Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Facebook Official

So, if you're reading this from Facebook, you may have learned that I'm in a new relationship. This is a remarkable age we live in where announcing that you are dating someone on social media is akin to the old engagement announcements of yore. I changed my relationship status and, man, did my cell phone chirp and vibrate all damn day with people wanting to know more about the good news. This new relationship is no secret, I've pretty much been shouting about it to everyone and anyone within earshot, but somehow making it "Facebook official" is bringing things to a whole other level. Funny how things change when the whole universe knows your business.

The excellent news is that this new relationship is hands down one of the best three things that has ever happened to me (the other two being the births of my beautiful children). I have been unable to focus on much else for the past few months, a welcome and wonderful distraction from the rest of regular life. I am not going to go into great detail here on this blog (although if I see you in person I am likely to talk your ear off about it, as most of my friends can attest), but I will say that I had no idea that this kind of mutual love, happiness, and connection with another person was possible for me in this lifetime. The feelings are big, and scary, and wonderful, and I hope to hell they never end, but even if it all blew up tomorrow I would be so much better off for knowing what this feels like.

So, yeah, Facebook official. I'll take that, along with all of the other wonderful components of this relationship that don't have to do with social media. I'll take every single little joy and speed bump that comes with getting to know everything about someone you've chosen to be with. Everyday is an adventure, even the mundane, and I can't get enough.

Friday, October 23, 2015

A Food Tour of South Florida

I spent the weekend in Miami, or should I say in South Florida, as I didn't actually spend too much time within the Miami city limits, but definitely enough to get a serious Florida fix. I have lived in Miami twice in my life now, and I have no desire to live there again. The traffic, the congestion, the intense materialism that the transient residents have, the obsession with fake breasts and fancy cars and glittery jewelry really doesn't do it for me. But there are some things that set Miami apart from any other city: and this weekend it was most certainly the food.

Being a city that is stuffed full of people from all sorts of exotic countries, it is very easy to find a delicious meal in a matter of seconds in this sprawled out concrete jungle. The fact that you can often times eat this meal while looking at the ocean is another slice of heaven. But to find the food that will really make you moan with delight, you have to travel a little bit further to parts unknown.

My original intention of the trip was to bring my children down to visit their father, who they hadn't seen in several months. I imagined that somehow this would be a rather laborious effort for me, and was pleasantly surprised when they went off with their dad and stayed for three days, giving me and my best friend an actual vacation, something I haven't had without my kids in years. Having spent the last eight months as a full time single working mom, this was a surprise that went way beyond the glorious, and into the realm of an unexpected lottery win. To have Jane, my all time favorite travel companion, with me really set it over the edge in awesomeville.

Our first night, tired after not enough sleep and a very early flight, we set out for dinner in Hollywood, just a couple of miles from our hotel, and stumbled upon a dimly lit, attractive Brazilian restaurant. Viva Brazil serves up a beautiful buffet of beans and rice, fritters, salads, and meats freshly carved off the rotisserie. Brazilian food is some of my favorite, and the flavors did not disappoint, especially when washed down with the Caipirinha, the signature cocktail of Brasil. We rolled out of the restaurant and I barely made it to a horizontal position in our hotel Murphy bed before I was snoring. Delicious food coma indeed.

Our second day in So Flo involved getting hideously sunburned on the beach, followed by mahi sandwiches, ahi tuna, and pina coladas in giant creepy coconut heads on Hollywood beach. We were surprised by how many restaurants in Florida hang up way too many Halloween decorations. Fake cobwebs abound in the south apparently.

That night we went out for an amazing Cuban meal (Rice and beans! Churrasco steak!) and then dancing at several Latin dance spots in Hollywood. This has always been my favorite part of this part of the world. Salsa dancing, and dancing in general, abounds. People are always enthusiastic, the place is often crowded, and just when I think I am too old for anyone to dance with me, they do.

We stayed up way too late dancing, and then the next morning had to make the pilgrimage to the only place that can save you after a night like that: El Palacio de los Jugos (the Juice Palace). This place is an institution in Miami, and has been for years. They seemingly speak only Spanish, the lines are long for the fresh squeezed juices and Cuban sandwiches, but the payoff is absolutely worth it. Anyone visiting Miami should head down to Flagler and 57th Avenue and eat here, you will not be sorry.

More deliciousness continued throughout the weekend, the coffee is so strong it's like sweet liquid crack, and the guava pastries are good enough to make you miss your plane, but the rest of the weekend is a bit of a haze as we sailed back home to regular life. I will be back to Miami soon though, I can't be away from that kind of indulgence for too long. Adios!

The Limonsillo, a funny yet appealing tropical fruit that I have yet to see in this region

The Cuban sandwich (ham and pickles, hot and cheesy) and the Juice of Life (fresh squeezed orange and passion fruit juice, aptly named by me when it is the cure-all for any bad hangover).
Cuban coffee, my reason for getting up in South Florida. So sweet, so strong, so addicting.

Ahi tuna steak on the beach

Dancing Merengue in Hollywood and Cuban dinner at Sazon in North Miami Beach

Fresh coconut water for $2.50 from El Palacio de los Jugos

Sunrise above the Atlantic

Monday, September 14, 2015

Day Off

It's Monday and this morning was the first time this season that I have woken up chilly. Summer never lasts long enough for me, I could have it all year round if it weren't for my tremendous love of the changing seasons. Fall is pretty good too, especially here in Western Mass. No one knows their way around a fall festival like the good people of the Pioneer Valley. So this year I am kind of excited to dig out my socks, carve pumpkins, and smell the falling leaves. Plus it's baking season, a dangerously delicious time for me, and I feel a good stretch of pumpkin flavored treats and fresh bread coming on. My kids will not be disappointed.

Today is one of those blissful days where I have no concrete plans or obligations. I went for a run (the fastest I've run in a long time, I'm thinking the happiness from the previous post is giving me more energy, nothing wrong with that), and made the lasagna that Sofie has been bugging me to make for the past week. It's funny how easy it is to get so busy with life that you forget to take a morning off to just putter around the house and chill out. It almost feels like I'm doing something wrong, but I know it's just what I need, and in fact my kids will actually get a decent dinner tonight as a result of me not being busy today. Days off are the best.

Monday, September 7, 2015



That's where I'm at today. Pure, unadulterated happiness has found me after six months of digging out from the underground cave that was my life. 

I spent the weekend camping with two of my best friends and two of my children's best friends. Long days on the beach, giggling around the campfire, waking up outside, grappling with the neighborhood skunk, all of it was glorious. A perfect way to salute the quickly waning summer.

Ending my marriage and breaking up our family unit was the most emotionally challenging, and overwhelmingly liberating thing I've ever done. Now it's done and the dust has settled, and I am delighted to announce that the emotion that has been left behind is joy. Joy at life and all of its various beautiful possibilities. Joy at the calmness of our house and the calmness that I feel blossoming inside my children. Joy at my own ability to live my life as I want to live it, and total freedom to be who I really am with everyone that surrounds me. What a fantastic place to be, I wouldn't change a thing.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Disconnecting and Staring Your Loved Ones in the Face

Today I am doing the unthinkable for this vacation. I am using a computer and writing a blog. This week with my extended family is all about not connecting digitally and reconnecting with the age-old forgotten tradition of conversing with one another, without constantly checking down to see if somebody else has sent us a text. It's fantastic to see my 19 and 20 year old cousins intentionally leaving their phones in their rooms, even though this old house now has Wifi. Everybody here wants the excuse to disconnect, and I find that so awesome I had to reconnect just to tell you about it.

As I sit in this spot on the big covered porch staring out at the rippling lake my kids have Uno cards spread out in front of them, uncles are reading the newspaper, others are doing a jigsaw puzzle inside. Later today we will convene on the lawn for the Hartshorne Family Olympics, a yearly tradition that involves old and young chasing each other down in capture-the-flag, water balloon tossing, and egg-on-spoon races.

I can't believe that I don't make it a priority to disconnect this way in my regular life. Perhaps, like everyone else, I just get too caught up in the daily digital age, and staring at the screen most of my day becomes scarily normal. I love a week up here in the mountains to remind me to log off, shut it down, and get a good look at the faces of the people around me. I am hoping this year that it lasts more than week.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Summer Time Frenzy

Last night I had my first good night's sleep in what has felt like forever. Working nights screws you up so badly that it's hard for your body to figure out what to do when it's dark, and I spend many nights staring at the ceiling, the anxiety of knowing that I will be tired the next day chasing around my circulating thoughts. So I had a couple of nights at work this week, then a couple of those nights, and then last night exhaustion got the better of me and I slept like a baby, sausaged in the bed with both kids. Whatever it takes, as all mothers know, whatever it takes.

The kids had camp this week. Sofie loved hers but Nathan hated soccer camp. Mean guy in charge spent the whole day yelling at them and made several kids (my son included) cry. Kind of a downer when you spend a bijillion dollars finding the perfect situation for your kids. I guess better luck next time for us. Hopefully sleepover camp later in the summer will prove to be more of a joy. One can only hope.

Camp is simultaneously glorious and hideous for me. Do other parents feel this summer time frenzy? I am delighted that they have somewhere to expend all that energy, run and play with friends, and counselors to manage their needs all day. On the other hand, it's another thing to set my alarm for, make the lunches, don't forget to pack the towel, fill the water bottles, rush out the door and have them deposited in two completely different locations at almost the exact same time, only to turn around and retrieve them in their utterly exhausted state six hours later, bring them home and keep them from killing each other while I stare at the fridge, bleary-eyed from working all night, and try to figure out which of these left overs could become tonight's dinner. Is this easier than lying around all day and trying to nap in between Garfield episodes? The jury is still out.

I am trying to be the good single mother who can make it all happen, keep my kids lives fulfilled without losing her mind, but as any mother who tries to pull this off will probably tell you (unless she is either totally lying or smoking crack) sometimes it's not worth the heartache. I think camp is necessary for some of my sanity this summer, if I am able to catch even a couple of hours to myself to keep ahead of the terrible mess building up in the house, or pay my bills, or even (gulp!) go for a quick run, I feel like a hero. But apparently (and this is a shocker) sending them to camp is not going to be the answer to finding my inner calm.

Tomorrow we head to our undisclosed Pennsylvania mountain location for a week with my wonderful extended family. Lounging by the lake, long walks, and cocktails and novels on the porch await. Now there is some inner calm channeling calling my name. So ready.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Young Poets

Today I attended a poetry slam in my son's fourth grade class. All the kids stood up and read poems that they had carefully crafted, each one more beautiful than the last. The best were the kids' "I am from" poems, where they told about all of the things that make them who they are. It's amazing what kids will pick out of their own lives that they feel shape them. My son had some beautiful lines, mixed in with some totally invented ones about fracturing a rib while doing some athletic event and waking up in the hospital (no, this never happened). He makes shit up, wonder where he gets that?

His teacher also asked the parents to write a poem for their children that she would keep a surprise. She then read them out loud to the class and each kid had to guess which poem was for them. Nate was pretty adorable when she read mine, total embarrassment mixed with delight. So super cute. I totally cried. I am not a poet by any stretch of the imagination but here's my poem for my boy:

Mother’s Day Gift

He came to us on Mother’s Day,
His big brown eyes took my breath away,
A beautiful baby I could only dream of,
One quick glance and I knew it was love.

At first his breathing wasn’t right,
In the ICU he spent his first night,
But soon I held him in my arms,
And first was weakened by his charms.

He holds my heart tight in his hands,
Even now with all his demands,
X-box, iPad, and TV,
Sleepovers, junk food, play dates please?

Now as my boy turns to a man,
And grows up as fast as he possibly can,
I love him and I tell him so,
He takes my heart with him wherever he goes.

My boy that came on Mother’s Day,
Is the greatest gift that I could say,
I’ll take his anger, spunk, and joy,
For me there is no other boy.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Three Dreaded Letters: AMA

This week I celebrated my birthday, or I should actually say, I tried to avoid celebrating it. I don't know exactly what it was about turning 35 that really depressed me, but it got me good. Maybe it was the chipper young gal at work who exclaimed "Oh! You're now AMA (advanced maternal age)!" I almost punched her. Almost. Maybe it's the life filled with turmoil and change that makes getting older more depressing, or maybe it was that I spent the weekend in New York with my best friend having a wonderful time talking about crown molding and falling asleep at 10:30 (which was a really awesome weekend, I am just very aware that it is a new phase for those of us who have always torn the town up). All of these things are fine, but on the actual day together they felt like a ton of bricks smashing me in the face.

Everyone I know who is older than 35, of course, is very busy telling me how young I am. Well, sure, that's easy for you to say, but the reality is that this is the youngest I'll ever be again, right this second, and man that shit's scary. Also I'm rolling into 35 newly single after a long time, with a plate full of responsibilities and a strong desire to run away and hide my head in the sand. Good times all around. On the upside I know that I have an unusual amount of amazing people in my life, and I am probably one of the luckiest people alive in that respect. I also am blessed to have a job I love, and kids who rock, so it's really not so bad. I'm just hoping that next year I get my birthday mojo back and can celebrate in true Kate fashion. 36, nothing scary about that!

Monday, May 25, 2015


Adjusting. That's what this phase of my life is all about. For me, for my children, for all of us. We are all trying to pick through the pieces of a marriage that could not be salvaged.

My marriage ended almost three months ago and, as anyone who has experienced divorce can attest, that life change has brought about just about every recognizable emotion known to man. I'm sure the gauntlet of emotions has not been completely run, but I have certainly had enough feelings to last me a lifetime. I have wished many times for a fast-forward button to skip ahead six months to the place where the feelings have dulled a bit, where life has balanced out somewhat and the adjusting has happened, but no one is giving me that button. Crap.

Yesterday I threw my son a belated birthday party. In typical fashion, we had a barbecue, invited some lovely friends and some rowdy ten year old boys, and made some food and drinks. Nothing fancy. It was my first attempt at hosting as a single mother and let me just say that I am in no rush to do it again. My friends are all lovely and there was lots of help, but the underlying reality of being the only one ultimately responsible for the whole scene really stressed me out. I think it was more the emotion of being the only one that made me anxious and edgy, as opposed to the actual work involved, but it was not a great feeling. Today I feel the lingering pulse of anxiety coursing through my veins as I lay low with the kids. It's interesting what will set you off and make you feel this way, because up until now I have been managing the solo gig pretty well.

I think my new reality will involve less hosting. More focusing on finding the calm and less about the action. I feel like there is a lot of internal pressure on myself to continue our lives just as they were, but the reality is that everything has changed, and the adjusting cannot really begin until I accept that truth. Breaking up is totally not a good time, especially when kids are involved, but there is a palpable relief that has accompanied this experience that I cannot ignore. This is the right choice for me, the only choice, and we will keep adjusting, no matter how rocky that road may be.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Tropical Storm Katia

Today I have been a tropical storm of emotions. I was awake much of the night, plagued with anxiety and overwhelming sadness of that which I cannot fix. It's hard to imagine being sad and anxious in such amazing surrounding, but I have so much of my heart wrapped up in this place that it's hard not to know how to feel sometimes. I love this country so much, it has beauty beyond belief, and intense poverty in equal amounts.

Our friends joined us two days ago from my long time stomping ground of San Cristobal, a terribly impoverished city in the south of the DR. The two girls, Sindy and Yari, now ages 21 and 16, were daughters to me and my friend Jane for many years, but over time it became complicated, and we had to let those relationships go in order to forage ahead with our own lives. Cristian, Jane's old boyfriend and longtime admirer and much like a brother to me, is also here with his adorable (but emaciated) 8 year old daughter. It is both wonderful and terrible to see them. I love to have them here, but I wish they would go away so I don't have to think about how much they don't have, and how nothing I could ever do for them could ever be enough.

It is an emotional roller coaster, to say the least, enhanced by the fact that I DO NOT want to leave here in two days. I am not sure if I will ever be ready to come back. I woke up this morning weepy and wracked with anxiety and guilt that is almost impossible to fully explain. Guilt for having left these beautiful girls 12 years ago and not returning, and guilt for the fact that I have to leave them again, and I cannot really ever be their mother.

I am somewhat better now, if not extremely exhausted from the emotion of the day. Our San Cristobal friends go home tomorrow, and then we will have one more day to decompress in the sun before boarding our flight home (sob!) and hopefully seeking solace in our familiar cozy beds.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Paradise Found

Yep, paradise alright. Complete and total. And I must add that it wasn't hard to find. We have moved  on to the actual vacation part of our trip and a vacation it sure is. The house we rented was sight unseen, and could have been anything, but turned out to be an a perfect, incredible, heaven, and very cheap by our American standards. The rooms are palatial, as is the patio and pool area. I can't imagine ever leaving this amazing place, and I am beyond happy that we decided to stay for ten days of miserable New England winter. I find myself having visions of leaving my life behind and relocating to the tropics, which of course is very dreamy and romantic when one is vacationing in paradise, and probably a lot more work in real life.

People are always asking me why I spend so much of my life vacation planning, but here it is. I am right where I want to be, tanned and happy, with bachata playing on the stereo and a pina colada in the blender, and it didn't cost me and arm and a leg, or really more than a fraction of what most Americans pay to go to Disney World. (And I don't have to spend my days at a theme park wearing Mickey Mouse ears). I'm glad we spent so much time in the hot, dirty countryside at my mother-in-law's house enjoying the people and feeling crowded so that we could come here, spread out, and feel incredibly fortunate. Makes it even better than coming straight from home.

My mother-in-law, Erma, has been staying with us, and will do so until tomorrow, when some old and dear friends are coming from San Cristobal, the town I first loved here in the DR. Erma has done remarkably well here, considering she is so out of her element and, much like her son, doesn't particularly like to leave her house. She spends our beach days at my brother-in-law's house, claiming she is allergic to the ocean, and we pick her up on the way home so she can make a Dominican dinner as she likes to. Today we are all home by the pool, and thinking about some grilled chicken for lunch. I am not-so-secretly scheming about ways to make my life here, we'll see how that works out, I'll keep you all posted.

Grit, Hot Dogs, and Waterfalls in Pina Vieja

We have been in the Dominican Republic for five days now, in my mother-in-law's small village of Pina Vieja, where not only does everybody know your name, but everybody is also related to your husband. This part of our trip is a mixed bag of joy and headaches, as it always is. I have loved this country for a long time, it feels like home. It's gritty here, dirty and loud and completely third world, without a hint of tourism. Fortunately I have been coming here for as long as I've known Francisco, and so the people are jolly as Dominicans are, and happy to accept me as one of their own. I do wish we had a little house of our own here, as staying as a guest for this long wears on everyone, although my mother-in-law would never admit it.

We've had a few hilarious moments, like my mother waking up at 2 am to a cockroach crawling on her leg and screaming like she was on fire, and then again when she thought she felt the cockroach again, only to find out it was just the mosquito netting that canopies over our beds at night. Or the pudgy and somewhat dumb-witted girl that lives next door who is aptly named Juleisy (pronounced You Lazy) We are serenaded almost every night with the sounds of dogs fighting in the street outside our window, and blasts of music every now and again as a car rolls down the street. Trying to nap here is like trying to nap in a tent inside of Grand Central Station, just not a realistic plan.

I went dancing two nights ago with a friend who lives next door, and that was indeed a treat of epic proportions. Dancing the night away to the sounds of La Banda Gorda, something that only someone who came here with me in 1997 would appreciate. We left the disco in a rum soaked haze, ate a Dominican hot dog from a street vendor (read: hot dog buried underneath a delicious pile of cabbage and condiments), and then couldn't find anyone to take us home, poor planning at best. So we walked (or perhaps stumbled) the two or so miles home where I promptly puked up the hot dog (sorry for that bit, but that is what usually happens when I eat them, but they're soooo good) and felt into a coma until the rumble of the neighborhood woke me up. Totally worth the hideous hangover the next day. Totally.

Today we took a journey to the far off town of Jarabacoa, a mountainous region in what's known as the Dominican Alps. We had planned to visit one of the famous waterfalls, although it took us many turns to find the one that didn't involve us crossing a hanging footbridge to get to. When we finally found Salto Baiguate, a waterfall deep in the countryside, my mother-in-law (Erma) was completely horrified at the complete and total isolation of this place. I thought it was amazing. Peaceful, quiet, with a short walk down to the cascading falls. It did involve about 50 steep stairs, and I was pretty sure Erma was going to die of a heart attack or out of spite for us bringing her to such a place. We took some pictures, and then made the climb up and out of there, even more to her dismay. We couldn't swim at that spot unfortunately, so we had to head out to somewhere better. Our driver for the day, Lilo, took us to a river called Acapulco, which was great, but nothing like it's namesake. The kids swam in the cool deep river, which was sparkling clear and a lovely treat.

This is the part of our trip that I don't call a vacation, I call it an adventure. I love it, but it's not for everyone. I'm pretty happy to be in this chaotic third-world tropical place today and not buried under four feet of snow back home.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Preparing to Shovel on Out of Here

One week and two days!!!! That is how long before I hit the tropics once again. Nothing gets me through winter better than knowing I have a warm weather trip right around the corner, not even the two feet of snow outside my window and on top of my car can bring me down today.

It is no secret that I love to vacation. It is an addiction of the best kind, albeit pricey and sometimes unreasonable. I would spend most of my life on vacation if I could, but being as I am not independently wealthy I settle for a few times a year. This, I realize, is probably more than most, but we all have different priorities, and travel is what fulfills me unlike anything else.

Fortunately for me all of Francisco's family happens to live in the tropics, and none of them have the money or the visas to come and visit us up north, so we must go down there to visit them, and let our kids spend time with their abuela and get to know their heritage.

Next week I am taking the kids, and my mom, and we are going to the Dominican Republic for three long weeks, in the hopes that a longer stay will help grind in some of the Spanish that Francisco and I are terrible about teaching them at home. People are constantly judging us for our lack of Spanish at home with our kids, and I wish it weren't true, but we have not found a way to consistently speak Spanish to our children without complete and total uproar and rebellion. So for all of you who are constantly criticizing me for not raising bilingual kids, here you go. Three week immersion, of which I plan to spend the entire time speaking only Spanish. Learn or starve, the same way I did. Hopefully this will be the first of many trips like this one, to set in motion the seed that has been planted in their minds for years.

So hurry up and get here vacation! I don't want to shovel out my car one more time before the big day, but that seems like too much to ask from the weather gods, so I'll just pray for a sunny day on the 11th as we make our long trek south. See you all in March!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Into the Woods: A musical lost in translation

Last night we went to see the movie Into the Woods, a whimsical yet action-packed Disney film with a new twist on several different fairy tales, combining all of their happy endings into a not so happy and somewhat unpredictable ending. We went as a family, with our visiting El Salvadoran friend and his teenage son. What I did not know about this movie before heading into the theater was that it is a musical. And what I did not know about musicals was how confusing they can be when English is not your first language.

Francisco's reaction to the flick was hilarious. "That was theeeee worst movie I have eeeebbbeeerr seen, you could pay me all the money in the world to go again and I would say no! I jam more confusing than eeebbbeeerrr..." and so on and so forth all the way home. He was so baffled as to why any movie would ever involve so much singing, and why did they have to have five story lines going at the same time? And what exactly happened anyway? Who would ever pay money for such a complicated bunch of crap? Hysterical.

So Disney, let me advise you. If you are going to make a musical, let people know when you show the previews that the movie will be nothing but song, as this does not always translate well for some. Or maybe I would have paid the $48.75 anyway just to see the look on my poor husband's face as he scratched his head all the way home. Also this movie, while entertaining, was three too many songs, and at least 15 minutes too long, tra la laaaaaaaaaa!!!