Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mr. Rogers Neighborhood

Boston University, 1992

Commencement Speaker: Mr. Rogers

Yes, Mr. Rogers.  I could hardly contain my excitement sitting out in the quad area of Boston University's main campus. It was a hot day in May at my cousin's graduation ceremony.  Mr. Rogers created such a buzz in this big gathering. Everyone couldn't stop talking about him.  Before the ceremony began, we all shared our favorite memory of his tv show.  I grew up with Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, as I'm sure a good many of my readers did.  The show didn't have all the bells & whistles of The Electric Company and no Big Bird from Sesame Street.  But, it was just as special.  As a kid, I wanted so badly to ride the trolley, visit the Land of Make Believe and meet Prince Tuesday & King Friday. 

Mr. Rogers started his address by commenting what a beautiful day it was and then he gave us our cue to sing along.  All of us - maybe 4,000 or so in total from different parts of the world - singing in unison -

"It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood. A beautiful day for a neighbor. Won't you be mine? Could you be mine?"

I still get goosebumps thinking about that moment. 

He gave a beautiful commencement speech asking us to remember those who believed in us and brought us to where we are now.  He advised the Class of 1992 and their family & friends that everything is not going to go as planned.  He said that it is our attitude that determines our altitude in life. I loved that.  It is so true. 

At the end, he treated us to one final song that is a favorite of mine:

"It's you I like.

It's not the things you wear.

It's not the way you do your hair

But it's you I like.

The way you are right now

The way down deep inside you.

Not the things that hide you.

Not your caps and gowns,

They're just beside you.

But it's you I like.

Every part of you.

Your skin, your eyes, your feelings

Whether old or new.

I hope that you remember

Even when you're feeling blue.

That it's you I like,

It's you, yourself

It's you.

It's you I like."

I read someplace that the message in that song was that you don't have to do anything sensational for people to love you.  In my blog today, I'd like to embrace my hippy dippy  "Free to Be You And Me" past and say - it was Mr. Rogers that I liked and a graduation that I will always remember.

This week we were asked to think about graduation. It didn't have to be mine and it didn't have to be high school. It had to be non-fiction, so you know this is true. I almost wrote about the graduation that I attended at Brown University and we saw Ringo Starr, Jane Fonda and Ted Turner on the same day.  It was a tough choice, but this story is much more meaningful to me. Concrit welcome.  


Friday, May 27, 2011

Saying Goodbye

This was absolutely the last time that I would let her put me down.  We were best friends, roomates and soul sisters. Or so I thought.

It started out with her picking on me for silly things. Then she would pick on me for not so silly things that just annoyed her for reasons I did not understand.  She never let her guard down and always said what was on her mind.  I took her everywhere because she didn't have a car or a license.  I waited around for her to finish work, class, etc.  I was a good friend.

We would talk late into the night about how we would raise our kids in the same neighborhood someday and how cool it would be to vacation together.  But the next morning, I would do something to draw out her mean streak once again.

I remember one Saturday when we were walking back from the grocery store. I paid for my share, but didn't get the right change back.  She laughed at the thought of my wanting to be a teacher and my inability to make change.  I doubted myself for a minute, but then I knew that something was not right.  When I spoke up and told her that I gave her two $20 dollar bills, she admitted that she didn't realize how much I gave in the first place. And then, she didn't say another word about it - not even an apology.

But, here was the last straw.  I visited her at her parent's home to tell her about this new guy that I met (who I would later marry).  She made an off-the-cuff remark that left me speechless. This time it was in front of others.  I had enough.  I asked her why she constantly put me down. I told her that I didn't want to introduce her to him, if this was the way she was going to treat me.  I was suddenly tired of the mind games and it was then that I realized that we were no longer friends.

I left the house quickly trying to hide my tears. As I walked to my car, I heard the screen door open behind me.  She yelled out,  "I know that you will call me back when you are less upset. I'll talk to you later."   She was wrong. 

This week we asked you to write a post beginning with the words, "This was absolutely the last time" and ending with "She was wrong."

Retiree or Rock Star?!

I'm still on such a high from last night's retirement dinner for my dad.  I've decided that he is the Mick Jagger of teachers without the drugs and the lips.  While some teachers (and rock stars) hang up their guitars - or put away their red pens - at 30, 35 or 40 years of playing, my dad hung on for a record 44 years!  I believe that is a record in the school district.

The attendees at the dinner were like groupies at a rock concert.  Everyone wanted to shake his hand. Twenty-somethings in sundresses wore crazy hats in his honor.  They yelled out his name to get his attention.  Fellow teachers and administrators riled him about his lack of technology skills, but praised him for his ability to teach, connect with students and teachers and make a difference.  His team of teachers spent numerous hours on Photoshop placing him with famous people on Mount Rushmore and calling him King Krant (in a King Tut head-dress).  It ended with a montage of yearbook photos and other memories to the classic song by Kenny Rogers "Through the Years." There was not a dry eye at our table.

At the end, there was a standing ovation - like an audience who won't go home waiting an encore performance.  The only thing that was missing were the cigarette lighters.  And when it is was all over, you felt like "Elvis" had left the building.  Rock on, Dad. Rock on!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Best Teacher I Never Had

A great teacher is retiring this year after working 44 years in the Washington Township School District. Everyone knows him as Mr. Krant - to me he has always been my dad.  While I never had him in the classroom, he has always been my teacher. Here are some of the great things I learned from him:

  • Make sure there is always make sure there is film in the camera (or loosely translated for today's standards - make sure the camera is always charged) so that when you are inspired by the nature that surrounds you and want to capture the Kodak moment - you will be prepared.

  • You don't have to go far to find the best things in life - For example, no one has better donuts than Pitman Bakery - they are better than Dunkin or Krispy Kreme - so  always support your local community.

  • Music willl lift your spirits in any situation - Whether you are listening to a good rock and roll tune from the 1950's and 1960's during a long car ride, a showtune that you heard a zillion times or listing 100 songs about rain while sitting through a thunderstorm - you are guaranteed to feel much better. 

  • Honesty is the best policy - All the time!
He taught me to tie my shoes, blow my nose, make change, carry "mad money" on dates, and countless other things. He stands by me every day showing his love and how proud and supportive he is in all that I do.  Thanks Dad for being one of my greatest teachers! Happy Retirement! Enjoy yourself as a student of the world. I'm look forward to it! (By the way, when are you available to babysit?)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Trivial Pursuits

I come from a family of trivia buffs.  My dad has a library of books about film, music, history and just about everything  from the 50's & 60's. If you go into the downstairs bathroom of the house I grew up in, you are sure to find several editions of Uncle John's Bathroom Reader.  When nature called, we made good use of the time to brush up on little known facts about James Bond, The Wizard of Oz & little known tidbits about any of the 50 states.

My mom is also a music lover - especially when it comes to show tunes. She can name that tune (and the show it came from) in 6 notes. Ask her to sing something from Carousel, Camelot or Chicago and she will not disappoint you.  She can also remember movie stars, quotes and details about musicals and films that she has watched over her lifetime.

Of course, the apple does not fall far from the tree.  My sister and I are Generation X'ers who can name all the members of the Brat Pack and tell you which movies they starred in. We can quote "Airplane" and our favorite movie, "The Sure Thing."  We know who shot J.R. We can identify a Brady Bunch episode in less than 2 minutes and we know all the words to the theme song from "The Facts of Life."

So needless to say, a love of trivia games run deep in our family. On any given night at 7 pm, you could find us in front of the TV watching Jeopardy.  It was the only tv show that we could watch instead of doing the dishes.  Dad would get so many questions correct and we would just sit there in amazement.  On rare occasions, we would beat him to the punch and run a category or two.  I'll take "80's movies" for 200, Alex.

It is no surprise that our family went wild when Trivial Pursuit came out in 1981.  My sister and I had no chance of ever beating our parents in a game, but we sure did try.  We had lots of laughs around the kitchen table skipping the Canadian questions and demanding that the answer given was exactly what was written on the card.  It wasn't until 1984 - when Parker Brothers came out with a Young Player's Edition - that we had a chance at winning a game or two.  On long car rides, we would bring the cards with us to quiz each other.

When one of the teachers at our school became a contestant on Jeopardy, he called my dad. He brought the Jeopardy board game and we got out the Trivial Pursuit cards.  Thanks in part to us, he went on the show, won 5 games in a row and came in second place in the Tournament of Champions.  He even thanked our family on the mecca of trivia game shows of national tv. We were thrilled.

Today, I watch Jeopardy with my kids. They look at me and wonder how I got so smart.  I have "Scene It" and "Twenty Questions" in my game closet and a few trivia books of my own on the bookshelf.  In my opinion, these trivial games and books are just the ticket to some old-fashioned family fun, laughs and memories to last a lifetime.

This post is written for a prompt given by The Red Dress Club. This week, we were asked to recall the games we played when we were young. I enjoyed writing this one When I asked my sister to remember the games we played, this was her first memory too. Concrit is welcome.

Friday, May 20, 2011

What I Learned This Week

Life is a journey and along the way you constantly discover new things about yourself and the world around you. Here is what I learned this week.

There is a big difference between "vetting" and "venting."  Vetting an idea is a productive exercise with your peers.  When it is over, you know that you have accomplished something important and feel good about it.  You choose to be a part of the process knowing that it will be a worthwhile way to spend 15 minutes of your day.  I suppose that venting can also be seen as a productive exercise with your peers or anyone who will listen.  But, it can often be exhausting and counterproductive.  The goal here is to get something off your chest without much chance or openness towards resolution.  You can participate in the venting process, but it ultimately will prove to be 15 minutes of your life that you will never get back.  To that note - I add the following prayer to my regular Shabbat prayers tonight.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

On a much lighter note, I also learned that even 40 year olds can get addicted to video games. Case in point - I am addicted to my daughter's DSI game, Style Savvy. In this virtual reality, I am the owner of a trendy clothing store, I can buy the latest fashions and sell them to clients with specific wants and needs.  I don't know why but it is a lot of fun and I can't seem to put it down. I love to channel my inner fashionista without spending a dime of my hard earned money.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Life Before 7 am

While the rest of my family was sleeping soundly, I woke up this morning with one thing on my mind - dinner.

Too often, I come home from work and I have no idea what we are having for dinner or when I am going to find the time to make something healthy.  Between helping with homework and driving to piano lessons, ball games and so on, those golden arches look friendlier and friendlier all the time. But, I am determined to stay away from their magical ability to provide dinner without getting out of the car or stepping foot into my kitchen. 

Anyway, back to my wake up call.  At 5:30 this morning, I got out of bed, rubbed my eyes and made my way down to the kitchen. Briefly blinded by the light, I pulled out my cookbook and turned to an easy chicken recipe that pleases everyone in the family (see below for the recipe).  I pre-heated the oven and got busy.  Within 25 minutes, the chicken was pounded, dipped in a yummy honey-dijon mustard mixture and breaded evenly.

Satisfied with myself, I suddenly remembered the load of laundry that I put in the wash last night.  I ran downstairs to put it in the dryer and then went to take a shower. By the time I got dressed, dinner was ready and that load of laundry was almost done. And when I put on my rose-colored glasses, I can't even see the enormous pile of dishes sitting in the sink!

I must say that being a morning person has its benefits.  There is so much I can accomplish with a little coffee and the notion that I'm not distracted by other responsibilities and errands.  It is great to start my day knowing that I don't have to worry making dinner tonight.  I will have extra time to spend with my kids, their homework, activities and maybe even watch the last few episodes of Oprah without guilt.

Hmmm, I could be on to something here.  This might become a new habit for me. And perhaps, a new blog theme as well.  After all, I even wrote this post before 8 am!

Recipe: Chicken Dijon
(From The Six O'Clock Scramble Cookbook)

4 chicken breast halves
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp paprika
3 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp water
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp peppr
1 Tbsp margarine

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line baking sheet with foil and spray with non stick spray.  Pound chicken breasts. Combine bread crumbs, flour and paprika. Combine mustard, honey, water, salt and pepper. Coat chicken with mustard mixture and then bread crumbs.  Put on bakng sheet. Melt margarine in microwave and drizzle over the chicken. Bake for 10-15 minutes.

Dinner is served!

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Mom's Sixth Sense

Just like all other human beings, moms have the five senses - hear, sight, smell, taste, & touch.  But, it is our sixth sense that makes us stand out from the rest of the pack.  I call this the "lost & found" sense.

I don't know about you but I am faced with the task of finding the missing sneaker, book, lunch box, baseball shirt, etc... on a daily basis.  Did I say daily? Let's say that at least 2-3 times a day, I am called upon to find what is lost and return it to its proper owner.  As a somewhat experienced mom, I feel that it is important to share how to handle (and not to handle) this situation:

The Boomerang Effect - You may be tempted to ask the person to go and look for the item themselves.  You will reason in your mind that this person put it away and therefore he or she should know where to find it.  It sounds rational but I guarantee you that within 5 minutes that person will come back to you and say, "I can't find it" or I've looked everywhere." Of course, you know that this means they went into their bedroom, looked around, shrugged their shoulders and basically gave up.

The Blame Game - You will waste valuable time playing the game of he said/she said. Endless rounds of "You had it last." or  "You cleaned up the house and must have put it away somewhere."  This is a fight that is not worth fighting. While all of this may be true - the fact remains that it is still lost.

The St. Anthony Method - As a nice Jewish girl, I do not know much about saints - except for the song I learned about how they come marching in.  However, I've learned that St. Anthony is the patron saint of finding lost things. If you feel that you need divine intervention, you can find out more about St. Anthony here and call upon him if the need arises.  I have some friends who swear by this method.

The Always Tried & Never Failed Method  - Send in a mom to save the day.  But here are the rules:

  • If the item is in plain sight and the person chose to overlook it, ask that person to go back to their room and give it a better look. Assure them that it will magically appear if they give it another try. 
  • If the item is not in clear sight, bring in your puzzled partner and start the search together.  Make it a competition or a game. No one likes to do these tasks alone.  Even though moms can perform a search and rescue on our own successfully - we need to teach others to develop their sixth sense. 
Of course, if no one can find it, the kids will have learn to live without it, borrow someone else's or use their money to buy a new one. And you know that it will turn up someday where you least expect it.  Don't get me started on the time I found a check that was used as a bookmark. Yikes!


Friday, May 13, 2011

Thank You, Ferris Bueller!

This week's prompt from one of my favorite blogger sites - The Red Dress Club - asked me to write about one of the 7 Deadly Sins - gluttony.  As a Jew, I was never taught the 7 Deadly Sins in Sunday School.  But, since I'm never one to walk away from a challenge, I know that the word gluttony brings to mind the common phrase - "glutton for punishment" - which is what I will write about here. :)

It is a simple fact of my life that I love to keep busy.  In order to prevent the onset of boredom, I became involved in many different things.  Honestly, I enjoy them all but my friends and family look at me and sometimes wonder if I am a glutton for punishment.

(Are you wondering where Ferris Bueller comes into all of this? Keep reading...)

It is one thing to be busy, but at what cost?  With a full time job, two children and a house to take care of, I am frequently asked how I find the time be president of my professional organization, exercise regularly, volunteer at school, pee, and write my blog posts.  I've laughed these comments off by saying - " I don't do all of these things at the same time!"  But, the part that I forget about is that even though this is true - I'm constantly thinking about all of these things that I need to do and wonder when I'm ever going to get it done.

Posts on Facebook tell me that I'm not alone.  Many of my friends write about how overwhelmed they are and wonder where the day went.  Articles about multi-tasking and time-saving tips are devoured by readers like me. We are all looking for that magic formula to get it all done and be happy doing it. 

(Don't worry, I'll get to Ferris in a minute...)

When I go out for a run, it is my intention to get in some exercise and I hope to clear my head and alleviate some stress.  But within the first mile, my mind is quickly overcome with what is on my current to-do list and what needs to be added to it.  I can't help myself and ultimately it defeats the purpose of running in the first place.  So, let it be written and let it be done that one of my personal goals is to enjoy myself in tasks that I choose to spend my time on and be present in the moment.

As Ferris Bueller once said, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."
I don't want to miss a moment. I'd rather make each moment count. So, thank you, Ferris Bueller - you are a righteous dude!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My Summer Reading List

Is anyone out there putting together a summer reading list? I'm getting ready to spend time in my happy place (my deck) with a good book in hand that I can't put down. This year, I'm coming up with different categories and selecting a book that fits the bill.

Here is what I have so far:

Celebrity Read: Stories I Only Tell My Friends, by Rob Lowe. I saw Rob Lowe on Oprah and let's just say that my huge school-girl crush came back in a big wave. His book has gotten very good reviews and let's face it - I just have to know about the chemistry between Rob & Demi that was so obvious in the 80's movies. I mean - like totally, for sure.

Book Club Read: The Hotel At The Corner of Bitter and Sweet. I'm one of those people who joins book clubs to actually read the books. Even if we don't talk about the book at our meeting, I like to come prepared. A few months ago, I took this book out of the library and was quickly engrossed in the story. Unfortunately, I was very busy with work at the time and I never got around to finishing the book. Thankfully, my book club is reading it this month and now is my chance to finish what I started.

Books Recommended By A Friend: My husband's co-worker is a big reader and she gave me two books to read. The first book is called Islands by Anne Rivers Siddons. The other one is Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. The last one is a little out of my comfort zone, but I'm going to give it a try.

Parenting Book: The Blessing of a B Minus - Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Resilient Teenagers. - I don't have a teenager in the house yet, but I do have a ten year old. This means that I have exactly 2 years and 7 months to figure out how to get through the teenage years. Author Wendy Mogel did me right with her book Blessings of A Skinned Knee.  I am so glad she came out with another book for the next decade of adventures in parenthood.

Book for Writers Like Me: I'm spending a lot more time writing so it makes sense for me to read up on some great books about writing by writers. The first one is The Productive Writer and the second one is The Well Fed Writer. I hope that these books get me organized and on my way to meet my writing goals for the coming year.

So, these are my top books for the summer. Of course, I have to add in the summer reading lists of two children. This is going to be a busy summer at the library! 

Here is my question for you - what is on your reading list? Please comment or post and let me know!

Friday, May 6, 2011

My Biggest Fan

Yesterday, I realized that I still needed to buy a Mother's Day present for my mom.  I debated about asking her what she wanted - knowing full well that she would ask for a new nightgown or a wallet.  But, these tokens of appreciation are so little for one who has done so much.  Instead, I thought I would write a blog post and share it with her (and all of you).

My mom is my biggest fan.  She subscribes to the synagogue newsletter just to read my columns.  She loves what I write in this blog and always tells me so.  She didn't even get upset when she read that I sat on some guy's lap in the front seat of a sports car (read: A Heart Stopping Moment). She reminded me that she was young once too. 

She is my biggest fan when it comes to how I live my life.  She once questioned my decision to be a working mom with young kids at home.  She doesn't do that anymore. Instead, she tells me how proud she is of me and marvels at what I have accomplished.  When I tell her how tired I am and how much I still have to do, she tells me not to worry and reminds me that tomorrow is another day.     

She is my biggest fan when I've had a tough week - like this past week.  When I call her up on the phone, she is such a good listener.  When I'm done, she reminds me that I am a good person and that everything will be okay.

This Mother's Day, I want to tell her that I am her biggest fan.  But, don't worry Mom - I'll still get you a present. :)