“Other” Families

Family means different things to different people. For me, family is everything. I grew up in a traditional family of four in the small town of Clinton, New Jersey.  My dad worked and my mom stayed home until my brother and I were in school full-time. She then worked only during school hours, so I had the luxury of seeing my mom before I went to school and when I got home.  We went on one or two family vacations each year, (usually to Wildwood Crest) and spent a lot of quality time together playing all kinds of games – both board games and imaginary ones. It was an amazing time in my life.

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Same Color, Different Dress

“Always a bridesmaid and never a bride” – was a phrase I heard and lived for many years.  After being in and attending over 20 weddings by the time I got married, I pretty much knew exactly what I wanted and what I did not want for my husband, myself, my girls, his guys and our guests.

I think our wedding was fabulous and I have never felt so much love from so many people in one room.  It was by far, the greatest day of my life, not only because I was marrying the man of my dreams who has exceeded every expectation I had for a spouse, but because all of the people I loved from my old friends and family to my new friends and family were all together.

I loved planning my wedding, but am certainly not a professional, but there are certain things that I think went extremely well.  Based on my many years as a wedding guest, bridesmaid, maid of honor and of course, bride, here are some thoughts:

1You and your husband should make the decisions.  While we greatly respected our parents’ opinions, what they wanted/suggested, was not always what we did. One of the issues we had early on when planning our wedding was deciding to invite children.  Many of our cousins and close friends had little ones and we had to decide whether or not we should invite them.  In the end, no kids under the age of 13 were in attendance other than our nieces and nephew who were in the wedding.  Our wedding, our choice. Done.

2. Choose a reception venue that lets you walk through their kitchen. I had never thought about this before, but the owner of Perona Farms, where we had our reception, invited us into the kitchen on a day when they were having a wedding.  In other words, it was cooking in action. It was not specially cleaned for our visit. The floors were not greasy, it was extremely clean and there were inspirational signs hanging above from the ceilings reminding the serves to smile and to treat their customers like they were family.   We were sold.

3. Let your bridesmaids choose the style of dress after you choose the color.   We’ve all been there as bridesmaids – feeling horrible uncomfortable in a dress that makes your butt look big or is totally not your style.  It makes for an uncomfortable day to say the least and it shows – in person and in all of the pictures you try and smile sweetly for.   I did not want that for my girls.  My girlfriends are incredible. They are from all different eras in my life and come from all different backgrounds.  My thought was – they are all different as people, so why couldn’t they be different as bridesmaids?  I chose a beautiful royal blue for my color and let the girls try on  different styles so they would be comfortable.  After all, I want them to have fun and feel good about themselves.  My only request was that their dresses were long and to the floor. The girls were very happy that they were able to choose the style and shape that fit their bodies. I also let them choose their shoes.  One of my girls does not ever wear heels and she was relieved when I told her that flats were fine, as long as they were silver.

4 Skip the bouquet and garter toss, especially if most of the crowd is older.  I will never forget my ex-sister-in-law telling me of a wedding she and my brother attended where a heavier, unattractive girl caught the bouquet and the DJ had to practically beg the single guys to come out and catch the garter.  I felt awful for her and I was not even there!  Once I heard that, it was out. No way someone was going to feel badly at my wedding.

5. Enjoy cocktail hour with your guests. My husband and I truly love and enjoy our family and friends and wanted to spend as much time as we could with them on our wedding day. We skipped the traditional cocktail hour with the bridal party and enjoyed it with our guests.  This also made it more comfortable for the dates of those in the bridal party who might not have known many other guests. We did get introduced before dinner which worked out great.

6.  Get the traditional dances out of the way first.   Right after you are announced, go right into the first dance and the dances with the father and mother.  It’s less painful for the guests and the dancing later on does not need to be interrupted.

7.  Play slow music when dinner is served.  There is nothing worse than when guests are asked to be seated for dinner and a great dance tune from the 80s gets played.  I am not going to lie, I have gotten right up from the table to go out and bust a move, much to the dismay of the waiters and waitresses who are trying to serve the food.  Make sure the DJ/band holds the best dance songs before or after the food is served.

8.  Dance! My husband and I enjoyed our wedding to the fullest. We were out dancing with everyone and did not go to the tables until towards the end of the night. Enjoy the party.  Dance to the songs you so meticulously chose! It’s your day!

9.  Step back a moment and take it all in.  This was a piece of advice given to me by several people before I got married and I am glad I took it! Take a minute and stop everything to look around at the people in the room. It is so amazing to see your guests smiling, laughing, dancing, drinking and enjoying themselves.  To know that they were all there for us made my heart swell.

10.  Know that something, inevitably, will not go as planned.  My florist forgot to put the three while calla lilies in my bouquet, there was a major screw up at my hairdresser and cocktail hour had to be held inside since the heat lamps were not working. Even the DJ played a song we specifically asked him not to play. Guess what?  Our day was still perfect for us and all of those little things were just that – little things.  They did not take away from or ruin our day by any means.  Do not let them ruin yours!


A List of Loves

List of Loves 001 List of Loves 002

The first man to ever give me flowers and candy for Valentine’s Day was my father.  I remember waking up on Valentine’s Day morning and running down the hall  to find a giant heart filled with Russell Stover candy for my mom and two little hearts of candy, one for my brother and one for me.  We would anxiously tear open the red cellophane covering the box of sweets and could look, but not eat any until we got home from school. No sweets before lunch was a rule in our house.

As I grew older, my dad would still get me little candy hearts and sometimes flowers and stuffed animals, especially when I was not dating anyone on Valentine’s Day, which was most of them (the little bear in the picture above is from my dad!).  Looking back, my dad was being really sweet and possibly trying to fill the void of my not having a Valentine to share the day with. I spent most of my Valentine’s Days with my friends, getting  dressed up in red or pink (to keep up with the colors of the holiday) and enjoying a night of dinner, drinks and dancing.  One year, we decided to go to Atlantic City to celebrate. Now THAT was good time!!

One year, however, I was feeling slightly depressed about not having a special someone to enjoy Valentine’s Day with.  Plus, I was craving chocolate and realized that if I wanted any, I would have to buy it myself. Damn! As I walked around CVS, I picked up a magazine that had an article in it on what single people should do on Valentine’s Day. The author said to write a list of people and things that you love.  Seemed easy enough so I went home, opened my bag of peanut M & Ms, and wrote one.  And it actually did make me feel better.  I found that list the other day and realized that most of the things on it are the same today as they were 11 years ago (except for a few, mainly #s 1 and 2).  I guess that means that the things on my list are lasting loves.

I decided to write a list this year and although it was tough, I narrowed it down to 10 people/things I love.   Here it goes…

1. My husband – The man of my dreams and more.  (Yes, I am going to get mushy!)  He is the most kind-hearted, helpful, hard-working, funny, loving, considerate, patient, romantic, compassionate and honest man I know.  He makes me want to be a  better person and no one had ever done that before.  I fall in love with him all over each and every day.  He is an amazing husband, son, son-in-law, nephew, friend and human being.  He is my best friend and someone I can always count on to make me laugh or smile each and every day.  He was totally worth the wait and ladies, he never made me cry. Ever.

2.  My Families – I absolutely love and adore my families – my American one (the one I was born into) and my Italian one (the one I married into).  I truly enjoy the people in both of my families and enjoy spending time with them.  I am so grateful to have each and every one of them in my life.

3.  My Friends – I am extremely blessed to have old and new friends who are always there for me.  We have  great times together and they are a wonderful support system. I like to laugh and have fun and so do they! And we always do!

4.  Dogs – Cute, fluffy, loyal and playful. They bring nothing but joy to others and are wonderful pets, especially Westies!

5.  The Ocean – Especially the Pacific and especially in Hawaii, though I also hold the Jersey Shore near and dear to my heart, especially Point Pleasant, Wildwood and Cape May. Going to the beach brings back so many wonderful memories from childhood to adulthood (is that a word?).  There is nothing like the sound of the ocean, the movement of the waves and the smell of the sea.  It calms me. It makes me take deep breaths and realize what a beautiful world we live in.

6.  Food and Wine (or other adult libation) – Really good food and really good wine bring pleasure to my taste buds and my tummy.  YUM!

7.  Elvis – I love his voice, his music, the way he talked, his philosophies and how he was polite and respectful to everyone he met.  I also respect him for serving in the US Army, unlike so many other artists and future politicians who bought or connived their way out of military service.  I also think his musical range will never  be matched. Ever.

8.  Nature  – The sights and smells of fall, a beautiful sunset, snow glistening on the mountains, animals scurrying around in their natural habitats. All of these things make me feel peaceful and realize how small we are in comparison to the massive world we live in.

9.  Music – I wish I could make music or even sing well, but listening to music has always been part of my life.  I can honestly say that I listen to music almost every day.  It lifts me up, motivates me when I exercise, and can bring out emotions in me like nothing else.  Music can make me smile, laugh, cry, gasp and dance like a wild woman.  I love it.

10. Dancing –  Not ballet or ballroom or tap or jazz.  Or even for regular exercise.  I am talking about dancing with my friends and husband. At a bar. At weddings.  In clubs.  I love it.  Thankfully, my husband likes to dance and is a good dancer, because when I get a few beverages in me, I do not want to stop and sometimes I cannot stop dancing when my favorite songs are playedGood times…

There you have it.  My list of loves. After writing this list, I realized (again) how fortunate I am to have so many people and things to love, not just on February 14th, but all throughout the year.

Because I Want To!!

This morning, after the alarm went off, my husband hit the snooze button, rolled over and wrapped his arm around my waist. I tried opening my eyes and from what I could gather, it was very dark, so I knew it was  early. Very early.  Too early for either one of us to wake up naturally, and we are morning people.  Seven minutes later, the alarm went off again and this time he shut it off and got up to shower and shave. I threw the covers off and left our nice warm bed to go into the kitchen to make his lunch and coffee and a bagel with butter and jelly for breakfast (at his request).

Many of my friends do not understand why I do this for my husband. They tease me about being Joan Cleaver (I am SO NOT her) and doing so much to take care of him.  It’s true. I do the cooking, cleaning, and shopping.  And I worked full time. Right now, I am in the middle of changing careers and have been home for a while so it is a bit easier.  However, even when I was teaching and was off in the summer, I still always got up to make him breakfast and lunch and to see him off to work.  Sometimes I would go out and walk/jog as soon as he left since it was cool out and other times, if I was tired, I would crawl back into bed and go back to sleep.  My husband tells me to go back to sleep and that I do not have to get up with him, but I want to.  He is the man I waited over 30 years to find and I want to do these small gestures as a way of showing my love for him. Plus he works hard and takes care of me in other ways.

Many of you reading this must be thinking that I should be ashamed of myself doing the traditional things that women did many years ago and fought so hard to break away from.  Well, guess what? I enjoy it!  Maybe because I do not have children, it’s the nurturing instinct coming out in me. Maybe it’s because I was raised in a traditional Italian home where my mother did all of the housework and cooking. And stayed home with my brother and I until we were of school age. And kept the house clean (along with me, her trusty helper). And did the grocery shopping. And the dusting and the vacuuming…you get the point.  However, my father worked hard to provide for us and worked very, very long hours.  On weekends, while I was dusting and my mom was vacuuming, he and my brother would take care of the outside work, though somehow, I was dragged into that sometimes, too. I don’t like outside work.

I am totally for women’s rights and am proud that we have come so very far in America. But I enjoy taking care of my husband and I love him and he appreciates it.  He always thanks me for cooking him a nice meal and one day, he came out and said…and this is a quote, “I live like a king.”  Although Ralph Kramden came into mind for a split second, that made me feel really good.  I try my best to keep our home clean, our pantry stocked and our bellies full.  For him and for me. And guess what? It works. For us. Quite well.

Just friends? Is that possible?

Last night, my husband and I had dinner with one of my best friends and his fiancée.  Robert (as I will call him) and I have been friends for over 15 years. We met in our late 20s and have been through many ups and downs with our careers, the dating scene, families, friendships, moving and everything in between. And we have never ever crossed the line of friendship. Ever. Not a kiss. Not a touch, nothing more than a hug. Honestly.

We met through a mutual friend whom neither of us speak to anymore.  And we have abided by her strange demand that the two of us “not date.” Although we hit if off mainly because of our sick senses of humor, it never occurred to either one of us to date each other. We were more like a brother and sister right from the start.  I know many people think that it is simply not possible for a man and a woman, especially when they are single, to not hook up, but take it from me, it is.  No matter how drunk or depressed we were, we never did. He is a FRIEND to me and I am a FRIEND to him and despite what the media and TV shows portray, real friends don’t hook up.

My husband also had a close female friend and when we first starting dating, I remember him asking me if I believed that a man and woman could be friends without it being sexual. I said yes and he told me about his friend, Krissy, and then I told him about Robert.   When I met Krissy (at her wedding), I will be honest, I felt a little intimidated and wondered if it was true that they really never hooked up. But then I thought of Robert and me and knew that is was true.  They really were just friends.

So, is it possible for a man and woman to be just friends? The answer is YES.  Even when one or both of the opposite friends get married, the friendship should continue and grow.  I am so happy that my husband and friend get along extremely well and enjoy hanging out together.  In addition, I love his fiancée’ and think the four of us are great together.  It was a great dinner and I am looking forward to getting together again with our friends.