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.