamental personality traits that were inherent in that preteen girl who sat ignored by her aunt at family dinners are still very much a part of me.  Thankfully, my wonderful husband Bob accepts  all of those traits.  He loves me for who I am.

So to my beautiful, talented Melissa who I love with all my heart, and to every child who has ever felt less than wonderful about themselves, I shout from the rooftops, "You are wonderful, you are awesome, don't ever change who you are!"

                                      Me with my wonderful siblings Steven and Bev!

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Celebrity Restaurant Encounter of the Hockey Kind

I will be the first to admit that the notion of meeting someone famous has me quaking in my boots! What would I do?  What would I say?  Would I ask for a picture?  An autograph?  A hug? A kiss? Or in the case of Hugh Jackman or Bradley Cooper...a bit more than that! (wink wink).

For my husband Bob, it's somewhat of a different story.   Thanks to many years of working in the local television industry, he came face-to-face with many a household name and concluded that they are no different than you or I.   In short, Bob doesn't impress easily, and, if we were to be at a local dining establishment and a celebrity sat at the table next to us, he'd most likely ignore them and let them eat in peace.

Unless, of course, you are talking about hockey.

Bob does not merely enjoy hockey...Bob is obsessed with hockey.  More specifically, Bob is obsessed with Philadelphia Flyers hockey....the best hockey there is! (With all due respect to my family in Buffalo, New York, and Raleigh.)

How obsessed is Bob?  I'll tell you.

We currently own:

-A Flyers welcome mat.
-A Flyers flag that is a permanent fixture on our outdoor patio. (Which I am forbidden to ever take down, lest its removal be blamed for a losing streak)
-Flyers place mats.
-Flyer potholders.

-Flyers mugs.
-A Flyers backpack.
-A Flyers lamp.
-A Flyers clock.
-Flyers hats, gloves, scarves, sweatshirts, and jackets.
-A Flyers toaster which of course guessed it...Flyers toast!

You get the idea.

So there we were, on a Saturday night, attempting to enjoy the rare opportunity to go out to dinner and a movie.  Boring folks that we are, Bob and I tend to eat at the same restaurants time and again.  However, on this night we became determined to try something new.  We drove into a shopping center a few miles from the movie theater and noticed a romantic Italian restaurant.  It looked fancy...a bit too fancy for our jeans and sweatshirt attire, but none-the-less, in we went.

My hubs had been in a good mood, no doubt thanks to a Flyers overtime win earlier in the day.  Throughout the game, as usual, Bob "coached from the couch" giving Peter Laviolette, the actual coach of his favorite team, a constant stream of, shall we say, "colorful" words of wisdom.  Yes, there was no love lost between Bob and Peter....or so I thought.

The Italian restaurant welcomed us, and showed us to a small table in the corner. As we gobbled up the pre-meal bread and gulped our diet coke, Bob patiently listened as I rehashed the events of a particularly bad week.  Suddenly, my hockey-obsessed husband averted his gaze from mine and blurted out at the top of his lungs:


Astonished, I forgot my tales of woe and turned my head, craning my neck to see so that I could personally verify the truth of this announcement.

Sure enough, there, comfortably situated at the table right behind us, sat Peter Laviolette.  All of the harsh criticism lunged at this man from the safety of the sofa seemed to temporarily leave my husband's mind as we sat there in awe, Mr. and Mrs. Star-Struck Goober, debating our strategy.

First point of consideration.  Peter Laviolette (A rather handsome man, I might add) was not dining alone.  He appeared to be enjoying a relaxing Saturday evening dinner with his wife and children.

Our conversation went something like this:

Me: "You should say hi."

Bob: "He's with his family, I don't want to bother him."

Me: "Why don't you just go over and congratulate him on a good game today"

Bob: "Do you think I should? I mean, I would love to sit and talk strategy with him.  I've always admired him."  (Who took my coach-criticizing husband and replaced him with the star-struck dude now sitting across from me?)

Me: "If he gets up and goes to the bathroom he'll walk right by our table and we can give him a thumbs up and say Great Game!"

Bob: "Maybe I can just snap a photo of him and he won't notice."

Me: "Why don't you pretend to be taking a picture of me and try to get him in the background?"

Bob: "No, he'll know, he'll see me."

At this point I attempted to nonchalantly turn my head around to look at Peter and family, while "pretending" to look at the entrance to the restaurant as if I was waiting for an old friend to walk through the door.

Bob: "Don't turn around, you're being really obvious."

Me: (Turning back to face my husband, who had a clear view of Peter without having to move his head.) "I think he's getting ready to leave."

Bob: "I should say something."

Me: "Go over and say something."

Bob: "No, I can't, I'd be bothering him."

Me: "It looks likes he is finished eating and getting ready to leave, you should say something."

Clearly, a strategic decision had to be made!

(Please read the next sentence in the voice of a hockey announcer.)

Bob takes out his iPhone, positions the camera directly at Peter, and TAKES THE SHOT!   (Hockey fans will understand the pun.)

As the 3,000 megawatt flash of the camera illuminated the entire restaurant, I turned bright red of embarrassment.  And he thought I was being obvious!  Unfortunately, Bob's attempt at photography produced a grainy image of a guy without a head.  So my husband responded guessed it, illuminating the restaurant once again by TAKING THE REBOUND SHOT, which resulted in a grainy, blurry image of Peter as he stood up from his chair.

Oblivious to the actions of Mr. and Mrs. Goober, Peter thanked his waiter and followed his family out the front door.

In the meantime, Bob proudly showed the photo to the couple who sat at the table next to our's (who probably regretted their seating selection), and proceeded to text the photo to every hockey fan he knew!

So Peter, wherever you are, I am so glad you decided to dine at the same Italian restaurant as Mr. and Mrs. Goober last Saturday night.   Thanks to you, for a few fleeting moments, memories of my bad week took flight, replaced by my husband's smile, and lots of shared laughter.

To my Bob, thank you for always being there for me, when I'm happy and when I'm down and when I monopolize a romantic Saturday night dinner with endless complaints.  I'm so glad you love me nearly as much as you love hockey!  You'll always be a celebrity super star in my eyes...........

However, I take no blame for my actions if Hugh Jackman were dining right behind us!

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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Time to Go to Chuck-E-Oh NOOOOOOO!

Last Saturday my husband Bob and I found ourselves on a Pennsylvania Turnpike trek to attend my 6-year old niece Amy's birthday party.  The festivities were scheduled to take place at a type of indoor facility known and recognized by parents across the globe.

These places have names like:

Run Around Like a Lunatic-n-Play
Give Mom Valium So She Can Handle the Noise-n-Play

You get the idea.

As I watched in delight as Amy and her friends tumbled through the tubes at Touch-n-Play, I thought of my own daughter Melissa, now 15, at home studying for mid-terms.  Or should I say that's what I instructed her to do when we bid her a fond farewell and she expressed her regret at missing the party.  In reality, there's a good chance that her afternoon consisted of the following schedule:

1. Text.
2. Play guitar.
2. Text.
3. Go on Facebook.
3. Text.
4. Go on Youtube.
4. Text.
5. Play more guitar.
7. Attempt to study.
8. Nap.

The days of visiting Barf-n-Play with my toddler in tow are long gone, as I have become fully emerged in the world of my high school freshman.

But oh, such horrible fond memories.   My precious four-year old cherub, jumping with delight at the arrival of a post card inviting her to a party at that dreaded wonderful play land called...


The drill went something like this.

1. Walk through the doors with an overexcited pre-schooler, who is then forced to stop to get her hand stamped by an annoyed teen who was probably cursing his mother for making him get a job to pay for his car insurance.

2. Walk around 42,000 beeping video games, jump out of the way of 6,710 screaming toddlers, grab your child's hand to prevent her from prematurely joining the 6,710 screaming toddlers, hurdle over 9,604 tables topped with tiny tots obliviously asleep in their portable car seats, and finally, enter the "PARTY ROOM" nestled way in the back of Chuck-E-Oh NOOOOOOO.

3. Scan the 207, football field-sized tables in the PARTY ROOM, in search of your daughter's friend.

4. Attempt to tune out the animated video blaring at 600,000 decibels on a 97,000 inch TV screen.

5. Climb over 2,706 laughing, screaming, crying, pizza, and hot dog-eating children on your way to the table playing host to your daughter's friend.

6. Greet the mother of your daughter's friend with a conversation that goes something like this:

Mother: "I'm so glad Melissa could make it."

Me: "WHAT?"

Mother: "It was so nice of Melissa to come."

Me: "WHAT?"

Mother: "Would Melissa like pizza or a hot dog?"

Me: "WHAT?"

7. Take off your daughter's coat, hand the gift to the mother.

Mother: "Thank you so much for the gift!"

Me: "WHAT?"

8. Scan the football field-sized tables in search of a place to sit.

9. Pat yourself on the back for remembering to wear supportive sneakers as you sigh in defeat, and stand for the next two hours.

10. Suddenly the lights go dim, the music stops, and a 16-year old cheerleader-in-training grabs a megaphone and announces the impending arrival of the biggest celebrity to hit the pre-school circuit since Barney.  Yes, you guessed it!  CHUCK-E-OH NOOOOOOOO! (Another annoyed teen in a rodent custom, secretly cursing his parents for making him get a job to pay for car insurance.)

11. Watch your daughter's face light up with delight as Chuck-E-OH NOOOOOOOO makes his entrance.

12. Watch your daughter cry as she realizes that Chuck-E-OH NOOOOOO only gives attention to the children with official birthdays and treats the other party-goers as second class citizens.

13. Nearly knock over a pitcher of Sprite attempting to climb over the other disappointed children in an effort to comfort your cherub.

14. Successfully reach your cherub, only to discover that she is now happily eating cake and holding a cup full of tokens, which she will soon use to play one of the many stupid challenging video games.

15. Panic as your daughter gets swept up in the throngs of kids, rushing to be the first to reach all of the stupid really cool video games.

16. Continue to panic.

17. Continue to panic.

18. Continue to panic.

19. Finally locate your child.

20. Swallow two Tylenol.

21. Follow your child around and around and around, and feign delight as she hands you all of her tickets each time she plays one of the stupid fabulous video games.

22. Get in line with your daughter behind 4,872 children who are all bursting with delight at the prospect of turning in their tickets for stupid exciting prizes.

23. Curse under your breath as the two teenagers who have been assigned to exchange the tickets for prizes move slower than rush hour traffic.

24. Curse under your breath at the 4,872 children who each take at least four hours to decide on their stupid incredible prize.

Teenager:  "What do you want?

Five-year old: "Um, how much are the stickers?"

Teenager: "50 tickets. Yawn."

Five-year old: "I have this many, can I get the stickers?"

Teenager: "You only have 25 tickets, so no you can't get the stickers. Yawn."

Five-year old: "How much is the spider ring?"

Teenager: "50 tickets. Yawn."

Five-year old: "I have this many, can I get the spider ring?"


25. Take two more Tylenol.

Four hours later..............

27. Admire with delight at the stupid key chain your daughter exchanged for 29 tickets.

28. Say goodbye.

Mother: "Thank you for coming!  Did Melissa have a good time?"

Me: "WHAT?"

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