For the first time in my 20-year professional working career, I took an unpaid week off so I could stay home with my children during their final days before school starts. With a blended family of five, a house that is always in need of projects and never-ending bills for this-and-that, my husband and I both need to work to support our family and life on Long Island. I don’t say that in a “woe-is-me” tone; it’s just the way it is. That said, taking an unpaid week off wasn’t what was best for our budget, but it was best for me and my family.
For one full week, I would not check my work email (OK, I did check it but didn’t answer any messages). Instead, I would be home to feed my children all of their meals (yes, including Bagel Bites!), bring them to play dates, shop for school supplies, do the laundry – and actually put it away (well, most of it!), make popcorn and watch Teen Beach 2 (it wasn’t bad, really!), listen to their stories, hear about Minecraft (aghhhhh!!!), answer countless questions (they never stop!), enjoy a few days at the beach with our five children, referee arguments (of course!), and JUST BE T(HERE).
For the first time – other than my brief maternity leaves following the births of my children – I would be home, during the week, with my family. Not for a day here and there. Not on a busy vacation. A full week to … JUST BE T(HERE).
Last night when I was tucking in my 10-year-old for bed, I reminded him that I had to go back to work in the morning. He hugged me and said: “I wish you could be here with us all the time.” And T(HERE) it was … my heart broke a little bit.
This parenting gig is tough … and the pay stinks … but the rewards are priceless!
A part of my childhood sang its last song … and what a swan song it was. I’ll bet you know it — sing it with me: “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with saints / The sinners are much more fun / You know only the good die young!”
If you are from Long Island, NY, I am sure you already know what I am referring to — last night (Aug. 4) was the final concert at the as-we-know-it Nassau Coliseum Memorial Stadium in Uniondale. And the performer, none other than The Piano Man…Mr. Long Island…BILLY JOEL…brought down “The Barn” with a three-hour marathon of his greatest hits. Each one better than the last. Every person standing and singing along. As. It. Should. Be.
I have probably seen Billy Joel in concert about 10 – 15 times over the last 30 years, but this performance blew all other out of the water. Not necessarily because of the actual show. It was the crowd. It was Long Island. It was the end of an era.
A bit of my Nassau Coliseum love affair: during my childhood, my father brought me to countless New York Islanders hockey games. Often, we sat in the “nosebleed” seats, but it was just magical being there – Pat LaFontaine, Bobby Nystrom and Mike Bossy. The best of the best.
As I got a little older, friends and I would attend countless concerts and though I know I loved each of them at the time, I couldn’t begin to list them all. Bonus: great memories of tailgating and, of course, buying knock-off concert shirts in the parking lot!
As a parent, I brought my little ones to Sesame Street Live, The Wiggles, Disney On Ice and, of course, the Ringling Bros circus.
Recently, we brought the kids to one of the New York Islanders final hockey games on their home ice (before they move to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn next season – BOOOOO!).
In May, I even went to WWE Monday Night Raw with my son.
And of course, one of my favorite memories of Nassau Coliseum was when a group of our closest friends and family joined us to watch as our son, Joey (aka “Dribbles), was honored as the 1 millionth social media fan by the world-famous Harlem Globetrotters.
So whether you call it “The Coliseum” or “The Barn,” it will always be the place where you went to see your favorite hockey team, the coolest concerts and best kid-friendly shows – but we must now bid you adieu. You will be missed.
Surely you recall the title, but the plot? Allow me to refresh your memory: an Arkansas waitress (Louise) shoots a man who attempted to rape her friend (Thelma), and together they take off in a ‘66 Thunderbird with lots of shenanigans along the way.
Oh, and Brad Pitt. A young and handsome Brad Pitt. Yeah, I thought that may help jog your memory.
Storyline aside, the overall theme of the movie is the strength and undeniable connection of two friends who would do anything for and protect the other at all costs.
I am blessed – so very blessed – to have women in my life who I consider “the best of friends.”
One of these women is the reason I am here today – both figuratively and literally.
My mother is my Louise.
And for the sake of a good story, this Thelma & Louise duo took a trip to Colorado where we would drive and drive and drive from one John Denver tribute to another, all-the-while seeing beautiful, postcard-worthy sites everywhere we looked. And though our antics may not have been movie-worthy – at least by Hollywood standards – and there was no shirtless Brad Pitt during any scene of our journey, we did capture our own great story.
We traveled in a ’15 Hyundai Elantra – not quite as stylish as a ’66 Thunderbird, but cooler than the minivan sitting in my driveway back in New York. When we picked up the car from the rental agency, it had 124 miles. When we dropped it off six days later, the odometer read 789 miles. Among those 665 miles traveled (come on, you know you want to do the math to see if I’m right!), we made our way from Denver to Estes Park, through Rocky Mountain National Park to Breckenridge, all the way to Aspen and back to Denver.
Normally, we would never have made this trip – spending money and time away from our husbands – but we coordinated so my three little ones could visit with their father (who lives in Colorado) and their grandparents who were in from California.
My mother and I are a combination of many other great pairs: Laverne & Shirley, Rachel & Monica, Oprah & Gayle, Lucy & Ethel, Bevis & Butt-Head and, of course, Thelma & Louise. But there is something extra special with us…she is the first person I want to share my happiest news with; the first person I want to comfort me in my saddest moments.
This trip was a gift filled with memories I will forever cherish and lots of #JeezLouise moments (see Facebook page for a few snipits!). Please, experience a little of our journey…as told in pictures.
First stop, Cracker Barrel (“cheers” with the best iced tea ever!) and Target (mom had to buy a new pillow – she gets grossed out by the ones in hotels).
We took the Estes Park Aerial Tramway through the treetops to the summit of Prospect Mountain and were able to hike (reads: climb up one rock) and feed chipmunks – they ate nuts right out of our hands!
Just a few of the photos of the breathtaking views. Seriously, like none I have even seen before.
We took the ghost tour of The Stanley Hotel which is where Stephen King stayed and his inspiration for the Overlook Hotel in his bestseller, The Shining. The author stayed in Room 217 which has become a hotbed of paranormal activity. Room 217 is booked for Halloween night through 2026. “Here’sssssss Johnny!”
And for the highlight of our trip….we attended a John Denver tribute concert with the John Adams Band at the Breckenridge Riverwalk Center – a benefit for Domus Pacis (Latin for House of Peace). In the first row, we were the ultimate groupies as we sang and clapped to all of our favorite John Denver songs…songs that were a part of my childhood at his concerts and family sing-along’s and have been on my playlist for years.
The Domus Pacis Family Respite encourages cancer patients, their families and friends to escape to the beauty of the mountains and experience the peace that comes from creating joyful memories for the people they most cherish. It is such an amazing program.
How do you top a John Denver tribute concert? With a visit to The John Denver Sanctuary, of course. The memorial features many of his most beloved songs etched into large rocks. The setting was beautiful. I don’t expect many people to understand why we drove so many miles to see “a bunch of rocks” but it was truly one of the most peaceful days I have ever had.
We went to the best 50’s-inspired diner near Aspen. Seriously, the coolest place I have ever eaten. The waitress told us about a festival taking place nearby. When we got to Main Street, it was a scene I can only compare to the stories I’ve heard about Woodstock. Families and friends – young and old, alike – were just “chillin’” (for lack of a better, less cliché word). Kids were enthralled by a dunking booth and hula hoops. There was a super cool band, a “funny” smell in the air (it’s legal there!), solo cups filled with tap beer, ladies in flowing skirts and tank tops, guys in t-shirts and jeans and the footwear of choice was….none.
On our final full day in Colorado, we went to The Denver Zoo. I don’t think an awesome zoo needs further details, but I love giraffes. And monkeys. And, of course, the elephants!
And here are a few of my favorite pictures from the trip…notice the cross in the mountain that we discovered the first morning we woke up in Colorado — right outside our hotel.
Thanks for the memories, Mom! Good times. The best. xoxo