Sunday, December 27, 2020

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Haddock All the Way!

With all the cooking we’ve been doing during COVID – no eating out and much less take-out than during “normal” life – it’s been a tricky exercise to find interesting and relatively healthy meals 7 nights a week, week after week, month after month.

Since David is a pescatarian, options of what we can enjoy together are limited. I’d love to share a big, juicy steak with him, or lamb chops, or brisket, or a big basket of fried chicken…you get the idea…but none of this is going to happen.  

Therefore, I made the decision that I’m going to have to expand what I’ll have for dinner to include more of what he’ll eat, which would mean either tofu (ummmm….no thanks) or fish…so I chose fish. Even though I don’t love it, I don’t hate it either, and it’s certainly healthier and more nutritious than the dishes I named above.   

While Lauren and Anas have been staying with us, David’s made killer salmon and branzino. One night, we discussed what else we’d like to try when fish night rolls around again.  

David had mentioned a memorable halibut dish he had at an Italian restaurant called Ports of Italy in Boothbay Harbor, Maine (you’ll never guess what I had that night?!?!?) so everyone agreed to give it a shot.  

Lauren put it on her next Fresh Direct order, and we all looked forward to it. 

David made the fish with a buttery wine sauce that was delicious. Since it is an extremely mild fish, it is essentially a blank slate for any kind of coating, thereby lending itself to endless possibilities for its preparation.

As David ate the fish, he said he didn’t recall the restaurant’s halibut tasting quite the same, although both are white, flaky fish. The fact that David used a wine sauce and Ports of Italy presented the halibut encrusted in nuts could have explained the contrast in overall flavor.     

When dinner was over, Lauren had a funny feeling that maybe she hadn’t ordered halibut after all; perhaps she had checked off a different fish.  

Turns out it was haddock she had ordered, not halibut! After all that talk about how good the halibut was, it wasn’t even halibut. Had she not examined the order after the fact, we would never have known that we were eating haddock, a fish none of us had ever made before.  

Here it was…a mistake, of sorts…and yet it was exactly what we were looking for in a fish.

I did some research on haddock because it seemed too good to be true. I learned that it is the fish primarily used for fish and chips (along with cod) which for a long time was the only fish I’d eat (with tartar sauce, of course). It’s also low in calories and high in protein…who could ask for more?

Haddock also helps with digestion and skin, makes stronger bones, reduces bad cholesterol, assists with the prevention of cancer, reduces stress, relaxes muscle, has high levels of B vitamins and is low in mercury…among other pluses.   

Unfortunately, it is high in sodium, but what the heck…it seems as close to a perfect food as one could hope for. 

Since then, we’ve had haddock 3 more times, with David’s nut experimentation of pistachios, cashews and peanuts. Hats off to the chef!

Additionally, haddock is 1/3 the price of halibut ($11.99/lb. for haddock vs. $29.99/lb. for halibut)! 

How often does an error turn out to be such a satisfying surprise?

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Karma

Last week I found out that a former co-worker whom I shall call “Cruella de Vil” – the woman who tormented me at my old job – is really “stressed” and v e r y unhappy about her new living situation.

I’ve got 2 words for her…Boo Hoo!!!!!!

Way back when, she talked about this plan for months with everybody who would listen, always emphasizing how great her life was going to be once she made this move. Her dream situation sounded awful to me, but I showed excitement for Cruella because 1 – it was the nice thing to do; 2 – I was hopeful that a little extra positive energy sent from me to her might soften her up a bit; and 3 – she would strike back otherwise.

But let me tell you…now that I can be true to my feelings and not fake any, nor do I have anything to lose, I am…gulp…r e v e l i n g in her misery.

Exactly how bad a person am I???

I feel slightly evil to rejoice in her anguish, and I generally don’t hold grudges, but she was impossible in every way. She created – not only with her natural abilities but with added zest – a toxic environment, and I was one of the victims. She has earned this place in my heart. 

As much as she tortured others, I knew she had to make herself nuts too, with no way to escape other than in her dysfunctional mind where all kinds of warped thinking took shape. 

Knowing that she must be miserable inside – because how could you not be if you were her – was how I managed to cope at work (along with Trader Joe’s nonpareils), since she was never held accountable for any of her wrongdoing.  

But now, it sounds like she might be.

Karma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Hanukkah

Last week, Anas, one of my sons-in-law who is staying with us for a few months with Lauren and Baby May, asked if we are going to put up some Hanukkah decorations.  

It was clear that he wanted to hear “Yes,” so I wasn’t sure how to explain that Jews don’t decorate for Hanukkah, as I grew up believing. I certainly didn’t want him to view me as a naysayer, or a curmudgeon, which I’ve often accused David of being around the holidays.

Since I wanted him to understand the reasoning behind the naked look of the house this time of year – relative to many of the others in the neighborhood, at least from the outside – I explained that decorations in wintertime have historically been centered around Christmas.

He then cited a home or two on our street that are adorned with menorahs and Jewish stars, and I too told him about the one I noticed across from our house with blue lights and glitzy Hannukah banners, both of which I assumed were dressed up for the benefit of the young ones at home.

When my kids were small, despite the “no decorations” mantra that echoed in my ear, I bought an electric menorah to put in the window. I did this primarily because I didn’t want them to experience FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) as I did when I was little and living in a neighborhood filled with homes lit up with Christmas dΓ©cor which made my home feel so lacking in comparison.   

I remember asking my mom why all our neighbors had lights outlining their homes and we didn’t, and her response was that Hanukkah and Christmas are different kinds of celebrations and should not be approached in the same way.

She said that Hanukkah – known as the “Festival of Lights” – is celebrated by Jews to commemorate the Maccabees’ win in the fight for religious freedom against the Syrian army, in addition to the miracle of oil which lasted for eight days (instead of the anticipated one), shedding important light in the temple in Jerusalem after its desecration. Christmas, on the other hand, is a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus. 

For Anas, wintertime decorating is a festive activity to share with others, as opposed to a religious act that can in fact separate people. He started to embrace it in the U.S. when he moved here from Morocco some 18 years ago, even though Christmas is not celebrated in his own religion of Islam.

As for me, I’m going to have to step it up a notch with my grandkids (and Anas too, apparently), so that MomMom’s house has some enviable pizazz.

As I prepared latkes for the first night of Hanukkah, I was happy to take out our special tablecloth with menorahs and dreidels printed all over it.  

I asked Anas if it counted as a decoration.

“It’s amazing!” he replied.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

In My Dream

I woke up a few mornings ago feeling both happy and sad, desperately wanting to relive the dream I just had.      

The dream occurred sometime after I returned to my bed from a quick bathroom trip around 5 a.m.

I had made a phone call and instead of hearing the person I thought would answer, a faint, unexpected voice replied on the other end. I looked at my phone to make sure I had called the correct number, and surprisingly it said MOM in strange looking capital letters. Confused, I asked “Mom?  Is that you?” and she said very softly and somewhat unsteadily, “Yes, Judy, it’s me.”

I asked how she is doing, and she said “fine, good,” which is how she always responded to that question. Then, she asked, “Do you think you can come visit me this weekend?” and to that I excitedly said, “Of course mom, I will!”

When I woke up, I felt that I had just talked to her, and I was sooooo happy! Soon after, I realized that NO, I would not be visiting her this weekend.

I have had her on my mind a lot lately as we inch closer to the 6th anniversary of her passing, so perhaps that is why I had this dream, and/or maybe she was – as David cringes when I say – trying to communicate with me to let me know she’s doing OK…and that she wishes we could spend more time together.

For several mornings after that, I tried to recreate the dream. I’d get back in bed after my early morning bathroom visit and replay the phone conversation over and over again, step by step, thinking at some point my internal algorithm would kick in since I had been concentrating so hard…to no avail. The only other memory I have upon waking since then with any kind of clarity is holding on to a tree that was skating down a hilly sidewalk.

I wish I could make a reservation with the powers that be for regularly scheduled morning or afternoon greetings from my mom. It would be so wonderful to have this feeling of connection on a daily basis.

If I told David I feel upset that I may never experience this meaningful kind of moment again, I’m pretty sure he’d offer to rig something up electronically so that her voice would act as an alarm of sorts, regardless of the time of day. Perhaps through Alexa this could be arranged, but I have to admit that these artificial solutions to replay the conversation would end up creeping me out.      

When I think it all through, the most interesting part of the phone call is that it reminded me of how much I miss her inherent qualities, like the sound of her voice.

I am sure we all wish we could have another real encounter with those we have lost.

For now, dreams will have to suffice.

 

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Thanksgivings Past

Another Thanksgiving meal in the books, albeit for fewer people than normal.

Each year as I prepare the meal, I get flashbacks of debacles from the past.

Forgive me if I’ve written about this before; I can’t always remember what I’ve covered in prior blog posts. The older I get, the more difficult it is to keep track – can anyone relate? – so I’m liberating myself by not even trying.

The first mishap occurred during my first big holiday hosting gig; I was around 28 years old. I wanted to start making memories in my new home, while also establishing the notion that I was in fact capable of producing a delicious meal for my loved ones.   

I invited my parents and siblings as well as my then-husband’s family to come around 4 pm for appetizers. I warmed apple cider and prepared sweet and sour meatballs in the crockpot – no vegetarian husband at that time – to enjoy while we all schmoozed.

As we dug into the meatballs, I soon saw looks of disgust on everyone’s faces, but no one said anything initially. Soon a brave soul came up to me privately to explain that the meatballs were raw.

UGH. Seriously?!?! They had been in the crock pot for most of the day. Was it not on?  How could I serve without tasting one?

I don’t recall what the problem was…I think I didn’t move the meatballs around enough when they were in the crockpot and the porcelain pot itself wasn’t cooking evenly, so while some of the meatballs may have been OK, others were definitely not. I ended up tossing them all because at that point everyone was skeeved out.

16 years later (16 years ago)...

I was excited about Thanksgiving in my new house with my new husband and his family, as well as my parents, siblings and all our kids. I think this shindig totaled some 30 people.

Dinner was scheduled for 6, which meant the turkey needed to be done by 5 to sit for about 20 minutes before my orthopedist brother-in-law Mark would expertly carve it – in full surgical gear, I might add. And then when the turkey came out of the oven, the other dishes would need to be warmed inside. 

It may have been my first year preparing a kosher turkey, and I had high hopes for the taste and moistness of the bird. It didn’t come with a pop-up thermometer, so my plan was to cut into the thigh bone below the breast to determine when it was done.  

When it came time to do the final check, I couldn’t believe it…the turkey was still raw! Again with the raw issue!

This was soooooo frustrating since I had followed the recommended timing of 15-20 minutes per pound for an unstuffed turkey and had multiple discussions leading to what I had hoped was a well-thought-out plan.       

It wasn't as disturbing as the first scenario because no one actually took a bite of raw turkey – so I didn’t have to see grossed-out faces – but I saw a lot of disappointed faces crowded around the oven when I shrieked.

The turkey had to stay in the oven for at least another hour, and the hungry masses weren’t happy about it. So, we ripped open a couple bags of pretzels and chips that we had in our pantry (Whew!) and dug into the desserts too, which for someone like me is always the perfect start to any meal 😊.

I am constantly reminded of this incident whenever I am responsible for the turkey, especially since I get messages early in the afternoon from my sisters-in-law jokingly asking if it’s in the oven yet.  

Here’s to next year’s Thanksgiving…and the making of some wonderful memories.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Walt

My (former) father-in-law, Walter Heiman, passed away this past week.

I don’t know what happens after one’s final day on earth, but I hope if he hasn’t already that Walt soon meets up with Elaine, his wife of many years. From what I understand, his last words were “I am going to see Elaine.” Ironically, the anniversary of her death was just one day before his passing.

The fact that he will no longer be in this world as a living, breathing presence is a big loss for many of us, for our own reasons, including for me. He was always so warm and loving to me, and I will forever be grateful that he was one of my two dads, a special friend and the most amazingly awesome PopPop.  

When he died, thoughts of him flooded my mind. I pictured seeing him for the first time, when I went to my then-boyfriend Bob’s house to meet his parents. I was impressed with how clean and tidy their home was and thought they must’ve made it that way because I was coming over, which made me extra nervous. I soon learned that’s their status quo. Walt immediately put me at ease by telling a joke or two, or three.    

Over time, I witnessed everyone in Walt’s orbit laughing with him; joking around with people was how he developed a rapport and kept them smiling and engaged. My kids refer to his sense of humor as “PopPop jokes” and even though some were over-the-top silly, they did what they were intended to do: open the door to have some fun with each other, despite all the other stuff going on in the world.  

As much as I enjoyed his charm, what I appreciate more than anything was that he loved so freely with all his heart and soul. 

I was grateful that his funeral was livestreamed through Platt Funeral Home and that I could also participate in the two nights of shiva via Zoom.  

The Jewish observance of “shiva” traditionally lasts for 7 days and provides an opportunity for prayer and comfort for the mourners. In pre-COVID times, friends and family would fill a mourner’s home and while noshing on sweets would move around the rooms sharing stories and memories. It always felt cathartic to me to have so many people together who cared so deeply for the person who died.

The Zoom shiva made it possible for those same people (and maybe more) to gather – with ease – for Walt, which was significant given our limitations during this challenging time of coronavirus. If it wasn’t for Zoom, the likelihood is that there would still be a lot of mourning going on but loved ones would be going through it alone.    

Another benefit I found with the Zoom shiva is that it allows for all those in attendance to listen to everyone's remarks. For example, I had the chance to hear multiple people reference Walt’s jokester qualities and the pride he had in his family. Even though I knew these things, I wouldn’t necessarily have spoken with that individual at an in-person shiva and/or maybe he/she wouldn’t have made that same comment to me.      

My kids and others in the family didn’t say much during the Zoom session, and I know they have zillions of recollections that I would’ve loved to have heard once again that I think they would have shared in a more intimate setting.

There’s no doubt that for me personally, electronic shiva lacked some of the therapeutic powers of in-person shiva, but it sure beat no shiva participation.

Like everything else in this pandemic, we’ve had to adapt; however, not being able to share the same physical space while grieving has been the most difficult.

Walt, you will be missed.

 

 

 

 

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Hang in There

It was extra depressing to hear the NJ governor say that “Everything is going in the wrong direction” regarding the COVID surge, when it’s already been 8 months of living in relative isolation to prevent that very reality from happening.

While it’s fairly simple – albeit frustrating – to adhere to the recommendations of mask wearing, social distancing and separation, navigating many of my emotions around this whole scary upheaval has become more difficult the longer it’s dragged on, with no end in sight.

To keep from succumbing to negativity, I’ve had to dig beyond my Take-a-Walk and let Mother Nature do her Magic that I wrote about a couple weeks ago – and the Trader Joe’s dark chocolate almonds 😊 that I didn’t – to gain some strength from prior experiences that played out over a somewhat lengthy period of time.   

Two trying situations in my past that fit this description include 1 - going through divorce and 2 – the months leading up to being terminated from my workplace. 

In each case, I kept a running dialogue in my head to keep me from getting too emotional or distracted.  In a strangely powerful way, these conversations were quite effective.

The divorce process took a couple of years, and I had to keep reminding myself: Be patient…Stay the course! Be focused and positive! Don’t get caught up in all the minutia or bickering! Be grateful for the friends and family who support me! Look how far I’ve come…soon it will behind me!     

With regard to my employment clusterfuck, after 17 years I knew things had gone south for me but had no intention of giving up or making it easy for my boss(es) to fire me; I opted to fight for the job. So every morning as I walked down the steps to the basement where my office was, I would give myself a pep talk: Don’t turn around and go back home! Don’t quit! Don’t make things worse than they are! Be a good person, despite the crap!  Don’t have regrets!  

My guess is that all this talking to myself didn’t really change anything that was beyond my control, but it did keep me from spiraling to a dark place.

COVID, like these two scenarios, requires similar coaching:

Take it one day at a time! Don’t get sloppy! This isn’t going to last forever!

Sunday, November 8, 2020

A Step in the Right Direction

What would life be like if I were a Black man?

I have tried to imagine this at different times but, after a few seconds, it’s too difficult to fathom so I go back to what I know: life as a white woman…where I can go for a walk in my neighborhood; I can stroll around the mall; I can drive anywhere; I can hang out in coffee shops; I can travel in my state, in my country and abroad, too.  

I can do all these things whenever I want and be fairly certain that I’ll be returning home safely.

I am aware that the color of my skin gives me the freedom to live the way I want to. 

But if tomorrow I were to wake up as a Black man, how would I feel? 

I am sure I’d be panic-stricken, knowing I could easily be singled out in any environment, pulled over, asked to leave somewhere, made to feel uncomfortable, worried about arrest – even death.    

And if I were a parent or grandparent of a young Black man, I’d always be frightened, just waiting for something awful to transpire…tonight, tomorrow, anytime at all.   

In Donald Trump’s world, these fears multiplied. His lack of character combined with his hunger for power further oppressed Blacks and other marginalized populations; he empowered neo-Nazis and White Supremacists so that he could continue to receive their support, giving them an amplified voice which in turn has caused widespread anxiety and dread in and danger to the Black community. 

He’s had no problem with KKK rallies, police brutality, random acts of violence against Blacks, discrimination, racism in every form and so on.     

CNN political commentator Van Jones, a Black man, reacted to Joe Biden’s winning of the presidency with tears that brought my own as well.  

His hope is that as a parent he will be less fearful and that his sons will have an appreciation for the fact that character and being a good person matters.

 

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Outdoor Peace

In this COVID-infiltrated world, I could SCREAM sometimes because I cannot make one plan or decision without taking the virus into account.

I continually talk myself through it, saying stuff like “next year at this time we should be in a better place,” “this will be a blip when we think back in 10 years,” or “vigilance now will give us freedom later,” and so on.

All this COVID chaos has led me to become extra grateful for Mother Nature.  

Right now, during Autumn, she is giving so generously beyond measure. Her jaw-dropping beauty in combination with the restorative powers that she provides have done so much for me. 

Next to my grandbabies’ (and Shea Doggy’s) faces, nothing is more lovely to look at than fall foliage.  One tree can display a plethora of bold colors including red, orange, gold, yellow and green, and the blend of hues in one leaf alone is stunning.  

In recent weeks, I’ve been strolling through local neighborhoods, all of which have their own personalities but share a seasonal vibrancy unique to this time of year. I walk around holding up my iPhone in photo-taking mode to see which tree would make the most amazing shot or which overall view would be the best. Luckily, I haven’t tripped over my own feet yet in the quest to capture that perfect picture.

While I’m loving the mix of colors when I look up at the trees, the leaves aren’t so pretty when they’ve fallen to the ground on the front or back of our property, translating to hours and hours of leaf blowing and raking. Although David does the majority of it, in years past I’ve heard myself cursing through my portion of the process; this year, however, I’ve been so grateful for the exercise – especially since I can’t get to Planet Fitness – and for working alongside Mother Nature, in all her glory. 

I wish fall didn’t have to end, because the trees will look so bare and lonely, the way many of us feel.   

But before long, as I am bundled up for wintertime, I will eagerly anticipate the first snowfall and the stillness that always follows, soothing my soul.  

Embracing the seasons for their inherent beauty is an important reminder to me to appreciate the people and parts of my life that I find so special, for as long and heartily as I can. 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

A Taste of Morocco

As empty nesters, it’s not every day that we get to share in such a life-changing, wonderful and extended period in one of our kid’s lives, right in our very own home.

We can attribute this opportunity in large part to COVID as well as to other factors but, lucky for us, David’s daughter Lauren, her husband Anas and their Baby May are with us until they visit with Anas’ family in Morocco.    

This time together has been joyous as one would assume with a new baby around and of course seeing our kids develop as adults with their own families is thrilling, too.       

Shortly after they arrived, I was so happy to learn that Lauren wanted to be responsible for some of the meals for all of us. As you know from prior blogs, this food stuff can be an area of anxiety for me and with more mouths to feed, I had been wondering how it would all play out.  

As pure happenstance, I had been lurking in the kitchen on multiple occasions while Lauren was whipping up lunch or dinner. I began to notice a handful of things: how happy she seemed to be when cooking; that she used copious amounts of vegetables, spices and herbs; that Anas was often the food taster; that I never actually saw her refer to a recipe; that I regularly heard Anas’ mom’s name, Nabila, in conversations that centered around Lauren’s preparation of the meal.  

One night, Lauren made a meal in a tajine that was absolutely delicious. A tajine is a type of North African cookware made of clay or ceramic. The bottom is a round, shallow dish used for cooking and serving; the top is shaped into a dome or cone to seal in the flavors.

Loaded with vegetables, she also added chicken to the tajine for three of us, while tending to her pescatarian dad with lentil soup she also made fresh that night.   

When she served dinner on the plate of the tajine, I assumed we’d each take a portion on to our own plates but, after watching them, I saw this wasn’t the case. They dipped their crusty bread into the stew-like blend not only for a heavenly mouthful but to also pull apart the chicken, all of which was shared from the tajine itself. This bread, I soon realized, replaced the need for utensils of any kind.

The very way we devoured it was fun and relaxing, contrary to some meals David and I have that are so quick to eat that 10 minutes in, we are starting to clean up, whereas this tajine meal couldn’t physically be eaten in under 20 or 30 minutes.

When I asked what the specific name of our dinner was, the answer made me more curious: “Tajine of the Road.” Lauren explained that it is the most widely available dish in Morocco, offered not only at most restaurants but also at rest stops and remote restaurants in the mountains or even on the beach. It’s not unusual to see construction workers making it on their lunch breaks using the tajine container, ingredients, spices, and a fire/heat source.   

After feasting like a king and queen for days, one night we asked for a lighter kind of dinner and even suggested omelets. Of course I could just eat less of a bigger or heavier meal but I’ve had no willpower because everything looks and smells so yummy, and frankly I don’t want to miss out on anything. Lauren was quick to suggest Moroccan salads. That sounded perfect.

She went back to chopping huge amounts of vegetables with two or more pots on the stovetop. I was wondering why she was cooking the vegetables for our salads and why so many of her spices and herbs that I’ve seen for a larger presentation were also out, such as the cumin, paprika, garlic/garlic powder, cilantro and parsley (that she keeps frozen), ginger (powdered), coriander, saffron and salt and pepper.  

When it came time to eat, as I eagerly looked for some kind of lettuce or spring mix, she placed two bowls on the table filled with warm concoctions: Taktouka (tomatoes and peppers) and Zaalouk (eggplant) and more bread, stating that in Morocco, salads can be warm or cool. They were fantastic.    

Another delectable foodie experience was made in a cast iron skillet. It was a meatball tomato dish with sunny-side eggs on top called a “Kefta.” She had me with “eggs on top,” as I anticipated a runny yolk that would get all over everything. I scooped up every bite from the pan itself…again, with bread.       

One day, I asked Lauren if Nabila taught her how to make all these foods. Yes, she learned by shadowing Nabila around the kitchen and taking notes as Nabila spoke in both French and Arabic about her mother and grandmother’s recipes that she mastered by heart, with nothing written down to refer to.   

Lauren has been able to keep up with Nabila’s teachings given she had taken a French immersion program years ago and is also becoming familiar with Arabic – and the family talks to one another in multiple languages – but, for the sake of passing traditional Moroccan recipes to May, Lauren has begun taking her own notes.         

Instructions for making these dishes aren’t difficult, she said, but they do require time and patience, as the cuisine is cooked slowly. A typical recipe when broken down is generally about 2/3 ingredients and 1/3 directions.

Since she is still in learning mode, there are hiccups along the way, often due to a lack of specifics. Here’s one conversation told to me by Lauren about her conversation with Nabila, instructing her how to make bread.     

Nabila:  Put flour in a bowl.

Lauren:  How much?

Nabila:  A good amount.

Nabila:  Add water.

Lauren:  How much?

Nabila:  A good amount, little by little, till it’s enough.

Lauren: What temperature should I bake the bread on?

Nabila:  In the middle

Lauren:  For how long?

Nabila:  Till it’s done 

Lauren said sometimes a quick phone call to Nabila helps this process move along.

Food is a real source of pride for women in Morocco, Lauren said, with women spending a good portion of the day between shopping for the food and then preparing it.  

“Here in the US, an accomplished woman balances work and kids; in Morocco, an accomplished woman puts all this food on the table for her family. There is so much love that goes into it.”

David chimed in that since Lauren can’t bring Anas to Morocco [right now], she has to bring Morocco to him.

Again...lucky us.  

 


Sunday, October 18, 2020

Deja VIew

My 2nd road trip to southwest Florida with Andrea, my daughter’s mother-in-law, went off without a hitch. Mostly everything about the 18-20 hour ride itself was on auto pilot from our last trip: a cooler filled with iced waters and egg salad and lots of fruits/vegetables and, much to Andrea’s chagrin, a huge supply of peanut M&Ms. We also kept a bag of masks, sanitizer and gloves accessible on the front passenger side floor.

And once again, we didn’t make bathroom stops to or from, but I don’t know if that makes us an impressive duo or a crazy one. 

Pulling up to the kids’ house around 4:30 pm on our 2nd day of driving, we ran in quickly – of course to go to the bathroom, but equally as pressing was to see our kids and of course 4-month-old Zoey. 

Proud grandmas who view everything she does as magic, we began our picture-taking spree immediately. We carried our phones from room to room so as not to miss one new and/or endearing second. After all, it had been 3 months since we had seen her, so we had to make up for lost time.

As we moved around the house day after day, I would often misplace my phone and then feel compelled to remind Andrea to send me the images she took, and vice versa. I found myself getting agitated when neither of us was prepared to photograph one of Zoey’s fancy new moves. It reminded me of how a girlfriend of mine felt cheated when she walked 10,000 steps but had forgotten to wear her Fitbit and missed out on the congratulatory vibration of the device for reaching that milestone.

One night after dinner, the 5 of us went on a walk together: Allison, Dave, Zoey, Andrea and me. Dave created a seat in his arms to hold Zoey facing outward, and she was wearing super cool sunglasses that Andrea had bought for her that matched Dave’s. 

Halfway through, Andrea said she wished she had brought her phone to take photos of us all together on the walk. I felt disappointed that I too hadn't taken mine and that the kids hadn't brought theirs either.      

“You don’t need to take a picture. Just enjoy the moment,” said Dave, sensing our disappointment.

H U H?

I had to let that sink in. I considered this thinking before, when I had taken my then-2 year-old granddaughter Eliana to a local gym to play on my babysitting Tuesdays. I’d be so busy taking one photo after the next that I couldn’t assist her as I wanted or even relish in her actions or reactions. It didn’t stop me, though, from joining so many others doing the same thing.

On this walk, however, I appreciated the idea of watching and enjoying without feeling the responsibility of  photographing everything Zoey did or videotaping her as she “talked” up a storm.   

There’s no doubt that trying to capture memories interferes with living in the moment, especially when I'm thinking about how to photograph a person or scene. Then by moving around to find the best vantage point, I've potentially become a distraction myself and run the risk of changing the scene, thus ruining the opportunity to get a good shot altogether anyway.

It becomes even more problematic when I look at the picture I just took and start assessing whether it’s acceptable or if I should try from another angle or for a better smile and if I want to add sequential pictures and so on. Before long, I find my energy being sucked up by the quality of the picture instead of the beauty of the current situation.       

While a good photo in my iPhone would always be nice to have as well as to show and send to others, once I relaxed without the phone in my hand as we continued on our walk, I was able to revel in the joy of my daughter’s family and the experiences we were all sharing.

Today was Eliana’s 3rd birthday party and guess how many pictures I took? Only 6!  

The rest of the time, I just watched and smiled. No better way to spend an afternoon!

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Tears

These are emotional times. Lately I feel like I am either laughing or crying at the drop of a hat, and yes – in case people are wondering – I’ve been through menopause. 

There are far too many feelings to get into – and many of us are probably experiencing a similar reality – but suffice it to say that on the one end there’s the infinite joy of grandchildren and on the other is all the matter that darkens up the sky.

Every now and then, extra tears creep in, surprising even myself at how close to the surface they must be to roll down my face when they don’t seem warranted.  

Friday’s tears caught me off guard and were kind of embarrassing, especially when David turned to me and asked in an incredulous tone, “Are you crying?”

We were sitting side-by-side watching the Italian Open Tennis Championship in Rome, and he could hear me sniffing.

I’m sure to him there would be no reason to be emotional, especially because I wasn’t attached to either of the two players like I’ve been to Naomi Osaka, who opted out of this tournament with a nagging hamstring injury. 

The match on at the time was between Daria Kasatkina and Victoria “Vika” Azarenka.

This was the third-round match for them and, unlike the U.S. Open on a hard court, this was on clay.  They had just played the first set of two or three (best of three) and were engaged in a very close battle – the score was 6-6 – and they were in the midst of the tiebreak. 

Vika had been on a hot streak; she had made an awe-inspiring comeback after years of missed tournaments due to a custody battle with her ex-boyfriend over their son, an issue that I mentioned in last week’s blog post called Game, Set, Match.

I wasn’t familiar with Daria before that match, but David told me that she had been moving up the rankings several years ago but then leveled off; recently, she upped her game but then was injured on the court and had to take a hiatus.

So here the two women were during the tiebreak, when Daria slid toward a ball that dropped right over the net, her right ankle turned in, and she rolled over it. She fell to the ground and laid there – not moving – and clearly in pain.

Within seconds, Vika rushed to her opponent with an ice bag to keep Daria’s ankle from swelling, took off Daria’s shoe to place the ice on her ankle and wiped the clay off her back and legs…just like a mom would do with her daughter.

Vika and the sports trainer helped to get Daria off the court and to her seat. Once the trainer assessed the situation, Daria had to retire from the match. 

For a couple of minutes more, viewers could see Vika bending down to the same height as Daria on her chair, and the two women were face-to-face sharing a private moment (overheard by the courtside microphone). When Vika stood up, she kissed Daria on her head.

As Vika was getting ready to walk away, Daria reached out for her hand and then said something to Vika, which was later shared by media outlets. 

Daria told Vika that her (Vika’s) “game in America inspired me,” referring to the recently completed U.S. Open.

Then Vika said to Daria, “Just keep going. Don’t ever think it’s over. You can always try harder. Just do the best out of the situation.”

This is great advice that can be applied to almost anything, given by a tennis champion and, equally as important, a mom.

Seeing Vika mother her opponent brought me to tears. I don’t know if it’s because Daria is only 23 years old, and when I saw her age, I thought to myself She could be my daughter. I then felt so sad knowing how heartbroken she must have felt when she realized she couldn’t continue to play.      

Then – kind of unnervingly – I realized that Vika at 31-years-old could also be my daughter and, in that case, I was so very proud of her. Not only did she demonstrate admirable sportsmanship but to witness her motherly instincts coupled with enormous compassion was incredibly touching.     

Looking at all that transpired and the exchange between the two was more riveting than the set itself. It would’ve been so easy – and expected – for Vika to attend to Daria briefly, wish her well and then within a minute or two bask in her own glory of winning the match (albeit by default) and move on to the next round.

I’m not really sure what’s causing my emotions to be on high alert. Perhaps having three grandchildren born within 3.5 months during COVID has done it to me. Perhaps because I feel more love and connection than ever before. Perhaps because there’s a scary and divisive virus going around with no end in sight. Perhaps because the election is right around the corner. Perhaps because I have way too much time to reflect on things. 

On to the French Open.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Game, Set, Match

I wish I were a sports fan.

David watched a football game earlier today and boy was he pumped. As usual he spent a lot of his time texting like-minded souls. Others tuned in with friends or family – outside or virtually – and nibbled on lots of fun appetizer-type snacks while never taking their eyes off the screen. If they witnessed a historic game of any kind, they will talk about it forever. I know I’m missing out.     

I’ve tried. I just don’t appreciate seeing grown men run around chasing a ball or a puck and, as added entertainment for the viewer, potentially fighting over it. 

If invited to join a game day gathering, I would consider it so that I’m not seen as antisocial, but I’d rather do almost anything else. Would I rather…try on a bathing suit? Well…No. I’d choose the event. How about clean out the bottom shelf of my linen closet?  I could pick this. Go out for ice cream? Definitely.        

Make the athletes women, however, playing a sport that demonstrates individual skill and mental fortitude, throw in a story or two about overcoming a personal and/or professional struggle, tell the tale of two siblings or rivals, or demonstrate how a player uses her position in the limelight to take a stand (that I agree with), and I’m all in.

For the past 2 weeks, I was spellbound by the Women’s U.S. Open Tennis Championship. David and I watched all the women’s singles matches and some of the men’s. The fact that No. 1 ranked Novak Djokovic was thrown out in the quarter finals because he got angry and hit a ball that injured a line judge was just another reminder to me that if this sport was male dominated, I wouldn’t be interested.  

The women participating from the get-go were awesome. In the mix was a variety of individuals who made me proud:  9 moms, 1 social activist, 1 woman making a comeback, 1 underdog, 1 tennis icon, and lots more.  

The final was between Naomi Osaka, a mixed-race 22-year-old – her mom is Japanese and her dad is Haitian – and Victoria Azarenka, a 31-year-old Belarusian mom with a 3-year-old son, Leo.

I was rooting for Osaka; David was rooting for Azarenka.

He was surprised that I wasn’t cheering for a mom who had been stuck in a custody battle with her ex-boyfriend and therefore couldn’t participate in many tournaments over a few-year period because she wasn’t legally allowed to leave the country with her son.

While I felt badly for Azarenka, she was able to make up for lost time. She had been penalized unfairly – no doubt about it – but I was so inspired by Osaka and felt great pride that such a young woman would stand alone in the tennis world as a minority herself and speak out about racism and police brutality.

She brought to the U.S. Open 7 masks, each one bearing the name of one of the Black victims of racial violence, hoping to raise awareness and “to make people start talking.” She honored Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Philando Castile and Tamir Rice.

She also spoke about the battle she often encounters with her inner self about maintaining a positive attitude and not getting caught up in bad moments when things start to go against her on the court.

When she won the championship, Osaka thanked runner-up Azarenka for being an inspiration ever since she (Osaka) was a little girl and for teaching her so much along the way. 

Osaka then said what I’d be thinking but probably wouldn’t have verbalized – although maybe 40 years ago, I would have – and that is, “I don’t want to play you in any more finals. I really didn’t enjoy that…it was a really tough match for me.”

David, on the other hand, supported Azarenka’s comeback and the unwavering confidence she demonstrated in herself. She shared her belief that if she’s in the match, she can win the match. I’m sure that having followed her over the last decade influenced his interest in seeing her become the winner.

She was asked by reporters what she felt about moms being so prominent at the U.S. Open. 

“That’s not the only thing that we are...We are also women who have dreams and goals and passions.”

All these women are why I love tennis.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Threading the Needle

Before COVID, I was a hospice volunteer at Spring Oak Assisted Living in Berlin. One of the women I enjoyed spending time with was named Marie Bonfiglio. The first couple of times I went to see her, she was glued to a religious television show, so I sat with her quietly to not disturb her while she watched.   

One day before I left, I complimented her on a beautifully beaded purple pillow that was sitting on the foot of her bed. “I made that,” she said, turning to look at me for the very first time.   

“You did?” I asked.

‘Yes,” Marie said proudly.

“When I was a little girl, about 2 years old, I sat at my mother’s sewing machine table and asked her to show me how to use it," she added.

Her mom agreed to do it, and Marie became quite proficient, but the warnings continued: “Marie, don’t hurt your fingers.”

Marie was 95 years young at Spring Oak, so she was recalling memories that were over 90 years old.    

For decades, her kids, neighbors and friends brought her their clothing or other items that needed to be mended, and they also purchased material for her to make curtains, bedspreads and pillows.

She said she was known as the woman who could fix anything…because she did. 

“I could fix things better than my husband,” she said with a smile and added that she climbed ladders and painted the house and made lots of home repairs, "more than he did," too.  

Every time I saw Marie from that time forward, she shared a new layer of her story, such as the kind of outfits she designed, the material she chose for clothing, and all the home improvements she made while her husband was at work. 

A few months after I had last seen Marie, my 27-year-old daughter Amy told me she ripped her comforter and was upset about it, because she liked the design and didn’t want to buy a new one. I suggested that she take it to a local dry cleaning store post COVID because there might be someone in-house to take care of it.     

She said she did not want to wait because she feared the tear would grow.

I could feel it coming, and I was dreading it…and then I heard it: “Mom, will you do it for me?”   

I immediately thought…Who does she think I am, Marie Bonfiglio?

Attempting to remedy this problem was the last thing I wanted to do or felt I’d do well, and I was annoyed with myself that I hadn’t taught Amy to sew. What kind of mom doesn’t teach her daughter to sew...like Marie’s mom did for her...like my own mom did for me too?!?!  I remember sitting with my mama while she sewed holes in our socks. I was her needle threader, as she had a hard time seeing where to slide the thread in. Now I would need a needle threader.

Some 35 years ago, I loved to sew. I had a pair of jeans that I sewed 100 patches on to, primarily from my brother’s old shirts – it was a work of art – and I also made denim handbags and pillows too, like Marie 😊.

But I botched a sewing project from my junior high home economics class which left me in tears – thank goodness for my sweet Aunt Fran who completed the jumper for me – so I was kind of nervous about working on something Amy felt was so valuable. What if I ended up ruining it?  

She assured me that I wouldn’t mess it up; the damage was on the underside, so it didn’t matter what the fabric looked like, as long as she could use it. I was proud that she was being so practical, and she wasn’t asking me to do something crazy for goodness sake, just do some magic with needle and thread…something that a mom should be able to do…so I said OK.

Over the next few days, I strategized about how to tackle the 1-foot-long rip.  I ended up doing what I thought was a good job; I utilized part of an unused white pillowcase to create a patch to cover the area. When I returned it to Amy and told her about all the steps I took to save her beloved comforter, I could tell she was v e r y impressed (although she is a teacher so maybe that’s the positive reinforcement tone I heard).   

She even asked if I could teach her how to sew, because had she known how to do it, she would’ve taken care of it herself. I believe she would have, too, because she is always pleased to make her own repairs with the toolbox David gave her when she moved out. 

We decided that once we can sit close together again – after COVID – we will have a sewing date.  

A couple days later, she told me she was snuggling with her comforter when, all of a sudden, something sharp poked her. As she tried to feel around to see what it was, she realized it was coming from the area under the pillowcase patch.

Turns out that I left a needle and thread in there.

Marie would not have been happy.

 

 

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Be Kind

One of my favorite local boutiques airs a Facebook livestream on Tuesday afternoons, when the owner and her worker bees sport their new fashions. All of them are “stay-at-home comfy” pieces; a few have some sequins or sayings.

She was happy to announce that their “Be Kind” sweatshirts are back in stock. 

It they weren’t cropped – the exact opposite of my style – I’d consider getting one, because I’d feel good wearing it. The saying would make me think, for the moment at least, that We’re All In This Together.   

Because lately, it seems, we are a nation that is divided in every possible way, from matters related to COVID to the myriad of issues capturing headlines that impact us all.

On top of that, there are our own personal struggles.    

Yesterday – August 29 – marked 10 years since Matthew, David’s son, passed away from rhabdomyosarcoma (a soft tissue cancer), at 20 years old.  It is hard to believe that a whole decade has gone by. That’s a lot of time for David to be walking around with such deep sadness and pain that he knows will never go away.   

Certainly, the guy in line in front of him at the supermarket or at Lowe’s would have no idea that this is a deeply wounded man. Nor would the person he rides by on his bike or a new neighbor or the postman.  

Most likely they too have their own anguish to deal with that others may or may not see or know about.  All around us, there are people experiencing heartbreak or hardships or any type of challenge that makes it difficult to muster the strength to place one foot in front of the other, day after day.   

It’s just the way it is, unfortunately, with no one able to escape the harshness of life; therefore, we may as well recognize our collective plight as a unifying factor as opposed to focusing on our differences.

Perhaps if we keep in mind that everyone we see may have been tossing and turning all night due to something that has scarred them for a few hours or will for an eternity, we’d be more apt to take our gloves off and find some tenderness from within to extend to one another.   

Sunday, August 23, 2020

What's For Dinner?

 I am free, at last!

For 35+ years, it was up to me to figure out dinnertime. 

The expectation seemed to be that I’d come up with some kind of solution that included preparing a meal, taking out or dining out – whether it be for 2 of us, several more or, in the height of our Brady Bunch days when both sets of kids were home, a full house of 7.         

I tried to plan in advance but that wasn’t always practical; decisions were made based upon a variety of factors: who would be around, timing that worked for everyone, dietary preferences to accommodate both vegetarians and non-vegetarians, and my own sanity level as I juggled all the pieces of our hectic lives.     

On average, I had to construct a meal 4 nights each week. Given my desire to try to make a healthy one, that meant a protein, vegetable and starch but frankly I wasn’t adverse to a big bowl of spaghetti every now and then.

Four meals per week for 35 years equates to 7,280 homemade dinners. That’s a whole lot of planning and executing.

On the nights when I had to cook, this of course meant I had to have shopped for the ingredients and prepared supper in time for everyone to sit down and eat before they ran off to do something else.   

Since much of life’s responsibilities can be monotonous, I was resigned to the reality that I was stuck with dinnertime duty for as long as I lived. While I was grateful that I had a family/partner to take care of, the thought process was often exhausting and at times anxiety-provoking because it never ended. I’d be done with one meal and less than 24 hours later had to repeat the production all over again. I know many of us share these feelings.

Then one day, when I was least expecting it, COVID happened…and POOF! Just as I had begun to feel I was trapped, something amazing started to take shape in my home.

It was about the time when I started to explore senior shopping hours at various supermarkets and told David I’d be heading out about 7 am the next day, when he suggested we check out a local home delivery service instead.      

He went online to one of the sites, created an account for us, and then asked me what to order. I gave him my list.        

A handful of bags came to our door with the first order. It was exciting lifting out each of the items we ordered. I recognized mostly everything, but then I didn’t…out came a 5-lb bag of potatoes, which made me cringe, and a ton of bananas.   

“Why did you order so many potatoes?” I barked, also stating that we do not eat enough to buy in quantity (although that has since changed). “Why did you get so many bananas?” Why this and why that.

This was a rocky transition for me; I was accustomed to making the food buying decisions and yes, even dealing with my own purchasing errors – not anyone else’s. 

Admittedly, I was rough on him, although it took him awhile to stop buying so many bananas, so I was tasked with making well over a dozen loaves of banana bread (no complaints here).

What I realized fairly quickly, I’m happy to say, was that instead of being frustrated because he didn’t shop like I did – the RIGHT way – I should’ve just been pleased that he was taking the initiative to handle the food shopping.  It didn’t really matter, anyway; HIS way was just different from MY way.

And then, with efficiency as the guiding force, as always – perhaps because he didn’t want to be spending his time on the supermarket website more than once a week and paying a delivery fee and tip each time – he started to do something that I had tried to get him to do for years:  Think Ahead.

It was like the switch in his head went from OFF: Not my job … to ON: Engage in mealtime process.

Now that David is retired and has the time to get involved in all things food related, the conversation has changed from what it was some years ago.

“Let’s have salmon Monday and Tuesday, and branzino on Friday and Saturday,” he says these days as not only the planner but the chef – and a smart one at that, with each recipe lasting for 2 nights. He happens to make these dishes amazingly well, especially medium-rare salmon, just the way I like it. 

He also tells me on what day to defrost my chicken so that I will have it on a night when he makes his favorite Spicy Tofu dish.

I have to admit that I did find myself resisting all these directions initially too, because not only was David calling the shots but he was orchestrating a week in advance, which I had tried to accomplish for years.

But really…Why push back…because he took charge? That would be so foolish for me to do.

This shift in kitchen leadership has improved my life dramatically. 

I’ve come a long way, as has he. 

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Picture, Picture on the Wall

The childhood home I lived in some 40-60 years ago was like others I had seen, reflecting the personalities our parents.           

My mom’s decor choices were bold, as was she: red kitchen flooring, reddish/orange shag rug and similarly colored tweed upholstered furniture. Her passions were sprinkled throughout, such as her love for travel, her eternal fight for justice, historical novels she could immerse herself in, and her pursuit of beautiful artwork to make our walls pop with color and meaning. 

As unique as I found some of her taste, there was only one big difference between our home and those of my friends: we had no family pictures on display…anywhere.

There was no sign of little Judy as a toddler or playing with her siblings or the doggy or Mama Judy with her kiddies in tow. There was no picture of my mom and dad when they got married or their parents, grandparents or siblings. 

This isn’t a case of Were there even cameras back then?  Yes, there were.

It also isn’t a case of Did they have pictures?  Yes, lots. Older ones were neatly arranged in photo albums and newer ones filled the top drawer of my mom’s bedroom bureau.     

“Why don’t we have family pictures hanging up?” I asked my mom one day, given all the other stuff we had on the walls. 

“That would be indulgent,” she said, clearly showing disapproval.

I said “Oh, OK…” but I didn’t know what she was saying. What on earth did she mean? 

When my kids were in nursery school, I met a woman who sold really cool picture frames, and I bought a few. That was back in the day when people used film cameras, not their phones, so I always had a lot of pictures lying around as I’d get double prints made from each roll and distribute to the grandparents.

I would rotate pictures in those frames, never having more than one of each child at a time, because I couldn’t shake my mom’s comment about indulgence.   

Interestingly, on her 80th birthday, my mom’s best friend Bea gave her a framed picture of the 3 Musketeers – my mom, Bea and Sylvia – who were besties for some 70 years. I was so curious what she’d do with that. Was she going to hide it in the drawer with all the photos I gave her, or was she going to hang it up?     

Next time I visited my mom, I was pleasantly surprised that the picture had been hung on the dining room wall. This meant she’d pass it every time she left the kitchen and would hopefully experience pleasant feelings multiple times a day.           

In my current home, we don’t have pictures on the first floor, other than of Matthew, David’s son, with 2 Mets players that David and Matthew met on one of their baseball trips. They are on a dining room wall, positioned so that we can see him when we come in the front door and as we walk around the house.

Upstairs, we have a good number of family and friends’ pictures in different places, and I enjoy them immensely. I wonder if my mom would think it indulgent to have pictures around that only we inhabitants would see.     

About 15 years ago, David took a shot of my mom and me, cheek to cheek. He framed it and gave it to me. I didn’t know where to put it; I knew it wasn’t going downstairs – God forbid she would see her picture when she came over – given my paranoia about her remark. 

He suggested that I place it on my nightstand so that I could look at her every day, when I get up and when I go to bed.    

I wasn’t keen on the idea initially but tried it out. I’m so happy I did.

I love seeing her face and it being so close to mine is an added bonus.

 

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Like-Minded

The best part of my life is centered around connecting, one way or another.

Years ago when I was a relatively new mom and my son had been diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, his neurologist suggested that I join a support group at Children’s Hospital for parents of kids with Tourette. I’m sure all my questions drove him up a wall.  

This was in the mid-1990s, before we had personal computers or smart phones, when it wasn’t possible to connect with people if you couldn’t see them in person or pick up a phone and call them. The hardest part was even knowing they existed.

I went to the meetings several times and liked the interactive nature of learning about the complexities of Tourette while also feeling free to talk about our feelings. I would’ve gone more often except that it was an hour from my house and I had to have a babysitter for the kids, which made attendance a challenge.  

Over the years, as I had encountered difficult situations like divorce, stepfamilies, aging parents and more, I found myself once again looking for like-minded souls as well as those who could play the devil’s advocate when necessary – in a gentle manner – so that I could consider different perspectives. 

When I couldn’t find people going through what I was experiencing at the time, I often hung out in Barnes & Noble looking for material on specific subjects and almost always ended up in the Self-Help section of the store.    

Fast forward a couple decades and W O W! I wish all the internet groups and forums out there today were present back in the days when I really needed assistance.

I’m amazed how many online forums David has found in the last 20 years – he has dozens that are bookmarked. For a guy who isn’t particularly social, he has a ton of online friends, too (I have none).  He likes exchanging information and sharing thoughts about music and equipment on one forum and also dissecting and applauding episodes of The Wire or Breaking Bad or Rectify or Perry Mason…and ranting about This Is Us on another forum. 

The two of us regularly check out “What’s Up In Cherry Hill (Official)” and other local pages, where people post questions throughout the day about all kinds of things: Will you send your child to school or keep him or her home? Google Meet Vs Zoom? I’m new to the area, who would you recommend to get…my hair colored? A pedicure? A pediatrician?  A CPA? What’s the best restaurant around here for outside dining? 

While not “support” focused, these groups encourage the expression of opinions and recommendations with the additional perk of being able to connect with people in our own community.

I’ve been following the Tri-State Vacation Club on Facebook that my recent travel partner (my daughter’s husband’s mom) invited me to join before our first trip to Florida. Matters discussed were whether to drive or fly, which bathrooms are the cleanest along I-95, which hotels are following safety guidelines, what’s the protocol for quarantining and more.  

I was happy to hear my daughter tell me about a few private Facebook support groups she has joined that have helped her with the trials and tribulations of breastfeeding.

Each of the groups has moderators to oversee the posts, there is no time commitment or cost, and access to the group is on-going – 24/7 – with lots of night owls connecting in their darkest hours, producing a renewed sense of self and spirit and confidence when the sun comes up. 

She loves the camaraderie, and the result is a much happier mama and baby!

Thinking about it…the way I connect the most…is through this blog. 


Sunday, August 2, 2020

One Ringy Dingy

I can still rattle off all the phone numbers I had in my childhood house, but don’t ask me what any of my kids’ numbers are.

In contrast to the ease of today’s cell phone, the landlines of yesteryear presented challenges that are hard to fathom if you didn’t actually live them. For example, people had to remember each other’s phone numbers or keep a directory near the phone to access them. 

We also had to share the phone with others in the home, and talk where the phone was located; today, we have our own phones and can conduct a conversation wherever we are or want to be, even outside.

The phones in my house growing up in the 1960s were located in 3 spots: the kitchen on the 1st floor, my parents’ bedroom on the 2nd, and 1 in the basement. Two of the phones were “high tech,” with a panel on the bottom that included 2 phone numbers, a hold button, and an intercom which allowed us to talk to each other in the home, usually about who was calling and/or that my dad was ready for his nightly white bread sandwich in bed.

Having a phone on each floor and having 2 different phone numbers was a pretty advanced set-up in those days, as most people had just 1 number in 1 place in the house, in large part because having a 2nd  instrument was a costly add-on. My parents wanted us to have the 2 numbers to accommodate the political people and neighbors who called our home all day and well into the evening. We gave those people LI8-2817; we in the family would call out on LI8-6274. 

For the most part, everyone’s phone call conversations were “public”; most were taken in the kitchen and conducted in front of each other. When my one brother Denis would go into the basement to make or take a call, we all knew that meant he was talking to a girl.

Once I became a teen and started liking boys, I too felt the need for privacy so that I could talk to them or about them with my girlfriends. This became complicated, as my mom was often lurking in the kitchen, the basement gave me the heebie-jeebies and it was just plain old weird hanging out in my parents’ bedroom. On those occasions when I did get the kitchen to myself, my mom could see the panel lit up from another phone location and would call up or down to me to keep the call(s) short because both lines were needed to be free for everyone else.   

Later on when I was in high school, I petitioned my mom to get my own phone – I was hoping for a pretty pink one with buttons – because she was growing more impatient with my conversations. She’d often tell me to focus on my school work and not all the other junk, which meant she was listening, so it was causing quite a bit of stress for the mother-daughter relationship that was already under siege given my age and focus on myself.   

She agreed to get the phone but was slow moving, so I had to keep reminding her. One day she told me she has good news for me, but there was a caveat:  “We will have an extra phone for you to use, and you will be sharing it with Mark” (also my brother). This didn’t thrill me because he was a state legislator with a large base of constituents, which meant they’d often be calling our house. So once again it was a political line; however, he was in Harrisburg for half the week, so at least I’d have the phone to myself then.    

I couldn’t complain because some of my friends had to share just 1 phone with all their siblings and parents, with absolutely no privacy whatsoever.  One girl even had a party-line arrangement so anyone from 2 households could pick up the phone and listen to both family’s conversations.

This phone number that Mark and I used was WA4-7657. My mom had 1 phone installed in the dining room so he could work at the table and a 2nd one in his bedroom, with a very long cord that enabled me to move the phone to my room when he was away, and he'd take it to his room when he was home.  That’s how I often knew he was back home: “my” phone, which I kept on the floor within arm’s reach from my bed when I was lying down, would be gone! 

I got in the habit of talking late at night and hanging up the phone without my getting out of bed.  I loved every part of this lifestyle. 

This system worked out OK, although at one point I stubbed my toe on the phone (on the floor by my bed), resulting in a broken toe that called for a boot and crutches. This was actually a nightmare, given I was a Temple University commuter in a very hot summer session at the time, but all was right with the world when I could lie in bed at night and talk on the phone with whomever I wanted, for as long as I wanted. I would, however, be reprimanded if the call was “long distance,” which incurred an added cost per minute on the phone bill.    

Today’s phones make it so easy to communicate with people: we can have privacy, get immediate results (no more busy signals); we can text with words, pictures, videos, and so much more. The advances are astounding to our generation, with younger folks not knowing otherwise.   

While I appreciate everything that’s possible now, I sometimes long for the simpler days. There was a sense of anticipation about the phone ringing back then, when no one knew who was calling or who the call was for.

The best was when it was for me.