Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I must confess, I never really understood the mammoni.

"Mammoni" in Italian, means mama's boy. And, in Italy, they are as common as gnocchi gorgonzola. More than half of the single Italian men in Italy still live at home with their mothers. It has caused the birth rate in Italy to decline so much that it has become somewhat of a national crisis.

Blame the mammoni.

The mammoni are not all in Italy. This tradition has spread to the shores of America. You've seen them. You know them. Perhaps you are one yourself.

Not sure about the signs of a mammoni?

I had a friend who refused to shop for clothing without his mother by his side, well into his twenties. Mammoni.

My cousin claims he'll live at home in his mom's "compound" until he's at least forty. Mammoni.

I have a brother-in-law who insists on sitting next to his mother at the dining room table, even if that means booting a small child out of "his" seat. Mammoni.

My husband "conveniently" stops by his mom's house in the morning, just so she can make him her delicious eggs, hash browns, and creamed chipped beef. Mammoni (or possibly just hungry because we all know I'm no Julia Child).

The whole concept of the "mammoni" used to make me laugh, scratch my head, tease friends and family.

Until I had a son.

Now, I get it.

I totally get it.

I may not be Italian by blood, but through marriage and spirit, I have somehow created a little mammoni of my own.

I cannot go into the bathroom alone. Even for 10 seconds. If I try, I hear the pitter patter of little feet, bringing me a race car or a light up drum. (Both of which make the bathroom experience much more enjoyable, actually).

My little mammoni says the word, "Mama" at least 400 times a day, with various degrees of excitement and intonation.

He has accompanied me to the eyebrow waxer, the dentist, and, yes, even the gynecologist (where, in a paper gown, I tossed yogurt melts across the stark exam room to him in his stroller, while singing and dancing along to the radio playing, "Heat Wave"). A true mammoni goes where Mama goes.

On rare nights, when he sleeps in our bed, I watch him doze off, sucking his thumb, while rubbing his monkey's ears not only against his nose, but mine too. He curls up so closely to me, if he could "unzip" my belly and crawl back in, I swear he would. Every single night. When he wakes up, two centimeters from my face, he waves at me and smiles sleepily, "Ma-ma."

What can I say?

I've changed my view on the mammoni completely. To you skeptics, I say, don't knock it, 'til you try it!

I've gotta run . . . my mammoni is calling!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Walk With a Llama

"A-rriv-ing at Berk-shire Moun-tain Llama Hikes, two hun-dred feet."

Has your GPS lady ever mechanically sounded out those magical words?

Mine did the other day, as my husband snorted at our surroundings.

We had just driven a mile up a country road in search of a llama to "walk," and there was not a lone llama in sight amidst a rusted out pick-up truck, empty gasoline canisters and a possessed looking tire swing.

"Great! No llamas, see?"

A mile back down the road lay the beautiful Berkshire Mountains. "Can we please go someplace normal for our first trip to the Berkshires?" he continued.

"Normal is sooooo boring, Old Man Jenkins!" I teased him, poking him in the ribs.

"Why do you want to hike with llamas again?" he asked for the 5th time in 10 minutes, precisely when the llama lightbulb went off in my crazy keppe.

"I read it about the Berkshire Mountain Llama Hike online last week and it just appeared miraculously in GARMIN's 'attractions.' It must be a sign."

"Seriously? You really want to trek with a llama?"

I don't know why he was so surprised. You may recall that I once threatened that I would buy an alpaca for a deserving family in a third world country and name it after him if he didn't pass the CPA exam.

"But I passed the CPA!" he retorted, making a thee point turn in the "land of no llamas."

"Look, we're not buying an alpaca today," I explained, rolling my eyes. "We're simply trekking with a llama."

"And tell me why, again," he said.

"Because it sounds like fun . . . and it's my birthday . . . . and I have never walked with a llama before."

"Your birthday was two days ago," he reminded me with a smile.

"Yeah, but you still didn't give me my birthday card, so my birthday continues every day until I get it."

"That's fair," he replied sincerely. "What's with you and the cards?"

"Everyone likes birthday cards," I told him. "And llamas too."

I searched the internet on my cell phone and read this review aloud:

"Come and enjoy the novel experience of spending time in nature accompanied by llamas. Berkshire Mountain Llamas are known for their sweet dispositions, wooly coats, and unique personalities."

"That sounds like you, babe!" I complimented him.

"These llamas are a real treat for youngsters . . ."

"No, YOU"RE a treat," he shot back, laughing.

"As trusted hiking companions they are clever, gentle and willing to be led by young children."

"Now that sounds like YOU, babe!" he added.

Our son giggled in the back seat. (His favorite book is "Llama Llama Red Pajama," so he quite enjoyed our friendly banter).

"Do you want to see a LLAMA?" I asked him. He kicked his sneakers on the bottom of his car seat and flashed every tooth in his mouth. "Yeah, yeah!"

"You two are both nuts, there are no llamas here," "Old Man Jenkins" declared.

I had to admit, he was correct. I'm not sure if we were in the wrong place or if the Berkshire Mountain Llama Hike company simply could not keep up with competing local attractions. But, my husband made it up to me by riding an alpine slide (a bit tipsy and amidst the threat of wild turkeys on the course), buying me a beautiful birthday gift, and patiently waiting while I conquered a death-defying aerial rope course, like the one I used to live for at summer camp.

As for the llamas, I think we'll check out the zoo this weekend and see if we can find one. Technically, it's STILL my birthday.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Big Kahuna

“She is STROOOOOOOONG, capable!” the announcer bellowed in his southern drawl. “Here she comes, folks…she is POWERFUL!”

How I ended up hooting for cowgirls on a frigid summer night at a rodeo in Cody, Wyoming, I’m not sure. Then again, it was my idea.

My college roommate had previously mastered an impeccable swan-dive off the highest bridge in the world and come face to face with a buffalo “knocking” at her door in Kenya. Because she had already toured six continents, and I had just conquered law school, we decided to “see America.” Truthfully, I thought that if I was traveling on my dreaded 30th birthday, and away from home, then it wouldn't really count.

“It looks like a hearse,” I told the car rental clerk in Denver. “I’m sorry, I just can’t pick her up in that thing. Not unless there’s a dead body in the back.”

The clerk rolled his eyes. “The only other car available is that Dodge. It has a v-4 engine, no power windows, no CD player.”

“As long as I can plug in my ipod, I'll take it!” I decided hastily.

Rule #1: A good road trip requires good music.

“Nice wheels!” Sara joked as she hopped into the passenger seat twenty minutes later. She surveyed the car quickly. “She looks like a ‘Gloria!’” I had to agree, yes "she" did.

Rule #2: A good road trip requires a vehicle with a snazzy alias.

We motored, or should I say crawled, west in “Gloria,” stopping at a lovely bed-n-breakfast in Aspen.

“Watch out for the bears, sometimes they come in through the back door!” our host chuckled. I took no chances and locked all eight locks.

Rule #3: A good road trip involves the threat of bears busting up the party.

We stayed in the “Little Nell” room, named after an infamous madam from the 1800s.

“You look like a ‘Little Nell,’” I declared as Sara climbed into the raised antique canopy bed next to me. “You’re petite and you would have made a great 19th century madam!” Sara was flattered.

Rule #4: A good road trip requires a traveling companion with a snazzy alias. Clearly.

Gloria, Little Nell, and I trekked on to Moab, Utah, which may well have been the end of the earth.

We hiked through spectacular natural arches and later wandered into a dive bar, where we were greeted with stares appropriate for serial killers. The gum-chomping hostess spat something about a $4 “membership” fee. We chose not to become members.

We spent my 30th birthday in Jackson, Wyoming, one of my favorite places in the world.

"Now who is brave enough to "cow-girl up" and ride the BIGGGGGGGGGGGGG KAHUNA?" yelled our white water rafting guide over the churning category 4 rapids.

"Stacy is, it's her birthday!" Little Nell volunteered. Ah, thanks, Little Nell.

Rule #5: A good road trip involves a good dare.

The twelve people on our raft cheered and patted my back as Sara thrust me to the front of the raft. There were two gigantic men, perfect strangers, on either side of me.

"Listen," I told them, "I don't care what you do, just do NOT let me fall out of this raft, okay?"

The guide told me to sit up on the puffy part of the raft, hold on to the rope between my legs and dangle my feet over the front of the raft into the menacing rapids. I turned around to catch what I thought might be my final glimpse of Little Nell. She had a huge proud smile on her face, just like the one captured on video moments before she bungee jumped off the highest bridge in New Zealand.

Our raft slowed down to a near complete halt, like a rollercoaster at the top of the track. We plunged head first at a ninety degree angle into the "Big Kahuna."

The rush of water over my head drowned out my screams. I was completely submerged, but for a toe or two. I heard people from the raft yelling, "Man overboard! Man overboard." I was sure I was that man.

But then I realized I somehow managed to stay in the raft. It was one of the bodybuilders who had been sitting next to me who was overboard. Not just overboard, but under the raft. His three children were screaming and crying hysterically. Within seconds, he popped out from under the raft. He appeared fine, if not shellshocked.

"Thumbs up?" yelled our river guide. "Give the thumbs up if you're okay," he instructed.

The children on our raft were inconsolable.

"GIVE THE THUMBS UP!" Little Nell hollered furiously.

He refused to give the thumbs up. He floated toward the raft with a sour puss. But despite his brawn, he could not pull himself up.

Leave it to Little Nell to save the day. She used superhuman strength and sheer adrenaline to singlehandedly hoist and rescue a 250 pound man who refused to give the thumbs up. His children cheered and wiped away their tears.

Rule #6: A good road trip involves a hint of danger and activities you would never attempt in "real life."

“Next stop, Gloria, is Cody, Wyoming! Yeehaw!” Of course, that was after we hit a dozen Dairy Queens across Utah and Idaho. We imagined the locals posting our pictures, warning of the “Blizzard bandits.”

Rule #7: A good road trip requires lots of ice cream.

We stayed at a "horseback riding resort" in Cody, Wyoming, although Little Nell and I had probably been on 2 horses in our entire lives. It was funny how cowboys and cowgirls whom we met were fascinated by our daily existences. “

Y’all are law-yers?!” they asked, eyes wide. “Wow, y’all are like big city law-yers?”

“New York and Philly . . .”

“Amazin,” our wrangler responded, shaking his head, smiling. I think he thought we only existed in the movies.

“Please,” I countered, “you ride bulls for a living!” I definitely thought rodeo stars only existed in the movies.

"We both deal with a lot of bullshit!" Little Nell added, moments before our horses were spooked by a bear on the wooded trail and stampeded through heavy brush, crashing into tree branches.

It was time to head back east.

With hugs goodbye, the cowboys and cowgirls told us that they would never forget us.

Rule #8: A good road trip involves good will.

Little Nell and I hopped onto the mechanical bull at the rodeo campgrounds for one last hurrah. I barely held down my BBQ dinner, and tried to remember the words of the rodeo announcer, “She is strooooong! Capable! Powerful!!!”

Rule #9: A good road trip involves shutting down your computer, cell phone, Blackberry and all other hand held devices banned by the FAA for takeoff and landing. Go ahead, get out there and ride your own Big Kahuna.


ps. If you need some inspiration, here is a great look at the Big Kahuna. It is no joke!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Fate of Prop 8

“The times they are a’changing,” the prolific Bob Dylan once sang, and today, with the overturning of California's ban on same-sex marriage, it is clearly evident. A federal judge in California ruled that Proposition 8 ["Prop 8"], the voter-approved ban, violates the constitutional rights of gays and lesbians.

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker wrote in his decision: "Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license." "Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples."

Proposition 8 (or the California Marriage Protection Act) was a ballot proposition and constitutional amendment passed in the November 2008, state elections. The measure added a new provision to the California Constitution, which provides that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

Thus, Prop 8 purposely stripped many Americans of their civil rights. Same-sex couples in California were denied the right to marry that had previously been recognized by the California Supreme Court. To add insult to injury, gay Californians discovered that their neighbors, colleagues, and people they considered friends were the ones who made this decision at the polls; a monumental decision that impacts the personal fabric of their lives.

Who voted to ban same-sex marriage in California?

The Church of Ladder Day Saints contributed up to $22 million to pass Proposition 8. A whopping 70% of African American voters voted to ban same-sex marriage in California, as did more than half of Latino voters and 49% of Asian voters. What is most confounding and saddening is that all of these groups have been historically oppressed, marginalized and denied civil rights throughout American history. As Frederick Douglass once said, ““Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.”

Millions of Californians voted to desecrate the civil rights of another group of Americans because of extreme dissociation with the plight of gay Americans and compartmentalization of their own struggles. They cited moral or religious beliefs in support of the ban on same-sex marriage. Dare we forget that these very moral and religious beliefs once supported anti-miscegenation laws, which banned interracial marriage in the majority of states in America. It was not until 1967, in the landmark case of Loving v. Virginia, that the United States Supreme Court declared Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law unconstitutional, which finally put an end to the ban on interracial marriage.

Americans who are harboring bigotry and homophobia need to wake up and see that the right for same-sex couples to marry is a civil rights issue. We cannot forget that the most devastating and dehumanizing laws in American history were too supported by moral and religious beliefs, and often by majority support. In fact, it took the United States Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education to finally put an end to “separate but equal” education in America. It was not American voters. It certainly was not the 26 states that supported segregation at that time.

In this new era of hope, we should all broaden our minds, find tolerance in our hearts, and separate our own moral and religious beliefs from the civil rights protected by our Constitution. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere….” Thus, just as the district court did today, it is time for all of our federal courts, right up to the U.S. Supreme Court, to take a stand and protect civil rights in America. History has proven time and time again that the majority of voters will not.

I often wonder what we will tell our son about this period of time in American history when he is older. Sadly, many California voters feared that if they did not vote to ban same-sex marriage, their children would learn that it’s okay for a man to marry a man and a woman to marry a woman.


Let's not forget the times in American history when millions of parents lamented having to explain to their children the possibility of a white person marrying a black person or of a white child sitting next to a black child in the classroom. And yet, as a nation, we persevered and progressed.

Whom you choose to marry is none of my business and whom I choose to marry is none of yours. What I care about is that we all have equal rights.

And, when the day comes where we need to sit down and explain to our son that he can marry ANYONE, regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation, that will be one fabulous conversation, and I will never feel prouder to be an American.