Best of Boston, Girl Talk, Mothers and Daughers

The Staycation Vacation

The following is a re-post from July 2016.

Here in Boston, tourists abound.  I regularly see them taking pictures in the Public Garden, walking the Freedom Trail, milling around Faneuil Hall.  Beyond the city limits, they visit historic Plymouth and Salem, scatter all along Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket.  Sometimes I see them struggling along our cobblestone streets with their luggage, but mostly they look as if they’re having a good time.

At the risk of sounding like “Trip Advisor,” Boston’s a great vacation destination with its rich architecture, abundant historical sites and museums – not to mention great seafood.  In fact, not long ago when friends visited for the weekend, we went on a harbor cruise and took a tour of Fenway Park.  And of course, we ate delish Italian cuisine in the North End.

My vacation is coming up and, this time around, I won’t be getting out of Dodge, but I’ll surely dodge the usual travel hassles, lost luggage, and second-rate hotels.  I also won’t end up more exhausted than when I started, and I won’t spend a fortune doing it.  Call me crazy, but I’m taking a staycation.  I’ll sleep decadently late, go to the Museum of Fine Arts, meet a friend for lunch, stroll through the Copley Square Farmer’s Market, get pampered at my favorite Newbury Street day spa, and spend the day at Singing Sand Beach.

No matter where you live, a staycation could be the ideal way to spend your leisure time.  I’ll bet there are some places you’ve been meaning to go – a day trip, perhaps – or a show you want to see.  Maybe go hiking or biking, or try that restaurant you’ve heard so much about but haven’t gotten the chance to try.

Remember, like Dorothy once said, “There’s no place like home…”

Staycation 2018 was my first staycation in my new home.  It was not so much about sightseeing as it was about luxuriating.  I’ve not only had a glorious week, but my best friend came to Boston and spent it with me.  Instead of the Charles River, we had a view of the glistening Mystic River.  We drank sweet tea while lounging on lawn chairs in my backyard and nibbled on French pastries in a neighborhood cafe.  Our spa day featured a mani-and pedi- and a botanical face mask.  And we shopped until we dropped.  She left this morning, and I already miss her.  Who’s this best friend?  She’s my mother, of course.red poppy

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Life Lessons

Give Me a Ring

Give me a ring, okay?  No, not that kind of ring!  I’m not looking for bling, or a proposal.  I just want to talk – have a convo – a good, old-fashioned phone call.  Remember those?

As a teenager, I holed up in my bedroom after dinner, chatting on the phone with my friends, even though I’d seen them all day at school.  During college, the frequent calls with my family helped to ease the miles apart.  The giddy calls with boyfriends – “you hang up first,” “no you hang up first” – and the angst-filled conversations with would-be-could-be-might-be-boyfriends were something else.  Over the years, I’ve treasured the out-of-the-blue calls from far-away friends and favorite cousins I don’t see nearly as often as I’d like.  Whenever I place a call that I know will brighten someone else’s day, it gives me a lift, too.

Clearly, the e-mail and the text message have changed the way we communicate and those “the phone’s just been ringing off the hook!” days seem gone forever.  I don’t have anything against emailing or texting.  Each has merit.  The email can relay a large chunk of information quickly, and seamlessly.  And nothing beats a text when you’re running late to meet someone and you need to let them know.

But this past week, I got on the phone.

First, I placed a long-distance call to an old college friend. He and I caught up and reminisced, and an hour went by in a flash.  Then, a long-overdue call to a friend who lives only a few miles away but whose demanding work life, like mine, has limited her leisure time.  Our talk was validating and restorative.  And finally, I checked in on a friend I haven’t seen in nearly a year but who’s been on my mind lately.  When she shared with me the sad news that her father recently passed away, I tried to offer comfort, and wished I’d called sooner.

Remember that old television commercial for the phone company?  The tag line was “reach out and touch someone.”  I used to think it was corny.  Now, not so much.

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Girl Talk, Pop Culture

Finger Paint


What’s the one beauty product you couldn’t live without, even if you were stranded on a desert island?  BB cream?  Lash extensions?  Lip balm?  For me – no contest – it’s nail polish.  I can’t get enough of the stuff.  I’d drink it if it weren’t toxic.

When I was a teenager, the lady who lived next-door shared my love of nail polish.  She stored hers in the little egg holders on the inside of her refrigerator door because, she explained, the cold temperature helped prolong the shelf life of the polish.  By the time I was grown and had a place of my own, refrigerator doors no longer came equipped with egg holders, so I bought a Lucite organizer for my nail polish and have kept it refrigerated ever since.

My fascination with nail polish goes way beyond painting it on my fingers and toes.  When I’m on the subway, in line at the store, or at a social event, I always notice the nail polish other women are wearing.  At a recent family gathering, the lady in red had a clean and classic French manicure, and the child of the ‘60’s painted her nails midnight blue to match her cocktail dress.  My basic black ensemble needed a pop of color so I went with a vivid fuchsia.

In a January 2016 blog post, entitled “Man Buns” I went on a rant about the onslaught of guys wearing their hair up in little ballet dancer buns and hypothesized about what might come next that could be even more cringeworthy.  Jokingly, I suggested men wearing nail polish.  But this is no joke.  And as alarming as it may be, it has come to pass.

A few days ago, a millennial wearing the grad student uniform: baseball cap, graphic tee, khaki shorts, and sneakers stepped onto the train.  After he sat down next to me, he reached into his messenger bag for a book.  That’s when I noticed his finger nails were neatly painted a garnet red metallic that I’m pretty sure was OPI’s “I’m Not Really A Waitress.”  I was aghast.

I’ll give them their messenger bags.  And their ridiculous man buns.  But my beloved nail polish?  I have no words…

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Girl Talk, Pop Culture

The Perfect Little Black Dress

Some women are forever searching for the perfect little black dress.  When they finally find it, their joy is so profound that a national holiday should be proclaimed.  Me?  I believe just as there’s more than one Mr. Right, there’s more than one perfect little black dress out there.

My first perfect LBD came in my mid-twenties courtesy of a talented seamstress – my mother.  Sewn from a Vogue pattern, it was truly a custom fitted garment.  The simple jersey shift that hit just above my knee, with a boat neck and three-quarter sleeves was anything but simple because, when I turned around, the dress featured a daring, plunging, V-shaped back.  I wore that little number on dinner dates, on New Year’s Eve, to the theatre, and to one very memorable cast party with a group of quirky but hunky Shakespearian actors.

In my thirties, when all of my friends were getting married, I found the perfect LBD on a sale rack at Needless Markup aka: Neiman Marcus.  Reminiscent of the iconic long black gown Audrey Hepburn wore in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, this sleek, silk dress was ankle length, but with a deep slit up one side.  Even though I didn’t wear Holly Golightly’s opera length black gloves and tiara, this dress was magical, for it made me look taller and thinner than I am in real life.  It got me through the wedding blitz, and eventually I donated it to a young classical musician who needed a formal black gown for her performances.

My cousin’s upcoming wedding is cause for celebration, and for yet another perfect little black dress.  I was delighted to find a vintage-style, tea-length dress, embellished with appliques and lace, and a label that promised it was machine washable.  Although not my usual style, it was Boho Chic, like something Stevie Nicks would wear.  I liked it because it was different, and all was right with the world.  Until I washed it.  Despite following the care directions, when I took the dress out of the washer, I was horrified to see that the applique work had unraveled.  The dress was ruined.

With the wedding only two weeks away, I made the rounds at several fave dress shops.  Bad news travels fast, and one of the sales ladies had heard about “the woman with the shredded dress” and was eager to help.  The shredded dress turned out to be a happy accident because it brought me to my new perfect LBD.  This one is timeless, ageless really.  And since I’m now a woman of a certain age, timeless and ageless is a good thing.  This ladylike sheath dress is sublime, with delicate capped lace sleeves and the same lace yoke around the gently rounded neckline.  I will wear this one for a long time to come.

Just like the men who come into our lives, who are the perfect fit, at a particular time, so are these little black dresses.  Be assured ladies, this is no urban myth – there really is more than one Mr. Right and more than one prefect little black dress for the taking.

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Life Lessons

How’m I Doing?

One of the last things I do every night is take inventory.  It only takes a minute or two to ask myself, “How’m I doing?” I don’t actually use those words.  Rather, I think about my family and friends, and my place in their lives.  I consider my responsibilities.  My goals and my dreams.  Is this self-awareness?  If it is, then it’s both a blessing and a curse as I ask myself the important questions:

Was I a good daughter today?  A good sister?  A good friend?

Was I a good worker today?  A good neighbor?

Was I a good Catholic today?

Was I a good writer?

Was I good to myself?

On any given day, I fall short on more than one of these.  But it’s not for lack of trying.

Yesterday I helped a blind man in the subway – did that make me a good Catholic or a good neighbor?  I also worked late which made me a good worker.  But I missed dinner with my brother so I can’t say I was a good sister.

Over the weekend, I carved out some time for writing.  But a friend needed to talk and a lengthy long-distance phone call ensued. That made me a good friend.  But you can’t be a good writer if you don’t actually write.  Still, I think about other friends who’ve sent emails I have not answered, or kindly written comments to my blog posts that I’ve yet to acknowledge and post.  So am I a good friend, really?

The one that troubles me most is “was I a good daughter?”  For years, I took an April vacation and went home for a week.  My mother’s birthday falls in April, and my visit is the only present she wants.  But these past two Aprils I didn’t give her that gift, despite having ample vacation time.  Work conditions just did not permit it.  So I was a good worker, but I cannot say I was a good daughter.

Someone close to me who knows about my nightly reflection tells me I’m being too hard on myself.  Am I?  Or am I just being honest?

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Life Lessons

Daddy’s Little Girl…And Boy

Last month, I told a story about the robin’s nest on my front porch.  An expectant robin redbreast was waiting for her babies to hatch, and I, watching from my living room window, waited right along with her.  Initially, she was skittish and flew away whenever I approached.  Later, she barely budged from the nest.  I knew the baby birds would be coming soon.

What I hadn’t expected, but was delighted to see, was the arrival of a male robin in that crowded little nest.  He was tall and slim, his breast a more vivid shade of red than that of the female robin.  As she sat with the eggs, he flew back and forth, always returning with worms – yes worms.

I frequently checked on the birds and soon found the female robin still as can be, alone in the nest.  Or so I thought.  Much to my delight, I spotted two tiny hairless heads peering out of the nest.  The babies had hatched!  I imagined that perhaps one might be a girl, the other a boy.

The next day, the female robin was gone.  Poor thing, she must have been exhausted.  Was she at the bird spa, getting a massage and gorging herself on worms?  Now the male robin had taken her place, carefully tending to his offsprings.  I remained transfixed watching as the dad robin carefully placed a worm into the outstretched beak of one of the babies.  He was a good provider.  As he continued to feed the babies, I tried in vain to take a good picture of this amazing paternal display but it was not such an easy thing to capture.  It seemed no coincidence to me that the dad had arrived, had stepped in as caregiver to the fragile baby birds, just in time for Father’s Day.

A friend who knows a great deal about birds described what would happen when the baby birds were ready to fly.  They would step out of the nest and on to the solid wooden ledge and flap their wings.  Flap, flap, flap, but they would hesitate to take the plunge.  They would continue to do this, in the same way that a beginner swimmer stands by the edge of the pool. Then, when the birds felt ready, they would flap, flap, flap and take off into flight.  I couldn’t wait to witness this.

The nest has been empty for several days now.  No mother, no father, no babies.  It would appear they’ve gotten out of Dodge.

Even though I didn’t get to see the babies fly for the first time, I know they did.  Because when a father provides for his daughter and son, like my dad did for our family, the kids grow up and go out on their own.  The healthy ones fly out of the nest.

To all the great dads – and especially to my dad – Happy Father’s Day.

XOXOXO

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Dolce Zitella's Latest Post, Life Lessons

S.O.S.

It was supposed to be a quiet night with no plans, no obligations, and no work the next day. Because of my bathroom reno, I was staying at my brother’s place, and he was away for the weekend.  It was the ideal time for a relaxing, indulgent night-o-beauty.  The stage was set: charcoal mask treatment for my face, lavender scented Epsom salt for a soak in the tub, and all the implements needed for a professional-style mani-pedi were neatly arranged on the bathroom countertop.  Draw the bath and cue up Enya’s “Paint the Sky with Stars,” for I had created the perfect home spa!

Then something went terribly wrong…

I cut my foot using the type of callus remover that looks like a miniature cheese slicer.  At first I didn’t realize how deep the blade went, all I felt was a stinging sensation.  But a moment later, my foot was bloody.  I grabbed a wad of tissues and reached for the Band-Aids.  When that didn’t work, I stuck my foot back in the tub, under running water, and soon enough the bathtub looked like the shower scene in the movie “Psycho.”  I tried to save my brother’s gleaming white bathroom: watch out for the shower curtain, protect the grout, don’t ruin any of the good towels…  I didn’t comprehend the severity of my injury until 45 minutes had passed, the bathroom was in shambles, and I still couldn’t control the bleeding.  It was after midnight on a Saturday night, and I was home alone, stranded with no mode of transportation to get to a medical facility.   I can’t do this by myself – I need help.  I picked up the phone and called 911.

Within moments, my doorbell rang and two Emergency Service providers were lifting me onto a stretcher and into an ambulance.  I’d never been in an ambulance before, nor called upon a first responder for help of any kind.  The young man and woman who came to my aid wrapped my foot more securely, checked my vitals, and kept me calm during the long ride to the hospital.

I thought all I needed was a hand – for my foot – but they treated my injury with the same level of care afforded a life-and-death situation.  First responders are real-life super heroes who work in the most difficult circumstances, at warp speed, on a daily basis.  When they dropped me off at the hospital, I thanked them, but it hardly seemed enough.  It’s been two months since that night, and my foot has completely healed.  I wish I could remember the names of my super heroes so I could thank them again.

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