Kate: A Brightness that Can’t Be Dulled

For my extended family, this has been a very trying time. Two weeks ago my irrepressible, ebullient and exquisite step-niece died suddenly from as-yet unknown causes. She was 27.

Over the weekend, my step-brother, my former sister-in-law (I use the term “former” for the sake of exactitude because she very much remains a part of our family), my nephew and my niece’s fiancé led a tribute to Kate at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston.

The memorial service opened with a loving, honest anecdotal eulogy from my brother and closed with the tossing of flowers into the Boston Harbor. The women in attendance were given a tube of rich red lipstick, a favorite of Kate’s, who was a talented makeup artist.

We became a family more than 27 years ago with the union of my mother and their father, both widowed at the time. Between them they had five children, and 10 grandchildren, Kate being the third from the youngest. Despite everyone spread throughout the United States and one overseas, we have come together often, usually for happy occasions like milestone birthdays, weddings, b’nai mitzvahs and the occasional Thanksgiving.

Amazingly, our parents are both in their late eighties, and as a family we haven’t faced a tragic event in more than 20 years. And now this.

As Kate’s parents would want, we remember this young woman, not with sadness, but rather for the joy she brought to life. We picture her at every family event – most recently at two weddings – acting as the social coordinator, dragging her cousins onto the dance floor and moving spiritedly to the music. Her smile and energy filled a space the way helium expands a balloon. And so Kate lifted our spirits.

No life should end as young as this one. And no parents and sibling should feel such pain. As family and friends we can do little but validate their loss, love them with all of our hearts, and remember their Kate in all her vibrancy.

That, and rock her red lipstick.


The Social Parent

Over the weekend, a writer from eHow.com interviewed me for an article on the need for parents to carve out a social life in the midst of raising kids. It got me thinking.

When our kids are young and dependent on us for sustenance, wisdom, shelter, emotional support and car pooling, it is easy to shelve any social life that involves other adults. It’s difficult finding a babysitter for Valentine’s Day, for example. So let’s just make dinner for the family. Sure, I’d love to see Zero Dark Thirty, but what do I do with my 10 year old who wants to see … uh, (there are currently no G rated movies in the theater) but you get the point.

These plans are more often than not fueled by parental guilt. How can we go out to dinner with our college roommate and her husband when our 14 year old has no plans, is too old for a babysitter, and is going to be home alone? Even the offer of a let-loose ice cream sundae and any movie on Netflix does little if anything to assuage the guilt.

Often times, especially if we are a single parent, a child lets you know (insincerely) he or she will be “fine” if you leave them to go socialize with other adults. Translation: not really. As a result, if we have a child under the age of say, 15, we may feel the urge to bag the social event and hang out at home.

Not so fast.

My own children were very young when I first began dating as a widow. A few years later they were teenaged or approaching that milestone when I began dating after a second, brief brush with marriage. My guilt knew no bounds. I was a single mom and unless I sacrificed everything for my children, they would be unhappy. (This, of course, was my thinking. Not theirs.)

Fast forward to now. My children are young adults and in relationships (my daughter is married). I can assure you that if I didn’t have a social life now they would be miserable. Since they are happily socializing they don’t want to think that Mom is home eating an entire pizza by herself. They are relieved that I have been in a long term relationship for many years, and am rarely around on the weekends.

So, if you are where I was a few years ago, and you’re weighing a decision to go out with friends on Saturday night or stay home and watch the Disney channel, recognize that all you are doing is deferring the guilt.

And it’s not your guilt. It’s theirs.

Enjoy your Valentine’s Day!


My Daughter, the Glowing Bride


Recycling day is tomorrow. I just unceremoniously tossed into the can a large paper calendar on which I had written every single daily task associated with planning my daughter’s wedding. The wedding was this past Sunday. The squares for the rest of the week were blank.

Thank goodness.

I’m still floating about, feeling a bit tired, useless and a little unfocused. But I’m smiling, a big, loopy, uncontrollable grin. What a weekend it has been. All those words I’ve used to describe other people’s weddings: magical, spectacular, fairytale, I can now use to illustrate my daughter’s.

She was a beautiful bride. Yes, I know. I’m biased. So, no editorial comment, just description. Petite and fair with long cascading blonde hair, framing her blue eyes and her cherubic face (just like her dad’s). Her tiny waste cinched by a charmeuse sash that created definition between the embroidered bodice with sweetheart neckline and the flowing silk taffeta Cinderella bottom, all ivory and swishy above the crinolines. The soft train was graced by a floor-length veil trimmed in pearls and tiny crystals to match the bodice of the gown.

This delicate, exquisite princess was my daughter.

Her dad might not have been around to see his little girl get married but his memory was invoked by so many this past weekend. I am certain he and our old friend, Mark, were cracking open the scotch and watching from the balcony.

So many new words have entered our vocabulary: wife, husband, married, brother-in-law, son-in-law, mother-in-law, (oh yeah, I’ve finally turned into one of those!). Words so common, yet unfamiliar. Until now.

I love my new son-in-law. With all the wedding planning, from the gorgeous museum where the reception was held to the icebox groom cake that was personally delivered from a New York bakery, my daughter and son-in-law seemed blissfully happy.

And HE is the reason my daughter was a glowing bride.


P.S. Love you both very much.




Book Talk at Borders for Father's Day

Looking for something to buy Dad for Father’s Day? I’ll be at the Borders in Bryn Mawr, PA on Saturday, June 18, 2011 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Come chat with me about Dating for Dads. The Single Father’s Guide to Dating Well Without Parenting Poorly.

 If you’re a dad, come learn how to date while maintaining your wonderful, hard-earned relationship with your kids. If you’re a kid (whether 12 or 40) maybe Dad, his new significant other, and you can learn how to make this new development great for everyone.

And if you’re neither, come anyway. I’d love to meet you!


To Ski or Not to Ski

As ski season winds down, I have a confession to make.

Every year I trudge out to Beaver Creek, Colorado with my kids and sometimes a spattering of relatives and significant others, impressing all my friends back east. They assume that I’m careening through the Rockies with a finesse and confidence like any other robust, tanned, fearless athlete. They imagine my day ending with well-earned drinks while still wearing my ski outfit and sitting at an outdoor bar.

They got that part right.

I DID start out doing downhill 20 years ago when I first brought my kids out west to ski. I was a novice then. Despite lessons (including private lessons which cost enough to cover meals for six for the week), and many billable hours on the slopes, top-notch equipment and really cute ski clothes, I never moved out of the novice category. At least, in my opinion.

“Mom, that’s not true,” my kids would surely say. “You’re good, just a little slow.”

In case you haven’t skied before, “slow” is the kiss of death in downhill skiing. It means the people with whom you’re skiing are impatiently waiting at the bottom of a mountain, which took them 10 minutes to descend, and is now taking you 60 as you traverse from one side to the other in a singsong motion (picture a conductor ever so gently slowing his musicians down for the mellow part of a sonata).

Honestly – and don’t lie Kids – after one run with me I have always offered to let them go off on their own and “Don’t worry about me. I’m happy staying on this run.” A couple protestations, but then they’d happily trail off to the lift that would take them from the greens to the blacks.

Fortunately for me, I have finally found something that allows me to wear all my old ski clothes, and not pop a Xanax before heading out to the slopes: Cross country. There are still hills in cross country, and you can still fall, but much of the pressure is off. No downhill skiers are swishing by you at warped speed, making you feel old and encumbered. In fact, to be quite frank, you need stronger lungs to get through a day cross country skiing than you do downhill.

Beaver Creek boasts the most beautiful and largest Nordic park in the world. It’s 500 acres of pure snowy Rocky Mountain bliss, virtually untouched by humans unless they are on cross country skis or snowshoes. As far as the eye can see there are breathtaking views of the mountains and virgin snow dotted with wildlife prints. You do need to take a significant chair lift to get to the park; its elevation is 10,000 feet so it’s not for the faint of heights. But the views and the conditions are worth it.

And the best part? When you come down off the mountain, you can still meet all your alpine skiing friends for a drink at the outside bar.

Ah. What a great day on the slopes.


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