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Friday, January 22, 2016

Humans are Funny -- By Special Guest Blogger Orion LoBiondo

Hellooooooo everyone!  It’s me, Orion, everyone’s favorite four-legged LoBiondo.  I have been asking and asking Momma to let me do another blog and she finally said yes!  She said I wore her down, just like her 2-legged kids, my two brothers.  What does that even mean, Momma?  Humans are so funny sometimes.

Like with the GAR-BUJ Can in the kitchen,  Does anyone know where I can file a formal protest?  I PROTEST my Momma throwing out perfectly good chicken bones!  And she throws out the steak bones and porkchop bones and all the best bones in the world.  She puts them in that bad Gar-Buj Can.  Do they think I can’t smell through the Garbage can??  I smell everything in this house and all day I sit on my bed, working hard to protect this house from Evil Squirrels.  I can barely take a nap without one of those furry rats coming on my property and I have to get up and bark my head off.  And the whole time all I can smell is the chicken bones in the Gar-Buj Can.  Bones are for munching on and for burying in the backyard, Momma!  Humans are so funny, throwing away the best stuff.  But that’s OK, I still love them even if they don’t know what’s best for them.  I am PAY-SHUNT like that.
My momma’s also funny because she likes to pretend she goes downstairs and works so hard on her ERG-MOMMA-TER (her indoor rowing machine).  Don’t get me wrong, Momma goes downstairs and gets on the Erg for a long time.  But she’s not working all that hard.  She is watching Netflix.  And her erg scores depend on whether she is watching something funny like The Office (very slow erg scores because Momma is laughing so hard) or Law and Order (very fast because Momma gets so caught up and her blood is boiling trying to solve the mystery).  I know for a fact she barely gets above 20 strokes per meter while watching Nurse Jackie.  But that’s OK, Momma is trying hard to do this ERG-MOMMA-TER competition with her friends so she does it almost every night.  It’s mostly an excuse to watch her shows in peace but that’s OK, she’s a good Momma and she should get her alone -- I mean exercise -- time.  Momma is so funny like that.
Daddy is funny too.  Momma bought him a big comfy LAY-ZEE-BOY chair and all day long all Daddy wants to do is come home and get into his LAY-ZEE-BOY chair.  He gets up at 5 am every morning to take my brother Christian to the train station to go to Don Bosco, then goes to work all day.  I heard somebody on one of Momma’s shows say whatever you think about when you first wake up is what you love best.  If that’s true then Daddy definitely loves his LAY ZEE BOY Chair the best.  And Momma definitely loves dinner the best because the first thing she thinks about when she wakes up is what she’s going to make for dinner.  Humans are so funny.  They should be thinking about the Gar-Buj Can, that’s where all the good stuff is.  
Maybe the funniest thing about Momma is how much she loves her fireplace.  Why is that funny, you say?  Because it’s not a real fireplace, it’s an electric heater that makes fake flames pictures.  But Momma loves that “fireplace” so much!  She moves it around to whatever room she’s in.  And she says things like, “is there anything better than having the whole family around a roaring fireplace?” My brothers used to remind her it wasn’t a real fireplace but Momma insisted it was just as good, maybe better, so Daddy told my brothers to drop it.  I have to say, you can always find me curled up in front of Momma’s electric -- I mean -- her fireplace.  It’s super cozy.  And maybe a little bit funny.
But there’s no place I’d rather be than on my bed in the living room, surrounded by my family.  It’s OK if they only have two legs, they don’t know how to properly sniff a butt, they pass up drinking perfectly good toilet water, and they throw away chicken bones.  They’re a little funny, but they’re my family and I love them so much my heart sometimes feels like it might burst with love.
Gotta go bark at -- I mean greet -- the postman (when is Bob the Postman coming back?? Bob gave me treats!!).  Have a great day everyone and Momma said to remind everyone to Count your blessings!  Signed -- Orion LoBiondo

Friday, January 15, 2016

Mrs. Lo's Top 5 Tips to Avoid the Winter Slump

Everybody loves the four seasons in the Hudson Valley -- the crisp, colorful Autumns, flowery Springs, lazy Summers on the majestic Hudson River, and of course beautiful, snowy Christmas and holiday time.  But there is one big chunk of the year that we can pretty much agree is Slump Time.  The freezing cold, dark time between the holidays and the first day of Spring.  In other words, Now.  If you’re a fan of winter sports then that’s great, this Blog isn’t for you.  You are that rare breed that has been able to find the FUN in the snow, from skiing to snowboarding to showshoeing.  

For me, my love of the outdoors does not extend to Winter.  I love being out on the water during the nice weather -- rowing is my greatest passion, followed by kayaking and paddleboarding.  However, that’s just not possible in the winter in the Northeast.  
The easiest thing to do during the short, dark, cold days of winter is to hibernate (one of my favorite pastimes, by the way).  However, hibernation without exercise can lead to workout derailment, weight gain and just plain irritability.  Here are my tips to avoiding the Winter Slump:
5.  DANCE!  It’s a scientific fact, dancing is good for you both mentally and physically.  Some say it reverses the aging process (maybe you just have more fun).   There are so many styles of dance to try. I love salsa.  I have returned to Salsa class this winter and I couldn’t be happier.  Salsa improves your balance, increases circulation, keeps you fit and trim, and is a great mood lifter.  Anyone with two feet can do it.  I also enjoy Zumba over the winter, and try to participate in any Flash Mobs when given the chance.  Try Salsa or Ballroom for basic dancing, and Zumba for exercise.  I attend Elements of Style, 779 Route 211 East, Middletown NY, Salsa is Monday the Thursday at 8 pm, the teachers are the best, I have been with them on and off for years.  For Zumba, I love my friend Kattya Fernandez, you can find her at the Tomvac Building in Marlboro, every Tuesday and Thursday from 7 - 8 pm, and Saturdays at 9 am.
4.  HIT THE GYM with friends.  I am so glad I was able to convince my boatmates to join Gold’s Gym, where I have been for 10 years.  When you go to classes with friends, or meet each other there to workout, you have a much higher chance of showing up and the “we are a team” mentality kicks in.   Favorite activities at the gym:  swimming, Body Flow, Body Pump and Yoga.  
Golds Gym Newburgh
3.  CHALLENGE YOURSELF!  Challenge yourself and write it down.  Or join a Virtual Challenge.  My boatmates and I have joined the Concept 2 Virtual Team Challenge.  We set our own goals, and enter it on the computer every day.  Our goal is to each erg (use the indoor rowing machine) 100K meters in the month of January.  We did it in the month of December for charity and are committed to doing it again.  We keep in touch via messenger and encourage each other on.  Concept 2 January Virtual Team Challenge:
2.  CREATE A HOME GYM or an area you can workout in.  At a minimum, have a mat, some “ladyweights” as my sons call them (dumb bells to the rest of the world) and something you can watch Yoga or workout videos on.  Let’s face it, not everyone can afford  to join a gym, or can get there due to their schedule.  My home gym consists of an ergometer and a mat.  Erg and stretch, that’s about all I do at home but it’s enough, and the ergometer (indoor rowing machine) is a great total body workout.  
  1. JOIN THE NEWBURGH ROWING CLUB at Maximum Fitness!  You knew that one was coming.  Rowing on ergometers with the aid of a coach, is probably one of the best all over, total body, kick butt workouts you can get.  And no experience is needed.  For those who row on the water, it’s a great way to keep your muscles “rowing” or to continue the muscle memory of the boat.  For non-rowers, it has been called the “new spinning.”  Give it a shot, what do you have to lose.  The new winter session starts this week and we will be at Maximum Fitness, 59 North Plank Road, Newburgh for the winter season.

Keep your workout going all winter, or maybe start a workout routine this winter.  No matter what you do, get out there and do something!  Have a great day, everyone and, as always, remember to Count Your Blessings!  <3 Mrs. Lo (photos of Mrs. Lo at the One Billion Rising Flash Mob, Salsa Class, Zumba Class, and rowing on an ergometer)

Friday, January 8, 2016

I Don't Usually Encounter Parents Like You

“So let me get this straight,” said my brother.  “Instead of going on a trip by yourselves to the Dominican Republic, while I stay home with your kids, you and Anthony are going to drive to New Hampshire in a snowstorm, attempt to get same day passports for your kids, and then fly the whole family down to the DR?”
“Exactly,” I answered.  
“OK, then,” said my brother, “just checking.”
As always, I tend to start my stories in the middle.  It’s just so much more interesting that way.

It all started when I went to prepare my Travel Itinerary for our long planned family trip to the Dominican Republic, through our Disney Vacation Club program.  Since I had been so busy with “Extreme Holidaying” I didn’t get around to doing our Itinerary until the last minute.  And by last minute, I mean the day before our trip.  When I went to input Michael’s passport number, my heart froze.  The kids’ passports had expired.  (Giant note to international travelers:  adult passports are good for 10 years, kids passports are only for 5 years).
Strangely, I was not at all panicked.  I should have been, but I must have been too tired to panic at that point.  Instead, I called the US State Department’s hotline.
“Oh sure, hun, we can get you an expedited appointment,” said the helpful woman on the phone.  “The next in person for the New York City Office is January 16th.  When are you traveling?”  God bless her, she did actually try to stifle the laughter when I told her I was traveling the next day -- December 29th.  I was calling on December 28th.  She checked Stamford, Connecticut as well.  
“Just how far are you willing to travel to get your kids’ passports?” she asked.
“Very far,” I answered.
“Wow,” said the nice State Department lady.  “I don’t usually encounter parents like you.  Most people would just take the tickets and grab a pina colada and go.”
“Yes,” I confided, “so I’ve been told.  What about Maine, do you have any offices in Maine, we like driving up there.”
Of course, I was half kidding -- but it turned out we were in luck.  We could get an appointment in New Hampshire at 8 am the next morning.
I called my husband at the office, explained the situation and we simultaneously declared it:  “Road Trip!”
I quickly ran up to Poughkeepsie to get raised seal copies of the kids birth certificates -- I wasn’t taking any chances.  We all packed quickly (we just take carryons, we never check bags, it just slows you down) and, along with my two nephews, piled into the Team Mom Mobile and headed into a snowstorm in New Hampshire.  We made it there in record time, and found a fabulous spot for fresh chowda and lobster rolls.  We checked into our dive motel (hey, at least they had free wifi -- no in room coffee maker but all the Netflix you could binge on) and got up early the next morning.
New Hampshire was a winter wonderland (a far cry from the 70 degree temperatures the week before).  In fact, it was a sleet and ice wonderland and we were slipping and sliding all over the place, much to the boys’ delight (no, boys, we cannot go skiing, snowboarding or sleigh riding and still get to the passport office by 8 am).
The folks at the US Passport office in Portsmouth, New Hampshire have to go down in history as the nicest people I have ever met in a federal office.  Sure, security was tight but no one judged us for trying to get same day passports (an urban legend in the travel community).  In fact, they were sweet as pie -- until my husband put his Yankees hat on.  Then they HAD to rib him a little, after all this was Red Sox country.  
These beautiful people issued our kids’ passports in an hour and a half.  I couldn’t stop thanking and blessing them.  By the time we got out of there, the snow was turning to rain and we were back on the road to Newburgh.  By that evening we were checked into our hotel near JFK and, through the magic of cancellation fees, we were re-booked onto the next day’s flight leaving 5:30 am.  We only had to cut our vacation short by one day.
And what a magical vacation it turned out to be!  I can’t express how absolutely beautiful the Dominican Republic is.  Of course, the countryside, the beaches and the cities are breathtaking but the people are what make this tiny island nation shine.  I have never felt so welcomed ANYWHERE in my life, and I have lived in Europe and have traveled to over 30 countries.  Everyone told me that I spoke Spanish like a native (not true, but the fact that they would say so was incredibly flattering nonetheless).  I spoke Spanish to everyone and I LOVED every minute of it!
Our next vacation through the DVC will be back in Disney World; but after that, we are planning to visit Costa Rica, home of the Pura Vida.  I’d like the kids to travel through the Americas as much as possible, improving their Spanish along the way.
Because I can map out on two hands the number of vacations we have left while our oldest in still in high school.  And you better believe I am going to make sure those vacations are spectacular, whether it’s New England or New Zealand, this family’s gonna travel!

Be sure to put traveling on your list of Resolutions.  Have a great day, everyone and, as always, remember to count your blessings!  Love <3 Mrs. Lo

Friday, January 1, 2016

Mrs. Lo's Top 10 Pieces of Advice for 2016

MRS. Lo's TOP 10 PIECES OF ADVICE FOR 2016 - Hard to believe that another year is in the books and we are at a brand new year: 2016!  As is tradition, here are Mrs. Lo’s Top 10 Pieces of Advice for the new year, from various sage persons I have known in my life:

10.  ON PHOTOGRAPHS AND MEMORIES - from my dear friend Vivian Lanzarone, professional photographer: “My sister died when I was young, and when we looked around the house, we had virtually no photographs of her.  I started taking lots of photos of the family and then became inspired to become a professional photographer.  You can never have too many photographs of your family.  Never.”

9.  ON BEING THERE FOR YOUR KIDS – from Coach Kennedy, Senior Rowing Coach in the Hudson Valley:  “Never ever miss one of your son’s football games.  No matter what.  My mother came to every single one of my high school football games.  Every time I looked up in the stands, I looked for her and every time, I found her there in the stands.  And it gave me courage and inspired me.  Work will always be there.  There’s nothing more important than being in the stands for your son’s games."

8.  ON BEING ABLE TO LET GO – from Coach Brad Clausen, former Head Coach of the Goldbacks YFL D3 Division: “Sometimes things happen in a game that shouldn’t happen.  Bad sportsmanship, sometimes really bad sportsmanship.  But you have to let it go.  What’s more important is, how are you the adult, behaving as role models for these kids? The kids are always watching to see how their coaches and parents will react.  That is what they will remember, not the bad call, so be the role model you want your kids to follow.  In the end, football is a game.  Accept it, thank God for your healthy players and a great season, and move on.”

7.  ON THE IMPORTANCE OF PARENTHOOD OVER CAREER – from Judge Thomas Dolan, retired Dutchess County Court Judge and Acting Supreme Court Justice, the year was 1999:  “You want to know my advice on whether to accept that Law Partnership or keep working part-time so you can be home with your baby?  That’s simple, Julie.  Put off making money for now.  You’ll have plenty of time to make up for it later.    You’ll be a lawyer for the rest of your life.  You'll have decades to make money.  But your kids will only be babies for a little while.”

6.  ON MARRIAGE – from my Mom:  “Never discuss the inner workings of your marriage with anyone, not your kids, your girlfriends, not even with me.  Marriage is sacred, what happens in a marriage is between you and your husband, and no one else.”

5.  ON PARTNERSHIP – from my Husband.  When asked at a cocktail party how we figured out the partnership split every year: “what’s to figure out when you share everything you have?”

4.  ON BULLIES – from Lolo (my Dad):  “you kids have been kind of sheltered but soon you’re going to go out into the real world.  There will be people who don’t like you, either because you’re mixed race, or because you're happy or any number of reasons.  Always there will be people who don't like you, because they don't like themselves.  No matter what someone says to you, you are never allowed to get in a fight over words.  Words can hurt, but you don’t use physical force to retaliate. Even if they make fun of your parents, you have to turn and walk away.  (And this part was for my brother, not me) However, if someone throws the first punch, you have permission to square up and finish it.”

3.   ON SELF CONFIDENCE:  from Michael, who was age 9 years at the time, when I was scared to compete in my first regatta: "You have to believe in yourself, Mommy, because I always believe in you.”

2.  ON MONEY - from Phil Shatz, my mentor, and a former senior partner, now of counsel, to the Poughkeepsie law firm of McCabe and Mack and one of the most successful people I know (advice given to me when I was in my twenties and Phil was in his late sixties):  “Kid, I’m going to give you a little piece of advice about money.  Right now, you have enough.  You just don’t realize it.  People don’t realize that if they have enough money to put a roof over their head, keep the lights on, and buy some food, they have enough and the rest is just gravy.  Once you grasp that, you’ll not only be happier, you’ll start making money hand over fist.  Guaranteed."

1.  ON LIFE – from Nellen, my beloved grandmother:  “Jules, remember to count your blessings every day, just the way we do every night before you go to sleep.   Love Your Life and be thankful for what God gives you, taking the good with the bad.  Because it’s the only Life you’re going to get – this is not a Dress Rehearsal.”

AND A BONUS THIS YEAR, from Mrs. Lo:  Travel with your kids frequently.  Whether it's camping or a tour of Europe, get out of town and see other cultures, see other natural habitats.  And learn another language!  Just start, anyone can do it.  Few things bring me greater joy than traveling with my family and speaking Spanish the entire trip.  It makes me feel connected to the world and to all of mankind and brings me great joy.

Happy New Year, Everyone!  Thank you to all my Readers, for reading, liking, sharing, commenting, entering the contests, and just checking the page once in a while.  It’s been a great 2015, looking forward to spending 2016 together with you too!  Remember to Count Your Blessings, Love You All! <3 Mrs. Lo