Thursday, September 19, 2013


There comes a time every fall when my husband looks a little more alert.  He smiles easier. He watches TV from the edge of the couch instead of sitting back. The fridge seems to have more beer. Yes…it’s football season.  Now, words like “pocket” and “rush” no longer mean something you put your phone in and what you do when you’re late for work.   Yelling at the TV becomes commonplace.  Cursing at the TV, even more common.  You’ve heard of “breakfast at Wimbledon?”  Well, now, because we are fortunate enough to live in California, we have “breakfast at Lambeau, “ or “coffee at Qualcomm,” since the games start here at around 10am!  Our intellect seems to take a slight dip, as shows like CBS This Morning, or Meet The Press are replaced by the sounds of sports announcers, marching bands and huge men butting helmets like angry bulls. 

And then there’s the channel flipping.  He can’t just watch one game. Doesn’t matter if it’s Saturday college, or Sunday pro.  Suddenly, my husband, who is all thumbs when it comes to texting, is a like my 18 year old daughter on her i-phone.  He deftly changes from game to game, from station to station, even watching 8 games at once with some “special” button! Some games, the ones he deems less important, he’ll record, and then watch later, fast forwarding from play to play.  Sometimes, he’ll switch back and forth between two important games. 

But when The Patriots play, it’s like a holy day.  He dresses in his official Patriot's jersey. The entire day is planned around the game, allowing for possible overtime…which is actually a bad thing, because it means the game is close and the mood in the house is decidedly tense.  The meal is planned. The time we eat said meal is planned.  There usually are no guests, or if they are allowed, they must be true Patriots fans…able to name, not only the starting lineup, but also the passing and rushing leaders, Brady’s total season completions (in yards), and his and Gisele's kid’s middle names. 

During the game, talking must be kept to a minimum, which is sometimes difficult when the Patriots play the Jets and we have our favorite Jet fan here to join us for the game.  If the game's a blowout, it's a relaxing day.  If the game is close, it is not unusual to see Jon change his if his position in our living room will enable the Patriots to score.  And heaven forbid the Patriots don’t win.  I will quietly tiptoe out of the living room and disappear for a good hour, until the appropriate mourning period is over and life resumes as normal…a bit more melancholy, but normal.  And by the time Thursday rolls around again, there’s a renewed feeling of hope and excitement.  And here we go again!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

DAY 6 & 7: Food, Family and Final Farewells

Goodbye to Boston, Hello NJ
Crashing at your house, by the way.

We arrived at my brother’s house on Wednesday afternoon, just in time for cocktails!  David is an amazing host and I joked about how I was expecting a gourmet meal upon our arrival; little did I know, he called my bluff!!
A small family BBQ turned into an episode worthy of the Top Chef!  There was steak teriyaki, duck a l’orange, seared ahi tuna, and homemade creamed spinach, corn on the cob, bottles of wine…I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but you get the idea.
Dad and his friend Lois joined us. I was so happy to finally meet the woman who seems to have helped my dad relax and mellow out a bit!  We missed Max and Nicki, who were busy being counselors at camp, but we got to hang with Jason, who I’m told actually spent more time at home those few days than he did all summer! We were honored!! 

After our best night sleep yet, we were refreshed and ready to enjoy a beautiful day. Unfortunately, the weather had other plans.  Apparently the NJ/NY area had been having two types of weather this summer: the usual hazy, hot and obnoxiously humid type, and rain.  Thursday was rain, which I guess was fitting.  Our first stop was visiting the cemetery to visit my mom’s grave. It had been my first time back since she died over 2 years ago.  It was Jessie’s first time here as well…just as it had been at Phyllis’s grave.  When my mom passed, Jess had an interview for a position in her music department that I’m convinced help get her into college. She was also so sick that she needed to be on antibiotics.  When Phyllis passed, she was in the middle of finals.  Jon and I convinced her both times that her grandmothers would have wanted her to stay where she was and do what she had to do, rather than fly across the country and put her life on hold.  We still believe it was the right decision at the time, but she felt so alone and missed on some sort of closure, for lack of a better word.  So, on this trip, she finally got that closure.  She was finally able to put her own pictures to our stories and memories.  We walked away from the grave, the rain mingling with our tears, and tried to remember when mom was alive and healthy and happy. 

Next was lunch with two of mom’s dearest friends while we were growing up…my pseudo “Aunts.” We walked into the restaurant where there were maybe 4 tables with other people.  Let me backtrack for a moment.  This was a family trip.  We had to make a choice because we had so little time.  We didn’t make plans to see friends this time, because we literally had 2 days in NJ, and 2 in NYC to spend time with our own family.  We reluctantly drove right through Connecticut and my own hometown, where we could have stopped and seen so many friends.  We promised ourselves next time. 

Ok, back to the restaurant and the four other tables.  I don’t have my glasses on, so everyone in the distance is blurry.  We go and sit down, and around the corner appears my very best childhood friend, Gigi.  Gigi was the matron of honor at my wedding.  Gigi was one of those friends who I didn’t call to tell we were coming.  Who feels like an absolute idiot now???  Yeah, me…that’s who.  Gigi was sweet, gracious and I begged her not to hate me!!  She didn’t and doesn’t and I love her for it. 

Lunch was amazing.  Catching up with my two other mothers, seeing them get to know Jess and bit better, and just being back in Suffern and my childhood for a few hours. 

Back to David’s and later onto a terrific dinner at a local Italian place where everyone knew “Dr. Gold!”  I loved it!!!  After dinner, it was laughing to Pitch Perfect!! Who knew it was a family favorite?!!

It was a too short but very sweet visit.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Today was one of the main reasons we came east. It was the day of Jon’s mom’s unveiling. For those who don’t know, an unveiling is literally the “unveiling” of the marker or tombstone on a grave, usually done around a year after the death.  No trip to a cemetery is ever easy. Memories come flooding back of the loved ones life and death. For some it marks the first visit to the grave since the funeral. For others, it’s the first time ever seeing the grave.  The whole family was there…sons, daughters-in-laws, grandchildren and even a great grand child. The cantor said and sung some prayers, the marker was unveiled, we reflected and then it was over. To commemorate the day, we all had brunch at one of Phyllis’s favorite restaurants on the water. And we took the wonderful pictures we always take when we’re together...all the grandchildren, and the three brothers.

The rest of the Boston part of the trip was the stuff of Kodak memories. Time spent at family’s houses, talking, laughing, and remembering.  Playing with Russell, the family’s newest and most adorable addition.  There were of course a couple of annoying, if not humorous events, such as the obnoxious lady who stole a parking spot from under our noses. Our hand gestures and choice words provided some needed solace.  There was the downpour we missed by seconds, where we were “stuck” in an ice cream store. Shucks. 

On Monday, Jon, Jess and I were tourists again. We walked the Boston Common and the Public Gardens.  We ate at a great diner in Beacon Hill, where I embarrassed Jessie by telling her to go save a table, where she was promptly shown a large sign on the wall telling the story of why they don’t allow saving tables.  Oops.

On Tuesday there was shopping on Newbury Street, Duck Boats and gorgeous views from The Top of the Hub. There was a baseball game at Fenway Park where we were lucky enough to sit in the Boston Herald box, and were treated to food, drink, great people, time on the field, & Jon meeting some of his heroes. Jon was our hero for arranging that special night.

And then, just like that, the trip to Boston that was a year in the making was over. Everyone was leaving to go back to their own lives.  But what wonderful memories we made in the short time we were there. Smiles and tears, miles disappear, together for a time…sublime.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Day 2 - Culture, Cabernets and Cannolis

It was one of those amazing days you’d like to go on forever.  It wasn’t a milestone or a celebration. It was simply. Saturday. But we were with our kids, the sun was shining, and we were going to be tourists in an amazing city.

Half of the family was going to the Museum of Fine Arts, and the other half was going to the beach…because they lived in Denver. Because there is no ocean near Denver! We live in California. Enough said. We’d all meet up that evening for a cozy dinner for 15 in the North End. But more about that later.

The museum was huge, and wonderful! Adam has an incredible new interest and appreciation in art.  Some of the works we saw took your breath away. Others, like a yellow line on a white canvas, confounded us. Of course we took the requisite Ferris Buhler pictures. Of course we posed for silly pictures with Ninjas and dogs. We went with Mariel, Josh and the new baby, and Jon’s brother Mark. Going to a museum with Mark is a fascinating experience.  Let’s face it. After an hour and a half, even magnificent paintings of random English rulers begin to blend together. One can look at only so many naked cherubs and heathens.  When we turned around to look for Mark, he was nowhere to be found. We’d be at the end of a room or exhibit, and there we’d find Mark, at the beginning, reading the history of the period…reading every plaque next to every picture. Mark is always on a quest for knowledge. It’s actually admirable. He doesn’t only want to know about the painting. He wants to actually feel what the artist felt. His wonderment is awesome.

Adam wanted to eat in the fancy cafĂ© in the lobby, which was way out of our price range. What did he care? He wasn’t paying. Jon and I ushered everyone to the cafeteria in the basement. We were paying. 

From the museum, we went to Faneuil Hall.  Jess had never experienced Faneuil Hall so I wanted her to get the full effect! It can be very overwhelming, especially on a beautiful summer Saturday, with tourists everywhere.  Damn tourists. Oh. Wait. We were tourists too, I guess.  We shopped, we snacked, we drank and Jessie bought sausage socks (don’t ask).

Then onto the North End where we met up with the entire family for dinner. The North End is the Italian section of Boston.  Italian restaurants everywhere. Summer festivals on street corners. You can totally imagine Anthony being called for Prince spaghetti dinner. The restaurants are tiny. Or so we thought. We were ushered in and kept going…into a back room with a long table set for 15. And oh my, did we eat and drink and drink! Bottles of wine, incredible food, great conversation…kids down at one end, parents at the other, just enjoying the atmosphere and each other.  When we were finished, we rolled out into the street and passed through the street fair, where Jon and Adam simply had to play the “shoot the water into the target and be the first to make the man climb the pole and ring the bell.” They always play this. One of them always wins. And Jessie always gets the big stuffed animal. He was a lion. We named him Mufasa. He would provide a wonderful pillow for me on our drive down to Jersey.
Of course no trip to the North End is complete without a visit to Mike’s pastry shop. We got on the long line, which actually moved pretty fast, until you got into the place. That was where all manner of civility stopped. People elbowing and shouldering to get their white boxes of cannolis. Those of us who suffer from claustrophobia, real or imagined, had to leave. So I waited in the street. Where everyone came out and proceeded to eat said cannolis right in the street, because there was nowhere to sit in the restaurant, and cannolis will wait for no one. It was awesome. We all left with smiles on our faces, powdered sugar on our mouths, and memories of an amazing day that will last a lifetime.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Day One...Planes, Trains and Automobiles

The trip was planned for over a year. Initially it was to be a joyous family gathering spanning four generations. Then, with the loss of the matriarch, it became a trip full of cousins, a beautiful new baby, closure for some, sadness for all and yes, joy at being together.  And memories….so many memories.

Friday, July 26, 2013
Meeting in Boston…or:
How To Get 4 People to a Temple in the Middle of Boston in Time for a 6:00pm Baby Naming when 3 are Coming from Over 2000 Miles Away and Another Coming by a 4 Hour Train Ride.

The day went pretty much as smooth as it could go, considering it began at 4am, and ended at about midnight!  We found the sure fire way to avoid LA traffic. Leave for the airport at 4:30am!!  Jon likes to get to the airport early. Especially if we have to drop off a car, shuttle to the terminal, check in luggage and go through security. He abides by Murphy’s Law when you’re trying to do so many things in such a short time. Apparently, Murphy also sleeps past 4am. Everything went like clockwork and we had 2 hours to sit at the gate. 2 HOURS!! I’ll stop.

The flight to LA was quick and uneventful, bags arrived in one piece and off we went to hop on the rental car bus. And Murphy woke up.  Every rental car bus came by. 3 times. Except for ours. Why does that always happen…to everyone?? The dude finally came and off we went. Kudos to Jon for having the forethought to book the car “express,” so we were that obnoxious family that bypassed the endless line and were told that our car was right outside and have a nice day.  

Our luck was back, or so we thought. We hopped in our car and proceeded to get caught in a traffic jam to end all jams.  Made the 405 look like a back country road.
Boston is notorious for it’s bad drivers. It’s even worse in terms of its roads, bridges and tunnels.  Here, we experienced 9 lanes, trying to get to a toll that has 3 lanes open, (during a Friday rush hour) which merged into 2 lanes to try to get through a tunnel with an accident that temporarily closed a lane.  Let’s just say no one moved, for a LONG TIME. Welcome to Boston.

Our next obstacle was to get to South Station to pick Adam up from the train.  South Station is in the heart of Boston. It’s 5:00 on a Friday afternoon. It’s a mob scene. And we’d rather not have to park to find him. Let’s just say I’m really not sure how we survived before cell phones. We called him, figured out where he was, told him to simply cross the 6 lanes of traffic, and we’ll pull over without getting a ticket and he can hop in the car.  Believe it or not, it worked. And there we were.

Next step, get to the Temple in time for our new “great” nephew’s baby naming. In the city, where they’re doing massive amounts of construction, where Jon always seems to figure out where to turn after passing the turn several times.  We then try to figure out where to park after being told there’s a parking garage that’s apparently hiding within the construction.  Miraculously, we find the lot. Miraculously, I’m not freaking out. Too much. And then we ran.

We ran into the arms of our waiting family. It was a beautiful naming, the baby is a dreamboat, and the Chinese Food dinner at our niece’s house with Jon’s whole family was scrumptious.  Then, a quick ride to the hotel where they didn’t give away our rooms, as I feared, where we promptly collapsed and slept like the beautiful baby we came to see.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Beal's Go To Boston...and New Jersey...and NY

We're off on that iconic ritual of summer...the family vacation. No relaxing in an all-inclusive Mexican paradise for us.  We're going east to see family! The first leg of our journey will begin at the ungodly hour of 4am, when we have to wake up and leave for the airport. Jon is in the habit of booking very early morning flights, and also needing to be at the airport very early.  Jess loves this too...beautiful sunrise, no traffic, breakfast in some no name cafeteria at the airport.  Me...not so much.

I plan on going to sleep at 8pm tonight, so I can function tomorrow.  Or so I both...getting to sleep early, and functioning.  Because after we land, we have to get our bags, get a car, drive to Boston's South Station and pick up Adam who is train-ing it in from NY, get to Temple Israel, somewhere in Boston, for my (grand) nephew's baby naming, go back to my niece's house for a family dinner, and finally check into a nearby hotel to collapse.  My fear is that said hotel will give our room away because we can't check in until very late. Jon assures me this will not happen. I assure him it better not. This is all also assuming that everything will go according to plan...which is of course terribly logical on a Friday afternoon in Boston.  Not.

After we get through tomorrow, it's smooth sailing.  Lots of wonderful plans, ranging from beaches, to museums, shopping, baseball games, seeing more family & friends, lunches and dinners...all of  which will also surely go seamlessly,  given that there are 15 people involved in said plans, ranging from age 6 months to 65 years. Piece of cake!  

After 5 relaxing (!) days in Boston, we'll continue onto New Jersey for more visits with family and friends. This portion of the trip does not involve a cast of thousands. A little quieter and more relaxing few days. I hope.  I anticipate lots of stimulating conversation, restful hours with the dog curled up at my feet, a dip in the hot tub, a game or two of billiards, some wonderful home cooked, gourmet meals, and alot of wine...not necessarily in that order. 

We'll end up in NYC for the last leg of our journey, our own immediate family unit of 4, cramming in whatever we can do or see in 2 days, and not looking like tourists as we're doing it.  Piece of cake.

In all seriousness, we haven't been east in quite awhile, and even then, it was not for the happiest of occasions.  So we're so looking forward to this trip, spending lots of quality time with both our families, who we cannot wait to see.  I'm also looking forward to writing about our escapades...with a caveat to family and friends who may be victims of my warped sense of humor. It is all written with love.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Gift "Rap" For Family & Friends

In this world that’s so crazy, making your mind hazy with everything we’re supposed to do and to feel, not knowing what’s real, while we try to deal with our latest ordeal. 
While the news skews, and gives us their views and we try to diffuse the horrors that our minds can not grasp…we gasp as we try to clasp onto those who can hold us up, who can keep us from going under, from being torn asunder and we wonder and worry and hurry to keep up with it all. Don’t fall. Don’t stall. You may hit the wall. And then?

You may have to stop. Just drop the latest techno prop and swap it for some actual face time.  Find your partner in crime and walk…talk…breathe.  Find your friends and cleanse your soul. Make yourself whole. Unwind, and find your peace of mind.  
Let yourself smile, if just for awhile, and then you’ll find yourself better equipped to come to grips with the script of your life that you write. 
Find the ones who brighten your sight, and make everything all right.