Sunday, April 26, 2015


As of this writing, it's the evening before the birthday of Matthew Minches, my stepson.

He would have been 25 on April 27, 2015.

We all have our own memories of Matthew, but I think everyone would agree that he was kind and gentle; he exhibited admirable sportsmanship in many areas of life, and he was a wonderful son, brother (biological and step), cousin and friend.  

These are simply facts, but there are lots of unique memories that we appreciate about Matthew as well. Two of mine center on Sundays.    

First, Matthew (and I) deemed Sunday "NO negativity" day.

Here's why:  When Matthew was in high school and in the first year of college, he and David mowed, edged and weed-whacked the lawn on Sunday mornings in the spring and summer.  By 12 or 12:30, they were showered and ready for lunch and by 1, they were zoned in to baseball for the rest of the afternoon.  The 3 (or more) of us would sit down together for dinner and it was this mealtime conversation which provided the impetus for us to refer to Sundays as a negative-free zone.  

Why?  Because of David, and here's the reason.  He had a tendency to go off about his frustrations during this time period - Sunday dinner - with regard to various athletes, politicians or lobbyists around the world.  For those of us familiar with David, we know that he has strong views about a lot of things, and with such zest while we were captive at the dinner table, he would explain in great detail everything that he found so troubling.  (If you're one of his Facebook friends, you're probably quite certain about his strong stance on gun control, for example, and his dislike for those whose beliefs are in total disregard of the harm that has plagued humanity when the wrong people get control of guns.)

Since I agree with David on this issue and many others, I'm often OK with his rants, but other times his robust dose of negativity could be draining, and Matthew and I wanted to wind down at this time, not get all revved up. So we rebelled by instituting a ban on negative comments for Sundays. At first, David seemed shocked that we'd suggest he temper his remarks but, over time and with persistence, he became a fairly good sport about it.  I recall that he even thanked us for limiting his refrain to just one day each week, and we appreciated that he would respectfully become mute when his infractions - there were always some - were brought to his attention.  

I have thought about "NO negativity" Sundays when David starts going down that familiar path, but I can't do it. I'm too sad to even say the words "NO negativity," as well as to think how David would feel hearing them, so I don't do it, even though every Sunday I think about it.  Now through reading this blog he will be reminded, in case he ever forgot.  [Note to David:  I won't bring this up again.]

The second part of the Sunday reference relates to blogging.  I have to credit Matthew for my Sunday ritual of blog posting, as it was this savvy young man who introduced me to this medium through his own blog, where he shared his love for movies.  He took great pains to dissect movies that he especially liked and respected so that his readers could also see them through new eyes.  At the time, I was more impressed that as a teenager he was so tuned in to the art of movie making (he even made one himself) than I was about the act of blogging, but the fact remains that he was the first in our family to blog, and I thank him for inspiring me to get started.

So to all of us who have memory upon memory, let's let them light up our Monday.

Happy Birthday, Dear Matthew.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

4 Sisters

I am drawn to a photographic series called "Forty Portraits in Forty Years."  Check out Nicholas Nixon's photos at 

The pictorial depicts four female siblings annually as they pass through time.  The first picture in the series was taken in 1975, when the youngest of the four sisters was 15 and the oldest 25.   Each year thereafter, Mr. Nixon, the eldest sister's husband, photographed his wife and her siblings standing in the same order.  The consistency in positioning makes it easy to follow the variations that occur in each sister.   
It is amazing to me how the contrast from the 1st photo shoot to the 40th is startling; yet, from year to year, negligible. 
One of the aspects of this treasure that I appreciate most is the simplicity of the shots.  There were no open-mouthed smiles, no dress-for-the-picture attire or clothing coordination among the siblings, and the women were free of make-up for the most part if not entirely, with no apparent Photoshop editing steps taken to hide truth of any kind.
From the moment I first viewed the project a few months ago, my thoughts have remained constant:  1 - Each woman's beauty and spirit shines through, despite her aging exterior; 2 - It will be very sad when one year captures just three women, not four;  and, most importantly, 3 - we can't escape aging.

Try as we may to wish them away, those wrinkles, fine lines, sagging eyelids and other body parts have a mind of their own, and unless we go the route of intervention - divine hasn't worked so I'm talking surgical - they are here to stay. 

I am not going so far as to say I will ever embrace the breakdown of collagen, for one of many examples, but the reality is that since we can't prevent these inevitable changes, I am grateful for this work of art which has enabled me to adjust my perspective on aging. 

Instead of critiquing myself in the mirror and yearning to look back at teenage Judy, or the Judy following my gestational diabetes pregnancy - when I was the thinnest I had been since teenage Judy - I have begun to realize that the aging process should be recognized as a badge of honor.   It truly represents all we've become vs. all we've lost.

Thank you, Heather, Mimi, Bebe and Laurie. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015


Once a role model, always a role model, even in death.

Steve Lahav was that kind of guy - one who taught what is right by doing it himself.  

Today was his unveiling. Nature gave us a beautiful day to commemorate the life of this fine man.

When I got to Crescent Memorial Park, I saw Josh, Steve's older son, preparing to put on his kipah (head covering) in preparation for the service.  He stopped midstream and said, "I always keep this in my car."  He turned it over to show me what was printed inside:  Matthew Minches, with the date of his Bar Mitzvah, stamped in gold.    

I hadn't even been there 2 minutes, and I was already balling.

"My dad told me to always carry one of these, because you never know when you need it," he said.  While this is true - there's always a need unfortunately - the fact that Josh carries Matthew's with him reminded me immediately of what a supportive friend Steve had been to David when Matthew passed.  David never failed to mention to me that he could see Steve tearing up every time they talked about Matthew. 

As we positioned ourselves for the service, Josh and Adam, Steve's younger son, stood on either side of their mom (Marcy) with Andrea, Josh's fiancee, on the other side of Josh and her brother standing behind her. 

I thought about the conversations David and I had with Steve and Marcy as they shared not only their willingness but their desire and potential plan to enlarge their home to  accommodate more living space for Josh and Andrea and for anyone in her family who wanted to join them.   David and I thought they might really enjoy the opportunity to take some time just for themselves, but it was clear they would trade all that in for a life with more family instead, each and every time the subject was broached.

I also remembered the many dinners the four of us had when Steve would reference conversations he had with his sister Ellen and her husband Michael, both of whom lived in Israel.  It was like they were next-door neighbors.  The speech his brother-in-law gave at the unveiling confirmed the close relationship he was so desperately missing.

Last year, Steve and Marcy drove to Florida to bring his ailing dad closer to them, and Adam spent many days helping and hanging out with his dad and granddad.  Caring for an old and sickly parent/grandparent is something we all know is very difficult and often not something we embrace, but it was nothing out of the ordinary for the Lahav family.

Role models can go either way - teach how you want to be or how you don't want to be - but when I looked at the boys at the unveiling, I saw in them the very best kind of role model shine through.

It didn't take long - just a few months after Steve passed - for Josh and Andrea to open up their own home to Andrea's brother to finish up his high school year with them.  Talk about a chip off the old block.

So as I stood there listening to the terrific cantor Jen Cohen from Temple Beth Sholom chant a few prayers, as well as to the speeches of Steve's wife, brother-in-law and soon-to-be daughter-in law, I said to myself that Steve has given his boys the best gift they could ever get:  a most loving and responsible perspective on family, as well as insight into how smart he was to marry Marcy, one of the most compassionate and giving women on the planet.

This is a family who will be together forever, whether in the same proximity or thousands of miles apart, who will stand by each other in times of sickness and in health, for as long as they all shall live. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Matzoh, Matzoh, Matzoh

We Jews consume a lot of matzoh during the week of Passover.  

This holiday celebrates the liberation and freedom of the Israelites as they fled from Egypt in haste, not allowing enough time for their bread to rise.  Thus, the unleavened product of matzoh has become a symbol - and staple - this time of year in Jewish homes.   

Matzoh is the most known item in Passover cuisine for one main reason:  it is highly utilitarian.  It can act as a slice of bread and be spread with butter, cream cheese or jelly, or used as a base for sauce and cheese; be mixed with ingredients for matzoh ball soup; added to fruit and/or vegetables and eggs for matzoh kugel; be combined with scrambled eggs for fried matzoh; and my personal favorite is topped with chocolate and other goodies for a scrumptious dessert. 

As my daughter Allison says, "the beauty of it tasting like nothing is you can make it taste like anything," and that is very, very true but, in light of its versatility, it creeps up in most meals.

And granted, there's nothing offensive about it - it's not like having to incorporate liverwurst into a week's worth of meals - but it is carb-heavy, and loading up on it day after day can wreak havoc on one's digestive track.  

Yet, each year, I look forward to the arrival of Passover because it can be fun, festive, meaningful, signifies the start of spring and presents a nice break from everyday life.

However, in light of the heavy focus on matzoh and various restrictions such as no legumes, grains, etc., I have to talk myself through each day's meals, starting with the most basic rule of thumb of all:  Bread is out - a big NO-NO - and matzoh, regardless of the spelling of it, is in.

Here's a summary of my relationship with matzoh during the 8-day holiday:

Seder One:  I love matzoh!  It's delicious!  Why don't I have it year-round?

Seder Two:  This matzoh is OK, but is isn't as good as yesterday's.  Maybe it's a different brand? 

Day Three:  I don't like matzoh anymore, regardless of the brand, but I'll eat it if I have to.  Boy, I miss my oatmeal (also a no-no, as it is a grain).    
Day Four:  Enough is enough!  I haven't pooped since Seder One. 
Day Five:  Maybe I can stomach the matzoh tomorrow if I skip a day.   
Day Six:  Yes! I think I will be ready to have matzoh tomorrow since I took a matzoh-break today. 

Day Seven:  I was wrong.  I can't. 

Day Eight:   If I can't have what I really crave, I'd rather be hungry until tonight, when I can bite into something else...anything else will do.      

A local pizza place told me once that the busiest day of their year is on the night that Passover ends.  I don't really like pizza normally, but it always sounds heavenly after a week of Passover.

All I can do right now is drool over what next Saturday night will bring...