Monthly Archives: August 2015

Daughter Strong: Four Years of Reflection

nanny

Mom doing what she loved best

My mom died four years ago today.

I no longer spontaneously cry – making beds, walking down the produce aisle, seeing commercials for cancer centers when I least expect it —

But I still catch myself absent mindedly reaching for the phone when something funny happens.   You know, the house phone.  I can’t really name too many people I still talk to on my house phone anymore.  Even now, 1460 days later, I’m not ready to get rid of it.

I’ve honored her memory every passing year by putting into words the changes that have crept into my life in the time without her and have usually marked its passage by focusing on my kids;  their size, their maturity (or, hello, teenagers: lack thereof), and their role as unknowing anchors in my unsteady journey through middle age.  It’s funny;  I often wonder how they’d take knowing the true strength of their super powers.

What’s heaviest on my mind on this anniversary, though, is the profound change of my emotional core.  My emotions – and the things that affect me — have veered tremendously from what once was.

You know what angers me most now?   When friends roll their eyes over their mothers’ forgetfulness.  Or annoying habits.  Or intrusiveness.  Or anything, really.  I find myself irritated when they complain about perfunctory – and quick – visits with their moms and I often suppress the need to scream when hearing they  dutifully “have to” go see their moms for dinner, or doctor’s appointment, or — again — anything, really.  It infuriates me that they just don’t get it.  Or understand what others would give for one more day.

Know what makes me happy now?  That my mom died so young.  And quick.   It’s actually a rather ironic personal admission I’ve made peace with.  She was only 69 when she passed and the toxins in her body were vicious and speedy, taking her within six months from start to end.  The thing is, prior to her diagnosis, she was beautiful, hipper than most her age, and stylish.  Extremely stylish.  She was envied for her magnetic humor, was incredibly charismatic and if I may be cliché, a treasured friend.  Really and truly treasured.  She was also quite the hot ticket:  In sickness, when she was too weak to get to Kohl’s, she circled items out of their circular and sent me out to buy them.  Shoes and bags she never did muster up the energy to use.  But she had to have them.

She was immeasurably vibrant and if I’m being totally honest, I find comfort in that image being my final remembrance of her.  I will never, EVER know her as a frail, feeble old lady, with white hair and stooped shoulders.  I will never feel pointed sadness helping her up a flight of stairs.  I won’t ever have to visit her in a nursing home and spoon feed her.  And I will never know the unfathomable despair of watching her recollection of me and other loved ones fade from her memory right before my eyes.  She will forever be my great-shoe-wearing, never-leave-the-house-without-makeup-wearing, always-with-awesome-accessories-wearing 69-year-old mom.  And that is my beautiful image.  And that makes me happy.  I imagine I’m not the first person who’s lost someone too early in life to cling to this shred of positivity, so I’m not sorry for it.

Know what I care about now?  Hmmmm.  Not so much.  I keep a firm grasp on my family, of course, and make sure we stay intact because it’s all we have and all we need.  It is the good stuff for sure.  But all the other stuff?  Meh.   See ya.  Grudges, weight-gain, the-sky-is-falling hysteria of every day that screams BREAKING NEWS?  I let all go.   I learned how to surround myself with drama-free friends.  I ask myself, What’s the worst thing that can happen?  And I realize it’s not the end of the world if (pick one) a kid doesn’t go to college or a spouse loses a job or a kid drops OUT of college or the bills are piling up or the kid doesn’t play Varsity or someone snubbed someone on Facebook.  Ah, what the hell, pick ‘em all.  None truly matter.

Not in the least.

So I really don’t care about all that much these days.  Just the good stuff.

I wish she could see how fantastic her grandkids are turning out.

I wish she could see the living room chairs I just spray painted.

I wish she could see how long my hair’s gotten.

I just miss her like mad.

And when my youngest, sitting in my passenger seat, innocently blurts out, “This song reminds me of Nanny…

I know we all do.

Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was featured in the 2014 Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements.  (Next would be the home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore).   A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook. and@Eyerollingmom on Instagram.

Call Security: A Cruise Diary Continues

isac

So now that it’s been some time since we returned from our cruise-that-didn’t-explode, I’m thankful I jotted down some notes during it.  This whole middle-aged forgetfulness thing is really setting in now and I kid you not, it is a complete and total horror show.

So with the help of some sturdy cocktail napkins, my stories continue.

Being the consummate bargain-hunter, my husband jumped at the chance of upgrading our family (for a (cough) nominal fee) to a higher floor.  What? One story higher than the Titanic immigrants for the price of a smaller, less exotic vacation?  Where do we sign?  Trouble is, our new cabins were – without exaggeration – located one hundred rooms apart.  He was stern (with 2 kids), and I was bow (with the other 2 kids).  Kind of an interesting concept for a family vacation but whatever.  We rolled with it.  And packed walkie-talkies.

Night One:  exhausted and (still) untan, we called it a night and parted ways – obviously at the center of our floor.  Nearing closer to our room, my daughter and I came upon a commotion between two staterooms.  It quickly escalated into shouts of “Call security!”

Yep.  STFU.

We were riveted.  Youth on her side, my daughter ran for help but I stayed put (you know, the witness).  You’d think it was a noble civic duty but rather it was more that I was TRANSFIXED TO THE POINT OF PARALYSIS when I looked into the room and saw a man with his hands gripped around a younger man’s throat.

I know, right?  NIGHT ONE!  Barely past the Statue of Liberty and we’re sailing into Crazy Town.  Epic.

So while I’m giving my best “I am not missing one detail of this domestic disturbance” glare, my daughter breathlessly arrives back – with Malcolm, our affable and comedic cruise director.

Now, I don’t know what Malcolm was doing slumming down on our particular floor (and I certainly don’t know how any guy with the words “Woo Hoo” on his name plate was going to be able to assist in anything other than Bingo) but hey, the guy had a radio.  He called for security.  I gave him my best “You can take it from here” nod and off we went, giggling off to our room far, far away.

In the days to come, there was a security guard (of sorts) stationed outside those rooms so we felt very safe there.  Malcolm, on the other hand, stayed clear.

I’m not sure how you move past that on Night One but I did see the Domestic Disturbance (“Call Security!”) Woman doing karaoke later that week so I imagine she did move on.

And there it is:   my smooth-as-a-baby’s-behind segue into karaoke.

My loyal readers already know of my affinity for karaoke.

But partaking in my favorite pastime takes on an entirely new meaning when it is offered (deep breath) with a live band.  That’s right.

Live.

Band.

(Shall we pause while we all wrap our brains around this?)

I could state the obvious and say that my life took on a more cosmic meaning after experiencing something so profoundly enjoyable.  I could even admit that yes, I did entertain the thought of maybe ditching this whole classroom thing and becoming a singer in a band (a band of course that only played to people who didn’t mind hearing the same four songs on a perpetual loop the entire night long).  And, sure, I could even brag that –especially following that nut-job from down the hall – I kinda killed it.

But I have to be completely honest.

All these things paled in comparison to the best part, hands down:  when my party-of-eleven-ridiculously-awesome-family-and-friends stormed the stage — a la the finale of “Little Miss Sunshine” —  and started dancing.  The crowd went wild (even Domestic Disturbance Lady was up on her feet) and it was a moment, I tell you.  My moment.  And while regular karaoke continued throughout the week (much to my husband’s eventual boredom – nightly), the family kick-line in the middle of a Gretchen Wilson song will remain a forever memory for me (and the reason I sign notes to my kids, “Mom the Rock Star.”  You know, lest THEY forget.)

Anyway, so yes, basically this cruise could’ve stayed in the New York harbor and it still would have been the bomb. Clearly when you vacation with fun people you can pretty much head to a campground or, I don’t know, the Poconos and have a ball AND save a ton of money but who knew?

I’ll stop here but I might even have to throw together one more installment because I haven’t even gotten to the Poolside Party Guy with the nine-and-and-a-half-fingers.  We’ll see.

Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was featured in the 2014 Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements.  (Next would be the home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore).   A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook. and@Eyerollingmom on Instagram.

Hilarity on the High Seas

hooper

We have returned!

As previously reported, we brazenly laughed in the face of odds (and disaster flicks) and embarked on a Carnival cruise.  Surprisingly (sadly?) there was nary a floating turd on the Lido Deck so we will never be lifetime travelers courtesy of the cruise line.  Ah well.

But, as duly noted on my Facebook status, we arrived home sufficiently brown, shamefully bloated and very, very broke (bar tab?  No thank you. I’d rather just write out my daughter’s college tuition check since it pales in comparison).

Honestly, it was a trip. A flipping hilarious, can’t-make-this-stuff-up trip.

Here’s why….

If you think the best part about departing on a ship right out of the New York harbor was our cost-saving on airfare, you’d be brilliant, alas incorrect.   Saving money is superb but vacationing with 95% of passengers hailing from New York or New Jersey trumps just about everything.

The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire!

It was a joyous freak show of continuous people watching and I actually found myself jotting notes on napkins so I wouldn’t forget any of the details.  I’ve got to be good for at least two more full-length blogs but we’ll see how this goes.

Now don’t lick the stamp on that hate letter just yet.  I happen to be a born and bred Long Island girl myself — as was my sailing partner/former college roommate, Betsy.   We were amongst our people.  We were one of them.  We had the right to mock.

And mock we did.

Maybe I could just get started on some bullet points:

* 2600 passengers on a ship and no less than 2500 tattoos.  So much ridicule, so little time…

For me, the whole tattoo thing is a perpetual head-shake.  20-somethings with deep, philosophical verses (or rap lyrics) emblazoned in calligraphy all over their body?  Really?  You’ve already got everything figured out so decided to spell it out in a line from “Fight Club” or a Ne-Yo song?  Good idea.  Idiot.

And the middle-aged woman sitting at the bar with the face of Tony Orlando on her right shoulder?  Hmm.  You might guess we barely had anything at all to say about THAT.

Or the guy with the faces of different Transformers on the backs of each calf?  Nope. Just don’t get it.

The clear winner, though:  The creepy, skinny guy with G-O-D-S  G-I-F-T  written across his knuckles.  (Mom, what do you think of my new boyfriend?)  Stupidity on parade.

I could’ve easily ignored my party of eleven for the whole week just watching the tats go by.  (Again, let’s go easy on the hate mail.  My husband just got his first tattoo after running the NYC Marathon this year.  He rocks.  And his tattoo is the bomb.  But to be fair, I’d mock Tony Orlando on him, too.)

* The food thing.

Sweet Jesus.

It’s actually easy to keep the pounds off while cruising if you simply follow some obvious rules:

First, simply glance around the dining room at everyone eating as if it’s their last meal.  All day long.

Or, grab a seat directly across from the old man with the tracheotomy netting politely covering his well, tracheotomy, because it turns out he will, in fact, start coughing if   when something gets stuck in it.  Kinda makes you put down the danish if you know what I mean.

If all else fails, park your lounge chair next to the deli station that’s poolside.  Besides the fact that nothing screams We Are New York!, Dammit! like the lofty smell of sauerkraut all afternoon, you may even find yourself sick to death of Ruebens by Day 2 (unless of course you’re a 14-year-old boy — then you’ll still be eating three daily up until disembarkment).   At the very least, sticking poolside and watching people eat in their bathing suits is calorie counting at its most efficient.

* Interesting people abound.

Good grief, I could go on and on with stories about all the fascinating folks I stared at for eight days but I shall end with the best (and maybe continue on with others in my next installment).

We spotted The Most Intriguing Man on Board the first day at sea.

Now, if you combine Samuel L. Jackson, Issac Hayes and Linc from the Mod Squad, you might come close to how coolly intimidating this guy was.  Completely (awesomely) tattooed (including his bald head – I’m telling you:  BADass.  There was NO mocking here), he was walking around with neon colored bungee cords slung over his shoulder.  Not the stupid little kind your husband keeps in the garage “just in case” but enormous 8-feet-long ones with bright brass hooks.  We assumed he was a maintenance worker because he was shirtless, with jeans rolled up to his knees and work boots.   But THEN we caught sight of him that night, strolling into the adult comedy show wearing (and I don’t even think I can adequately provide a proper visual here) a bright red shirt, equally bright red PANTS, and a glittery jeweled belt, smack dab in the center.   Like an international man of mystery:  we couldn’t take our eyes off him.

Next day, there he was, strolling with his bungees again.  At this point we were beside ourselves with curiosity (you know, because there were few others on board to fixate on.  Laugh.)

Fast forward another day, another few buckets of beer and POOF!  He’s hanging poolside.  My gal Betsy made a beeline.  It needed to be revealed:  FortheloveofGod, she questioned, why the bungees???

They were (wait for it) his on-board workout routine. In the coming days he went on to delight us by actually doing his resistance training routines on the deck rails above us because – along with being the Most Intriguing Man on Board, he was also a cool, good guy and seemed happy to accommodate our shallow lives by providing a little spark.  Don.  From Brooklyn.    The Man.

I haven’t even gotten through half of my napkin notes yet …

(… to be continued …)   (obvs)

Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was featured in the 2014 Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements.  (Next would be the home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore).   A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook. and@Eyerollingmom on Instagram.

Mom’s Passed Out (or rather, Vacation Week is Here!)

wally

My family will be taking a vacation soon and there’s not a doubt in my mind I will be the first one asleep on Night One.  We haven’t even left yet and I am exhausted.  Why?

Because I’m the Mom, that’s why.

And every Mom knows:  when the vacation countdown begins, if we ceased doing what we do … ain’t nobody goin’ nowhere.

We push up our sleeves with a determined “I Can DO this” mantra but the truth is, the procedural that takes place the full week before departure is outrageous.  It makes me wonder why anyone ever chooses to leave their home in the first place.

The laundry?  Kill me.

The packing?  (Did I already say kill me?)  I laughably thought it would get easier as my kids got older but now — in addition to needing bigger baggage (for bigger clothing) — I find myself in Supreme Nag Mode.  Apparently I am the only household member over the age of 14 that finds it necessary to actually haul a suitcase up from the cellar before 2:00am the night before pulling out of the driveway.

The checklist of Wal-Mart runs, haircuts, dog-walker-flower-waterer-house-watcher instructions —  along with the panic-inducing Don’t-Forget-to-Pack-or-the-Vacation-is-Ruined items — has me realizing I never even did the end-of-the-year backpack clean-out on the last day of school.  (Quick silent prayer:  Please God, let those nasty knapsacks be free of yogurt this year…) May I be totally excused?  I’m going with yes, totally.

Worse than that:  It was my intention to exercise my way into a respectable bathing suit by now but by the time all of the above was completed (pfffft.  was there ever a doubt?) there was no time left.  Now I’ve got to rely on the sunburnt-skin-turning-brown trick-of-the-eye to help me get to that goal.

Nards.

So yes, I’ll be a little tired and a little (cough) thicker than I’d like to be but I’m thinking as soon as that first icy cold margarita gets sipped, my revved up week of “Maaaaaaa, where’s my …?” will be but a blur.

We’re taking a cruise with one of my bestest friends in the whole world:  my college roommate and her family.  When she’s not making me look like a wallflower she will be enthralling my kids with one hilarious story after another.  Each day I suspect our husbands’ lounge chairs will be purposely perched farther away from us but believe me, we are sooooo used to that.

That we’ve brazenly decided to throw caution to the wind and stick with our plans to go on Carnival –  you know, the “Fun Ships” (“fun” of course questionably translating into fiery engines and passengers hurling overboard) — only shows how committed we are to having stupendous stories to share at the end of our trip. Good God — can you even IMAGINE the blogs to follow should we spy poop floating on the Lido Deck due to scary sewage fiascos?

I’m fairly certain I would finally break into the International Blogosphere if something ridiculously newsworthy befalls our ship so, by all means, keep your fingers crossed and your eyes on the CNN ticker.

My family doesn’t do trips like this often but truthfully, lately my husband and I have been invoking a Live for Today attitude.  A couple of sudden deaths in the family and a handful of kids unbelievably graduating in the blink of an eye will do that.

Time is whizzing by faster with each passing year and life certainly isn’t getting less complicated as we muddle through it so … this year at least … we’re acting a tad frivolous and going for broke.

I mean that literally.  But I’m also banking on this bad boy boat clipping an iceberg or something and getting a lifetime of free cruising from our friends at Carnival so really, it’ll be fine.

Just fine.

Bon voyage!!!

Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was featured in the 2014 Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements.  (Next would be the home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore).   A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook. and @Eyerollingmom on Instagram.

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