Friday, June 10, 2011

From A Blue Shirt

Sitting on the couch one day
Waiting to be put away

Mom is doing several tasks.
How many times does she need to ask?

Kids run past it, sit on it too
Will I sit here past day two?

Mom is doing several tasks.
How many times does she need to ask?

Putting me away would bring her such glee
And yet, I sit here on day three.

Mom is doing several tasks.
How many times does she need to ask?

Sad to say that on day four
Someone moves me to the floor


Thankfully, on day five
I see the closet, I have arrived!

Mom is doing several tasks.
FINALLY, there was no more need to ask. :)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

6 Hours Off

Today is the holiday of Shavuot which is when Moses gets the Ten Commandments and the Torah and I get the day off. 

Six and a half hours to myself.  One would think that this is a gold mine of time, but it really isn't. My to-do list is a mile long and it would take twice the amount of time to get through half of the list.

At 8:30 am, I brought the kids to school and then came home to "clean up." This entailed folding and putting away 3 loads of laundry while watching the movie, Cocktail. 

The movie ended at 9:50 am.  I make my way out the door to go to the mall where I had a gift card. Prior to getting on the highway, I stopped to fill my gas tank.  I was approached by a young man with a white t-shirt that read U.S. Beef.

"Do you like steak? I finished delivering my orders and I have a lot left over. I'll sell it to you for half price right out of my truck," he says.

"We don't eat a lot of steak," I told him.

Not giving up, he asked me a follow up question.  "Do you like seafood?"  (Isn't this a pick up line from A Few Good Men?). "I have seafood too. I'll give that to you for 1/2 price.  Are you headed home? You could drop it off before you go out again."

While I like seafood, I don't particularly like to buy it out of the back of someone's truck. I politely told him no and got back in my car before he offered me some chicken breasts. (10:20 am)

Finally, I made it to the mall where I used my gift card to buy a pair of sunglasses. I also picked up some shorts before heading back home. (12 noon).

On the way back home, I called the salon to see if I could get my eyebrows done. She said I could come in at 12:45, which left me time to pick up something to eat.  I pulled into a shopping center to go to Subway - which turned out to be closed.  The Saladworks next door was packed and there was a woman in line who was ordering for 5 of her fellow co-workers.  I waited a while, but then decided that pizza was the better solution. (12:40).  I pulled into the parking lot of the salon at 12:45 pm and quickly ate my pizza before going in. Then, I made it home by 1:15.

As it is customary to observe this holiday with a dairy treat, I enjoyed a bowl of frozen yogurt. At 1:30, I sat down to write my blog post for the day (ta-da!).  It is now 2:06 pm. The kids come home from school soon. I have an hour and a half to "clean up."

I wonder what is on tv.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Donut Song

Oh, I walks into a beanery to get something to eat

For I was so hungry, from my head to my feet

So, I picks up a donut and I wipes off the grease

And I hand the lady girl a five cent piece.

She looks at the nickel and she looks at me

And she says, “Hey Lady, can’t you plainly see,”

“There’s a hole in the nickel and it’s running right through.”

Says I, “there’s a hole in the donut too!”
My Grandmom Sara sang us The Donut Song when we were little. I can still remember the expressions on her face. She sang it in her own unique way - with a little bit of a Jewish accent and a lot of emphasis in all of the right places.

Today, there are so many things that remind me of her. I can't look at a can of Aqua Net without thinking of her or walk through Macy's and see the brand of clothes she liked. If My Fair Lady is on the television, I watch it and think of her.  Her sweet and sour meatballs were so delicious!  In the last years of her life, she lived in my bedroom in my childhood home. When I go home to visit, I love to look through her things that she left behind.

Almost thirty years after Grandmom Sara sang that song to me - I placed my baby girl in her arms. I listened as she sang The Donut Song to her first great-granddaughter. I only wish she could have lived long enough for my daughter to learn the song by heart - with the Jewish accent and the emphasis in all of the right places.

This week's memoir prompt asked you to dig deep to find what, from your childhood, you still know from heart. This is dedicated to my Grandmom Sara - by heart, in my heart - always.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Be Lazy According to God's Will

This week's prompt from The Red Dress Club insists that we continue with the 7 Deadly Sins. This week's sin is Sloth.

I don't have much to say about spiritual apathy because I haven't experienced it myself.  Every day, I have the opportunity to "do Jewish" because of my work in the Jewish community.  I do this through my writing, teaching, connecting and basically being a part of this community. I feel blessed by the tasks that I do which brings me great satisfaction both personally and professionally.

In the Jewish faith, G-d recognizes our hard work and gives us a day off.  It's called Shabbat. It says in Genesis that G-d created the heavens and the earth in six days and he rested on the seventh day.  So, why shouldn't we do the same?  Who are we to question this great gift that G-d has bestowed upon us. In my opinion, it would be more of a sin to return it!

On Shabbat, Jews are not permitted to work.  In Jerusalem, shops are closed for business and there are no cars on the street.  Jews around the world use this day to spend time with our families and reflect on the week gone by.  We attend services, sing, recite blessings, enjoy meals together and some (well-deserved) downtime from all of the chaos. We are encouraged to have relations with our spouses and sleep a little longer than usual.

It is a holy day for spiritual growth and it is not at all apathetic.  In fact, it is the opposite.  Shabbat gives us permission to take some time for ourselves and appreciate our world and all of its wonders. I consider it one of the greatest gifts of my faith and I would never think of giving it back.

It doesn't make me lazy either. In fact, it makes me a better person - each and every week.

When it is time for the week to begin again - we say Shavua Tov to wish someone a good coming week. We know that we are well-prepared for the week ahead and look forward to it.  And we know that Shabbat is the gift that keeps on giving and in six days (G-d willing!) we will unwrap it again.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Parent Olympics

This weekend was the unofficial beginning of summer and the opening ceremony to what I like to refer to as the Parent Olympics. It happens every June.  The school year starts to come to a close. There is less homework and yet a frenzy of activities to cram into the 3 weeks that are left. 

There is no training for this. Many of the competitors are amateurs, like me. There are a few ringers who have played the game for so long that they have turned pro.  These are the moms who are prepared for any circumstance with band-aids and wipes at an arms length and water bottles and treats for everyone.

Then, there is me.  I've aced the jump start to the library which is the pre-qualifying event to the much more difficult ones. Yesterday, I  brought the school's summer reading list to the library and picked up the books that my kids selected.  Extra points are awarded for every book they actually finish this summer.

I ranked 2nd to last place in the camp health forms sprint.  I thought I sent all of the forms in - 5 for each kid = 10 forms!  Unfortunately, I found the one form that was left behind and sent it out 3 days later - making me fall to almost last place. (I'm hoping that there is someone out there who hasn't sent ANY of their forms in yet).

In the suntan lotion meet, I've already purchased 4 spray bottles at $7 a pop and one tube of sunscreen for the face.  One bottle is almost empty and another is lost.  The two bottles that I bought on sale at Kmart have pumps that do not work. Add two impatient kids who hate putting on suntan lotion and I was almost ready to forfeit.

I think I will do well in the end-of-the-school-year decathalon.  This comes out to 1 talent show, 2 picnics, 2 class parties, 1 games day, 3 baseball games & teacher gifts. I'm a master juggler which comes in handy for this competition. Oh, and did I mention that I simultaneously have to do numerous loads of laundry and pack for vacation? Do I get a special award or honorable mention for this?

My biggest challenge is the jumping through hoops relay when I have to tag team with my family to make sure we have all the right clothes and the right labels on the clothes. Summer activities need to be put on different calendars. The right equipment for each activity needs to be purchased and constantly checked for repairs or replacements. I just hope that one of us remembers which day we are supposed to bring the team snacks.  The family is just about ready for the relay (rat) race - I just have to work on my dismount.

By the end of the summer, I hope to stand at the top of the podium cleared of any performance enhancing drugs in my system (with the exception of coffee), a few good stories and great memories.  I'll happily accept my medals and lead the torch towards the first day of school.

Happy (almost) Summer!

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. :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cutting the Cord - Again!

This morning, I took a deep breath and cut the cord again.

My 10 year old was so confident in her ability to ride her bike to school. The last time I saw this look in her eyes was the day she got her ears pierced. How could I say no?

In the last few weeks, I've seen her ride uphill and downhill on our street.  I was confident in her ability too. I just didn't want to admit it. I laid down the rules.

  • Rule #1  Stay on the sidewalks.
  • Rule #2  Look both ways when you need to cross the street.
  • Rule #3  Watch out for driveways, dogs and dump trucks (Today is trash day).
  • Rule #4  You have to let me follow you to school for my own peace of mind.
The rules were agreed upon.  Before I could back out of the driveway, she was halfway down the street.  Her first obstacle was ahead of her - a mom, her daughter and their cute little dog.  I watched her slow down and they stepped aside so she could get by. They smiled at me as I caught up to her.
She turned the corner like a pro and looked both ways before crossing  the first street. She made sure to ride up to the break in the curb and back onto the sidewalk.

The big hill was coming up.  I could see a look of determination in her face.  She pedaled and pedaled as I followed slowly behind her. Another car came up behind me - probably wondering why I was going so slow. I sped up for him keeping an eye on her in the rear view mirror.

I lost sight of her for a minute, but then I saw her again pedaling a little easier now as she made it up the hill. She could see the school in the distance and pedaled even faster.  The crossing guard moved a little quicker as he saw her coming. He made sure that the cars would stop as she crossed the street. 

I meet her at the bike rack at school.  She showed me how she can lock and unlock her bike and then went into school.  I was so caught up in the moment that I forgot to take a picture of her at school. But, believe me it was a Kodak moment and the knot in my stomach began to untie itself.

I cut the cord - again.  I'm proud of the both of us.  I saw her little brother look up at me wanting to ask if he could ride his bike tomorrow. Thank goodness the school doesn't allow 1st graders to ride to school yet.

I looked down and said - "Don't even think about it," knowing his turn will come someday.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Naming Rights

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet."

- says Juliet in Romeo and Juliet

What is in a name? I have one of those first names that is unique, pretty, and often difficult for anyone to pronounce on the first try. In fact, it often takes many times for people to get it right. 

As a child, the first day of school was always a hoot.  My teachers never got it right and since they had to remember so many other names I let it go.  Honestly, I just got tired of correcting them.

So, I assumed my new first name of  "Lisa".  But in high school, Lisa was often a doormat with a small group of treasured friends.  Lisa allowed herself to be picked on endlessly by others; never standing up for herself and thinking that this was her place on the food chain forever.

Back then, I accepted it. But, after I graduated high school, it was a different story.  The idea of a fresh start appealed to me.  College was my chance to reinvent myself.  My first order of business was to insist that everyone call me by my proper name.  I politely corrected people as many times as it took and to my surprise they caught on.

Perhaps, there was something about my insistance -and persistance- that made me feel like a grown up.  I was finally taking charge of my identity & my life.  I would no longer accept other people's version of who I was and started to be true to myself.

In college, Elisa was confident and even attractive with plenty of friends and admirers.  Elisa laughed and lived as loudly as she had always wanted to.  And she never looked back. 

Since then, in every job I've ever held and  with each person I come in contact with - I introduce myself as Elisa.

Today, people still call me Lisa and other versions of my name and that's okay too. My husband calls me "Lis" (with the i sounding like a long e) which is particularly special to me.  All of this takes me back to the above quote.  Shakespeare had it right - "What's in a name?" That which we call Lisa or Elisa or Lis - would I still smell as sweet? Of course I would! In the grand scheme of life, the most important thing of all is that I get to be myself - which is all I ever wanted anyway.

This is a post for the prompt from The Red Dress Club website that asked us to recall something in
your life that seemed terrible at the time, but looking back, brought you something wonderful.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Heart Stopping Moment

It was a brand new sports car that needed to fit all 6 of us.  It was midnight when the dance ended. No one wanted the night to end, so we decided to go to the local diner for a late night snack.  As the smallest of the group, I was elected to sit on my date's lap in the front bucket seat  - just inches away from the windshield.

I reasoned that it was a short distance to the diner. And really, what other choice did I have? I was 16. Peer pressure was a big part of my life and I wanted to act "cool" in front of my new group of friends.  I said a little prayer and reluctantly got into the car.

The music was blaring. The road was wide and empty of cars. We stopped at the bright stoplight at the next corner.  Another car - filled with kids - pulled up next to us. A conversation began between the drivers about whose car was faster. My heart was racing and then I could have sworn that it stopped. I knew what our driver was thinking. I could feel his testosterone levels rising. I closed my eyes wishing that the stoplight would never change to green.

Finally, the light changed and someone in the backseat yelled "GO!" encouraging him to race down the open road.  I quickly grabbed the his forearm and gave him a pleading look.  My fear was obvious even though I couldn't speak.  I could tell in his eyes that he was wiser than his years.  He smiled knowingly at me as he let the other car drive by us at the speed of light.

The groans from the backseat started as I looked at him and whispered my thanks.

This week's memoir prompt was to write a piece inspired by the color red - but you were not allowed to use the word "red" in your story. This is a little too late for The Red Dress Club website, but I welcome your comments.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Passover Through A Child's Eyes

Let's face it.  For adults, preparing for Passover can be exhausting. There is lots of cleaning and cooking to do. I can't think of another week on the Jewish calendar where we need to be so physically ready to celebrate a holiday. 

Several trips are required to the supermarket in search of our favorite or forgotten Passover items.  My family cooks and bakes not only for the seder but for the entire week. I lead the Passover seder - making sure that everyone is included and we have everything we need to help us celebrate. 

We do this preparation in order to celebrate & remember the story of our freedom.  But, more importantly - we know deep down inside the importance of keeping these traditions alive for our children and future generations.

In the last few days, I've learned that my children see Passover from a different point of view. Walking in their shoes, I realize that our multiple trips to the grocery store are lessons in what is and what is not kosher for Passover. They ask lots of great questions and thank goodness I can answer most of them (or look it up on Google).

Cleaning for Passover takes on a whole new meaning.  It is not enough to put the toys away, but we are commanded to get rid of all the chametz (leavened food) in the house. Setting the seder table is not an ordinary chore.  We take out china, crystal and the "good" silverware that we use on special occasions. The kids admire the table and decide tomake a contribution of their own in the form of making place cards for everyone.

The seder table is the place for the kids to shine. They bring their game faces and can't wait to begin. They read and sing with enthusiasm.  The fans (adults) go wild as they watch them recite the Four Questions - which are always asked by the youngest children at the table. This year, my heart soared when I saw them stand up to read them - taking their role in the ceremony very seriously.

At the end of the evening - after the seder and festive meal are over -the clean up begins again. My daughter sneaks up behind me and gives me a hug. 

"Mom, that was really great! Thank you," she says.

 Knowing all of the hard work was worth it, I give her a hug back and let her know that the pleasure is all mine.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Not Necessarily the News

As I embrace a new decade, I notice that I've become very picky about certain things in my life.  For instance, I'm very particular about how and when I get the day's news.

In the morning B.C. (before coffee), I just need to know how warm or cold it is going to be and whether or not I need an umbrella. That is all I need to know.  I don't want the 5 day forecast, the shore-cast or what the temperature is at the airport. As George Carlin once said, "I don't know anyone who lives at the airport!"

A.I.D.C. (after I drink coffee),  I find the morning programs annoying. I cringe when the news anchor goes from interviewing a police officer about a tragedy and then turns to camera 2, smiles and shakes his head as he reports about Charlie Sheen on a rooftop holding a machete. Is this big news and am I expected to switch gears that fast? Maybe I need more coffee to keep up with the anchorman who is probably 4 cups ahead of me.

During the day, I get my news strictly online. When there is something important going happening in the world, I read about it on FB or HuffPost. The writing is short and sweet; clean and informative and if I want more information - I have many sources at my fingertips.

As a former newspaper reporter, I pay homage to my early beginnings as a writer and enjoy reading the paper. But these days - by the time I read it - I'm usually reading yesterday's news.

In the evening, I don't watch the local news period.  I don't want to go to bed listening to the latest shootings, crime sprees & the other terrible things that happened in my neighborhood.  If I can stay up late enough, I enjoy Jon Stewart's take on the news of the day - informative, accurate, intelligent & very amusing.  I'm looking forward to his upcoming InDecision 2012 campaign coverage.

Getting back to the beginning of my post, I'm getting picky about certain things as I age.  Billy Crystal said it best in the movie .When Harry Met Sally. I'm high maintenance but I think I'm low maintenance. To which Meg Ryan replies, "I just like it the way I like it."

Exactly! So, I'll take my news with the dribble on the side.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Tween In My House

A messy room
Bed covers crumpled, not straightened
Papers everywhere, never in a neat pile
One earring missing, never to be found
Clothes on the floor, waiting for me to pick up

Honey, do you know where your girl scout sash is?

A great wardrobe
Better than my own
Prefers sweatpants and leggings
and wearing shorts in 50 degree temperatures
Loves tops that are worn off the shoulder
And my sunglasses
Complains that her shoes that don't fit anymore

Mom, can you take me to the mall?

A good kid
Who does well in school
And has lots of friends
A kind person who includes everyone in her inner circle

Dad, can I have friend sleepover this weekend?

A tween
who has a messy room
a great wardrobe
lots of friends
and still needs me to get tomato stains from her shirt sleeves

I point this out
and she says
"But mom, it's all part of my charm".

I have to agree. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Lesson I Learned From Blue Cheese

One of the Jewish teachings in Pirkei Avot is to make "Your house open wide and you should make the poor, members of your household."

Growing up, my parents always led and taught by example. They exemplified this particular value by allowing a cousin to stay with us.  Our cousin was probably in his late 30's, unemployed and really down and out.  They invited him into our home. We ate meals together, watched Jeopardy (he was just as smart as the rest of us!) and tried to help him get back on his feet. 

During his stay, I remember how much he loved to eat everything with blue cheese. I did not care for the taste or the smell.  Truth be told - I thought it was the most disgusting thing I ever smelled in my entire life. The smell travelled to every room of the house. I would run through the kitchen to get away from where it smelled the worst.  We never had it before he came to stay with us and we haven't had it since.  He stayed with us for a few weeks before taking his blue cheese and heading out to what we hoped would be a brighter future.

Today, whenever I smell blue cheese in someone's kitchen or grab a whiff of it in a restaurant, I am taken aback by the smell and then the memories come back to me. I wonder where my cousin wound up when he left that day. (I don't know where he is now).  I think of how my parents put themselves in his shoes and decided to lend a helping hand and a caring heart.  I remember how they drove him into the city to job interviews. They gave him some money, provided him with shelter and food and always included him in our family activities.

The lessons that I learned from my parents' example and kindness is something I will always have with me. The pungent smell of blue cheese makes me think of my cousin, my parents, my values and I am reminded to pay it forward.  In this way, I honor my parents. I teach my children. I am my true self.

Remembe(red) is a memoir meme. This week’s prompt: think of a sound or a smell the reminds you of something from your past and write a post about that memory. Don’t forget to incorporate the sound/smell of your choosing! Constructive comments/suggestions encouraged.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Walking the Walk

Today is International Women's Day and Huff Post editor, Arianna Huffington asks this question - "Who inspires you?" These three words gave me a lot to think about as I started my day and I feel compelled to answer.

I am most inspired by people who lead by example. Let me explain.

I've never been a fan of the old saying - "Do as I say, not as I do."  Everyone watches us - especially our children.  They listen to what we say, but they pay even closer attention to what we do. For example, my daughter has almost broken me of my bad habit of using my cell phone while driving.  I admit that I still occasionally take a glance at my Blackberry when it blinks at me or take a random call because I forget that I'm not supposed to.  But, I mostly keep it in my purse where it belongs.   

I do this because I know that not only is it the right thing to do - but because she is watching me.  And in 6 short years, I'll be handing her a set of car keys. Will she do as I say and not as I do? Or perhaps I'm better off if my actions speak louder than my words.

By the way, I am much more in favor of that saying or when people say - "Don't just talk the talk, walk the walk."

So, to answer the question - Who inspires me? - my answer would be everyone in my life who leads by example.  Luckily, the list is too long to start naming names - but you know who you are.
But, by far, my children inspire me to lead by example so that they will be motivated to make the right choices in their own lives. And that, my friends, is the biggest inspiration of all.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fountain of Youth?

After working nearly 9 hours at the synagogue today, it was about time to call it a day - but I had a few hours left at an event.  So, to pass the time - I began to speak to a congregant who I didn't know very well. Here is the best part of our conversation:

"Is this your first job out of school?" - says the congregant.

"Who me???" I said very surprised after I looked around to see who she was talking to.

She thought I was insulted, but I told her I was extremely flattered and went on with the rest of my long day with a smile on my face.

Damn - 40 IS FABULOUS!!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My TLC Dream

How nice would it be if I walked out of my room in my work clothes and Stacy London is right there to say "Shut the front door!"

What a confidence boost that would be to start my day. :)

And THEN, how nice it would be if I happened to run into that TV chef at the grocery store who wants to come to my house and cook dinner for my family. I think I'd keep him.

And THEN, how nice would it be to go home and find Nate Berkus at my doorstep with his crew to redecorate my bedroom. (I know - I'm switching channels here). I think I'd keep him too.

And THEN, I could walk outside to see Peter Walsh (switching channels again) in his sexy British accent instructing me how to clear out the clutter from the office. Anything you say Peter...

And THEN, I wake up, reality sets in and I start my day.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Beauty For All Ages

As I get older, the contents of my make up bag have changed.  Now that I think about it, the size of my make up bag has changed too. Allow me to break it down for you.  

At 15, my mom took me to Macy's and bought me my first lipstick. The shade was Pink Foil and it came in a shiny black tube. My own lipstick!  She sprung for some "Colors by Benneton" perfume too. For this, I bought a lipstick case at CVS and left the perfume in my room.

The following year, I added green eyeshadow to the mix which I threw in my purse.  I soon learned the value of a make up bag so that when your make up cracks (which it always does) - it won't spill all over your purse.

At 21, I was invited to my first Mary Kay (or was it Avon?) party where I learned all about the "liners." Lip liner and eye liner were my new best friends. I also learned that you shouldn't necessarily match your eye shadow to your eye color. So, I purchased a few new eye shadow colors too.  Good thing I got a free make up bag to go with everything I bought.

At 25, I went to Merle Norman who introduced me to their skin care line. Soon enough, I added toner, moisturizer, and powder to the mix. They even threw in a free cosmetic case. How nice of them!

At 30-something, I started to have issues with acne and found a whole new line of skin products to tackle those things.  I also found a good dermatologist. Now, I have a whole bin under the bathroom sink dedicated to my skin. It just won't fit in a bag anymore.

In my 30's, I went from fancy schmancy Lauren Mercier make up to the more trendy and less expensive MAC cosmetics.  The girls behind the counter are friendlier and I don't break my budget.

This weekend, I'm attending my first Arbonne party for some "age-defying" makeup.  Arbonne is for 40-somethings who aren't invited to Avon or Mary Kay parties anymore.  I'll learn all the new vocabulary like "retinol" and "anti-oxidants."  My friend swears by it.  I'm sure I will  too.

So, now I'm wondering if they will throw in a new make up bag.  I'm sure I'll need one by the end of the night.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Same Dream, Different Decade

It is 2 pm. I'm running through the Quad to get to my favorite journalism class with my latest feature writing project in my backpack.  I know this is the story to pitch to Professor Fox. He is going to love it.  I just spent the last 2 days with my neighbor who happens to be a female bodybuilder. I saw what she eats for breakfast, how she trains for her next competition and discovered what keeps her motivated.

It seems like this happened to me just last week, but actually it was almost 20 years ago.  Yikes! In the last two decades, I've picked up and put down my dream to be a writer over and over again.  Yes, I've done plenty of writing in between. I've had a by-line in a newspaper, an article picked up by the Associated Press, a weekly column and now a blog.  I would call this semi-successful.  What would really be successful is to find the time to write every day and write something that  makes people think about life in a new way.

But, you know what happens - Life happens.  This is why I've had to pick up and put back down my dream to save for a rainy day.  But, I can honestly say that my motivation is just like that of the bodybuilder's philosophy from years ago.  I love to do it and so I keep it up because it is a big part of who I am.

If I could track her down today, I wonder if she still puts in a 3 hour work out on her specific rotations of muscle groups and does she still eat that egg yolk concoction? If she loves it, I'm betting she still does.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mission Impossible

Tonight, the kids and I decide to take a quick trip to the shoe store to buy new shoelaces. This turned into a parent's version of Mission Impossible and an hour of my time that I will never get back.

Store #1 - Sales woman (at a kids-only shoe store) removed her earphones for a brief moment to tell me that they don't sell shoelaces any more - just shoes. Okay....

Store #2 - Only sells shoelaces for adults and by the way - the shoe store on the 3rd floor is owned by the same company and they don't have them either.

Store #3 - Doesn't sell shoelaces - just shoes and suggested that I go to store #5. Called store #5 first to see if they had said shoelaces. They said, "I think so." Not real reassuring so I decided to try store #4 first.

Store #4 - Thought a hit the jackpot after I was told there was a whole rack of shoelaces in the back of the store.  They were sure to be there! No dice - All adult sizes. Decided to risk one more stop at store #5.

Store #5 - So close - they had a whole rack of kid's shoelaces in multicolors - except for black in the size that we needed.  Since the three of us were too tired to make an attempt at Store # 6, we settled on the white shoelaces for black and red sneakers.  Maybe we will start a new fashion trend - at least he won't fall down in gym class tomorrow.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Facing 40

Many of the life lessons I have learned came from coffee mugs in my parents' kitchen cupboard. Each one had a saying to live by.  When we used to set the table, we would often read the mugs, put the appropriate one with the appropriate saying by the seat of the appropriate family member. 

One of the mugs in the cupboard said "You Have to Kiss A Lot of Frogs To Find Your Prince Charming."  I guess the mug was right since it took me 23 years to find the perfect guy for me.  Where was the mug that was going to let me know that it would take 40 years to find the right hair dresser? 

Another mug read - "Growing Old is Mandatory. Growing Up is Optional."  This is so true since I feel like a kid inside myself with two kids of my own in tow. 

I remember many mugs that spoke to me about reaching for my goals and never giving up. There have been so many times in my life where these mugs came in handy. Too numerous to count.  Just this year, I overcame my fear of public speaking after years of trying.  I'm still not great at it but I feel much better about it and I seek out opportunities so that I can only get better.

My new goal is to respect my love for writing and find more time to do so.

My family, friends and experiences in life - along with these coffee mugs - are all big contributors to who I am today. As I soon enter into a new decade of my life, I realize that I'm really fine with it.  40 is fabulous!
But since I can't find that on a mug anywhere (and I've looked), I'll quote a mug already in my own kitchen - "It's Not the Age. It's the (Positive) Attitude!" 

Words to live by!