Thursday, October 30, 2014

Letting Go

When I handed my son an envelope he asked, "What's this?" "Open it." He read the outside of the "Congratulations, I'm so proud" card and when he looked inside, read my personal note, and saw the bulk of dollars he said, "Mom, you don't have to do this." "It's not my money, it's yours." As he raised an eyebrow I explained, "Remember when you were young and Grandpa would hand you money, or you got gifts for your birthday, Christmas, whatever and you would ask me to hold it...well I did. I put it in a special envelope with your name on it, and always planned to give it to you when the time was right. Well, now that you're moving to Raleigh, the time is right. Just spend it wisely." And with that, the boy burst into tears. And with that, I burst into tears. We hugged each other tightly and cried on each other's shoulders.

My little boy is no longer a little boy. He's a 22 year old grown man and has moved to another state to better himself. There were no opportunities here in Roanoke to have a bright future, and although it has broken my heart, I supported his decision. He was made an offer he couldn't refuse for a position that normally requires a bachelors degree and five years experience. He might not have either, but his boss realized he does have the smarts (paper unnecessary) and a good work ethic (three alarms clocks are necessary) whereby he would be a great asset to the newly formed analyst team. Although I hate that his company chose to move to Raleigh, I am thankful for the relocation package, salary, and promising future they are providing in a technical computer position where my son's interest lies. I've always drilled into my kids' heads if they work at a job they like, it will never feel like work, and that's when they'll be most happy. His girlfriend is joining him so they can lean on each other during this major transition. I hope they will be happy.

And yes, I cried and cried. If my son was a piece of shit I probably would have been happy he left, but he's not. He truly is one of the most kindest and compassionate souls I've ever met, and I say that not just because I'm his mother. I'll never forget when he was in elementary school and was playing in the fields with other kids. There was a pitiful cry and when the children went to see what it was they discovered a bunny tangled in a temporary plastic fence. While other kids laughed and threw rocks at the poor creature, my son ran to the bunny and released him. He was always that way, always a good soul. He never drank, smoked, or did drugs. He was always a leader, not a follower. I hope he always stays that way. I wish his grandfather was here to witness how he turned out. Grandpa always said he was special.

I'll try not to cry any more. I am happy for his success. I have to let go. I am grateful that he's only three hours away and not stationed in a foreign land, or, tragically gone forever. I am fortunate we have a wonderful relationship and I pray we continue to. Most importantly I pray for his safety and well-being. Please Mother Mary, keep a watchful eye over him...

"Good habits formed at youth make all the difference." - Aristotle 

Ain't that the truth!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Bay Ridge's Gingerbread House

If you live in Brooklyn, especially in the Bensonhurst/Bay Ridge sections, you've probably visited the Gingerbread House more than once.

It looks like a home taken straight out of a fairy tale and plopped down in the southern tip of Brooklyn.

Built in 1917, this house is on the market for a mere $10.5 million. I wish I had that type of dough because I would buy it in a heartbeat. To see more pics and the inside, click here. It's a beautiful neighborhood to live in with the shore a mere block away.

For Halloween the house across the street has decorated, and based on their warped tastes I wouldn't mind having them as neighbors...

My cuz with the Verrazano Bridge in the background
After taking a couple of shots we jumped on the Belt Parkway and headed to Brighton Beach, passing under my second favorite bridge...the Verrazano.

The ever elusive "Stairway to Heaven" shot. I think every Brooklynite has attempted to capture it.

When I get a chance I'll post the Brighton Beach pics...bye bye Bridge!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Brooklyn Bridge Park

This was the first time I actually got out of a car (found a spot!) and was able to visit Brooklyn Bridge Park located near downtown. All I can say a change from 20 years ago...

A carousel! $2 rides.

Some sort of art installation made for some interesting shots...

Under the Brooklyn trolls.

Manhattan Bridge doesn't get the love like the Brooklyn Bridge does...

Remember these? It's called a bookstore...
Wonder if that's where the cannons were placed...

Waiting on line for pizza from Grimaldi's...must be tourists. New Yorkers only wait on line for Apple products.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Typical Italian Brooklyn Wedding

During Sunday's drive around town my friend and I stumbled upon a wedding being held at Regina Pacis church. This is where my mother's funeral mass was held.

Off to the side of the church is a small basilica honoring Mary where pregnant mothers go to pray for their unborn child. I knelt before her statue during both of my pregnancies and every time I go to Regina Pacis I stop in to say a prayer of thanks. Although I never have, mothers leave photos, notes, and mementos of their children after they are born.

What follows are pictures of what you can expect if you attend a typical Italian wedding in Brooklyn...they're a little different than the ones I've experienced in Southwest Virginia.

The bride and groom will ride in a Rolls Royce.  Parked in front of and behind the RR were two huge fully-loaded tour buses which will transport the guests to and back from the reception. This has become more in vogue since extravagant halls are fewer than they were in the past. Many couples now seek ones in Manhattan, Staten Island, New Jersey, or Long Island. The guests don't have to worry about driving their or home drunk...once they get in their car back at the church, well, that's another story.

The wedding party was taking their sweet time coming out of the church and these two coronet players kept tooting the same notes over and over. I began to feel like I was in a Bugs Bunny cartoon...Lo, the King approacheth! I wonder what these guys got paid.

Yes, those are live doves, but they were the stand-ins. These birds were the ones that were released...
There were six of them, I'm assuming/hope they are trained to go "somewhere safe."
Some of the grooms were out before the rest of the bridal party and it looks as if they were all given monogramed sterling silver flasks as a bridal party gift (we do that up north) which they were already partaking from. 

This bridal party was huge! There had to be at least 15 bridesmaids and grooms, and then a couple of flower girls too. The bride was radiant and those bridesmaids gown were ones you wouldn't be ashamed to wear again.

I bet this was one wild wedding.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Brooklyn Writer's Retreat

Today is the first day of my writer's retreat. I'm not in a cabin in the woods, but in my bedroom/office in Brooklyn. We arrived on Thursday and for the next two days we went to work to not only make the house more comfortable, but also more functional. While I concentrated on cleaning, my husband bid the heavy work which included hanging a clothes line, assembling a bistro, and building my desk. He did a wonderful job so at the end of each day he was rewarded with a meal at the restaurant of his choosing.

The first night we went down the corner to the Italian joint so he could have his baked clams and Veal Rollatine, both of which were excellent. The next day he chose to go to his favorite roast beef joint, Brennan & Carr's. Wow, what a disappointment. We couldn't put our finger on why the sandwich tasted so lousy until we realized they have done away with the cheddar cheese melt and instead put a slice of American cheese! WTF?! The french fries were barely cooked, cold and again the renown cheddar cheese was missing. Not only was the quality lacking, but they raised the prices. Makes no sense especially since they were recently highlighted on the Food Channel or Travel Network. Why screw with a good thing? The last night he was to be in town we went to Joe's Foccaceria of Avenue U. I had heard hubbub that it wasn't the same since the owner married a Russian woman. I had a craving for the Sicilian meatloaf that I love, love, love. Not any more! It came with brown gravy! That's not Sicilian!!! Totally different, and not in a good way. Our friends had the stuffed artichokes which they said were bland not the same. We also had an order of stuffed mushrooms...bland and cold. No "wise guys" were hanging around and now I know why. One thing Italian men know is good Sicilian food and I'm sad to say it could not be found here. Sniff. Sniff.

Everything changes, and sometimes it's not for the good. One of my missions while I'm on my sabbatical will be to find us new joints to eat at. Of course the main mission is to at least get the first draft down on my Virginia story. I wrote the New York story in Virginia and now I seek to write the Virginia story in New York. It's not the "haunted" one, but another precautionary, modern tale which centers around the same family in my first book, Fractured Facade. Although this tale will not be about ghosts, I have to tell you since I've been in the house by myself I have heard my name called once -- it sounded like my dad -- and keep experiencing knocks on the wall, dresser, etc. Perhaps I may have yet another tale to tell by the time I leave here.

Anyway, I can't thank my husband enough for not only agreeing to my request to flee Roanoke, or to drive me here, or to complete everything on my honey-do list in two days, or to be at the ready if I decide I need to come home quickly, but for also holding down the house, business, family, and puppy in Virginia. I am so freaking lucky to have met a prince like him after a lifetime of kissing frogs, and I hope my efforts won't be in vain and that I will actually write something that will sell so I could help him out for a change.

This is my new "office."

As you can see my desk is nowhere near as grand as the one in Roanoke, but I'm hoping this change of environment will be what I needed to light that spark again. Too bad I have to wait for the cable company (they all suck, don't they?) to come so I can't get into my zone...yet. Maybe I'll create a photo blog of my Brooklyn tour from yesterday.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

I Hate Pumpkin Spice

pumpkin throwing up photo: pumpkin throwing up...eeeeww! 1366720440_m.jpg

The one thing I hate more than pumpkins is pumpkin spice. The mere thought of a pumpkin makes me want to puke. I can't stand the smell of them and the slimy innards make me gag. I would never think of buying or, GASP, making a pumpkin pie, and what's the point of pumpkin seeds? Even the dried-out salted ones are pretty useless. Damn, I even hate the color of pumpkin. Who looks good in moldy orange??? Yup, about the only thing worse than pumpkins is being subjected to the two month window of the "wonders" of pumpkin spice. The need to cash in on consumers' (not me) love of this offensive marketing malarky (what the fuck does "spice" even really smell like? -- I can name scores of spices and none of them smell like what is being shoved up our noses) has created some of the oddest and grossest "pumpkin spice" flavors and smells in every product imaginable, and some not imaginable. Why would you ruin chocolate?!

After a post on Facebook the other day complaining about my hatred of pumpkin spice my "friends" have been having a field day posting various pumpkin spice products on my wall. Go ahead check them out. I'll wait. My favorite one thus far is the Pumpkin Spice Tampons. I wonder if that one is true. I wouldn't be surprised.

Anyway, here's a list of 27 Pumpkin Spice Products That Make No Sense At All from Offbeat. The only one I would even consider trying is the nail polish and only if it doesn't smell like pumpkin spice!

What about you? Love it, hate it? What's the worst pumpkin spice product you've seen? And when does it end?!?!?!?!?!

Monday, September 15, 2014

10 Things I'll Miss About Roanoke

Just to be clear that I don't hate everything about Roanoke I thought I would join in the "fun" Roanokers are having on Facebook of listing ten things, or more, of what they love about Roanoke. Since I have a blog I'm doing it here and it's not so much what I love about Roanoke as it is what I will miss about Roanoke. Naturally, I don't hate everybody in Roanoke and the folks I do like already know who they are so I'm not going to list their names. For some odd reason some of my "likes" of Roanoke are not on the list of others...

1. The mountains. The Roanoke valley is beautiful and not a day goes by that I'm not awestruck by the surrounding mountains. Unfortunately too many of them are now dotted with cell towers and antennas. I hope the locals appreciate what they have, and fight for them. Had I lived on any of those mountain tops I would have fought tooth and nail to keep those horrible structures off. Ah, well...people love their cellphones too much to put nature in front of convenience.

2. The greenways. Roanokers are quite fortunate to be blessed with the rivers and creeks that cut natural paths through the valley. I love the Roanoke River for its beauty, attracting all sorts of wildlife like herons and turtles, and especially for its calming effect on me when I stroll along it. Of course, I would never, ever eat a fish from there. The greenways were a marvelous idea to get us folks up and walking. And Lord knows, with all the all-you-can-eat buffets and sausage and gravy biscuits, Roanokers need to walk more! The greenways themselves are a real plus to the valley. Wish I could say the same for the some of the people who utilize them. Too many high-speed bikers, dog walkers who insist on having their dog walk on one side while they walk on the other and then do not even pick up their dog's crap, parents who use strollers and insist on walking down the middle of the greenway, and finally, people who walk three or four abreast and then get annoyed when you try to pass them, make biking or walking on the greenways a challenge.

3. The library system. I have had good experiences with pretty much every librarian in the system, except for one or two nasty ones at the South County branch. I especially love the Salem branch where they are quite knowledgeable, have the oddest/interesting selection of films, and are on top of new books. If they don't have something you want, they will order it for you. The Virginia Room in the main branch of Roanoke's library have a great staff and a huge collection of reference material you can't find anywhere else. Unfortunately I have stumped even them on a subject I am working on. The one drawback is that the local newspapers have not been catalogued and put on film for their entire collections so searching for something can be quite time consuming. The libraries also have a lot of free classes and events, many of which are worth going to.

4. The weather. I love the four seasons of Roanoke. Winters aren't all that bad either. And a day after it snows either the streets are clear or the sun is out melting it so I never have been snowbound.

5. The parking. I love that parking is never an issue. I like coming home at night and knowing there is a spot for my car. I like going out and knowing there pretty much is a spot wherever I go. Even downtown, with all the complaints about parking, is still a "dream" compared to other major cities, especially Brooklyn and Manhattan!

6. DMV. Yes, the DMV. Unless you have been to a DMV in Brooklyn or Manhattan you probably think I'm nuts. The DMV in Roanoke county, even on its most crowded day, is still a million times more convenient, cleaner, and faster than a DMV in NYC.

7. Ross Dress For Less. Again you probably are thinking, huh? But, as a plus-size woman I love Ross. They are the only store that has decent clothes at reasonable prices for someone like me. I also get a lot of my hair products, doggie treats, housewares, shoes, etc. there. New York City does not have one Ross Dress For hiss!

8. Doctor's visits. Although I may be unhappy with a lot of the doctors themselves, at least getting to the office or hospital, is not a major pain in the ass. I can leave my house a couple of minutes before I have to be there and not have to add a hour or two like I do when I'm in New York.

9. The Mail. Yup, I love that I don't have to leave my house for the mailman to pick up my mail. And when I do have to go to the post office, the longest I've ever had to wait is like fifteen minutes.

10. Wasabi's. I've come to the conclusion that Wasabi's is probably the only restaurant I will miss based on just two things -- the spicy tuna sashimi and the Sumo Roll. That's it. I have been to every single sushi joint down here and in my opinion, they all suck, except for Wasabi. I'm sure I will find some good sushi restaurants in Brooklyn and Manhattan so I probably won't long for Wasabi's too much. Other than El Rodeo on Peter's Creek Road, because they have the cold sangria carafe waiting for me before I even sit down at the table, I could not come up with any other single restaurant that I will miss in Roanoke.

Well, that was easier than I thought. I actually did find ten things I will miss about Roanoke!