Monday, May 27, 2019

Saying Goodbye to the Kitty Cat

We stood in the middle of a bare thread room at a local animal shelter, staring at cages stacked from floor to ceiling filled with a flurry of felines all vying for the coveted role of our new pet.

Our previous cat, Yin Yang, had recently succumbed to kidney disease. In an effort to assuage our eight-year old daughter Melissa's grief, my husband Bob and I sought to immediately fill the void by welcoming a new kitten into our home.

The shelter staff gently tried to sway us towards adopting an older cat.

Nope. No dice.

We wanted to start anew with a baby fur ball to call our own.

After looking at cats of every size, shape, and color, we discovered a cage hidden in the corner where six babies huddled together, protected by the warmth of their mamma. Melissa pointed to a tiny little guy whose black and white markings eerily resembled the cat we had just lost. As soon as the shelter employee placed the kitten in my daughter's waiting arms, I knew right away we had found the "purr"fect match.

The shelter had placed a collar around the kitty's neck, engraved with the name Aden, which I found to be quite a silly name for a cat.

I suggested "Tigger", an ode to Melissa's love of all things Pooh.

Bob suggested "Gary", after Sponge Bob's pet snail.

Nope. No dice.

Melissa nixed every proposed name change.

And that's how we adopted a kitten named Aden, who quickly chose Melissa as his favorite from among the three humans who occupied his new home.

"He'll live for a good, long time," I told my second grader. "We'll have him until you're in college."


Last week, Aden passed over the Rainbow Bridge, only five days after Melissa had finished her junior year at American University.

It's heart wrenching to think just how quickly "a good long time" passed us by.

We stroked him and told him we loved him as he lay on the floor on the upstairs landing, too weak to move. As Bob, Melissa, and I comforted one another, our tears fresh and raw, we at least experienced a shared sense of gratitude that our sweet Aden decided to spend his final hours at home, sparing us the painful task of a watching him "go to sleep" at the hands of the vet.

It is only now that he's gone that I've begun to realize how intricate his presence had become in our lives. We did things without thinking, like making sure to put the toilet seat down lest he help himself to a "drink", or taking care to not leave any type of garment or blanket on the floor that we didn't want covered in fur.

I knew that every time I came through the door after a long day at work, he'd run down the stairs to greet me. Granted, this daily welcome was less about being happy to see me and more about my assigned role as the human who gave him his nighttime meal. But still, his presence at the door had become a source of comfort, woven into the fabric of familiar routines.

And speaking of meals, I knew that every morning, at least a half hour before my alarm signaled the start of day, Aden would remind me, in no uncertain terms, that he needed his breakfast. The incessant meows, the jumping on my head....annoying for sure, but now sorely missed.

I knew that each day Aden could count on a good, healthy fight with Bob, who met the cat on his terms, getting down on all fours and playfully swatting him around.

I knew that Aden loved playing with hair bands, chasing the light from a flashlight, and waiting patiently for each of his humans to finish bathing so he could lick the water off the shower floor.

I knew I'd find him curled in a ball every night, sleeping peacefully next to Melissa. When she dared to leave her kitty behind in favor of a dorm room on a campus much too far away, he reluctantly crawled into bed with Bob and me, only to return to Melissa's side each time she came home for break.

And I knew, deep in my heart I knew, that he purposely waited until she came home that one last time, giving her the chance to say goodbye.

The day after Aden crossed over, Bob and I packed up his remaining food and supplies and donated them to a local animal shelter. While there, I so wanted to take a peek at the kittens, but my much more logical husband pulled me away, knowing if I went inside, I wouldn't come out empty handed.

Bob was right to stop me. After all, we need time to mourn our loss, to adjust to our new normal without Aden's constant presence.

I'm not sure if a new cat will fill our lives again some day. Actually I'm not sure of a whole lot of things. Melissa will graduate next year, and I'm not sure whether she'll end up back home or settle in some distant city to follow her dreams. Perhaps, some day, as she embarks on her post-college journey, she'll adopt a new cat to call her own. But I know she'll never forget the sweet little guy named Aden who chose an eight-year old girl as his favorite human, and filled all our hearts with his unconditional love.

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Sunday, November 25, 2018

Monsters and Witches and Zombies... Oh My!

It seems my three-year old grandson Miles had a problem. Well, several problems if you must know. Despite his parents' best efforts to provide their little boy with a safe, comforting environment, their house had become infested with a huge population of monsters and witches and zombies.

How do I know this? Well my grandson informed me during our recent Thanskgiving visit. No sooner had I attempted to wrangle him down for a welcome hug did he explain, in no uncertain terms, about the "creatures" who had made his house their home.

Clearly something had to be done.

Fortunately, I had brought with me an ample supply of special, super duper, invisible monster spray and witch spray and zombie spray.

Miles, holding his zombie
spray, with his Aunt Mel,
Mom Jessica, and
Papa Bob.
I handed them all to Miles, and he immediately set to work. He sprayed his mother (my older daughter Jessica), his father Brian, his Papa Bob (my hubby) his Aunt Mel (my younger daughter Melissa) and his dog Rocky with the invisible potion, making sure that we were all safe from those cranky cretins.

However, those monsters and witches and zombies were formidable opponents. It seemed that no sooner did Miles provide us with our much-needed protection, that the potion became ineffective, forcing him to spray us again, and again, and again.

But it didn't end there. Miles and I crept through the house, ready to pounce on the monsters and witches and zombies that lurked in his bedroom, his parents' bedroom, and the guest bedroom.

Try as I might to keep him hiding upstairs (out of the hair of his mother, who slaved away over Thanksgiving fixins in the kitchen) he insisted on returning to the lower level, where we needed to
find a new power source to vanquish the monsters and witches and zombies.

Miles under the table looking for
a new way to vanquish the monsters
and witches and zombies.
Unfortunately, that power source could only be accessed by crawling under the dining room table. An easy feat for a nimble three-year old, not so much for my middle-aged, tired body. Yet there I sat, under the dining room table, watching my grandson feverishly input numbers into the imaginary keypad of an imaginary vault, trying to guess the secret code to our new power supply. I mimicked his actions, inputting my own secret code while ignoring the aching protests of my aging bones.

Bob and Melissa, who sat comfortably on the living room sofa, stole a glance in my direction and stifled a laugh.

To their credit, I'm sure I looked quite ridiculous.

Yet, my efforts had kept the monsters and witches and zombies at bay.

Indeed, my efforts had saved the day, and we were all able to eat our Thanksgiving dinner in peace.

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Sunday, September 30, 2018

Watching Parks and Rec with Melissa

My daughter Melissa and I visited the dysfunctional, loveable, and quite hilarious inhabitants of the fictional city of Pawnee, Indiana nearly every night this past summer. I am talking, of course, about the sitcom Parks and Recreation. The brainchild of actress Amy Poehler, the show pokes fun at the hypocrisy of politics by looking through the satirical lens of the employees of the Pawnee Parks and Recreation department.

Although I had plenty of opportunities to watch the show during it's original run from 2009 to 2015, for some reason I never made the time.

Until the summer of 2018.

It started in May when Melissa returned home after completing her sophomore year of college in Washington, DC, located about three hours from our southern New Jersey home. She had been following the show on Netflix, and now begged her parents to join in on her new obsession.

My husband Bob objected. After all, watching a 20 minute sitcom would pull him away from his favorite pasttime: monitoring cable TV news. However, relentless objections and begging from his wife and daughter became too much for him to bear. He consented to allow us to watch one episode on his big screen TV.

Just one!

So we watched. And to my utter astonishment, I laughed, and laughed, and hungered for more.

But Bob would have no parts of it. He would not allow these mundane interuptions in his TV viewing schedule. Amid our protests he stomped up the stairs, only to return to the living room an hour later with an expression that rang of smug satisfaction.

Seems that Bob, in an effort to keep his family far, far away from his big screen TV, had been tinkering away in our bedroom where he sucessfully installed Netflix on our much smaller TV.

The result?

Melissa and I (along with the cat) could now snuggle on my comfy bed and watch Parks and Rec to our heart's content. And  watch and watch and watch we did. All throughout the summer, during those evening where plans with friends didn't occupy my cherub's time. We grabbed a snack and climbed the stairs, ready to binge three or four episodes of my new favorite show.

But the best part came when we'd had enough for one night, and I turned the TV to off. Melissa could have retreated to her own room, to her own bed, to get lost in a midst of texts with her own friends.

But she didn't.

She stayed in my bed. With me. To talk.

Indeed, throughout her young life, those precious moments that preceded sleep were always set aside for mother/daughter bonding. From reading stories to my pre-school pal, to battling the knots in my fifth grader's long hair, to solving the challenges of teenager angst, I treasured the closeness of our bedtime routine....a closeness I knew would come to an end.

Now, bedtime for me comes no later than 10 pm, while she is wide awake, some 200 miles away, spending time with her boyfriend, or her sorority, or on one of the mandatory homework projects that put a dent in her college fun.

Some nights before I turn off the light, I'll text her a heart, just to let her know she's in my thoughts. I usually don't have to wait too long to hear the familiar ping on my phone, indicating  her heart in return, letting me know I'm in her thoughts too.

It's not much, but it's enough. At least until winter break when we'll once again snuggle in my bed, turn on Parks and Recreation, and pick up where we left off.

Bedtime with Melissa has always been mommy/daughter time, until she went away to school. 

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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Happy Anniversary to My Best Friend

We sat at a small table for two, unceremoniously wedged in the corner of a fancy steakhouse located inside of the Tropicana Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City.

Bob had argued with the hostess, demanding a table near a window, although I didn't quite know why. After all, the spectacular view of ocean waves crashing against the wind-swept white sand beach could only be left to the imagination, for nothing could permeate the darkness of this cold, January evening.

The appetizers arrived without incident, as did our main meal. We passed the time making small talk, as our server dutifully brought out each course with a smile... diet coke, salad, chicken, steak, a bouquet of balloons....

Wait? What? A bouquet of balloons?

I looked at her, a puzzled expression on my face.

"Oh," she said, stumbling on her words. "We sometimes like to give balloons to nice couples like you."

My attention turned to Bob. "Are you planning something?" I asked, trying to keep the accusatory tone out of my voice.

His reaction to my question took me by surprise.


He seemed genuinely angry.

"I told you Lisa, you are impossible to surprise, it's going to happen on Valentine's Day, so stop asking!" he demanded.

Taken aback by his harsh tone, I didn't pursue the topic, and instead tried to gear the conversation back to mundane small talk.

We finished our meal without further interruption, however, before the server came back to take our dessert order, Bob stood up, an awkward smile on his face. Then, to my utter astonishment, to quote Taylor Swift, he knelt to the ground and pulled out a ring.

Finally, it all made sense. The desire to sit at the best table, the server's gift of balloons (which nearly ruined the surprise) and Bob's feigned anger. I was officially engaged to be married!

Fast forward 25 years.

It was a typical Monday evening and I had just come home after another dreaded workout at the gym. I sat on one end of the sofa, my computer on my lap. Bob sat at the other end, consuming his nightly dose of cable news. I felt tired. I felt sweaty. I felt hot. Yes, I felt oh so post-menopausal hot.

In an effort to get relief, I put my long, matted hair in a messy ponytail, sitting lopsided on top of my head. Bob turned his attention away from the TV to look at me. "You are so cute," he said.

That's right. He thought I looked cute.

He thought his sweaty, post-workout, ponytail-clad wife looked cute.

And that is one of the many reasons why, after all these years, I am still so in love with this man.

When I think back to our engagement in Atlantic City, I could barely see beyond that moment in time. The man I loved wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. Nothing else mattered.

Did I realize that my walk down the aisle would signal the start of something much more significant than a night of dinner and dancing followed by a honeymoon in Hawaii? Did I realize how much my world would become intertwined with his, and the joys, challenges, and obstacles we would face together?

No. I couldn't possibly have known where life's journey would take us. But I did know that I was going to marry the man who loved me no matter how terrible I looked, the man who made me laugh no matter how silly the joke, the man who had become my best friend.

Since that night in Atlantic City, we have packed and unpacked our belongings seven times, as each of us took turns following a job to a new location. We saved enough to purchase the single family home of our dreams, and finally downsized to an empty-nester town home. We have held hands during health scares, mourned the death of loved ones, and survived job losses and financial challenges.

We have savored our vacations, taking delight in each other's love whether we're strolling on the boardwalk at the Jersey shore or crossing Abbey Road in London, England. We have seen concerts and ball games, movies, and broadway shows. And yet, we are just as comfortable with a quiet night at home, on opposite sides of the sofa, or cuddled in each other's arms.

We started our journey, just the two of us, with that fateful night in Atlantic City, and 25 years later, after marrying off the oldest, welcoming a grandson, and sending the youngest off to college, it's just the two of us again.

And he still makes me laugh.

And he still loves me no matter how terrible I look.

And as we celebrate our wedding anniversary, he is still, more than ever, my darling, my love, my man of steel.....

My very best friend.

Bob and me during our anniversary weekend getaway to Ocean City, Maryland

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Sunday, April 8, 2018

Summer Clothes Shopping

It happens in April, same time each year.  I stare in confusion at my closet, searching in vain for the cute sun dresses, tank tops, skirts, capri jeans, and shorts that filled the racks last summer.

Did my clothes get sucked into a some kind of mysterious black hole? Do my clothes now exist within some kind of alien dimension, stuck inside the space-time contiuum?

Possibly, because that's the only explanation I can fathom as I face the onslaught of the warm summer months with absolutely nothing to wear.

That's right. Nothing!

Fortunately, there is a remedy to this tragic situation. In stores and shopping malls across the region, brand new summer clothes beckon, promising to get me through until September... if I just take the time to try them on.

Easier said than done.

Trying on clothes can lead to one of two scenarios:

1. Lisa finds a wonderful array of attractive designs that fit perfectly and flatter her figure.
2. Lisa concludes that she should become a part of the hippopotamus exhibit at the local zoo.

Scenario #1 = Happy Lisa
Senario #2 = get the picture

But wait, finding the perfect fit is only part of the problem. You slip into the dressing room and struggle to zip and button a potential work dress that looked spectacular on the store mannequin. You sneak a peek in the mirror, expecting to be shipped off to the zoo, only to find that, miraculously, it actually fits.

The dress actually fits!

You turns this way and that, examining your figure from all possible angles. Indeed, the front, the back, and the sides all fall into place. You actually look...dare I say....thin.

But wait.

You examine the front again. What's that beige color poking through the pink and purple flowers?

EGADS! It's your bra! The darn dress that fits perfectly has one major flaw. You can see right through to your undergarments!

"You have to wear a tank top underneath," explains my 20-year old daughter Melissa. "That's the style."

Well perhaps the see-through style is all the rage with the 20-year old set, but for menopausal women like me who are dealing with a steady body temperature roughly equivalent to that of molten hot lava, wearing unnecessary layers underneath something that only Superman should be able to see through is simply not practical.

So now I have to find fashions that not only fit, but are made of a material thick enough to hide what I'm wearing underneath.

With this challenge in mind, I set out this morning for the local mall, determined to avoid joining my hippo friends by day's end. Thanks to my perseverance, I arrived back home several hours later, my wallet considerably lighter, but my mood considerably brighter.

In the closet my new clothes will go where they will safely survive until September, when I search in vain for the cozy sweaters and jeans that filled the racks last winter, and come to the conclusion that I have nothing to wear.

That's right. Nothing!

Fortunately, there is a remedy to this tragic situation....and here we go again.

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Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Weekend Visit Home from College

We sat on the hard, wire frame benches inside the Greyhound bus terminal, stifling our yawns, and absentmindedly listening to a cable news program that nobody in their right mind watches so early on a Sunday morning.

My husband Bob's habit of arriving early for everything meant that we had a half an hour to wait.

A half an hour of extra time with my daughter Melissa, who would soon board the bus that would take her back to her college, located three hours from our suburban New Jersey home.

I could have used the time to have one last, meaningfull talk about life and love. I could have used the time to hold her tight, squeezing out enough hugs to last the six weeks until her sophomore year ended, and I'd see her again.

But alas, there was no need.

The weekend visit home had been a good one. Despite the mounds of assignments and projects and sorority commitments that filled her obsessively organized to-do list, Melissa came home because she knew that her presence at our Passover seder meant the world to me. Especially this year, the first Passover with an empty seat where my mother should have been.

During the all-too-short time leading up to Saturday night's holiday celebration, Melissa managed to squeeze in a long, bed-time talk with mom, a Food Network marathon with dad, brunch with friends, and even reluctant time spent on homework.

Although she seemed so comfortable at home, especially with our kitty cat cuddled by her side, something didn't seem quite right. Not so much with her, but with me. I experienced an emotion that took me by surprise.

I felt selfish.

Selfish for wanting the weekend to never end.

Selfish for wanting to block her path to the bus.

Selfish for wanting her to come home this summer, and every summer for the remainder of her college tenure, instead of exploring internship opportunities in cities much too far from southern New Jersey.

Selfish for wanting her to put aside plans to spend part of her senior year studying abroad.

Selfish for wanting her to return to our little townhouse after graduation, even though a job, a relationship, or (egads) both, may take her into unknown territory, hundreds of miles away from her mother's loving arms.

Selfish for wanting her to live her life under my protective shadow, instead of following her own path to happiness.

For as much as I love having her around, I know, for right now, school is where she needs to be. More important,  I know, for right now, school is where she wants to be.

Bob and I watched as the bus pulled into the station, and Melissa joined the handful of passengers preparing to board. We gave her a quick hug goodbye, and quietly walked back to the car.

The bus was taking her back to her life of projects and parties and sorority commitments and friends.

Back to where she belonged.

Meanwhile, Bob and I put on our empty-nester hats, and went back home to take a nap.

Back to where we belonged.

Melissa and Bob waiting at the Greyhound bus terminal.

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Sunday, March 11, 2018

As St. Patrick's Day approaches, I thought it only fitting to repeat one of my favorite posts!

Melissa vs. The Leprechaun 

For my daughter Melissa, St. Patrick's Day marks the anniversary of her "terrifying" encounter with a leprechaun.  Step back in time with me, if you will, to March 17, 2007.  When the aptly-named third grade teacher Miss Green (I am not kidding) read stories about these fabled, feisty Irish fairies to her young charges, Melissa and her friend Sarah became determined to actually catch one of these mischievous munchkins.  Even though leprechauns have outwitted generations of trap-setting Irishmen, two  nine year old girls were convinced that they, and they alone, would succeed!

Melissa and Sarah spent hours developing a comprehensive trap-setting plan.  Step one involved a St. Patrick's Day eve sleepover, for surely that would be the best day for a leprechaun to be caught in the act.  Our house became the designated leprechaun lure, with Melissa's bedroom setting the stage for the over-the-top trap!

As Sarah and Melissa approached the task at hand, they decided the best way to trap a leprechaun would be to turn the bedroom into a "little green man" resort and spa.  Steaming hot water helped to transform a soup bowl into a soothing leprechaun hot tub.  Construction paper and green crayons invited the leprechaun to express his creativity, while green confetti and Lucky Charms cereal set the celebratory mood.  Barbie dolls were dressed in their Sunday best as they sat ready and waiting for the leprechaun to invite them to play, and of course, gold coins aplenty (the chocolate version) were strategically placed in a bowl in the middle of the floor.

As the girls put the finishing touches on the trap, they started having second thoughts about their devious plan.  Suddenly, it seemed like trapping the little guy would not be a very nice thing to do. But still, they didn't want their hard work to go to waste.  That's when Melissa and Sarah crafted a new plan. If the leprechaun came, he would not have to worry about being duped by two nine-year old girls. Instead, the girls would simply observe him at play while they pretended to be asleep.

With all of the wheels in motion, the only task that remained was to climb into bed and wait.

And wait.

And wait.

And wait.

And while they waited, excitement turned to trepidation, trepidation turned to fear, then fear turned to terror.

What if the leprechaun became evil?

Would he attack them?

Were they safe?


In the meantime, the "leprechaun" waited and waited and waited for the girls to fall asleep so "he" could sneak in undetected and check into the resort and spa.  The "leprechaun", who in reality stood 5' 5" tall, had long brown hair, and answered to the name of "mom", slowly tiptoed into Melissa's room. The girls moved ever so slightly, perhaps sensing a presence.  Mom froze, waiting until both girls were silent and still.  Then mom tipped over the water, tossed the barbies around, stole most of the gold coins, and used the green crayon to write a note of thanks for the fun.

In the morning, the girls woke up and were absolutely astounded by the site!  The leprechaun had come and played in the bedroom and made a mess and left them a note, AND THEY SLEPT RIGHT THROUGH THE ENTIRE THING!

As for the leprechaun (AKA - Mom) instead of placing the newly found "gold" in the pot at the end of the rainbow, she stuffed the coins were into the bottom of a sock drawer, never to be seen again...or so she thought.
~ ~ ~

About a year later, I asked Melissa to help me with the laundry.  I folded the socks, while she put them away.

"Mom, why are there gold coins in Daddy's sock drawer?"

Uh oh.

Danger!  Danger!  Think fast!  Think fast!

"Well, the leprechaun must have put them there to hide them from you."

"Oh, ok. That makes sense."

I heaved a sign of relief.  My naive little daughter actually believed me!

Or so I thought.

A few days later as we struggled through the nightly ritual of brushing of her long, knot-infested hair, she asked the question I had been dreading.

"Mom, are you really the leprechaun?"

Uh oh.

"What?  No, of course not!"

"Really Mom, it's ok, you can tell me the truth, I won't be mad."

"Seriously sweety, I am not the leprechaun."

"Really Mom, I won't be mad, I promise."

"Alright sweety, you're right.  It was me," came my guilty admission.  "I was really the leprechaun, it was me who snuck into your room in the middle of the night."




So much for Melissa's promise of not getting mad.

Oh well.  Since I had already blown my cover, I decided to also come clean about the tooth fairy and Santa Clause.  Being Jewish, the latter didn't bother her quite so much, but I made her promise not to spill the beans to her friends who still believed in St. Nick.  Even though I had spoiled the fun, Melissa's friends still deserved to enjoy a few more moments of childhood innocence.

In trying to bring to life to my baby girl's imagination, I had donned an alter ego, only to lose her trust once my secret was revealed.  If I could, I would become the leprechaun every year, even when she is married with kids of her own.  I want her to relish in those childhood fantasies where the existence of little green men is never questioned, and fairies really do exchange teeth for treasure.  For all too soon, reality takes hold and childhood evolves into a grown up world, devoid of fantasy and wonder.

~ ~ ~

This year as St. Patrick's Day approaches, Melissa and Sarah, now college sophomores - albeit in different states - are both home for spring break. They plan to spend quality time together, and I'm sure they'll flash back to that day, so many years ago, when two 9-year old girls truly believed they had a visit from a Leprechaun!

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