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


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.