quick catch up part#2

Again, I have to begin by apologizing for my long absence.  We bought a house and have been working through the winter weeks trying to put it together and make it our home.  Besides our brief but immensely relaxing family Christmas in Hawaii, my weekends, as well as my wallet, have been spent on our new purchase. It is only now, as March roars on, that I can say things are finally getting settled.  I am going to attempt to get out three quick posts or so to catch up.

December was a blur.  We had just gotten into the house; it was bare, cold, a mess.  I must admit I am a little OCD so having everything out of order drove me crazy.  On top of this, I had committed a few nights a week to help a friend who owned a Christmas tree lot.  When I spoke to her in August, I had no idea I would be moving into my first house the same weeks she needed me.  Working a Christmas tree lot has always been my favorite job. In college, I came home every year from Penn State and worked hauling trees with my cousin Billy.  I spent the nights at my grandparents.  I can still remember my grandmother making me wrap my feet in plastic grocery bags before putting on my boots in the morning.  I thought this was ridiculous but my feet were always dry. Back East, the days on the lot were long and very cold, but the tips were generous. Billy even used to let us booze on the job.  I’ll tell you what, some of those nights my eyes would be twinkling like the festive lights that hung from the houses across the street.  I always made my  second semester money while honing my sales skills for the future.

I loved this job.  Working outside, the sap, the season, the sound of the saw as the excited family watched closely at a perfected fresh cut.  But while the East Coast was harsh, slinging trees in Newport Beach was practically luxurious… like getting traded from Cleveland to the world famous Philadelphia Phillies.  Although I was exhausted and my new house was in shambles, I felt that being back on the lot grounded me.  I was working hard, lugging trees, making some extra money and feeling free, channeling my youth.  Despite the 45 minutes commute from my new house and still working my regular job, there was a real feeling of satisfaction at the end of these long days. Driving up the 405 each night, I breathed in the smell of pine that dominated my car.

My mom came in the middle of December to stay for a few days before we all left for Hawaii.  In the past few years, my relationship with my mom has completely changed; there is no more lingering resentment on either of our parts, but instead we just laugh our asses off together.  She was our first extended guest in the new place. With depleted fiscal reserves and an outdated floor vent, we pretty much froze the poor thing by refusing to turn on our gas heater.  Still, she loved the house and I was proud to show her what we owned.  This picture I took of my mom as she tried to get a little sun before we left for Hawaii.  It is one of the most perfect pictures I have ever taken, and I will always remember her as she was at this moment: happy, relaxed, proud, at peace.

Me mom

Our Hawaiian Christmas included my mom, my sister and her husband, and Katherine’s whole family–thirteen of us in all, on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  Although I love the ocean and the beach, I had never been to Hawaii before and was excited for our first truly relaxing vacation.  I brought some books, my mask and snorkel, ready for some pina coladas.

Without boring you with the whole trip I will just tell you that we had a blast.  I snorkeled every day, some days by myself. Our families all got to spend some quality time together. My sister and I hiked, paddle boarded, talked.  I have missed her and was glad to see how alike we still are.  In the end, it was the most consecutive days I’d spent with my sister and mom in over a decade.

I think there two very important things that came from this trip.  One, Hawaii, both exotic and safe, made me feel a little better about having kids.  I would be okay if Hawaii had to be our trip for a few years while our babies were growing. It was easy, fun, yet still felt like a trip.  The second thing, and more importantly, I really saw who my mom was.  I had such a good time with her, laughing with her, exploring the island with her. I showed her how to snorkel and even forced her to hike with me.  Remember, she has been diagnoised with MS since the 80’s so these were no small feats.  For the longest time I was embarrassed of her, embarrassed of her disabilities, of her quirks. Maybe it was because I was angry at her for my dad leaving or some stupid childhood bullshit like that.  Maybe I was never truly comfortable with myself.  But this trip changed that.  I found a new love for my mom.  One that said, Fuck it, if you think she’s a little quirky wait until you deal with me.  I realized she is one of the truest good hearts in the world.  She talks to everyone, she makes fun of herself, she’s interested in life and in learning something new everyday, “Michael, what’s in that building?” she asked one night as we drove through Honolulu.  We all started laughing; how would we even have a clue?













In the end it was a holiday that made me remember how damn lucky I have been.  Katherine and I both feel like we lucked out with the families we’ve had since birth and the ones we added when we married.  We were only missing my little brother and his family– he promised me he would be there next time.

A perfect kiss, on top of a mountain, in the middle of an ocean




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March 2012
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