Archive of ‘My Life’ category

Chin Up!

nailsIt isn’t easy being a woman of a certain age. There are all sorts of body ‘”maintenance” that I expose myself to so I can continue to show my face in public. After all the haircuts, coloring and keratin to make it straight, the hair products, gel manicures, lip and eyebrow waxing, endless cosmetics and an occasional facial, I feel like I’m doing my part.

This morning, I needed to get my nails done. It has been more than 2 weeks since my last appointment and my nails were turning into claws. Typing was becoming a challenge and it is quite possible that my jigsaw puzzle is not getting done because I can no longer pick up the pieces.

I wasn’t thrilled about going out in the freezing cold weather we are currently having in my neck of the woods. I pretty much never wanted to leave my nice, warm bed this weekend. But, I showered, dressed and went to the nail salon. I made polite conversation with the woman who did my nails and it was nice to relax after a long week at work.

I was feeling pretty and productive – always a good combination.

When it came for waxing, I asked for the usual. I laid back on the table and waited for the technician to walk in. And then she said something like this:

“Eyebrows and lip? How about chin?” she asked as she proceeded to put her cold hands on my face and feel around my chin as if I had stubble.

I’ve been going to this salon for many years now and never asked for this service. It hadn’t even crossed my mind–not even once. Needless to say, I was stunned.and managed to politely, but firmly decline.

“Are you sure?” she asked. I didn’t answer. Are they running a special on chin waxing this week?   And as a side note: don’t you think that unless one asks for extra waxing, people shouldn’t offer it to you? Can that be a new rule?

It sucks getting old.



A Work In Progress

In my writing workshop, we were given the following prompt - “I am from…”  I find myself thinking about the beginning of this sentence a lot and wondering how it ends. Not an easy question to answer, but a great window to look out at the world and figure out where I fit in.

It could have so many meanings. This is what I have so far and I hope to spend 2018 adding more verses. Just like me, it is a work in progress.

I am from that place where everybody knows my name, but they don’t really know me.
And I am from the place where someone knows everything about me and loves me anyway.

I am from that place in my heart where I like to find the good in everybody.
And the place in my head where I come back to reality and see the world as it is.

I am from that place in my core that wants to be organized and put together.
And the place where I’m constantly looking for my car keys.

I am from that place where I think I’ve got this parenting thing down pat
And that place where the kids get older and change the rules on me.

I am from that place of desperately wanting to be present in the moment.
And the place where life gets in the way and the moment is gone.

To be continued…

Jigsaw Puzzles Are Our Thing

I may not be able to get my family around the dinner table every night for a hot meal, but when there is a new jigsaw puzzle on my dining room table – the family bonding begins.

When I was little, the first snowfall meant 3 things – hot chocolate, days off from school, and jigsaw puzzles. There was always something about putting together a 1,000-piece puzzle that facilitated great conversation, teamwork, lots of laughs and great memories.

As an adult, I’m carrying on this tradition with my own kids. I started them out young with Melissa & Doug wooden puzzles and then they graduated to floor puzzles of the United States and modes of transportation. It didn’t take long for them to earn a spot at the dining room table for the main event.

While my love of jigsaw puzzles has remained steady, my kids have had varied levels of interest. Andrew took to it quickly. As a lover of the Lego, he is a natural builder with qualities like patience and determination to succeed.

Jenna, on the other hand, had a passing interest for many years. She would come and do a few pieces at a time and then become frustrated by the process and leave the table. But I always knew she would be back. 2017 is her year. She is now passionate about finding the right pieces and feels the satisfaction of linking them together in holy matrimony. And then, she keeps going – knowing another perfect match is right around the corner.

As you can see, we really get into this. There are happy dances and high fives all around. We play music and a family sing-a-long is not unheard of. And we do have some rules about jigsaw puzzles that I’d like to share with you in case I’ve convinced you to try one with your loved ones.

  • Choose your puzzle carefully – When selecting a puzzle at the store, don’t go for the 2,000-piece puzzle at first. You are just setting yourself up for failure. Go with a 500 or 1,000 pieces. Also, pick a puzzle that you would like to see come to life. This year, we have a dog park puzzle. Last year, we must have been hungry when we selected the doughnut themed one and two years ago, we were in a New York state of mind when we did two puzzles in one winter – Central Park and Times Square.
  • Anyone can participate – Puzzles are fun for all ages and abilities. You can be a novice or an expert. And we are known for our multi-generation puzzle doers. We have had 3 generations working on a puzzle at once. We also invite neighbors and anyone else who wants to help. All are welcome.
  • All methods are welcome – There are many ways to approach a jigsaw puzzle – by color, by section of the puzzle, or by the shape of the piece. Whatever floats your boat and you can change methods. No one will ever judge you.
  • No fighting, except… – The only fighting allowed is over the box cover that features the entire puzzle. Also, it is not cheating to refer to the picture for help – just don’t keep it to yourself.

And most of all—have fun!

Life with Chloe

It is pouring rain and I am standing outside in the cold with an umbrella over the dog (not me) waiting patiently and occasionally coaxing her to get on with her business.

 “Come on, Chloe. Mommy has to go to work and it’s freezing out here.” Like she cares.

What is wrong with this picture? Not a thing.

If you told me over a year ago that this is what I would be doing on a rainy Tuesday morning, I would have laughed in your face. I have never considered myself a “dog person.” For one thing, I’m allergic to dogs plus I never had a dog growing up, so I was not comfortable with the whole idea. Frankly, I thought fish were more my speed—that is until Chloe came into our lives.

And yet here I am, looking down at those big beautiful brown eyes of my little grey schnoodle (part schnauzer/part toy poodle) complimenting her (out loud) on how nice she looks in her plaid fall coat. Yes, I buy her clothes. Just a few weeks ago, I bought an Eagles jersey in which she proudly struts around the house on game day. I justified the purchase because everyone in our family wears Eagles green on Sundays and she is a part of our family.

She also has in her wardrobe a pink dress which serves as both a ballerina Halloween costume and for when she likes to dress up on Purim as Queen Esther. As I’m writing this, I remind myself to buy that Ugly Hanukkah sweater I found online for her. I think I’ll draw the line though at the doggy dreidel hat, which looks like a miniature torture device, but I may throw in the bright blue bow if the price is right.

She finally finishes what we came outside to do. We head back to the house and she turns into our driveway. I marvel at how she always knows exactly which one is ours. I’m not sure if our grass has a familiar smell or if she is keenly aware of the massive amounts of concrete divots in our driveway. She just knows.

Chloe waits patiently as I bend down to remove her leash and then runs freely towards the shelter of our front porch while I walk over to the trash can on the side of the house to throw her waste bag away.

“Who’s a good girl?” I scratch her head and say to her in a voice that only came along when we rescued her. I call it “my Chloe voice.”

Once we are back in the house, I feed her breakfast and quickly add “Buy Chloe’s treats” to my shopping list. I seriously consider switching up the flavors from the chicken and apple sausage blend we always get to the Salisbury steak flavor that Tucker from down the street recommended. Okay, so it was my best friend Jill who made the actual recommendation, but her pug, Tucker, has a good palette.

I glance at the photo on the refrigerator door taken during our summer vacation to Costa Rica. It was an amazing trip, but I distinctly remember us ready to come home, sleep in our own beds and see Chloe. Since we came home after midnight, we had to wait until the next day to pick her up from her foster family. We walked into an all-too-quiet house feeling a little sad knowing our entire family was not together and wouldn’t be until we brought her home.

Breakfast is ready, but Chloe has disappeared. There are certain rooms of the house that are still off limits, and I need to know that she isn’t in the laundry room secretly licking the wet mop. I know I’m already running late, but I won’t have any peace of mind until I find her safe and sound.

Typically, she hangs out on the living room couch where she can watch the cars go by, bark at the other dogs and their owners and generally position herself as the official neighborhood watchdog. She isn’t there. I also check the dog beds upstairs and downstairs, but no such luck.

I curse under my breath as I walk slowly into my bedroom and get down on my hands and knees to confirm what I knew all along—that she is indeed underneath my bed again. Chloe likes to hide there to chill out and get away from it all. She developed this habit when she first came to us, and we kept her in the kitchen while we were at school and work. She didn’t care for it and we don’t even do that anymore. But, to this day, she still escapes under the bed to avoid daily confinement.

Today is no different. I find her curled up next to her favorite companion—her gray flattie shark toy. Like a child and her favorite blanket, Chloe doesn’t go anywhere in the house without it. The stuffing is long gone, and it is chewed up perfectly to her liking. It smells awful and I should really throw it away, but I know that would break her heart.

Since my arms aren’t long enough to reach her, I let her hang out. Eventually, she comes out when we are gone. Nowadays, we pretty much give her the main floor of the house to roam around during the day. Before I leave, I make sure the doors to the bedrooms, bathrooms and laundry room are all closed. Once, I almost closed the door to my own bedroom which would have left her stuck in there all day long with no food or water. I tend to check that door obsessively to make sure it remains open.

Now that I know she is safe, I look at the clock and see that it is time to leave. I put on Chloe’s favorite radio station—Oldies 98.1 WOGL—and adjust the multi-color blanket on the couch so she doesn’t dig into my throw pillows. I inspect the floor to make sure there are no stray items scattered about that she can swallow, remembering that I used to do this when my children were small.

“Goodbye, Chloe. Be a good girl,” I shout to her and hear the faint music of Earth, Wind & Fire in the background as I close the front door.  Walking to my car, I smile at the “I love my Schnoodle” magnet on the bumper.

Because I really do.

Challenge Accepted

During this month long blog challenge, I’m sent an email each day with a writing prompt. I haven’t been following them because I like to do my own thing, but this one caught my eye:

For today’s post, share a challenge. Have you faced a challenge recently that you made it through? Share it with your readers and show them how they can survive the same challenge.

I’ll be honest with you. Lately, my anxiety level has been flaring up for no particular reason. I haven’t been able to pinpoint the cause, but thankfully I didn’t have to necessarily attribute it to anything to get help for it.

In my case, common symptoms include not sleeping well, feeling overwhelmed by everything and nothing in particular, and not being able to enjoy myself with others. At first, these symptoms creep up on me and I don’t recognize them as anxiety, until all 3 come into play.

And then, there was one weekend–fairly recently–when it got to the point that I needed to do something about it.

So, this week I took some time off and saw the doctors who help me deal with this. I learned that it isn’t necessarily external factors causing my anxiety, but more likely that my serotonin levels needed adjusting. For some reason, this was a big relief to me.

I continue to accept the challenges my anxiety brings me. And thanks to the love and support of my family, I’m feeling a heck of a lot better and ready to take on the world again.

To others facing this kind of challenge, please don’t think you have to have a reason to feel the way you do. See your doctor and let them know what is going on so that you can get back to being your old self again.

How Sick Are You?

For 12 years, I worked in close proximity to my home, my kids’ schools, their various doctors and activities. When they needed to go home sick, I could be at their school in 10 minutes, take them home, get them settled and be back at my desk before my lunch break was over.

Nowadays, I work 45 minutes from home and it is no longer a luxury for me to pick up my kids, and head back to the office. So I tend to ask this question of them – “Just how sick are you?”  Follow-up question – “Can you make it through the rest of the day?”

As teenagers, everything hurts and they are always tired so it is hard for me to determine what level of sick they are and what we would consider to be growing pains.

So far this year, I’ve had to pick up the kids from school for a possible concussion (which thankfully turned out to be a false alarm), a stomach bug and a migraine headache–and it is only October. So when one of my kids had a lingering cough, I let it go for a while without a doctor’s visit hoping it would just clear up and go away.

It didn’t. It has been about a month now and because I haven’t been feeling well myself, I made the decision to take the day off and get both of us checked out. The end result – she has bronchitis and I have a nasty cold with a side order of mom guilt.

And the winner of the bad mom award for the day goes to…..

A 5 Minute Memoir

When I received my school report card, I always knew what to expect. My grades were typically A’s and B’s with the occasional hard earned C in math or science. And then there was the comments section. No matter what grade I was in, my teachers would always check off
#2–conscientious and dependable.

These two words followed me all through grade school and into middle school and high school. I was considered by my teachers as a reliable and responsible student. I had great follow through on assignments and could always be counted on to never miss a deadline.

Being conscientious and dependable is a great thing for parents to see on their child’s report card, but it is a lot to live up to in real life. As an adult, I think some would say that I’m a conscientious and dependable employee, parent and spouse – but for me, perhaps this is to a fault.

The last thing I ever want to do is let anyone down. And when I do, I feel anything but conscientious and dependable. I feel awful about it.

I’ll never forget the time my best friend asked me to pick up her kids from school and bring them home so they wouldn’t have to walk home in the pouring rain. I guess I had a lot to do that particular day because when I got to school, I picked up my own kids and drove off, completely forgot about hers. She forgave me because that is what best friends do, but I’m still bothered by it many years later. To this day when she asks me to pick up her kids, I put a note on my steering wheel and a reminder in my calendar so I never forget them again.

But I can’t do this for everything and everyone. These days, I’m trying to give myself a break. It is almost impossible to always be that kind of person to everyone in all facets of life–no matter how much I want to. When I’m working hard at my job, I’m forgetting something or someone at home. There are so many loose ends swimming around in my head, too many to-do’s on my list, and lots of projects whose status ranges from not yet started to not quite done.

If I could go back in time to my teachers, I’d rather them put in the comment – “she tries her best.” That puts a whole different spin on things – don’t you think? So much less pressure on myself. Just think of all the anxiety I could let go of if trying my best was good enough and equally appreciated.

In the end, I think a change in my own attitude is what will ultimately allow me to be kinder to myself. In my own mind, trying my best will now supersede conscientious and dependable. And if I cross something off my to-do list, that will be nice. And if I try to get something done, but it doesn’t go as planned, I will still pat myself on the back for trying.

Handing Over the Keys

Teaching my daughter to drive is not how I thought it would be. Initially, I was so excited that she reached this milestone. I’ve always been a strong proponent of her gaining new life skills like cooking a meal or taking more responsibilities around the house. And I thought I would be the best parent to show her the ropes, but ever since she received her permit I’ve learned otherwise.

My husband is a much better teacher than I am. He has taken her on the turnpike, the highway and in the city. He has her driving in the rain and at night. He hands over the keys with much less trepidation than I do.

For me, it has absolutely nothing to do with her and everything to do with me and my ever persistent anxiety. She is an excellent and careful driver. I know this. Even the driving instructor that we hired from the local professional driving school said she is a natural. This briefly reassured me but then I decided, he didn’t give birth to her. So his opinion, while valued, is irrelevant.

My head tells me she knows the mechanics of driving a car and the rules of the road, but my heart keeps attacking me with a terrible case of the what ifs. What if a deer comes out of nowhere or a child chases a ball into the street? She doesn’t have the experience yet to expect the unexpected.

And then my anxiety goes into overdrive. Like it did the other night.

“What do you mean I can’t drive?” she said. It was a perfect fall evening and we had a short and very familiar distance to go.I had no good reason except that local weatherman Bill Henley said it might rain. Apparently, I put a lot of trust in Bill.

Exasperated (and rightfully so), she took her place in the passenger seat, slammed the car door, scrunched into a tight ball, iPhone firmly in hand and that incredulous teenager look on her face.

“I just want to drive somewhere and not have to worry about you getting us there.” I told her. Which by the way is the wrong thing to say when you are trying to raise a confident driver.

“This is ridiculous. You know I need 20 more hours before I can take my test. How am I going to get them, huh?”

I stayed silent letting the latest Taylor Swift song coming from the radio fill the void.

“Are you even listening to me?” she asked not willing to be ignored.

“Do I have a choice?” I sighed.

At this point, I briefly considered pulling over and switching places, but I couldn’t let her drive mad. Could I? No. My father always said never drive angry.

Meanwhile, she was furiously texting what I can only imagine to be something like “My mom is being a total bitch. It’s so unfair.”

In a quieter and slightly calmer voice she asked, “Will you let me drive home?”

“In the dark?!” I replied instinctively, not really meaning to say that out loud.

Clearly, that was the wrong response.

Today’s First World Problem

Every morning, I arrive outside the locked door to my office and have to stop in my tracks and hunt down my pass card to let myself in. I know it is in one of three bags that I have with me at all times – my purse, my tote and my lunch. The question is – which one? Usually, I can weed out the lunch first. Unless I had very little sleep the night before, there is no way I would ever put my pass card next to my turkey sandwich.

That leaves one of two bags – both of which are stuffed with all kinds of crap. And to make it worse – I have a makeup bag and a nice size wallet. Basically, the damn pass card could be anywhere. This is when I get frustrated and proceed to unpack everything from my bags onto the lobby floor. So, if you ever see someone dumping the contents of their purse (and tote bag) on the ground muttering to herself wondering why she puts herself through this every day – that would be me.

And to add to my embarrassment, a colleague will eventually show up see my mess, smile and let me in.

Why can’t there be one big bag for all of my stuff? And why can’t that bag be large enough for my work folders, hairbrush and Kindle? And why can’t that bag cost less than $75. And why can’t that bag be one that is available in black, gray and navy – ooh and maybe an awesome red to stand out when I’m feeling particularly fashionable.

Where is that bag? It is a quest I am willing to go on for all the women in the world who are just like me. Anyone? Anyone?



I Didn’t Ask For It

While working as an obit writer and a stringer for a local newspaper, it happened. One minute I was waiting by the fax machine to receive a death notice from a local funeral home and the next I was grabbed from behind by the hips.  I felt his hot breath on my neck and he whispered in my ear, “You should wear short skirts more. It turns me on.”

He laughed and then he walked away. I looked to see who it was and recognized him immediately.

I was just waiting for a fax. I was just doing my job.

I can tell you that the moment it happened to me I was rattled to my core. Confused. Shaken. Furious. I didn’t expect it. I certainly didn’t ask for it. I remember walking back to my desk trying not to let him see how much it affected me. I didn’t want to give him that kind of power. Basically, I ignored it because I thought it was over–but I was wrong. For weeks after that first incident, I was continuously harassed by him. He leered at me in the newsroom. He asked me out several times. He called me at my apartment. I dreaded going to work at a job I loved and really wanted to keep. The stress was unbearable. Somehow, I finally got up the guts to give him a piece of my mind, threatened to tell our boss and the cops and he never bothered me again.

I never reported it although I wish I had. I was too embarrassed at the time. I was only 21 years old and it would have been his word against mine.

Sadly, this was not the only time I’ve been sexually harassed. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to deal with it. It still shocks me when it happens but now I report it and then I live with it. But, I don’t typically talk about it.

Until now.

Being sexually harassed is a humiliating and degrading experience. It isn’t just “locker room talk.” It isn’t funny. It is pure intimidation. Just like bullying, these experiences will stay with me my entire life. They are ingrained in my memory–as if it only happened yesterday.

And now I hear about movie moguls and tech employees at companies like Google and respected news anchors and even U.S. Presidents who don’t think twice about doing it. And I think of the women who speak out and defend themselves at the risk of losing their jobs. I am truly in awe of their courage and applaud them with undying support. And I hope my daughter sees them, hears them and learns from their examples. In the 21st century, sexual harassment clearly runs rampant in our schools, universities, offices and other places. It could happen to her and she needs to be ready to fight back–as I am doing now.

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