Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Rambling in Barcelona

Sean and I enjoyed a trip-of-a-lifetime Mediterranean cruise for our honeymoon. I've already blogged about some of the fun we had in Venice here. Today I've been thinking about Barcelona…

Because it was the final port of our two week trip, we feared we might be too exhausted to explore another city, but Barcelona turned out to be a surprising treat.

After checking in at the Hotel Barcelona we decided to head first to La Sagrada Familia, the Roman Catholic basilica worked on by Antonio Guadi. Although this work of art is still in development, it was magnificent to see.

Then we sauntered down Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s famous pedestrian walkway lined with restaurants, shops, street vendors and performers. I love people-watching, and Las Ramblas was a fabulous place for this diversion.

We had lunch in a Spanish fast food restaurant. What I really wanted was some real deal, bona fide Spanish fare.

“I want to eat in a place where I have no idea what the menu says.”

Well, we were in the middle of a tourist trap, so although we did find some Spanish food, the prices were high. And the menu included big photos of the food next to the names. No matter… I was most interested in people watching from the windows upstairs while we ate and sipped sangria.

We found a table on the second floor that overlooked the river of people and colorful markets on the street below.

Then we decided to explore the Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter), the older section of the city.

After weaving our way through narrow passages and graffiti covered alleyways, we came upon an archway over the street which was illuminated perfectly by the moody light.

It was then, reaching for my camera, that I realized my bag was not on my shoulder. I’d left it in the restaurant. Besides my precious camera, the bag contained all of my identification, the very same identification that I would need to board the plane in the morning and return to New York.

We ran. We ran up the winding alleys and passageways and through crowds of weekend shoppers. We were gasping for breath but we didn’t stop.

Since Las Ramblas is a haven for pickpockets, I didn’t hold much hope for finding my little brown backpack. The thought of being stuck in Barcelona made my chest tighten up and my head feel dizzy – I hadn’t seen my daughter in two weeks! But I kept running. So did Sean.

We could see the restaurant up ahead. Sean was bee-lining for it; I was scanning the crowd on the street as we neared our lunchtime eatery. If anyone was holding my bag…

We dashed up the stairs to the second floor of the restaurant. There next to the windows was a woman, an employee of the restaurant, holding up my bag for me and smiling.

“Gracias! Thank you so much! Muchas gracias!”


For dinner, we had reserved a spot at Tablao Flamenco Cordobés for a dinner buffet and flamenco show.

The dinner was an enormous buffet of Mediterranean specialities, and I was intent on sampling each one. The quality far surpassed what one usually expects from a buffet-style dinner. Everything was delicious! And the attentive wait staff ensured that the wine and champagne glasses never emptied.

After dinner we were lead into an adjoining room full of ladderback chairs snugly surrounding a small stage.

The tiny theater was engulfed in the din of many languages until we heard that first sensual strum of the guitar.

From that moment on, we were mesmerized.

Each dancer had their solo time on stage as the others sang and clapped.

They stamped; they frowned; they made intense eye contact with the crowd.

Their gestures were bold and passionate, their steps intricate and concise.

We were close enough to the stage to see the sweat beading up on their brows as they exuberantly performed their numbers.

The energy was intoxicating.

Each dance intensified with colorful spins and stomps and strums from the guitar until building up the final swing of the arm, stamp of the foot, and shouts from the crowd of “Ole!”

What an experience! We would love to return someday.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Make That Money...

A cocktail tray makes an excellent Frisbee. If one is adept in the handling of a Frisbee, one can fire a cocktail tray at someone’s head with deadly precision and accuracy.

I had to work my way through college. I had three jobs.

The first was ad designer for the school newspaper. I put in some very long hours over there, but the atmosphere was enjoyable and the staff was totally cool. It was actually one of the highest paying “campus jobs” available. That wasn’t saying much though.

The second was babysitting. In one of my art classes there was a young mother. She used to talk about her two-year-old son all the time. Then one day she mentioned that she couldn’t wait to see him.

“Where is he?”

“He stays with my parents while I go to school.”

“Do they live nearby?”

“About three hours away.”

“So how often do you see your baby???”

“Every other weekend.”

Turns out the problem was her 8:30am classes. She couldn’t get anyone to watch him during that time. Oh, and the other problem was she had hardly any money. So I offered to watch him in the mornings. She paid me $1 per hour. It was worth it.

My third job was cocktail waitressing at one of the local hotspots. Now that was a fun job! I got to meet a lot of people, I made great tips, and I didn’t spend money going out and drinking like everyone else I knew. My friends would come in and hang out with me sometimes, and if it wasn’t too busy I would be dancing or chatting with my usual customers.

We wore cute little outfits too: white tuxedo shirts with red bow ties and cummerbunds, and little tuxedo shorts. I could often be seen running down our street in this outfit, trying to catch the bus to work. My roommate joked that I was known on our block as The Running Girl.

At the end of the night, the club owner would give $200 to the staff so everyone could go out to the diner and get breakfast. We were like family.

And after that I’d sleep for an hour or two, and then take the 7am bus to go babysitting for little Najee.

Somehow I was able to squeeze my classes in there too.

Well one night when I showed up for work at the bar, there was a meeting in progress. We had a new owner, Alex, a man who had been one of my frequent customers and always kind of gave me the creeps.

At the meeting, Alex let us know that he wanted to keep the current staff intact. Well that was a relief. He also handed out, to the cocktail waitresses only, a new piece of uniform. Instead of wearing the tuxedo shirt, he wanted us to wear these sleeveless, backless tuxedo shirts with our red bowties and cummerbunds.

I looked at this thing in disbelief. There was very little material.

“I’d like you to wear these for our grand reopening this Friday night."

“Where’s the rest of it?” I asked.

“Oh, you’re going to look very nice in this. You’ll make a lot of tips.”

“I can’t walk through a crowded bar wearing this. All that skin showing is an invitation to the drunks to touch me.”

“You’ll be fine. That’s what bouncers are for.”

“Can’t I just wear my regular shirt?”

“Just try it. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to wear it again.”

So I tried it. Begrudgingly.

It used to be a pretty classy place, but I could see that it was going to go downhill pretty quickly under his reign. Alex had advertised a wet t-shirt contest. The place was a mob scene.

Just as I had expected, as I worked my way through the crowd taking drink orders, I often felt a hand across my back. And guys put their hands on my back while they were talking to me. I was constantly being touched, and it was freaking me out.

Then, while taking orders up near the stage, amongst the patrons who were shouting “Skin to win!” to the contest participants, a hand grabbed hold of my cheek. No, not the one on my face.

I didn’t even see who it was. I just seized the hand and lead it out of the crowd, through the tables, over to the other end of the bar near the stairs. I gave the hand to Colin, our 6’7” bouncer.

“I found this where it doesn’t belong. Please throw this idiot out.”

Then I marched into the back room, absolutely fuming, and starting cashing out my tip jar. I was going home.

Alex came rushing in moments later to try to smooth things over. I think my enraged expression, no doubt reminiscent of the Exorcist, told him everything he needed to know. He kept a safe distance.

Or so he thought.

“Okay, I know, you don’t have to wear the shirt anymore…”

“I told you I didn’t want to wear this thing!”

“But you look so nice!”

A cocktail tray makes an excellent Frisbee. If one is adept in the handling of a Frisbee, one can fire a cocktail tray at someone’s head with deadly precision and accuracy.

Unfortunately, some people have outstanding reflexes. Alex ducked out of the way in time, and the tray crashed into the rack of pots behind him.

“I’m going home,” I said. He didn’t argue.

I was back at work the following night, wearing the old tuxedo shirt. So were all the other girls.

Needless to say, I’ve already started a college fund for Mandy.

Monday, March 26, 2007

"Please, I’m begging you.”

When he saw the phone bill, he grabbed his cell phone and smashed it on the floor.

We have 3 cell phones on our plan, one for Sean, one for me, and one for Mandy, our teenaged daughter. We have a certain amount of minutes to share, and a certain amount of money that we feel is enough to throw towards cell phone usage. And that’s it.

When we received last month’s bill it was abnormally high, partly because we had exceeded our minutes, and partly because I had been making calls to Mandy while Sean and I were vacationing in Jamaica. So Sean gave Mandy a warning that she needs to limit her usage before nine o’clock during the week. Nights and weekends are free, and we only really need it for emergencies anyway. “When you’re at home, just use the house phone,” he told her.

It was the first time we had ever gone over.

So when the phone bill arrived this month, and it was $330 more than it should have been (bringing us up to a whopping $417), my dear husband became a raging bull. And his cell phone suffered the brutal consequences.

Sean wanted to withhold Mandy’s birthday presents next month to repay the overage. I said I’d rather have her work off the excess phone charges. Not giving her any presents just makes a sad birthday and doesn’t necessarily teach her anything. Doing chores around the house might give her a better understanding of just how long it takes to earn the kind of money that she wasted chatting on the phone with her boyfriend. $330 worth of vacuuming, mopping, dusting, and scrubbing the bathrooms is a lot of work. In another week or two there will be yard work to do as well. It will probably take her until the summer to repay the money, even at the very generous rate of $10 per hour. Sean agreed.


The next day Sean went to Best Buy to plead his case. He showed the guy behind the counter his mangled mess of a phone and explained that he needed a new one.

“Did you… drop it?”


“What happened?”

“When I saw the phone bill, I grabbed my cell phone and smashed it on the floor.”

“Well who used up all the minutes?”

“My teenaged daughter.”

“Oh, I see.”

“Listen, you have to help me out here, man. From January until now, I’ll be spending about a thousand dollars on the cell phone bill. I just can’t justify another fifty bucks to replace my phone. Please, I’m begging you.”

“Alright, let me see what I can do.”

So he went into the back and came out with a new phone.

“Here you go. I’m just going to tell them that it wasn’t working properly and needed to be replaced. I feel for ya man. Good luck.”

Once again, honesty is the best policy.

"You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance."

– Franklin P. Jones

Friday, March 23, 2007

13 Going On 20?

I was the best babysitter in the neighborhood.

I started babysitting for the Summers when I was 11 years old, caring for their 6 year old boy and 2 year old girl. Nancy and Greg Summers liked to go out and party, so they called me almost every weekend.

They paid me $2 per hour, which I later found out was highway robbery but at the time I was thrilled! A girl cannot survive on hand-me-downs alone. One night of babysitting could buy me a new shirt from Caldors.

I still remember the first top I bought with my earnings; it was a white sweatshirt with the collar cut off, a la Flashdance. Two weeks later I had saved up for some new dark Jordache jeans, tighter than tight like a second skin. This was definitely a step up - I was in style!

And so this little arrangement went on for years and years. Word eventually spread that I was a nice responsible kid (and cheap, apparently - who knew?) and I ended up with several families racing to be the first to book me for a Friday or Saturday night.

“Sorry, I’m babysitting for the Summers on Friday night and the Slotnicks on Saturday night.”

“Then put me down for next weekend, okay?”


One night when I’m 13 years old, the Summers are going to a party with Joey, Nancy’s 21 year old brother. He’s a dead ringer for John Stamos, and I had actually heard all about him from the other local babysitters. They all think he’s gorgeous.

Nancy tells me they will probably be out pretty late, maybe 3am.

“That’s no problem,” I tell her, calculating how much money I’ll be making.

“It’s okay if you fall asleep on the couch. We don’t expect you to stay up the whole time.”

After games are played, movies are watched, teeth are brushed and kids are sent to bed, I settle in under a blanket on the couch to watch some TV and doze off.

At about 2:30 am I hear a knock at the door. I figure the Summers have forgotten their key, so I get up to let them in. I see Joey standing there through the glass, and assume he has gotten back first. I unlock the door and shuffle back to the couch, half asleep, to wait for Nancy and Greg.

Joey comes in and sits on the chair. He tries to engage me in conversation as I stare blankly at the Mary Tyler Moore Show, lying on the couch under the blanket, still heavy-eyed and sluggish.

“So this is what’s on in the middle of the night,” he says.

“Yeah, I guess.”

“It is sooo cold in here.” He’s right, it’s sub-zero in their house tonight. I’ve been shivering the whole time.

“Yeah, it’s freezing. Do you know how to work the space heater?”

“No,” he says, moving over to the end of the couch, down by my feet. “Maybe we can snuggle to keep warm.”

Whoa. Now I am awake.

“Nancy would kill me if she knew I was here.”

Okay, now I’m REALLY awake. I can smell alcohol on his breath, and that makes me even more nervous.

“Why are you here then?” I ask him.

“I came back to see you, Tammie.”

I am scared to death, but I am trying to remain calm.

“You’re too old for me,” I tell him, turning my attention to the television.

“Why, how old are you?”


“You are not!”

“Yes I am.” I feign interest in Mary Tyler Moore. I’ve never even seen this show before. But it doesn’t matter, since I can’t hear a word they’re saying. My heart is beating so hard that the blood is pounding in my ears.

“You don’t look thirteen,” he says.

“Well I am.”

“You don’t act thirteen.”

I sit up as I turn to look him at him straight in the eye. “I’m a thirteen year old girl. I’m in 7th grade. And I think you should go back to sitting in that chair over there while we wait for Nancy and Greg to get home.”

“That’s okay,” he says, getting up from the couch. “I’ll leave you alone.”

He lets himself out the front door. I relock it and turn on all the lights. Nancy and Greg are surprised to find me awake when they get home at 4am. I never tell them what happened.


You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A Walk by the River

Mandy and I got outside for a bit today for a walk by the river...

A few close-ups of the ice...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Little Boy Blue

When I was young I was a little frightened of my uncle, who was an alcoholic. Sometimes he stayed with us for months at a time, and sometimes even when he wasn’t staying with us, we would get that knock on the door in the middle of the night, which meant he was drunk and had nowhere to go.

So when I was awakened by knocking and crying, I just knew it was him, and I was paralyzed in my bed in our little apartment on 6th Street. I wanted wake my mom and dad, but to get to their room I would have to cross the living room where the front door was rattling from incessant pounding. I was too afraid.

I laid in my bed listening to that knocking and wailing for what seemed like the longest time. Finally, I gathered up the courage to get out of bed and go wake them up.

As I ran toward the living room on bare tiptoes, mom and dad were just coming out of their bedroom. I stood frozen in the entryway, wide-eyed at what I might see when they opened the door to our apartment.

It turned out to be our neighbor from across the hall. She was cradling her tiny baby in her arms and crying.

“He’s not breathing.”

My dad took the bundle from her and laid him on the couch, and he began to perform mouth-to-mouth on the baby while my mother called the ambulance. And the distraught neighbor stood sobbing in her powder-blue nightgown, her hair in a low ponytail, mascara running down her cheeks.

I don’t know how long it took for the paramedics to get there, but I can still see them entering our apartment in their sanitary white coats, black medical bags in hand. I stood watching from the doorway as they worked on the fragile baby for a while, and then they took him away.

It was a few days later that I overheard my mother on the phone, saying “the poor little thing didn’t make it.” And I remember blaming myself… What if I had gotten out of bed sooner? Could the baby have been saved?


After the birth of my daughter, my mother and I were talking about the importance of CPR and knowing what to do in case of emergency. I hesitantly brought up the baby from across the hall, wondering if she would recall the incident. “Oh, remember that? The poor little thing – he was blue when she brought him over. Your father tried to save him, but the little guy was long gone.”

So after 16 years of blaming myself I finally felt a bit of relief.

But to the little baby boy from across the hall, I wanted you to know that I remember you, and I wish there was something I could have done to save you.

“If only. Those must be the two saddest words in the world.”
– Mercedes Lackey

Monday, March 19, 2007

Fessin’ Up to My First-Grade Crush

When I was in first grade, I had the biggest crush on Mike H. Actually, I think it started in kindergarten. It may have even been love at first sight. How could it not be? He had the biggest blue eyes and curly blond hair. He was adorable! Yes, it probably started in kindergarten.

But it wasn’t until first grade that I made my big move.

I grew up in a very un-country-like suburb of New York. We did not own chickens or cows. If we ate corn on the cob, it was because we bought some from the A&P, not because we had it growing out in our fields. My parents were Mom and Dad, not Ma and Pa like on Little House on the Prairie, which was my favorite show as a child. (I always wished I was as pretty as Mary Ingalls. And I thought it totally sucked when she went blind, but she was still pretty.)

But even though we weren’t “country folk,” every kid in my area learned how to square dance at school. It was an entire unit in gym class, usually held over the winter when we couldn’t go outside. Slim Sterling was the square dance caller, and his arrival at school marked the beginning of six weeks of learning to do-si-do, promenade, and allemande left. Oh, and six weeks of holding the sweaty palms of the boys in class.

“My car’s name is Rollscanardly,” Mr. Sterling would tell us every year. “’cause she rolls down one hill and ‘canardly’ make it up the next!” Oh yeah, he had a bunch of corny jokes that he would throw in while he was calling, and they were the same ones over and over. The kids giggled at him when they were young, but groaned when they were older.

He would purposely mix things up during the dance for the older kids to confuse us and try to catch us out of step.

Bow to your partner. Now bow to your corner. Now swing your corner. Swing your partner. Do-si-do your corner. Do-si-do your... corner again. Allemande left!

Secretly, I always looked forward to the square dance unit. Oh I would moan and complain all the other reluctant kids when ol’ Slim showed up, but I enjoyed it. It was fun!

In the early grades we didn’t learn all of the complicated steps. We just did a lot of “Clap Clap Bow” and other simple moves, but we did dance with a partner. And here’s the important part, how we would find our partner:
1) Slim Sterling would ask all the boys to form a big circle, holding hands and stretching the circle out as big as it would go.
2) The girls would form a big circle outside the boys’ circle.
3) Everyone would drop hands.
4) The boys would be asked to turn and face their partner in the outside circle.

This is how it went in kindergarten.

So in first grade, I already knew the drill. I remembered it from the year before. And when Slim asked the girls to form a circle outside the boys’ circle, I made a mad dash to align myself strategically behind Mike H. When he turned around, oh! Look at that! I was the lucky girl that got to be his partner.

The other first grade girls were jealous. “Lucky!” they sneered at me with narrowed eyes. I was not the only one infatuated with that angelic face.

I tried not to smile too wide. I tried not to make it obvious that I had known exactly what I was doing. My cheeks may have gotten a little flushed though, as we stared into each other’s eyes, making sure our moves were coordinated: Clap, clap, bow. Clap, clap, bow. Stamp, stamp, turn yourself around.


At my 15 year high school reunion, Daniel F. confessed that he had a crush on me in the 5th grade.

“Aw, I think I knew that, Danny,” I said. “You always had a certain shy smile for me. That’s very cool of you to tell me, though - you made my night!”

“I think everyone should ‘fess up tonight,” Daniel said. “I mean, after all this time, who really cares? Maybe everyone would be happy to know someone had a crush on them.”

“That’s a great idea! You know who I have to ‘fess up to? Mike H.”

So I found Mike H. in the crowd, and I told him about the square dancing with Slim Sterling. He was laughing, smiling really wide, and maybe even blushing a little. “That is so cool.”

“Okay, now it’s your turn. Go find somebody and ‘fess up.”


I think everyone would benefit from hearing a kind word every now and again. Not just "I used to have a crush on you," although that one is certainly delightful to hear. Even "I always looked up to you when I was a kid" or "you have such a nice smile" or "you always make me laugh - thank you" could brighten someone's day.

Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much. – Blaise Pascal

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Single Mom on, Part II

Yesterday’s post was a brief account of my becoming a single parent and my first attempt at It ended with my future husband emailing me through the service and me ignoring him. A year later, I decided to try again and I renewed my subscription.

My tag line read: Adventure Girl seeks Adventure Boy. Hee hee!

I was still only checking my email account once a week and having a little trouble keeping up, but Sean’s email and profile stood out to me.

His tag line read: Clark Kent Looking for a Phone Booth.

I replied to his email, and he responded right away. So we chatted for a while through the email that first night…

Hi Sean,

Thanks for your email! Your profile did pique my interest, and I'd like to learn more about you. What do you like to do for fun? What kind of dog do you have?
Hope to hear from you soon...


Hi Tammie.. Thanks for responding. Lets see.. for fun I travel a lot.. love the water the sun...I have a timeshare in Aruba.. and love it there. I play golf - not too well, but I play. My dog’s name is Scruffy and he’s a 12 y/o cockapoo. So what are you up to tonight? Sean.

Hi Sean,
That was a fast response! I'm only online every few days, so tonight I'm just checking the mail :) I like to travel too. I've never been to Aruba, although I've heard it's beautiful. Do you snorkel or scuba dive there? I just got into snorkeling this year, and I'm planning on getting certified for scuba. What are you up to tonight?


I was thinking of making some popcorn and watching a movie...would love company... how fast can you get here? Yes I LOVE to snorkel. What are your passions?

Hmm... popcorn and a movie... very tempting!! I enjoy anything outdoors - hiking, the beach, biking - you name it. In April I took my daughter to snorkel with the manatees in the Crystal River, Florida. It was fantastic! We were signed up for scuba class and completed all of the course work, but we both had major colds that week and couldn't go under. We snorkeled instead, and I can't wait to go again!

I would say I'm most passionate about travel and photography. I love to go anywhere new - spontaneous day trips, weekends away, and those week-long excursions that are a wonderful hiatus from the daily grind. I just got back from camping in Canada on Lake Erie, about 1/2 hour from Niagra Falls. The next trip may be to Maine. There always has to be a next trip in the works - something to look forward to. What do you like to do for fun?

I'm a fairly physical person.. I like anything outdoors.. even in the winter depending on the company. Yes I bought the DVD "Final Destination 2".. and I make a great bowl of popcorn and I share well :) Do you read? Like movies? If you had to pick the only vacation you would get for the rest of your life where would it be and whom would you bring? Am I on that list? :) What would you do for a Klondike Bar? S.

Even in the winter? Do you ski? I just tried skiing this past winter for the first time. Not bad for my first time out - I'm pretty athletic. I'm going to start earlier next season.

Only one vacation?? You're hurting me. I love it out west - the Rockies, the mesas, the arid climate. But I love the ocean, too. I've never been to an island, and I haven't been to Europe... I don't think I'm qualified yet to make a decision like that, but I promise I'll work on it :)

Who would I bring? So far my daughter has been an excellent travel buddy and an Adventure Girl of the highest order, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't consider an aspiring Adventure Boy.

I do like movies, and I do read when I'm in that mode. Sometimes I'll have three books going at once, other times I put them all away so I can work on some artwork. There aren't enough hours in the day.

What would I do for a Klondike Bar? Have I mentioned that I'm an Adventure Girl?

Something tells me we could stay up all night talking...

Well my profile does say I'm looking for someone who could keep me up til 4 am talking.. so this may work. To be very to the point.. I do visualize a family in my future… a premade one is GREAT but would love to add to it.. What are your feelings on that? S

Oooh… the serious questions (usually reserved for after midnight)... Actually, I'm a fantastic mom and enjoy every minute of it. I've always thought that if I ever married, I'd gladly have more children (and I'd have a built-in babysitter!). And if not, at least I have my sweet girl, who is absolutely precious to me.

Now you have to answer some questions! Do you read? Who would you pick for your one vacation? What would YOU do for a Klondike Bar? What kind of dog is a cockapoo???

Yes I love to read.. but seems like I only get the time while on vacation. A cockapoo is 1/2 cocker and 1/2 poodle. I on the other hand am 1/2 Italian, 1/4 Irish and 1/4 English. Well I go to Jamaica in October with a bunch of friends.. but my dance card is empty for my trip to Aruba in January. The whole Island is very family friendly, that's why I love it. Take care Tammie...hope to hear from you soon, Sean.

I'll write back tomorrow. Have a great night...Tammie

(The next night…)

Hi Sean, Did I mention I don't go online very often? But you've got me back on the very next day! I really enjoyed our email chat last night :) How was your movie?

I'm 1/2 Irish & 1/2 Italian, my dog is a yellow lab.

Some other random little-known facts about me: I know how to pitch a tent and start a campfire, I've been in a major earthquake, I have a mean round house kick, and I make perfect pancakes. I graduated 4th in my class from high school, I like rollercoasters but not ferris wheels, love popcorn with a movie and sugar cookies with a glass of milk.

What else can you tell me about you? Hope to talk to you soon...


Do you know a good caterer? :)

If you’d like to talk a little before we elope.. you can call me (phone number removed to protect the innocent). I’m up til at least 12 every night.. I’m off to watch that movie I never got to last night.. but please call.. I'd love to hear your voice :) S

Soooo…. I called. We spoke for hours. We chatted for hours at a time every night for the next several nights. Then we decided we’d better meet to make sure there was Spark before we became too emotionally invested.

We met within a week of that first email at a restaurant near me for some appetizers and drinks. After chatting and laughing for hours over some soggy mozzarella sticks and yummy cocktails (he had a gin and tonic, I had a woo woo), we kissed in the parking lot. No, Spark was not a problem. We definitely had Spark. Sparks were flying like crazy.
On our 3rd date, we actually said the L word!

Within 3 months Sean had purchased a ring and asked Mandy’s permission to propose.

Three months after that, on the Natural Bridge in Aruba, Sean asked me to marry him. Mandy, who had kept this big secret for 3 whole months, was there to snap the pictures.

Mandy was also my maid of honor when Sean and I got married 10 months later.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Single Mom on, Part I

I was a single mother from the day my daughter was born, during my senior year of college. I knew it would be that way, just the two of us.

Not that I didn’t try to work things out with my boyfriend, her biological father. Heck, I gave it more than the ol’ college try. I gave it way more time, patience and leeway than I would most relationships. I thought I owed her that.

I even thought I owed him that. Or maybe it was more selfish. I know I didn’t want him to ever be able to blame me for calling things off between us, or for being the cause of our little family unit being separated. If Mandy grew up not knowing her father, it wasn’t going to be my fault. I gave him every chance in the world to step up to the plate and be a responsible, contributing part of our relationship and her life.

It didn’t work out. He left us. And other than a few sporadic dialogues where he tried to use Mandy as some sort of pawn with which to try and get back at me, I never heard from him again.

I dated here and there. I even had two very serious relationships that I thought would lead to marriage. For one I moved across the country. For both I moved us in, and we functioned as a family unit. Both men loved my daughter with all their hearts. Neither relationship worked out.

My daughter was and still is everything to me. When she was four years old and entering pre-school, I decided that I didn’t want her to be adversely affected by a string of serious relationships that ultimately failed. I didn’t want her to feel as if one father figure after another was abandoning her.

So I swore off dating. Not that I was swearing off men, or loosing faith in finding someone out there that was The One for me. I hadn’t become jaded and bitter. I just decided to take a break and concentrate on being the best mother that I could be. I’m a secure and independent person. I’m not needy. I didn’t feel lost without a partner.

So it was just the two of us for the next 7 years.

But then Mandy entered the 5th grade. There were Girl Scout camping weekends and sleep-overs with friends. There were weekends when she was out and about, and I was home alone watching a movie.

I wasn’t meeting anyone in particular as I went out with friends or through work. What to do? Join a club? Take a class?

A friend at work suggested

So I tried it. It seemed fun, kind of like shopping.

At the time, I was checking my email account about once a week on the weekends. During the week was just too busy with work, and then helping Mandy with homework, preparing dinner, bedtime stories.

By the end of the first week I had received some emails from potential suitors on I didn’t have time to answer them all.

By the following week there were more. I started to make a list of those I had replied to and those to whom I still owed responses.

By the third week the list was longer. By the fourth week I gave up. If I can’t keep up with emails, I reasoned, I don’t have time to date. So I cancelled my subscription.

Somewhere in there, during that month, my future husband had emailed me. I had never replied.

And so I was single for another year.

I spent that year taking care of Mandy and focusing on my career. Oh, and getting out of that debt that is so easy to accumulate when you’re a single parent from a young age, with no financial help. That took a while.

When I felt like I was in a good place, debt paid off, career going well, Mandy entering into the 6th grade as a happy and confident young lady, I took stock of my current dating situation. Or more accurately, the lack thereof. I had nothing going on. No prospects. No nothin’.

So I decided to try again. Maybe this time I could keep up.

I found some interesting prospects. There were a few guys that seemed well-rounded, intelligent, and open to the fact that I was a mother. I even met one for coffee one afternoon on my lunch break. Sparks didn’t fly, but he was nice enough.

Meanwhile, after contacting me that first time, my husband-to-be had found someone to date and had left He came back to it a year later, though, when things didn’t work out.

He noticed my profile and decided to try again...

Tomorrow... Part II.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Last night I picked Mandy up from hanging out with her boyfriend.

Yes, she’s fourteen years old (15 next month) and she has a boyfriend. At first I thought it was so cute! She came home one night from the local arcade, all smiley and blushy and giggly, and she told me that this boy Mike had asked her out.

“What did you say?!”

“I said yes!”

“Woooooow! Mandy has her first boyfriend!”

Little did I know that it would be a long-term relationship. They’ve been together for over a year now. Actually, a year three months and two days if you ask either one of them. Had I only known, I might have considered telling her that she isn’t allowed to date until she’s sixteen. Hindsight is 20/20.

I mean, my first relationship lasted a month and a half. For our one-month anniversary Jarod gave me a little silver chain with a little silver “T” on it. I had never gotten a gift from a boy before. I was smitten! I couldn’t wait to see what he gave me for our “two-month”.

He dumped me two weeks later. First love was so fleeting for me.

But I do like Mandy’s boyfriend. He’s a nice kid and they are best friends.

So anyway, we are in the car last night, and she is telling me about this girl Pam at school that she doesn’t like. Pam is best-buddies with Mike’s ex-girlfriend, and she’s always so “fake.” One of those high-school girls that pretends to be your friend just so she can gather up enough dirt on you to throw in your face at some later time, hopefully in front of all the popular kids.
You remember these girls, the ones with their noses high in the air. The ones who will kick you when you’re down, or at least point and laugh. The ones who always try to hang out with the in-crowd and act so cool, so it makes you wonder what they’re up to when they come over and start talking to you.

“I know the type,” I tell her.

“She says stuff like, ‘Soooooooo, how’s the BOY Fa-RIEND’ all exaggerated and everything,” Mandy tells me.

My reply and Mandy’s reaction to her own story were identical: “Oh Puh-leeze!”

We even said it the same way and at the same time. It was probably one of those instances where you’re supposed to smack the other person and shout “jinx” or something like that. I forget how it goes. It’s been a long time since I was in school.

Anyway, I’m chuckling at this aligned response. We’ve done this so many times before. Mandy is just shaking her head.

“Congratulations, Mom. You’ve raised a little YOU.”

Monday, March 5, 2007

My Friend Michael B

In June my sister-in-law is participating in the Rock and Roll Marathon in San Diego to raise money for leukemia. My husband donated $100 from us, but he was a little hesitant at first to tell me the amount he gave. I don’t know why – he knows I’m a generous person. But what he didn’t know at the time is that I have a big soft spot in my heart for leukemia research…


My best friend in nursery school was Michael B. He was a bubbly blond-haired boy, and perhaps even my first crush. He always had a smile on his face and he always made me laugh. When he was in school, we were inseparable.

But there were times when he was out of school for weeks at a time.

Once when he came back from a long absence, he was wearing a hat. It was a cute little beach hat with white, blue and yellow stripes. Underneath it, he was bald from the chemo treatments he was undergoing for leukemia.

In nursery school, we were taught to put our coats on by ourselves. The technique was to place the coat on the floor in front of us, upside down. Then we would bend down and put our arms through the armholes, and make a big circle up over our heads, and our coats would miraculously be on.

Well when Michael tried to put his coat on at the end of the day, his hat came off. One of the boys took it and ran. A big chase was on. Everyone was in on it, pointing and laughing, teasing Michael about his bald head. But he was all smiles as he ran around after them, because that’s the kind of kid he was.

I ran around too, flailing my arms and jumping up and down, until one of the kids finally threw the hat to me. I ran over and put it right back on Michael’s head, and the game was over. We were best friends, you know.

Sometime the next year I was with my mother, visiting my grandmother’s grave at the church near the playground. Just a few steps away was a headstone with a baseball and a bat carved into it, which looked much different than all the other headstones decorated with flowers and crosses.

“Ooh, I like this one,” I said.

“Oh, that’s poor little Michael B from your nursery school,” my mother said.

I was speechless. Just wide-eyed and speechless.

I realized a few things that day, at the age of 6. I realized that anyone could die, even a little kid. I had always thought that dying was something that happens when you get too old. This new knowledge put a fear in me that kept me awake many, many nights throughout my childhood.

I also realized that my best friend was gone.

I remember you, Michael, and I think of you often. I will never forget your smile, or your sweet blue eyes, or your laugh, or your courage.


If anyone would like to donate to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, here is the site where my sister-in-law is collecting donations. I’m proud of her for the effort she is putting into training for this event and for collecting money for this worthy cause.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Young Love in 1942

As I mentioned a few days ago in "Baked Ziti Night", I became the keeper of a box of letters exchanged between my grandparents during WWII. As a tremendous mass of primary source material, I’m hoping to make something of this time capsule of love and American History, and so I’ve begun the tedious process of typing each letter into my computer.

In doing so, I’m gaining new perspective on my grandparents, Ida and Joe, their relationship with each other, and the kind of people they were as young, vivacious teenagers “going steady.”

Except they weren’t both teenagers. It turns out that my grandfather was much older than my grandmother, and this caused some problems for them when the age difference came to light.

Apparently, my grandmother got into trouble with her parents one night when she stayed out too late. In response, my grandfather hand-delivered a letter of apology to Ida’s mother.

Here is Mrs. L’s response:

Dear Sir,

I received your kind letter and I am sorry to say I did give Ida Mae a couple of cracks with the switch I had. I am not well and it is a worry on me when she is out late at night as I would lose my life if anything happened to her. I knew you didn’t know her age and that is why I kept talking to her all the time about coming in early. Millie told me not to worry a lot because you were a nice fellow but you know how mothers are. Now you said you liked her a lot and I know you are a good sport or you wouldn’t of wrote me this letter and I am going to trust you. I’ll let her go out with you and speak to you at any time but Joe please have her back at the house at 9:30 and don’t be afraid of anyone saying anything to you. So don’t feel bad about it, as Ida Mae knows it is her fault. She should of told you her right age.

There is no more explaining to do. Everything is O.K.

Mrs. L

P.S. Joe next week is the black out so she has to be in at 9 o’clock.

My grandfather was still troubled by the whole situation, and so he did what many did back at that time in New York. He wrote a letter to Doris Blake.

Doris Blake was a syndicated columnist for the New York Daily News. In addition to her Beauty Hints column, she also wrote a daily column, first called Doris Blake’s Answers and later Doris Blake’s Love Answers. This was one of the first advice columns to employ the letter-and-response format that is so common today.

She was also the author of many informational pamphlets, including Getting and Keeping Boys Interested and How to Reduce: New Waistlines for Old, and several books geared toward women and women’s issues.

June 2, 1942

Dear Miss Blake,

I have been going with this girl, whom I learned to love very much, for a little over half a year. When we met she told me she was seventeen. I was twenty, but didn’t know whether she knew it or not. She now reveals her age as fourteen, but undoubtedly looks to be seventeen or over. The difference in our ages is about seven years. I would like to know whether I should stay with her, as I would, disregarding the age or should I try to forget her. Your answer may mean our happiness later on. Being that I love her as I do, I try not to show it so that she’ll lose interest in me.

Thank you.

Sincerely yours,

I don’t know whether this letter ever appeared in her column, but she did send a letter in response, post-marked two days later:

June 4, 1942

Dear Friend,

The girl is much too young too young to think seriously of any young man. You should seek the companionship of young women closer to your own age.

Doris Blake

Luckily, my grandfather did not take her advice. Within a month he was shipped off to Camp Wheeler, Georgia, to prepare to fight in WWII. The rest of this big box I have contains their correspondence over the next several years while my grandfather served in Italy and North Africa.

When my grandfather returned in 1946, they married and bought a house . My grandmother was 17 at the time, and during the war years this was a common age to get married. My father was born in 1949, the first of 5 children.

And the rest is history.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Warm Back Seat

When I was young I lived within walking distance of a lake. In the winter, we couldn't wait until the red flag at the water’s edge was exchanged for a green one, which meant the ice was thick enough for skating.

Once the lake froze over, everyone in my small town would be there on the weekends. I would see my cousins and kids from school. My parents would see friends of theirs, too.

Every year for Christmas, Santa would leave a new pair of skates under the tree for me, so I would be ready when the green flag went up. When I was very young, I got the “double-blade” skates. It was a proud day when I moved up to single-blade skates.

I was always happy to have nice new white skates when it was time to head down to the lake. Of course, some of the other girls would have big, colorful, fluffy pom poms with bells on their skates. That made me jealous! But my skates were always new, and nice and sharp because my uncle sharpened them for me.

It was always a special treat if we could be there at night. The lake was lit up by the streetlights. And when you’re young, it just seems so cool to be out at night.

Sometimes there would be a big bonfire on the edge of the lake. We would go there to warm up our fingers and toes if we didn’t feel too intimidated by the teenagers that were hanging around over there.

One Saturday when I was about 6 years old, my mother, father, big brother and I were all down at the lake after dinner. We were skating for quite a while, when my parents announced that it was almost time to go.

“You can have one last skate.”

“Can’t we stay down here a little longer?” we begged.

“No, we’re tired and it’s getting cold.”

“How ‘bout if we stay down here and you guys go back?”

This, of course, was a different time. A time when you didn’t have to worry about leaving your kids down at the lake. Or maybe you did, but my parents were just too young and naïve to realize that. Either way…

“You’re going to get cold…” they warned.

“No we won’t!” we said together.

Well, yes we did. It was only about a half hour later, and we were freezing. It was time to take off the skates and walk home.

I always had trouble lacing up my skates, so my father would do it for me. He would make them really tight, and even double-knot them. Which was great.

Except now that we were trying to leave, I couldn’t get the knots out. He usually helped me take them off, too. And if I couldn’t get the skates off, I couldn’t walk home, because that would ruin my blades.

My brother, who was 8 at the time, was already done with his skates and had his boots on. I was still struggling with the knots. It was really frustrating because to pick at the knots, I had to have my gloves off. My fingers were red and numb.

“C’mon, hurry up!”

“I can’t do it!”

Then I started crying.

“Whatsa matter?”

“I gotta go pee!”

He tried to get the skates off for me too, but after skating for so long, the knots were tight and even frozen from the snow.

Someone saw me crying and came over to help. “Aren’t you Tammie? I’m a friend of your mom’s.”

She got my skates off, helped me put my boots on, and even offered to drive us home. Her husband was warming up the car.

This was a time when you could accept a ride from a stranger. Well, not a complete stranger, someone who knew your name and seemed to know your parents. Or maybe you couldn’t, but we were just too young and naïve to realize that. Either way…

My brother climbed into the car first, and I got in behind him. It was a really nice car! Much nicer than anything my parents owned. It was a big, brown luxury type of car.

And the seats! Oh, they were covered in this amazingly soft, plush, velvety brown material. And the car was soooo warm. When I climbed in that back seat, I just smiled.

And then I peed.

Right there on the nice plush seat. And it felt so good to pee, I couldn’t even stop. I just wet myself, and I was so relieved.

We were at our apartment in under two minutes, riding in that nice warm car.

“Here we are!” said the nice lady.

“Thank you!” we said as we got out of the car.

Yeah, I just smiled and said "thank you" and left. Never said a word about soiling their nice warm back seat. I’m sure they figured it out.