It all started with the turkey.


The restaurant where I was working when I was, like, 24 years old gave us all free, frozen turkeys as a Thanksgiving present.  So my roommate, Kara, and I decided to make a night out of setting each another up on dates, eating said turkey in the context of a fancy dinner, then going out to Lincoln Center for a concert.  I had always wanted to attend a Handel’s Messiah concert, so we got tickets and we got dates.  Then our friend Mike (and neighbor–he lived one floor above us in our apt bldg) heard about our plan and wanted to join us.  He got his own date.


My job was going to be preparing the turkey/stuffing.  Kara (who was a vegetarian, BTW) was going to make soup–a family recipe.  That left Mike in charge of dessert.  Kara and I were unsure of Mike’s comfort level with baking, so we looked up a few recipes and offered suggestions.  We thought something light and fruity would be appropriate pre-concert.


He chose to make a Betty Crocker chocolate cake.


The day of our event I woke up and went to the freezer to take my turkey out.  That’s right. I hadn’t thawed it.  It was frozen solid.  And our guests were coming over in about 8 hours.  In a panic, I read the packaging on the turkey and it said something about a “quick thaw” method that involved soaking it in a cold water bath.  Whew! I thought. Crisis averted!  I put the turkey in a cold water bath, then left to go on an audition.  When I came back 2 hours later, the turkey was still frozen solid.  I chipped ice off it and tried to scrape the gizzards out of the cavity, but my fingers were getting frostbitten.  I was beginning to think the turkey miiiiiight not be ready to serve in 6 hours.  So I called Kara at work to alert her.  She worked in a wall street office and offered to go around to the executives and pilfer bits of fruit and crackers from the Harry and David gift baskets they had all gotten from their clients for Christmas.  Then she told me she would have to work late and would only be getting home in time for the dinner.  Uh, what?  What about your soup, Kara?  No problem, she assured me.  She said all the ingredients were in a grocery bag and all I had to do was open all the packages and dump them in a pot on the stove.  I said, Uh, Kara?  I can’t cook. (Obviously.)  So when you say, open the packages and dump it in a pot, that is LITERALLY what I am going to do.  I don’t have any method of discerning if I should perhaps add some water or some other soupy ingredient.  I’ll try not to burn it, but at this point, that’s all I can promise.  She was OK with those odds and said goodbye, leaving me again to my turkey dilemma.  I set up another cold bath for the little guy and went about preparing the table.  I had place cards, floral arrangements, china…table setting was my strength and really, I should have just stuck with that.


Then there was a knock on the door and it was Mike, stopping by to show me that he had purchased his Betty Crocker cake mix and was heading home to bake.  Uh, Mike, don’t bother me.  I’m thawing a turkey.  After he left I went back into the kitchen and searched through my cookbooks looking for some miracle cure for the chunk of ice and flesh taking a bath in my sink.  Then I saw it.  At the bottom of the page in one of my cookbooks it read:  Questions about cooking your turkey?  Call the TURKEY HOTLINE!  It listed a 1-800 number and I ran to the phone to call it.  Unfortunately the lady who answered my call was moving at a non-New York City pace.  I think she was from, like, Alabama.  Even the way she said hello was slow: Heeeelllllllllloooooooooo-oooooooooo?????  Before she even got to the lll’s I had screamed hello!!!! In about 2.7 seconds I detailed my crisis to her and awaited instructions.  She paused.  For a long time.  Then she said, Sooooooooooo.  Yyyoooooouuuuu’rrrrrrreee ffffrrrrrooooooooommmmmm  NNNNNeeeeewwwww YYYYYooooorrrrkkkkk CCCCCCiiiitttttyyyyyyyyyy????????  Another long pause.  I edited what came to my mind so that what came to my mouth was, Yes.  And I really need some help.  RIGHT NOW!  Then Super Slow Turkey Hotline Lady came through and told me that I could actually cook the turkey while its still frozen, I would just have to add a half hour of cooking time for every pound.  I quickly did some math in my head and realized that if I put the turkey in the oven right then, it would be ready at 10:30 pm, just about the time we would be getting back from the concert.  I was elated!! I thanked SSTHL and got off the phone.


Then there was another knock on my door.  It was Mike again.  Renee, do you have a bowl I can borrow?  I was about to criticize him for not having a bowl when he was making a cake, then I remembered that my turkey was still solid as a rock.  Sure, Mike.  Let me get you a bowl.


I put the turkey in the oven and called Kara again to check in when there was another knock and the door.  It was Mike again.  Do you have a measuring cup I could borrow?  Ran through my own cooking failure in my head again and edited my comment to, Sure Mike, Let me get you a measuring cup.


Then I set about finishing up the cleaning and opening all the packages for Kara’s soup, when there was another knock at the door.  Mike.  2 eggs?  Oil?  I gave him a look that said everything my brain was thinking and after I silently passed him the eggs and oil I slammed the door in his face.


Our guests were about to arrive, so I went in the bathroom to get ready and Kara came home from work just in time to greet them with her pears and crackers.  She stopped in at the bathroom to see how I was doing and I was just sitting in a heap crying.  I was so stressed out and felt like such a failure. She talked me through it, gave me a hug and got me on my feet again.  I asked, Did the soup come out OK?  She averted my eyes and said, No, it hadn’t, and quickly exited.  A few minutes later she came back in the bathroom.  She had tears in her eyes and she was holding back a huge laugh as she asked me to come out into the kitchen.  I followed her out and greeted all our guests, who were pretending to like their Harry and David castoffs.  And when I got to the kitchen, she gestured to Mike’s “cake”, which was sitting on the counter.  Actually, it was kind of sliding off.  He had attempted a layer cake.  And I’m pretty sure he was waiting at the oven door for the cake to finish baking with a spatula full of frosting.  Because the cake was still steaming hot and the frosting had turned to “icing/liquid” and was running down our counter.  The top layer of the cake had slid off and was at a 45 degree angle.  And cake was on a cheap Kmart plate.  I loved it.  I laughed so hard that I had to sit down on the floor.  Our elegant dinner was such a flop and we were all losers in the kitchen, but it really was starting to strike me as incredibly hysterical.


After our hors d’Oveures we set off for the concert, with the plan that after the concert we would come back and sit down for our “feast”.  The turkey remained in the oven, causing approximately 7 fire hazards.


The concert was very nice.  But I have a bit of a sensitivity to people making noise around me in theaters.  I can hear someone sucking on a hard candy across a room full of 300 people.  And unfortunately, the women behind me had just purchased some fascinating opera glasses at the gift shop.  And unfortunately, they were wrapped in what sounded like 13 layers of crinkly, plastic wrap.  And UNFORTUNATELY, they chose the very quiet, sad, alto solo, “He Was Despised”, about Jesus’ crucifixion, to unwrap their new goggles and chat all about them loudly right in my ear.  Kind of wrecked it for me.


Anyway, after the concert we went back to my place, where the turkey STILL was not cooked.  It was now late and we were all cranky and starving, so we decided to eat the only piece of food in the house.  The cake.  We sat down at the fancy table I had set up and set the “cake” in the center.  Then we all grabbed our forks and just started hacking away at it.  It was too lopsided and slippery to actually cut, and we were too tired to try anyway.  So we just ate like pigs in fancy clothes.


Then Mike left to take his date home.  And my date went home.  Then Kara said goodbye to her date and went to bed.  At 2:30 am Mike returned.  He was hungry and the turkey was finally done.


So we carved it up and the two of us ate, what I swear to this day, was the most delicious turkey I’ve ever eaten.

The Green Monster

November 16, 2010

Four years ago I bought my dream car.  Ever since I was little and I would see the neighbor’s yellow jeep whizzing down Thrall Road I loved Jeep Wranglers.  And when I bought it I had just said goodbye to my very boring Ford Something-or-Other car.  Does anyone else (besides my family) name their cars?  I’ve had a “Chuckie”, named after the Chuckie movies, because that car was a little possessed.  Then of course I had the famous “Putt-putt”.  I bought that car for $100 from a friend and it was a 20 year old Audi that had no working air/radio/odometer/radiator.  It made the putt-putt noise whenever I drove it.  That boring Ford was named Bruce.  I don’t know why–it just seemed like a Bruce.   (Sorry to Libby who’s Bruce is nothing close to boring!  If I’d known him then I would have name my car something else.  Like Bob.)

When Bruce died I was in a bit of a pickle because my job at Aveda required me to drive to salons every day and I was suddenly renting cars and taking long bus rides to the Hamptons to do my job.  I had a boss at the time who was, like, oh, How can I describe him?  Totally incompetent.  I tried to explain to him that when I had been hired, owning a car was not in my job description; over time I had inherited some accounts that I was able to take because I happened to have a car.  I was trying to argue that Aveda couldn’t force me to buy a car and instead should rent me a car twice a week.   He didn’t buy it.  He told me to go buy a Jetta.

Instead, I decided to buy a car that would make me happy.

I named it The Green Monster.  I was on a bit of a Red Sox kick at the time.  (My nephew Jack, who was 3 at the time and is a premium member of the Red Sox Nation was a bit scared of my car because it was a “monster”, but imagining the Green Monster running over Yankees in New York made him feel more comfortable around it.)  The Green Monster really makes me happy.  I LOVE driving it and my hearts swells every time I see it.  I paid it off before I adopted Rahul and when times have been lean I’ve thought of selling it, but I could never bring myself to do it.  And I was juuuuust saying 2 weeks ago that it has never given me a day of trouble.

Then it suddenly developed 5 separate and expensive problems, and it has spent the last week in the shop.  The repairs cost a large chunk of dough, but thanks to Don Glo Auto (if you need a mechanic in NYC, I highly recommend them) it was a much smaller chunk of dough than the first place was going to charge me.  When Rahul and I went to pick up TGM last night, I hugged the car when I saw it on the street and when I got in I scolded it and told it to never do that to me again.  I was so busy last week and my business revolves completely around my car (I’m a mobile hairdresser).  Sans car I was lugging about 30 pounds of hair stuff all over creation, and although I didn’t miss one appointment I was late for about 75% of them.  I was late coming home every night and I missed 3 church services.  And I was pooped.

Rahul on The Green Monster

This morning I had to take Rahul to the doctor, and although the office is right in our neighborhood, we usually drive there.  As we walked past the car, Rahul asked why we weren’t driving.  I told him I had learned the value of walking last week.  And I told him he needed to train for a race he’s running.  But I realized that in actuality I had some unresolved feelings toward TGM that were making me reluctant to drive it.  So this afternoon I took it for a spin and we made up.  It runs so much better now.

And I know its really sorry for inconveniencing me.

They Are Special

October 1, 2010

Today was the 4th Grade “Get Aquainted” day at Rahul’s school.  That’s the PS 24 version of an Open House–each teacher prepares a short presentation for the parents of their students outlining curriculum and expectations for the year.  For the last two years Rahul has been in General Ed classes with students of some of the most dynamic and involved parents in the school.  Every time parents were invited into his class for an event the room was packed with parents, grandparents, and tons of food!  And I have tried to learn from them what it means to be an “involved parent”.


This year I moved Rahul to a Special Ed class and it has so far seemed to be a great move.  I was really looking forward to this morning’s meeting, so I could get to know his teacher a little better and see where Rahul sits.  He told me the other day that the class had all written notes to their parents and they were going to leave them on their desks for us to read today.  I love that stuff!


So this morning, I trudged (2 blocks) through the wind and rain to the meeting, and when I walked into the classroom only one other parent was there.  The class is small, there are only 13 students, but I couldn’t believe we were the only two people there!  The notes the kids had written to us were laid out on their desks, along with a guide from the teacher and a bookmark she had made up for us.  We waited for a few minutes to see if anyone else was coming, but finally Ms. Vedevino began her presentation.  She opened by reading the poem that was printed on the bookmark, called “Unity” (Author Unknown).


I dreamed I stood in a studio

And watched two sculptors there.

The clay they used was a young child’s mind.

And they finished it with care.


One was a teacher; the tools he used

Were books and music and art.

One a parent with a guiding hand

And a gentle and loving heart.


Day after day the teacher toiled

With a touch that was deft and sure,

While the parent labored by his side

And polished and smoothed it over.


And when at last their task was done

They were proud of what they had wrought,

For the thing they had molded into the child

Could neither be sold or bought.


And each agreed he would have failed

If he had worked alone.

From behind the parent stood the school

And behind the teacher, the home.



By the time she finished reading the poem I was choking back a major crying situation because my heart just ACHED for the kids who’s parents weren’t able to be there.  Of all the kids in the school, these kids need their parents there.  But many of them don’t speak English, or don’t live nearby, or have to work, and maybe some of them just don’t care.  Or believe that they could make any difference.  But as I looked around the room at all the notes these kids had written with the expectation that their parents would be sitting in their seats and learning about their class, and looked up at the presentation Ms. Vedovino had prepared for us, I just wanted to weep.  I wanted to go around and read all the kids’ notes and write them a little one back, like I did for Rahul.  I wanted to go to all their homes and talk with their parents and learn what had kept them away today.  I wanted to invite them all over for a playdate.  Except Jose, who Rahul gave a wedgie to yesterday because he was bullying him…oh, OK, Jose, too!


I have already experienced the second rate attention parents of ESL students and Special Ed students receive from the school.  I know we are the quiet wheel and without a little squeak we won’t get anything we want for our kids.  And I know that without the unity of parent and teacher described in the poem, our kids won’t make it.  I feel prepared to fight the crusade (because if Special Ed in public schools is not a crusade, I don’t know what is) and I hope I can drag a few others along with me.  I have become BFF with Manny, the vice-principal in charge of Special Ed, have emailed the PTA presidents, cozied up with the looney school psychologist, I do the ESL teacher’s hair (and her daughters’)…I’m trying to engage a strong team of people to help my son get through this year.


And I also volunteered to be the room mother.

Rahul with his grandparents in his class last year


Our Dr. Jane

September 29, 2010

One of the easiest decisions I ever made was which pediatrician Rahul would go to when he first came home with me.  To choose Dr. Jane Aronson was a complete no-brainer.  She is known as The Orphan Doctor ( and is a pediatrician who specializes in treating children who have been adopted and have crossed cultures in doing so.  She has made it her business to deeply understand conditions for orphans around the world so as to better treat them here.  (She also founded WWO,, to improve lives for children in orphanages around the world.)

So when Rahul arrived on US soil (4/08), one of the first things I did for him was to make an appointment with Dr. Jane.  It seemed that he had received good medical care in India, but I needed to make sure his immunizations were up to date and that he was as healthy as he seemed on paper.

The day of our appointment was Rahul’s first field trip at school, and I really wanted him to be able to go to the Bronx Zoo with rest of his class (he had just started school a few days earlier).  So I met him there and after we had lunch with his class and rode the monorail, we headed out.  Now, at this point, Rahul and I did not speak a common language, so we had only a few words–and a whole lot of gestures–that we used to communicate.  I didn’t know the Hindi word for “doctor” and I certainly was NOT going to do the “putting a shot in my arm” gesture to explain where we were going, so I said, “dost”, which means “friend”.  That’s where we’re going.  To our friend’s house.  Where she is then going to stick big needles in your arm.  Can’t wait.

So we arrived and I parked my car in a garage one block from Dr. Jane’s office.  Then Rahul refused to get out of the car.  After a few minutes of prodding, followed by a few minutes of threatening, followed by a quick experiment to see if I could lift Rahul out of the backseat (I could NOT), I called my parents.  They were 7 hours away, but they were also the only people in the world that Rahul seemed to like at that time, and I thought they might have some luck convincing him to get out of the car.  So Grammy and Grandpop worked their magic and Rahul got out of the car.  So then we took a few steps along the sidewalk and Rahul sat down on the curb and refused to budge.  Again I tried the prodding, the threatening, the lifting — nothing.  This kid was going nowhere.  So I called Dr. Jane’s office.  Her receptionist was really sweet and smiley and I thought if I could convince her to walk over to where we were, Rahul would feel more comfortable and be inclined to get off the curb and into the office.  She immediately understood what I was asking her to do and why and was happy to come over.  So a minute later, not only does Bubbly Receptionist come walking up the block, but Dr. Jane herself, flanked by two other doctors she was training that day.  Now Dr. Jane is a striking woman, with white, curly hair and brightly colored glasses, and as she led her team across the street to where we were, she had a huge smile on her face and was shouting “Hi, Rahul!” as she walked.  Of course, he immediately stood up and smiled and was happy to go with this fun group wherever they were going, and as we started walking towards her office Dr. Jane sidled up next to me and said, “Is he driving you crazy yet?”  She is an adoptive mom as well and has more experience with the trauma that occurs when an orphan crosses cultures and enters a family than anyone, and I was comforted to know that she didn’t judge me–or HIM–because of our behavior that day.

We stepped into the office suite and Dr. Jane started her examination right in the bright, cheery waiting room.  But after a few minutes it was time to move into her office.   She weighed and measured him, checked his pulse (it was racing, he was so scared!), and interviewed me about his habits.  Then it was time for the needles.  She had to draw a lot of blood for testing, and once Rahul realized that’s what was coming next he flipped out.  He kicked, screamed, bit, flailed his arms, and ran out of the office and down the hall.  A large, male doctor grabbed him as he ran by and Dr. Jane yelled out, “Papoose him!”  Another person grabbed a contraption that looked like a straight jacket attached to a wooden sled and it took five adults to strap Rahul into it.  Rahul was terrified and called out for me, and I held his head so he wouldn’t bite Dr. Jane.  She drew the blood, vial after vial.  And then she was done.  She unstrapped him from his straight jacket and let him run out of the room to be alone and cry in a little heap at the end of the hall.  Then when he was done, he came to Dr. Jane and got a sticker and a hug.

And then she reminded me that Dylan’s Candy Bar was right around the corner from her office.

So off we went to the greatest candy store in the world.  And I was so relieved and strung out that I gave Rahul carte blanche to get whatever he wanted.

I have the receipt from that visit in his scrapbook.

75 dollars.

On candy.

Rahul with his $75 worth of candy

Silence Is Golden

February 19, 2010

I just spent 2 days in Kennebunkport, Maine and had such a great time.  At this stage in my life, my idea of a perfect vacation involves a cozy room, a fireplace, a good book and silence.  This was my sixth visit to The Captain Lord Mansion  and it is one of my favorite places in the world.  I discovered this B&B about 15 years ago when I was looking for somewhere for my family to spend Christmas, since my parents’ house was under construction and my sister Robyn and I both lived in small apartments.  Robyn was in law school in Portland, Maine, so I found a couple of places in Maine, sent my sister to check them out and The Captain Lord Mansion was at the top of my list. She (and my dad, if I remember right) visited it first and as soon as they walked in the door they were won over and made our reservation.

I can’t afford to buy milk right now, much less take a vacation, so this trip was my Christmas gift from my parents.  And boy, did I need it.  Since adopting Rahul almost 2 years ago, while I’ve had the occasional break, I hadn’t taken a vacation.  And I have to say, the thing I appreciated the most about the trip, was the SILENCE.  Its amazing how soothing the sound of silence is.  I literally parked myself in front of the fireplace in my room and read the whole time.  The breakfast cook told me about a man named Wilbur who visits there every Fall for 18 days.  He loves reading so much that he ships a big box of books to the CLM before he flies in.  She said he becomes a fixture in the wing backed chair in front of the fireplace in the mansion’s common room and just quietly reads from morning to night.  Sounds like bliss to me.

One of the books I took with me to read was Persuasion by Jane Austen.  I read it years ago, but recently saw a great exhibit of Jane Austen’s letters at the Morgan Library and it inspired me to re-read some of my favorites.  The first time I read it I was traveling on a Greyhound bus and the sun went down just as I got to the best part (the last two chapters are gripping and amazing!) and the light above my head went out.  Panicking, I looked around the bus for another seat and realized that they were all filled!  So I held the book up the window and every time we passed a street light I would read a few words.  I just couldn’t bear to wait until I got home to see how it ended!  So as I re-read Persuasion yesterday and was getting to the end, I realized it was time to check out of my room.  I really didn’t want to get into the car without having finished it.  So after I checked out and packed my car, I sat in the wing backed chair by the fireplace in the common room and dug in.  And just as I was nearing the end I heard the mansion staff whispering about me. Apparently I had earned a new nickname–Wilbur.

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