Thursday, December 28, 2017

chilly scenes from winter...

... hahaha just kidding - it's 75 degrees out and I'm sweating in a tank top. Sorry, suckers!

It's been a delightful week of Christmas and staycation and friends and food and fun, and I want to get right back into it so please indulge the following most lazy and maddeningly incomplete phone dump of some favorite moments.

well, shit. my laptop is speaking in tongues when I plug the phone in to download photos. Ain't nobody got time for dat. Sorry, here's some *other* photos of *other* things:


checking it twice

I've been sitting here for a good 10 minutes trying to think of a clever way to introduce my kids' Christmas lists. I don't think they made lists last year, we were much too focused on packing for Hawaii. It was last year when we first started dropping hints that Santa often went light for kids who had great travel plans. Don't ask me to explain, it's magic! The year before that, though, in 2008, my boy presented an epic list that made blog history.

Go ahead, take a little remember, I'll wait:

My boy's 2008 Christmas list


This year, we've once again been quietly promoting a less is moreattitude. Christmas is different this year. They feel it, too. We'll also be away from home on the day itself, which presents the perfect opportunity to create new traditions that overshadow the logistical challenges facing poor Santa. Don't even start with me about Santa. I will hold my ground as long as there is breath in my body.

Despite the understanding that we're keeping it modest, I encouraged my kids to make their lists as usual, ignoring their attempts at conspiratorial winks and knowing glances. "Ask Santa for whatever you want," I insist, "just don't expect to get it."            

New traditions, perhaps... right alongside the legacy of awesomeness:

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

It's all about the details, around here . . .

The Tree and the Star and the Lobstah . . .

. . . the table . . .

. . . the baked ziti penne -- thanks for the pans, Aunt Lill.

. . . the treats . . .

. . . oh yes, the treats.

. . . and the flerus.

Last night?

That sky!

And this morning?

A Christmas Miracle!

Happy Day, everyone.

Come to me, my people!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Rhode Island Wrap Up

What a month, man! I have a few tidbits that simply must be shared from the 2nd east coast visit I took in November. Indulge me? Tanks. 

I had about a week in between trips, which was plenty of time to regroup and repack and catch up on various mundane obligations like work and whooping cough. Then suddenly I was heading back, and enjoyed a last supper with my kids at our favorite Indian restaurant:

Imagine my fury to come home 6 days later and find their leftover biryani and masala still uneaten in the fridge! Jerks. My vindaloo (pictured) was history, natch. 
I had to say a sad goodbye to my boy and all of my girls, two of whom were slightly less than understanding about the premature reappearance of suitcases. 

Let's have a closer look at those faces

*right in the gut*
Fast forward an easy, kid-free flight with an early landing in Boston, a reunion with my fellow littles, and a highly entertaining lyft ride to the house of memories on Hillcrest Road, where almost all 12 little children had grown up perfectly equal in the eyes of  Santa.  

We had a great night visiting with all the best cousins, then we were up and out and en route to Rhode Island for the gathering of family in honor of Auntie Lill. 

But first, founding fathers.
Jane had arranged a gorgeous castle to house our whole crew, located just past the trailer park on a lovely lake in Warwick. We got right to work reconnecting
Hi Mar! Hi Schlekie! You guys feeling alright?

I'll take that as a resounding yes. 
The house was chock full of fabulous and unexpected spaces, like the lighthouse and the pool hall. 

The slipper rule was strictly adhered to

The bar! Hi Ann! Hi Stella!
There was a gorgeous lake just outside our windows, which was so lovely and appreciated. It's good to have water in your eyeballs when you're feeling the feelings, isn't it? 


This room got toasty warm whenever the sun showed up
We had lots of laughs and hugs and songs and snacks and memories to share. Auntie Lill was omnipresent in our thoughts and in the minds of those speaking at the service. Photos were strewn on tables and in frames. The memories were tangible. 

And then, we sent the old girl off

Ellie did a great job with everything, including the welcoming remarks. Hi El!
Then we retired to the Cowesett Inn for the loveliest luncheon!

I had several beverages

Ellie continued to hold court in the most adorable, enthusiastic, genuine and joyful way.

Carole showed us photos of a hoarder house, which was an unexpected treat
When it was time to go, Ellie and Bill and I stayed back for one more cold one, and for a bit of debriefing. Eventually we gathered our wits enough to head home, but stopped in our tracks for the world's best photo backdrop

I mean, c'mon

We had another wonderful night at the lakeside house, with visitors large and small, love and laughter and afterglow, and so much food.

And then it was over, and everyone set off on their journeys back to their respective corners of the world.

bye, kids!

bye, Rhode Island (hello rad luggage)

Hello and goodbye, stupid snow storm

Hello lifesaving airport luncheon

Stupid scary snowstorm

Is that absolutely necessary?
Thankfully, there are people whose whole job is to get peeps safely back and forth across the country, even in questionable weather. Turns out the decision isn't mine, nor is the responsibility for flying that fool plane. So I just sat back, closed my eyes, and enjoyed my upgrade

home, please. 

And that's Rhode Island, wrapped up. 
Merry Christmas, everyone!

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Tree

Apparently, a blind drunken madman put the lights on our tree Saturday night.

Sadly, that blind drunken madman was me.

I am good at this! I've been doing this for years! I always have my adorable elf Rachel helping, and my equally adorable but totally annoying husband on the chair calling out unsolicited advice, and we always nail it.

Always, always.

Except this year? Not so much.

The lights wouldn't work right. Some of the strands just wouldn't go on. Lights should go on, not off, if you ask me.

I mean, look at Emily's Tree. Those lights work. Those lights are on.

In the sober light of day yesterday morning, I fixed it. I got out another extension cord and snaked it up the tree, I unraveled the mess of the low-lying strands, I found the missing ornaments. I texted Rachel: "Note to self: get loaded *trimming* the tree, not *before* trimming the tree."


And the tree is beautiful. It's lovely. It's perfect!

Except either I'm having a brain episode, or there is a confusingly slow, weirdly delayed, suspiciously aggressive slow blink.

Rachel? Get back over here.

Friday, December 15, 2017


Hi everyone, it’s great to see all of your faces. I’m Jacquie, the youngest of Joe and Ellen Corey’s six girls, and Aunt Lill’s favorite.

When I was a kid, seeing Aunt Lill usually meant that it was a special occasion. I have a vivid mental image of her, sitting with Uncle Rod on the couch at Uffie’s house, scotch in hand, ashtrays full, the smell of sausage bread and Christmas dinner coming from the kitchen.

The expression that I remember most on Aunt Lill’s face was her wry sort of quizzical smile that usually meant she was waiting to hear if you had something to say.
She was a think-aloud sort of person, wasn’t she? Her opinions didn’t often remain unspoken. I don’t recall having a particularly similarity of thinking back in the 70s and 80s over Christmas dinner, but it was cool to discover in adulthood how likeminded we really were, especially when we talked politics in recent years. 

She told it like it was. She recently commented to me that her nurse assistants “weren’t the sharpest tools in the shed.”  And Lill was the original bearer of one of our most frequently quoted Corey-isms, from a holiday meal when Uffie regretfully informed her holiday dinner guests that she was having problems with her oven, and Aunt Lill quipped: “Oh my God, we’re never gonna eat!”

Aunt Lill was really smart. Most avid readers are. She enjoyed emailing back and forth with her nieces, my sisters, about what she was reading. She appreciated a wide and varied scope of material.  A couple of years ago, she told Jane, and I quote:  “I READ A LOT, WHICH HELPS TO KEEP ME SANE.  I ENJOYED STEVE JOBS’ BIO.  I SHOULDN'T ADMIT IT BUT I ALSO READ THE FIFTY SHADE SERIES.  VERY READABLE GARBAGE.”

Aunt Lill was also frugal, and although appreciative of the help that my mom and especially my cousin Sis were always there to give, she often doled out her thanks with a caveat. She said to mom after an intense visit: “THANK  YOU VERY MUCH FOR ALL YOU DID FOR ME.  YOU ARE A GOOD PERSON. SIS CAME IN TODAY AND I MADE THE MISTAKE OF GIVING HER MY CREDIT CARD. I JUST NEEDED A FEW LITTLE THINGS AND SHE CAME BACK WITH A BUNCH OF STUFF I’LL NEVER EAT.  (ABOUT $56 AND CHANGE WORTH).  LIVE AND LEARN.”  Don’t even get me started on those apples, Sissie.

In the beautiful obituary that Ellie wrote, she talked about Lill’s Lebanese pride: “Lill was fiercely proud of her Lebanese heritage, and – along with the rest of the family – excelled at Lebanese cooking. The family created and enjoyed many wonderful Lebanese meals together, which were always a celebration”. Thinking back specifically, though, what stands out for me even more than her cooking was her appreciation of the food. 

Ann recalls Auntie Lill always wanting bread with her meal, and she was the boss so we always had it.

We visited 2 weeks ago and brought a plate of leftovers from the Lebanese feast we’d enjoyed the day before. Lill wasn’t hungry, but she wanted to see, and when she caught sight of the grape leaves she popped one right into her mouth and declared “it’s good.” Truth be told, they were a little dry. I think she’d mellowed with age.

Julie remembers that in a conversation about enduring her prognosis, Lill said that her baby brother always called her a tough cookie. She sure loved that brother of hers. She cracked Julie up telling her, with lots of eye rolling, about when dad came along and to their parents it was “like Allah come down from heaven.” Apparently, her brother could do no wrong growing up. Julie also recalled having been the one to place the phone call to tell Aunt Lill that our dad had died. It was tough. She was so shocked and distraught. She called him her baby brother and whimpered with sadness.

Mary Beth spoke of Aunt Lill as fun and funny: “She loved her family, her books, her baseball team, current events, her 1998 Oldsmobile Intrigue, pop culture – she was a big fan of the TV show Blue Bloods, and confessed to a crush on Tom Selleck! She was opinionated, warm and generous. No visit to her home was complete without a sampling of her sausage breads and refills of your wine glass!”

Opinionated, Smart, Frugal, Warm, Fun, Tough, Funny, Proud, Loving… all words that aptly describe our Lill. 

Words were important in our relationship.

She and I kept in regular, albeit brief, daily contact through the message feature on Words with Friends. We always had at least 2 games going, often 3 or 4 because Lill had a hard time resisting the 'rematch' button that pops up for both players whenever a game ends. In recent months that message center became a touchstone for Lill's day to day wellbeing. When I saw her active light illuminate, I knew that she was okay and checking in, even if she didn't feel up to chatting. She was brutally honest about how she was doing. She knew that her time was short and it was clear that she was thinking about it, not with overwhelming fear or grief, perhaps with a bit of trepidation, but mostly with acceptance and a hint of impatience.

She very recently played the word GRAVE then commented “my next stop,” then immediately apologized for her morbid humor. 

One of her last messages to me was: I guess when it’s time to go, it’s time to go (profound statement). 92 is a long time to be around. Love you honey.”

"I am ok considering the malady. I couldn’t run a marathon, but don’t really want to"

She always referred to  “your lovely mom” , she often segued from talk about her prognosis with “who knows?”   and she always, always ended with, “I LOVE YOU, SWEETIE”    in all caps.

I love you too, Auntie Lill. A world without your words won’t be as fun.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Send-Off

We sent Auntie Lillian off in grand style last weekend.

My sisters all flew in from all the far and wide corners of the country, and we all shared a house on the water in Warwick . . .

. . . just the six Corey Girls, Mom, and our own Mistah Schlecka.

Thank you for hosting us, Mom. That was deeply awesome of you. And thanks especially for that view.

The Committal Service was lovely and intimate and meaningful and perfect . . .

I led things off and then Sissie and Michael and Ann and Jacquie and Mom and Jane all just quite specifically nailed it.

. . . and then?


The Cowesett Inn was perfect, and we all loved the view.

We reacquainted ourselves with our Annitto cousins . . .

. . . the 12 of us were a fierce bunch, back in the day . . .

. . . and we reveled in our sisterhood.

Oh, those sisters of mine.

And that Mom of mine? She's off the charts, that one. She seems to keep improving every year, which seems impossible, but I'm taking my cue from her.

Me and my co-executrix. My girl Sissie.

Speaking of Mom, she told me my specs were messing up my hair but I did not believe her . . .

 . . . There; that's better.

We had a lovely time back at the homestead . . .

. . . visiting with the once- and twice-removeds . . .

. . . and photo-shopping eachother out of photos . . .

. . . and playing pool. (Don't ask me; this is Julie's new go-to pose, apparently. She *does* rock it.)

It was a lovely home Jane found us, made lovelier by the presence of Jacquie's rad luggage inherited from Aunt Lill.

In the morning the snow came down in a festive and delightful way which the duckies loved . . .

. . . as did the Mistah.

Everybody else? Not so much. Our peeps woke up and said their goodbyes and vamoosed. Bill and I were all packed up and coffeed up and ready to go and Jacquie said to us, "I'll just take an uber to the bus later." I said, "We'll drive you," She said, "But it's not until 11."

It was 9 a.m.

So we had a completely surprising and completely lovely and completely awesome two hours at the house and then we had a completely surprising and completely crazed and completely absurd and completely frenetic trip to get Jacquie to the bus and OF COURSE SHE MADE IT.

She and her rad luggage were the only passengers. I can only hope when the loser passengers boarded in Providence she hissed at them.

I would have.

Schleck and I drove home and have been reveling in the success of the weekend, and in the memories of our lovely auntie ever since.

Julie provided so many of these photos, including this one. The sausage bread! Included in the obituary I put together. I hope Jacquie includes her eulogy here soon, too: it was fabulous.

Look at that Auntie Lillian of ours . . .

. . . look at her with her baby brother Joe. Luggage! A legacy indeed.

It's been amazing and intense diving so deeply into one "opinionated, smart, frugal, warm, fun, tough, funny, proud, loving" woman's life these last few weeks.

We miss you big, Aunt Lill.