“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!

 

50 Years of Being Together!

50th Anniversary Picture

Last weekend, we threw a surprise 50th wedding anniversary party for my in-laws.  As I was planning for the centerpieces and decorations, I found that most craft and party stores had very little for a 50th anniversary party. There were a lot of things for a 25th, but not a 50th.

Fifty years is a long time to do anything, but especially to be with the same person every single day of your life.  Every marriage has ups and downs, but it seems that the key is going through life together.  Together, they endured hardships and pain.  Together, they shared the joys of raising two sons and working hard to make a good life for their family. Together, they created many happy memories with families and friends and together, they have remained.  For fifty years!

I got to thinking…how many people in my generation will get the chance to celebrate 50 years of marriage? Let’s face it. Once a couple marries, there are only two ways to not remain married – divorce or death.

As far as divorce goes, most people in our parents’ generation have stayed married (sometimes for the wrong reasons). The divorce rate is very high in our country and many of the people who are divorced are of my generation.  But I have hope.  I really believe that the fact that many people are getting married when they’re a little older may lead to more lasting marriages. People can get the partying and carousing out early and not want to do it once they are already married.

Getting married in my 30’s was right for me.  No way I was ready to settle down in my 20’s, and I don’t think my husband would have been either. I think you know yourself better as you get older and have a deeper sense of commitment and loyalty.  Many of my friends also got married in their 30’s and their marriages are also going strong.  That is not to say that if you marry young, it will not last, but with everything going on in today’s world, I think people really need to know themselves first and know what they truly want out of life before making a lifetime commitment to another person.

As for the “death” part – luckily, we are living longer and longer which also makes me think that celebrating 50 years is more feasible. With new medical technology and early detection, illnesses are being identified early and cures are more possible.

So, to all the craft and party stores that currently do not have supplies for 50th anniversaries – better get those shelves stocked!  A new generation of golden anniversaries will be coming in the next few decades!!  Get ready!

It’s Their Birthdays!

 

 

Today is a very special day in my husband’s  family. It is the birthday of three family members, one being my amazing husband (Happy 40th, honey!) Now, what are the chances that THREE family members would be born on the same exact day?  Well, birthday sharing seems to be a pattern with me.  My husband shares his birthday with his father and God-daughter,  I was born on my aunt’s birthday, my brother was born on my father’s birthday and my mom shared her birthday with my late great aunt. I think it’s pretty neat that so many people close to me share their special days.

Last night, as I struggled to fall asleep, I started thinking about birthdays and realized a few unusual things.  Six months out of the year, we celebrate multiple birthdays from both sides of the family (taking into consideration our immediate families, parents’ siblings, first cousins and their children).  Check it out…

March – Four birthdays

June – Five birthdays

July – Three birthdays

August – Four birthdays

September – Three birthdays

November – Three birthdays

Maybe it’s just me, but I think that is really neat.  Along with our love for family and food, Italian heritage and strong core values, sharing birthday months  is one more thing our families have in common – which is why I will say again that I am so blessed to have been born into a wonderful family and to have married into another.

 

 

 

 

On the Same Step!

Last weekend, I went shopping with two of my favorite people in the world – my mom and my niece. We love to shop and do lunch together and starting “picking dates” to do just that several years ago when my niece was about six or seven years old.  She shares my mother’s and my love for clothing, shoes, make up and hair accessories.  One thing that my niece liked to do was ride the escalator in pretty much every store.  The first time we got on the escalator, my mom got on the first step and my niece and I stood on the step behind her.  As we started moving up, my niece suddenly said, “No! On the same step! With me in the middle.”  So, my mom took a step down and got on her right side, as I stood on her left.  All on the same step.  We smiled as we looked at ourselves in the mirror gliding down to the bottom floor.  I thought it was the cutest thing that she wanted her aunt and grandmother on the same step as her.

My niece is now 11 (going on 25) and we continue to ride the escalators together when we shop. Even though she is older and much taller, we still ride on the same step.  I wonder how long we will do this. I hope it is forever, but I know that is likely not the case, for one day, she will not want to ride on the same step as my mom and me.  But for now, I will enjoy it every single time in every single store.  My mom, my niece and I…all on the same step.

 

No, We Are Not Having Kids

Blue question mark symbol

Gasp! What????

Society has been accepting of many things in recent years – women in combat, gays in the military, same-sex marriages, adopting children from other countries – yet the decision for couples not to have children is still something that causes people to visibly crinkle up their faces in disbelief. How could you not want to be a parent? Why wouldn’t you want children?  Don’t you want to be a mother/father? Don’t you want feel life inside of you? Don’t you want a little one to call you “mommy/daddy?” Don’t you want someone to carry on your legacy?

The answer to these questions (for me) is NO.

I knew I did not want children when I was in my 20s.  While I adored spending time and playing with my little cousins, niece and nephew, motherhood was  not something I wanted for my future.   When my friends got married and started having children,  I was truly happy for them, but could not relate to their yearning to be a parent.  As a teacher, I saw the best and the worst of parents.  I saw some people who were meant to be parents – they devoted their lives to their children, knew that they were the parent and not their child’s friend, and truly loved being mothers and fathers.  And then, I saw those who should have taken classes on how to be a parent before they brought children into the world.

When my husband and I were dating and things started getting serious, I knew I had to tell him that I did not want children.  Each time he would bring up  a future together, I would get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I loved this man more than anyone in the world and wanted to be with him forever. I lost many hours of sleep wondering how he would react when I told him I did not want children. What if he really wanted kids? Would my feelings change if we got married? I didn’t think so and I knew I had to tell him…and soon.  One night, we were driving to our favorite sushi restaurant when I took a deep breath and let it out. To my relief,  he felt the same way.  He said that if he ever got married, it would be to build a life with his wife and that if kids came, that would be fine, but not something he was planning on or needed for him to be happy.  Phew! I knew everything between us would be okay.

It’s a shame that others are not “okay” with our decision.  I still get people who question why we are not having children. I now stare at them in wonderment as they stare at me. I wonder why they think it is any of their business and instead of making excuses or jokes, I simply say, “We don’t want to.”  I will no longer give a string of reasons or make jokes because I no longer feel I have to justify why we made this decision.  When friends and family announce they are pregnant, I never ask why they are having kids, so why do people ask why we are not?  I think the worst experience I had was one of my husband’s co-workers said that that there was something “wrong” with a woman who did not want to be a mother (meaning me). That really hurt my feelings.  Even though I knew there was nothing wrong with me, I still felt a sting in my heart.

People need to realize that parenting is not for everyone. Some of us are perfectly happy being wives, daughters, friends and aunts. We are fulfilled and joyful and content. So, the next time you think that there is something wrong with a couple that does not want children, know that are doing what is right for them. And their future.

Charlotte

WARNING:  This is a little mushy.

My cousin and his wife have a little girl. It’s been some time since we had a toddler in our family, not since my own niece was two or three, which was eight years ago.  Now, we have Charlotte (and a baby brother on the way!).  She is a 19 months old and I love to watch her play, discover and learn.  Her grandmother was reading her a book and Charlotte would intently stare at the pages pointing at the pop-out pictures with her tiny little finger.  The next minute, she would run around the house laughing and chasing the dog hoping to put stickers on the unsuspecting canine. She has a sweet little voice and utters several words – “book” being one that she repeated often. (It’s no wonder since her mother is a teacher and her grandmother is a media specialist!)  She is happy and bright and ready for the world! It was really delightful to see and spend time with her, which is something we need to do more often.

When I was younger, my family was always with my cousin’s family.  My dad and my cousin’s dad are brothers and we were together all the time. I think we saw each other at least once a month and when we moved closer to them in Pennsylvania, we saw each other several times a week.  I am the oldest of my cousins, but never thought of them as nuisances. I always loved playing with other kids and being with my family.  One of the greatest things we all did was vacation together.  We all love the beach and would venture down to Wildwood, NJ, Ocean City, MD and various North Carolina beaches (where we would get to see my other aunt and uncle, whom I love dearly).  We would spend our days pretty much the same way every year, no matter how old we were.  The kids would get up and get dressed immediately, the adults would also get up and put their bathing suits on and then we would go out for breakfast. We would all eat quickly so we could get to the beach.  While my dad and uncle went into  the ocean with all of the kids, my aunt and mom would sunbathe.  After a while, we would take a break to eat lunch and often go to the hotel pool in the afternoon.  But, other times we stayed at the beach.  As we all got older, I would read a book and relax while my dad, uncle, brother and both cousins would build an elaborate sand fort.  They would spend hours constructing it with a trench in the front to keep out “the enemy” which was of course, the tide.  After most people left for the day, we would sit on the beach at that magical time very late in the afternoon/early evening where the sun goes down and the temperatures dip just enough to have to put something on to cover your bathing suit.  We would watch and wait until the fort was overtaken by the enemy (who always won) and then go back to our rooms, shower, and hit the boardwalk. There, we would enjoy the smells, food, games and rides.  We would go to bed exhausted but exhilarated and get up the next morning to do it all again.  Family vacations are some of my most treasured memories and I hope that there will be new ones made in the coming years.

I have always loved being around my family. They are easy-going and fun and we genuinely LIKE each other as well as love each other.  We like to laugh, play, and eat. We enjoy swimming, the sun, the sand, the beach and of course, each other. We not only enjoy reminiscing about old times, but look forward to making new ones. My cousins and I have entered a new state in our lives. We are all adults and are making our own memories, getting together for dinner and drinks as we realize that birthdays and holidays are not enough to really keep in touch.  Thankfully, the new husbands and wives also get along and have become wonderful additions to our family.

As new generations of my family come into the world, there are new memories to be made.  And I know they will be made together – as a family.