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


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.