Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Festival of Sighs - Chrismakkuh chronicles

What a miracle, only 4 times in the past century has the first night of Chanukah fallen on the same date as Christmas eve! And every year, the same olympic feat of juggling holidays in families of divorce also begins, with less than miraculous results.  My 3 grown children gingerly make plans for breakfast with Dad, lunch with Mom, dinner with whomever has the best meal planned.  As hard as it is for me to navigate this scenario without coming off as demanding, I border on being slightly annoyed to mildly insulted. But it is equally as hard on the children, as they have told me: "Mom, this is how it is with children of divorce." Guilty, as charged!  Feelings need to be spared, and blows softened by secrets and white lies, which ultimately are uncovered.  As I tell the children, don't hide your plans from me; be honest, let me know everything, as painful as it will be! Yeah, right!

How to cope and survive without too much angst and anxiety?  I'm still not very good at it, as I try to suppress my exasperation and disappointment when I only get 4 hours out of the day. And sometimes I only get a 2 kid visit, not all 3 at at the same time. It really hasn't gotten any easier. For instance, this Thanksgiving they ate a huge meal at Dad's. I spent the day at a friend's house with her family. I made dessert - dirt cups, chocolate pudding with cookie crumbs and gummy worms, as requested.  They got home around 8 pm, obviously not hungry for dessert, as  But no matter, we all hung out, played Uno and jammed in the basement. Those few precious hours of family time were what I hung on to for the rest of the week.  Of course, the rest of the 4 day weekend was divvied up between Dad and me. Could not help feeling the tinge of sadness when they would leave.

And now this year, the Mother of all Holidays, Christmas, falls on the same day as Chanukah - go figure! And that complicates matters even further, because not only do the kids have to split the first day of Chanukah; they have to plan Christmas with significant others who celebrate! Horrors! So, as it stands, I have 2 kids for candle lighting on Dec. 24th, 3 kids for breakfast on the 25th.  The main latke/dreidel/Chanukah bash later on that day will have only 2 of my kids. And Dad gets them for Saturday night dinner and part of Sunday. Oy! It's enough to just give up and celebrate Festivus.

It probably won't get any easier, but with enough red wine and egg nog, to soothe the savagery of Holiday Jenga, it may be manageable.  And with this thought, I wish you all a stress-free holiday season.

Monday, June 6, 2016

"To Get Through this Thing Called Life..." 
                         Becoming a Prince Fan

Over a month has gone by since Prince's untimely death, and the constant radio of  Prince's songs still runs through my mind.  It was worse a few weeks after April 21...I'd go to sleep with the strains of "Purple Rain" in my head; then wake up to "When Doves Cry"  or "Pop Life" or "Let's Go Crazy" and it was like that night after night. I had listened to Minnesota's radio station, The Current, on my Sonos, play Prince's catalog, all weekend. Think I caught it at the "R"s, riveted for hours, til the end. That's when I really became a Prince fan.  What a treasure trove of music! Was introduced to "Morning Papers, "The Love we Make," Wow," "The Ride," and "The Sacrifice of Victor." It was my first time hearing all these songs, and I was blown away.

I remember seeing "Purple Rain" in the theatres when it first came out, in 1984, and immediately after, buying the album...played it to death. Here was this guy, with serious eye makeup, in lace, singing crazy, funky songs, shredding like Jimi and looking cool, raw and sexy. Weird coincidence -  my daughter had to pick a singer to write a report about in 5th grade, found my album and started listening to "Purple Rain", writing a report on Prince. 

I was in my 20's then, living in Brooklyn and working at a tv station, hanging out in the city, dancing and and easy, no commitments yet.  I think all the memories of that era, embedded in the fibers of my brain, flooded back to me, making the shock and sadness of this man's death more potent.  Funny how the mind works - sometimes the subconscious takes over without giving you any conscious notice!

After listening to all this music and viewing youtubes of Prince at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction ceremony in 2004, killing it with his guitar solo on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" or the vid of him singing "The Beautiful Ones" while Misty Copeland danced, I became sadder and sadder, as I appreciated Prince's talent, and knew he was no longer on this earth.

I was angry at myself for not enjoying all of his music while he was alive, and not getting the chance to see him live in concert. So, I continued to scroll through the internet, watching the Dave Chappelle skit of Prince playing basketball, then making pancakes for the losers - hysterical, and I re-watched Purple Rain; painted my nails purple, looked up the chords to "Let's Go Crazy" for the piano. Then viewed all the tributes...but nothing was better than watching the videos of his live performances.  I was awed and I cried. 

The worst part was knowing that this hugely talented musician died alone in an elevator. Can't sweep away the sadness of that. Or the thought that help for whatever addictions he was fighting might have been only a day away. If only that doctor had met with him a day earlier, if the story is true.

I'm sure in time, the Prince music in my head will settle down. Mourning him may continue a little while longer.

"Sometimes, sometimes I wish that life was never ending/ And all good things, they say, never last"  - "Sometimes in Snows in April" - Prince 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

How I lost 8 lbs in 3 weeks or House - sold!

Nov: 2015: A year late…but better than, you know.  I’m writing this intro on the year anniversary of my big move from the house I lived in for 21 years to a rental apt.  I hope to share my thoughts on how the year went, sooner, rather than later.   

Dec. 2014:  It's been a 2 year dry spell for me.  I lost my muse, and everything I started writing about seemed unimportant as I wafted around in cyber limbo.  
After having gone through one of the most important, stressful events in my life - a move out of my home of 21 years, the wells have sprung.  I now know why I lost my desire to write anything substantial all this time. I needed a change, a shake-up, a forward motion. And so it happened. 

    As I write this, the yoke of home ownership lifted, after selling my house of hopes and dreams, the house that I moved into, 9 months pregnant with my last child.  My hopes for an almost perfect life loomed large.  I was prepared to raise my 2 boys, ages 5 and 3 and my baby daughter in that spacious colonial with the big backyard and build a comfortable, nurturing life for myself and husband.  

My expectations of being a Mom and taking care of a house were not realistic and I discovered a lot about myself.  Like being a stay at home Mom and raising kids and attempting to keep up with housework or decorate lost its charm very quickly. I had given up my dream job, working as a public relations copywriter at an ad agency in L.I. to have children.  I was even asked to continue on a part time basis, but Motherhood grabbed me by the arm and decided to overwhelm me with nursing, no sleep and soothing a crying baby.  I was not prepared, never took a class and apparently didn’t read the manual.  

     13 years later, a swing set, gazebo, 2 dogs and lots of custom furniture, I was going through a divorce.  My kids were young and suffered the brunt of the cruelty and life changing events of my husband's and my unraveling relationship.  I held on to that house, because it was comfortable, routine and I didn't have a lot of options at that time.  But then, I continued to hold on to that house through the kids’ high school and college years when they had lives of their own and needed their rooms less and less, and certainly didn’t need their swing set in the yard anymore.  Why? I’m really not sure.  Maybe because it was easier to continue to do the same thing instead of make a great, frightening change.  What is it that’s said about insanity? Doing the same thing day after day and getting the same results? Definition: insanity. 
      I became a personal trainer and continued to freelance write, as the years rolled on, seemingly at an accelerated pace.  Until, I’d had enough, with home ownership and leaks, and boiler repair and everything that goes eventually wrong in a home.  The only thing that gave me comfort was when the kids came home to visit and I could revert to being Mommy, cooking, complaining and beaming at them. Or when I went outside to my lovely yard, planted and watered my flowers and vegetable garden and swung in the gazebo. 

      Then there was the memory of standing outside my heatless house in my yard on that frigid, but sunny day, after Hurricane Sandy trounced through my yard, felling trees, and raised my arms, outstretched to the sun and thanked God for this moment of warmth. 

       Selling, throwing out and donating 21 years of my life, 3 stories, shed and garage full of stuff was daunting, liberating, but also depressing.  I threw out the kids’ old toys, ex-husband’s Valentine’s Day cards and whatever else I could bear to part with.  My kids accused me of being a hoarder and over sentimental.  But when I saw those adorable projects the kids made, I’d cave and set them aside in a small plastic bin. 

       With the intensity of a project manager on deadline, I had about 7 weeks to get rid of most of my house stuff, book the moving truck and close on the house 2 days before Thanksgiving.  Some type of lunatic power possessed me after the moving truck moved all the big furniture.  I really only took my dining room set and piano, books, CD’s and records.  All of my other personal items I ended up carting and boxing up and moving myself. Going up and down 3 flights of stairs in my home and then 2 flights of stairs in my new apt., not eating, combined with sheer exhaustion for those last 3 weeks resulted in an unprecedented weight loss of 8 lbs!   Aha, so that’s how it’s done – 8 hours of movement daily, spare eating, exhaustion and voila, pounds came off without even a thought – what a miraculous feat! 

       I’m now settling in to apartment living and some of the 8 lbs and sense of calm have returned.  The loss of my yard and letting my dogs run free is one thing I’ll miss.  Not much of a cold and rainy day walk kind of a person, but the noose around my neck of solo home ownership is gone. I will also miss my garden and flower plantings, which I can only limitedly do on my terrace.Yes, this is a new chapter, beginning, plot line, one of calm and peace, less worry, but not boredom, sorely needed. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What I Learned from a Girl Named Sandy

   I just got my power on after living in darkness and cold for 3 days. As Hurricane Sandy whipped and churned towards the shores of Long Island, I geared up for the fight, buying the last set of flashlights at Home Depot (they shine green and red!) gassing up the car,securing my deck chairs, and bringing in my chimes. I joined hundreds of others, buying snack food and wine, some with worried looks, others telling the cashiers their doubts about the storm being that bad. I even froze bags of water just in case I lost power.  I was prepared for the worst.

   The storm roared through my back yard, trees doing a hula dance. My miniature poodle, cowered in the corner of the living room, finally finding comfort on a pile of clothes in my closet. I remember clenching my teeth for a good 24 hours of so, even though I had power. I was alone in the house and I was nervous. Listening to T.V. news intensified my anxiety, so I changed the channel and watched The Horse Whisperer with Robert Redford...good movie! At around 10 pm, as I heard the winds die down, I decided to venture in my backyard to survey the scene

  There was 1 tree split in half, one trunk hanging over my neighbors fence, the other with the hammock rope tied to it still upright. Another huge tree uprooted hung precariously over the neighbor's fence, caught by another tree and one more cherry tree of my other neighbor's down in my yard. But at least I had not lost my power! I went to bed thinking I had weathered the storm pretty well, only to wake up to darkness.  The power had gone out at 3 am. Then began the darkness and cold.

   The days were tolerable, as I spent my time out of the house at the gym or walking the dogs. I toured my neighborhood, trees down and leaning on power lines, impassable roads due to non-working streetlights and silent shopping centers.  The nights, eerily quiet and foreboding were a different story. I navigated around the house, using candles and flashlights, and made sure I didn't open the fridge too much to preserve the packed ice bags that could save my food. with no power, I had no stove, hot water or heat. I started eating stuff out of the fridge. I created hodge-podges of meals - cold turkey meatloaf, tofu, hard-boiled eggs, eating anything I thought would spoil.

   Bored, I turned the radio station from the incessantly depressing news to music and found myself dancing in the kitchen to keep warm. I tried unsuccessfully reading by flashlight, in between spurts of sitting in the car  to charge my cell phone. The nights started getting colder, plummeting into the 40's and I began layering and adding blankets in bed. The heat of the dogs did not help. I'd wake up, frigid, with head throbbing from the cold. It was warmer outside, so I went outside one morning and stood with my face towards the sun, warming my body. It was heavenly.

    Finally after 3 days of this, I caved, and resignedly starting throwing my room temperature fridge food and thawing freezer food out in several garbage bags. I was busy packing to stay at a friend's who had a fireplace and camp out there for a few days, when I saw an unfamiliar sight-lights! Power back on, thankfully after three days, what a delightful surprise.

   I was able to look back on this experience more clearly and made these observations.  There are two different categories of people.  Those who care about others and are willing to help, like the ones that have generators and make coffee for the block and offer their homes for hot showers. Or the ones who own chainsaws and help cut down your fallen trees.  And then there are those who just take care of their own needs in times of trouble, for whatever their reasons are. But that's o.k., not everyone can be a saint. My local World Gym opened up the club to the community for those needing showers. My friend offered her home to me and my dogs to sleep in, even though she had no power, just a fireplace. So, thank you to all my friends who saw my status on facebook and offered me hot showers and places to power up.

    I also realized that going through a storm alone is not a lot of fun and neither is being in the cold and dark with pretty aromatic candles. So not romantic. Another discovery, the wine remained untouched. Anxiety does not work well with alcohol. I felt I needed to be on guard in case of emergency. I'd celebrate when it's over.

   I also learned how much we take the basics like light and heat for granted until we are without. And my dependence on creature comforts, like T.V., computers and cell phone, borders on shameful.

   This storm taught me a lot about the good and the bad of human nature and also about myself. It made me stop and think that I never want to be in this situation again and what steps I need to take to necessitate change.

   I also discovered when I finally had T.V. and a computer, about the devastation and destruction that existed over the tri-state area and felt ashamed that I complained about the cold. The boardwalk where I spent so many glorious summers in Far Rockaway is no more.  The restaurants I frequented in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, were consumed by the storm surge.

(Photo courtesy of Nathan Kensinger )

  There are so many suffering from the aftermath of the storm, whose homes were lost or flooded and so many are still without power. I hope relief comes quickly and that they are offered helping hands that carry them to safety and warmth and offer assistance.

If you'd like to help, here is a link: There are also many facebook pages devoted to Sandy relief for those who wish to volunteer.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Beach Run, with obstacles – Summer Solstice June 2011

I don’t run as frequently as I used to after killing my knees, running daily for 20+ years. But when I do run, I prefer the softer sands of West Meadow Beach in Setauket, at low tide. So, I started out, on this first day of summer, with the full intention of getting there right at the peak of low tide. But, as luck would have it, I ran into a friend whom I haven’t seen in a long time. So we yakked it up, and by that time, all that was left of low tide was an oblong sliver of sand, smaller than a ¼ mile track. I was determined, though, to run on the beach, rocky North shore seascape and all. So I started running circles on the sand track only to discover that my trusty Timex Ironman stopwatch had died, leaving me with only the music on my IPod to time my run. I figured, most songs run about 3 minutes and change, so I started counting off the tunes: Elton John’s “Amoreena,” Muse’s The Uprising,” Jason Mraz’“The Remedy,” Gavin DeGraw’s “I don’t Want to to Be”, The Eagle’s “In the City”, until I hit about 8 or 9 tunes, figured I must have been running around 30 minutes, and headed back along the beach to my car. Then, I realized how many hoops I’d jumped through, just to catch that small slip of sand before the tide washed it all away. There had to be a lesson here, some message, about life and determination, maybe? Or simply this: when you’re running out of time on the sand, just make sure you have some good tunes! Enjoy the summer!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

On 140 words or more – Reflections on #140 confLi

Foreword: Yes, I’m cheating. This foreward won’t count for the 140 words (or more) in my reflections on the first Social Media 140 Characters Conference of Long Island, held at Touro Law on May 26th. While, everyone was busily managing their smart devices and laptops, I took notes, re-kindling my old school reporting. As observer and twitterer, here were some thought phrases I caught, in no particular order:

#RT means re-tweet. #MT means modified tweet. A twoosh is a perfect 140 character tweet; try to keep ‘em under 110 for RT purposes. “Bad writing is killing America.” Brevity is best. “Listen to your audience.” Serendipity exists. Lift people around you and you will be lifted. A tweet is a terrible thing to waste. Twitter reveals “who you are as an artist.” Ask questions and respond; forget about private stuff. People love bandanas. Power of twitter is to reach and touch human needs.

#Usguys has online community transparency. There is too much overuse of the words authenticity and transparency. We are…we are...trending! Backchannel to cool; Thought zoo. Achieve so much in so little time, so far away. Presentations can still be drawn on poster board. Journalism professor likes to dance. News anchor likes to sing.

Twitter tick-offs: private convos, cluttered backgrounds and #too #many #hashtags. Virtual party members must be quick and witty. “Meet people halfway.” Be a social median. Connect with 20 influential people. Remain engaged. “Less stress, more success.” “Fear of change is fear of failure.”

Social media is like dating. Focus on customer, not social media elite! We are all connected: #ff #ww Make a power website! Translating local news to patch=connecting people to community.

Don’t go crazy with metrics, ROI. What is your social network worth? No man or woman is a “real island,” but Staten Island is. May the Jedi force be with you. “I can see Brazil from Montauk.” Mobile apps are changing how we consume. Are you a poster or paster? #Spoonie became a heart behind the hash tag. “Patients want to be heard.”

“Tweet, tweet, you’re fired”. Interactions, not transactions need to be managed! Your cell phone can be a weapon in customer service. Duck! Law school students tweeting badly! Does that mean they use bad “sentences”? If you can make pancakes from scratch, you can make beer? Stories about the heart from the heart!

Infrequent tweeter feels inadequate. Plane in the Hudson photo – wow! Focus on the quality of your community, not the quantity. Too much coffee! Really good burgers. Field seats at Bethpage Park = sitting Ducks for foul balls!

Backword: Ok, I failed at 140 words, but the characters at the conference were succinct and passionate! (cue Theme from Exodus)

Monday, May 23, 2011

3 flew out of the Cuckoo’s Nest

I was monitoring the activity of Mama robin and her 3 babies for about 2 weeks. The marvelously constructed nest sat firmly and safely in the crook of a tree limb in a Japanese maple outside my son’s window. Sometimes the baby robins would be stirring, their little beaks yawning for food; other times, especially when it rained heavily, Mama robin would be in the nest blanketing (brooding) her babies from the storm. I’d check on them daily, and yesterday I looked out the window only to discover they had all flown the coop. I was sad, but realized this is nature’s ordered way of saying that Mom had done her job, the chicks have found their wings and must get on with discovering the world.

It was somewhat ironic and mirrored my situation at home. Soon, my youngest child will be leaving for college, leaving me with an empty nest. Letting go of my first child was rough; second, only mildly less painful; but this one will be the toughest. As a Mom, I imparted as much knowledge as I could cram into my kids about life; gave them survival tools, and then hoped for the best. I knew that they would never be exactly like me, but I’d hoped that they would incorporate some of the good stuff. (Inevitably, a little of the bad stuff goes along for the ride.)

So when the time comes for my youngest to take flight, I will write about how I’ve adjusted to this new chapter in my life, as I re-invent my nest.