Rest Easy Daddy

I can’t seem to sleep, I am up all night with mini panic attacks replaying the last weeks of my Fathers life in my head.  I describe the last week like a record player…. the needle lays down to play the music and as the record spins so does my head…. spinning and spinning the thoughts of the last weeks.  The record is over and the needle picks up and it plays again.  I just can’t stop spinning.  The questions and speculations swirl in my head and likely will be doing so for quite sometime.

I’m feeling a bit selfish as well because I want my dad back. Well I want my 1999 dad back.  I’m selfish to think that there’s something I could have said or done that would have kept him around longer. I’m selfish to think that his love for us could have trumped his depression. I’m selfish to keep asking “why” when I know I’ll never get the answer.

For now I will try and enjoy life, work to slow the spinning and try and seek joy. Oh and I promise to never ever leave my family wondering.

My father had a choice. He chose to leave. Janice didn’t have a choice, she did NOT choose to leave. An orphan at 42 years old.  Yes I am angry.

Friends have asked me to share my eulogy.  Its not edited and was written on my phone mostly on my flight home from Florida in April.  I knew this was coming.

 

Hello my name is Christina Ann Marvullo Alexander and I am an adult child of an alcoholic.  A remembrance of my days where Mom and Dad had me attend al anon meetings as a child.  Our Father was a 30 plus year member of the 12 step program that worked on a model that you can not maintain sobriety unless the drunk surrenders to a higher power became a staple of our everyday life as both my Father and my brother are friends of Bill W.  Our alcoholic family was one of chaos, inconsistency and sometimes unclear roles. I think that’s what has happened to me my husband tells me I think I am everyone’s MOTHER!

 

The death of someone whom is essentially a hard person to love is complicated.  The death of a person with whom you have had a broken relationship means now that relationship can never really be repaired.  My Father was himself too a broken person but Laura and Joey and I are left with what remains and we now begin the process of making peace with it.

 

I have often thought about what I would feel like in this moment.  Because ever since I was a little girl our Dad was sick. Sick with a physical disease and dealing with addiction  struggling with sobriety and what I can now see as struggling with mental illness. In thinking about this day it has opened up many places inside of me revealing long hidden places that hold both anger and joy.

 

Every parent wishes to pass along some wisdom to their children and our Dad was no different.  As I sat and considered what I would write today I tried to focus on the lessons I have learned from him.

As a child I never really thought much about our trip to concerts, backyard listening to baseball games on the radio while working in the garden or our fishing adventures.  In retrospect, however, I now understand that Dad was – consciously or not – imparting some useful lessons on life.

 

Long before there were i phones or satellite radio or any of these highly addictive electronics to keep children entertained and planted on the family couch for hours.  Fishing was my Dad’s method of spending time with me and teaching me something that he loved. Reading the Newsday and checking the schedule of the incoming tides was a daily routine.  Then off we would go to do some fishing. Now the drive there was usually me in the front seat with a six pack of miller light between us. The beer wasn’t even placed in a cooler and the thought of me wearing a seat belt was not something that crossed his mind.

The days were long and hot but I learned how to celebrate the success of the catch but more importantly I learned about waking up ridiculously early, how to purchase bait, prepping for the day and sometimes we wouldn’t catch a single fish.  I suppose this is what I learned – how to accept failure and patience. The lessons were that waiting and waiting was just another variable in my Dad’s meticulously constructed equation on how catch a fish.

 

Gardening was another love of his, all done while listening to the New York Yankees on the radio.  Well if Janice was outside she would change the station to listen to the New York Mets and that my friends began my love for the sport.  Baseball like fishing were his perfect summer companion, the game has a rhythm that mirrors summer – the pace is gradual and sometimes slow and often laid back.  Fitting as Dad passed away on the summer solstice the longest day of the year, my beloved first day of summer. Indeed these sounds of summer ring in my head when thinking of Dad – from the shed radio where an umpire calling balls and strikes to a vendor hawking hot dogs and peanuts , these sounds come loud and clear in my mind.  The sprinkler running on his beloved garden as Joey and Laura and I along with our neighborhood friends would slide down the lawn on our famous yellow slip and slide .

 

Music was another of his passions.  Rides in the car always had a 8 track in of Billy Joel or Led Zeppelin or Willie Nelson or many of his doo wop favorites.  Singing along was Janice whom most don’t know took vocal lessons for years and had a beautiful voice. I can still hear her sing Barbara Streisand and my Father sang the Bee Gees part and funny Donald and I do the same thing today.   We went to countless concerts together the best being Eric Clapton and Elton John he took my friend Alexandra and I and we were in awe of the whole experience. Dad went to see Willie Nelson a few months back calling to tell his son in laws Donald and Mike all about it and wondering how much longer that old goat would be on stage.

 

Joe Monroe as he sometimes was called or also known as the boss – had a huge loving family.  Too many Marvullo’s to count. But in the end it was his six grandsons that made him smile the most.  John Joseph whom was named after him, Daniel who just a month ago chose Joseph as his confirmation name, Christian (that was his middle name), Michael Joseph who too was named after him and babies Antonio and Max.  A few more boys and we can make a baseball team! He was so proud when the spoke of those boys I think the thought of that being his biggest accomplishment. When we told the boys of his passing Daniel said “but he said that he would come back up and help me perfect my curve ball.”  MJ said but we were going to have ice cream Nina but now the is an Angel with Nanny Janice.

 

You died exceptionally early Daddy, the young and fit and handsome man I see in the garden picking your beloved tomatoes died  when you lost your beloved Janice and that man had been replaced with someone we really didn’t know for the last fifteen years.   A man you didn’t really even know for the last fifteen years either.

 

So as we head into the dog days of summer where the calendar turns faster then we would all like and playoff races heat up in major league baseball I encourage you to stop and LISTEN to a baseball game, turn on some old tunes on the radio, head to Joe’s beloved Long Island Sound, throw in a line, sit and listen to the boats go by.  For we shall not pass this way again.

 

 

Dear Johnny Angel

Johnny Angel how I love YOU.  The song that my late Mother would sing to you when you would cry at night during the first few weeks on earth.  Our first born son came to us one day before we celebrated our two year wedding anniversary on March 30,2002.  An early Easter Bunny and a reminder of the foundation of our Christian faith. The resurrection established Jesus as the powerful Son of God and now I have given birth to my first son.  Easter includes some of the most ancient and universal symbols of birth, nature, fertility, birth and re-birth, hence the rabbit and the egg.   In the Old Testament, the firstborn son was the one who normally received a double inheritance, and was the one who would inherit his father’s role as head of the family.  I’m not so sure about the double inheritance  thing, but you are certainly  in the early learning stages of making your way to take on you’re Father’s role as the family head.

Now right about now Johnny is reading this saying why is my Mom writing about ME?  The answer is simply I am in constant awe of your accomplishments and the young man you are.  My son you are a:

Deep critical thinker

Dependable

Have a thirst for knowledge beyond anyone I’ve known

Have deep empathy for others

Honest

Passionate

Curious

Creative

Confident

Humble

To name a few.

I have met many fathers who want their boys to follow in their athletic footsteps. Either to potentially fill the void they were not able to fill when it was their time to shine or to continue the legacy they started years beforehand.  There are also many Mothers like myself that wanted to have all sons and have them follow in the footsteps I started years ago.  You see I believed that children learned to be confident on the field.  I never realized you can feel just as confident on the stage.  I knew that being a part of a team sport helped children learn to  reach a common goals and help develop communication skills and problem solving skills.  I never knew the comradeship that is built in clubs like the drama club could do the same.  I’ve also learned through you that like sports these clubs develop tight bonds and provide fantastic support systems.  In fact you have taught me that there is a close kinship between art and sport.  The more that I digest what you have taught me the more I think baseball is the best kinda drama around!  See we DO have something in common!  Remember when I made you come with me to the 2016 opening day game at Yankee stadium?  We danced on my favorite stage to Frank Sinatra’s New York New York.  Do you remember when I forced you to watch a post season Yankee game this year?  There was real drama there for sure.

I began writing this blog in November 2017 when I had been home from my most recent surgery.  A lovely Achilles tendon rupture due to the fact that I can’t sit still!  I found myself unable to finish until today January 10, 2018 when an early morning text went kinda like this…

AGAIN you have done it.  Made me cry.  Made me proud.

When the ultrasound wand confirmed you in my belly on September 11, 2001 I and your Father cried at the loss of life that day and cried for the new life we were bringing into this world.  I once held you in my arms rocking my sweet baby boy to sleep and before I knew it we stood eyeball to eyeball.  Today growing too fast I now look up to you both literally and figuratively.  Nearly every day for the past 15.5 years you have touched my soul in some way.  If you didn’t do another thing, win another award, get another A,  I want you to know I’m proud of the young man you’ve become. I love the way you love your brothers (most days). I love the way you are a good friend and listener to others. I love the way you give generously. I am proud of you, son.

So lets get on stage again my son.  My kinda stage or you’re kinda stage we can start spreading the news cause I find your king of the hill, top of the heap.

Farewell Legends

In one of the most surreal and remarkable farewells in Yankee history, leave it up to Derek Jeter to deliver the dramatic game-winning hit in the Yankees’ 6-5 triumph over the Baltimore Orioles, just minutes after the Yankees had blown a 3-run lead.  The air had that chewy sense of hope; here is always call for a miracle.

“It’s gonna happen, I told Donald.”

And in one swing of the bat, Jeter slapped his trademark single to right field and there was Jeter, jumping up and down as he rounded first base. This is what baseball can do to the soul: it has the ability to make you believe in spite of all other available evidence anything can happen. It’s the feeling I get now as my Danny Boy completes his little league career; anything can happen – it’s a remarkable farewell.

My son, Daniel, has been playing little league baseball for the Port Washington Legends travel baseball team since he was 9 years old.  Just like that, his years of little league baseball have ended and we are off to the “Bigger Boy“ league.  As I write, we are completing an almost week long competition at Cooperstown Dreams Park.  A competition where we played against some pretty amazing teams.  My boy suffered a devastating radius and ulna fracture on June 9th after a fall off playground equipment.  We really were not sure if he would be able to play on these fields when we sat in the hospital as the Doctors non- surgically put his bones back together.  Just like Jeter in his remarkable farewell there was that chewy sense of hope, that Danny would be back to playing at his best.

The week began on Saturday, teams assembled for the opening ceremony and the procession of the athletes.  There were parachute jumpers that dropped from the sky and landed in Little Majors Stadium.  Alphabetically, each team entered the stadium to the cheers of family and friends.  It truly was an amazing procession to see.  The teams dressed in their Cooperstown uniforms of either blue or red and carried their team banner.  The National Anthem was sung by none other than Donald Alexander!  Yes you got that right, my husband tried out for the job to sing to over 6000 fans and he won!  What a great way to start the week.  The boys truly loved seeing their coach in center field belting out our nations song.

There was so many great memories made in the days following.  This was truly a Disney World for 12/13 year old baseball players.  The experience of this tournament will provide the players and their families with many treasured memories that will last a lifetime. For my Danny Boy not only did he play but he killed TWO homers over the fence in Cooperstown Dream Park and had a few inning back on the mound!  In addition Danny was lucky enough to have over TWENTY FIVE family members travel to the fields to watch him play.  Nothing beats seeing my Marvelous Marvullo’s (and Himmler’s) on the field all wearing ALEXANDER 77 shirts that my sister had made up, on my birthday chanting “give it a ride Danny give it a ride’”  My Gennusa peeps proudly wearing the Alexander shirts  as that was the number their Father wore when he played baseball.  Aunt Lisa drove to Long Island to watch Danny Boy play in his intermural playoff game on June 9th.  She got the call to please go get Christian we were in an ambulance Danny had broken his arm.  Aunt Lisa was there in Cooperstown to hug me as he hit a homer on my birthday, his triumphant return to the game he so adores.  Who can beat hugging my Godfather Uncle Anthony as my son rocked a homer over the center field fence or watching my Aunt Annie see my boy play for the first time.  I am the luckiest woman on earth to have the family I had there this week and I will not soon forget what you all did for me.  In dramatic fashion the Legends lost their last game in a 6-6 bottom of the 6th nail biter.  When the game was over the kids were super emotional as were the parents and coaches.  For many it’s the end of the road for the Legends team as we have known it for all these years.  Danny could not stop the tears from flowing down his face.  He kept hugging me as I pressed to find out why he could not stop the tears.  Finally he looked at me and said “It’s been a long spring for me and I finally made it back and now it’s all over.  I am not sure Mommy if I will ever have this much fun again ever in my life.”  A couple of other boys came over to console him and I knew this thing, this Legends thing was the real deal and how lucky were we to be a part of this whole thing from the start.

It’s been a remarkable farewell for my Danny Boy and all of our Legends family.

There are a ton of emotions going through me. So many things to be feeling as we usher in the end of our 12U season.  Maybe what’s getting me sadder than ever is this is the end of Little League.  In the past as each season ended I would say “yay!”  Well, sort of “yay!”  I’d say no more rushing around to baseball games three to four days a week.  No rushing around to and from practice.  No deciding between a friend’s Bar Mitzvah or a double header.  No more freezing cold nights huddled in blankets on cold metal stands.  No more blazing hot afternoon games melting in the hot Long Island sun.  You see, every time a season ends, I get a little sad.  I enjoy the fresh air, watching our sons play and cheering as loud as I can for the boys I have grown to truly love.  But this feels different. To me, it feels like when you see your son and his friends choose colleges.  They are in the process of choosing where they will go next and all we have known for the last 6 plus years is gone just like that! So as we have said this fond farewell, here are just some of the few things I will miss about this moment in time.

I’ll miss the sunflower seeds next to Illyse’s lawn chair and seeing what ice cream choice Alisa made for today’s game.  I’ll miss endless coffee with Julie and in depth conversations with Deb. I’ll miss Charlie’s endless energy and sitting on the sideline chatting with Sarah and Jen.   I’ll miss watching the famous Daniel McVeigh hugs that Irene is so lucky to have and watching Kara smile when she sees her boy on the field.   Have you ever really looked at Kara when she watches him?  Her smile says so much for the pride she has in her little man.  I’ll miss the coaches meetings with my fellow first ladies sharing wine and laughter each time.  Wishing I had more seasons with the Koch family but quickly enjoying our chats each game.  I mean, who’s not gonna miss sitting with Marina’s mom and seeing her cry tears of joy when she watches her beloved Christopher on the field. I think it’s safe to say we will all miss Pam’s parents-our number one fans!  I truly will miss dinners with Mike, group texts and daily conversation.  Mike has given so many years to our kids both through the grade coordinator for the intermural league and for the lead manager of our beloved Legends.    Joe, Donald, Steve and Mike together have put so much time into our boys’ lives; time that these men could be attending business meetings, working overtime or be out golfing or fishing.  They chose to give of their time for our boys, and for that I will be eternally grateful.   There is something so special about the way baseball stitches families together.  As much as we try to connect with our own families and loved ones, it can be hard to find common ground.  You see, that is just another thing I love about our national pastime.  I’ve come to believe that it’s not whether the team wins or loses that counts, it’s how you share the game.  I wouldn’t have wanted to share these games with anyone other than my Legends family.

Recently Donald and I went to the Yankees v. Mets game in the Bronx, sharing the game with 50,000 + baseball fans. A different kind of baseball family.  There were the typical sights and sounds we all have been accustomed to that day.  The sound of the machine checking your ticket in.  The D train rumbling above.  There were the hustlers, the bustlers, the bored cops.  The constant up ramps and the huge green field.  The hot dogs and bad expensive warm beer.  The cat calls. Siddown. Shaddup. Fuheddaboudit.  While there is always the allure of the big leagues, I have to say that these years of playing Legends baseball have been some of the best years of my life.  I look fondly on those memories and each day, knowing they receive new life with every new 8U tryout.

This is what Legends baseball is to me.

I never meant to fall in love with baseball, but I did.  I learned to realize that it does what all good things should do: it creates the possibility of joy.

 

“This is the last pure place where Americans dream. This is the last great arena, the last green arena, where everybody can learn lessons of life.”
– A. Bartlett Giamatti, former Commissioner of Major League Baseball

Little Miss Anxiety

Next Sunday on my 42nd birthday it will be exactly 14.5 years that I lost my mother unexpectedly at the ripe ole age of 50.  Janice left this earth on my “half birthday” February 20th 2003.   I was 27 and she was ONLY FIFTY. I was her oldest child and she was my ONLY Mother.  In recent weeks I have been struggling with my on again off again friend Miss. Anxiety.  Do you know her?  She is really not nice of a person more like a destructive and hurtful bitch that exhibits queen-bee like behavior and likes to invade my mind every so often.  You know mental health issues are still stigmatized, so it can be awkward to open up about them.  I don’t find anything awkward in talking about it.  I find that sometimes talking about anxiety can help or it can give me even more anxiety. Next thing you know the evil partners of overthinking and anxiety become my BFF’s.  My anxious brain is hypervigilant and if these situations burned calories, I’d be a skinny bitch or almost dead.

YES I know most of the things going on in my head are irrational!  Yes, I am intellectually aware that I probably won’t die if my kids don’t know what’s for dinner tomorrow or that someone may come into my house and find dirty laundry on the bathroom floor.  If my kid had a fight with his friend I know it’s really not my problem but I take it to heart and examine it to death! Yet that awareness doesn’t change the fact that there are things outside of my control which make it nearly impossible not to have an emotional (and physical) reaction to stupid crap (and sometimes not so stupid crap).  The not so stupid crap these days seem to be all about Janice.  I lost my Mother so young, so beautiful so full of life.  And when dates approach, Miss. Anxiety shows her ugly face.  I suppose turning 42 next week reminds me that Janice had only 8 years left.  EIGHT years left…. In EIGHT plus years I want to be preparing for retirement.  I want to be watching my children graduate College and meet their spouses.  Dance at my sons weddings, join AARP and receive a senior discount at the local pizzeria.  I want to be a grandmother and celebrate my 50th wedding anniversary with the love of my life.  I want to travel and visit each baseball stadium in the USA a dream we talked about doing together.  All things she missed, all things that were ripped from her.  Will I make it past 50? Until I lost her I never considered limitations, only possibilities.

When a parent of an adult dies, there is an almost unspoken expectation that it will not hit you head on.  Question, is 27 years old an adult?  It sure did not feel like it at the time.  I think we are expected to understand as an adult that death is an expected part of life and we should handle these situations in an appropriate manor.  What the hell is appropriate?  What does that even mean?  That you should not be sad?  That you should be grateful they didn’t die when you were younger?  This loss does not diminish because you are this so called adult.  Society places such pressure for you to get over this loss and to get over the grief “in time.”  What the hell is a good time?  How long is it ok to grieve the loss of someone whom gave your life and took care of you for 27 years?  For me this loss happened in a 6 second phone call ~ Come quick Mommy can’t breathe and we just called 911 ~ it happened in a moment but the aftermath is still there 14.5 years later.  I doesn’t matter how old we are.

After Janice passed I was forced to take another look at her life and impact on my life.  I realized, perhaps for the first time, all she did for me as a child.  My Johnny was 11 months old when my Mother passed and I was able to appreciate the challenges she may have had with her own children.  Just the other day my potty training nephew Nicholas needed his Mothers help in the bathroom.  While my sister in law Suzanne was cleaning him she looked at my youngest son Christian and said “remember this when your mean to your Mommy, she did this for you a day not too long ago.”   I gained a new perspective on her life and her effect on mine.

My mom (and I) always attracted humans with unteachable charisma, in the days after her death, the gravity of her death was unexplainable. The house overflowed with people asking to ease the pain, mostly through our stomachs, cooking enough food to feed a moderately sized petting zoo.   Food is my family’s religion, and our kitchens are our sacred temples.  There are too many memories from that time in my life. Many of them are slipping from me. Others are so faint that only the rarest combination of triggers—snow, French onion soup (the last meal she cooked with my sister), a kitchen with baked goods everywhere—bring the embers back to life.

So as Miss. Anxiety is still here visiting my brain like a bad houseguest.   I am beginning to stand up straight after this latest spin as I call it.  Standing up because I now can see what started this spin in the first place.  Realizing that the love we shared and the relationship we had will not die.  That depth of love, that depth of caring, is everlasting.

Now if that bitch Miss. Anxiety would kick the bucket all will be right in the world.  My world.

 

“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

My Light Janice

During the winter season, the trees, the grass, my garden all look so cold, lonely and depressing. People tend to stay inside, walks to the park are rare and it is so dark so early in the day. Even the ground below my feet seems to gain metaphoric qualities as I walk anywhere I constantly stumble along the uneven pavement. That dirty and sandy snow covered pavement.  There is power outages, buried cars, thermal leg hair and thick socks that can’t fit into my boots.  Sure there is hot chocolate but there is also flu viruses, dry skin and an increasing amount of daily laundry.  It’s a feeling that I can only explain as my life being off balance.  Often for me in the winter that cold world grabs a hold of me, a part of me feels like giving up my efforts for the search for light.  Often because the open platform ahead just seems too impossible to reach. I know in my head that the cold dark days always bring light, I know that but on that cold February night in 2003 the light of my life walked a path to the other side.  My beautiful Mother left this earth at the age of 50 and the cold dark days of February are now only a harsh reminder of my hatred for winter.  Today as I write this that walk seems so parallel to what I am currently experiencing.  Continuing on is currently feeling like a hopeless walk.  Searching endlessly for the light I lay awake last night (due to Donald’s snoring) telling myself that I wasn’t giving up.  Tonight I find it hard to imagine that this earth could ever look beautiful again.

There is a season approaching where the trees will be full of life, the flower buds will begin to grow on my beloved garden and the sun will be warm on my face.  I know that, I keep telling myself it is on its way but as the day approaches and I am up on my computer unable to sleep it seems so far away.  The days approaching the anniversary of my Mother’s passing are always the longest and anxiety filled  hardest days.  Once the day passes the fog seems to clear and the hope for that light is within my reach.

Thankfully I don’t have to walk down this uneven path alone.  I have my beloved siblings that I could not live a day without.  We were babies, at least in my eyes and now all Motherless, forced to continue experiencing life without our Mother.  I have my children to share the stories with.  Mine and Donald’s huge extended family that I am thankful for every single day of my life.  I have the most dedicated friends that never let me walk alone.  Then there is my best friend Donald John.  Donald always is able to fix my problems with logical answers or with his tools.  I knew he couldn’t fix this back then and he certainly can’t fix it now.  Back then his hugs couldn’t make it get better and his encouragement could not help.   Today with the painful acceptance of this new life those hugs and encouragement actually were and still are my saving grace.

I understand that life is not forever and the circle of life continues, just wish I could have gotten to ride that wave just a little longer with Mom by my side.  When you have lost and overcome something as important as this you are a forever changed human.

I am going back to sleep now, I have no regrets I was a good daughter to my Mother.  Someday’ s are better than others and today was a particularly rough day for me.  For no reason in particular other than I longed for her voice and because Monday will be 14 years that I have not heard that voice.   I keep hearing this song tonight in my head and they are some of the most quoted words of the Bible :

“For everything there is a season, and
a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up
what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to
build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a
time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to
refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to
throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to
speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”

This sacred list represents all the seasons and the important matters of our lives. Some are happy times, others sad; some are productive while others seem wasteful; some inspire peace and others bring pain.

Tonight I allowed myself to feel the pain and to miss her.  Tomorrow I will continue to laugh and love deeply like Janice would want me to.  Tonight my gremlins surely made a commotion.  But I won’t let that stop me, I will firmly stand looking for that light and in the end it will only allow me to shine brighter.

Janice Christine Vesloski Marvullo

12/5/52-2/20/2003

Spring Training Countdown

It’s the middle of February, Janice and Joe have a fire going in the den and they are watching the Sopranos. Mom loves the series and can’t wait to see what happens in the life of her favorite mobsters. Dad seems interested however, he looks at the photo above the couch of Shea Stadium and he asks Mom, “How many days till pitchers and catchers?” Well, without Google in those days, I am not really sure how she knew how many days – But she knew. Today I just ask Siri or google it.  At 8 Maple Street the TV really only had a few channels on at any given time; it was the weather, news or baseball. My parents and my entire family’s love for the sport has made me this baseball nut that I am today.

Baseball comes along every spring, and with baseball comes sunshine; two of my favorite things. Baseball signifies the end of the dreaded winter and the rebirth of my beloved garden. Today I am dreaming of the marathon of the long season. This marathon gives a man a chance to prove himself or redeem himself. I love baseball’s ups and downs- it’s my very favorite kind of soap opera.  We can find a story in almost anything, and it allows me to evaluate, speculate, and like a true friend, it’s there for me (almost) every day.

I attended North Shore High School in Glen Head where I was a part of a senior year experience called Long Island Studies. We were immersed in all things Long Island. We had to choose a project that we were passionate about, and my choice was the history of baseball on the Island. My friend Brett Clancy’s grandfather is Whitey Ford. Edward Ford, or as the Yankees called him, “Chairman of the Board,” was a pitcher for the Yankees for his entire career. He grew up in Queens and mastered the sport on the streets. Brett took me to her grandfather’s home with my teacher, Dr. Stark, and we sat for a day speaking to the beloved Yankee. In 1993, the Major League Baseball expansion added the Florida Marlins and the Colorado Rockies to Major League Baseball. While on my visit with Whitey, which was during Christmas time, the pitcher took a call from Mickey Mantle, of which I was fortunate enough to be sitting in on. Mantle was calling to see if Whitey wanted to get the expansion team Christmas ornaments for his Christmas tree. As he cracked open his beer, this Cy Young award winner leaned back in his chair chatting away with Mickey Mantle, I was in awe. This was history in front of me and I was honored to be there. Whitey spoke about signing for the Yankees for an amount of money that would only buy me a backyard patio set these days.  The first thing he did with the money, he told me, was he purchased an “ice box” for his Mother whom had to go out and get ice each day, and now she can have a real refrigerator. Soon after, he was able to get her all new kitchen equipment. He spoke in depth about his years of playing stickball on the street and his endless workouts running around the neighborhood.  He recounted stories of Joe D and Yogi and the antics they would get into on the road. He told me all about the 1974 induction into the Hall of Fame and when the Yankees retired the number 16. I was in my glory and at that moment my love for the game exploded.

Today, I get to enjoy the game through the eyes of a mom. I am watching my young son fall in love with the game, much like I did in the 1980s. I am the mom with the huge camera trying to capture every single moment of this time, as I never want to see it end! I am also the screaming mom. My vocal cords have a built-in microphone with fully charged batteries. To say that I am a tad vocal is the understatement of the season. People from miles away can hear me yelling, “Danny Boy!”, yelling at the umpires, the coaches, the concession stand workers, the grounds crew and occasionally Jesus Christ. Speaking of sounds….

Ever really listened to the sounds of baseball? When I arrive to the ball field, inevitably the boys will begin batting and pitching practice. Have you ever closed your eyes standing next to a batting cage?  Have you listened to that bat “crack?” You can hear a good hit from the sound of that contact with the ball. Ever sat next to the bullpen at a major league game and listened to the snap of the ball as it reaches the catcher’s mitt? Or how about a shortstop trying to keep the runner on second base? Can you hear him slap his glove? How do you know there is a man on first base? Donald is sometimes the first base coach, and I can hear him, even while chatting it up with other moms. I hear him talking to the runner leading off, saying, “You’re good, you’re good, you’re good, back back back back!” That is the sound of a man on first. Ever hear the sound of the pitcher looking back a runner? You hear his deep breath then you watch as the pitcher turns and wheels around to throw to first. Then there is that sound of the runner diving back into first base.

Have you ever experienced the smell of baseball? Can you smell the fresh cut grass as you make your way onto the field? The gloves are leather and bats are wooden. Well, at least in the major leagues they are. Chewing big, fat, sugary bubble gum is a favorite of the young boys. How about the chalk used to mark baselines and the batter’s box? I love the fresh air smell mixed with the pine tar that gives a batter a good grip on his bat. Can you smell the oil used to condition a young man’s new glove? My kids’ favorite are the food scents, smells from the concession stands, hotdogs, popcorn and hot pretzels. I think Danny Boy would say that baseball also smells like Gatorade and sunflower seeds, the local snack-of-choice.

 

To be at a baseball game is to be outside of the confines of time. In particular, I love that baseball has no time clock. You can’t just get a lead in the game and wait for time to run out on the other team. In order to win you have to get 27 outs one way or another.

“You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You’ve got to throw the ball over the goddamn plate and give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.” – Earl Weaver

 

A baseball game is chicken soup for my soul, with its sights and smells and sounds. As they say in the movie, “Bull Durham,” “Baseball is a simple game: you throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. And sometimes, it rains.”

How many days till pitchers and catchers?

Merry Christmas 2016

Dearest friends and family:

Here we are again at the end of another year.  I must admit as I have reached what has been deemed mid-life, I am both terrified and excited by the thought of time passing.  I haven’t been able to invent something that acts as a break on the movement of time, so I will just have to roll with it.  I am not looking forward to the fact that my Johnny will be headed to college in just 3.5 years from now and the other boys shortly thereafter.  Secretly however, I am looking forward to it in some ways.  I am looking forward to a cleaner home, a significant drop in my grocery bill, exotic travel, extra income, and naps.  I really like naps.  But for now Donald and I will continue on with the world’s most challenging unpaid job. We will work to raise boys who are smart and observant, sensitive and kind, whom listens well and are remarkably honest and articulate about the way they feel.  I mean let’s be honest, woman of the future are counting on us to bring up happy, kind, and well-rounded husbands-to-be.

While we have been working on pursuing this goal of raising these well rounded young fellows we are constantly reminded by all three of them that we are “the worst parents ever.”  So I will attempt to share with you some of the reasons why we have been given this prestigious title from all three Alexander Boys.

“I hate this house” – The three of you live with both parents in a lovely home on the prestigious North Shore of Long Island.  You live within walking distance of the water where there are yachts that cost more than all of the homes on the block we live on.  You live 30 miles from the greatest city in the world and twenty minutes from the ocean.  I am so sorry we will definitely consider moving.

 

“There is nothing to ever eat in this house”- Are you talking about the house that constantly has a snack selection that rivals the average Target store? There is nothing here to drink? You want me to get you your ergonomic thermos to fill with cold filtered water from the fridge? Sorry, but I’m too busy right now, lost in fond memories.  Memories of the lukewarm tap water, served in cups my Nanny and Poppy got for free at the local gas station. What’s that Christian? Your organic, $99.99 a bag chicken nuggets are to bumpy and is to squishy? I am sorry, again lost in the memory of my Mother’s pan fried ham steak or the TV dinner of Salisbury Steak with warm chocolate pudding served in a plastic tray with plastic wrap stuck on my steak.

 

“This house is too cold/hot” – I am so sorry that we have a no heat until November rule and no AC until June rule.  You can pout and complain all you want. I spent many a night inhaling the fumes of Virginia Slim cigarettes in my parent’s bedroom where we all had to sleep on the floor in the summer because that was the only room that had air conditioning.  I feel so bad for you and your central air conditioned bedroom where you get to sleep in your own bed and not have to share a sleeping bag with your younger sibling.

 

“There is nothing fun here to do”- I feel horrible that you are mad because I won’t take you to the bouncy castle place, Disney World, and the US Virgin Islands on a weekly basis. When I was your age, my siblings and I spent our weekends roaming around our Grandparents upstate home in the woods by an old camp site. As long as none of us caught rabies from a woodland creature, lost too much blood or more than one finger, it was considered a darn good time. I’m reasonably certain you can entertain yourselves with minimal bloodshed/infectious disease somewhere in the vicinity of this home for free!

 

What do you mean there’s nothing on the 444,000 channels playing on the two 60 plus inch flat screen TVs you are currently reclined in front of while I wash yet another load of dishes/laundry/household filth you accumulated? We didn’t even have a remote for the TV growing up – I WAS THE REMOTE! I too would have hated to grow up in a toy-filled, high-tech, sports-equipment-strewn, climate-controlled, love-saturated home and you’re proclaiming you’re bored!  I must say your lives are quite the hardship.

 

So for now my swollen vocal cords have produced a voice of a two pack a day smoker and the end result is the screaming really doesn’t work and we are kinda enjoying the title of worst parents ever.  We now find ourselves in awe of our boy’s energy, curiosity, innocence and wonder every single day of our lives.  Our thoughts many years ago of what parenthood would have been like may not match what we are living today but what we have done has surpassed our wildest dreams.  Today’s vision looks like this:

 

It is John’s performance on stage at the school play or the kindness he emulates to every person he meets.  Its Danny Boy’s achievements on the baseball field that leave us grinning after each game or the giggles he produces from his baby cousins when he plays with them.  Its Chrissy Mac’s incredible Lego creations that give us a sneak peek into the mind of one of the most creative and one-of-a-kind humans I have ever met.  It’s the good night kiss Christian sneaks in to his Mom and Dad each night before bed.  These are the moments and Donald and I have three amazing boys to thank for that.

 

Wishing you all a healthy and blessed 2017.

Dear Manorhaven 2016

John Manorhaven

 

 

Manorhaven Dan ManorhavenDear Beloved Manorhaven Elementary School:

The Alexander family recently successfully completed almost a ten year residence in the comfort of our

children’s primary school Manorhaven.  As I watched the last moving up ceremony as I have watched two times before it felt different.  Because that day was  moving day from our second home and moving always seems emotional.  The original Alexander family began their primary education at Manorhaven in the late 70’s with Donald leading the way and Mrs. Loveland at the front desk.  Today might I add Mrs. Loveland is still at that desk.  Donald was followed by Stephen in the early 80’s and Suzanne in the late 80’s.  Then we made our comeback in 2007 when Johnny Boy entered Mrs. Claudia Levin’s Kindergarten class.  Claudia is the perfect fit for those kids but more importantly a perfect fit for those incoming nervous pains like me. The apple of my eye… my pride and joy was going to leave my care and enter into the big bad world!!!  There was just something about her that made the transition to big boy school easier than I ever expected.  We were lucky enough to have her as Daniel entered the school just about the time her children were going to start Kindergarten and Mrs. Levin the cool calm and collective teacher was then the parent nervous just like the rest of us.     Christian’s entrance into the school was a most difficult one as we were struggling with the difficulties parents face when choosing to place their children on medication for his ADHD.  We were placed with Shari Salazar and boy were we blessed.  She had faced this issue personally and with many of the children in her class.  She spent hours of her own personal time with me and held my hand through the process.  I am forever grateful for her and her guidance and I am not really sure I can ever thank her enough.  Second grade provided the boys with the most energetic woman I know.  Bellmann’s bunch and Mrs. Nell’s class were filled with all things fun.  I can remember the Circus show where my very un-athletic Johnny was so nervous to be a part of this event.  Mrs. Nell knew just where to place my boy as a ring master and still today I have that photo in my room.  Mrs. Bellmann well she allowed Lego’s on her carpet at lunch time so therefore that qualifies her as the coolest teacher EVER! Up next were the  “Manorhaven Men” Mr. Lennon and Mr. O’Brein, both wonderful male role models for my boys.  I often think of them when it’s school concert day… poor guys are fixing ties for kids all day long!  Dr. Brevig still to this day is spoken about in my home.  Christian was the only lucky Alexander to have her as a teacher.  She was the perfect fit for my little man, patient and kind and a she takes great pride in her profession.  A new face came into Manorhaven and when I got the teacher letter I asked all around “Who is this Miss. O’Donnell?”  Who is Miss. O’Donnell let me tell you about her she is the most organized human I have ever encountered.  I will forever admire her spirit and her love for all our children.  Christian’s class set up a surprise birthday party for her, each child contributing to the day to make it special for her.  You could just tell how much the children loved her! Our final year at Manorhaven each and everyone of my children were the luckiest to have Mrs. Stacey Drucker.  I can’t imagine anyone else getting my boys ready for the transition to Middle School and on the right road to maturity.  For Christian and Danny specifically children with  learning and attention problems, understanding the rules and procedures of the new school seemed like a huge task for anyone to take on. Thinking about them and the challenge of navigating multiple transitions between classes and organizing books and materials for every subject was too much for me to handle.  Mrs. Drucker more then prepared them for the move all while she was preparing her own children to enter Middle School as well.

With another set of eyes in class, things often run more smoothly and  we can’t thank the educational assistants enough for all they did to help these great teachers all year long.  We must also not forget the kitchen staff that helped feed these boys all these years!  Oh and who does not love Mr. Clark and staff!  These guys always had a positive attitude at the school and kept a clean environment for our children.  The list goes on and on, there was Mrs. Utzig (whom was my husbands teacher as well), and Mrs. O who made computers fun!  Mrs. Regan whom fostered Christian and Daniel’s love for all things physical education but more importantly allowed John to  appreciate her class.  John was always a tall kid for his age, decent coordination but as he would say can’t catch a ball if his life depended on it.  With John being my first son I thought that if you’re not a star athlete by the age of seven, you were doomed for life.  Mrs. Regan taught Johnny that with great effort comes great accomplishments  regardless of his fitness level and each child should celebrate their unique style.  Mrs. Noone certainly was essential in giving my children the access to all things knowledge!  In digital times Mrs. Noone is needed more than ever.

There are names I am sure I missed but please know that each and every one of the Manorhaven family made those almost ten years some of the most wonderful years of my life.   To the head of our family Bonnie Cohen we started this road together in 2007 and I can’t believe how fast time has passed.  You will always be with me.  Thank you for every hug, lesson, smile, and word of encouragement.  Thank your for appreciating their uniqueness, understanding their needs and encouraging curiosity.  Thank you for being their teachers.

Donald and Christina Alexander

The House That Built Me ~ John J. Alexander

IMG_1616

The House That Built Me

“Won’t take nothing but a memory from the house that built me.” These words from Miranda Lambert’s country song “The House That Built Me” speak volumes for me as it defines what my house means to me. In my entire life, I don’t think that I have ever encountered a more warm and welcoming home than my own. If we were to ever move, it would be devastating for me, as I have grown emotionally attached to my home. There is no place in the whole world that I’d rather live than 23 Graywood Road, the home of the Alexander Family.

My house has changed in many ways over the years, but the core foundation that is built upon family and friendship still lives on. Some changes included the color, the driveway, or even when we made it larger in what my family calls The Construction in 2009. Despite the changes, my house stayed the same welcoming and fun family home that everyone knows and loves.

As I stroll up the familiar brick walkway, covered with weeds sprouting from the cracks in between the bricks, and glance at the flowers, especially the hydrangeas, my mother’s favorites, that my mother had planted on the left and right in celebration of Spring’s arrival. Already I can hear the people inside talking, laughing, and yelling inside of the blue building, as one comes to expect when arriving at the house.

People walk in and out of our house every single day. If a detective were to check the front door for fingerprints for a case, he would have tons of trouble finding the suspect’s fingerprint. We have our cousin Nicholas next door, so he is always over and smiling enough to light up an entire room, as usual. Five minutes away, the exuberant, ever playful, and curious Michael and calm, doll-like newborn Antonio can’t wait to play at Aunt Tina, Uncle Donald, John, Daniel, and Christian’s house. The babies bring joy to everyone around them. The boys love the insanity and fun that goes on inside of the safety of my house’s walls.

Entering the front door, you can already smell the sweet scent of the candles that my mother has left out and lit, away from the reach of possible babies, of course. The famou wooden table sits proudly in my dining room, parallel to the kitchen, which is everyone’s favorite room. The dining room table has been in our family for as long as I can remember, and running your hand along it will allow you to feel the scratches and wear all over it, but I know that if the table could talk, it would say that everything we have put it through was all worth it. In the kitchen, my mother is always cooking something, and it is always enough to feed an entire army and definitely a hoard of hungry Italians. A pot of tomato sauce is guaranteed to be simmering on the black electric stove if you were to make a bet. Family and friends are a key element to our home, so we have to have enough food to entertain. The glossy wooden cabinets that house the plates and other eating utensils sit proudly above our heads as if to say, “take these plates! Use them! Enjoy!”

Our living room, the next room over, is a bright, airy, and fun room. Obviously, it’s the go-to spot for gatherings. The green walls provide for a calming experience, and the soft, grey couch is just asking for someone to sit on it. The white shag carpet is a favorite when Michael, Antonio, and Nicholas come over, as it is a perfect surface to play with their toys on. Behind the couch is the second half of the long room that is almost like the Room of Requirement from Harry Potter. It serves as a laundry folding room, a mudroom, a snack room for parties, and the home of our Christmas tree in December. It has a door to the backyard, with steps going to the left and right. Standing on that platform makes you feel like a King overlooking his loyal subjects. We have all sorts of photos in the Back Room, as we know it by.

Up the stairs is my parent’s fairly large bedroom with the beautiful window overlooking the backyard, and the windows above their bed that can show you Manhattan through the barren trees during the Winter, and the white vaulted ceilings. Next is my favorite room of all- my room. While it may be the smallest bedroom on the planet, it is my own. I love my blue walls, the pirate ship wheel on the wall, and my sand like carpets. As you can see, when I first moved into my new room, I gave it a nautical theme. The scent of my room is not yet categorized in my mind as to what it smells like yet, but I’d know the comforting and sweet smell anywhere. My room is covered in books and clothes- my two favorite possessions. While it may be a very small room, I love having my own private safe haven to relax in.

I did not touch on every room and part of my house, but that does not mean that those places aren’t special to me. One interesting story about my house that I love telling is that my dad grew up in our current house, and now owns it. In fact, that’s what I hope to do in the future. I like to call it my own “Full House to Fuller House” if it were to work out the way I’d like it to. I hope to one day own my house, just like my dad does now. Miranda Lambert says that she “won’t take nothing but a memory,” but I hope I get to take the house itself when the time comes.Who says you can’t go back home?

Courage – By John Alexander

Johnny

Here he is my very first born son, now wearing gold for the Port Washington Fire Department Junior Firefighters.  John is their secretary a fitting position for my budding author.  From the time Johnny was a very young man he has had a love for reading and for writing.  In his little corner of the basement he would write short stories in his school marble notebooks.  He said he would own a publishing Company some day and he would name it Basement Stories Inc.  Because that is where it all began for our Johnny Boy.  Many years a go he began writing a book  about the children of the Disney characters and what their life was like.  Well just last year they came out with a TV show and a movie on the topic.  Johnny was devastated as he thought this was his idea but it did not stop him from writing.

This past month the children of Weber Middle School were asked if anyone would like to submit a speech to speak at 8th grade graduation.  John was up for the challenge and began writing what Donald and I think is a fantastic speech.  John read it to his teachers and staff at the school and was chosen to be in the final running.  Out of all the students that submitted an essay Johnny Boy made it to the top 4.  Well unfortunately my Johnny  did not win the chance to speak at the graduation ceremony.  Here it is….Johnny’s courageous spirit.

~John Alexander

5/3/16

Graduation Speech

Blue 8

First off, I must say congratulations to the Weber Middle School Graduating Class of 2016! We got through three years of hard work, and I’m sure that the next few years won’t be any easier, but I know we can do it. I would also like to say thank you to each and every one of my teachers who have gotten me to this exact moment. I couldn’t have done it without you. I would also like to say thank you to the other teachers, each of which I was not lucky enough to have had. You brought each and every one of my friends to this moment as well. I’d like to say thank you to our wonderful Principal, Mr. Shields, who has done a great job in his first year at Weber Middle School. Thank you to the staff for all that you do for us every day as well. Finally, I’d like to say thank you to my amazing, and might I add huge, family for all of the support that they have given me through the years. More specifically, I want to say thank you to our parents, especially my own, who have done so much work and gone through so much sacrifice to bring me to this moment in my life. I could not have done it without them.

One word in the English language that I love is the word courage. I must admit that courage is not my strong suit, as I get nervous about many things. Much like the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz, it takes a lot of courage to be strong and brave. We each need to remember that we all have courage within us, and we don’t need a medal to show it. However, I believe that we need courage to power through the simplest tasks, such as surviving every day life. Sadly, the problem is that the world can be, and at most times is, a very scary place. There are many experiences in life that induce fear, but I have learned to channel that fear and break it with courage. We all need it in our lives, and I hope that what the Weber Middle School Graduating Class of 2016 takes away from this speech is that we must have courage in the journey we call life, and especially on the next road of our life: high school.

We’re moving up to Schreiber High School next year, which could be a scary idea for many, but we must have courage. Walt Disney once said, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” I’m sure that when beginning 6th grade with our brand new school supplies and our best “first-day-of-school” outfit on, we were pretty hopeful that this place would be awesome. However, I know that almost everyone was nervous the night before the first day of school about the change that came as a side effect of moving up a grade. Look at us now. We had the courage to continue each and every day, and we made it to 8th grade.

I know that the entire Graduating Class can agree with me that courage is a difficult concept to gain and keep with us. Before a football game, I’m sure that the team is nervous if they’ll win the game or not. They’re nervous to see the other team and how they play. If the team is noticeably better than them, the team still has to have courage that they can, and hopefully will, win the game. The same idea goes with life. We see the world as a scary place that has people that can perform tasks much better than we can, or the opposing team if you will. We must have the strong belief that we can conquer the other team, or the metaphorical hurdle that the world puts in front of us. Honestly, I was never good at sports, but I know enough about them to know that life is one large sports game. There will always be you, and there will always be the other “team” wanting to beat you. But you remember that there is the rest of the team there to back you up, and you hope that your faith in them will be kept.

            When really thinking about it, what is courage? To the Graduating Class, courage is entering a classroom with your head held high even though you didn’t do well on a test the day before.

-Courage is talking in the hallway when Mr. Bass, the Blue 7 Social Studies teacher, is teaching a class.

-To me, courage is waking up every morning at the crack of dawn for a fresh start at school.

-Courage is going to Health class in 7th grade once a day a whole semester. Courage is going to Drama Club Rehearsal and messing up your dance or lines, looking into Mrs. Portmore- Davies’ encouraging eyes, and then nailing each part of it the next time.

-Courage is losing a game, but then going to practice the next day ready to win.

-Courage is learning about the sad facts of the past, specifically The Holocaust, in 8th grade.

-Courage is especially allowing your mother to be Facebook friends with your Social Studies teacher.

-Courage is having the strength to say that you’re different.

-Courage is singing out loud so everyone can hear and not being afraid of critics, and having pride in who you are and where you come from.

-Courage is stepping outside of the box and making a new friend.

-Courage is coming onto stage for Guys and Dolls, the Drama Club’s winter performance, in a bright yellow suit.

-Courage is doing the whip and other dances like nobody’s watching, and courage is wearing white Vans to school without a care in the world.

-Actually, courage is wearing any shoes at all to school when you know someone will come up to you at least once and yell “WHAT ARE THOSE?”

-Courage is walking into Mr. Enright’s classroom wearing anything but Notre Dame apparel.

-Courage is joining a club for the first time in 6th grade and not knowing anyone at all.

-Courage is walking into school on the first day of sixth grade smelling like a brand new pair of sneakers and freshly sharpened pencils.

-Courage, most of all, is delivering a graduation speech in front of the entire Graduating Class of 2016 and their parents.

I also found that courage is being able to follow your dreams, much like Walt Disney described in his quote. Throughout our 3 years at Weber, we were encouraged to express ourselves in any way we saw possible, whether it be through the amazing arts programs here, especially the Band program and the Drama Club, or through the great sports teams at Weber that are sometimes undefeated and sometimes defeated as well. The reality is that real life can be defeating too. I have always been scared of choosing what I wanted to be when I grew up. Through careful consideration, I had the courage to figure it out, even though the future still scares me. When I grow up, I’d like to be an English teacher or an author and share my love of literature with other people and children just like me. I gained the courage to decide who I wanted to be, even though I’m still figuring that part out. Actually, we all are. Weber Middle School gave me the opportunity to have the courage to understand who I want to be.

Above all, life in general requires a whole lot of courage. We can’t continue on with our lives every day without courage to fail and then do it right the next time. I’ve never had children before, but I’m sure that it requires a lot of courage to be able to get out of bed every day and handle the children. Through movies and tv shows, it seems as if you need courage to go to work every day, especially to be able to face a mean boss or even if you’re struggling at work to get it all done. This year, we learned about how Eleanor Roosevelt was a popular figure during the Great Depression, and as the former First Lady herself once said, “You gain strength, confidence, and courage by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’” This perfectly describes the Graduating Class. The “horror” portion of the quote describes our years at Weber Middle School, except for the fact that our middle school lives were not “horror” inducing experiences. Schreiber High School is the “next thing that comes along.” I’m excited that we can begin writing the next chapter in our lives, and I’m even more excited that we hold the pens. Congratulations to the Weber Middle School Graduating Class of 2016!