Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snow Day!

At 5:15, I awoke to the distinct sound of the BlackBerry vibrating on the bedside table...Mr. Sunnymead picked it up and I could hear the faint sounds of the recording on the other end of the phone...SNOW DAY!

For the kids that is. Us grown-ups still had to work today, but before I got started that alter ego of mine gave me a nudge. Seize the moment, said Mrs. Sunnymead. Head outside! Breathe in the cold air! Navigate the snow mountains on every corner! Take in the beauty of Central Park before thousands of NYC school children trample it!

So, out I headed at 8:15, with my youngest in tow. We caught the hardware store manager just as he was opening the shop, and luckily walked out with two of the last Flexible Flyers in the store. Mrs. Sunnymead was clucking with pride, thinking folksy thoughts like "the early bird gets the worm!"

I can't say there wasn't a little un-Sunnymead-ness in me on the walk to the park, "If I knew you were going to whine so much, I wouldn't have invited you," but once we got to the park, it was all worth it.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Celebrating Two Lives

"Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole...See George? You've really had a wonderful life."- Clarence, It's a Wonderful Life

It has been a week filled with celebration - tinged with sadness, but celebratory nonetheless.

The week was bookended with funerals, each for a close family friend whose life had been interwoven with my own family's for decades. Monday's funeral was for Big Tom, whose family lived across the street from my grandmother since the 1950s. Tom and his wife Rita were very good friends with my grandparents (both now gone)- there were lots of laughs around their kitchen tables, annual New Year's Eve celebrations, and frequent trips to visit my grandparents at their beach house. In fact, Tom and his family liked the beach so much, that they rented a house on the same block - so they were neighbors with my grandparents no matter where they were! Eventually, long after my grandfather died, and my grandmother was selling the beach house, Tom and his family bought it...and his own grandchildren grew up with wonderful memories of the place, just as I did.

When my grandfather had Alzheimer's in his early 60s, some friends grew distant, preferring to remember him the way he "was." Tom and Rita got closer. They watched him while my grandmother ran to the store; their sons picked up chores my grandfather used to do; they sang to him (Tom loved to sing); they laughed; they were there. They accepted that this is what life and friendship were really all about. Tom was a truly good friend and neighbor to my grandparents, as was his whole family.

The other person who passed away this week was my mom's friend, Sue. Sue had a harder life than anyone I know, yet she found great joy and beauty throughout it. As a single, working mom she raised three girls, the youngest with extreme special needs, who eventually passed away at age 14. She found love again with a kind, older gentleman she met at church, and they spent some wonderful years together before he died a number of years ago. She had breast cancer, Parkinson's, a brain tumor, a bad car accident, you name it.

But she never seemed to let it all get to her. Whenever my mom was too nervous to drive in the snow, Sue didn't hesitate to pick her up. She enjoyed her daughters and the five grandchildren they gave her. She loved the beach, and painted beautiful watercolors of peaceful vistas. She was another wonderful friend and I hope she's surrounded by her favorite view now.

It was important to me this week to celebrate these two people - who they were and how their lives touched so many others.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Invent Your Own Holiday

This week my little family celebrated Kitty Breen Day. What? You never heard of this important January holiday? That's because Mrs. Sunnymead made it up.

Kitty Breen was my wonderful, funny, enthusiastic, doting grandmother who died almost thirteen years ago. I wanted to find a way to honor her spirit, her sense of fun, and most importantly to make sure that my daughters knew about this special person in my life, even if they couldn't actually know her.

So here's what you're supposed to do on Kitty Breen Day --

1. Sleep late. Kitty never surfaced until at least 10, usually later.
2. Don't work. With the exception of a war-time stint and annual Election Day volunteering, Kitty never worked and she praised all who could also get away with it. (The fact that her birthday often coincides with MLK Day makes this requirement possible to accomplish.)
3. Reach out to family & friends. Kitty never missed a birthday or an anniversary of anyone in her tribe - there was always a card. She was a terrible cook, but a great entertainer, and loved having a houseful of people.
4. Celebrate. We always have a cake. Kitty loved celebrations - she even threw annual birthday parties for my doll, inviting all her friends and making them bring presents.

As usual, Kitty Breen Day was a special one this year. We made a cake - certainly not from scratch, as that would be very un-Kitty. We sang. We wore party hats. We blew out candles and made a wish. We celebrated!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Few of Mrs. Sunnymead's Favorite Things

Christmas was again a bountiful - bordering on obscene - affair. We were blessed with the presence of family and friends and I morphed into Mrs. Sunnymead, decking the halls, wrapping the presents, trimming the tree, whipping up hot chocolate (Swiss Miss - don't tell!), and even donning an apron!

Mrs. Sunnymead was delighted to get a number of presents this year that made her feel understood - "these people get me." Here are a few of her favorite things ( a few are birthday presents):

1. Round quilted placemats from Ballard Designs. Beautiful placemats in my favorite blue! They look great and clean up well in the wash (skip the dryer - it's not the end of the world if they go in, but they hold up better if you dry flat).

2. Beaded necklace from Anthropologie. My mom and I spied this one together a few weeks before Christmas, and lo and behold, there it was under the tree. I love these colors together - turquoise and beige-yellow - paired with crystal-like balls.

3. One Line a Day, Five Year Journal. Here's what's cool about this - first of all, it's my favorite color again. You write in just one line each day, but when you're all done with this year, you start right in on next year. In five years, you'll have a fun look back at what changed and what stayed the same.

4. Mismatched Silver Place Setting. I've long lusted for beautiful antique silver for my table, but there is none to be handed down in my family. Now, you can get someone else's family heirlooms from Napa Style. They come in mismatched sets - but that's part of the charm!

5. Gold Bracelet. This special cuff was a 40th Birthday gift from my parents - it's engraved with my special nickname that only my parents call me.

6. Box of Good Fortune. This clever idea was a 40th Birthday present from my cousin, Kelly. Inside this beautiful glass box are 39 gold dollar coins, plus 2 silver half dollars from my birth year, 1970 (apparently no dollar coins were made in 1970). She gave it to me with a note wishing me good fortune for many years to come! Love it! (she said she got the gold coins at the Bank and went to a coin shop for the 1970 coins)

7. John Derian Paperweight. I collect these beauties from decoupage artist, John Derian. This one is a simple egg.