The One with the Voice Mails

You have six messages. Beep.

Three of those messages are hangups. One is a robocall from an elected official. Two are doctor appointment reminders–one from my son’s orthodontist and another from the sleep doctor.

I suspect it can’t be a fun job to call a few dozen people and leave these messages. I imagine it is a tedious but necessary task. Funny enough, the two voicemails could not have been more different, and it’s all about a positive attitude and a moment of kindness.

To compare, the first message was from Nicole from the orthodontist.

Hello. This message is for Andrew to remind you that you have an appointment with the orthodontist at 8 am in our Ambler office. Thank you. Click.

While it was professional, her monotone voice did not seem to recognize Andrew as a valued patient who has been going there for the last three years. She also left the message at warp speed. I had to replay the message twice to confirm the time and the location.

Then, Bonnie from the sleep clinic called. Her singsong voice was friendly, patient, and coming from someone who loves what she does every day for a living.

The message started fairly routine. Bonnie reminded me of my appointment and to bring my C-Pap machine chip if I have one (I do not–yet). She added that the garage I would typically use is closed for repairs, and I would need to valet park or go to one of the other lots. “And bring your parking ticket with you so we can validate it for free parking.

FREE PARKING! NICE!

But Bonnie didn’t stop there. She noticed I was a new patient and took the time to tell me exactly where to park complete with the street names and a landmark (across the street from the police station). She told me which building the office is in and spelled the name of the building. She advised me of the most convenient hospital entrance to use to find the office and to please come earlier than usual to fill out some paperwork.

Now, I’ve been going to this hospital for years. I delivered both of my children there. I’ve visited the emergency room a few times, as well as doctors’ offices. It is still quite the maze to me, and I’ve come to expect that when I go there, I will indeed get lost.

But I don’t have to worry about that now. Bonnie eased all of my concerns without my ever asking. Not only did she give me vital information, but her tone of voice struck me–as if I was a friend or a daughter–not a patient.

In this crazy world, it’s this sort of kindness that I crave. I’ve never been to a sleep clinic before, and I don’t know what to expect. However, I do know Bonnie will be there to welcome me.

The One With The Writer’s Block

Dear Writer’s Block,

It’s not you. It’s me. We’ve been down this road hundreds of times, and quite frankly, I’m sick of you. I’m so done.

It’s true at 9 pm on a Friday night that I don’t have a creative bone in my body–not even a whiff of an idea. I want to get in my pajamas, crawl under the covers and catch up on today’s news with Rachel Maddow than sit here in front of this blank computer screen. But, here I am, and I’m finally ready to stand up to you once and for all.

I know there are days when I can be a bit of a perfectionist. You know the drill. I do the dishes, fold the laundry, sort the mail, and wait for a solid idea to form in my brain. I can’t possibly sit down and write until I hit that eureka moment and the adrenaline pumping through my veins until the sweet release onto the keyboard.

Other times, I’m afraid. Fine, I admit it. I’m afraid what I have to say is silly or unimportant. I’m afraid people will find out I’m not a real writer or worse they will be offended at what I may want to say. Seriously though, I’m just a girl, sitting in front of a laptop, asking it to help me compose one beautiful blog post that will resonate with everyone who reads it.

But, I’m here to say it’s over. You and me. We are through. You are my easy way out. You know how to push my buttons and send me into a tailspin of self-doubt. I can’t do this anymore.

It’s time for me to be the writer I’ve always wanted to be–one that’s dedicated to her craft, dreams of becoming a published author, and fueled by passion and caffeine. Not one that throws around the oldest excuse in the book. I have a lot of things to say, and I’m going to say them. You are not going to get the best of me. My readers will get it instead. And when I’m finished, you will be a thing of the past.

I’m a better writer than that, and it’s time you see yourself out.

Goodbye, sir.

I said goodbye.

 

The One with the Yom Kippur Algorithm

It’s that time of year folks when Jews all of the world make the most stressful phone call of the year. The one to the caterer to order our Break the Fast trays.

A little background: Next week, we observe Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, which is the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. It is a somber holiday, so we don’t wish each other a Happy Yom Kippur, but rather an easy fast. We attend services and adhere to a 25 hour fast. During this time, we ask for God’s forgiveness and pray to be inscribed in the Book of Life for another year. The purpose of the fast is to put aside our physical needs so that we can focus on our spiritual ones through prayer. At sundown, it is tradition to gather family and friends together to eat a dairy meal. This meal is known as Breaking the Fast.

I host the Break the Fast meal every year at my house. But before the main event, I need to order a tray of food. Placing this order requires a complicated High Holy Day algorithm.

First, I use logic to determine the number of people coming to my house. Then, subtract the number of people that don’t eat the fish. Add in what foods they will eat and make sure to include that in the order.

Next, perform a brief analysis of my options to determine where to order from? Is it from the place with the tray that serves 12 people but really gives enough for 15? Probably. Should I order for fewer people than the number I actually need so we get just the right amount of food? (By the way, these trays are not cheap.) Or should I throw caution to the wind and go a la carte? Either way, I take on the added risk that we will be eating regular lox and kippered salmon for the next week or so. (Not a bad thing if you like it, which I do).

Third, what kind of bagels do I want, and how does that correlate to what people like to eat? One year, I offered a random selection that included cinnamon raisin bagels. I learned that it just isn’t congruent with the lox and whitefish salad. Another year, I ordered a “nice mix” of bagels, which included a substantial remainder of poppyseed bagels. I won’t be making that mistake again.

And we aren’t done yet! What percentage of regular lox vs. nova lox should be included on the tray? I base this on the assumption of how many family members are watching their salt intake this year.

What variables should be included when it comes to the cheese tray? American, Slender American, Sweet Munchee, Lite Muenster or Swiss? At this point, I want ALL the cheeses because I’m exhausted, and I can’t make one more decision about this meal.

Once the algorithm is complete, I have to check my work to make sure I didn’t forget anything before producing my results. This is when I remember to order a loaf of black bread, a pound of turkey breast (for those who don’t eat fish), and the minimum amount of herring fillets in cream sauce that a small subset of people can’t live without.

Thankfully, my sister in law makes a plethora of delicious desserts, and others bring fruit trays, kugels, and blintzes to round out the meal.

Oy Vey! This algorithm is so much work, but I’m incredibly blessed to do it as part of our fall tradition.

Shana tova to those who celebrate. I wish you an easy fast, and may we all be written in the Book of Life.

 

 

 

 

The One Where Jenna Goes to College

I know he misses her too.

 

A little over a month ago, I moved my daughter into her freshman dorm. We packed up about two-thirds of her bedroom, bought way too many Command strips, a new bedding set complete with a comfy foam mattress top, the Keurig coffee machine, and other must-haves, and sent her off into the real world.

Nowadays, when I meet up with friends or family, they ask two questions: How’s Jenna doing? and “How are you doing?

In my head, each time they sound like Joey from Friends: How You Doin?

So, here’s how I’m doin’.

It’s a new normal in my house. In the beginning, it felt like a loss–although I would never dream of comparing myself to someone who has actually lost a child. Still, after 18 years of taking care of someone’s physical and emotional well being with all of my time and energy, heart and soul, I feel a part of me is missing.

She also picked up around the house, served as our extra driver to take our son places, gave spot-on fashion advice, and applied my makeup expertly. My version of a smoky eye looks like I’m hungover. So, from a practical standpoint, I miss all of that too.

She’s also exactly where she should be. Her school is precisely what she was looking for all along. It gives me incredible joy to see her thriving on her own. She loves to FaceTime with us and see our dog Chloe, who I think she misses most of all.

(Also part of my new normal is getting used to FaceTime. I hate how I look in that tiny camera).

Back at home, I get to spend quality time with our son, Andrew. I don’t write about him as often, and I’m not sure why. We went out to lunch the other day after Rosh Hashanah services, where he told me all about his water polo team and his favorite classes. In his spare time, he is on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout, and he will learn how to drive soon. He’s such a fantastic kid–a mensch. It is an exciting time in his life, and it’s a privilege to be a part of it. But, in the back of my mind, I know that soon enough, he will be going off to college too.

When that day finally comes in the fall of 2022, please ask me how I’m doin’.

The Gift

floral pillboxHow sweet! This was my first reaction when my daughter presented me with a small gift: a pretty box with a floral print. I imagined it would be perfect for my earrings, or I’d use it as a change purse, so I’m not digging around for quarters for the parking meter. Seriously, how thoughtful of her to think of me for no particular reason.

The box had something inside, so I unzipped it to investigate. What I found was not what I expected.

 

 

It was a pillbox: a convenient, plastic, divided by the days of the week box to hold my medicine.

I didn’t know what to say. Thank you???¬†

I admit that wasn’t what I was thinking at the moment. My first reaction was a flashback to watching my grandfather pull out his pillbox from his pocket along with his dirty tissues. I remember him fishing out his pills multiple times during our visit. The orange box with the black letters representing the days of the week and a separate place underneath for pills he took morning, noon, and night.

Like my gray hair, the pillbox reminded me how quickly I am aging and worse how old I must look to her.

But then, I looked at her expression and could tell she felt terrible. She didn’t mean to offend me (which she didn’t). Her intention came from a kind and thoughtful place. She was looking out for my well being. She thought I would appreciate the gesture.

And I do. Honestly, I could use it. I have blood pressure and cholesterol meds to take as well as a few other pills. My doctor recently informed me I am Vitamin D-deficient, so now I need to add a vitamin to my regimen. Too often, I struggle to remember whether or not I took my morning pills, so this gift would save me the energy it would take to retrace my steps and confirm that I did (or did not) take them. All I would have to do is look in the box and problem solved.

How sweet! Thank you.

 

 

Hard Habit to Break

I have a confession to make. Mindless eating at night is a habit I am desperately trying to break. I’ve tried to “close down the kitchen” at 8 pm but I have teenagers so it is never really closed.

Snacking seems like such an innocuous activity. Who is really going to care if I have an ice cream sandwich after 8 pm? I mean for god’s sake; it is just a small dessert. It’s not like I’m vaping or drinking hard liquor or fooling around. Seriously, will the Weight Watchers police pound on my door and burst in after one harmless bite? In my mind, I envision some skinny girl violently yanking it out of my hand, force me calculate the points on my calculator and then slap me silly until I promise never to do it again.

Hmm…Maybe that is what it would take???

Or maybe a better idea is to visualize myself 3 years from now to see what my life would look like if I don’t stop snacking at night. I suppose I’d be sitting at my Saturday morning WW meeting wishing for the days when I needed to lose 25 lbs (like now) instead of 50 (3 years from now). I won’t want to join the swim club that year because who wants to see me in a bathing suit. Not me! I’d only want to appear in public for work and special occasions. Speaking of special occasions, I have a hard enough time posing for family pictures, let alone 3 years from now. And of course my blood pressure would skyrocket and who knows what else would start to fall apart.

Okay, okay. I’m walking away from the freezer. Is that a knock at my front door? Who’s there? Don’t come in. I won’t snack after 8 pm ever again. I promise.

Coffee Walk

A few years ago, my goal was to have coffee with as many people as possible throughout the year. The idea was to catch up with friends and network with colleagues while drinking my favorite beverage. I’m happy to say that I’ve had a lot of talks and a lot of coffee. But now, I’m thinking about changing things up. Coffee talks are enjoyable and productive, but I’ve discovered a flaw in my plan. We are just sitting there.

Sure, the walk to the coffee accouterments table could make you break a sweat. Like everyone else grabbing their morning coffee, you want to make a beeline to the table to get your Splenda and half and half to achieve your perfect drink. Let’s face it – that’s a workout. And, I suppose the reach for the pitcher with the milk or flavored creamer you want could count as stretching. Right? ūüôā

Anyway, I’ve changed my approach to these coffee talks and want to turn them into a “coffee walk.” Bring your iced coffee with you and let’s find a neighborhood to explore. It doesn’t have to be a strenuous walk during the week because we all have to get to work eventually. But, let’s get moving!

We sit all day long. We sit on our commute to work. We sit at desks all day. We sit down to eat. We sit all the time!¬† So, let’s have our coffee to go… who’s with me?

Milestones

Parenthood is a slow and steady process of learning to let go. Every year brings one (or often several) new milestones. As parents, we are proud of their accomplishments and look forward to the next one.

When she was little, there were so many milestones! I watched her walk, heard her first words and helped her explore the world around her. Once, she climbed the ladder to the top of the tallest slide on the playground. I stayed right behind her to make sure she didn’t fall. I held her little hand and saw her big smile when she realized how high up she had gone. Fearless, she released her grip and slid to the bottom, faster than I would have liked, laughing all the way down.

She was perfectly fine. I had to let go.

When preschool began, I only signed her up for 2 days a week, thinking she couldn’t handle much more than that. In reality, it was me who couldn’t handle it. I busied myself with errands like grocery shopping and dropping off dry cleaning. At first, my tearful eyes watched the clock until it was time to pick her up. She often greeted me with the picture she drew and a new friend by her side.

She was perfectly fine. I had to let go.

Birthday parties were part of our weekend routine. I read my book, ate some cake and exchanged funny toddler stories with the other moms and dads while she bounced, painted, or made a pizza. Then, the day came when I went to the party and someone handed me a waiver to sign. I was confused when the young man behind the counter told me, “you don’t have to stay.” I was confused. What did that mean exactly? I didn’t know what to do. Was it safe to leave her behind for a few hours? Would the other parents frown upon me for leaving her unattended?

But, she was perfectly fine. I had to let go.

In fourth grade, she rode her bike to school by herself–sort of. I followed her in my minivan making sure she looked both ways before she crossed the street and arrived safely. At one point, I waved at her from the driver’s seat and saw the first of many spectacular eye rolls. Of course, she made it to school and after that she rode to every day without me.

She was perfectly fine. I had to let go.

Every year, I gave her a little more independence. I let her walk around the mall on her own with friends. She went to overnight camp for 4 weeks over the following three summers. I even let her fly by herself to attend a bat mitzvah in South Carolina. Then, there were dates with boys in cars and learning to drive and senior week at the Jersey shore.

She was perfectly fine. I had to let her go.

In three weeks, I’m about to hit a new milestone; one I’ve been in denial about all for quite some time. In the beginning of the school year, there seemed to be plenty of time and still so much to do. Back then, this day seemed far away and now it is so close. Our family dynamic is about to have a seismic shift that hasn’t happened since we brought her baby brother home from the hospital.

She is going to college.

We will pack up our car with all the “must-haves” from Bed Bath & Beyond. Her MacBook Air tucked away in her backpack. Her first semester tuition paid and class schedule in hand.¬†Of course, I will lecture her on drinking and staying safe. I will tell her that college was the best four years of my life and I want her to have fun, but don’t do anything stupid.

The next part goes a little fuzzy in my mind. We will park near her dorm. I imagine it won’t take too long to unpack the car. We will wait endlessly for the elevator, but I won’t complain. Jenna will be giddy with excitement and I vow not to embarrass her in front of her roommate. After lunch, we will say our goodbyes. Family weekend is only a month away.

I’ll get in the car and likely cry. But I know this…

She is perfectly fine and I have to let go.

My Reading Status

Sometimes I think it would be a wonderful idea to set up a GoFundMe page to feed my reading habit. My desire for more books–new ones, old ones, fiction, nonfiction, business or biography–is insatiable. Take a look at my current reading status and you will see what I mean. (For your convenience, I’m adding links to Amazon if you want to purchase a book for yourself).

Actual Books On My Nightstand 

I’m in the middle of 4 real books right now:

  • The Other Einstein¬†(Chapter 9, page 95) – This is an interesting read based on the true story of Albert EInstein and his first wife Mileva “Mitza” Maric who was just as smart as he but has the extra challenge of studying physics in a men’s world in the 1890s. I’ve been enjoying this book off and on. It is an easy read and I will continue reading because I enjoy Einstein’s clumsy attempts at winning her affection while her laser-like focus is on her studies. But, I’m in no hurry to finish it and it isn’t as interesting as…
  • The Book of Unknown Americans (Page 157 – no chapter numbers)¬† – Truth be told, this was our book club pick from 3 or 4 books ago. The characters have depth and their immigration story and assimilation into America is not one that I’m as familiar with as I’d like to be. I wish I had finished this book in time to talk about it. Maybe my book club friends will allow me a few minutes to discuss before we talk about our current book (which is Before We Were Yours – an excellent read and one that I finished!)
  • Fifty Things That Aren’t My Fault: Essays from the Grown-Up Years (Chapter 4 page 60) – If you are close to my age, you probably read the comic strip Cathy as a kid. Heck, you may have cut a few out and put them on your fridge because they were so true and so funny. This book is by the creator of Cathy. She writes essays about her life in a way that makes me LOL as if I was reading her comic strip all over again.
  • I See Life Through Rose`-Colored Glasses (Essay 24, page 96) – Lisa Scottoline is one of my favorite authors. I’ve read several of her mystery novels which are mainly based in Philadelphia. Her fictional stories are always engaging page turners, but when she writes essays based about her actual life, I’m all in. She is the kind of writer I want to be when I grow up.

Plus 1 Book on My Kindle

  • Herding Tigers: Be the Leader Creative People Need.– I honestly don’t know what page I’m on because I’ve jumped around a lot…and its a Kindle. Page numbers are optional. But, if you lead a communications department like me and work with incredibly talented and creative people this book may come in handy.

So, if I set up a GoFundMe page, would you support me? My to be read (TBR) list is even longer than this list. This is part because I’m a sucker for summer reading lists. So far, this list includes:

Barely…

Have you ever been so exhausted you cannot even exchange pleasantries with the people you love anymore?
This is how I’ve felt for the last few hours.

Barely able to hold a conversation without snapping at people (even though really I didn’t mean to-sorry!).

Barely able to sit down without taking a brief nap.

Barely able to finish the dishes.

Barely able to hold a coherent conversation.

Barely able to write this….zzz

I’ll do better tomorrow. I promise.

Happy Easter and Passover everyone!

Good night.

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