Yesterday marked the first anniversary of my dad’s death.

It was also my first day back at work after six weeks of FMLA.

This wasn’t as dumb an idea as one might think. I think going back to work distracted me. It was kind of nice, although if Paul got a job tomorrow that brought in enough, I’d quit. It’s funny how even though I’m working from home, I miss Charlie–Paul pops into my office with him on occasion, but suddenly Paul’s his primary caretaker for eight hours and I barely see him in that time.

To mark the anniversary of my dad’s death, Brandon, Kelly, Eliana, and my mom came over here, we cooked for dinner, and then we headed out to the grave.

I’m having a hard time putting it into words–I tried to describe it to Paul and he got the gist of it, but I didn’t quite nail it down–but I was struck by the passage of time, especially watching Eliana walk around and put pennies on graves. Maybe what I had a hard time putting my finger on was describing the way things change, what my dad is missing out on, and how life moves on without our loved ones. Because one year ago, Eliana was just a few months old and Charlie was barely a thought. In fact, I had two thoughts regarding starting a family while my dad was essentially dying. The first was that maybe I ought to rush things so at least he could share in the excitement, maybe even meet the baby. The second was that he’d never actually meet my kids, and that’s what I came to terms with. Despite feeling overwhelmed when I did get pregnant, I was kind of frustrated that it hadn’t happened yet, but the part of my brain that believes everything happens for a reason thought about how much more difficult last year would’ve been if I’d have gotten pregnant sooner, especially now knowing what it did to me physically. I was exhausted and struggled to get around; just going from one end of our small house to the other had me out of breath. Bradon and Kelly had baby Eliana, and I, being the oldest and without kids at the time, was free to do things dog sit and help my mom get my dad settled in when he chose hospice care at home.

You can tell we’re new parents in the age of COVID because we were antsy to extend our time out by just a little bit, so we went through a nearby Sonic for ice cream. Charlie’s mood in the car is unpredictable–sometimes, he’ll sleep through the hour to my mom’s house, and sometimes, he’ll scream after 20 minutes. At first, I thought it was a matter of bad timing and that we were on the road when he was due to eat and so he was hungry and therefore threw a fit, but Paul has a theory that it’s because he can’t see us. There’s probably something to that. It’s one thing when Mom and Dad put you in the car and you promptly fall asleep, but it’s another when you wake up, you’re moving, and you don’t know where Mom and Dad are because you haven’t mastered the concept of object permanence. We have discovered he doesn’t like being stopped, so Sonic was taking a risk. And damn it if it wasn’t the one time someone orders two big bags of food and we have to sit and wait. And wait. I’m convinced that if we’d beaten that car there, Charlie would’ve been silent until we made it home.

So why are we driving an hour and a half down to Deep Creep on Saturday? Because we’re idiots!

Saturday 9: Mad About You

Unfamiliar with this week’s tune? Hear it here.

1) Mad About You was a sitcom that ran from 1992 to 1999. Are you familiar with the show? Were you a fan? I watched it a little bit. My mom was a fan when I was a kid.

2) The show was rebooted in 2019/2020 on the Spectrum streaming service. Do you have any streaming services? If so, which ones? We have a Roku, so I add a lot of free channels through that, but we also have Hulu and Netflix right now. To avoid paying too much money and being bombarded with content, we take it one at a time, so before our next Hulu charge, I’ll put that on hold and probably reactivate the CBS streaming service for more Twilight Zone.

3) The series revolved around Manhattan newlyweds Paul and Jamie Buchman. They met at a newsstand, where they were both purchasing The New York Times. With so many publications online, newsstands are now uncommon. When you want to purchase a printed newspaper or magazine, where do you go? Probably the closest book store. I think there are a couple convenience stores down in town, too, that would be promising.

4) Paul is played by Paul Reiser. He created the series because he believes marriage is a tough but satisfying adventure. He and real-life wife Paula have been married for more than 30 years. They met when she was a waitress at the comedy club where he was performing. Have you ever waited tables? Nope.

5) Helen Hunt won four Emmy Awards as Jamie. Over 10 million people watch the Emmys each year. She also won an Oscar, which has an annual viewership of twice that. Therefore huge audiences witnessed Helen’s acceptance speeches. Are you comfortable speaking in public? I get really nervous, so I guess technically, no, but I do a decent job of it. I don’t know how evident my nerves are, but I did ace my public-speaking class in college and I work up the nerve for it sometimes. I’ve done a couple readings at my alma mater, and I spoke at my dad’s funeral last year.

6) During the opening credits, Paul and Jamie are sharing an ice cream bar. When did you most recently have ice cream? Yesterday, I think? Definitely within the last two days.

7) Paul and Jamie’s best friends were another couple, Fran and Mark. Eventually Fran and Mark divorced, and Paul and Jamie worked at being friends with both of them. Have you been friends with a couple who split? Did you manage to stay friends with both of them? I think of the couples we’ve been friends with who did split, we kind of took the side of whoever we were friends with first, and generally, their significant other kind of sucked anyway–they were unlikeable and difficult or cheated or something. There was a never a desire to even try to remain friends with both. It was kind of like, “Good riddance.” There have been a few people over the years I would’ve liked to have stayed in touch with, though, but I think when someone dates someone in your friend group, you feel like you can’t.

8) In 1992, when Paul and Jamie were playing New Yorkers, real New Yorkers were following the trial of mobster John Gotti. Mr. Gotti acquired many nicknames, including The Teflon Don, The Dapper Don and Black John. Is there anyone in your life that you call by a pet name or nickname? We call our newborn baby Baby Bear because of how he kind of grumbles and growls when he breastfeeds. My mom calls my niece, Eliana, Miss Ellie.

9) Random question  — What subject do you wish you knew more about? Either science or math. With science, my brain just doesn’t retain it and my husband and his co-workers are in science fields, so it would be nice to be able to keep up with work talk a little better. But to their credit, they’re always willing to explain something so I understand what they’re talking about. With math, I’m capable but go slow. And in both cases, certain types of people tend to treat you like you don’t know anything at all if you’re not great at it.

Friday 5: Polarity

  1. What are the dumbest and smartest things you did this week? Dumbest was probably skipping a round of breastfeeding and opting to have my husband give the baby formula instead, dumb mostly because while the formula keeps him fed and happy just fine, skipping can mess with my milk supply and can get uncomfortable. But it was also the smartest thing I did, because I was exhausted and needed the sleep. I’m no good to any of us if I’m struggling.
  2. What are the worst and best things you ate this week? In terms of health, the best was salad and the worst was a Primanti’s sandwich, which for those who have never seen a food-related TV show about Pittsburgh is piled with fries and coleslaw. In terms of quality, Paul experimented with trying to put mango in a pie and although it tasted good, the mango texture was like mush and I was not a fan. But the blackberry pie turned out great.
  3. When this week were you unhappiest and when were you happiest? Unhappiest was probably late at night in the depths of breastfeeding–everyone who told me you have to be committed wasn’t kidding, because getting up every three hours to nurse isn’t easy. But the tradeoff is the happiest moments of the week were baby snuggles and the moments that he’s flashing tiny smiles. We’re trying to tease more out of him, but he’s only just starting to do it.
  4. What did you have too much of this week, and what did you have not enough of? I hesitate to say we have too many blackberries because the result is homemade jam and pie, but damn, we have a lot of blackberries. Maybe too many dirty diapers. I definitely haven’t had enough sleep, though. That’s a given.
  5. What are you dreading in the next seven days, and what are you eagerly anticipating? I go back to work on Monday and I wouldn’t say I’m dreading it, but I’m definitely not looking forward to it. At least I work from home. Monday also happens to be the first anniversary of my dad’s death, and my brother and his family plus my mom are coming over, he’s making us something to eat, and then we’re visiting the grave. I guess I’m anticipating the weekend already–my brother and his family are getting a condo in Deep Creek, Maryland, for the weekend, and on Saturday, we’re going down, as well as my mom and my sister-in-law’s siblings, and we’re spending the day together. Weather permitting, an old co-worker of my mom’s is taking us out on his boat.

From Friday 5.

We have a large crop of blackberries at the back of the yard.

Paul’s been going out and picking berries almost daily, every other day at least, and coming back inside with at least a few cups’ worth. I commented the other day that I don’t remember having this many berries before, and he reminded me that two years ago we were still in the process of moving in and last year, my dad was in the hospital, pretty much dying. How things change in a year. Our siding was being redone then, too. Our niece, Eliana, was just a couple months old, and I remember being hyper aware of the fact that my dad would never live to see me have my own kids.

Now here we are with Charlie, closing in on six weeks old.

Paul started putting the blackberries to use by making a pie, on his birthday, of all days. We’re still staying pretty secluded because of coronavirus, so we stayed in and my mom stopped by for a visit. I felt bad that we didn’t do anything and that he even spent his birthday making pie and cooking fish for himself and my mom for lunch, but he seemed to enjoy it. I owe him a gift. I refuse to go shopping right now, plus things just kind of snuck up on me with a new baby. But I know what I’m gonna get him.

We went to my mom’s on Friday for one of my aunts to meet Charlie, and she brought one of my cousin’s little boys along with her. He’s been bugging his mom for a new baby, even though he has a little brother, and he sat and sort of held Charlie for a little bit and had a good time running around with my mom’s dog. We left with my dad’s canning stuff, then did our usual stop at Paul’s parents’ house.

Paul’s sister Julie came into town for a bridal shower–I refused to go–but we told her to go ahead and stop by in the morning before she went to meet Charlie. Frankly, for me anyway, doing anything before about early afternoon is a struggle, but that’s what afternoon naps are for! She and Michael hung out for a little bit, and she brought homemade burp cloths with her. They’re amazing. The night before, they dropped off a TV stand in our driveway that a friend of hers was getting rid of. We’re still in that awkward phase where a lot of our furniture is mismatched hand-me-downs, but the TV stand was a real upgrade from the TV just sitting on a coffee table. It allowed us to rearrange things a bit in a way that feels bigger and is a little more functional and organized. One day we’ll buy a nice, new living-room set, but for now, I’m focused on paying off the new siding.

On Sunday, Paul rode out and picked up his sister Emily to help us start canning. She’s done it, so she was able to guide Paul through the process. I mostly breastfed Charlie. But the end result was about a dozen jars of blackberry jam that we’ve already started giving away.

We stopped at my mom’s yet again Monday, this time mostly to help sort through junk in her basement. Brandon and Kelly went over with Eliana and Brandon made lobster mac ‘n’ cheese, while we took over homemade cookies and yet another blackberry pie. The cousins got to interact a little bit, Paul took a nap, and we left with two boxes of my old stuffed animals that I’m mostly likely just gonna get rid of.

We intended to stop by my godmother’s house to let her meet Charlie and give her her birthday present, but the basement project took longer than we wanted plus Paul managed to spill a bunch of powdered formula as we were packing up to go, and by then Kimmie was heading out for a birthday dinner. So we’re planning to try again in a couple days.

It’s my last week of leave, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. Part of me wants to go back to work and we definitely need the money, but part of me would be quite content to take the full 12 weeks of FMLA I’m entitled to. At least I’ll be working from home.

Saturday 9: Moonlighting

Unfamiliar with this week’s tune? Hear it here.

1) Moonlighting was an award-winning comedy-drama that ran from 1985 to 1989. Are you familiar with the show? Were you a fan? I’m familiar with it, but I never watched it.

2) The series revolved around The Blue Moon Detective Agency in Los Angeles. There have been countless TV shows and movies about detectives and their cases, yet Crazy Sam doesn’t know anyone who has ever hired a private investigator. How about you? Have you ever had anything or anyone investigated? Nope.

3) The agency was named Blue Moon because one of the owners, Maddie Hayes, was a model known as The Blue Moon Girl, famous for promoting Blue Moon Shampoo. If we were to rename their detective agency based on the shampoo you most recently used, what would it be called? New Wash, which, by the way, I highly recommend, but it is expensive!

4) Cybill Shepherd played Maddie Hayes. Cybill believes we can all find romance many times and said she considers the concept of one true love as “dramatic treacle.” Do you agree? Oh, yeah. I think we all have multiple true loves/soulmates. The idea that we all only have one person in the whole world that we’re perfectly matched with is silly to me.

5) David Addison was played by Bruce Willis. At the beginning of his career he couldn’t support himself as a actor and held down part-time jobs as a security guard, shuttle bus driver and bartender. How many different occupations have you had? Three if you count dishwashing in the restaurant where my dad worked when I was about 10.

6) The Moonlighting theme was co-written and performed by Al Jarreau. While in college, Al planned on being a career counselor. Yet once he began performing with a jazz trio, he knew that music was where his heart was. Tell us about a time you found joy from an unexpected source. So there’s Canadian show from the ’90s called The Red Green Show. At some point when my husband and I were dating, I watched clips of it at his parents’ house–I can’t remember if it was his idea or if it was something his dad or one of his brothers happened to mention. He didn’t think I’d like it, and on paper, it’s not at all a show I’d enjoy. It’s a sketch comedy type show following a bunch of guys at a hunting lodge, so I was expecting really kind of sexist humor and instead ending up really enjoying it and finding it to be quite funny. My husband and I are now working our way through the series on YouTube.

7) Moonlighting was created by Glenn Gordon Caron. ABC gave him the opportunity based on his work on Remington Steele and Taxi. Of these three shows — Moonlighting, Remington Steele and Taxi — which would you prefer to binge watch? Man, I don’t know. None? I don’t like binge-watching. Like, at all.

8) In 1985, the year Moonlighting premiered, Coca Cola introduced The New Coke. It was not successful and disappeared from store shelves quickly. What’s the most recent beverage you drank? Milk.

9) Random question  — Each day, do you put more time into improving your mind or your appearance? My mind, even if it doesn’t feel like it. I’m on maternity leave and work from home anyway, so I’m generally makeup-free and in pajamas, but I almost always either write, read, or do both every day, even if it’s in small doses.

Friday 5: State Change

  1. What recently caused you to boil? I wouldn’t call it boiling, but well-meaning advice and comments on child-rearing have been frustrating, particularly from my in-laws. I anticipated it, but that doesn’t really make it better. Their youngest child is 18, and a lot has changed in 18 years. We’re following what our pediatrician and the nurses in the hospital told us, which is that newborns need fed every three hours, which means waking them up to feed them. Our nephew is a few months older than our son and is still feeding this way, and apparently, my mother-in-law thinks they’re feeding him too much because obviously since that’s not what she did with her kids, it’s wrong.
  2. What often causes you to freeze? In-laws questioning the advice of pediatricians. It hasn’t happened in a while, but my mother-in-law also has a way of making rude comments that can catch you off guard, and even after 10 years with my husband, I still struggle with navigating them.
  3. When did something evaporate into thin air? I bought this little smart sock that alerts you to changes in the baby’s heart rate and oxygen levels, and we’ve managed to lose the little cord that charges it.
  4. What recently caused you to melt? My kid smiling for the first time! Although admittedly, it might have been gas. But still, he looked super cute.
  5. Among United States you haven’t visited, which would you most like to check out next? Any one with a beach! Although that mostly leaves parts of the south and, like, California. I think I’ve made my way down most of the East Coast.

From Friday 5.

Saturday 9: The Love Boat

Unfamiliar with this week’s tune? Hear it here.

1) The Love Boat ran from 1977 to 1987. It was in the Top 10 for seven of those 10 seasons. Are you familiar with the show? Were you a fan? I’m familiar with it, but I’ve never watched it.

2) Every week, viewers followed The Pacific Princess as she set sail to a glamorous destination. Have you ever taken a cruise? If so, where did you go? I haven’t.

3) Gavin MacLeod played Captain Steubing. Born Allan See, he came up with the stage name by combining the first name of a fictional character he admired, and the last name of a teacher who influenced him. Using his formula, give yourself a stage name. For example, Sam would be Hermione Hart (Hermione from Harry Potter; Hart for her Kindergarten teacher). Man, I can’t think of a good one!

4) After the series ended, Fred Grandy (aka “Gopher”) went on to become a Congressman from Iowa and then CEO of Goodwill Industries. If you had a bag of gently-used items to donate, where would you take them? Goodwill.

5) Ted Lange is best known for his role as the ship’s bartender, Isaac. But he began his career performing the classics and appeared at Colorado Shakespearean Festival and London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Let’s class up this joint. Give us a little Shakespeare.  I’d like to start by saying my favorite Shakespeare play is Much Ado About Nothing. I had to memorize Shakespeare a couple times in school and give you as much of the opening of Romeo and Juliet as I can remember: Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona where we lay our scene…something something where civil blood makes civil hands unclean…something something a pair of star-crossed lovers take their life…

6) Bernie Kopell played the ship’s doctor, Adam Bricker. Kopell first appeared on TV in 1961 and was a regular on Get Smart and That Girl, and he’s still acting today. But Love Boat was, by far, his favorite role. Working on the show was “absolute heaven” because he was paid to travel the world and meet his acting idols, like Oscar winners Greer Garson, Joan Fontaine and Eva Marie Saint, who appeared on the show. When you think of the best job you have ever had, what made it so good: the pay, the location, the people you met, or the work itself? I’d say my freelance work writing about music was my favorite, definitely because of the work itself.

7) Lauren Tewes played Cruise Director Julie McCoy. Today she lives in Seattle, appearing in local theater and — between acting assignments — working as a chef for a catering service. Have you hosted dinner for more than 8 people? If yes, do you remember what you served? Not dinner, but we’ve had parties for groups of that size or larger. I think once, my husband made pulled pork for sandwiches, and I forget what my own contribution was.

8) For the first nine seasons, the theme was sung by Jack Jones. The Grammy-winning singer says one of his career highlights playing Sky Masterson onstage in Guys and Dolls. In his late 50s at the time, had had to go outside his comfort zone, dancing and acting as well as singing before a live audience. Tell us about something new you tried recently. Does childbirth count?

9) Random question  — Which would you rather receive as a gift: one $500 wristwatch, or five $100 wristwatches? One. I’d never wear it anyway, so I’d probably return it and get that money.

Friday 5: Scattergories, Part 10

My letter is “t”…after originally getting “z,” and no way.

  1. What’s something in your pantry, beginning with the letter? Tea. Tofu, although that’s technically in the fridge. And now that I think about it, we may be out of that, actually.
  2. What’s something in your car, beginning with the letter? Travel mugs that are empty. I had to think for a second because I haven’t actually been in my car in weeks. Thanks, COVID! (Don’t worry, my husband has made sure to at least start it so the battery doesn’t die. Again.)
  3. What’s something you miss, beginning with the letter? Travel! Thanks, COVID!
  4. What’s a character trait you admire but lack, beginning with the letter? Tenderness, maybe? I don’t think I lack it entirely, but I am not known for it.
  5. What’s a regular inconvenience, beginning with the letter? Traffic, but that doesn’t really count since I’m not leaving the house much. Thanks, COVID!

From Friday 5.

One of the nice things about being on leave is we have no real commitments, so we’re able to do things on weekdays we normally wouldn’t. Last Monday, Brandon and Kelly took Eliana over to my mom’s, and since we had nothing going on, we decided to join for kind of a cousin playdate, except not quite since Charlie mostly just eats, sleeps, and poops.

We had a nice lunch, Charlie got passed around among the adults, and Eliana, being over a year old now, was wide awake and playing and laughing and having us laughing at her. She was cute with Charlie. She’s too little to do much, but she can say “baby” and she would touch his hair and his hands when she was close to him.

Since both sets of grandparents live about 20 minutes apart, I figure at least right now while we have ample free time, we ought to keep things fair, so if we’re planning to see one side of the family, I’ve been trying to go see the other, too. So later that afternoon, we went to Paul’s parents’ house, had a small dinner, and once again passed Charlie around.

This kind of repeated this week, too. This time, Loretta, a sort of grandmother figure to Paul and his siblings, was celebrating a birthday at his parents’ house, so knowing we’d be there in the evening, we started with a visit with my mom in the early afternoon. It was more of the same–food (Taco Bell) and not so much passing the baby around as my mom holding him nearly the entire time we were there. At Paul’s parents’, dinner, cake, and passing the baby around.

The big thing that comes up with a newborn is lack of sleep for the parents, and for the most part, I think we have a good rhythm down. They tell you to sleep when the baby sleeps, but as another mom I know put it, that’s hard to do when so many other things need done around the house. He’s three weeks old and I only just had a hot minute to wash all the towels that got used since before he was born yet. So generally, I go to sleep around the same time I always have and Paul stays up a little bit later, and I breastfeed him every three hours while Paul prepares his supplemental bottle of formula. Since our sleep is being interrupted, we either normally sleep pretty late or nap during the day, which doesn’t happen if we’re running off to see family. So by the time we left to go home Sunday evening, I had a pretty bad headache that I attributed to being tired, and I asked Paul if he could handle the baby to give me a little more uninterrupted sleep time.

I woke up somewhere in the wee hours of the morning with godawful pain around my left eye and some congestion in my left nose, and my first thought was, “Fuck me, I’m coming down with a sinus infection, and at the worst possible time.” (My second thought was, “Fuck me, I have the ‘rona.”) I needed to do something about it, so I took a Benadryl–which meant no breastfeeding for at least 24 hours. And since I felt so crappy on top of that, Paul had a night of baby feedings all on his own, until I woke up in the morning feeling fine, by some miracle. There’s a tiny bit of lingering pain, but nothing a little more sleep won’t solve. And not breastfeeding even for just a few hours has been uncomfortable as hell, and if not for the fact that I’m positive I’d be worse off without the Benadryl, I’d say never again. He and I are probably both looking forward to when I’m in the clear to give him a boob.

At this point, I’m about halfway through my leave. I could go longer if I wanted to, but with Paul unemployed, it’s probably not the best option. Plus working from home, even though I won’t be able to tend to him while I’m working, I’ll still be around and don’t feel like I’m going back too soon or missing too much time with him. I am concerned, though, that it’ll make it even harder for me the first time I have to be away from him.


Saturday 9: Flipper

Unfamiliar with this week’s tune? Hear it here.

1) Flipper ran for three seasons, from 1964 to 1967. Are you familiar with the show? Were you a fan? I’m familiar with it but was never a fan.

2) Brothers Sandy and Bud consider a bottle-nosed dolphin, named Flipper, their pet. Do you currently share your home with any animals? Two cats, Robin and Sarge. Robin’s black with some white patches on her chest and tummy, and Sarge is a mackerel tabby.

3) Bud and Sandy’s dad was Chief Warden Porter Ricks of the fictional Coral Key Marine Preserve. In reality, the show was filmed in Miami and Key Biscayne. When were you last in the ocean? Which ocean was it? I think it’s coming up on two years ago now, most unfortunately, when we went to a wedding in Virginia Beach. We took a few extra days off of work and made it a mini vacation. It was the off season, too, but still pretty hot out, so we got the fun of the beach experience without the crowds.

4) There was no one single “Flipper.” In close-ups, the role was played by a dolphin named Susie. While Susie was good at interacting with people, she had trouble with stunts, and sometimes a male dolphin named Clown was brought in for action sequences. Do you consider yourself more social, like Susie? Or are you more athletic, like Clown? More social, if I have to pick.

5) Without looking it up, do you know the difference between a dolphin and a porpoise? Nope.

6) Flipper wasn’t just a TV pet. He was an industry! During the show’s run, Flipper comic books, coloring books and puzzles were very popular. As an adult, do you entertain yourself by reading comics, coloring, or completing jigsaw puzzles? I read the occasional comic and do have an adult coloring book floating around somewhere. I find it relaxing.

7) The Flipper lunchbox was also a big seller. It came with a Thermos topped with a red cup. Do you own a Thermos? Maybe? There might be one lurking from my youth, but if so, it’s most likely at my mom’s house.

8) In 1964, when Flipper premiered, it was up against The Outer Limits and The Jackie Gleason Show. If those were your only viewing choices, would you watch the family show about the dolphin, the sci-fi anthology show, or the comedy-variety show? (Or would you rather flip through a magazine?) Oh, definitely the sci-fi.

9) Random question  — Which would you be more comfortable explaining: how a car engine works, the current IRS tax brackets, or the rules of baseball? Oof. Probably the rules of baseball, which is pretty sad since I don’t even watch baseball.