Sunday, December 28, 2014

This Time I'm Serious

It's New Year's resolution crunch time.

That means I'm just days away from someone asking, "What is your New Year's resolution?"     

I might as well play a recorded response: I want to lose weight.  I want to have more patience.  I want to keep more of my thoughts to myself instead of blurting them out.  I want, I want, I want. Yet, I don't do, over and over again.  

This time around, though, I was honest with myself.  The average resolution isn't going to cut it.  I'll never do it, and once again I'll have failed at this task.  Perhaps I could have success with a resolution that would be not only beneficial to me but also enjoyable for me.  I'm far more apt to do something if I know I'll have fun doing it.  But what would this resolution be? 

As I was chewing on that, David and two of our girls, Allison and Amy, went out to dinner.  I sat down in a relatively pensive mood and began to unwind when the girls spoke about the great after-Christmas sales at the mall.  Allison said she picked up a few things and took out of her purse a new bottle of charcoal-colored sparkly nail polish.  

I said, "Ooooh so pretty, I wonder what it would look like on my hand," and she asked me if I'd like to try it out.  I said "No thanks."  Then she asked David if he'd like to try it on.  For those of us who know and love David, we found his response rather surprising.  I would've expected him to say, "NO," like I did, even more emphatically.  It's not generally his way to push the gender (or any other) limits when it comes to setting a new fashion trend.  He never went for the ear gauges, ripped jeans or tattoos.  It's T-shirts and collared shirts all the way, and there's no pink, lavender or Bahama prints to be found anywhere in his closet.

But, he extended his hand.  Allison chose his pinky for the royal treatment.  Then she asked if he'd like a second coat and, once again, he offered up his pinky.  He even posed when Amy took a picture to prove he did this, because we all know that at some point, he may deny it.  I caught him looking at that shiny fingernail later on, too.

And then I realized that David's willingness to go with the flow was far better than mine.  Since I view him as more rigid in his ways than I am, his playfulness was a real wake-up call.    

I've decided that there's no better time than now to have some fun and to take myself a little less seriously.    

This is the first New Year's resolution that I'm really serious about.   

Sunday, December 21, 2014

'Tis The Season

Believe it or not, I'm actually going to be disappointed when my holiday shopping is done.

I think the key for success for me was the combination of a positive attitude and starting early.  I was determined to have fun, even if it killed me, and to give myself enough time to think long and hard about each person on my list and what I thought he/she might like.   

And one other detail made the shopping manageable, which was staying organized. This is usually a challenge for me, but not this year, thanks to Excel.

Aaaaah, Excel.

As you all probably know by now, I'm very UN-savvy when it comes to navigating some of these computer programs, but I'm kind of hooked on Excel.  I see it has great potential when it comes to keeping track of things, so I've been trying to weave it into my routine whenever it makes sense. Buying what felt like a zillion gifts for my loved ones was one of those times.

So every day that there was shopping activity, I updated my spreadsheet.  It has made all the difference in the world to use this format vs. a Word document, which wasn't nearly as efficient, fun or gratifying. 

But my appreciation for this season is what separates it from seasons past, when I waited too long to start shopping and then viewed it as a chore.  This year, however, I discovered I can use the time shopping to reflect on how lucky I am to have such great family, which is growing by leaps and bounds with significant others and their families.  I can also use the time to mourn those we wish were here with us, who should be here with us. 

I will be excited when everyone opens their gifts, and I will also be thinking about the refined half-smile Matthew had when he was opening his, most likely uncertain what he'd find underneath the wrapping, but not even waiting to find out before he'd blurt out, "Thank You."

This gift-giving time of year has been the most enjoyable in recent years. I know people say that commerciality undermines the religious aspect of the holiday(s), but I'm going to override that for now in favor of utilizing our time in the most meaningful way possible.

For me, it's thinking special thoughts about each and every one of the people I love. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Not Again!

Where the heck is my car?

Every single time - and I mean EVERY single time - I leave a store at the Promenade at Sagemore (an outdoor shopping mecca in Marlton), I panic because I have no idea where my car is. 

I am at the Promenade often, as it is located directly across from my workplace and just five minutes from home, and it is one of the most comprehensive go-to places for anything and everything that I enjoy shopping for vs. the obligatory milk and eggs or mildew removal cleaning products. 

Yet, I can't seem to figure out how to enjoy stress-free parking there or anywhere else other than a select few stores or malls. 

The only foolproof method I have devised to keep track of the whereabouts of my car without too much effort into the thought process is to park in the same general vicinity every time I frequent a particular place.  For example, when I go to Shop Rite, I try to park along the line of the "Pharmacy" sign; when I go to Cherry Hill Mall, I look for a spot at the Nordstrom's entrance along Haddonfield Road; when I go to Moorestown Mall, I search for a space outside Lord & Taylor facing the road which isn't Rt. 38. 

Even if I am going to Macy's at Cherry Hill Mall, I find it's worth my time to park in my usual place at Nordstrom and walk through the mall than park at Macy's and try to wing it when it's time to go.
The reality is that when I have finished shopping, I don't want to then BEGIN looking for my car.  

Back to the Promenade.  Once I leave J. Jill, I want to get home.  I am usually cranky, annoyed that I bought something I most likely didn't need and most importantly, I have to go to the bathroom, quickly. That's probably why I left the store in the first place.  I don't want to spend 15 additional minutes (if I'm lucky) searching for my car while hungry-for-a-space drivers first laugh and then curse at me for leading them on, aisle after aisle.     

Part of the problem in not finding the car is that it's charcoal gray, just like half the others out there, and although it will sound when I hit my electronic remote, I have to be fairly close to it for my SUV to react.  That means I may wander aimlessly for a period of time before that click on the remote yields results.

At times like these, I miss the days when I drove around in my "Cohen-mobile;" that is, my parents' car with a big box on the roof that said "Cohen-for-Council."  This eyesore came out a month or two before the primary/election and even though everyone made fun of me, I was the first one to find my car after a midnight movie.    

I have tried over the years to remind myself to pay better attention to where I've parked BEFORE I enter the store, such as what street I'm facing, where my car is in relation to my destination, or to jot down a number or landmark on paper or in smart phone - you name it, I've THOUGHT about it.  

But here I am at almost 55 years-old lamenting about this issue as if it's new, when I am in reality frustrated by the same predicament today as the day I got my license, nearly 40 years ago. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Never A Dull Moment

Some things are expected when I visit my mom at Spring Hills Assisted Living, and some are not.

Here's a snippet of what I expect to hear from my mom's friends :  discussion about the weather, a critique regarding menu options, whose kids or grandkids came to visit, and what management should be doing but isn't.  The same conversation could be had on any day of the week, which for some might seem rather mundane; yet, to me, while very predictable, is often quite pleasing.     

This past Friday afternoon, however, I was hit with the unexpected. 

It was a chilly day, and my mom and I were sitting around the fireplace, along with a dozen others.  I was sipping tea; she was having coffee.   One of the gentlemen there - the Elvis Presley of Spring Hills - asked how my coffee was. I told him I'm having tea, not coffee. He said he finds that tea drinkers are relaxed and peaceful people.  He then asked, "Are you that way?"  I said I hope so. 

He went on to say that he thinks tea drinkers also smoke pot. 

Wait a minute, Elvis. Where are you going with that?

Before I had too much time to wonder, he asked, "Have you ever smoked pot? " 

WHAT????  In front of my mom, he had to ask? 

I felt her eyes immediately move from Elvis to me, sporting the  infamous Florrie LOOK that has kept all her kids on their toes for many, many years.

When I fumbled my way around the question, he said something like, "What I meant to say was..."

Whew! I was relieved, but confused at the same time.  What could he have meant to say that came out as a question to me about whether I had ever smoked pot? 

He never did finish the sentence; he just refocused on sitting next to his wife, who looked asleep on one of the four recliners. As he walked in her direction, another woman 2 recliners over from his sleeping wife patted her thighs, whispering in to him that she'd like him to sit on her lap and she'll keep him warm. 

WHOA. This place was hopping.   Elvis not only put me on the hot seat, but he found himself there as well.  He's smooth, though...he sat down between the two women and closed his eyes.

Before long, we were face-to-face again at Shabbat Services, where the surprises kept on coming.

A woman walked in to the makeshift sanctuary smiling from ear to ear, stating she had just met her great, great granddaughter, who was one week old.  The rabbi said he hadn't come across anyone else with that distinction, until now.  She even stood up and did a little dance, which said it all.

This announcement required doing the math, because she seemed far too young to be the eldest of five generations.

I started to try to figure out if it was possible, but then I just had to stop, and laugh.    

Who could ask for better entertainment?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Meat me in the Kitchen

Sharing a kitchen is no easy feat when a carnivore and an herbivore cohabitate.

This became very clear to me when David and I moved in together, despite the fact that each of us prided ourselves on how flexible we were.  After the handful of years that we were between spouses, we soon found that while blending families was challenging, blending adults who didn't realize how set in our ways we actually were was even more so.

Particularly tricky was conjuring up meal ideas that would satisfy all 7 of us.  While there was no one perfect recipe to please everyone's palate, we had the most success with Mexican-themed dinners like tacos.  The vegetarian version was prepared with black beans, green pepper and onion and the non-vegetarian adaptation was complete with a ground beef mixture.  The vegetarians were on high alert with the frying pans just two inches apart on the stove top, concerned that a splattering of meat would make its way over to their bean concoction.

Fast forward 11 years, and my man not only carved the Thanksgiving turkey, but I am fairly convinced that had I walked out of the room for a minute, he may have entertained the idea of scoffing down a slice.  He didn't admit to it when my daughter Amy asked if he wanted a bite, however.  He said he's not going to switch teams over turkey; filet, perhaps, but poultry wouldn't do it for him.
At one point, he even put down the knife in favor of his bare hands to secure every last morsel of turkey left on the bone, which I found particularly impressive. 

Let's see what the next decade will bring.  I'm fairly certain that I'd become a vegetarian before David would become a meat eater but, you never know...

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Golden Girls?

This past Friday, several friends and I went to New York City for the day.

Three of us drove together in one car to the Hamilton train station; the other two came separately from a different location.  My two friends and I bought our train tickets from the ticket booth outside, each requesting "one round-trip ticket to New York Penn Station."  We then checked our tickets - one was labeled NYP (New York Penn Station) and the other was labeled Hamilton. We kept in our hands the tickets labeled NYP and put the others away, along with our receipts showing a payment of $30.

A few minutes later, our other two friends showed up.  When they checked the tickets they had just purchased, one noticed that her pair of tickets indicated the same destination: both were labeled NYP.  The two decided to go back to the ticket booth to get the problem rectified before we all boarded the train.

Five minutes later they joined us once again but, this time, one of the women looked markedly different than she had when she left us, like she had just seen or experienced a catastrophic event.    

She broke the shocking news, as if headlining the story: "He gave me a senior discount!"   
She reported that when she approached the ticket guy about the problem, he told her very matter-of-factly that she had in fact been given the correct tickets. 

He explained that the "senior" discount automatically spits out the same ticket (or what looks the same), so as not to "confuse" the senior patron. Additionally, he pointed out to her - proudly, it seemed - that her senior package provided her with a savings of $17 for a total round-trip fare of $13. 

Keep in mind that she made it clear to us that the word "senior" never came up during the initial ticket purchase. This meant he made the judgment call that she was a senior all on his own.   

So on the one hand, my friend greatly appreciated the discount but, on the other hand, she was  MORTIFIED that he made that assessment after just glancing at her.

Discussion of the traumatic event led us to question at what age does NJ Transit consider a senior citizen to be?  Is it 60?  62?  65?  She was horrified to think the age could be 65.

Or maybe NJ transit's senior threshold is 50 years old, which would correspond with the age that AARP recruits its first-time members, in which case all of us could've/should've received the discount. She was OK with his thinking she was 50, while the rest of us were momentarily annoyed that we didn't get the discount if that was the magic number. 

And even though the remaining four of us were happy that this scenario didn't happen to us (despite the fact that she was $17 richer) on that particular morning, it was WAY too close for comfort. We also realized how vulnerable we all are.  Next time, it could be any one of us telling that same story.   

I wasn't sure if I'd rather have paid a "regular" fare for $30 or a "senior" fare for $13, without having broached the topic on my own.

I decided then - and still feel this way a few days later - that I'll take the senior fare when I tell the ticket booth guy I'm a senior, but not a day before.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Tears, Tears Everywhere

Early Saturday morning - I'm told around 1:30 a.m. - my former mother-in-law passed away.  Nine hours later, I was watching my nephew, Daniel, become a Bar Mitzvah.    

I was torn about celebrating in the midst of mourning.   It seemed wrong to feel joy, yet it was the perfect time to experience it.  The overlapping of such opposite emotions reminded me that the cycle of life is in perpetual motion.

Elaine Heiman was the grandmother of my children and a Very Important Person all my adult life, even when her son and I parted ways.   Her unconditional and boundless love for my children was a very powerful lesson I will always take to heart.   I cry for my kids and her kids, and for her husband, Walt, of 60+ years.  I don't know how he will manage in life without his wife by his side.  At the hospital, he told the story of when he met Elaine at a party that he didn't want to go to and that he first was drawn to another woman that night but somehow managed to leave with Elaine's phone number.  They were together ever since.

Their union created a very strong family unit which includes three sons, two daughters-in-law, 3 ex-daughters-in-law, 11 grandchildren and their girlfriends/boyfriends, and countless pets over the years.  

Just hours after I learned about Elaine's passing, it was time to leave for Daniel's Bar Mitzvah.  When I saw him at the synagogue, I was drawn to his heartwarming smile and was struck by the young man he had become right before my very own eyes.  Perhaps it was that he was dressed in a suit and tie, or the fact that he appeared to be anxiously awaiting the start of the service, but his look of determination and level of accomplishment as the morning unfolded was cause for yet more tears to pour down my cheeks. 

It didn't take long to go from pride to sadness as I began to think about his mom's passing 13 years ago, when he was just an infant.   Knowing how much Lisa would have loved seeing her boy achieve this milestone was almost too much to bear.

As tragic as it could be for a boy to grow up without his mom, it was evident as the day progressed - and what I believed to be true all along anyway - that Daniel has been so blessed.  He has the love of two wonderful families:  his dad's (along with girlfriend Pam) and the Silverman's - Lisa's sister and family - where he is the "third child."  Hearing his two older siblings/cousins talk about him with such warmth and affection in their candle lighting speeches had me frantically looking for tissues in my purse.

Tears, tears everywhere.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Here or There

Would you rather...

1 - Be on an airplane to catch a meeting in Des Moines, or

2 - Park yourself in the basement of a local pediatric office for 10 hours?   

I guess it all depends on who you are.

My husband says I don't understand how stressful business travel is; that I glorify the fact that he travels instead of grasp the frustration of commonplace happenings such as airline delays and wasted time waiting around, hotel debacles, restaurants that don't offer decent vegetarian options, and so on.  And therefore when he complains about one thing or another, he knows sometimes his words fall on deaf ears, which he finds to be an added annoyance.

Maybe it's a 50+ woman thing, or the fact that I was a stay-at-home mom, or the reality that I spend long days at a desk in a windowless environment, but being a business traveler sounds utopian to me.  

I can hear my husband cringe at these words.  "WHAT???" He would ask, in desperation, convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that I have lost my mind.  He would say I would never feel that way if I actually had to do it.  I'm wondering if my female friend(s) who travel regularly for business may actually agree with him.

Coincidentally to my writing this blog, we had dinner last night with a handful of David's friends from work, all of whom are decades younger and travel regularly.  David told them how I think his traveling sounds "great," and they all had a good laugh. One of the guys chimed in that his wife thinks he's lucky to travel too, despite his horror stories.  He added that there's no way other business travelers in any airport are happy with the situation either, based upon what he sees as angry commuters everywhere he looks.

I'm sure it is maddening a lot of the time, and I'm not intentionally minimizing it. It's just that what I find maddening at times is a routine that offers the same scenery day in and day out, with very little travel anywhere, other than to and from my workplace for a whopping 5 minutes each way.  Additionally, my mom's move from Philly to Cherry Hill has further reduced the time I travel on roads other than Rts. 70 and 73.  Now I rarely have to cross the bridge to get my weekly fix of city chaos, which I've always found highly entertaining.  

I know I'm very lucky to have the conveniences I do - a short ride to work, the ability to come home at lunchtime to walk Shea Doggy, a mom who's just a few minutes away, etc., but there's a whole world out there, and my exploration of it is quite limited these days.  
"To never have to contemplate a commute to work, to know you will always sleep at home every night, to never have to worry about bed bugs in hotels or a toilet overflowing and then having to call maintenance ... sounds like nirvana to me," said David, when we had our weekend recap. 

So I'm really curious. Is how we perceive situations male or female driven, age-related, or is it that the grass is always greener...

Sunday, November 2, 2014


Have I mentioned that one of my Top 5 Pet Peeves is poor customer service?    

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the store manager I encountered at a local supermarket.  I had approached him with a specific cheese which appeared to cause food poisoning to my husband, who became very ill shortly after eating it.  Let's just say I walked away with the same lackluster feeling I think I'd have had if a touch-screen computer had greeted me at the customer service desk instead.  

I'm a huge consumer, always buying an item or seeking a service from some type of business that puts me in contact with a company representative.  Most of the time I don't focus on the quality of the experience unless it's either glaringly good, which is rare, or bad, which isn't so rare.    

Last night's dinner was at a Mexican restaurant in Berlin, New Jersey called Los Amigos.  We've gone there many times over the years.  I'd never had a conversation with the owner before, until last night, and we actually had 2: The first one I initiated as I was hoping to obtain a table in a quieter area of the restaurant than where we were seated initially.  At that time, I assumed she was the hostess. The second conversation she initiated with me, as we were leaving.    

As you will soon see, this woman did not miss a trick.  She read between the lines or, shall I say, between the items remaining on my plate. 

Let me back up a minute.

I've been feeling like an old fuddy duddy lately in life overall, and I decided last night that I was going to change that, starting with how I approached my dinner options at the restaurant.  Generally when I order from a menu, I choose something fairly predictable and on the plain side or something I've had before (I know:  b - o - r - i - n - g).  In an effort to reverse my worn mindset to an energized one, I decided I'd go directly to the "Specials of the Day," where I planned to pick an innovative dish that would be fun to eat as well as talk about.

Since the entree I had my eye on had several ingredients that I wasn't familiar with, I asked for some clarification.  It was a chicken dish (that part I got) with some kind of sauce and cheese.  I admit that it didn't sound all that yummy but since the waitress seemed enthused, I decided OK, just go for it and STOP over-thinking.     

After a bite or two, I could tell that this dish wasn't for me.

Normally when I'm with the person who is unhappy with his/her meal, I encourage him/her to ask for something different,  but that always leads to a discussion on whether the food was bad vs. one's personal preference, which begs the question Is not liking the meal a fair justification to send it back for a replacement? 

I decided last night that the answer was NO; the dish was probably pretty good but for some reason I wasn't digging it, so I wasn't going to respond honestly when the waitress asked "How is your dinner tonight?"  Besides, she looked pretty scary in her vampire costume.

I  abandoned the chicken portion of the meal after a few bites but devoured the salad and rice.  I didn't want the waitress to see what I had left behind since I hadn't been forthcoming, so I piled up a couple smaller plates from the table on to my dinner plate and moved some stuff around so that she'd be picking up a pile of items, not just one with an unobstructed view of a nearly full portion of chicken remaining.

Luckily the woman who I thought was the hostess cleared our plates, not the waitress, so I was relieved.

A bit later, the waitress asked me if I didn't like my dinner.  Yikes. She was on to me. She said the owner noticed I left the chicken on my plate.  I had to laugh. Who would even process such a thing?

She asked why I didn't tell her earlier so that she could've replaced it or taken if off the check.  I told her I didn't want to make a big deal about it because it may well have been a good dish for someone else.  She seemed OK with that response.  Again, I was relieved.

As we were leaving, I was stopped by the woman who I would've guessed was the hostess but turned out to be the owner.  "Did you not like your meal?" she asked. 

Good lord!  There was no hiding this fact!  She wasn't messing around.  So, I told her.  

She informed us that the next time we come in, she'd like us to ask for her.  "I'm the owner and my name is Patti.  Your next meal will be on us," she said.  

As you can see now, this woman is quite the customer service guru.  She actually went looking for the problem and then sought to make it right.  She could well have ignored it not just when she cleared my plate but again when we were walking out the door. 

Now that Patti and I are buds, I'm sure it won't be long before I ask her to give that supermarket manager a call.  

Sunday, October 26, 2014

I Did It!

Finally got my tush back to the gym and let me tell you, it was no easy feat.

I am the queen of excuses.  Day after day, I justified my gym-less routine:  I'm helping my mom move (so that's enough of a workout); I'm helping David to clean the leaves off our lawn (so I did my share of exercise); I'm working late (so I'll be way too tired after I come home first to have dinner); I walked Shea Doggy one extra time today (so there's no need to do anything else); and my personal favorite:   I just don't feel like it.

I've been shamelessly talking myself OUT of going to the gym for so long that when I thought about returning the other night, I actually waited a minute for my alter ego to chime in, once again telling me not tonight.  When that didn't occur, I gave it another minute, then an extra minute, until finally, I gave up.  I got in the car and headed for the gym.

This scenario has happened before, when I've had good intentions but ended up at Chico's (women's clothing) instead.  On this particular night, however, I was determined to not just entertain the thought of going but to actually go.   

It was 8 pm when I left my house and the gym closes at 9.  So now in addition to returning after a prolonged absence, I was on a tight timetable, which made the whole experience feel too compelling to pass up.       

I was so busy thinking how proud of myself I was to get back to business that I forgot where I needed to turn in to the gym parking lot from the main road and so I missed it, requiring me to drive an extra 30 seconds to the next entrance.  I looked at the clock:  hmmmm...what time does Chico's close?

Not enough time to have any fun there, I told myself.   

The walk from the car to the front door of the gym felt good.  I still didn't feel like going in, but I was excited to get back to the routine I once knew and loved (positive thinking, obviously).

Then I went inside and W-O-A.  Had I entered a time warp?  The machines were much bigger than I remembered, and facing all different directions.  I couldn't tell if they were really old or really new, but then I realized that they were shiny, so  But when did all this happen?  Just how long had I been away?

I didn't have time to figure it all out.  It was now about 8:20. I only had 30 minutes left before they would get ready to close and I would be expected to leave.  I had better do something other than ruminate about doing something. 

I found my familiar bike and did that for 20 minutes, even working up a sweat.  But the bigger sweat was earned when I sat on an unfamiliar piece of equipment and looked up to read the instructions to confirm that I was positioned correctly, only to see all the letters blur together.  Yikes!  

Now I need glasses at the gym too?!?!  How am I going to carry those around?  I have never seen anyone take out a pair of glasses when sitting on a Leg Curl.

Thank goodness for this blog, because I wanted to end it saying I went to the gym a second time this weekend.

Yep, I did it. I went a second time.   

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Don't say Cheese!

Imagine that you are a supermarket manager. 

 A shopper comes up to the Customer Service Desk holding a block of cheese in a Ziploc bag and says, "I believe this cheese gave my husband food poisoning." 

What would you say?   

a - So sorry, that must have been awful!
b -  When did this happen?  How is your husband doing now?
c - Rest assured that we are going to look into this further to prevent others from getting sick.
d - None of the above
e - All of the above

The shopper was me, and this is what the store manager said:    
"Give me your husband's name... Now don't tell me what happened; write it down on the form - I will copy it from there...Do you two have the same last name?...Do you live at the same address?... Did he go to a doctor? No?  I wouldn't go either....OK, we're done here."

Let's just say his empathy was not mind blowing.  He looked like he was about my son's age.  I couldn't help myself.  I automatically put on my Mom hat.

I waited until he stepped out of the customer service area and asked if I could talk to him a minute. I'm sure he was thinking,  Isn't that what we just did? 

"I wish you had asked how my husband is doing and showed some compassion not only as the manager but person to person."

First, he looked shocked. Then he said he was sorry, he is usually different and that he doesn't know why he reacted as he did.        

When I left the store, I called David to tell him about my experience, expecting for us to be in agreement that the manager's attitude fell short of what seemed appropriate.    

David didn't say anything negative about the guy, so I interpreted that to mean that he thought I was hypersensitive.  (However, upon reading this, he explained that just talking about the cheese was grossing him out).     

Nonetheless, I told David that I let the boy know that I didn't appreciate his reaction.  

"Did you really feel the need to mother him?" David asked. 

Yes, I did. 

I realized I was probably hard on him, but I still found myself hoping that my kids would've handled the situation better.    

I also began thinking I may need to find a new supermarket.

The next day, I got a call.

"This is Judith from Quality Assurance.  I'm responding to the claim regarding David Minches.  Is he your husband?"  Yes, I answered.

"I just heard what happened.  I am so sorry!" she said. "We pride ourselves on taking care of our customers. Is your husband OK?"   

She apologized a half dozen times, offered to send us a gift card and thanked me for stopping in to let them know our concerns.  She ended the conversation with one last "I'm so sorry your husband had to go through this."

I'm sure I'll go back with the gift card, but I'm rather doubtful that I'll ever buy cheese for David again.  I can't see him taking another bite of what he always liked snacking on BFP (before food poisoning).   

That Judith provided admirable customer service!  No wonder, with a name like that (although I'm Judy, not Judith)!  In fact, I asked her if she worked at the store near our home.  If the answer had been yes, I would've gone in to thank her in person for her most welcomed approach.

Oh yea - several days later, David's starting to feel better.   

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Peanut Butter

Shea Doggy has a lot of pleasing attributes. He is quite entertaining and fun to watch.  He's loving and peaceful most of the time (when he's not freaking out at a truck or its driver).   I never feel alone or lonely when we're home together.   I know most of us love our doggies just like this.         

However, there is much more to say about him.  A most outstanding and unexpected perk of living with this furry creature that I want to bring to your attention is that he keeps me on the straight and narrow. This is beyond anything I could have hoped for.

I've never heard anyone brag that their doggy protects them from their own sweet tooth, but I'm here to tell you that my doggy does this for me.   

If I want a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, for example, which at times I do have stashed away at home, I know better than to assume I could enjoy one in a leisurely manner unless I first address the fact that peanut butter is my doggy's number one obsession.

Even if he's in another room or on a different floor, the acuity of his senses is right on.  All he has to do is hear me tear open one of the wrappers or get a whiff of this delicious treat and he'll go absolutely C-R-A-Z-Y, each and every time. Sometimes to distract him, I'll run the water or the garbage disposal but still...he finds me, getting ready to take that first bite.  This I can count on.

The simple truth is that I too am predictable to Shea.  He knows that I'll give him his own peanut butter treat before I enjoy mine.

Most importantly, this little game has been quite effective.  Instead of devouring that peanut butter cup, I now - at times - reach for fruit or something else of no interest to him (or me, for that matter), although he often does get the snack he yearns for, regardless.,,What can I say?  I am a sucker for his charismatic ways. 

Since Shea Doggy's presence so strongly  influences my behavior, I have him to thank for my reduced intake of sweets, not to mention that a bag of Reese's Peanut Butter cups lasts a lot longer in our house now than it used to.  

Now if I could only bring him to work...  

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Yom Kippur

I made 2 meaningful revelations this Yom Kippur. 

For many years, I had believed that on this holy day - the Day of Atonement, which was a 24-hour period ending last night at sundown  - my role was to 1 - Admit to sins of the past year and 2 - Through prayer, ask for G-d's forgiveness. 

I'm not adverse to taking a good, hard look at myself, but I am adverse to asking for G-d's forgiveness.  Why, you ask?  It's rather simple:  I don't think I believe in G-d. 

Since I didn't want my status as a non-believer to make me feel like I was a bad Jew - or more pleasantly stated a non-observant Jew - at Yom Kippur, I'd do my best to follow the general rule of the holiday by fasting, year after year, while skipping the parts I wasn't as comfortable with.  And even though I kind of came to terms with my own style of Judaism, I always felt a tinge of guilt in the fact that on Yom Kippur, I'd do some reflecting, some fasting, but no praying.

It wasn't until my 21 year- old daughter Amy asked my mom and me what the connection is between fasting and repenting, that I had given this struggle of mine any thought.

Good question, I said, realizing that after all these years of exposure to the rituals, culture and traditions of the religion, I really had no idea. 

"Let's Google it,"  Amy said. 

Rabbis weighed in on the question of the connection between fasting and repenting.  Seems the bottom line is that the essence of Yom Kippur is to make us better people going forward, and this is accomplished with a multi-pronged process that takes a full day's worth of energy and commitment.  

First, we are to think about our wrongful words, thoughts and actions over the past year - not superfluously, but with our heart and soul.  This exercise will be further intensified if simultaneously practicing self-denial, such as fasting from food and drink. Experiencing the discomfort of hunger as a symbol of our commitment to follow through on our personal improvement plan will create a far more effective partnership in the mission to create a better world, person by person.   
This was the first revelation:  that in an effort to avoid prayer, I glossed over my own behavior and role in society, past and future, thereby gypping myself of the true intention of the holiday.  In other words, I fasted, but that was about it.  

The second revelation became clear when it was my mom's turn to answer the question about the connection between fasting and repenting.  She said her usual couple of words, packed with punch. The reason we fast and repent together is because "it's tradition."      

While I love the tradition of family gatherings, lox and bagels, and playing Jewish geography, I always feel distressed when the tradition calls on the role of prayer which automatically brings G-d into the equation. 

Years ago, in desperate times, with medical intervention failing, I had nothing else to do but pray for my stepson Matthew during his battle with cancer.  I was told by others who knew of  my issue that it'd be better to pray JUST IN CASE, so I did. I also added an apology in my prayers for not believing, JUST IN CASE. 

These prayers produced nothing.  The fact that I prayed, day after day, along with lots of others from every religion imaginable also praying, day after day, further confirmed my skepticism in prayer.  Why did we all do it and for so long and with such heart, for our cries for help to go unanswered?   

What is the point of prayer if not to protect our children, to heal the sick, to keep us whole?  Is there anyone listening and able to do anything, on the other end?  How could G-d or any higher power have let this happen to such a good boy? 

Once Matthew passed, my potential openness to prayer dissolved for years, but this Yom Kippur as I gave it another try, I realized the second revelation.  I'm still not sure what the purpose is of prayer, whether there is a G-d listening or how exactly I feel about all of this, but I am now aware that I will always have a complicated and forever evolving relationship with Judaism.

I am at peace with that.  It is better, for me, than not having a relationship at all.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Fair Enough

Talk about an eye-opening experience, in a middle-aged woman kind of way.

It was time to renew my passport - not that I have a trip planned - but with just a month left to go before expiration, why procrastinate?  I had been sick for a couple days but was eager to get back into the real world, so the first morning I felt up to it, I decided to jump out of bed, shower, and head off to the Camden County Store in Voorhees.  I was determined to knock this chore off my ever-growing to-do list before I missed the deadline.

I was happy to see no line when I got there.   "Bob" took my picture, and my eyes were closed, as usual. In a stern but friendly manner, he said, "Let's try it again - this time, keep your eyes open," as if I intentionally closed them before.  I tried really hard to keep them open and look natural at the same time.  He took the picture, showed it to me and said "Good, your eyes are open.  OK?"

I looked at it, horrified.  I said, "How about we take another one?"  He said, "What's wrong with it?"  

Yikes.  If he didn't know by looking at it, he'd never get it.

"I don't like the way I look. I think I look terrible.  Don't you?"

He said, in not so friendly a tone anymore, "Well, that IS how you look."   

Someone needs to teach Bob some manners. 

"Fair enough," I said. 

I did not leave the County Store a happy camper.

This is the time of the Jewish New Year, a time of deep reflection and focus on being a better person, so I felt somewhat foolish to let my vanity fill my head with obsessive thoughts about my looks.  

But the High Holy Days didn't stop me from feeling that way.  I was too focused on the fact that I was going to have this picture for 10 years. 

My daughter Allison, who accompanied me for this outing, suggested that perhaps I could trade the passport picture with another one of myself (not allowed).  Then she said I don't look like that (sweet, but probably untrue).  Then she said everyone looks bad in these pictures (how would she know)? Then she said how terrible she looked in her last license picture (NOT).    

But then I realized that when I get my next passport picture, I'll be 10 years older, and suddenly I felt better. 

Because at that time, I may not think this picture is so bad.  Perhaps I will actually long to keep my newest picture, as I did this time around with my picture taken at 44.

Or, I may go back one day when I think the outcome may be a bit more pleasing and redo the picture, but that seems a bit over the top since the cost of this was $127.

But I'm not ruling it out.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Hop and Shop

So here it is Sunday morning around 9:30, right after breakfast, time to work on my blog, still no subject yet.  

I walk into my office at home, turn on the computer, and see I have a few emails to tend to but oh cool, what catches my eye first is the sale at  As I'm looking through the new fall catalog, I decide enough wasting time shopping, let me get back to my blog...but first I better check Facebook since I'm waiting to hear from a friend, and that's when I saw that the Philadelphia Archbishop made a statement about the gay bashing in Philly without using the word "gay" or showing any support whatsoever to the victims. Ridiculous, I say to myself, and then to change my mood from sour to upbeat, I clicked on the King of Queens video that popped up on my Facebook timeline which never fails to make me laugh.  

Suddenly I found myself faced with a page of celebrity options, from surprising couples to siblings to my personal favorite...stars who are unrecognizable without makeup.  Then because that is overtly wasteful of my time, I decided to get back to my emails since I tuned them all out in favor of the it's 12 pm, and all I've done is internet hop and shop...

What was I doing on here in the first place?  No clue, but I spent 2 1/2 hours doing it...oh yea, my blog!  Well, I've run out of time...Hope you've enjoyed this week's post!  

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Zero Tolerance

I wanted to write a fun blog about the beauty of the fall season and how excited I am to break away from an ordinary black handbag to a deep red one, but Ray Rice got in the way. 

As you all may know, Rice punched his then-fiance, Janay Palmer, in a casino.   She fell to the floor unconscious, and he dragged her limp body out of the elevator.  Initially, he was suspended for 2 games; once the video of the event went viral, he was cut from the Baltimore Ravens in addition to being handed an indefinite suspension from the NFL.     
This morning, I saw a segment on CNN with Dewan Williams, the wife of former NFL player Wally Williams, who was a domestic abusive victim herself.  At one time she left her husband, moved back home with her family and enrolled in a master's degree program.  She is now an Advanced Practical Nurse, specializing in psychiatry.

The interviewer asked Dewan how she felt about Rice's indefinite suspension on the NFL.  I expected she would say this action is long overdue.

Instead, she said just the opposite.  She said that Rice is unfairly paying the price for a far-reaching issue involving those football players who have abused their wives as common practice without penalty, for years.

She is correct that this is a huge problem, but let's not forget that Rice did, in fact, inflict significant harm on Janay, and we witnessed it, compliments of the Revel Casino's security camera footage.  Rice has earned the honor of leading his former team to adopt a Zero Tolerance Policy and, the way I see it, such a ruling is a most beneficial outcome to a very bad situation.

It just so happens that in this day and age of electronic recordings, we can all see with our own eyes just how brutal people can be and, in this case, the outcome of the Rice video represents the collective wrongdoing of superstars who think they can do no wrong.  

Rice's suspension is the best news I've heard in a long time.  I'm sorry for Janay that her victimization became a public embarrassment on top of personal humiliation (or the other way around), but I'm more sorry for her that she married him, even after this happened, which most likely wasn't the first time.  Luckily at 26 years old she is still a young woman; I'm hopeful that one day soon she will reverse the course of her current decision to stand by Rice.  Comments she posted on Instagram today reflect what some would call Battered Women Syndrome.

I think we all have to assume going forward that whatever we do can be revealed to the entire world instantaneously, and maybe for some of us, that will make a difference.  You just never know if there's a camera or a phone recording our actions.  That's even made me think twice in a public elevator when I've had a wedgie to contend with.

But more to the point, why on earth do people feel it is OK to physically abuse their loved ones?  Dewan said these players are accustomed to enforcing their will on the field and see it as their right to continue with this behavior at home.  She explained it like it was a bona fide excuse. There is no doubt that this mentality and what appears to be an acceptable culture needs to addressed.

In the meantime, I salute the formation of the Zero Tolerance Policy, for whatever the reason, to try to right some wrongs, thereby opening the door for widespread change to replace widespread ignorance and complacency.   

Sunday, September 7, 2014

No More Plates!

David and I went to a Japanese restaurant for dinner a couple of nights ago.  Our appetizer was presented on a rectangular plate that looked like it had been sponge painted at Color Me Mine. 

For those of you who aren't familiar with Color Me Mine, it's a place you go to paint ceramics, to experiment with color, artistry and self-expression; in short, to have a blast.  There are about 100 pieces to choose from including animals, plates, bowls, mugs, pitchers, paperweights, frames, planters, holiday-themed items and much, much more.  

Over the years, I had spent a small fortune there, primarily when my kids were younger, but I also went with friends who enjoyed it as I did.  We would conjure up excuses to go like it's raining or it's too hot to be outside, and I was always excited when my daughters wanted their birthday parties there because that meant I could play too.  I even had my own 50th (?) birthday celebration at Color Me Mine as a bonding experience for my mom, sister and daughters (and Mike tagged along since we were having pizza first).

In addition to the fun of painting an item like a plate, for example (my personal favorite) - we have about 20 of them at home - each piece provides so much more than the utilitarian purpose for which it is generally intended; it becomes a sentimental representation of the artist, the memory of the day and the most meaningful part of all:  the relationship.     
Back to dinner.  When we finished our appetizer, I told David that the reminder of Color Me Mine was making me long to go back.  I was caught off guard when he responded in an exasperated tone, "No more plates!"

W H A T ? ? ?  OUCH.

"What difference does it make to you? " I asked. "They don't get in your way."

"They sit in the kitchen cabinet and we never use them." 

Hold on a second.  "We use them all the time."    

What I should have said was Are you kidding me?  You have your stuff everywhere, and I would never tell you NO MORE of something that you liked...and believe me, I have plenty of opportunities!   

Defensively - but to "clarify" - he responded:  "I didn't say you can't make them; I said just don't bring any more home."

Oh, OK, that makes me feel SO much better. 

My lovely husband has no clue what it's like to live among his obsessions, including his love for the Grateful Dead.  I cringe when he shows interest in something new because I know that Interest = Purchase Number One which eventually becomes infinite purchases in that category. 

Take for example his appreciation of jazz.  Listening to jazz is compromised of many individual hobbies, each one receiving the royal treatment:  1 - searching for new/used albums to buy online, at record outlets and house sales; 2 - communicating on forums online with others who share this interest; 3 - collecting used/new "tubes" (which look like Christmas lights), placed in various pieces of equipment to enhance/manipulate the sound; 4 - buying/selling headphones, turntables, speakers, receivers, subwoofers, etc.; 5 - traveling to audio shows across the country; 6 - selling what he's lost interest in or has duplicates of; and finally 7 - actually listening to the music.

Now am I bothered by any of this?

I hadn't been.

But I will be if he utters one sound the next time I come home with my newest creation from Color Me Mine.