Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Old Year's Resolution

Don't make a New year's resolution for 2012, instead, make a small change in the remaining days of 2011. The word resolve carries with it a lot of passion, definitiveness...and stress. A resolution is a failure waiting to happen. The zeal, the idea that THIS TIME I'm really gonna follow through is flawed logic. Less than a quarter of the people who resolve to change a behavior or reach a goal actually achieve results. But I'd bet that a good portion of those failed resolvers achieved some level of satisfaction. They  didn't manage their expectations, and rather than applauding the small steps, castigate themselves for not reaching the finish line.

If you're in the habit of eating a bag of barbecue potato chips after dinner each evening, or enjoy digging into a chocolate cheese muffin with your coffee at two every afternoon (me), is it realistic to expect to lose twenty pounds because you made up your mind that you would? But, it is likely that first week you adopted your resolution, you did lay off the chips, and that is a goal achievement. It's called baby steps. When I wrote my first novel, the question I was asked most was, when did you find the time to write a whole book? My answer was always the same, "I didn't." I sat down and wrote one sentence...then I kept at it.

And that's why your resolution this year should not wait for the grand gesture of January first, an awful and unimaginative date with built-in pitfalls of restlessness. Start tomorrow, or better yet, right now. No trumpets, no fanfare, no announcement--keep it to yourself. Don't think long range, don't wonder if you'll be an improved version of yourself come 2013. Put one foot in front of the other and remember to reward yourself if a week has gone by and you're still at it. Habits are called habits for a reason, and we all love to fall back on the familiar, nestling deeply into our comfort zone, waiting for inspiration or a life altering moment to shake us up.  

We're conditioned to respond to BIG moments, piggybacking important decisions or changes onto those moments. Wouldn't most women love a blowout marriage propsal, thirty foot high words, Will You MARRY ME--on the Jumbotron at Times Square? I'm pretty sure, four years into a marriage, most women would happily exchange that one grand moment for a steady stream of thoughtful, gentle gestures from her spouse. The large moment is a show off, an attention getter, think the wizard in the Wizard of Oz.. The BIG birthday, the significant holiday, the graduation, the yearly achievements, they all mark time while great stuff is happening in between and they're being ignored because they're, well, ordinary. Embrace the ordinary, take a tiny step toward the kind of person you want to be. Walk past the chocolate danish (I'm speaking to my weakness, here) and take the steps at the mall or office, rather than the escalator. Baby steps.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Don't Judge Me

It starts early. From the moment a baby looks up and decides if you're worthy of the smile, the judging begins. It continues in first grade with a glance askance at the girl sitting next you as you decide her new shoes aren't up to snuff.  The disdain on your face is witnessed by someone nearby who nods approvingly at you. And from that point you are off, floating by on your superior cloud, casting petty aspersions on those who fall short. It may be a raised eyebrow, an eyeroll...if you're still in high school. The gestures and barbs become more sophisticated in a perversely underhanded way that leaves the victim unsure if your laughter is genuine or if she was just made fun of to her face. The weak wither under the onslaught, skulking back in their ill-fitting clothing to their undesirable zip code. The strong fire back, perhaps launching the opening salvo at the next encounter, fully prepared to judge first. And the most confident ones are smart enough to never even enter the game. It's exhausting.

When I was newly married, I taught sixth grade at an exclusive girls school. I would take great pains with my wardrobe, trying not to repeat my outfits, and always making sure my shoes matched perfectly. "Why do you care so much?" my husband would ask, "They're only eleven."
"You don't understand, they're professional students. They can sniff weakness...any kind of weakness."
Even years later, my husband still quotes that line, fascinated by the fact that eleven year olds can be professionals at anything.

We're taught as children not to judge a book by its cover, but we do it anyway. It's certainly easier to look at someone else and find them lacking than it is to turn the microscope on ourselves. And it's certainly easier to decide we know everything about someone before they've even opened their mouths. And now we've become a nation of judges with the ability to cast our vote on any talent show of our choice. It's a demeaning cycle and an incredible waste of energy. And pretty much we've all played judge and have felt the sting of judgment. Obviously I have something on my mind and I'm skirting the issue because well...I don't want to judge. I simply want to remind everyone to act kindly and give one another the benefit of the doubt. I know I surely would appreciate it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Old Enough to Vote

Living with a teenager can be like living with someone who's had too much to drink. Both think they act and speak rationally, the only difference is that one of them wakes up in the morning, hungover with regret, taking quick account of the previous night's folly and vowing to be more careful the next time. The other one forges ahead, convinced their thought process is sound and coherent. The results of these "coherent decisions" are observed in dismay by the responsible adults who scurry around, trying their best to keep their teenagers out of harm's way. According to National Geographic, in its article, The New Science of the Teenage Brain, a teenager's faulty judgement isn't their fault--something my teenagers have been telling me for years. They can't help acting irrational and inconsistent, it's their 'neural gawkiness,' according to Abigali Baird. Their brains have several more years to go until they are fully developed, mastering their impulse control, desires and ethics .

A few weeks ago my sons went on a rare shopping trip to the mall. They came home empty-handed, but since neither of them appeared bloody, I still took that to be a good sign.  My twenty-three year old flung the National Geographic with its cover of a teenager's brain onto the kitchen counter and pointed at it accusingly, "We all need to read that." 

The article says that while teenagers might be fully aware of the risk involved in drinking, they choose to do it anyway because they feel the pleasure outweighs the risk. They know speeding, or texting while driving is a stupid thing to do--they just choose to do it anyway.
The love of thrills peaks around fifteen, so if your teenager is north of that, breathe a sigh of relief. And it isn't all bad news. This same sensation seeking core often leads to the embracing of new experiences, meeting new people, and fearlessness of new situations. All of this can add up to a well-rounded, productive teenager--if you're lucky, beacuse these new, thrill-seeking ideas can also be very dangerous. These fearless interests are what lead to new experiences, and new experiences are what enhance teen brain development.  Socializing is more important than ever as teenagers build critical relationships that will most likely impact their lives for many years to come. In both good and possibly bad ways. 

So, if this late-developing frontal lobe is not up to the task of the complex challenges facing teenagers, why is it okay to allow an eighteen year old to vote or go to war? I'm glad the drinking age is twenty-one, but an eighteen year old can still go into combat and shoot a weapon.  I find that terrifying.

My son is about to turn eighteen in two weeks. He's insightful, articulate, egotistical and at times so completely capable of irrational thoughts that all I can do is stare at him and will his frontal lobe to hurry it up. We've taught him to be decent, responsible and respectful. We've told him not to talk on the phone or text while driving. We're grateful he dislikes the taste of alcohol and are proud he'll be able to cast a vote for his country in the next presidential election. And if I had to choose one of my kids to get stuck on a desert island it would probably be him, because he's still at the age where he thinks anything is possible and the world was created just for him. Yes, I trust him--at least until he comes up with the next crazy idea.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Art of Exhibitionism

"Did you hear about the woman who gave birth in an art gallery?" my daughter asked. "Can you imagine that? She acts as if this has never been done before, I mean, Queens have been giving birth in front of an audience for hundreds of years to ensure that no one switched the heir with another baby."
 "Well, at least that's a valid reason for having an audience," I said. Having given birth four times, I didn't even want to be there, much less expect anyone besides my husband and the paid medical staff of the hospital to show up.

But this kind of exhibitionism shouldn't take anyone by surprise, it's simply another way that we as a society  have deteriorated. I'm sure there are many who disagree with me. After all, the gallery gave this woman a generous amount of space that she converted into a lovely birthing room. She was present in the weeks before the birth chatting it up with attendees and discussing the beauty of birth as a natural process. About twenty onlookers attended the live event, and I'm willing to bet that none of them had ever given birth.

In the era of reality TV, Youtube and tweets it seems as if the fifteen minutes of fame Andy Warhol had predicted has turned into something much longer and more ominous. Remember Rebecca Black? 167 million hits on Youtube and a Wikipedia page--we despise her,deride her, but we all  know her. For every celebrity that has earned their status through their hard work, talent and accomplishments, shying away from unwanted paparazzi and press, there are pseudo-celebrities whose only fame is achieved through their self-propelled publicity machine. They live their lives in front of the camera, choosing to live in a manufactured world that exists only if someone else is watching. If a tree falls in the forest...

A home should be a sanctuary, a place where a family member can go at the end of the day and feel comfort. It should be a place of love and support, a place where the boss or the teacher or the co-worker can't reach inside of you. Imagine if it isn't that. How could every move be measured and affected in order to get optimal reactions from total strangers--viewers who have earned the right to comment on someone else's family situation We are all aware that there is nothing real about reality TV, not the emotions, or the relationships, but when one sibling is giving some honest, heartfelt advice to another family member and it is viewed as suspect and self-serving, well, that's just sad. I find it equally troubling when an entire family unanimously chooses to live their life out in front of millions of viewers. That's just pathetic.

Years ago when we attended family gatherings, my husband was always ready with his video camera to record all the adorableness of our children and our nieces and nephews. Invariably there were a few kids who loved the attention and a couple who simply didn't feel comfortable with it, choosing to hide under the table or behind a wall. No amount of coaxing could cajole the reticent children into cooperation and in hindsight I have to applaud their ability at three years old to have more sense than people ten times their age.

We are not voyeurs. We have been invited. We are beseeched to watch the train wreck of other people's lives and even if we choose not to, the information is so ubiquitous as to be unavoidable. It screams at us from newspaper headlines and Op-Ed pieces in The New York Times and our nightly news. We as a society are responsible for allowing and applauding this odd behavior. It is revolting and unnerving to think we are on a first name basis with every character who shines a spotlight on themselves, yet very few of us could summon up more than a couple of names of the thirteen awardees of the Nobel Prize that were recently announced.

As a country we used to admire hard work and achievement. Let's try to remember that.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Released from Exile!

We were just exiled from our home for three days due to a freak snowstorm that hit before the month of November--before the contract for our snowplow guy kicks in. I have a theory; if it snows before Thanksgiving, then we're really in for a rough winter. I've now amended that to include Halloween.

As a Jew, I should be somewhat familiar with the concept of Exile, but it is nevertheless unsettling and creepy even if it is only the weather forcing me out my home and not the Cossacks. Some very hardy souls hunkered down amidst their quilts, flannel pjs and gloves, optimistically hoping Orange and Rockland would perform a miracle. The rest of us, the non-believers, fled like rats from a sinking ship. I ended up in Queens at my daughter's apartment and spent a calm night lulled by the sweet sounds of my slumbering toddler granddaughter.

My husband called from China, concerned about my whereabouts and my Plan B. I assured him it was all working out fine. "And she doesn't even snore!" I told him.
My seventeen year old son had been at a friend's house in New Jersey when they were hit late Saturday night. He hastily drove back to Rockland County early the next morning expecting the electricity to be on over here in time for the Giants game Sunday afternoon.

He was less sanguine about the situation, "We've had electricity for over a hunded years--you'd think they'd have figured out a way to keep it on by now!" Upon hearing his grandparents, one town over had power he dashed out the door, leaving me in the dark. I called my mother and gave her the heads up.
"You are about to be invaded by an electronic laden teenager. Make sure your outlets are clear and I hope you like football because that is all you're going to be watching for the next ten hours." She now knows what an interception is.

The lucky few who were able to think clearly and act decisively booked hotel rooms as powerless people from portions of New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey frantically filled hotel lobbies. A friend of mine was lucky enough to have a generator. Her extra bedrooms filled up very quickly and she found herself serving breakfast to a crowd. Ironically, her electricity via the town is still off even after most of our neighborhood was restored. I asked her how she was managing now that our roles had reversed thelmseves. "My bedrooms emptied out, but I still don't have internet or cable service. I'll be too busy doing linens for the next two days anyway. Hopefully things will right themselves soon."

So now that some of us have our lights back on, we are now trading war stories--Where were you? How did you manage? It doesn't rank up there with Where were you when Kennedy was shot, but it's still our story to tell.

Yes, we managed, we coped, but we didn't like it one little bit. We used our wits, our sense of humor, and we're glad our loved ones are safe. Progress is two steps forward and one step back. Of course people stayed warm and their homes were lit centuries ago, but they had fireplaces in every room and a steady supply of candles.They'd never have dreamed of our need to know what was happening in every part of the world. They could never have imagined the craving to do something as simple as turning on a switch and getting light, turning on the computer to check emails, or even catching up on the eleven o'clock news or the latest late-night monologue. I think I might have been the last person to know Kim Kardashian was getting a divorce. On second thought, make that two steps back for Progress.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Be a Native Tourist

My husband and I played hooky one sunny afternoon this week. I'm not making this up--there was sun one day this month.

We strolled along the High Line, a newly constructed park that recently opened in Chelsea and runs along the tracks of a former freight train line. The views of the Hudson were fresh and magnificent and it's another oasis of peace in an otherwise bustling, chaotic city. 

The visitors we spotted were made up of locals and tourists. I was able to make out about seven different languages as strollers walked by our perch on one of the benches situated perfectly for people-watching, a universal past time in any city.
The park is a delight and its complexity creeps up on you slowly. There is a rich history to the area and it was fun to hear snippets of it waft over us as people pointed, gestured and lectured about it.  I was struck by the attention to detail and care down to the selection of rustic meadow grasses that had grown wild near the tracks fifty years ago.

I glanced at the books some of my fellow bench warmers were reading. Of Mice and Men, The Psychopath Test, and I wondered if they were really reading them or if the selections were meant to add to the culture of the surroundings while the nightstand sported the juicy latest must-read.  I'm left to wonder about it and that was perhaps the most fun part of the activity. I asked my husband his opinion about our seat mates' occupations and he shrugged, "I don't know--you're the writer, make something up." So I did, and my imagination soared as it was picked up by the brisk wind that carried it from the river's edge and hopefully to my home computer several miles away.

There was a sizable group eating their lunches on a set of wide steps that faced 10th avenue and 17th street. The steps had an intriguing view of moving traffic that could be seen through large paned windows out below. The windows worked both ways, allowing street strollers to look up and see the lunch time munchers. It was a clever and fun reversal.. New Yorkers have a thing about eating on steps, i.e. The Met, the newish steps at Times Square, Bryant Park--we become pigeons when we eat, it seems, absorbed into our surroundings.

Being a tourist in your own city is fun. You don't need to bring a guide book. You can understand every sign and (rarely) have to ask for directions.

Go to the High Line, get out and enjoy your city. The sun will shine again eventually.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Numbers Game

I believe I was about ten when I realized there was power in numbers. My class had decided to pull a prank on our teacher and suspend opened umbrellas upside down from the ceiling. We all agreed that presenting a unified front was vital to our success, thereby protecting the original instigator of the idea. At that point one girl stood up and said she wouldn't participate. The idea fizzled briefly as the lone dissenter turned Benedict Arnold on us and showed us that indeed each and every person does make a difference and a group is only as strong as the individuals who comprise it.

Recently my block, consisting of ten families in tree-filled Suburbia launched a counterattack against a developer who had eyes on building new homes in the woods at the end of our dead end street. We knew he owned the parcel of land, but he also lived in the neighborhood and he had repeatedly assured (lied to) us that he would always leave our view and quiet in tact. After months of intense negotiations with the town council and the highway department we found out about his plans through the backdoor. Needless to say, we felt betrayed and tricked not to mention outraged that our legal right to have our voices heard was undermined. Construction vehicles were set to open our quiet street to a flood of people and the inherent noise, delivery trucks and school busses.

We were not about to stand by and watch our property values and way of life disappear. The entire block ponied up the necessary funds, hired a lawyer, and had the proceedings stopped before any steps were finalized. We "heard" the developer was shocked that we didn't just roll over and let him have his way with us as he had done to others many times before.

Occupy Wall Street is a grassroots effort that has grown in influence over the past three weeks. The protests began as a collective voice against the greed of corporate America. Yes, they have the numbers even the unions envy and are growing exponentially, but they lack focus.

People are annoyed, frustrated, jobless and not going to take it anymore. Occupy Wall Street now has a platform and our attention, but that isn't enough. Now they need a clear message. We are all transfixed and waiting for more movement than simply reliving the 1970's aimless sit-ins. You guys have the power of numbers but are about to cede the edge unless one person stands up and leads the charge to clearly present what it is you expect of corporate America in regard to changing their policies and attitude.

Yom Kippur starts at sundown tomorrow evening. It is the culmination of ten days of spiritual cleansing and introspection that started with Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. The most devout followers will fast for twenty-five hours and spend most of the day praying together at a synagogue. We are told the collective praying serves us well as the sins we are atoning for are diluted amongst the masses, thereby allowing the good deeds to float over us and purify our souls. So, the numbers are on our side, but it is up to us to ally our forces on what we hope is the winning team. It takes individuals to decide to join forces to create a whole. Every voice counts. We have the right to be heard and be counted. It would do our voted officials well to remember that come the next election.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


The written media has become lazy. Case in point: the newly-minted word adorkable This hybrid is apparently self-explanatory. I disagree. It may be an amalgam of adorable and dorky, or adorable and funky, or adorable and quirky.  In the interest of accuracy I checked Wikipedia where it doesn't rate a mention. 

Therefore,  I will elaborate.

The adorkable actress as a TV or movie character is always female and is pretty enough to be deemed extremely interesting, almost hot, except for her unique ability to be unaware of her own hotness, resulting in goofy non-sexually threatening behavior. Apparently adorkable women are too goofy to remember to check a mirror. The adorkables speak in a sing-songy, word over word slurring kind of way meant to remind us of a pre-pubescent child who has all the promise of life ahead of her.

I cut my eyeteeth on TV characters like this at a time when writers took more effort to explain and flesh out a character's character. Remember Goldie Hawn on Laugh-In? Suzanne Somers as Chrissy on Three's Company? These women were practically the springboard for every dumb blonde joke told in the seventies. Imagine our surprise when we realized years later that these women were smart, accomplished business women that have successfully kept their careers current.

But I offer this, a blonde cannot be termed adorkable, with one exception--I'll get to that later. That moniker is saved for brunettes only and therefore I offer up to you that I think Mary Tyler Moore, while always elegant and sophisticated had many comical moments that could have been attributed to her naive adorableness. This unique blend of sophistication and cluelessness was the basis for her terrific chemistry with Mr. Grant that was the first sighting of adorkableness more than forty years ago.

Marlo Thomas' character in That Girl  was another classic example, as well. I am aware that many of you under a ceratin age have stopped reading at this point. Two years ago my daughter discovered some old Mary Tyler Moore episodes online. She became instantly addicted to the quirky, brave Mary who paved the way for every woman today who chooses career first, a radical idea in the seventies. We were fascinated by these women and their accomplishments, wished we were them, and enjoyed their idiosyncrasies that made them approachable and friend-worthy. 

Approachable does not equal dumb. Not by a long shot.

Back to the blonde haired exception--Taylor Swift. I'm not a follower, but I was impressed by her self-deprecating and winning turn on Saturday Night Live. She's enormously talented and remarkably self aware for someone who has grown up in the spotlight. Not to mention absolutely adorkable. But I'll add one more thing--she's sharp as a whip, you can see it in her eyes.

So, TV writers, don't be lazy. You can create a sitcom character that we can all adore and  relate to even on her most silly level, she can be blonde and most of all  she can even be smart.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Just When I Was Ready to Despair

I've had just about enough. No, I'm not talking about the frustration of having an unemployed college graduate or the decision about which colleges might work for my h.s. senior, seriously, film school? Even that sounds less crazy based on how well doctors, lawyers, and businessman are doing right now.

No, I'm talking about summer TV. Yes, we have made some strides in that department, kudos to you USA and Bravo. You really do try. And yes, I adore the craftily debonair Neal Caffrey and Harvey Specter, who has been a delight on Suits, but what lawyer wins every case? The writers got a bit sloppy there towards the end. Heidi and Tim, please, we need talented designers who are actually interesting, not fake interesting. Where are Christian Siriano and Chris March when we need them?

The economy is in freefall, mother nature is playing with us, our enemies are hell-bent on trying to blow us up, and too many people we love are sick. We feel helpless, anxious, unworthy. There is so much to worry about especially our own impotence to change anything. And the political landscape. Let's not go there. The summer movies were ghastly, except for Harry Potter and based upon how many chose to stay outdoors rather than inside, it seemed as if most of America agrees with me. All we had left was our worry. I'm sick of worrying. It's unproductive and causes wrinkles.

I need my mindless TV shows back.

I don't drink or do drugs, but there are definitely some days I really, really wished I did. Instead, all I have to bolster my spirits is a strong cup of coffee and a chocolate danish. The five pounds I gained this summer I lay at the doorstep of the Democrats and the TV executives who aired nature and cooking shows, ad nauseum. Oh, and Yankee games that seemd to go on for eight hours. And yes, I do read books.

Finally, Fall TV brings with it the shiny promise of a new leaf, budding slowly and blossoming into something beautiful. 
But returning favorites first. Vampire Diaries! Gossip Girl! Yes, I am a fifty-year old in an arrested state of development. (No, I never watched it) Good Wife! You go Julianna. Grey's Anatomy! I'm still sticking with dark and twisty Meredith and soulfully dreamy Patrick Dempsey (I came up with McDreamy, but no one in my living was there as witness). I'm not blindly loyal, nah uh. You have to earn my loyalty and staying power. I left Lost for a period in the middle, but rallied in the last year. I had one question that needed answering. Where was that damn island, or rather what was it? My question was answered, sorta. That ending made me glad I'd never started watching The Sopranos. I can only take so much.

I've ratcheted up my DVR, erasing all the shows I never watched but recorded. Just in case.  Did you know that HD shows take up lots of disc space?

My son came into the den a couple of days ago and a quick glance at the screen had him shaking his head. "You're still watching Glee? No one watches Glee anymore," said the son who speaks in absolutes. I'm pretty sure they're still getting ratings, although I have to admit I fast-forward through a lot. They're on probabtion as of now. There are only so many hours I have allotted at night for entertainment.

Back in the day when my daughter still lived at home we would watch American Idol with our finger on fast forward. She wanted to scroll past the comments (too nasty) and I wanted to scroll through the contestants (too boring). Well, loopy Paula and sacrcastic Simon are back. I give them one episode of my time. If I even last that long.

So yes, i will try out Person of Interest and Charlie's Angels even if  I already know there will be no one as beautiful as Jaclyn Smith or as charmingly paternal as John Forsythe. It will take time to warm up to the new characters, to allow them to comfort me in ways pastry goods cannot. And I'm looking forward to reconnecting with some old friends.

I hate the taste of alcohol, the political race turns my stomach, but atleast something other than shrill housewives and shrill New Jerseyans and shrill Kardashians will finally be available to those of us who want a little more highbrow from our lowbrow viewing.

There is a fine line between between mindless and brain-numbing entertainment. I intend to walk that line. You are welcome to join me. Or better yet, go read a book.

Friday, September 9, 2011

It's Time to Start the Revolution

As I sat down to drink my morning coffe, I opened the New York Times app on my iPad. I glanced at Top News as always, and then hit what has become my favorite section--Most Emailed stories. I like to keep the pulse of what the hot topics are without resorting to The View for my information.

David Pogue wrote something that I found incredibly disturbing called Internet Memes101: A Guide to Online Wackiness. David goes on to explain in exhaustive detail--(if you have to explain a joke it isn't funny anymore)  all the pop culture references that those of us from a different generation have apparently been missing out on while trying to follow the late-night monolgues.

News flash David. If I don't get the reference about the latest Kardashian foible, I'm actually glad. If I don't realize the latest catchphrase has been generated by the monotoned Paris Hilton I consider it a win in the column for those of us who think hotel chain first, media hussy second.

Maybe, just maybe, it's time for our youth to try to understand what we're saying rather than the other way around. When I was in school and attended a lecture and the professor used a word I had never heard before, I wrote it down so I could check it later. In an actual dictionary. I made the effort. And yes, that's how nerdy I was.

I was speaking to a co-worker and she was recounting a story of her neighbor who is a grown man listening unquestioningly to whatever directives his father issued.
"But that last piece of advice you told me about was so poor. Didn't he say anything to his father?" I asked.
"No, his father is European."

I'll let that statement just hang out there.

Tina Fey speaks glowingly about her father in her hysterically insightful book Bossypants. The chapter That's Don Fey says it all. He was a man who commanded respect. You stood up straighter when he entered a room--I used to say the same thing about my grandfather.

My husband is of the generation that remembers when a parent was allowed to say to a child, "Because I said  so."
I'm not advocating going back to those times because I think open communication is the key ingredient to any successful relationship, as is mutual respect. And self-respect is the first step to respecting others. I'm just saying.

So yes, an online primer to the catchphrases of the moment is an amusing page-filler. But the underlying message is disconcerting. Why do I care to learn the language of a generation that doesn't know how to fold the New York Times in its original form. Yes. The newspaper is actually available in paper format.

Let's demand more from others, not less.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Last First Day of School

I calculate that we have had just about one hundred first day of school moments in my house--that's four children times twenty-five years worth of schooling. Those stomach churning, night-before preparations akin to having one's wisdom teeth pulled. It's the right thing to do but you dread it anyway. It's hard to be circumspect when your baby can drive himself to school in his own car.

"We never had our own cars at seventeen," the others chorused. Yes, the youngest is spoiled, but then again he has to wear the moniker 'my baby' all throughout his adult life.

I was checking my emails when he came into my office the night before the last first day. "I have nothing, no notebooks or anything," he said, somewhat accusingly.

"You said yesterday that all you need is your laptop. I think there's a pen lurking around here somewhere," I said, shifting papers on the desk.

He eyed me like I'd somehow failed the parenting test. He loved being treated like an adult except for the times he loved being treated like a kid. It was up to me to be able to keep the signals straight.

Half an hour later he reappeared. "I did some digging and found some looseleaf paper and last year's binder." He plopped the pieces on my desk, expecting me to assemble them and offering me one last shot at being the mother.
I handed them back to him, "I think you''ve got it covered." 

He took them back reluctantly as he peered over my shoulder. "You're on Facebook?"
 I froze, remembering very clearly a conversation of a year ago when two of his friend's moms dared to join.

"Um, it's a private group, you know only with the other writers I met at the conference, we critique each other..." I stammered.
"I don't care. I haven't been on Facebook in months. This is what I'm wearing tomorrow," he said.

"Looks great," I smiled as he went back upstairs. Everyone needs reassurances, even super-cool, super-bright seveteen year-olds who rarely look in their rear view mirror.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


If your first thought that came to mind when you read "Prego!" was spaghetti sauce I know roughly how old you are. If you were wondering who was pregnant, well then...

My husband and I went to Italy this summer for our thirtieth wedding anniversary. Yes, we succumbed to 'vacation pressure'-- the need to have something sparkling to say at the next dinner party, or a casual opener at an informal business meeting i.e., 'When I was in Italy...'
Also, we really, really wanted to see Italy.

Anyway, my husband likes to fully immerse himself in a foreign country when he travels and by that I mean he selects one word that he offers back to the hotel concierge or taxi driver that makes him feel like a native despite his New York accent.

Prego is a great catchall word that means 'thanks,' 'you're welcome,' 'do you think the Yankees wil make the playoffs this year...' It became something of an obsession with him. In deference to the time zone issue, I would update my kids, nieces, parents, etc. about our time abroad via email. I put Prego! in the subject line.

This prompted the one and only phone call from my seventeen year-old son, who apparently had forgotten he even had parents until that email popped up on his Droid.

"Is my sister pregnant?" was the imperious question from many miles away. Mind you he has two married sisters but one already had a toddler. Of course he was referring to his recently married one.

"What?" my husband asked numbly, handing me the phone. 
"What are you talking about?" I asked stupidly, making no connection whatsoever to my subject line of the email...I was thinking spaghetti sauce.

He took that for a No. "Don't ever tease me like that again. I have to go now." Click. My son loooves being an uncle.

It seems that both my sons thought my few-months-married daughter was pregnant. I was stymied. I remembered we used to use the word 'preggers' when we'd eye our teacher's stomach, fervently wishing for the inevitable substitute we could lord over when maternity leave rolled around.  

From then on I was careful to leave the subject line blank on my emails.

When I got home, the daughter in question came to visit and see our 8,000 pictures. Another thing my husband enjoys about vacation.

"Can you believe your brothers thought you were pregnant? They thought I would leave to Italy and then share special news like this in an email." I looked at her hopefully.

"Actually," she admitted. "I thought you were pregnant."

Did I mention we went to celebrate our thirtieth anniversary?

"But then I realized you'd never say something like in an email."
Not that she didn't think my eggs had finally fried up at fifty, only that I wouldn't share that info in an email.
She had always been the logical one. Up until now.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Turkeys are back

Right on cue, the red gizzard fowl feathered beasts have reappeared. These turkeys are the meaner version of the butter-balled variety found in the depths of supermarket freezers. They are wild turkeys, not to be confused with the bourbon of the same name, and they are aggressive and hideously ugly.
 Frankenstein-monster ugly.
They appear on my lawn and the head honcho turkey, the mob enforcer Tom knocks on my glass-paned sliding door. I am not kidding. He takes his hideous blue-beaked waddle/snood contraption and pokes at my door to get my attention while I have my morning coffee. I don't know what he hopes to accomplish other than to impress the ladies, the four or five that he travels with—his harem/posse.
When I stare him down, he doesn't flinch. He opens his enormous fan of feathers and preens his victory. At what, I have no idea since I'm the one inside with all the food. Apparently, males of any species can be vexingly irritating.
And even as Fall deepens and Thanksgiving preparations begin to dot our days they still appear, unaware of their impending doom. They are emboldened having gathered many more in their flock/gaggle/pride.  Did I mention turkeys are dumb?
If you have the misfortune of trying to get into your car to go to work when there is a group of turkeys on your driveway they will form an impenetrable circle and peck at your car.
I'm serious.
They squeal and squawk menacingly and don't let you back out of the driveway lest you become known as a turkey killer.
Have I mentioned that they're dumb?
 I have a vendetta against these beasts ever since my daughter totaled her new car when she had to stop short on the Palisades Parkway because the car in front of her stopped short to allow the turkeys to cross the road—lest they too become known as turkey killers. When my daughter told her co-workers, most of whom were not suburbanites, but rather city-dwellers they looked at her agape, visions of innocuous smiling turkeys as portrayed inaccurately by the Macy's Day Thanksgiving Parade turkey and its crepe paper brethren dancing in their heads.
Let me just state for the record that I really, really enjoy Thanksgiving.  

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Glad to Say Goodbye to Summer

Summer is a lot of pressure. Why else would this season be so important as to be bracketed with an official start and end. Two starts in fact. For those anxious fans there is Memorial Day. We all know it's really a fakeout beause schoolchildren still have school, and even worse, it's a signal for the toughest month of their year to start, i.e. finals, regents, APs and the like. But you are allowed to break out the shorts.

Then there's July 4th.

This date is so revered that even if it doesn't fall out on a Monday it is allowed to exist as a stand alone. I'd say that takes some major street cred generally reserved for only Christmas and New Years Day while other weaker holidays have fallen victim to the three day weekend.

It took me many years to realize that I hate summer. During my school years (much longer ago than I care to remember), liking summer was a Pavlovian response. Now I pray for rain. Not for everyone, but just in my little area, and not too often, but oh, say around every ten days.

Then I have a great excuse for staying indoors. It's a lot of pressure having to be outside all the time.

If it's super humid, as is often the case in New York in the summer I go with the excuse,
"It's too hot to be outside."
"But you'll be in the pool."
"Yes, but I have to drive to the pool. In a boiling car."

And that's why I really dislike summer, there's an awful lot of guilt associated with ranking on something as feted as this season, sorta like hating on Betty White. Which I would never ever do. I love you Betty!

And then each Tuesday the questions begin: "What are you doing for the weekend?"
If you begin summer on Memorial Day weekend that's an awful lot of weekends to plan fun-filled activities for.

Of course there is the inevitable follow-up question: "Are you planning any vacation this summer?"
It isn't enough to have to plan every weekend, it is also necessary to come up with a mega-planned event that outshines the other fun-filled filler moments that are mere precursors of the main event...The Vacation, however, if you are taking your children, then it is referred to as a Trip.

I petition for equal respect for Fall and Spring. Sorry, I have few positive words for Winter living as I do on the East Coast. We all got pummeled last year and are not looking to revisit that.

As I head off to my second to last barbecue of the season, I leave you with a parting note. You are allowed to use the grill after Labor Day.

My First Post

Hi all. As an author of a published novel, with another one in the final editing stages I find that while I enjoy putting thoughts in my characters' heads and living vicariously throught them, I also had my own thoughts to share about my family life.. I look forward to hearing your feedback.