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.