A Camino with Dad: Training (or lack thereof)

When a friend heard my father was going to join me on my upcoming Camino, she said, “So your father is in good shape, then.”

“Um . . . not exactly,” I said, “He eats donuts for breakfast and hot dogs for lunch.”

“So is he pretty active at least?” she asked. I pause. “He definitely has a lot of energy,” I say, thinking to my husband Michael’s description of my father: I wouldn’t say he’s like a monkey on crack, but just a little bit less than that.

It is true that when dad’s awake, it’s rare that he’s not moving. This is the man who never took a cab in all our visits to New York City. “Forty blocks? We can walk that!” At which point he’d take off like we were in a power walking competition. Except that was his natural pace.

“So have you got him on a training program?” she asks. “Well, about that. . . A few weeks ago, he was opening the pool for the season and fell in. He did something to his foot in the process. Ended up having to wear a boot for a while. Mom told me about the lovely blue and purple color his foot turned. And about the blood that would pool at the bottom of it because he wouldn’t follow the doctor’s order to stay off of it.”

When my mother was telling me about the “pool incident” my dad was, at that moment, in the backyard with a neighbor putting together an outdoor gazebo. He was wearing the boot, at least. But certainly not following doctor’s orders.

“Well, I can cancel all the hotel reservations up to two days in advance,” I told my mother.

“Oh, no, you won’t have to do that,” she said. “He’s definitely going. Even if he can’t walk. He really just wants to see what it’s like and meet all the people. He’d be fine just sitting in a square all day talking to everyone.” I think about this. Despite all the aforementioned activity my father engages in, there is one time per year my dad does some serious sitting: On vacation. At Canoe Island Lodge. He begins the day eating in the lodge, moves to a deck chair to read a book or talk with friends in the shade, moves to the sailboat where he takes up his post in the front corner of the starboard side bench, where he promptly falls asleep (he doesn’t sail the boat–this is the kind of place that pays people to do that for him), then he returns in time to sit down for lunch, and then repeats the reading/sailing/sleeping/eating routine until bed. (His employees don’t believe me when I tell them how he spends his vacation. “He sits? You mean he sits still? And reads? For hours?!” This is a side of him his employees never see.)

Now I realize a man can’t stay standing all of his waking non-vacation hours. There are a few instances per day when Dad sits.

  1. When he’s driving. But only because we haven’t yet gotten to the point that one can drive while standing.
  2. When he eats. Sometimes. But if he’s actively engaged in conversation during said meal, he’s waving his arms around like any good Italian. Thus even when sitting, he exerts lots of energy.
  3. When he’s on a serious phone call–by which I mean one in which he’s placing an ice cream order or trying to resolve an issue with a bill he’s received for his Dairy Queen. In which case he sits hunched over with both elbows on a desk, holding the phone to his ear with one hand, holding his head in the other, saying something like, “Let me speak to your manager’s manager.” (For a long time there was a rumor that when he calls Pepsi and they pull up his account, it says, “Give this man whatever he wants. Don’t argue with him. We’ll fix it later.” A friend later went to work for Pepsi and confirmed this was indeed the case. Except the language is a little stronger.)

But the question remains: Does Dad have enough energy to walk twelve to fifteen miles per day for seven consecutive days? Some may think I’m trying to kill my 71-year-old dad by requiring this amount of exertion (by “some” I mean my sister Jessica, who asked me the other day if this trip is a plot created by my mother and I to get Dad’s life insurance money).  Let me be clear: Dad wanted to do this trip. There was no cajoling on my part. When asked, I’ve always confirmed that he could indeed physically manage to do it. Mainly because I’ve met 87-year-old men walking the Camino. And if they can do it, I imagine my father can.

And no, I don’t require twelve to fifteen miles per day, either. I initially planned that Dad and I would do ten miles per day max. But when I told him this one night last month the conversation went something like this:

Dad: Only ten miles? I thought we were walking 100 miles in a week!

Me: I thought we were doing 100 kilometers. (60 miles)

Dad: How far do you usually walk every day when you go?

Me: Twelve to fifteen miles.

Dad: Then that’s what we’re doing.

I’m consoled by the fact that there are companies that will carry our packs from town to town. And if we’re sick of walking, usually one can find alternative transportation to get to their destination. And we’re only walking together for a week, so really, how much training does one need? On July 10, we’ll find out.


A Movie and A Walk

December, 2011

The first time I saw the movie “The Way” I was with my mother at an independent movie house in New Paltz, NY. Originally, my father was supposed to come with us, but I got mad at him about something (I don’t recall what) and when he asked if I preferred he not come, I thought that a good idea. I regret it to this day.

At the end of the movie, my mother asked, “Do you still want to do it?” By “it” she meant walk the Camino de Santiago–the subject of the aforementioned movie. “Absolutely,” I said.

May/June 2012

The second time I saw the movie “The Way” was a mere six months later.  I had just finished walking what would become the first of many journeys on the famed thousand-year-old pilgrimage route. My walk was over, but I was not yet home. I sat in the living room of a post-Camino retreat space outside Muxia, Spain with a few strangers as the familiar opening scenes of the movie played out on the television screen. Martin Sheen’s assistant tells him he’s missed a call from his wandering-the-planet son, played by Emilio Estevez. There’s no call-back number. The son is somewhere in France, she says, and it’s in that moment that tears spring to my eyes. My poor parents! I thought. Yes, I left them with a day-by-day itinerary of my proposed walk. Yes, I emailed them. First to tell them I was on schedule. Then to tell them I wasn’t, and how far off I was. But in all honesty? I had no idea how far I’d be able to walk each day, if I’d be able to stick to the schedule I gave them. In fact, I think I told them I might not. My plan was really no plan at all: to walk until my body told me it was time to stop for the night

I tried to email every day, but sometimes I didn’t have access to a computer from which to do so. So sometimes my parents went two or (oh my poor parents) three days without hearing from me.

I was also, at that point, writing posts for BustedHalo.com about my trip. But my mother later told me, “I knew they posted those a couple days after you sent them, so just because one went up online didn’t mean anyone necessarily heard from you that day.”

How did my father get through all this? I’m not sure. I’ve never asked. But my mother? Thank God she’s religious. “I just went to sleep each night and put it in God’s hands,” she told me. Well, if that’s not faith, I don’t know what is.

June, 2012

The third time I watched “The Way,” I was in my parents’ living room with both Mom and Dad. Every few minutes Dad would say, “Is this what it’s really like?” And I’d pause the movie to answer Dad’s questions or tell them a story from the place that had just flashed across the screen.

“I want to do this someday,” my father said. “Do you want to do it, Jean?” he asked my mother. I’m sure she said something, but all I remember is her look which stated clearly, “Nope. I’m good.”

June/July, 2019

This summer I’ll embark on my fifth and sixth journeys along the Camino de Santiago. In June, I’ll go back to Figeac to continue from where I left off on the Via Podiensis route in France two years ago. After a week or so of walking, I’ll head to the Pilgrim Office in the tiny town of St. Jean-Pied-de-Port to volunteer for one week. And on July 9, I’ll head to Pamplona to meet my walking partner for the next week: my dad.

Mom, in my opinion, is getting something I know she’ll enjoy: some time to herself. Dad? I’m not sure if he knows what he’s getting himself into. I’m not sure know what I’m getting myself into. But maybe it’ll make up for denying him that trip to the movies eight years ago. Maybe not. But at least we’ll have some great stories to tell.

Pie Party Prep

“What’s that?” Michael said, putting his hand up to signal that I should stop cleaning. We waited. I heard nothing. “Wait,” he said a few minutes later. There it was. A scratching sound. Inside our chimney. As if we had nothing else to do the morning of our Pie Party.

“Call Animal Control,” Michael instructed. “You don’t call Animal Control for that,” I told him. Google instructed that the first thing I should do is cover the fireplace entrance so that the critter wouldn’t get into the house. I grabbed a large cardboard box out of our garage recycling bin and tried to tape it over the opening. “Remember I stuffed that foam up there,” Michael said, referring to some packaging he put up there when I wondered about all the cold air coming in after we removed the gas fireplace insert months ago. “Yeah — but eventually it might push the foam down and come down with it,” I said.

We propped a large Tupperware container, which formerly held the Christmas decor that now graced our house, against the cardboard, along with an electric heater and the heavy candleholders my mother had sent us the day before. Michael walked off and I heard him say, “Hey! Have you ever dealt with an animal in the chimney?” He came back into the living room. “John (our handyman) will be here in an hour.” And with that, Michael took off on errands.

Michael has this habit of leaving a few hours before we’re to host a party. Usually coming back with more food and drink than we’ll ever need, because he’s worried we won’t have enough. I used to argue with him about it. Then it became a joke. Now, I don’t even bother commenting. At least this time he left with a list of things we did actually need. I could only hope that was all he was going to buy.

Last year, an hour before hosting our first-ever Pie Party, Michael walked back into the house after said errands and made the grave mistake of saying, “Have you done anything since I left?”

“Are you serious?!” I asked, standing up from the recliner I’d just sat in minutes before he walked in. He noted the things that weren’t done, at which point I started a litany of all the things I had done. And then I stormed off into our bedroom.

This year, we planned ahead. A whole list of everything we were going to do each of the seven days before the party. And Michael was now smart enough to know that when he came back, he was not to say a word about what I had or hadn’t done. Especially since he now left me with a critter in our chimney.

I texted my family a picture of our fireplace coverings with the caption: New homeowner lesson: if there’s an animal threatening to come in via your chimney, you should block the opening so he doesn’t enter the rest of the house.

To which my sister Jessica, ever the optimist, wrote, Be careful b/c now it will die in there and the smell will be worse

My sister Meg asked what kind of animal it was. Ummm. . .  Not sure how to see it without letting it in the house, I wrote.

From Jessica: Let him in. He’s prob cute. 

From Meg: Well, what’s the guy gonna do? This was a very good question. I had no idea what our handyman John was going to do. But there was no way I was handling this alone. If anything, he’d offer suggestions, manpower, and moral support. You know. Like a husband would do if I had one If he hadn’t abandoned me if he was home.

And with that, I could hear the scratching against the cardboard. The animal had gotten past the foam. Shit. Then silence. Then, a small bird alighted to the top of the heater. As casually as if there’d been nothing covering the fireplace at all. Crap. 

I texted: It’s a bird. Just made its way around our whole ensemble.

Jessica: Dad says you do not need a handyman to get rid of a little bird. 

Me: Nope. Not anymore. 

Jessica, Dad, and Meg, at this point, were out together getting their Christmas trees in Saratoga, New York. One hundred fifteen miles from my parents house. Why they drive 115 miles for a Christmas tree is a story for another day. But I could just hear Dad saying, “She doesn’t need a f’ing handyman to get a bird out of her house.” And I can see Jessica furiously typing this to me.

Mom: Throw a sheet over it. Well, that would have been a good idea if the bird, once it saw me, hadn’t flown straight across the room right into our front door, then underneath the buffet beside the door. I rushed over to open the front door. At which point our cat darted in from outside. Seriously?! I chased after the cat, grabbed her, and gently tossed her into Michael’s office before shutting the door and rushing back to the front hall. And I stood there. And waited. And waited.

Me: I kind of don’t wanna let it out of my sight to go get a sheet.

Jessica: He wants pies 

Meg: Hope it doesn’t shit on any of your pies 😂😂

I rushed back down the hall to close the bedroom doors. Then back out to see if the bird had moved. And I waited. Then, thankfully, I remembered Michael’s parting words. “If he gets in the house, be sure to take a video.” So I dutifully pulled out my phone.

The bird  hopped out from under the buffet. And flew straight into the floor-to-ceiling window beside our front door. “Yes, that’s outside, you’re almost there. Just go around,” I said, trying to encourage it. And a few seconds later, it hopped right out of our house.

Video concluded, I got back to work unloading the dishwasher, composing this blog post in my head, thinking, “I need to write this down.” But, remembering last year, I kept working until Michael got home.

“Wow, hon, look at all you got done!” he said as soon as he walked in. I laughed, knowing exactly what he was doing.

The next day, Michael said to me, “When I came home, I really wanted to say, as a joke, ‘How come nothing got done?'” 

I started laughing.

Michael continued, “But I had this angel on one shoulder saying, ‘No, don’t say anything. Be nice.’ And this devil on the other shoulder saying, ‘Do it! Do it!’ and they were going back and forth.”

Now, I was laughing uncontrollably. “I’m so glad you didn’t say anything,” I told him.

“But I so wanted to. I really, really did. But the angel said, ‘No. Remember last year. She’ll get mad and close herself in the bedroom. Don’t do it.'”

Michael listened to the angel. And is still alive to tell the tale.


Gifts That Keep On Giving

Some of you, dear readers, may recall a time quite a few years ago when I read the book 29 Gifts and was prompted to attempt the challenge: Give one gift a day for 29 days.
Lest you think this might break your budget, let me give you a few guidelines:
  • The gifts don’t have to cost a thing. You can gift a compliment. A second chance. A smile. A thank you. The benefit of the doubt.
  • The gifts have to be intentional. You can’t sit in your bed tonight, think back over your day, and say, “Oh yes! That! I’ll count that!” Nope. But you can be aware enough to give when an opportunity presents itself. And such was the case tonight.

I got home at 4:30 after a successful school field trip. (“Success,” in this case, is defined as a trip with eleven thirteen-year-olds returning to school with the only injury being one skinned knee.) I’m working hard on trying to not think too much about school after the school day is over. I’ve read this is next to impossible for a teacher, but I’m up for a challenge. So how to get myself into a different mindset? Sometimes I just head out onto the screened-in porch and dive into a good book. Sometimes accompanied by a glass of wine. Other times, I do this same thing, but out in public. Tonight was such a night.

I tried to get Michael to join me, but his hermit tendencies don’t always make this possible.

So I put a book and my journal in my bag, and decided to take myself out. And then I remembered the coupon. Not just any coupon: this one’s a good one. The kind where you don’t have to spend any money to use it. Ten dollars off. Whether your bill is ten dollars, or fifty dollars. So off I went.

Michael and I were given the coupon by the owner of the bar when we visited not long after they opened. I’d been holding onto it for six months, thinking I should use it for the two of us. But then I recalled my friend Lynne who says, “Don’t should on yourself.”

I will confess: walking into a bar alone still unsettles me just a little. I sat in the car for a few minutes getting up my nerve, and I’m glad I did. I sat on the short end of the L-shaped bar. There were about 10 people in the joint, and the bartender was friendly. I ordered a delicious red blend wine. And then some soppressata and Parmesan. All the while reading my book but really eavesdropping on other people’s conversations.

I could see the couple a few seats around the corner from me was taking advantage of the Wednesday night half-price wine bottle special. Two large plates of oysters came out for them, followed by a charcuterie plate. Another couple arrived and sat a few seats down from the oyster-eating folk. This new couple let on that they were celebrating an anniversary. They were married on 10/10/10. An easy one for the husband to remember.

And that’s when I realized: that coupon I had? It wasn’t for me.

So I showed the bartender my coupon, and asked him to give it to the anniversary couple. He walked down the bar and told them about it. They gave me a smile and a wave and a thank you. And the bartender said to me, “I’m still going to give you ten dollars off, too.” See, this is the thing about giving: it comes back to you. Abundantly.

After the anniversary couple left (with more than a few dinner recommendations from us locals), I got my check. And got to talking to the oyster couple. About the book I was reading. The local bear population. Other wildlife. Teaching. “TMI,” Michael would say. He says I give entirely too much information to people I talk to. Good thing he wasn’t there
And while we were talking? The bartender came back. “Forgot to take your ten dollars off,” he said, giving me a new check. And another brand new ten dollar off coupon. Which I can promise you will not sit in my wallet for six months.

Promises, Promises (aka Wedding Vows)

“And will you be writing your own vows?” the wedding officiant asked.

“Yes,” Michael said, immediately and definitively.

I looked over at him. “We are?”

“Of course!”

Hmph. News to me. It’s not that I didn’t want to write them. Or did want to write them. Honestly, whether or not to do so had not yet crossed my mind.

A few days later, I asked Michael about it. “You’re the writer in the family,” he reminded me. No matter how many times I try to explain to Michael about the different types of writers, it never sticks. Copy writers. Travel Writers. Novel Writers. I am none of those (yet). Blog writer. Yes. That I am. I write stories. Not promises.

A few days before the wedding, I learned Michael had finished writing his vows. Which meant I should probably get started. So I did what any modern bride does: I googled, “How to write wedding vows.” I can’t imagine getting married pre-Google.

That night, I said to Michael, “So we don’t really write our own vows. We just google them, and copy what we like, right?”

“And personalize it,” he responded. Crap. “Some humor, some seriousness, a few promises . . . ”

The next night I said to Michael, “We should probably hear each other’s vows before the wedding.”

“We can’t do that! It’s supposed to be a surprise!”

“But what if I only have four lines written and you have four hundred?” I asked.

“You’re not going to have just four lines.” Silence. Waiting. “How about this,” he offered. “I’ll tell you how many words I have.”

“Oh, good. That’ll help.”

“You’ve written them, right?” he asked.

“Uh. Well. I’ve copied a bunch of things I like. I just haven’t edited them yet into something good.”

Luckily, on her wedding day, a bride has lots of time to wait. The hairdresser and make up artist both told me they’d arrive at 11. “For a 5:30 wedding?” I asked.

“Well, when does the photographer come?” the hairdresser asked me during my trial appointment.


“So everybody needs to be ready by then. I like to have an hour for each person,” she said. “Just in case they don’t like it, we have time to redo it all. And for your nieces, they’ll take probably thirty minutes each.” I added it up in my head. Yep. She did the math correctly.

So after getting my hair and make up done, and eating lunch, I sat on an upholstered chair in the bridal suite, pulled out my computer, and finished revising (395 words to Michael’s 370 — perfect). I handed the computer to my maid-of-honor who read them and cried. Mission accomplished. At 2:39 p.m., I emailed them off to the wedding planner to print. And ultimately, I’m happy we wrote our own vows.

At my dream wedding, I’d have invited every single person I know, and had time to talk to each of them for hours. But, sadly,  I’m not an Indian bride (their weddings have thousands of attendees and last for days!). So I was not able to invite all of you. And some of you I invited were unable to come, so I present to you, dear friends, our vows.

If you’d like to hear us saying some of them (which I recommend), my dear friend Tara recorded some of them:

If you’d prefer to read them, Michael went first at the wedding, so here are his, followed by mine:

Rebecca, my darling. For over 4 years now, we have embarked on an incredible journey together. You are my my dream come true.

I look forward to loving the smallest moments, like the treasure that happens when watching you belly laugh to the point where you are out of breath. Or watching you stare at the wall when you first wake up. And I know it’s not quite staring at a wall (it’s just you thinking about the upcoming day), but oh does it make me smile.

Let’s make bad choices, eat the wrong things, take wrong turns, and then let’s tell great stories, the same ones-for ever and ever until no one can stand us but each other.

I promise that when you wake up in the morning, I will continue to show interest in hearing about your dreams, as mundane as they sometimes are.

I promise that I will join you on a Camino walk and share in one of your passions and to be there to help support your own dreams.

I promise to hold you when holding is needed. Not talking or giving advice, just holding. Because sometimes you just need to be held.

I promise to have food available for you on short and long trips as it is quite a sight to see the hangry that appears. I must admit though this is mainly for selfish reasons.

I promise to be there for you, to help support you in times of need and to laugh with you, belly laugh, silly little laughs, and all types of shared laughter. I truly believe that our collective smiles and laughter will bring us through many uncertain or trying times.

However much you love me, I love you more.

I am so excited that you entered my life over 4 years ago and that we get to spend the rest of our lives together. Our journey began a short time ago and my only regret is that it didn’t start sooner.

And with that my darling, let’s us move towards our next stage and continue to laugh and love together. I’m beyond joy with what lies ahead. I love you.


My dearest Michael —

I’ve heard that the things you love most about your partner are the things will drive you crazy in later years. So, in front of all these witnesses, I thought I’d say a few of the many things I love about you, so these wonderful people can remind me of them later in life.

Michael — I love that you are happy from the moment you wake up in the morning til the moment you go to sleep. I love that you make me laugh. A lot. With you. At you. At myself.

I love how you watch 58 YouTube videos before you take on any task that’s new to you.

I love that when I start to get angry about something you pull me into a hug and push my face into your chest, so that you can’t hear my protesting, and you won’t let me go til I’m laughing.

I love how, when we disagree about the small stuff, you quickly come over to my side — not necessarily because I’m right, but because it really is small stuff. And then I realize how much of that stuff doesn’t matter.

But I also love all the small stuff that you do that makes such a difference. Like when I come home to find you’ve unloaded the dishwasher, folded my laundry, or cleaned the kitchen. Or done all of the above.

So for these things, and all the other things I love about you,

Today, surrounded by people who love us

I, Rebecca, choose you, Michael,

to be no one other than yourself.

Loving what I know of you,

trusting what things I will discover,  

I marry you with no hesitation or doubt.  


I love you not only for who you are,

but for who I am when I’m with you.

I promise to choose you every day, to love you in word and deed,

To laugh with you, cry with you, grow with you, and create with you,

even as time and life change us both.

I promise to love you, support you, respect you, and above all else, make sure I’m not just yelling at you because I’m hungry.

I will care for you, stand beside you, and share with you all of life’s adversities and all of its joys from this day forward, and all the days of my life.

(thanks to George Urciuoli for this pic!)

Who Is Gloria Morgan?

Our wedding web site allowed guests to contact us with questions about our upcoming nuptials. Early this year, we received this question from Gloria Morgan: 

Which of the accommodations have the highest thread count? Renaissance Marriott, Hampton Inn & Suites Asheville Biltmore Village, or Best Western Smoky Mountain Inn?

“Who’s Gloria Morgan?” Michael asked me. 

“I have no idea.” We chalked it up to spam.

Over the next few months, though, Ms. Morgan continued emailing us with inane questions.

  • For the Laurel Ridge Country Club: Shirt/shoes optional or mandatory?
  • Hi Rebecca and Mitchell! Hope this email is finding you well! Will Laurel Ridge Country Club be supplying two ply toilet paper or should we bring our own?
  • Hey guys! Sorry to bother you with so many questions! Is the Laurel Ridge Country club Segway accessible? I checked with Dawn but she wasn’t totally sure. Thanks! -GM
  • What is the anticipated pollen count for Waynesville on June 16, 2018?

I stopped reading them after a while. Just deleted them as soon as I saw her name. But then I realized a spammer targets one person and moves on. Or, usually, a whole group of people. But this person kept up with this for months.

Then I started putting other pieces together:

  • Our wedding web site included our home address, as we were having a barbecue there the day after the wedding.
  • The web site also had the time and day of the wedding.

I began to wonder if this person was going to rob us while we were at our own wedding. But I didn’t tell Michael this. He was stressed enough about getting house projects finished before our guests arrived.

Thankfully, I was on such a high on our wedding day that I didn’t think to much about it, though if, upon our return home on our wedding night, our house had been ransacked, I can assure you it’s the first thing I would have told the police.

On one table at our wedding, there was a basket that said, “Leave your wishes for the Mr. and Mrs.” The day after our wedding, Michael and I went through them and found one written by none other than Gloria Morgan.

Now it finally kicked in. Someone was playing a joke on us. Someone who had attended our wedding. So instead of a universe of spammers, we now had a mere 110 people as suspects.

But again life prevented us from thinking about it much more. Over the next three weeks we had a “mini-moon” in Savannah, a road trip up to Lake George and Schroon Lake, and  then yesterday’s big event: the New York Party–for all the folks in my home state who couldn’t make it to the wedding. And for those that did, but wanted to have good food, good company, and good wedding cake all over again in a much more casual environment. 


At Canoe Island Lodge on Lake George. Ignore the pitchfork coming out of my head.

So last night, after everyone left, Michael and I sat down with my parents and my Aunt Janet to open gifts and read all the cards. We had just five left to read when Gloria Morgan struck again. “F*** Gloria Morgan!” I said. In her card, she had enclosed two 20% off coupons from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. The first had expired back in 2015. The second had expired in January. (Though everyone knows you can use those coupons long after they expire.)

“Who’s Gloria Morgan?” Dad asked.

We explained the messages, the note at our wedding. Michael and I both searched our emails to quote the questions she’d asked us. (We could only find half of them — we’d deleted the others.) 

“So it has to be someone who’s good with technology,” my mother said. “Which leaves me out,” said my father. “Me, too,” said Aunt Janet and my mother, in unison, laughing.

“It has to be someone who was at both parties,” Michael said.

“Or maybe they weren’t at this party — they could have sent the card with someone else,” I said.

“I might have seen Jeffrey put two cards in the basket,” said my mother. “Bethany can be a prankster.” And so it was that we sent a text to my brother Jeffrey and his wife Bethany. They claimed to have no idea what we were talking about. Though Bethany was at a bachelorette party, and admitted she may have been too drunk to understand what was going on.

“Gloria Morgan. GM,” pondered my mother. “MG! Meg Gallo!” proposed Aunt Janet. Or maybe Meg’s boyfriend Jimmy. He was just quiet enough and just funny enough and just unknown enough to maybe have been the guilty party. Michael texted Meg.

Michael: Thanks, Gloria Morgan.

Meg: Who the f is Gloria Morgan?!?!

Michael: We think it’s you.


Meg was working in her ice cream store on a gorgeous 75 degree evening, so probably didn’t have time for our nonsense. So I called her boyfriend Jimmy. “Are you Gloria Morgan?” I said. He sounded a little confused. He has my number in his phone, so knew it was me calling. He feigned innocence.

Two hours later, we get a text from Meg: “I don’t know what you are talking about. . . I sling ice cream and don’t have time for shenanigans.”

“It’s obviously someone who keeps stuff around in their house for a long time,” I said, referring to the three-year-old Bed, Bath, and Beyond coupon. My parents certainly qualified on that count, but I hadn’t been in the homes of most of the other people in attendance in quite some time.

We tried Aunt Sharon and Uncle Dominic, starting our calls with, “Is it you, Gloria Morgan?” Both claimed innocence, “but let us know when you find out.” They called back mere minutes later with their suspects. “Your mother or Aunt Janet.”

“Nope, they’re both right here. And not savvy enough with computers to do it,” I said.

“I wish I had thought of this,” said Aunt Janet. At least one of us is definitely stealing this idea.

We tried contacting a few other suspects, but with no luck.

“You’re going to have to write a blog post about it,” my mother said. So voila. Will the real Gloria Morgan please stand up? And if she would like to remain a mystery, here’s what I want to say to her:

Dear Glo (as she signed one of her missives),

I would like to congratulate you on:

  • Your creativity.
  • Your consistency.
  • Your ability to print in a way that I swear was my sister Meg’s handwriting.
  • Your ability to scare the crap out of me.
  • Your ability to make a lot of people laugh over this story.

And thanks for not robbing us on our wedding day. 

With love,

Mr. and Mrs. Weston

p.s. Michael proofread my note to you and would like add: Stop sending us f’ing messages.


Wedding Day Conversations

“A lot of people get married here in Savannah,” our trolley tour driver explained. “This square here,” he said, gesturing to a lush lawn dotted with live oak trees and benches, “is a popular place for weddings. But it used to be a cemetery. I imagine the ministers don’t tell that to the bride and groom.” All of us on the trolley laughed, but I was laughing for another reason: it reminded me of something my dad said to me on my wedding day, just a few days earlier.

As Dad and I stood awaiting our cue to walk down the aisle, he asked me, “Did you hear about the body?”

“The body? Uh . . . no.”

My maid-of-honor was given her signal and dutifully proceeded. Dad and I moved forward. “I’ll have to tell you later,” he whispered.

My niece Bella, the flower girl, was given her cue and pranced away in her white ruffled dress, basket of rose petals in hand.

I wondered what on earth Dad was talking about, but then we were summoned forward. “Walk really slowly,” my father reminded me, speaking from experience. This was not his first time escorting a daughter down the aisle on her wedding day. I turned the corner to see a crowd of my closest family and friends standing at their seats, bodies turned to watch us, big smiles on their faces. I smiled back — a look that wouldn’t leave my face the rest of the night.

As intrigued as I was about “the body,” I forgot all about it as Dad and I walked towards Michael. I didn’t think of it at all as the ceremony proceeded, as we said our vows, as we exchanged rings. When it was all over, Michael and I walked out together, followed by our bridal party, and then my parents.

“Congratulations,” Dad said, shaking Michael’s hand. “She’s all yours now.” We mingled with the rest of the bridal party as we waited at the big double doors for our grand entrance. Then, Dad found us again and said, “So Jessica and I found a body on our way here.” Apparently, he hadn’t forgotten where we’d left off.

“What?” I asked.

“Yeah. We were driving here, and Jessica’s looking out the window and says, ‘Dad — did you see that? There was a body on the side of the road!’ So we pulled over, and I thought the guy was dead. Really. He was just lying there, not moving. A young kid. Twenties. He had a pulse, but wasn’t breathing too well.”

Jessica called 911, but was having trouble explaining where they were as neither she nor my father live in North Carolina (where my wedding was being held). Dad started flagging down other cars. He directed one guy that stopped to call 911 back and give a more precise location. Then another car stopped. “This woman got out and said she was a nurse, and her husband was a doctor. So I said, ‘Good. My daughter’s getting married in an hour. I gotta go.’ And we took off.”

And he arrived in time to walk me down the aisle.

A few days later, while on our “mini-moon” in Savannah, I had to laugh at the differences between traditional southern decorum and what happened on my wedding day: In Savannah, they might not tell couples they’re about to marry on a former cemetery. But in my family? We don’t have that kind of restraint.

Saying “Yes” to the Dress

Three months into my wedding planning, I heard that some brides now buy two dresses: one to wear for the ceremony, and a different one for the reception. I thought this whole idea ridiculous for a variety of reasons:

  1. One dress is expensive enough — why buy two?
  2. A ceremony lasts, at most, an hour. Spend all that money to wear a dress for an hour?
  3. I hate shopping. It’s bad enough I have to find one wedding dress.

So I quickly concluded that no, I will not be buying two wedding dresses.

Well, if I ever write a book about my life, I should call it Never Say Never. 

A month before our wedding I was getting a little stressed. Every make up person I was calling was already booked. And I had gone to my first “trial” for my hair, and we had to schedule a second trial because we had yet to find the right style. I was lamenting (okay — crying) over these silly things, and Michael was dutifully listening, when I added, “And I don’t even know if I like my dress!”

“What do you mean you don’t like your dress?” he asked.

“I didn’t say I didn’t like it. I just said I’m not sure I like it.” Michael wrinkled his brow, then added, “Well, if you’d let me see it, I could give you my opinion.”

Since I had bought the dress (months ago), Michael wanted to see it. “It’s supposed to be a surprise,” I’d say.


“Because that’s the tradition.”

“But we’re not doing a lot of the other traditional wedding things,” he said.

“Well, we’re doing this one.”

But at the moment of this crying fit, I decided this was another tradition we could let go. Except that the dress was no longer in my possession.

“Okay,” I said to Michael, “I’ll show it to you. But I can only show you a picture of me in it, because I don’t have it right now.”

“What do you mean you don’t have it? Where is it?”

“In New York. We didn’t like how the bustle turned out, so Mom took it to her seamstress in New York to see if she could do something better.”

“What’s a bustle?” Michael asked.

After explaining how trains and bustles work, I showed Michael the picture on my cell phone.

Like a good fiancé, he said, “Well, first of all, know that whatever you wear you’ll look good.” I rolled my eyes and mumbled, “thank you.”

“But if you want my opinion . . .” he paused.

“Yes, I do,” I confirmed.

“Well, I’d rather see you in something more fitted.”

The lacy A-line dress he saw me in was fitted to just above my waist, then dropped straight down. I knew exactly what he meant. I started crying again.

“Listen,” he said. “If you want, we can go try on some dresses right now.”

“No, we can’t,” I cried. “You have to make an appointment. And the place is closed right now. And I have so much to do at school tomorrow.”

“I’ll call tomorrow,” he said. “Just text me the number.”

And so it was that on a Friday afternoon, Michael picked me up from school and accompanied me to the place from which I’d purchased the dress. I walked in and explained, “I’m just not sure about my dress.” The woman didn’t blink an eye, just smiled and said, “I certainly understand. Let’s have you try on a few more.”

“And I know it’s weird that I have my fiancé with me,” I said.

“Not at all. Brides do all sorts of things these days,” she said, walking Michael and I over to the racks of dresses. Michael picked a rack and started looking. “No, hon, those are way too big. Only look at these ones,” I said, showing him the racks that held my size.

We picked out dresses, then Michael sat down while I tried the first one on. Michael’s eyes bulged when he saw it. I think he was holding back tears. “Oh my God. Is this really happening?” he asked. I smiled. “She didn’t even zip it up yet, hon.” I stepped up on the pedestal in front of the three way mirror. Michael’s mouth dropped open. “Let’s put a veil on,” said the saleswoman. As she did, Michael nearly jumped out of his seat. “Hon, this is only the first dress. I don’t even like this one,” I told him.

“What do you mean you don’t like it? What don’t you like?”

“I’m not sure. I just don’t like it.”

“How are we going to find the right one if you can’t tell me what you don’t like about it?” Thankfully, the saleswoman jumped in. “When she knows, she’ll know.”

After trying on six dresses, we put one on hold and left the store. “I don’t want to buy another dress tonight. I just want to see some other options,” I told him.

“Well, where else can we go?” We called bridal shop #2, and they had an opening, so off we went. This time our saleswoman did what we had hoped someone would do: she gave us her opinion. After trying on six dresses, none of which I liked, for reasons I couldn’t explain, the saleswoman said, “Show me the dress you have.” I showed her the cell phone picture. “That’s a great dress for you,” she said. I started thinking, Well, then I guess it’s the one, but then she added, “I’ve got two more ideas.” I liked how I looked in both of those ideas. But was I sure I wanted to wear one of these instead of the dress I already had? I wasn’t. But the clock was ticking, so I said yes, and we bought a second dress.

But now I felt like I was in a worse position. Instead of having one dress and just saying, “Eh — go with it,” I now had two dresses and still wasn’t sure which one I wanted to wear. My only consolation was that the first dress cost only $300. Which was still more than I’d ever spent on a dress, but in the world of wedding dresses was pretty cheap. And the second dress didn’t cost much more than the first one.

My maid-of-honor took the pictures I’d sent of both dresses and put them into one side-by-side picture. And after shamefully admitting my dilemma to friends and showing them the picture, I still wasn’t sure.

Dress #2 (L), Dress #1 (R)
Before Tailoring

Three days before the wedding, I confessed to my mother. She reacted just as I’d predicted: a slight look of surprise splashed quickly across her face, and then she said, “Well, try them both on and see which one you like better.” So we did. And I chose the second one. But brought both to the wedding venue. Just in case.

Me and my personal shopper 🙂

“Yeah, We’ve Got That.”

Eight years ago, my parents bought a house in Schroon Lake, New York. It was a former boarding house — ideal when you have five children who like to visit with their friends, significant others, kids. It’s just a block from the lake. A block from the supermarket. A block from the tiny downtown (a coffeeshop, a couple restaurants, a wine bar). All in a quiet town of 1600 souls. The only downside to their purchase? The house was sold to them completely filled with someone else’s stuff. 

To those of you not wanting to clean out your house in order to downsize and move to Florida, take this lesson from a woman in Schroon Lake: Sell your house. With everything in it.

I don’t just mean the house was “furnished.” Oh, no, that would be too easy. Every cabinet, drawer, and closet had stuff in it. The basement? Full of stuff. The plastic storage box on the side of house? Full. With plastic animals you can decorate the lawn with.

But wait! There’s more! Every wall was covered with framed prints. Every surface covered with tchotchkes. We’re not talking about coming across some priceless antiques. We weren’t so lucky. They say one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Well, in this case, one woman’s junk is . . . one woman’s junk.

“She moved to Florida,” my mother said. “None of this stuff is really the style you would have in Florida.” Ah, my dear, empathetic mother.

And for my father? It was like a treasure hunt. Every time they went up there, I’d get calls about what else they came across. Boxes of Christmas decorations. A closet full of games.

Lucky for my parents, Schroon Lake has a town-wide garage sale every Labor Day weekend. People lug their stuff to the park on the lake, display their wares on tables, and hope someone else wants what they no longer do.

But for my parents, lugging all this stuff to the park — even though it was only a block away — was hardly going to make a dent. They didn’t have just a table or two worth of stuff. So what is a Gallo to do? Well, in the case of Lou Gallo, you head to your barn in Poughkeepsie, pull out your 20′ x 30′ red and white striped tent, throw it in your Honda Odyssey, drive up to Schroon Lake, put the tent up and your front lawn, and voila. Since their house is on the way to the town park, a few carefully placed signs (and a large red and white tent) made it easy to attract those out that day in search of treasures they didn’t know they needed.

Long story short: It took four years of Schroon Lake garage sales for them to clear the house of all the stuff they no longer wanted. I remember one year when more than one person showed up on our front lawn in Schroon Lake and said, “I always look forward to seeing what you guys have each year.” Yes, my parents were now “known” for their garage sales.

I wasn’t often able to help Mom and Dad clear out the house, but I was able to be present for a couple of those garage sales. Five tables displayed kitchen wares. Mom hung a string from the front porch post to the tree and draped bedspreads on it, hung curtains from it. Dad leaned some tires up against a tree. “Did you find those in the basement?” I asked him. “No. We brought those from home.” As in their main home in Poughkeepsie. Yes, for these garage sales, my parents imported stuff. 

I recently heard that most Honda Odyssey’s are now sold to people over 60. Yeah — the one’s who no longer have kids  to tote around. They say it’s because the seats are so comfortable for driving. In the case of my parents, it doesn’t hurt that they can also hold a lot of stuff. Like the aforementioned tent. And tires.

Which brings me to this morning. When my parents texted a picture of the back of their Honda Odyssey.

For those of you needing a translation:

  • That’s my sister Liz giving the thumbs up.
  • That’s my sister Jessica (nicknamed “Eagle Eye” at a young age) asking for further detail.
  • That’s Dad. The man whose every car usually has duct tape in it somewhere, wondering how on earth this one doesn’t.
  • That’s me. Feeling like I just earned 10 points in the favorite child competition because I have duct tape on hand.

And that whole “wedding or bust” thing that Dad wrote? That’s my wedding. You know, the one happening in four days. You see, Michael and I are having a BBQ at our house the day after the wedding. Michael was worried about the weather — specifically people roasting under the sun in our backyard. “We’ll have to rent a tent,” he said.

“We don’t have to rent one. My dad can just bring one down,” I said casually.

“Your dad has a tent?”

“Yeah. We had lots of parties at our house growing up. He used it all the time.”

“What does this tent look like?”

“Red and white stripes. Here. I’ll show you a picture,” I said, opening up my laptop, thinking Michael might not want the circus look.

“And sun doesn’t come through that?” he asked.

“Seriously? That’s the point of a tent, hon.”

And so it is that I called Dad and added the tent to the long list of supplies he’s bringing down for the BBQ. “I’ve got two, ” he said. “I’ll bring both — just in case.” In addition to the chafing dishes, sternos, coolers, and drink dispensers. Lucky for us, despite four years of garages sales, Dad’s still got those.



A Broken Record (My Very Own!)

After college, I worked for two months as a physical therapist, then resigned. Crying after work every day wasn’t something I thought good for my mental health.

I didn’t leave without a plan, however. I had been visiting a former place of employment, reminiscing about my time there, when I was told they had an opening: a temporary position, but one that would pay me enough to leave my current one. And so it was that I returned to being a seasonal park ranger at Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site.

After that position ended, I took a three week solo trip to Europe (solo because all my recently-graduated friends only had two week vacations, so couldn’t join me). Then, after a six month temporary position with the US Census Bureau and a one year position with Americorps, I took my first-ever job that didn’t have a definitive end date. And I hated it. So you’re telling me that after a lifetime of having summers off, two weeks off at Christmas, and a week-long Spring Break, I’m expected to spend the rest of my life with two weeks vacation? Maybe four after I’ve worked there a few years? I wasn’t liking this one bit.

A therapist told me I had “situational depression.” The “situation” being the job. She also told me I was having a quarter-life crisis. Two twenty-somethings had recently written a book about it, which she told me to read. I did. Then I resigned from my job. And learned that situational depression is cured by changing your situation.

I had held that job for a mere eighteen months. That was in 2002, and for the last sixteen years that job has held the record for the longest full-time job I’ve ever had.

This wasn’t intentional. But I like traveling. And the only way I could figure on being able to travel as much as I wanted to was to save up some money, then resign and take off. Because no job was going to give me a month off to travel. Plus time to go home for Christmas. Plus a few other days off for my sanity.

Now part-time jobs? Those I could hold for a while. I’ve been tutoring math since I was in high school. And what’s funny is that just about when I’d get sick of tutoring a kid, we’d hit Christmas Break. And I’d get my drive back. Until just before Spring Break, at which point I welcomed the week off. And then there was the mad dash to get my students to finish the year on a high note before the blessing that is summer. After which I had the energy to start it all over again.

All of this prompted many people to say I should become a teacher. “Oh, no,” I’d explain. “I like working with kids one-on-one. I don’t want to have to deal with a whole class of them.” Well, never say never.

This past March marked my nineteenth month as an employee of Carolina Day School. The record has officially been broken. Though part of me wonders: can I really count this as a full-time job? I have nine weeks off every summer. Two weeks (sometimes more) at Christmas. A full week for Thanksgiving. A full week for Spring Break. And all those Monday holidays. Some teachers say, “Yes, but we work so much during the school year, that the hours add up to a full-time job.” Well, maybe for them. I don’t go in early. I leave on time almost every day. And I work a max of three hours on a weekend. I think about my job a lot, though. And talk about it tons. Because I love it. I love the variety. I love the challenge. I love my colleagues and administrators. I love my kids. I could go on, but suffice to say: Yesterday marked twenty years since I graduated from college. It took me twenty years, but I’ve finally found work I love.