Sunday, November 1, 2015

What's so hard about being NICE?

I drove an extra five minutes yesterday to get my labs drawn at a new LabCorp, instead of returning to the site I had gone to for the past few years, which I found after I left the place before that.

If this location doesn't work out, I'll be searching for a different LabCorp, although it may seem silly to drive a farther distance when I can be at one within 5 minutes, which includes stopping at a red light. 

But the employees at the last place were, at times, so NOT NICE, which always turns my stomach (even more so perhaps when it's empty for my fasting labs). 

My husband said - forgive me if I have mentioned this before - that I place too much of an emphasis on whether people are NICE.  Who cares, he asked?  I'm not in a relationship with the person who draws my blood; he/she should be judged for job performance, not bedside manner.  

I see his point.  I might even agree with it.  But, I can't live by it.

I'm generally a very loyal customer.  If I find a pleasing scenario, I'll be back time and time again.  I've gone to the same hairdresser - in Philly - as she's moved around,  since I was 20.  The same dentist, also in Philly.  The same B&Bs in Maine, for at least 10 years.  I even go to the same restaurant where the owner kisses all his female clientele (one of my more recent blog posts), much to my chagrin.  At least he's friendly.

Saturday's LabCorp experience was positive, so I'll stay put for at least one more visit. The woman behind the counter greeted me with a smile.  I knew right away this place was going to be better than the last, already in wonderful contrast to my experience at the LabCorp closer to my home, where employees in the dead of winter with snow on the ground made everyone who arrived a few minutes before the official 7:30 a.m. opening stand outside while they laughed and carried on inside, drinking their nice hot cups of coffee.  And then when they finally unlocked the doors, in unison the staff shouted orders to sign-in quickly, take a seat, and be ready for a longer wait if we didn't make a scheduled appointment online. 

I tolerated that behavior because the prior Labcorp experience was even more insulting.  Once I was sent home because the phlebotomist detected gum on my breath and, since I was scheduled for "fasting" labs, she told me I had to leave and return the next day since I did not follow directions.  Another time, the receptionist said I had to pay upfront or I could not get the labs drawn, even though I read her the sign on the wall in front of us both which stated that payment is not required at the time of service. 

A third time - my final visit there - the woman assigned to take my blood reprimanded me harshly that I sat down in the wrong room and, therefore, would have to wait while she helped the other customers first, even though it had been my turn.  Clearly, I was a bad girl. Worse than scolding me, she was annoyed, and I became panic-stricken that I had upset her, which is not something I wanted to do given she would be coming at me with a needle.  So, I did the only thing I knew how to do taking into account the level of desperation I felt:  I complimented her on her earrings, her hairdo and even her scrubs.  I think she actually forgot I annoyed her because she seemed so happy that I noticed her sense of style.  That was sick on my part to flatter this woman, I admit.  But, the plan worked.  She was very gentle, despite my well-deserved fears.

Maybe being a phlebotomist isn't the most enjoyable job in the world, or maybe no one really wants to be at work at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday - I get it - but there's no way I can separate one's abilities with overall presentation, especially when it's so poorly delivered.  Life's way too short to get abused at LabCorp.

I'll never see it any other way:  

Niceness matters everywhere.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Thanks but No Thanks

Nothing like a big juicy kiss from a tall, dark and handsome stranger now, is there?


But this isn't about that. 

What I am talking about is a kiss - not juicy, but with lip involvement - his, not mine.  And it's coupled with a full body embrace, too. 

Oh - and it isn't from my husband, either.

Sounds tantalizing, right?

Well, this display of affection is consistently delivered by the proprietor of a restaurant that my family and I have frequented over the years - every time I enter and exit, and every time one of our daughters enters and exits.

It's not that it's offensive, but it's kind of creepy.  Why is this his routine?  It's not like I'm kissing him back or nuzzling in to get closer - I'm kind of a limp stick figure - one would think he would find this dance of ours rather dissatisfying.    

He's like Richard Dawson from Family Feud.  Dawson seemed way more excited to get a kiss from one of his contestants than the right "Survey Says" answer.  It seemed to me that the game show set-up fed right into his deep yearning to get affection any way possible.     
Certainly my family doesn't have to frequent this restaurant if we don't want to, but we like it.  It's one of about 5 to 10 places in our rotation, so it plays a valuable role. I don't want to make our world any smaller.

One day last week, I saw him visit table after table, kissing at least one woman from each group.  He looked like Don Juan working the room. 
Maybe I'm being too hard on the guy.  Perhaps a kiss is his way of showing that we customers - the female ones, anyway - matter.   Does it beat being taken for granted?  Maybe. I'm not sure. 

Other restaurant and shop owners make us feel special in different ways.  One greets us with a big smile, another asks how we've been, another will immediately show me what's new and different, another one adds yummy surprises to our meal and gives us candies when we leave (she knows the way to my heart)...everyone has his or her way of showing appreciation.

My husband also thinks this guy's enthusiasm is a bit over the top, and one of our daughters suggested I tell him Thanks but No Thanks, but I'd rather do what she and I did the last time.

Since he usually hangs out near the front door, we waited until he went behind the counter, and then we made a run for it, exiting without our goodbye kisses.  Call it passive aggressive, but it was effective. We at least were pleased with the outcome,

Will he get the hint? 

Probably not.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

All in the Same

The arrival of Pope Francis caused quite a stir, shutting down the city like never before.

People from all over came to see a man whose progressive ideas are breathing new life into the Catholic Church and to society at large.  He's emerging as a compelling world leader, and many of us are tuning in.    

That's not to say that I'm on board with all his thinking, such as his stance on homosexuality, adoption with same sex couples or abortion, but his eyes and ears appear to be open, which is an important step in the right direction.
He can't erase the Church's wrongdoings of the past, but he is acknowledging them which will hopefully change the course going forward.

The Pope's presence here for the World Meeting of Families has awoken in many of us deep yearning and faith that the world can be a better place.    
And it's not just that he's calling for people to pray for it; he's calling on people to act upon it:  to help the impoverished, the immigrants, each be the best we can be.    
In which case isn't this a humanitarian message, and not so much a religious one?  After all, it's not just Catholics who want to be good people and live in a peaceful world; we ALL do. We are all much similar than different, aren't we? 

Thinking like this always gets me into trouble, leading me to start questioning everything.

For example, what really is the difference between a Catholic woman and me, a Jew?

I'm no theologian, but I'd say that one of the most noteworthy hallmarks of each religion centers on the deity with which a relationship is formed and a prayer is while I pray to G-d, perhaps my Catholic friend would pray to a saint.

We could be standing side by side and praying with the same intentions at heart:  Make Bradley well, bring a baby into Jane's life, don't let Derrick and Joy lose their home and so forth. 

What I don't get is why associating with a religion that we call our own seems to create a divide that separates us far more than unifies us.  It's not like one entity is pure and one is evil. 

It's all supposed to be good.    

Sunday, September 13, 2015


We Jewish folk  may not believe in "Heaven," but let me tell you...

My mom's noodle kugel was heaven.

The smell of it, the taste, the look, the feel.

Everything about it was...divine.

"Kugel" for those unsure, is also known as noodle "pudding" or casserole.  The base can be made from noodles, potato or, during Passover, matzoh.   Fruit, cheese and vegetables are the most popular ingredients  to add, depending upon whether the objective is for a sweet or savory final product.

My mom's signature kugel was a fairly simple one - noodles, eggs, sugar, oil, cinnamon, vanilla and raisins - yet the pleasure it brought was immense.  I for one would drool when it came out of the oven as I longed for a bite of crispy noodles that were sizzling with oil and providing a protective cover for the succulent raisins hiding underneath.      

It was my dad's sister, Aunt Fay, who taught my mom how to make this fine dish, and I always stressed the historical context to my kids in the event they might want to pass it on to the next generation.   

The last time I made it, I felt so happy that one of our girls was in the kitchen watching me prepare it until she became horrified when I poured a whopping 1 cup of sugar into the mixture.    

"Is that a dessert?" she asked.

I wanted to say "Yes," because clearly she thought it should be and I admit that it could seem more acceptable as a dessert than as a side dish in today's world, but NO, it was actually the main part of our dinner.    

But what the heck.  We're Jews, and healthy meals aren't really part of our traditions.   

It never occurred to me when my mom served it that in actuality it wasn't really good for us.  

She made it.  We loved it.  End of story.

Over time, however, I've succumbed to the health-minded influences out there and reduced the sugar content by about 50% - and that's about how much I like it now! Someone suggested a sugar substitute, but I'm not comfortable integrating an impostor into the mix of something that at one time brought such pure joy to the family.

It's the real McCoy , or nothing.

Want to try it?   

A Taste of Heaven
(for 4-6 servings)

1/2 lb. medium wide egg noodles (follow directions for cooking)

Let noodles cool and pour cold water over top

Mix noodles with:

1 cup raisins
4 raw eggs (1 at a time)
1/2 cup sugar (no skimping allowed)
1/4-1/2 cup oil (scant)
1/2 tspn cinnamon
1 tspn vanilla

Grease loaf pan (about 9x5) and bake at 350 for approximately one hour.


Wishing everyone - Jews and non-Jews alike - a very Happy and Healthy year ahead, 
filled with great joy...and kugel!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Five Years

When I close my eyes at night, I can imagine just about anything. 

I can picture my stepson Matthew walking in the front door.  I can almost hear his keys jingling at the lock, followed by the squish of sneakers going up the steps to his room, which he shared with Michael. 

"Come in and say 'HI!' before you go upstairs," David would call out to him from the kitchen.    

"Come in and say goodnight," David would ask of him before he hit the sack, when he knew Matthew would be out late.      

Reliving this dialogue in my head can be very convincing that it's happening in real time.

If only it were.

Yesterday marked five years since Matthew passed away.
One of our little neighbors, Johnny,  just turned 5.  He rides a bike on his own and is a big bad first grader.  His whole life has taken place in the time frame that Matthew' s been gone.  

This is a most shocking and sobering measurement of how long it's been. 

While it's true that the passing of time helps the healing process, it can't eliminate voids of this nature. 

However, these days while tears are less constant and more sporadic than they were for the first year or two,  it's unnerving how the triggers can come from anywhere and at anytime.   

Take going out to dinner.  The waiter comes to our table and says, "Welcome to Mexican Food Factory, my name is Matthew and I'll be taking care of you."

Immediately, I ask myself, Couldn't we have a waiter with a different name?  Maybe I should check that before we sit down next time.  

Seemingly harmless conversation with friendly people can turn from entertaining to dreadful in a matter of seconds. 

A common topic - at a Bed & Breakfast, during breakfast  when unfamiliar couples sit together - usually starts with establishing everyone's home states and then almost always moves to the children..."Do you guys have kids?  How many? "   

I've become more assertive with taking control of the conversation from the getgo, which plays an important role in keeping the exchange light.  

I also dig into my meal at a fairly rapid pace so that we can make a quick getaway before it's our turn to answer potentially difficult questions.

But when I realize that the predictable questions are unavoidable, my heart goes out to the person or couple asking so innocently about our Brady Bunch configuration, knowing the potential for darkness is looming in the information I'd be about to pass on.

There are times I have to admit that I've wanted to say that we have 4 kids, not 5, but I'd be disappointed in myself to leave Matthew out of the equation just because it's easier for me.

It's not because I don't have great memories of and stories about Matthew and a desire to share them, but the road to them is too painful.

Maybe one day this part will become easier, but in my heart I know that may never happen.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Stay or Go?

David and I just got back from our annual 8-day vacation in Maine. 
Halfway through Day 1, already under the familiar New England coastal town spell, I was asking myself the same 2 questions that I ruminate about each year:  1 - Why wasn't I born here?  and 2 - Do I have to leave?   

Regarding the first question...seriously...why couldn't my parents have decided to set up shop in a lovely town right on the water - say in Camden or Boothbay Harbor - instead of the fifth largest city in the USA?      

Philadelphia is indeed rich in culture, history and the arts - and much more - but wandering around town doesn't bring about the serenity I experience feasting my eyes upon infinite hues of blues and greens that sparkle in the big, beautiful and boundless sea.

The reality is that my parents, who traveled around as union organizers in the 1950s, could've made great changes all over the country. It's not far-fetched to say that they could've worked their progressive magic for the thousands of lobstermen (for example) all over Maine who have struggled for decades to protect their livelihood and therefore their families, threatened by a variety of issues including market pricing, regulatory restrictions, the legislative process and so on.

So if my folks had been drawn to a life on the coast, a natural step for me would've been to become a sailor, a lobster fisherman, run a Bed & Breakfast on the waterfront, or maybe I'd express myself as an artist.  I like to think that I'd be known for my imagined series called "Reflections," which would highlight the images of people and trees and clouds and buildings and lights as they dance upon the surface of the water.       

And had I grown up there, perhaps I'd enjoy vacations completely opposite of that, like annual trips to Philly, though I'm fairly certain that I wouldn't be touring in the heat of the summer.  It's possible I'd be so sad to depart from the City of Brotherly Love as that week came to an end that I'd begin to ponder a move from Boothbay in the hopes of satisfying my longing to live in a vibrant, colorful, urban environment instead.  

Now...with regard to my second question above:  Do I have to leave (Maine)? 

Well I'm home, so yes, I knew I had to go, this time.    

But looking ahead, here's what I don't know, on the subject of wanting to stay, even as I go:  Is the allure of coastal living so strong because it contrasts greatly to my past and current lifestyle, or would I truly be happy and content through winter, spring, summer and fall?      

David says their winters are too long, cold and snowy, and we'd be stuck inside for what could be almost half of the year.  He knows first-hand how crazy I get when I'm cooped up (which probably scares him to death).
Joking aside, I respond by saying I want to experience autumn with its golden, amber and scarlet foliage and I want to breathe in the crisp, still air as I watch the winter snow blanket the ocean.    

Maybe next year...

Sunday, July 19, 2015

One Step at a Time

I love my new toy!

Just opened up the package yesterday and there it Fitbit!

As many of you know, the Fitbit is a wireless activity tracker which can sync with one's smart phone and computer to keep track of all sorts of details including steps taken, calories burned, floors climbed and so on.

I had my eye on this for some time, but since I'm generally gadget-adverse, I viewed it as a  trendy gimmick vs. a valuable tool, and so I dismissed it.    

But then a few conversations reignited my interest:

During my check-up last week, I mentioned to my doctor that I'm often very tired, especially when I'm at work.  To combat that, I tend to nibble on things - some healthy, some not - all day long, as I sit in my chair for what could be 9 or 10 hours, other than a half hour for lunch.

My doctor said that the new American Diabetes Association study recommends that every 90 minutes everyone should stand up and GET YOUR BODY MOVING. 

I don't have diabetes, although I had gestational diabetes with one of my pregnancies, but  the point is well taken.  GET OFF MY BUTT!

It echoed another recent message from the American Heart Association, which stated the importance of 30 minutes of exercise per day.   

My doctor's suggestion was that every time I reach for that next bite of something when I'm at my desk, I should take a walk to the water cooler instead.  (I just realized that I forgot to do this.)  

I brought up the subject of the Fitbit to see her reaction, and her eyes lit up.  DO IT! she said, enthusiastically.  I like my doctor.  I began to reconsider.

A couple days later, I was talking to one of my brothers about it, and he said he has seen some of the judges he works with wear the Fitbit, and he's also noticed that they are very fit people.   I liked the way that sounded.   I want to look like a fit person.

I told all this to my girlfriend at work. She too had been contemplating getting one.  Together we became very excited!   Now I had a partner to share in this new endeavor.  I was good to go.   

The Fitbit goal for the average person is 10,000 steps per day.  Initially, I wondered if that would be doable without a concentrated period of exercise. 

Last night I wore the Fitbit for the very first time at 6 p.m.  From then until bedtime, around midnight, I logged about 3,000 steps. This included a walk with Shea Doggy, going out to dinner, doing laundry and other stuff at home and even sitting down for 2 hours to watch a movie.  David said he didn't think the steps I took to get Milk Duds should count, but I told him it's all fair game, right? 

The beauty of the Fitbit is that all the steps accumulate, and being able to keep track provides instant gratification.  I didn't think I cared about that, but apparently I do.

Today was my first full day with my new companion, and I had high hopes for myself, but as of 9:30 a.m., I'd only clocked slightly over 600 steps.  I was nervous that I wouldn't get to 10,000, especially since Shea's performance outside this morning was rather disappointing.

I know it was hot, but he refused to take a long walk. He didn't respond when I tried to explain that I'm counting on him to reach that magic Fitbit number. He may not care about my situation since he gets his exercise running all around the house when he sees a dog or truck, but that doesn't help me any.

Therefore, I headed to the gym.   When I arrived, I had about 2,000 steps logged in.  After an hour - 20 minutes on the bike, 20 on the treadmill, and another 20 doing weight training - I was only at about 2,200: just 200 more than where I started.

I forgot to set the Fitbit to record my exercising.  I was so bummed!  

A couple hours ago, I received an email from Fitbit stating that I've received my first Boat Shoe step badge - I hit 5,000 steps. 

Shortly thereafter, I got another email stating that I just received my first Happy Hill badge, having climbed 10 floors.

Wow! I impressed myself!  

Minutes later, guess what?!?!??!

I checked my Fitbit, and I made it to 10,000!

Within minutes, I received my first Sneakers badge, congratulating me for accomplishing this milestone. 

Now I guess I won't have to make a late night trip to the freezer for some ice cream!   

Sunday, July 5, 2015


Sunday mornings rock at my house - for David and me, anyway.

That's because we give in to our whim, which means we load up on carbs from a local breakfast/bakery/bagel joint, and we savor each and every bite. 

We usually get a mix of everything, sesame and poppy bagels, at times upping the ante with whitefish and/or lox and cream cheese spread.  We know this isn't a very healthy habit, and periodically with soft pressure from our loved ones we consider substituting various alternatives, but so far we haven't been able to make a lasting change.   
Perhaps this routine may be extra hard to break because it is about more than the bagel.  It is also about the man - and his entourage - behind the bagel.  

If it weren't for the proprietor of the store, Tony, and his buddies, our Sunday mornings wouldn't be nearly as entertaining, which of course makes our bagels more luscious.  All of these components have created the experience we are hooked on.

Tony, who my handsome but bald husband tells me wears a toupee which changes over time based on pictures in the store, is accompanied most of the time by 2 other guys:  "Shrek" and Peter or, as David and I refer to them in their entirety, The Three Stooges.

Tony is an enigma to us and, as such, David and I view him differently.  David thinks he's a good guy overall who at times can be rather crass, all in the name of being friendly; I, on the other hand, question whether he can be a nice guy when he can also be so offensive.   

Tony's friend Shrek - coined by Tony for his wandering eye - is forever the target of Tony's insulting remarks, often focusing on Shrek's unfortunate eye condition. 

Peter is all about damage control when Tony oversteps.  

The three of them are a well-oiled machine.

It's almost like Shrek is the official sidekick, paid to give Tony subject matter so that he can ridicule to his heart's content, all in the name of entertaining his customers. 

One day I asked Shrek why he puts up with Tony.    
He looked more disturbed by my comment than he ever did by Tony's name calling, and then he told me that he doesn't take Tony seriously.  "He's just talking," he said.  "It's no big deal." 

Maybe men are better apt to handle such bluntness and disregard than women are.  David isn't bothered that Tony calls him "Baldy," which David gets a kick out of since it's Tony who covers up his baldness under his rug, whereas David sports his naked head proudly.

Tony is a fair guy in that he doesn't discriminate; the harshness of his comments are equally distributed among sexes, ethnic groups and those with physical issues of one kind or another. 

When he called the young African American man who entered the store the other day "Hey Jamaican," I first cringed and then I looked for this guy's reaction.  I wouldn't have been surprised had he turned around and walked out of the store; instead, he sat right down and asked for a breakfast sandwich.

To be fair, Tony's not always insulting; sometimes he's just naughty and off color, but frankly I find these comments highly amusing.  I think I'd actually miss them if he had laryngitis.   

I'm not at all offended when he calls out to me "Hey, Sexy!" when I walk in to the store. 

In fact, I get a kick out of it - I even wait to hear it and would probably be disappointed if I didn't.  When a man addresses a 55+ year-old as  "Sexy,"  he's more apt to make her Top 5 List than to be shunned by her.  This may be shameful, but I'm fairly certain it's true.

Sometimes Tony gets a bit carried away, like when I reached the counter after a 10-minute wait and asked him if I could have one of the chocolate chip cookies he had offered to the little kids when they were waiting. 

"I'll give you something girl, but it's not going to be a chocolate chip cookie!"

It was a cheap thrill, I admit...but as Shrek said, Tony's just talking, and it wasn't nearly as objectionable as it was comical, since I chose to take it that way, thanks to Shrek's lead.

I'm sure some women would be appalled that I'd joke about his comment rather than hit him over the head or file a complaint against him, but no harm was done.  We each got a laugh out of it, which is pretty good on a Sunday morning at 8:30 a.m.

Maybe he should have control over his flirt-o-meter, but he doesn't, whether it's with me or any woman who strikes his fancy.  I actually feel embarrassed for him when he falls all over himself trying to be suave. 

"I see you brought your daddy in with you today," David heard Tony say to a pretty woman who came in with her husband.

The woman chuckled, as did her husband, and David and I were entertained by Tony's Archie Bunker/Howard Stern-style personality for the rest of the morning.

I thought about asking Tony to join us at home for breakfast one day...but not when one of our daughters is home.   

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Two Brides

You know that feeling you get when you are fairly certain you're on the cusp of something incredibly memorable?   

Saturday night in Cambridge, Massachusetts was one of those times.    

David and I sat outside at the Multicultural Arts Center to witness the marriage of his dear friend's daughter.  

The setting was beautiful:  lush greenery, a nice cool breeze, musicians playing in the background, everyone jockeying for the best seats in the house, and lots of very dressed up people smiling from ear-to-ear.

From the start, with over 150 guests milling around, I assumed it would play out like other weddings except there would be two women in the lead roles instead of a woman and a man.  It reminded me of my take on vegetarian chili the first time I made it, substituting a vegetable or two for the meat portion of the recipe and calling it a day.   

I began to see subtle variations from the "norm" as the ceremony began, with the absence of a trio of familiar customs:  a bridal party dressed in a theme color, bridesmaids walking down the aisle followed by "Here Comes the Bride," and ONE bride, in all her glory, making a grand entrance.

Instead, the two brides addressed their guests from the chuppah - the bridal canopy - and thanked us all for coming, introduced both officiants and explained the importance of the Jewish and Catholic wedding practices we'd see. This was followed by a reading of the proclamation that legalized same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.

After blessings by a handful of their most special guests, these two young ladies exchanged their vows.  These promises started with stories that outlined similar values and beliefs, their love and respect for one another and the moment each knew she was in love.   

As I sat there overwhelmed with joy for them, in large part as a result of the thrill they shared in being able to wed, I found myself thinking that everyone - most of all same sex naysayers - should realize the power of connection and how much better the world could be if more people were able to find the peace that these two have in loving one another.  
When the celebration was over, I realized it played out very differently than I had expected.  I didn't see the traditional "show" with a substitution here and there.  I was instead privy to a uniquely powerful and enlightening glimpse of life and love for two people who in another time would've been gypped from the honor of formalizing the potentially lifelong bond of marriage.    

I am happy to say that I too share in the enormous appreciation for the jubilation and triumph of this new era, when lesbians and gays are finally free to marry, like everyone else.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Memories Live On

'Tis the season for some Mommy and Me quality time, even if she's not here to enjoy it.   

Two of my biggest worries when she passed were: 1 - being afraid I'd begin to forget all those times we spent together and 2- letting memories of her strong drive and grit begin to slip away.

I'm starting to believe these things will never happen, as everything's a trigger, in a good way.
Last night, I heard a woman talking about her 97 year-old mother.  "My mom lived to 97 too," I thought to myself. 

This morning, I made a fruit salad and what bowl did I reach for, in my Color Me Mine cabinet?  The triangular one that my mom made a few years ago, when we went for my birthday.

This afternoon, I went to see Pitch Perfect 2 with my girls and laughed thinking about that time my mom and I sat on the first row of the Esquire Movie theatre in our West Oak Lane neighborhood to catch The Boston Strangler. That's not a movie one should sit up close to see, but that's what happens when you come in 45 minutes late.  That's actually not a movie one should see, period.

The memories of Mom keep on coming. 

One of her biggest attributes that I think about often was the fact that she was always willing to invest in those she believed in.    

One such example is the commitment she made to an elementary school in the neighborhood where she and my dad raised their 4 kids and where she became a most dedicated community activist.

My mom was the co-founder and president of the Ogontz Area Neighbors Association and through this organization a core group of residents worked hard to make the neighborhood a better place. They accomplished this in many ways, but two notable achievements were the establishment of a family center and gym program at the Pennell Elementary School and also the creation of scholarships to local high school students entering Temple University.   

My mom was especially passionate about the Pennell School, so much so that a mural of my parents was painted there representing many decades of dedication.  
When she was about 90 years old - a few years after my dad passed - she decided she wanted to create a new ritual at Pennell which would both inspire and assist its elementary school graduates. 
Students were asked to write essays in response to the question, "What does Pennell mean to me?"
She (and her kids, including me) would then pick one male and one female to win a Councilman David and Florence Cohen Award for Academic Achievement and Good Citizenship.  The winners were asked to read their essays during the graduation ceremony, followed by the presentation of gifts (in recent years, Kindles). 

My siblings, our kids and I have appreciated these essays as they are a combination of entertaining, eye opening and rewarding.  It is a real privilege to have access to the inner thinking of such fine young men and women.   
This is the first year without Mom's input as to who the winner should be, but I know she had faith in us, as she reminded me before she passed that she hopes we continue the tradition long after she's gone.

Soon I'll be in Ocean City with my kids and I'm certain that one of them will ask the annual question, "Remember that time Bubbe played ball with us on the beach?"

She gave so many of us her very best.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Once and Always

A friend recently commented to me that a mother's work is never done. 

She said this in response to my telling her that I couldn't get together on June 4th, since I had planned to morph into my old familiar role of Nurse Judy.  

This was the date that my daughter, Amy, was scheduled to have her tonsils and adenoids removed. 

Amy is my youngest "child," set to graduate from college in December after student teaching, and excited about her potential plan to live with girlfriends once they're all employed. 

Twelve hours after surgery, I found myself hovering over her as I did 20 years before, trying to help guide the jello into her mouth so she could wash down all the medication necessary to withstand the recovery process.   

It didn't take me long to reprise the role of the much-needed caregiver, a.k.a. MOM, and I was very happy going back to it.  It always feels right.  Even at 3 a.m..  Even for a 22 year-old.

Times like these, when for whatever the reason our adult kids need their moms, may be few and far between, so I really savor them. 

However, with Amy's return to normal life slated to take a couple weeks or so, I'm going to get very comfortable being in the driver's seat for an extended period of time.

Even though it's by far the easiest place to be in - when the roles are clearly defined, we're all on the same page and I'm the boss - this change in routine sets into motion the emotional roller coaster we moms work so hard to neutralize. 

Sometimes we're needed, sometimes we're not. It's all very confusing. 

As for now, Amy seems pleased with my medication chart, my opinion on what foods she might be able to tolerate, my willingness to run out and get her juice as needed  and, most of all, our time together. 
I agree with my friend. 

A mother's work is never done.

Is there anything better?  I think not.

Sunday, May 31, 2015


Is it possible for David to have a meal with his lovely wife and NOT pick up his cell phone while they are sitting together?

It can be done, yes.

But how likely is it? 

Not very.

It used to be that when David and I sat close to one another, it was the touch of my arm he'd reach for, with a nice big smile, as he gazed into my eyes.

Fifteen years later, he now ALSO reaches for his sleek and sexy iPhone.

He just can't help himself.

For him to know that there is access to information, or to communication, but he isn't free to take advantage of these offerings, would be similar to not letting Shea Doggy sniff to his heart's content outside.     

Yesterday's lunchtime provides a perfect example.  I was telling David about my very nice walk from our home to Stockton Elementary School, which was 1.8 miles away. 

I thought he'd say "Wow!  What a long walk!  Good for you!" but....

Instead, he asked, "Is the school at a dead end, when coming in from Rt. 70?"

What??!?!  Who cares!?!?!?  

And honestly, I had no idea.  I'd probably driven to that school hundreds of times in the years my kids went there, but I had no recollection of what was on the one side of the school, probably because I didn't care then either.

In retrospect, I should  have just agreed with him and put the subject to rest (maybe), but I said, "No, I don't think it's a dead end," and since I contradicted his thinking, there was only one thing left for him to do.

I knew it would be just a matter of seconds before he'd reach for his phone.  I started counting.

Like clockwork, he grabbed it, clicked on to his Google Maps app, typed in Stockton Elementary, and there it was.

It seems that Stockton may be at a dead end, after all.  I'm so glad I know now.

Add this to an example earlier that day during our breakfast time together, when he asked if we were going to get rain.  This inquiry is always, without question, a precursor to checking his weather app, a smooth move on his part which takes about 30 seconds from question to answer.

Texting is another matter, but one that he also finds irresistible - both in terms of sending and receiving.  I get that David's spent all day communicating with co-workers via email, on line chat, phone as well as text, and I know it's hard for him to turn it off when he gets home.  I guess the true test will be when he retires and, as always, Time Will Tell.

For now at least, I do see a big change coming. 

It will get even easier for David to connect to the world, once his on-order Apple watch becomes- for all intents and purposes - surgically attached to his wrist.

Sunday, May 24, 2015


This past Tuesday's Primary Election Day rocked this year, until the results came in.

I had the pleasure of hanging with my sister Sherrie Cohen, candidate for City Council at Large, all day long, as her designated driver.

I've worked plenty of Election Days in my lifetime, but most of them have blended together in my mind, filed under a category titled "WWDFF:  What We Do for Family." 

As the youngest child of Councilman David Cohen, I assumed I was locked into the Election Day grid for life, but then Mike was born, and he came in very handy as an immediate excuse - bless him! - I couldn't be expected to bring my little baby to the polls, now could I?  Allison soon followed, as did Amy...this was a truly blissful hiatus for me, free from political WWDFF commitments.  I have to remember to thank my kids for this.

It's not that Primary/Election Days are necessarily bad; it's just that they can be exhausting - standing at the polls from 7 am to 8 pm - and very confusing, contentious and disheartening - for starters, so I always preferred to avoid them.  I re-entered the madness when my sister ran for Council the first time in 2011, and then my brother's lovely wife, Mona, the Superstar of all volunteers, asked me if I could help out for Mark when he ran last year, and so I obliged.

But this year I didn't wait until I was asked - instead, I offered myself to the amazing Malcolm Kenyatta, my sister's campaign manager, and asked if he had any ideas for what I could do to help on Sherrie's big day. 

He suggested I drive her around so that she would be free to stop at various polling places without having the added concerns of navigating and parking.  I was game. Sounded like good use of one's sister and again - WWDFF.

When I got to Sherrie's house at 7 am - my childhood home - I was surprised that right away I felt the positive energy my parents always exuded in anticipation of a potentially favorable political outcome.  I could also feel their pride in Sherrie for the campaign she ran and in me too for going against my natural inclination to steer clear of politics and do the WWDFF thing once more.      

In contrast to other years when I was looking at the clock all day long, wondering how I allowed myself to get roped into this craziness that I wanted no part of, I found myself actually enjoying this experience with Sherrie.  I was reminded how beautiful a city Philadelphia is - from stately Mt. Airy to the far northeast where it meets the Delaware River; how the population is incredibly diverse yet more similar than different in the thinking of its residents; how delicious Fourth Street Deli is; and how relative strangers can touch our hearts. 

At one of the condo complexes in the northeast, where Sherrie and I visited so that she could introduce herself to the voters and also say hello to her Election Day workers, one particular gentleman responded with a smile that lit up his whole face, a big hug for the candidate, and words that will stay with Sherrie for life.

He told her that he had been active in the start of the gay liberation movement, just as she had been in the early 1970s, and he went on to say..."You are a dream come true for me. You are everything we fought for," which he described as somebody who is going after her dreams and is being all she can be.

And while this was very meaningful and kind to share, what came next was even more powerful - and surreal. 

He walked over to his guitar case, which for some reason happened to be sitting just a few feet away - almost like he was expecting this opportunity (maybe he was) - and opened it up, lifted out the guitar, put the strap around his shoulder, and began to serenade Sherrie.
She melted into a nearby chair - ironically one was free - and shortly after he began singing, I saw tears streaming down her face, so moved by the lyrics and emotion in his delivery, spoken from his heart and soul, directly to hers.

I believe it was "Follow Me," which at one time was sung by John Denver.

So while Sherrie didn't get the votes needed to win a seat on City Council, she got an inside glimpse of a man whose life she deeply touched, many years ago, and who, decades later, is still thanking her for it.

Actually, WWDFF doesn't begin to cut it, this time around.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Shop Here or Shop There

I'm getting more like my husband every day.

Sometimes the likeness shocks me; other times I kind of expect it:  Is it myth? truth? - that we start looking like our partners - even our dogs, from what people say - over time?   If that's the case, acting like our partners as well shouldn't be any big surprise.

This particular realization relates to something David and I do often, so there's ample opportunity to compare our approaches to it:  SHOPPING!

Online vs. on foot.

I attended a baby shower this weekend - had a great time - but the purchase of the gift took me a good 5 hours; it would've taken David under 15 minutes.   Was my gift better than his would've been? 

Just because I obsess about and throw my heart into whatever I buy, and David is ruled by practicality for many things and would never obsess over a baby gift, the difference in approach doesn't necessarily translate to a difference in quality regarding the end result, does it? 

His search almost always begins and ends online, regardless of the purchase (with few exceptions), and he doesn't dawdle unless it's a big ticket item.  But I can't get past the feeling that internet shopping is the lazy man's approach and, therefore, not generally how I want to proceed.  It simply doesn't compare to getting up close and personal with the item(s) of consideration - looking at it, holding it, etc...especially for a baby.

Yet, since I always marvel at how successful David can be when he shops online, I've become more open to at least starting there to get myself in the right mode of thought.  So, I went on to, where the couple was registered, thinking perhaps his way is at least worth considering.   

I was mentally exhausted after 5 minutes looking at the vast array of items and  quickly decided to finish up the task the next day.  After a few days of this routine, I wondered how it was possible for David to make important decisions like this online. I decided I had better stop wasting time and go into the store.

I headed over to Babies"R"Us in Cherry Hill, where I hadn't been for at least a decade, when it was just Toys"R"Us - and was immediately confused by the fact that when you enter the store, it's both Babies"R"Us and Toys"R"Us sharing the same space.  Right away, I wished I had been more David-like, as he'd never have set foot in that maze. 

I looked for a person to help me, but no one came to my rescue.  I followed the sign for "Baby Registry," which was in the far right corner of the store, and there I saw a machine which housed the registry listings. Whew...things were moving along after all.  I planned to quickly print out a list...and I told myself it I can finish up in the next 15 minutes, I can reward my hard work and have a delicious juice from Rastelli's Market on the way home.

About 45 minutes later, I was still obsessing over the 3 versions of the lists (by alphabetical order, price, and aisle), which had about 10 items per page and were about 10 pages long. I soon felt defeated, sadly realizing as well that I had been there for so long that I probably missed my opportunity to stop for the juice I had been looking forward to.

I also found myself daydreaming, not about sitting at the beach but about shopping online in the comfort of my home, like you-know-who would've done!   It would've been so much more relaxing to browse while seated at my desk, maybe take in a snack or two, feel the spring breeze on my face...was my gift going to be that much better for walking through the doors of Babies"R"Us?   

After all that, what did I end up buying, you wonder? 


I decided on a gift card so the new parents could agonize over their choices as I was done with that; I picked out a couple books, threw in a Phillies outfit, and I was ready to roll.   
As I looked at all the presents at the shower, I wondered how many people made their decisions scrolling through the list online or strolling through the store.  It didn't really matter.  The happy couple seemed thrilled with every gift.

Either way, I wonder what I'll do the next time around.  

My guess?  The same thing I did this time, daydreams and all.

And I have no doubt that David will remind me that sometimes, it's not all that bad to be like him.