Category Archives: I’m a Sap

Bar mitzvah #2 in the books!

Hey kids– remember me??

It’s good to be back! I’m finally coming up for air after a few months of nuttiness. I like the full-time job but it’s kicking my ass– lots of hours and intense focus required. I was producing our local “Listen to Your Mother,” show in May, and Aden became a bar mitzvah this past weekend.

Lots of planning, hours on the computer, and stress. I’d like to say I took it well, but I was a frazzled mess for much of the last month. I’d work 10 hours a day and read emails on the train home.

Aden practicing torah reading with our cantor

Aden practicing torah reading with our cantor

After dinner and getting the kids to bed, I’d be up til the wee hours working on the bar mitzvah video invitation, montage, invite list, and general party planning.

The invitation came out great, thanks to Aden’s swagger. You can watch it here.

We’re taking a trip to Israel with two sets of grandparents and my cousin and her boyfriend in August to celebrate Aden’s bar mitzvah. We’re going for 10 days with a guide and chose lots of outdoorsy activities seeing animals and sights, which Aden should love.

Because of the trip, we were trying to keep the local celebration low-key. But all of our family is out-of-town so we knew we’d be hosting meals and events all weekend, and low-key is hard for me when it comes to parties.

I like things to look a certain way. I wanted the celebration to be personal and make Aden feel special, without the dancers and a photo booth.

Bar mitzvah logo on cake

Thanks to the one and only Able Baker for the delicious and beautiful cake!

I think we accomplished all of this, but it required a lot of work and angst to get there. I’m happy with how it all turned out. But let’s just say I needed the help of my dutiful mother,  a lot of friends, and Ambien. Even with the sleeping pill, I didn’t sleep more than 5-6 hours a night for weeks!

Aden was wonderful on the bimah, and our kiddush lunch was intimate and fun. We had some friends and family over for a backyard party Saturday night– which closely resembled a college keg party– and turned out to be one of the highlights of the weekend.

At the end of the day, of course it’s really about the people and love in the room and we are so lucky to have amazing friends and family to share in our pride and joy in Aden.

I’ll blog again when I get the official photographer’s pix– my one regret from the weekend is that I did not take one photo. ACK! I was trying to be ‘in the moment’ and too distracted by all the people and planning.

But my mom took a few at the kiddush during the speeches.

Bar mitzvah candle lighting

Bar mitzvah candle lighting

I’ll leave you with an excerpt from my speech to Aden… who was poised and charming through it all. Unlike my other two boys, Aden doesn’t like so much attention– which is why we planned the Israel trip– but he rose to the occasion in a big way– rocking a bow tie.

Aden’s independent thinking and self-confidence from a very young age has always left me envious and made my heart swell with love and pride.
 
He’s a complicated dude.  

He’s quiet and poker faced… extremely sensitive, thoughtful and sweet. He can be icy cold and pissed off one minute, and hugging and kissing you an hour later. He is my most challenging child– often stubborn, sometimes obstinate– and yet I know with unshakable certainty that he’s the one who will take care of me when I’m old.
 
He’ll play NBA on PS 4 all day, and read poetry in bed at night. Aden can tell you more about the two-toed sloth than you ever needed to know and play you ”Ode to Joy” on his guitar.

He’s a talented athlete, but always takes the field or court on his own terms. He plays hard and as a pitcher and point guard, handles pressure with ease and grace. While he may be hard on himself at times, he always supports his teammates and cheers them on.

He’s our own little Renaissance Man.

Jand E gave a short congrats speech to Aden.

Jand E gave a short congrats speech to Aden.

One of the best parts of throwing a bar mitzvah and going through all the angst and stress is to celebrate your child at an important time in his life. We know who Aden is to us in our family, but now he’s a teenager and has his own place in the world and life outside of home that we sometimes know little about.
 
The teen years are a challenging time for kids – everyone’s trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be.  I love the opportunity to take a moment to recognize every part of Aden and celebrate what makes him special to so many people here today.  

Anyone who’s planned one of these events knows how much time and energy it requires, and there may have been moments when I questioned why it’s necessary to have a big party to celebrate this milestone. 
 
But then I saw Aden on the bimah working with the rabbi and cantor, reading Hebrew– focused, committed and unafraid. I listened to the words of friends and family describing him for the montage: compassionate, smart, funny. I watched him try on a suit, choose a bow tie, lace up man shoes, and nod approvingly in the mirror. 
 
And I realized what we are celebrating is Aden growing, maturing, and becoming his own person. 

Today– at least in Jewish tradition– he became a man. I can’t wait to see what kind of man he’ll be. I feel so lucky to be a small part of this Renaissance Man’s journey. I hope he carries the sweetness of this day throughout his life….and I hope his confidence and talents help him realize all his dreams.”

Mazel tov kid!

My brother is engaged, and other completely unbelievable changes

Sometimes people surprise you.

That’s the collective response to the news that my younger brother– who is 44 and has never been married– got engaged last weekend.

Adam is a late bloomer. It took him at least three tries to find a career he liked. He was in advertising in Chicago for a few years after graduating from Wisconsin. Then moved to LA with dreams of taking Hollywood by storm. He got a job working in the mailroom at a major talent agency and worked his way up to assistant, before realizing he really didn’t have the temperament to be Ari Gold.

Then he got a series of assistant jobs with some heavy hitter producers, but rolling calls and reading scripts until 2am was not his cup of green tea. Then he took a job at a hotel and discovered hospitality was his calling.. After working at several hotels, he’s now the concierge at a boutique hotel in Beverly Hills and loves accommodating guests and helping them find restaurants and entertainment in the city.

Uncle Adam gets engaged on carpoolcandycom

My boys have only known Uncle Adam as a single dude.

All that time he was dating lots of women. To his credit, he was open to meeting people. He was set up, met girls in bars and at concerts, and filled out many online dating profiles.

He said he was ready for love all those years, but I’m not so sure.  He only dated a few ladies more than 2 or 3 times.

He really liked his alone time.

His other passion is music. He was a serious Deadhead and saw more than 100 shows while Jerry was alive. To be clear, he was no tie dye-wearing poser– he loved the music. He still records a radio show every Sunday night of live shows and keeps the tapes in a shrine in his closet. He moved on from the Dead to Phish and has been flying to cities all over the country to see live shows for the last 20 years.

He has a crew he goes to concerts with but he’s so into the music, he’ll even go by himself. In the past when he was dating a girl, he would never bring her to a show because she might be a buzz kill.

So I knew something was up when the girl he was dating this year went with him to a concert. And then another.

Adam, Heather and pals at a concert this summer.

Adam, Heather and pals at a concert this summer.

This is a guy who calls me once every three months when he needs something (he  prefers to bond over text.) But now he was calling me weekly to discuss the evolution of his new relationship.

I knew something about this Heather was different.

I met her last year over lunch when we were visiting LA and she seemed lovely. Attentive, easygoing, and really good with Eli who was the only kid at the table. I liked her right away, but remained skeptical.

Then he started saying stuff like “I’m my best self with her” and “She’s such a good person, she makes me a better person.”

My mother and I were rather speechless. When you’ve been living alone into your 40’s, you tend to be rather me-centric. All this talk about caring for another person, sharing interests, and spending lots of time together was new and refreshing!

By the summer, they were spending all their time together and he was already sure he wanted to marry her. We were excited, but cautiously optimistic.

Not only did that guy propose last weekend, he did it in style. He made up a story about going to a friend’s house in Malibu but secretly had a friend set up a picnic on the beach. He lied his way to the sand and just as she was feeling confused about what was happening, he pulled out a ring and popped the question.

Uncle Adam gets engaged on beach in Malibu on carpoolcandy.com

The ring is the one my father gave my mother in 1966 when they got engaged in Boston. Heather loved the design and the sentiment.

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She said YES!!

After their private moment, Adam had arranged for all their friends and her family to be at a party to celebrate.

You may remember that Wilson’s brother– after perfecting his role as Manhattan committed bachelor for years–  also delighted us by falling in love and marrying last year.

We were all beginning to think Uncle Jonny and Uncle Adam were going to be single forever. But within 18 months, they both found their lobster and are looking forward to sharing their lives with someone.

Stupefied friends and family weighed in after Adam’s  big news spread. One text read “Check the temperature. Hell has frozen over!” 

Kids, the moral of the story is, keep believing in love! It’s powerful stuff, and you never know when it’s gonna come along and knock you out.

Congrats to the happy couple! We can’t wait to celebrate with you.

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What shock looks like: pulling off a surprise party

There’s nothing better than planning a surprise party, committing to the white lies you tell to make it happen, and then pulling it off.

Our friends, Tami and Chris, celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in August. They are very special people who do so much for others, they kinda make you feel inadequate.

The happy couple in Paris 2015

The happy couple in Paris 2015

They’re generous with their time and willing to share anything they have with people they love– and that’s a large group. Just one example is their commitment to fostering children. They’ve cared for and stayed close with at least 6 kids in the last 3 years. They’ve also been wonderful to my kids– taking special care to understand and build a relationship with each one– and many of their friends’ kids.

They wanted to celebrate their milestone anniversary in August with a party, but after a change of heart, decided to take a trip to Paris instead. They had a terrific time but I knew they were a little disappointed to let the party idea go. So I didn’t let it go. I emailed a few of their friends and cooked up a plan to do a Sunday brunch at my house with a bunch of local families.

Not one friend hesitated for a second, in fact all jumped in to help bring food, set up, and clean up…. and help keep Tami and Chris in the dark. I sent an evite and told everyone NOT TO TELL THEIR KIDS.

Kids would surely blow the surprise– not intentionally, but almost certainly– if they were burdened with the information. Kristin Wiig expressed it best in her hilarious SNL character “lady who can’t keep a surprise,” which you can check out here.

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I surprised Wilson for his 30th and again for his 35th birthdays and he didn’t have a clue. It’s very satisfying.

I did actually break the no kids rule and told Aden — who proved yet again that he is a vault. (Like Kristin Wiig , I HAD to tell SOMEONE or I would burst. Of course Wilson knew, but he doest get excited about such things.) Jacob and Eli both believed the lie I told Tami– that we were having an early birthday brunch for Eli with my mother and a few other friends.

She completely bought it. Why wouldn’t she? Her anniversary was in August, and it was a believable lie. The more I thought about the perfect plan, the giddier I became. I’m a party nerd and the days leading up  to the event I was more excited than I should have been about an adult party.

But understand that Tami is one of those people who knows everything– a busybody in the best way, her son once called her “a compulsive intervener,” because she has to be involved in it all.

So the thought of blowing her mind and gathering so many people they love in one room– well, I was hardly able to contain my enthusiasm.

There were a few close calls, but as everyone patiently waited on my back porch for them to show today, it was clear from their 30 minute tardiness that they had no clue what was going on.

surprise anniversary party on carpoolcandy.com

The look on their faces, including their son Avery in front: “What is happening?”

They walked in the back of the house and everyone yelled “SURPRISE! HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!”  and they looked at us in complete confusion. It took several minutes as they walked closer to this crowd of eager faces, to figure out this was a party for them.

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Then, happy, excited, and perhaps overwhelmed.

After the initial shock, everyone got down to eating– it was a delicious potluck spread, including of course, cake.

surprise anniversary party on carpoolcandy.com

As we cut the cake, Tami spoke about what a great decision it was to move to our town because of the friends they made. It is kind of funny how where you live can change who you are as a family.

Tami and I agree we picked exactly the right town.

surprise anniversary party on carpoolcandy.com

Those two love birds smooched for the crowd, and everyone went home feeling like 25 years of marriage is a great thing to celebrate.

Have you ever pulled off a surprise? Tell me about it in the comments.

Remembering 9/11: where I was that day

I knew today was September 11th but I got the kids up and off to school like it was any other day. When I returned from the bus stop, the TV was on and the victims’ relatives were reading the names of those they lost on that horrific day 11 years ago.

I was weeping within minutes. Even for the tenth time, hearing the names breaks my heart and brings me right back to that Manhattan day. It was a gorgeous, crisp autumn morning and the sky was remarkably clear and blue, before it exploded into fire and smoke and misery.

No one will ever forget where they were that day when the world was forever changed.

I was living in Manhattan, working at Fox News, and Jacob was a year old. I was so grateful that Wilson was working uptown. He had walked down many stairs from his office to escape the chaos after the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993.

In 2001, his office shut down and he eventually walked home with the throngs of confused, frightened people crowding the streets. I didn’t see him much that week and when I finally got home, I was obsessed with watching the news coverage, trying (in vain) to make sense of what happened…trying to feel the pain I had forced myself to numb while at work.

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After the towers fell, I basically lived at my desk for a week as we tried to tell the most shocking, tragic, and intense story of our lives.

One memory seared in my mind is when we lost contact with our reporter– Rick Leventhal– and his cameraman and sat truck operator after the first tower collapsed. In standard operating procedure, we had sent them downtown to cover the story as soon as the planes hit the towers.

But when the tower collapsed, all we saw was a huge plume of brown smoke envelop Rick as he was getting ready to report live. We could hear screaming and then the cameraman dropped the camera on the ground but eerily left it recording on the live feed to the newsroom (not on air.)

We stared in horror as we saw the sidewalk view of a street filled with smoke and ash, and then the feed went to black and we lost contact with the crew.

I don’t remember how long it was before we heard from the crew, and there was a lot of silent guilt for sending them into unspeakable danger and uncertainty.  After what seemed like agonizing hours, we found out they were safe after hunkering down in a nearby building.

It was the most relief I remember feeling covering any news story.

When I was able to get out of the office to catch a few hours of sleep, I could smell the ash and smoke in the air and saw the glazed, damaged looks of my fellow New Yorkers.

I remember seeing the “missing” flyers posted all over the city, and making trips to CVS to get contact lens solution, wipes, rubber gloves to bring to our local fire house to feel like we were doing something to help.

There are so many stories about the thousands of people touched by the attack. For the 10th anniversary, I wrote a series of articles for AOL’s Patch.com. I interviewed a New Jersey man who lost his brother-in-law and was so moved by the experience that when he retired a few years later, he started a fund to support people in crisis in his local community and support cultural events that bring people together.

TJ hargrave on carpoolcandy.com

T.J. was a child actor who had a regular part on “Guiding Light” in the early 80’s. Kevin Bacon took over the role after he left. He was also in several TV movies and ads.

You can read about TJ Hargrave– who was at his office at Cantor Fitzgerald when he died– and his brother-in-law’s inspiring story here. One of TJ’s daughters read his name this morning at the World Trade Center Memorial. I’m sure he would be so proud of her courage.

I also had the opportunity to interview several South Orange, New Jersey firefighters last year — some of whom filled in at a Brooklyn fire house in the days following the attack. They tell a compelling tale with some chilling details about their experience in New York and what it’s like for them and their families to face risk every day. That story is here.

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I always feel helpless when watching the families of 9/11 victims grieving. But reading these stories is a way to keep the memories of those we lost– and those who risked their lives to help– alive.

One thing we can do is never forget.

Nice day to start again, nice day for a white wedding

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My friend, Lisa, got married last night and I’m still smiling about it. She’s been divorced for nearly 10 years and it took her a while to find the right guy, but if you listened to the speeches and saw the love and light in their eyes, you’d know Mitch was worth the wait.

I felt badly for the happy couple as the rain poured down on our drive to Bouman Stickney Farms in rural Lebanon, New Jersey. But the deluge couldn’t put a damper on the celebration.

Country wedding in a barn on carpoolcandy.com

In fact, the steady raindrops made the affair seem even more intimate as the 100 or so guests clinked glasses under a tent and in a beautifully decorated barn, under twinkling lights.

Country wedding on carpoolcandy.com

The ceremony included their families and friends reading passages under a white linen chuppah sewn by Lisa’s great-grandmother. They read vows they had written to each other and giggled as the wind blew the barn door open behind them, with a beautiful backdrop of grass and trees.

Country wedding on carpoolcandy.com

A second wedding is an opportunity to say what’s really important in your vows and to your family and friends, because you’ve had enough life experience to know the significance of your words.

Country wedding in a barn on carpoolcandy.com

You actually know what it feels like to take care of a partner in sickness and in health, you’re intimately familiar with the challenges of weathering hard times, and you appreciate the joy of friendship and laughing easily.

Country wedding on carpoolcandy.com

Mother of the bride (right) taking it all in.

Getting married as a more mature couple also means you can plan the party exactly the way you want it– without any input from parents or in-laws– to reflect your taste.

And Lisa has amazing taste.

Country wedding on carpoolcandy.com

The beaming bride

I knew it would be special, with Lisa’s shabby chic, ethereal feel.

Country wedding on carpoolcandy.com

She loves bringing nature into her home (rocks, seashells, driftwood) so the setting was a perfect combination of raw nature and elegance and one of the most gorgeous parties I’ve ever attended.

Country wedding on carpoolcandy.com

From the white roses and pink peonies under the chuppah and in the bouquets, to the wildflowers in Mason jars and metal buckets on the tables….

From the Oriental rugs on grass, and distressed furniture for seating and food display…

Country wedding on carpoolcandy.com

Lisa loves inspirational quotes and this one was perfect for the rainy night

….to the amazing details like ribbon streamers to wave at the ceremony, matchbooks saying “A Match Made in Heaven” and linen pillows with the couple’s initials on settees around the tent.

Country wedding on carpoolcandy.com

They asked all the guests to wear white which somehow added sophistication to the farm setting– very Out of Africa…..

Country wedding on carpoolcandy.com

The food was healthy and delicious and served on mismatched Grandma’s china plates. My watermelon vodka drink came in a beveled goblet with a  colored paper straw.

A three-piece country band and a DJ played all night and the barn turned into a dance floor after dinner.

Country wedding on carpoolcandy.com

I loved every detail, but more importantly the night was filled with love between and for the new couple.

There were lovely speeches and toasts….

Country wedding in a barn on carpoolcandy.com

Lisa looked overwhelmed as her kids made a speech.

and the bride and groom were beaming and dancing all night.

Country wedding on carpoolcandy.com

Congrats to Lisa and Mitch!

Country wedding in a barn on carpoolcandy.com

You’ve inspired Wilson and me to renew our vows someday. Keep the barn door open!

Proud to be Jumbos: my college reunion story

I am a Tufts University Jumbo. It’s not the toughest of mascots– especially when everyone in my house reveres the mighty Wolverine** – but we’ve still got our pride.

Tufts University logo on carpoolcandy.com

I recently relived some of my favorite memories at my college reunion. I’m not going to tell you how many years it’s been because it just makes me sound old and I don’t feel old. But spending 48 hours kidless, husbandless, and with a gaggle of gal pals on our old stomping grounds peeled off the years and made me realize age really doesn’t matter.

The weekend began with one of my besties, Julie, flying in from LA and sleeping at my house. We stayed up late gossiping and wondering who we might see– and who we’d like to avoid– at the reunion.

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We got a quick hair blow out before we left—because a girl has to look her best if she’s going to see people she hasn’t seen in many, many years. Nobody needs to know I normally don’t wash my hair for days.

We met up with two other friends– Allison and Romy–  and drove to Boston. The ride felt decadent. With four hours of uninterrupted time we caught up on each other’s work and families and had the luxury of follow-up questions and analysis. We also spent much of the ride quizzing each other on college factoids, hazy events, and random people we hadn’t thought about in years.

(Remember, I live with 4 males whose idea of scintillating conversation is NFL trades and baseball statistics, and maybe a fart joke now and then. A weekend with the girls is like an oasis.)

I love my college friends, but we aren’t the best at sticking to plans. Although a group of us live in the tri-state area, it’s rare that we can get a bunch together for a two-hour dinner in Manhattan. So I was delighted when 9 girls committed to this reunion weekend and showed up ready for carousing, reminiscing, and a graduate degree in belly laughs.

Tufts reunion 2015 on carpoolcandy.com

We had a fun dinner outside Friday night at Stephanie’s on Newbury Street in Boston. The nostalgia started to sink in as we sipped Scorpion Bowls that tasted much better than the grain alcohol punch we used to get at the Hong Kong in Cambridge back in the day. (There are some advantages to being a grown up.)

Tufts reunion 2015 on carpoolcandy.com

Scorpion bowl at Stephanie’s in Boston

My friend Marjie met her husband, Scott, at Tufts (those two crazy kids are still gaga for each other) and many of Scott’s friends happened to be the guys we hung with since freshman year.

Tufts reunion 2015 on carpoolcandy.com

Marjie and Scott: A Jumbo love story

Scott and 8 of his frat buddies also stayed at the Loews in Boston for the weekend. When we got back from dinner, we took over an outdoor bar area with couches and twinkling lights and caught up on our lives.

Tufts reunion 2015 on carpoolcandy.com

We all flashed our phones around to show pictures of kids, spouses and even dogs. Our friend, Ricky, had wisely dug out a pile of old photos to pass around, sparking laughs and a flood of memories.

Tufts reunion 2015 on carpoolcandy.com

We all had more hair and thicker eyebrows ala Brooke Shields. Our shorts were short and our jeans were high and sinched tight, but we thought we had it going on.

As much as I’d like to think I remember college like it was yesterday, I was surprised by how much I had forgotten. It was like we were collectively weaving a tapestry of those four years. Everyone remembered different events and people and we pieced them together like a giant puzzle. It was so much fun hearing the classic stories again, and being reminded of hilarious times that had been tucked in the way back of my mind.

Tufts reunion 2015 on carpoolcandy.com

We think this is from circa 1992. Good times

Saturday we wandered around campus and met up with other alumni attending various events. We visited the fancy new library and tried to remember where we sat to study for finals.

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So many hours spend studying (and talking) at that library

We snuck into two dorms where we used to live (Houston and West Hall for inquiring Jumbos) and were shocked at how little they had been updated.

Tufts reunion 2015 on carpoolcandy.com

My old room in Houston Hall sophomore year!

There was a graduation party at the house on Bellveue where many of my friends lived junior and senior year, but the residents graciously let us walk around. It was bizarre to be there again, and disgustingly dirty.

We had to make a stop at Espresso’s. Back in the day you could use your parents’ credit card and order food by phone to be delivered right to your dorm. Pizza, subs, and pints of Ben and Jerry’s, which we’d pass around in a circle until there was none left. Ah, the days of late-night, guilt-free eating.

We walked that beautiful quad, took pictures at the Jumbo statue in front of Packard Hall, and of course at the hallowed canon.

Tufts reunion 2015 on carpoolcandy.com

It’s a Tufts tradition to paint the canon late at night, but you have to make your mark really late or you run the risk of someone painting over it. Despite several tries, I think I did it successfully only once in my four years.

The only official school reunion activity we signed up for was a cocktail party Saturday night for our graduating class. Part of me wanted to be chatty, and part wanted to be a fly on the wall, throwing back cocktails and watching all the action without having to engage. I saw some people I hadn’t seen since graduation– including my freshman year roommate. That was a trip. I was mostly happy to see everyone I recognized, as many looked the same and still gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling despite all the years.

There were only a few people I would have liked to avoid, but even talking to them was amusing, because they annoyed me now for the same reasons they annoyed me then. Some things never change.

After about an hour at the party, our smaller group met up again at the Temple Bar in Cambridge and laughed and talked for hours into the night.

Tufts reunion 2015 on carpoolcandy.com

The AEPi guys together again

Just like the old days, the boys powered through any exhaustion for a late night visit to the original Hong Kong in Harvard Square for scorpion bowls… and the girls went home, got into jammies and talked til we started to fall asleep. There was still so much more to say and no one wanted the weekend to be over.

Tufts reunion 2015 on carpoolcandy.com

Most people left Sunday morning but a few of us stayed for breakfast and a little shopping on Newbury Street. I certainly wanted to stretch the weekend out as long as possible.

Shopping on Newbury Street at Tufts reunion 2015 on carpoolcandy.com

We hit terrible traffic on the way home and even got a flat tire that stalled our trip for a few extra hours. But no one complained. We were savoring the time to chat and be together. We weren’t eager to get back to the reality of work, carpools, sick kids, messy houses, cooking dinner and husbands who had earned a break.

Spending a relaxing 48 hours together evoked deep affection for my old college gang. I shared so many significant moments with some of these people, and we literally watched each other grow and mature into adults. We spent time with each other’s families, traveled all over the U.S and Europe, and struggled through terrible first jobs and apartments in the lean post-college years.

We have history.

Tufts class of 1990 reunion on carpoolcandy.com

The gang on campus

I wish it wasn’t so hard to get everyone in the same place at the same time but that’s where we are in our lives and that’s what made the reunion so special. It was a weekend we proud Jumbos will never forget.

 

**You may remember, Wilson is an avid (read insane) alumnus of the University of Michigan who suffers from school spiritititus, when watching all sports gives you a fever until you bleed maize and blue. (For the lowdown on his reunion weekend click here.)

Listen to Your Mother 2015 Love Fest

Rehearsal for Listen to Your Mother 2015 on carpoolcandy.com

I’m still coming down off a contact high after watching 13 ladies bear their truths before a live audience Saturday in the second annual Listen to Your Mother North Jersey show.

Listen to Your Mother is a staged reading event where people share experiences about motherhood in all its forms. It started out as the brainchild of blogger Ann Imig with one show in Madison, Wisconsin and has now become a national movement– performed in 39 cities across the U.S. this year.

I was honored to be chosen to read in the first North Jersey show last year, and it was an exhilarating experience.

Rehearsal for Listen to Your Mother 2015 on carpoolcandy.com

I wanted to stay involved, so was thrilled when last year’s co-director/producers Deborah Goldstein and Sandy Rustin asked me to help direct and produce the 2015 show.

As a former TV news producer, flexing those muscles again was extremely satisfying. Working with Deborah and Sandy was one of the most joyful professional experiences of my life. They’re both uber talented and lovely human beings. Those gifted gals taught me so much, while always making me feel an equal part of the team, despite my rookie status.

The audition process was fascinating and humbling. We had almost 70 people read their stories and had the daunting task of choosing just 13 for the show.

Rehearsal for Listen to Your Mother 2015 on carpoolcandy.com

The audition room

Aligning with the LTYM edict, we tried to find pieces with a unique voice, but a universal message about motherhood. If you’ve seen the show, you know it’s an emotional journey, so it was also important we have balance, with thought-provoking stories that would make an audience laugh and cry.

13 women earned the coveted spots with their original, beautiful words. While several are career writers and/or bloggers, some have only dabbled in writing while keeping day jobs, or just had an important story to tell.

The age range ran from 30’s to 50’s, with topics ranging from foster care, parenting special needs children, divorce, racism, and gender stereotypes to cooking in the kitchen with mom and sending kids to summer camp. Each story had relatable elements, even if the experience described was completely new.

Auditions for Listen to Your Mother 2015 on carpoolcandy.com

We used very sophisticated methods to make the show order

After a successful 2014 show, tickets went quickly for the scheduled 5pm show. When the show sold out, we got ballsy and added a second show at 2pm. Although we didn’t sell out the second show, we had a terrific audience and the cast got to read twice. I remember last year being so sad when it was over, I wished I could start all over again and this year’s cast got that chance.

Rehearsal for Listen to Your Mother 2015 on carpoolcandy.com

The first read-throughs were raw and emotional

We only rehearsed twice before show day but these ladies were ready. There were a few butterflies but those tough broads laughed in the face of stage fright.

Rehearsal for Listen to Your Mother 2015 on carpoolcandy.com

Technical rehearsal on show day

The audience seemed to enthusiastically enjoy the show, and it’s been 24 hours of love online and in person from those who saw it. A few people told me the show was now officially part of their annual Mother’s Day weekend routine.

Taking a bow at Listen to Your Mother 2015 on carpoolcandy.com

Taking a bow after the first show. Proud and relieved!

There were many hugs and promises to see each other soon as we all parted to celebrate with family and friends after the second show. An email chain with all cast and producers continued throughout the day with Mother’s Day wishes and an outpouring of love and respect. I ran into one cast mate in town tonight and we ran into each other’s arms like old Army buddies separated by years, when really it had only been a day.

We are bonded forever by this meaningful experience.

I remain in awe of people willing to make themselves vulnerable by sharing deeply personal stories and exploring their feelings on a stage in front of 450 people. It takes a certain kind of courage and trust, and we producers were so grateful to each reader for their bravery and willingness to open their hearts.

North Jersey cast of Listen to Your Mother 2015 on carpoolcandy.com

Love these ladies!

As Sandy told the cast in the few exciting moments before they took the stage Saturday, you never know who in the audience needs to hear your story, needs to laugh or cry. Words are powerful, especially when expressed with authenticity. That’s what makes LTYM work.

Maybe you have a story to tell about having a mother or being one. Write it down!  LTYM NJ 2016 is not that far away…..

You can read more amazing stories in the new anthology: Listen to Your Mother: What She Said Then, What We’re Saying Now..