Saying Goodbye

grandmaYiaya Julie was my birth-grandmother. I met her three years ago, when we went to New York and met my birth family. She cried and told me “I wanted to meet you before I die.” The sentiment was funny at the time. But now she’s gone, and I see how lucky we both were for those three years.

I’d never known an old person like Yiaya Julie. The old people in my family were bitter and complained all the time. Yiaya Julie was full of life, always smiling, hugging, and apologizing for her (perfect) English. We spoke to each other in a combination of English and Greek, and she was forever taking me or my kids to her apartment to do or see something special. She showed me pictures of her late husband – my grandfather – and the daughter she lost too soon. She showed my kids her pet parakeet and played games with them.

Since I only knew her for three years, I don’t know that much about Yiaya Julie’s story. I do know that she immigrated to New York from Greece and made a good life for herself. I admire her because I know I could never be that brave. read more

14 Things I Wish I’d Known about Love

2dRW0jnAs we walked out of the school, her face reddened and tears started to flow. “Noah yelled at me,” my six-year-old said of her crush.

“He yelled at you? What happened?”

“He said ‘You’re ruining the whole play!’”

“Why did he say that?”

“I tapped him on the shoulder and he got mad, but I was supposed to be Maya’s baby and that’s what babies do.”

She cried harder. My baby’s heart was broken.

As we drove to the doctor’s office, I tried to impart some wisdom about love and boys and everything that comes with them. The only thing my mom ever told me when I had a broken heart was “There are other fish in the sea.” As a survivor of many heartbreaks, I wanted to be a little more helpful. That, and Valentine’s Day, got me thinking. What do I know now that I wish I knew then? What would have smoothed my path and saved my heart? It’s not all appropriate for a six-year-old – I’ll dole it out as she needs it. But armed with this knowledge, I hope to be the kind of mom who IS helpful in the area of romance, and I hope it’ll save my daughter some heartache. So here are 14 things that I wish I’d known about love. read more

Dog-tirade

Crying HeadIt all started innocently enough. The landscaper for our next-door neighbors always brings his dog to work. The dog’s a cute little Silky Terrier, and my daughter always wants to play with him. This time he wandered into our yard, and she asked if she could go see him. I said okay and off she went. Then the landscaper called the dog back to him. My disappointed daughter stood on our lawn, watching him go, longing for the dog. I called her back in and she asked if we could go play with the dog next door. I said no, the landscaper has to do his job and we can’t walk on his grass seeds after he spreads them, but we will go talk to him in a while. I wanted to get an estimate.

We went next door and my daughter called the dog as I talked to the guy. He gave me his card and he told me that he’d be by once he was done. I told my daughter to come back home with me. She didn’t want  to, but she came. All the way home, she asked me if she could go back. I assured her that the guy would come over with his dog later and she could play with him all she wanted. read more

The battle of the stresses

Stress 2My husband thinks he’s cornered the market on stress. Okay, he’s got a very demanding job; he works a lot of hours, he’s on call 24/7 and he does carry a lot of stress on his shoulders. But the other day I mentioned that I had more stress than usual and you’d have thought I’d said I got abducted by aliens.

“Stress?” he said. “What are YOU stressed about?” Seriously, that’s the way he said it.

I don’t know how two people who live in the same house, eat dinner together and sleep in the same bed can be so far apart in their understanding. I began to explain. read more

My real (estate) obsession

Ever since my dad died, I’ve been obsessed. Every day, I pull up real estate listings and study the photos, map out houses, calculate mortgages and research schools. My dad left us some money – enough for us to leave this sodden hell hole and move back to Maryland. But I’ve jumped the gun a bit.

To move back East, we need several things to happen. First and foremost, we need my husband to get a job there, because we don’t have enough money for him to retire. And his prospects will greatly improve once he takes the CPA exam, coming up in January. Second, we need to sell our house, because we don’t want to support two houses. When we moved to Seattle, we couldn’t sell our house in Maryland, so we rented it and took a big loss each month on the mortgage. We don’t want to do that again. Third, we have to wait until we can make a down payment on a new house and have some money left for emergencies. Because my dad did a half-assed job on a do-it-yourself will, his estate is tied up in probate, and may take two years to settle.

Nevertheless, I’m spending much of my working hours looking at houses for sale in Maryland. I conduct searches, pore over the pictures, and send them to my husband, which I’m sure gets annoying after the first six or seven.  I know that by the time we move, we won’t be able to buy any of the houses I’m looking at now, but I’m so excited about the prospect of going back home that I can’t help but look.

What’s so great about Maryland? Well, for one thing, we loved it there. We lived a block from the Chesapeake Bay and we loved walking down to the water on the weekends, hanging with the neighbors on the pier or attempting to go out on the boat. We only took that glorified buoy out twice and had problems both times, but we had a boat and a body of water in which to drive her.

We also had friends there – a whole bunch of friends who promised to babysit back when I was pregnant. We plan to take each and every one of them up on their offers when we get back. Most importantly, the people there were genuine. Seattleites are super nice on the surface, but they turn on you if you try to develop a friendship. With the exception of two women, all of my friends here are from somewhere else, and the two from Seattle have both lived elsewhere.

We love the weather in Maryland – real seasons, including warm days from March to October. When my daughter wakes up here, she asks, “Is it not raining today?” and it breaks my heart. I hate that all she’s ever known is rain nine to eleven months out of the year. I want rain to be the exception, not the rule. It snows in Maryland and although I’m not a fan, snow is a kid’s paradise, and I want our kids to experience it.

There’s the kids’ education to consider, too. Here’s a nice surprise: I looked up the school rankings by state and Maryland was number one. I’m thrilled about that. Seattleites would rather have less competitive schools and “a better work/life balance.” Someone actually told me that. When their kids enter the job market, I can guarantee that not one interviewer will ask them about their work/life balance. Suffice it to say that our East Coast values differ greatly from the values here.

Last but not least, there’s family. When we move back East, we’ll live three hours from my husband’s family and four hours from mine. I want the kids to grow up seeing their family more than once a year. I want the kids to learn about their cultures — Greek, Cuban and Southern.

You may ask, “What the hell does this have to do with the blog, Maria? I thought it was supposed to be about relationships.” All of these reasons – even weather – come down to relationships. We want the kids to grow up in a place where people are genuine, whether they like you or not. I don’t want them to learn to pretend like the people do here.

We want to be among friends. When we lived in Maryland we saw our friends all the time. Here I’ve gone a year without seeing a close friend who lives 35 minutes away.

Drier, warmer weather means people get out and interact with each other. I think the weather plays a big role in keeping people isolated here. People keep to themselves in the fall, winter and spring, and in summer, it seems like there are more people here because you actually see them.

And then there’s family – my BFF and my new birth family, my husband’s mom and his huge assortment of cousins. My husband and I suffer here from a lack of close relationships and the kids suffer because aloofness is the norm.

We miss our people – those who made our lives so rich when we lived back East, the new family we’ve discovered, and the old family we had to leave behind. In light of that, is it any wonder that I can’t wait to get back? Who knows? Maybe we will get there sooner rather than later. And when we do, I’ll be prepared.