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My 16 year old daughter just experienced her first real Valentines Day. And it’s largely in part to a conversation my husband and I had at the grocery store.

We were checking out, and as I saw a package of crab cakes scan up at $5.99, I turned to my husband and said, “$5.99 for crab cakes?” This started a rather lively conversation with the cashier, a handsome, tall fellow, about the quality of the crab cakes, and whether we should even bother purchasing them.

My husband then asked him if he were working while in college, and he informed us he was a junior at our high school.

This adorable boy is a junior at the same school my sophomore girl attends? So, I asked him if he knew her. When her name sparked no recognition I said, “you might have seen her on ‘In The Know,’” which was the school’s news program.

He said, “Oh, is she blonde?” To which I replied, “yes.”

We paid for our groceries and left, and I thought to myself, why can’t cute guys like that ever show an interest in my daughter? Well, little did I know that this small exchange would lead to my daughter falling head over heels a week later.

Because when we got home I mentioned our conversation with my girl, and asked her if she knew a Chris who was a Junior and worked at the local grocery store. She knew who he was, and the next day at school approached him at lunch to apologize for her crazy parents. Apparently this sparked in interest in young Chris, and they continued to talk the entire week.

The following Saturday, my daughter accompanied me to the store, and Chris happened to be working. He spotted her and immediately shouted out a hello to her with a wave. I did a double take and said to her, “Hey, that’s the guy I was telling you about! Are you friends now?”

She admitted they had been talking, while blushing profusely. By the time we were ready to check out, he was out rounding up shopping carts, but they managed to exchange a few words (and a few hugs), and I thought to myself….hmmmm…could this be something?

They texted all that night, and the next day, he came over to “hang out.” He greeted me with a hug, which I have to admit, I liked. They played ping pong and looked at yearbooks, and after a few hours they were hooked on each other. They’ve been dating ever since.

Chris is a super sweet boy, and so far, mom approves of him. He’s extremely kind to my girl, shows her tons of attention (which none of her past crushes seemed to do), is very affectionate, and hugs us all whenever he comes and goes.  I’m so happy that she finally found a guy worthy of the title “boyfriend.”

For Valentines Day, he gave her roses, a stuffed fox, some chocolates, and had his dad, who is a professional chef, cook them dinner. She said the food was amazing, and so is his family. Everything is like a fairly tale. So far.

I really hope this romance lasts for her. She’s given her heart to him, and I don’t know how easy she would get over a bad break up. But, I don’t think I have to worry. I don’t read him as a player – I think he’s more a steady, one girl type of guy, which is good.

Sometimes she will turn to me and say, I can’t believe this all started because you guys were arguing over whether or not to buy crab cakes. Love works in mysterious ways, that’s for sure.

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Back when I was unemployed in 2013, the dentist told me my youngest daughter would need braces. Gee, thanks. I’ll hop right on that.

She has been begging for braces ever since she was in 6th grade. One of her front teeth is crooked, and she’s positive that one singular tooth is the cause of every miserable thing that has ever happened to her in school.

Problem is, braces are like a car payment – I took her to 3 different Orthodontists for consultations and prices, and  braces, it seemed, just wasn’t in our budget.

Until now. We were able to pay off my car, which freed up some money, and we decided to invest in our daughters future, and her smile. This past Wednesday, even though most  of her friends have already had their braces off, my little girl got some metal in her mouth.

She was excited, but also really nervous. Her dream was coming true, but she had just started dating a new guy at school. A guy she is really crazy about. And my poor little dear was afraid he’d take one look at her braces, and hit the bricks.

The first time I saw her with her new mouth, I was relieved. They were so little! I kept envisioning these giant metal Marsha Brady type braces that covered the whole tooth. She didn’t see it that way, though. She was in pain, and adjusting to the fact that her lips were going to look different for the next two years.

That evening her boyfriend came over. And you know what? He loves them. Her whole school loves them too. She got a lot of encouraging remarks her first day back with her new braces and I think it was a real relief for her.

I’m just relieved we are finally getting her tooth, and eventually, her massive overbite corrected. Although I have to admit…I’m going to miss my little Beverly D’Angelo lookalike.

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Stop obsessively using this ^^^^^^ .

I am convinced that we, as Americans, use too many antibacterial products. That is why year, after year, after year the CDC claims that the new strain of the flu is “the worst in a decade.” Maybe that’s because when you kill every single little germ in your environment you have no chance to build up resistance.

We have a ginormous bottle of antibacterial gel on our table at work. Several times everyday,  I see a majority of my co-workers pump a handful of gloop into their palms and clear away all the germs. (Ha! one of them just did it as I write this.)

And you know what? Every. Single. One. Of. Them. has been sick so far this year….coughing, sneezing, you name it. Why? Because they’ve killed every germ that could’ve possibly entered their body, thus denying their system to build up any sort of immunity.

The last time I used antibacterial gel was when I was in a supermarket and got chicken juice from a poorly wrapped package of meat on my hands. Yes, for that I’ll make an exception. But to feverishly bathe your hands in gel is wrong, as is to compulsively spray every surface of your house with antibacterial cleaners.

I use none of these products, and I have to tell you, I’m rarely sick. I may get a little bug from time to time…sore throat or runny nose that lasts a day or two, but I can’t remember the last time I was laid out on the couch with tissues and a thermometer.

Sometimes a little germs can be good – in the long run.

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For Christmas my children bought me a DNA kit from Ancestry.com, and I was super excited. My father came through Ellis Island from Czechoslovakia, so there was no doubt that half of me is Slavic. But my mom’s side has always been a bit of a mystery.

We were always told mom was English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh and French. It was a list I learned to memorize early on. Her families roots go back to Brigham Young, so she always just considered herself “American.”

So when I spit into the little test tube and mailed back my DNA sample I was excited to know I was finally going to get some concrete answers as to my maternal heritage.

Yesterday the results came in. And what I discovered was that Ancestry.com’s DNA test sucks. Call me naive, but I was expecting to see a categorized list like: you are 50% Slavic, 12% English, etc, etc.

Instead this is what I got:

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A map with a vague list of countries my DNA could be linked to. 54% of me most likely came from Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein. And 29% of me could have hailed from Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Austria, Russia, Hungary, Slovenia, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Lithuania, Latvia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, or Croatia.

Can you believe they get away with charging money for this shit? This is all stuff I already knew.  My only solace in all of this is that my kids bought the kit when they were having a 50% off sale, so they didn’t get swindled for the full amount.

I plan filing a complaint with the company – they should at least be aware that I am deeply disappointed in their “services” even if my kids can’t get their money back.

Complaining when I think I got cheated is in my DNA – somehow that didn’t come back in my results either.

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I only get my hair cut about once a year. The reasons behind this are many…money being the main contributor. I don’t always have $40 plus tip to throw away on my hair. But when I do splurge, I want to walk out of the salon like a new woman with some serious kick-ass hair.

After a haircut is supposed to be the time your hair looks its best – styled to where you know you are never going to be able to replicate it. You should feel like a rock star all blown out and beautiful.

Yesterday I returned to my usual hair joint, Salon Druknya in Charlottesville, despite the fact that one of the women there positively butchered my bangs a few months back. Well, let me tell you, It will be the last time they will get a dime of my money.

I was very specific about what I wanted. My bangs to be the focal point, and to use lots of layers to frame my face. Rather than just bangs and hair, I wanted it all to blend together seamlessly.

The glasses came off and my haircut began.

She only cut my hair for what seemed like 7 or 8 minutes and began to blow dry. She hadn’t touched my bangs yet. hmmmm. I thought back to a haircut I once got in my hometown at this salon called Arthur Zo. The gal at that place cut my hair for what seemed an eternity. Could I really be done so fast?

She used no rounded brush. No wide curling iron. Once my hair was dry she trimmed my bangs and declared me done. I put my glasses back on to see a very plain, very uninspired me in the mirror. There was no wow. No volume. Just me with pencil straight hair and bangs that were a tad too short.

I must interject here that I cannot speak up for myself easily at all, especially not face to face. While I was woefully disappointed in my cut, I said it looked fine and got up to pay. Leaving the salon, my hair had no swing. No bounce. It just fluttered in the wind as I dejectedly walked back to my office.

I had hopes that I could style it my own this morning, in an attempt to improve the shapeless cut, but even that was a fruitless. I’m stuck in frumpland until it grows.  There’s nothing else I can do.

Except one thing. Find a new salon. For me AND my daughters. Salon Druknya didn’t just lose me. They lost my whole family.

ikuBEGN2Sfe3Oxes0wYv_eggrolls.jpg1Time for another New York City story. I got a million of ’em!

On our rainy Saturday, after tooling around Central Park, we decided to head down to Chinatown for lunch. Brian and Sasha were hankering for some egg rolls – the last time we had been in NY my friend John had ordered us some Chinese for dinner and I had one of the best egg rolls EVER. I think they were banking on a similar experience.

We had no clue where to eat or where to go once we got there, but we found a place that looked promising. It had ducks hanging in the window, so we decided to give it a shot.

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We looked at the menu. No egg rolls. Brian asked the waiter if they had egg rolls, and he said they didn’t. Brian tossed the idea around the table of leaving and finding another place, but it was cold and rainy out, and I’d already started drinking the tea the waiter had brought.

Rather than leave, we decided to order a few small things and then go in search of egg rolls elsewhere. We ordered some fried rice and spare ribs, and once we began eating, I wish we had ordered more food. It was fabulous.

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There was a family of 8 that came in and sat at the table next to us. They ordered about 7 dishes of food, and I sat watching them longingly as they dished them out to one another. We left, still in search of egg rolls.

It had gotten colder and was raining, so we going to find a place fast. A restaurant around the corner had a picture of an egg roll in the window and that’s all I needed to get out of the cold.

They didn’t have egg rolls. They had spring rolls, which would’ve been fine, except they only had vegetable spring rolls, and hubby don’t do veggie spring rolls. But we were already inside, so we ordered some dumplings and chicken skewers.

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Again, the food was killer.

While we were waiting for the food, my daughter looked up the history of the egg roll. We surmised that it was unlikely we were going to find egg rolls in Chinatown. The food here is too authentic – and egg rolls, while yummy, are not authentic Chinese.

I was fine with that. The food we sampled at lunch was something I’ll always remember. It was warm and comforting on a day that was wet and raw.

Then we walked around the corner and got some pastries at an Italian bakery. That was the cherry on the cannoli.

DakotaDuring our recent visit to New York, a must-see for our youngest was the Dakota and Strawberry Fields. With bad weather moving in on the Saturday we were there, we decided to make it our first stop.

While dad found a parking spot, mom and daughter hung outside the Dakota for about 15 minutes, soaking up the notion that John Lennon himself had walked these very streets. We watched the doorman point out the spot where Lennon was shot to an inquisitive tourist. Staring down at that spot almost made my daughter cry.

We then headed across the street to see the “Imagine” mosaic. There were a ton of people milling about, each taking turns kneeling, laying or posing in front of the memorial, while a “performer” badly played Beatles songs on his guitar.

When it was our turn, I have to admit, I got emotional watching our little Beatles fan pose by the tiles. We had finally gotten her here. This was her moment. Hubby took this photo of her there sporting her British flag Converse sneakers.

IMG_0693After Strawberry Fields we walked around Central Park for a while, ate a few dirty water dogs, and then headed back to the Dakota, and the car. Hubby took a few more photos of daughter in front of the landmark building, and we walked down W. 72nd Street to our car.

We all got in, and hubby turned on the engine. When the radio kicked in, “Strawberry Fields” was on…not the studio version, but the rare early take. Mouths open, we all looked at each other, dumbfounded at the chance of this happening. Of all the stations that the radio could’ve been tuned to when hubby parked the car, this was the very song that was playing after our excursion to Strawberry Fields.

We pulled up W. 72nd Street, stopped in front of the Dakota, rolled down our windows and blasted the song. I turned to my daughter and said, “It’s as if John is sending you a message–like he knows your here, and knows how you feel.”

It was a goosebumps raising moment, and one that the family will always remember.

Strawberry Fields…Forever.

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Last week we spent 2 days in New York City. There was a lot our family had to accomplish, and on our last night, at the request of my very bookish daughter, we stopped at this charming book store on Columbus.

It was an awful night weather-wise in the city – rainy, windy and cold – so browsing around this cozy, charming bookstore was even more delightful. It was just my daughter and I…hubby and my youngest opted to stay by the car.

In the back of the store there was an old gentleman sitting across from a woman with a little dog. They were chatting…or rather she was talking. As I meandered through the aisles looking the books and the kitschy knick knacks, I could hear her droning on about how her parents raised her the right way…weekends at museums, culture, art, moving on to a second conversation about how WASpy certain neighborhoods were getting.

My daughter had to pee, and I found the bathroom in a little alcove behind where the woman and man were sitting. After she went, I decided to empty my tank as well. When I went to flush the toilet, rather than the water flushing down the toilet, all it did was rise to the rim.

Yikes! Luckily there was a plunger next to the toilet. It’s an old building with old plumbing, so I shrugged and attempted to unclog the toilet. I plunged for a good 2 or 3 minutes, but the water never went down. Oh well, I tried.

I left the bathroom to go tell the man behind the counter when the dog woman said, “I’m going to use the bathroom before I head home.”

Ruh roh.

I turned to her and said, “You might not want to go in there. The toilet is stopped up. I’m going to report it now.”

She looked at me and went into the bathroom anyway. Ok…it’s not like I didn’t warn you. When I went to tell the dude behind the counter, he was helping someone, so I stood waiting, browsing books until I could talk to him.

The woman, holding her little yippy dog, comes out from the bathroom, approaches me and says, “That toilet is really backed up. There is water on the floor and the water is up to the rim.”

I say to her, “I know. I tried my best to plunge it…”

Before I could finish my sentence, she looks down at me and says, “Do you think it was right to clog the toilet like that? Do you think a clogged toilet is a good thing?”

To say I was flabbergasted was an understatement. This pretentious, self-righteous bitch as insinuating that I PURPOSELY clogged the toilet.

I look at her straight in the eye and said, “No, I do not think that a clogged toilet is a ‘good thing.’ It’s an old building. I told you the toilet was clogged.”

She turned and approached the check out counter, placing her purchase down, and says, “I just want to let you know that your toilet is clogged. I can’t conclude with any certainty how it got clogged” – at this point she looks over her shoulder at me, and continues – “I’ve been coming here for years, and rarely have to use the bathroom. I find it disappointing that it was clogged on the rare occasion I needed to use it.”

After she side-eyed me, placing blame at my feet, I gave her the double fuck-you-middle-finger flip off behind her back. I’m pretty sure the employee saw it though.

She continued to complain, saying “it was the end of the day, so it’s understandable,” and he informs her they had been having trouble with the toilet all day. She then picked up her purchase and walked into the cold night.

I was furious. This was one time I wished I we’re a person who can deal with confrontation. I would have liked to have gone up to her, got respectably in her face, and asked her if she had nothing better to do on a Saturday night than to berate a mother from Virginia over a stopped up toilet.

When we were leaving and paying for our purchase, I apologized to the store employee for being the cause of him having to listen to the bitchy dog lady whine about the bathroom. I told him I tried my best to plunge the toilet, and he looked at me and thanked me for trying. This was obviously something privileged, rich-bitch dog lady would never stoop to do.

I’ll tell you one thing though. She is lucky my husband was standing by the car. Had he been there to witness her treatment of me, he would have reduced her to tears in a matter of minutes. It would have been an encounter that would’ve haunted her for years.

She might have felt good about belittling me, but that yippy dog yenta dodged a bullet that night. No, not a bullet…an Italian F-bomb is more like it.

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I don’t think it’s possible to be female in the workforce without having a couple of #MeToo stories, especially not if you’ve been a working gal since 1986.

My first encounter with sexual harassment occurred at my very first job. I was a graphic designer for Tiger Beat magazine. It was the 80’s – I was in my 20s and had a good body. Yes, I’ll admit, I wore the obligatory mini skirts and large hoop earrings.

I was in the elevator heading back up to my offices after lunch. There were two salesmen in the elevator with me…one who worked for my company and one who was a stranger to me. The stranger motioned towards me with a nod of his head and said, “I wouldn’t mind a piece of that.”

As if that weren’t bad enough, my company’s salesman said in return, “Believe me, you don’t want any.” Then the door opened and they walked out.

I was furious. While my fear of confrontation kept me from screaming in the face of that scuzzy salesman, I was angry enough to report him to the higher ups. So, I went to my publisher, an older gentleman, and told my story. With a patronizing tone he told me that comments of that sort were to be expected, especially when you wear short skirts and tight outfits.

After hoisting my jaw off the floor, I told him if that was  “company policy,” then I demanded that the men in my department wear pants wth at least 3 pleats. Who knows..I may not be able to control myself around all those good looking men in tight jeans…I may be forced to grope someone.

He laughed it off and dismissed me, but I was pissed. I also gave that salesman dirty looks for the remainder of my tenure at Tiger Beat Magazine.

The second time I felt the workplace ogles was when I had finally landed a job back in my field of graphic design. I had been working as a waitress for a while when I finally got wind of a job at a design agency in Soho. I met with the boss for an interview on a weekday night at a bar in the city.

It didn’t take long for me to realize this guy was a sleaze. He told me during the interview that perhaps he should consider dating me rather than hiring me. I pretty much ignored the red flags for the opportunity to work in my field again.

I worked for this pig for less than a year. The final straw was, as I sat with my legs crossed at my desk, he walked by, ran a finger up my leg and said, “Sweetheart, it’s time for a shave.” I quit that job to work as a cashier in a liquor store in Jersey. From swanky Soho to wearing a blue Bottle King vest in a strip mall off Route 46.

But I never regretted leaving. He begged me to stay. In the end he offered me full health coverage, parking and tolls thrown in. No thanks. I’d rather bag pints of vodka for functioning alcoholics.

It really sucks that so many women have to endure these Me Too moments…times when you just have to suck it up and take it for the sake of a paycheck, or health coverage, or God forbid, advancement.

 

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In late May of 2016, I unknowingly took my last drive down to see my father in Palm Coast, Florida.

We usually head East on I-64 and then hit I-95 for the duration of the 11 hour drive. But this year hubby got the idea for us to take an inland route to try and shave some time off our journey. In retrospect, this wound up being a huge bummer.

First of all, we got lost pretty early on. There was an exchange outside Farmington, VA that we totally missed, and we travelled a good 15 or 20 miles before I figured out something was amiss. We needed to turn around and go back.

But rather than backtrack to the place where we missed the turn, we tried to navigate our way through backroads in an attempt to recoup the time we had lost. And in doing that, we got even more lost.

For me, it wasn’t so much the getting lost that still remains with me today. It was the countryside we got lost in. We passed through several small Virginia towns that at any other time might have seemed quaint or charming.

But in late May of 2016? It was wall to wall trump signs. That entire, miserable trip down to my dad’s was nothing more than a marathon of small, trump-loving country towns. I feel like had we taken our usual route down I-95, I may not have been so assaulted with signs proclaiming support for the lying, orange conman.

And to make matters worse…we took the same way back home.

My dad died shortly after we got back from that trip. So the memory of my last journey to Florida? Yeah, it’s really marred. It’s soiled. It’s tarnished. It is also eerie. My dad hated trump as much as I do. He never got to cast his vote for Hilary.

That endless parade of trump signs? They haunt me. Especially now when the country is spiraling into disaster. It would have killed my dad. Seriously. Had he not died before the election, I think he would have given up by now.