Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 10.28.15 AMOn Monday, June 27th I got the call that I had been dreading for years…My father had died. He was 92, and died in his own bed with my sister and his wife by his side, which isn’t a bad way to go. It was just his time.

There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to my dad, so I might just ramble on for a while and see where it leads me.

Pop was a morning man. I think this is where I get my love o’ the dawn from. Growing up, sleeping late on weekends was not an option. Before the smell of breakfast could reach your nostrils, dad was yelling up the stairs to “get the hell out of bed.”

Dad the Breakfast Cook. My father liked to cook breakfast every weekend. Anything from French toast, which I liked, to Liver and Onions, which I didn’t like, would be served up on our blue formica kitchen table. My favorite breakfast was Nana’s pancakes…Slovak crepes called palacinki. They are my daughters’ favorites to this day.

Dad was an adventurer at heart. While my mom was good for back to school clothes, or that pair of shoes you really wanted, she rarely let you walk on the wild side. But not when you were with dad…every tree was climbable, every rock was there for you to scramble up on, and every path was worth hiking down.

Dad liked to go visiting. I’ve blogged about this in the past, but Monday nights were his banking nights. He’d take us to his bank in Cliffside Park, and then we’d go visiting the various aunts, cousins and family friends who lived in the area. My father had no siblings, but he managed to make a huge family network for us made up of fairly distant relatives who felt like next of kin to us.

Dad in New York City. Many a Friday night my father carted all four of us kids into New York City. My brother and sister attended Slovak School, and my brother had accordion lessons as well. The lights and smells and sounds of New York in the 70’s is something that will always be with me. We usually ended up eating a dirty water dog from a NYC cart or a sack of White Castles in North Bergen.

Dad in front of the TV. My father had a bad back, so TV viewing was done on the floor laying flat on his back with head propped up against the couch.  He would do calisthenics and isometrics while watching “The Waltons,” or “Masterpiece Theater.” One of us kids would always make him a cup of Sanka, and bring him a piece of whatever Entenmann’s  cake mom had bought at the Co-op.

Dad on a Rant. Some weekends could be lethal at home when my dad was in a mood. Rooms had to be cleaned, the yard had to be raked, the garage needed cleaning out…you name it. I won’t even go into the lectures my poor mom got about all the food we had in the house that my mom wasn’t using – mainly because it was really far back in our ginormous kitchen cabinets.

Dad on Martha’s Vineyard. Dad was at his best up there…away from the pressures of work, and enjoying the place he loved. Mornings were for fishing (and catching a whole lot of nothing), afternoons were for the beach, and evenings were for dinner and a walk around town.

Dad behind the wheel. I’ll admit, driving with my dad could be a drag. He never got lost, but you had to listen to what he wanted to on the radio. That meant a whole lot of Bob Grant, and financial shows. I sent up a silent prayer when the Walkman was invented, and another when we could actually afford to buy me one.

Dad the Storyteller. Dad was always good for a story about his colorful life. Like how he used to get chased by the grumpy old man at the Palisades Amusement Park pool for digging holes in the sand…and then later in life, he became the grumpy old man as it was his job to fill in the holes the kids dug. Or how he and his friends would swing on a rope out over the Palisades, praying the rope wouldn’t break. And the one about him having to out-run some ruffians in his souped up car out in California. My dad had adventures, yes sir.

Dad the Healthnut. My dad was a bonafide health nut. He was always sneaking wheat germ and flax seed into our pancakes and oatmeal. When my mom boiled vegetables, he drank the water she cooked them in from a coffee cup because that’s where all the vitamins were. He took crazy vitamin pills like shark cartilage, and bee pollen way before it was hip and trendy. I am certain it is why he lived to be 92.

Dad the Helper. My father helped quite a few people over the course of his lifetime. He took my Aunt Carol, my mom’s sister, out of a mental facility to come live with us when he saw that she was never going to thrive there. She became a vital member of our family, and I cherished her presence growing up.

He was also a one-man Czechoslovakian UN.  My father sponsored my cousin Stello to come live with us for a year, where he worked in New York and was able to send money home to his family. He also sponsored my cousin Gitka, who came and stayed with us for a month and saw all the sights of the East Coast in the good old USA. He sponsored quite a few relatives to come and see the US – many of whom became citizens.

I also remember a couple who moved here from Czechoslovakia …Darinka and Louis, with their young son Renee. My father helped them get accustomed to the States, and we had them over our house many times for dinner – he let them know they had a friend nearby as they made their way in a new country.

I also recall him having the young son of a family friend stay with us over the summer. They lived in upstate New York, where there was little to do besides get high and get in trouble. This son was going down that wrong path, so he came to live with us for a few months. I had to take him to my volleyball matches, and listen to The Fixx.

I’m really going to miss him. I’ll miss breakfast at his house in Florida, sitting around the table as he yelled at CSPAN, while I did the crossword puzzle. I’ll miss his far left arguments, and his refusal to believe anything the right has to say. I’ll miss seeing him on the ferry to the Vineyard, big giant sunglasses and what was left of his hair whipping in the wind.

The world is a little dimmer without you here dad, that’s for sure. But know that you left some damn fine humans behind in your wake, and for that we are grateful.

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2016 has been a year of new jobs for me.

I left my job of almost three years at a high-end real estate office, to take a job as the designer for a local newspaper. I had grown to hate my job at the real estate office. It was a constant merry-go-round of bullshit work that was totally uncreative. And if something creative did come around, I was too tired and uninspired to give it much attention. But it was a job, and I had no choice but to just soldier through it each week.

So when I got the job at the local paper, I was elated…it was close to my home, and I could pretty much set my own hours…freedom at last! I loved the flexibility and the creativity. What I didn’t love was the pay. I was told it was a 30 hour a week job; I was only working 32 at the real estate office, so I figured the pay cut wouldn’t be too drastic.

Problem was, I could get the job done in 15 hours a week. I’m not sure how the previous designer could milk double the time out of the job, but my time sheet for a two week span was usually only 32 hours or so—only half of what I was expecting. This was not a good realization.

But one day I just happened to look on Craigslist in the art/media/design section, and there, I saw an advertisement for a designer at my old office. The one I was fired from back in 2012. I had applied for this job previously, but was muscled out by someone younger and hipper. Well, the problem is, the young, hip designers work there for a few years and move onto bigger and brighter futures.

So, I emailed the publisher and said, “how about hiring a seasoned pro who will remain loyal to you?” And a few days later, I had the job – the job that comes with benefits and dental.

But now, I had to tell my adorable little local paper that I was leaving…a mere six weeks after I had started. But what could I do? I cannot pass up benefits for my family, and in the long run, they understood.

 

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My new totally cool location.

The result? I started back at C-ville Weekly on August 1st and I am monumentally happy. The workspace is cool, and located on the Downtown Mall, just about the coolest place in all of Charlottesville. I can walk out the door anytime I need a break, and pick up a salad or an iced tea. I am not chained to my desk, and the work is creative and fun.

I truly feel like I have come full circle. I know when I worked there in the past I had lots of complaints. But, the management is new, and I know what it’s like to try to find a job with benefits at my age. I am so grateful to have been given another chance, and I’ll work my hardest to make sure I don’t disappoint them.

 

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As many of my readers know, I tried to walk 1,000 miles last year, but my final tally was only a hair over 900. Even though it was twice as far as I walked the year before, there was little real improvement in the shape of my body.

I mean, I’m not a dope; I know all that walking did my body good in other ways…blood pressure, blood sugar, etc. But it did little to nothing in changing the shape of my body. My legs were still flabby, and the scale only showed a loss of maybe 30 pounds. I realized that just walking wasn’t the real answer.

So I kind of lost my passion for it. Here we are more than halfway into 2016 and I’ve only walked 200 miles.

Monday morning I realized I hadn’t been out to walk for almost the whole month of June. I’d been so busy with jobs and freelance that every single morning was devoted to meeting deadlines and getting work done. But with one of my magazines going to press, I finally had some time.

The walk was glorious, and I scolded myself for letting work get in the way of those cool, green morning walks to my favorite podcasts.

Then on Monday night, I got the call that my father had died. I’ll blog about that later. Now just isn’t the time.

I went out Tuesday morning, but my walk was anything but enjoyable. My legs felt heavy and my head and heart just plain hurt. I took out my earbuds and turned off my ipod and just walked, heading back home.

I thought of my dad, and how this was the first morning in my entire life that he wasn’t waking up to. How he’d never have another morning with the paper, and his slew of vitamin pills, and his breakfast with his wife Gabi.

But I also thought of how when I was a child, my dad would always go out very early and run. He’d drive down to a park in our town that had a long track, and he’d run. When I started walking a lot he reminded me of that, and said something to the affect of being a chip off the old block.

So Wednesday morning I went out again. And again today. I walked not so much for exercise, but more as a tribute of sorts to my dad. He’d want me out there, enjoying the morning, breathing deep and living life.

Both walks were phenomenal…I felt like I could fly. It felt less like a workout and more like a spiritual and physical release. It felt really fucking good.

Yes, there will be times when my walks are going to feel labored and annoying. But for now, with my dad looking over me, they are out of this world.

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A few weeks back my family started a group text message to keep us all informed on my dad, who had gone into the hospital with an infection. I did not even see this initial message until more than 24 hours after my father had settled into his hospital bed.

Then this morning my sister calls me to ask if I had seen the barrage of texts from last night. What texts? Obviously not. After I hung up I checked my phone, and upon hitting the little text icon (with a red 15 beside it) my phone dinged for 30 seconds as all the texts flowed in. I had no clue they were even there.

Why? Because I am not a savvy smartphone user. Not by any stretch.

I mean, I look at my phone when it dings, but it’s rarely anything important; an email I wish to ignore, or some dopey Facebook alert.

But I’m not married to my phone. I don’t look at it first thing when I wake up – that’s what my computer is for. I go to my computer first thing after waking up (and putting the tea kettle on). I don’t even think about my phone unless I have to make a phone call. I’m just not married to it the way others seem to be.

So family, please don’t take my silence after one of the group texts to mean I don’t care. I am just absolutely clueless that the messages are even there.

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I owe Panera Bread an apology. My girls like going there for lunch or dinner, but I always hated it. I find their soups too salty, and their sandwiches are, what seems to me, made from too thickly sliced packaged deli meats. I find them to be generally flavorless. Plus it’s a tad pricey for food that really isn’t that great.

But this past weekend, my daughters wanted to “eat light” for dinner and I gave in and took them to Panera again. I figured I’d try something new, fully expecting to hate it and in return, have a really good, rant-worthy blog post.

I got the green goddess cobb salad, pictured above, I have to tell you, it was really good! I thoroughly enjoyed the entire salad, and so did my daughters, who kept sticking their forks in for another bite.

So, sorry Panera…you’re not so bad after all. You just have to know what to order.

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I know, I know…I’ve been remiss in keeping up with my blog. Shame on me. But in my defense, things have been really crazy this month.

I started my new job as the editorial designer for the Fluvanna Review. It’s a little paper that serves the rural county I live in. It’s no New York Times, but it keeps the locals informed. What I love about it is a) It’s creative, b) the hours are flexible, and c) it’s a 4 minute drive from my house.

My other job, designing for a high-end real estate office, has been a real emotional roller coaster. Before I left for vacation, my understanding was I’d work from home Monday & Tuesday, and be in the office the rest of the week.

But when I got into the office the Wednesday after vacation, my boss handed me a pile of ads to be worked on, and said “oh, I almost forgot. We really need someone here 5 days a week, so we are trying out someone new on Monday and Tuesday.” The gist was, if she worked out, I’d be out for good.

Part of me was shocked.  I mean, they didn’t even try to see if my new schedule would work. The other side of me understood where she was coming from.

The entire office, my boss being the main offender, is very used to me being their little graphics monkey…I am here to perform for them at will. They don’t like the idea of having to wait, or having to think ahead. With me at my desk 5 days a week, they can give me last-minute stuff, and I get it done. But that doesn’t wash if I’m only in the office 3 days a week- this requires them to schedule my time, and they don’t like that at all.

But it turns out they don’t really like this new girl. She’s 100% capable of doing the job – hell she’s even a real tech wiz, which I am not. But her interpersonal skills suck. She’s a bit of a know-it-all, and she has already clashed heads with the boss in the course of two weeks.

My only problem with her is that I’m not even gone yet, and she’s moved a ton of my files around. Now when I open an ad or a postcard, nothing links. If they wind up canning her (and that’s the word that’s going around) I’ll be stuck trying to undo all her crazy reorganizing.

So with all this PLUS my three other freelance jobs (yes, at present I have FIVE jobs), it’s no wonder I haven’t had the time to write about my silly little life. I hope that once the dust settles, I’ll have more time to devote to being Typical Tracy.

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My family and I leave for our annual Florida vacation in a few days. While I’m looking forward to sunning myself on Flagler Beach and sipping wine in my dad’s pool, I am not looking forward to the 12 hour drive. I am also not happy about having to leave our poor kitty alone for a week, but then, coming home to a super loving pet who is so very thankful that you came back to him is nice.

It sort of takes the sting out of the fact that your vacation is over for another year. There’s been a lot going on in my life over the past few weeks, and here it is in a nutshell;

Good News! My oldest is home for the summer and working as a paid intern at a local radio group in the promotions department. With only two cars in the family, it’s been a bit of a schedule shuffler dropping her off and picking her up from various gigs, but she needs the credits in order to graduate, so ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

I love when she’s home. Our family is complete again.

Bad News: Her ex-roommates are a bunch of inconsiderate tools. When we went to move her out of her quad dorm apartment there was a ton of stuff left in the kitchen and one of the bathrooms. When the RA came to sign off on the stuff we cleaned up, she informed us that all the other girls had “checked out” leaving us to clean up the mess.

Left behind was a very large TV, a microwave, a toaster, a fridge FULL of spoiling food, cabinets FILLED with half eaten food and canned goods, pots, pans, a shower curtain, mops and cleaning supplies, NONE OF WHICH were ours. I had my daughter send them a text calling bullshit, and informing them that ALL OF THEIR STUFF was getting thrown out. They knew she was the last to go and left us with their shit to clean up. What total assholes.

Good News! I sort of got a new job. A local newspaper with an office two miles from my home remembered me from a previous interview and called to see if I was still interested in working for them. It’s only part time, so I worked out a new schedule with my current part-time employer(s). They are very flexible on time, which I love, especially during summer when my youngest daughter has little to do at home.

Bad News: One of my bosses isn’t thrilled about this arrangement, but is willing to see how it plays out. I am reducing my in office hours, and there might be times when they will feel the crunch because in essence I am less of a graphic designer here and more of a fall back receptionist. There are days where I just sit here and sit here with little to do but answer the phones. It’s boring. But I don’t want to just quit because with all my salaries combined, our family might not feel such a financial pinch once all the bills are paid, and that’s a very good thing.

Bad News: My “new” used car began sputtering on my way to work this morning. It was then I realized I was on “E” and spent the next 10 minutes white-knuckled and praying that I would make it to the gas station before it totally conked out. After filling her up, I hopped back in thinking “problem solved!’

Nope.

My car was bucking, shaking, and idling very rough, and I was in a full blown panic because our 30 warranty was up 9 days ago. After dropping my daughter off at her job, I limped the car to the dealership. The sales manager hopped in the car to test it, and the dude who sold us the car reassured me that all would be good.

Good News! Less than 15 minutes later, my car was fixed and at NO CHARGE. How often does that happen??? These guys are the best, and I will use Price Kia in Charlottesville for a long as I live here.

Good News! A bit of bonus good news – had to get new blood work done, my doctor called to say everything was normal. EVERYTHING? That was the best new of all.

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In response to the one word prompt; Music

Music sure can take you back to a certain time and place in life – it’s a very personal thing. For instance, anytime I hear Steve Forbert’s “Romeo’s Tune” I am immediately teleported back to my teenage bedroom, while songs like “Nights in White Satin” and “I Shot the Sheriff” remind me of Friday nights driving around New York City with my dad and siblings.

It’s like a song can elicit a snapshot in your mind of a certain time…like a polaroid from the past.

I can’t hear anything off of Van Halen’s 1984 without thinking of my senior year in college. Any song from America’s Greatest Hits or Goodbye Yellow Brick Road will transport me to the living room in my childhood home, hunkered down in front of the hi-fi stereo with humongous headphones on, following the lyrics on the album sleeve.

“My Sharona” and “Betty Davis Eyes” will immediately bring me back to the front seat of my Mom’s Pontiac Catalina, and if I hear “Love of the Common People” by Paul Young or “Feels Like Heaven” by Fiction Factory, I am walking along the Kärntner Straße in Vienna.

More specifically, every time I hear “Owner of a Lonely Heart” by Yes I am reminded of my walk along Mariahilferstrasse in Vienna the day I had to go to the Czechoslovakian Embassy to get my Visa. The video was playing in the window of an electronics store, and I stopped to watch it. Now, every time I hear that song, I am taken back to that long walk during the spring of 1984.

Music is powerful stuff, no?

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I remember when I first started watching HBO in the 80s back in my living room on Oakdene Avenue. They replayed the same 25 movies over and over again, and “Eddie & the Cruisers” always seemed to be on.

It was pretty lame.

But then they started adding original programming, and HBO sort of changed for me. I think the first show I really watched was “Dream On,” this odd little show where the main character lived his life through a series of one-liners from old TV shows. I related to that because it’s something I also do. I can’t tell you how many times an applicable scene from “I Love Lucy” or “The Brady Bunch” will flash through my head during the course of an average day.

Since that one, goofy show, HBO has kept me entertained; not so much with Streep, Schwarzenegger and Stallone, but with very well-crafted, superbly made original series.

The Larry Sanders Show, The Sopranos, Sex and the City, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Girls, Real Time with Bill Maher, Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, and our new favorite, Silicon Valley. These are shows where I don’t miss an episode…where even watching the re-runs are entertaining.

And I’m not even scratching the surface. Hubby loves Vinyl, whereas I’m like, “eh.” I’ve watched a few episodes of “Veep” and really liked it, but somehow failed to continue watching. I think I’ll have to add that to my binge-worthy list.

And it’s not just HBO. Showtime has some phenomenal original programming as well. It started with me watching “Queer as Folk” back in the early 2000’s. But recently I’ve realized many of their shows are amazing. I sat for weeks straight binge-watching “Weeds” when I was unemployed, followed by entire seasons of Episodes, Nurse Jackie and Homeland.

I think Showtime kept me from going crazy in between jobs.

I’m not sure which network’s programming I enjoy more, I’m just glad that there’s so much there to choose from. Because outside of a few shows on network television, Bravo and the Food Channel, regular TV can really suck.

 

In response to the Daily Prompt, Locked

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When my youngest daughter was around 4 years old, we took a vacation to Martha’s Vineyard, and stayed in the million+ dollar house that my cousin lives in. We wanted the girls on their best behavior so we would neither annoy nor cause my cousins to think we were bad houseguests.

About two days into the trip we were all getting ready to go to the beach, but my 4 year old had to go to the bathroom. There was a powder room right in the foyer, so I told her to go there and to hurry it up – we didn’t want to be the cause of everyone having to wait.

Five minutes later, I banged on the door to see what was taking her so long, at which point she told me she had locked the door and could not get it open.

Fuck.

The doorknob was a lever handle, as shown above, but the lock was not your typical push-button variety. It was a separate lock under the door knob…the type you had to twist right to lock and left to unlock. And for some reason, my baby girl could not figure this out.

There was a window to the bathroom, so we went outside to try and coach her through the window (which of course, was locked). After 10 minutes of us shouting instructions, she sort of gave up and just sat on the floor.

Hubby began to freak out. It had been at least a half an hour, and the crowd was getting restless. This was super embarrassing for him…the day was getting ruined and it was our fault. He told me to call the steamship authority and see if we could get on a ferry today…we were leaving the island.

This, along with the fact that my child had pretty much mentally shut down in a small bathroom, made me lose it. I paced back and forth outside the window chain-smoking and crying.

My cousins had decided to call their handyman, who was on vacation, to come to the house and drill through their very expensive bathroom door in order to free our daughter. The thought of OUR FAMILY costing them money and damage to their new home rattled my husband to the core, so he took action.

He drew a picture of the lock, and then an arrow pointing in the direction to unlock the door, and slipped it under the door. Then he quietly coached his little girl, and within a minute or two, the door opened – and none too soon. The handyman was standing their, goggles on and a drill in his hands.

She’d been locked in there for over an hour, and she didn’t cry once. I wish I could say the same. Then I had to talk my husband into letting us stay – that we would look way worse if we turned-tail and ran.

Because these are the types of things that happen when you have kids. Hell, I got locked in a bathroom the same exact way when I was a kid when we were visiting some friend of my fathers. I had to be rescued through the bathroom window.

One good thing came of the incident…My daughter got a new knick-name. To this day, my husband calls her “Locked.”

 

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