Sunday, July 10, 2016

It's Hard to be "Different"

It's been a difficult week.

Heck, it's been a difficult summer.

One can barely wake up without hearing about violence, murder, racism, anger, pain.

If this summer has proven one thing, it's that it's hard to be "different".

And by different I mean someone who sees themselves as not part of the majority, either because of skin color, religion, ethnicity, language, disability, sexual preference, gender identity, body shape.... I think you get the idea.

When you identify as different, people treat you as different. Even if their treatment is subtle, and meant without harm.


It reinforces what you know and feel.

That you're different.

Many years ago, my now college-age daughter Melissa accompanied a friend and her aunt on a summer outing to a book store. They were in their elementary school years, perhaps eight years old.

Melissa came home from the outing with a brand new book, a gift from her friend's aunt.

My daughter showed me the book, and I suspect my expression mirrored her thoughts.

"Mom," she asked? "Why did Jennifer's aunt buy me a book about Jewish holidays?"

Why indeed?

Did Jennifer's aunt intend any harm by giving Melissa that book?

Of course not!

Did she purchase the book out of generosity and kindness?


So why did her actions rub me so wrong?

It would never occur to me to buy any of my daughter's non-Jewish friends a book about their holidays. So why did this woman feel compelled to gift that book to Melissa, who became aware of her minority status as one of the few Jewish children at school at quite a young age. While my daughter has always been proud of her religion, as an elementary school student she sought to avoid being labeled as "The Jewish Girl".

She merely wanted to fit in.

To be like everyone else.

But through the seemingly simple act of buying my daughter a book about Jewish holidays, the woman considered Melissa to be Jennifer's "Jewish friend."

She subtly labeled her as different.

And that label caused my daughter to question the gift, instead of embracing the women's kindness.

Yet, unlike Jennifer's aunt, not all subtle forms of labelling are filled with good intentions.

I speak of the callous board member who, during budget negotiations, uttered that horrible phrase "Jew em down", while unaware a Jewish employee sat in his midst.

I speak of the hospital volunteer who, unaware of my religion, complained how the Jewish patients were so pushy and demanding.

I speak of the teenage son of a friend who thought that telling my husband Bob and me jokes about the Holocaust was somehow ok.

I speak of the executive who, momentarily forgetting a Jewish employee sat in his office, sarcastically asked "Do Jews even realize that December 25 is Christmas day?" (Yes, we do.)





But unrealistic stereotypes against anyone who is different can and have led to violence.

In a world where I have long hoped the lessons of the Holocaust will ensure that never again will people be tortured or killed because of being different, I mourn.

I mourn the death of three people gunned down by a neo-nazi on April, 13, 2014 at the Jewish Community Center of Kansas City. And my fear is all too real that my daughter, who frequents the Jewish Community Center in our area, will suffer the same fate.

I mourn the death of nine innocent people, gunned down by a crazed man hoping to start a race war on June 17, 2015 at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC.

I mourn the death of 50 Orlando souls who were gunned down because they dared to love.

I mourn the death of black males gunned down by the very law enforcement officials who are supposed to protect them.

I mourn the death of five innocent Dallas police officers, gunned down in a senseless act of retaliation.

I want to take action. I want to stop the violence. But I'm at a loss of what to do. Blogs and Facebook posts seem hardly enough. Prayers can only go so far.

Perhaps I'll lend my time and talents to a non-partisan organization that seeks to make the world a better place. I welcome suggestions from my readers.

If you like my stories please tell me in the comments section below.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Melissa and the Police Car

An evening that started with a simple quest to take my 18-year old daughter Melissa to vote in her first presidential primary, ended with said daughter riding in the back of a police car.

But wait, I digress. Let's start at the beginning.

I left work without incident and proceeded to the drug store to pick up a few things. Upon my return to the car, I called Melissa to let her know I'd be there in ten minutes to take her to our local polling place.

Ho Hum. Still sounds like a fairly uneventful evening, right?

But wait...the plot thickens.

The familiar ding from my cell alerted me to an incoming text from our local police department, informing residents of a road closure thanks to a downed power line.

A storm had rolled through a few hours earlier so the news of a downed power line did not come as a total surprise. What did come as a surprise was the location of the downed line....on the road that I call home.

I called Melissa (while stopped at a red light) and asked her to go outside to see what had happened. Indeed, she informed me of a large police and fire department presence on our street. In fact, one of the officers gave her a friendly warning to stay away from the power lines. She asked the officer if I would be able to get onto our street, which can be accessed from two different crossroads, let's call them "Road A" and "Road B".

The officer confidently informed her that I would absolutely be able to turn onto my street from "Road B".

The officer lied.

I approached "Road B", only to find my path blocked by several representatives from the fire department.

I tried to explain that I lived on the closed road.

I tried begging.

I tried pleading.

I finally gave up.

Forced to turn around, I made my way back to "Road A", hoping this route would lead me onto my closed street.

At the intersection of "Road A" and the road I call home, several official looking people glared at passing motorist, just daring them to break through the barricade. When I dared turn my car onto the road I call home, the group of those official looking people held out their hands and demanded, "Where do you think you are going!?"

"I live on this road," I explained. "My address is 245."

They waved me through, but my luck did not last long.

I drove about a block, only to be greeted by a barricade, a number of uniformed police officers, and, much to my surprise, another car trying to get through. A car belonging to my husband Bob, who coincidentally had arrived home from work at the same time.

Bob made a u-turn, pulled up next to me, and rolled down his window.

"Lisa, they won't let us through, we have to go all the way back around to "Road B" to get to our house," he said.

"I just did that," I shared with exasperation. "They wouldn't let me through."

One of the police officers, overhearing our conversation, walked over and assured me that I would, indeed, be able to get through if I drove back around to "Road B".

"But I'm trying to pick up my daughter and go vote," I pleaded once again. "Can't I just drive through and get her."

"I'm sorry ma'am, the downed lines are right there, I can't let you through," came his firm response.

"Well, can't my daughter walk up the road to meet me here," I logically suggested.

"NO!" came his even firmer response. "It's not safe, we can't let anyone walk through."

Then the police officer very calmy said, "Everything is ok right now, but just as a precaution we evacuated 249 and 247, the two houses next to your house."



Did he just say "evacuate"?

Suddenly everything had changed!

Even though the police officer had uttered the words, "everything is ok", what my deranged, over-protective mommy brain heard was, "MY HOUSE IS ABOUT TO GO UP IN FLAMES WITH MY DAUGHTER ALONE INSIDE."


"Ma'am, I can't let you drive down the street, but everything is ok for now."


"Ma'am really everything is ok."


I didn't care that I was screaming at a man of authority. It didn't occur to me for even a fraction of a second that I probably shouldn't give hysterical orders to a police officer who had the power to cart me off to jail.

My one thought.  My one and only thought. I MUST GET MY BABY TO SAFETY.

In the meantime, my "oh so calm" husband did not share my sense of urgency. "Lisa, stay calm, it's alright, everything is ok," came his attempt to comfort his lunatic wife. An attempt that went completely ignored because nothing stands in the way of a mother trying to rescue her child.

Finally, the police officer consented, realizing that it would be much safer to go get Melissa than to deal with her deranged mother.

He drove the short block to my house and pulled into the driveway where my cherub stood peacefully waiting. She happily climbed into the back seat and sent Snapchat photos to document her cool, albeit short ride.

And that's how an evening that started with our quest to vote ended with my daughter in the back of a police car.

The moral of the story? Don't ever take for granted your right to vote....even if downed power lines get in your way.  (Yes, we did finally make it to the polls.)

And don't ever, ever, ever stand in the way of a deranged mother!

If you like my stories please tell me in the comments section below.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Terror on the Turnpike

The first half of our seven hour drive home to southern New Jersey from Buffalo, NY can best be described as uneventful, routine, mundane.

The family visit for my niece's christening had been lovely, albeit quick.  Now, as we traveled east on the New York State Thruway, my 18-year daughter Melissa, with ear-buds firmly in place, rested her head against the back seat window and shut her eyes to the world. In the front, with my husband Bob at the wheel, we made small talk to pass the time.

My husband Bob snapped this incredible image of a storm
front approaching just east of Rochester, NY. Little did
we know these ominous clouds were a sign of things to come!
Storm clouds rolled in as the highway took us past Rochester, NY. However, a mere five minutes later we bid the dark skies goodbye.

A quick glimpse at my trusted weather app told me that the brief Rochester rain was part of a wide-spread system of powerful storms wrecking havoc across the midatlantic states.

Fortunately, the ominous clouds steered clear of the New York State Thruway, allowing us to continue on our journey, complete with a couple of potty breaks and quick pizza dinner.

As we inched towards the Pennsylvania border, Bob and I watched the sun disappear behind the cloud-filled western sky. Our eyes adjusted to the dark highway while the car pushed on.

The first drops hit the windshield as we entered the northeast extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, a road that gives motorist ease of access to the state's Poconos Mountains region and points further north.  Without worry, Bob flipped on the wipers to keep the windshield free of rain, which fell at a slow, yet steady pace.




Not really.  At least not yet.

Melissa slept on as we drove down the northeast extension. I continued to make small talk, hoping Bob wouldn't notice the fear I struggled to keep at bay. After all, a nervous wife in the passenger seat would do nothing to help him navigate this wet road made narrow thanks to never-ending construction.

Another quick look at the weather app radar revealed a large swath of red, indicating a violent storm immediately to our south.

I counted down the miles, hoping we would outrun this monster.

Alas, t'was not meant to be.

With a mere 60 miles left in what had become an arduous journey, the skies ripped open to unleash mother nature's fury.

Without warning, our car was engulfed by a massive wall of torrential rain that fell thick and fast, blinding everyone in its path.

Some cars decided to pull over, while others drove at a snail's pace.

Bob decided against either of these options, citing both as too dangerous. He remained calm while the storm continued to unleash its wrath, even though visibility had been nearly extinguished.

I could not see anything as the relentless storm became sentient, alive, ready to swallow us whole.

My entire being gave way to fear, then panic.

Inside this car was everything.


My child, my entire world.

Panic turned to terror as my hands went numb, I shook uncontrollably, and the sobs buried deep inside were set free.

Bob stroked my arm, assuring me everything would be okay, that we would make it home alive.

Indeed, at his words, the rain seemed to lessen in intensity, allowing us to safely exit the turnpike.

Slowly, the torrents gave way to a steady drizzle.

My shaking subsided.

I dried my eyes.

And my husband safely guided his precious cargo those last few miles through our neighborhood to the welcome embrace of home.

If you like my stories please tell me in the comments section below.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Fun With FAFSA

 FAFSA, which stands for F***ing Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a wonderful document that allows you, by answering a few simple questions, to receive unheard of amounts of free money to send your child to college. When my husband Bob and I were faced with the prospect of filling out the FAFSA form, we shouted with glee.

Ever since my daughter Melissa informed American University that she would, indeed, accept their offer of admission, Bob and I spent many pleasant afternoons working on the FAFSA form. In fact, we were quite dissappointed when we finally hit "submit" because we no longer had the wonderful opportunity to type in our user name and feel that rush of exhilaration watching the page jump for joy when the pop up message informed us that our user name and password were sing and dance with unbridled enthusiasm when, after resetting our user name and password for the 3,964th time, we were told that our user name and password were still wrong.

Yes, when we hit "submit" we were so, so sad, knowing we'd have to wait an entire year before we could relish, once again, the enjoyment that only the FASFA form can bring.

But wait!

As luck would have it, a letter arrived in the mail from American University. Turns out they needed additional paperwork in order to provide Melissa with an accurate financial aid package.

Bob and I popped the cork on the champagne!

Hooray!  We get a chance to work on the FASFA form again!!

The letter from American University informed us that we needed to submit the following information:

  • The federal indemnity doowackleshnort form 392100945556667 Section A, Section P, and Section QZ
  • The IRS 1962, 1963, 1978, 1984, 1998 federal gumpshum form section XL
  • The work enhancement student study worker's wages WT, WTH, and WTF form
  • The independent student aid challenge IRS suggested waiver wages inheritance muggle form 1080 ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ

We didn't have any worthwhile plans this weekend anyway!

Bob and I sit down at the computer with the following essentials:
  • All requested paperwork
  • Scanner
  • Stapler
  • Stapler remover
  • Vodka
  • Divorce Attorney
User name and password are incorrect

User name and password are incorrect

User name and password are incorrect

User name and password are incorrect

More vodka


"It's right here," I calmly respond. "I removed the staples, scanned it, and sent it to my email."


"It's not a problem," I say. "I put the gumpshum form over here because I already scanned it, now all you need to do is give me pages 4, 10, and 692 section A, Q, and L of the doowackleshnort form."



"Oh, ok. well don't go moving things around," he says, trying to maintain control. "Now the doowackleshnort form wants an accounting of my income since 942 BC."

"No wait," I say, examining the form. "They want my income too, including the $350 I made as a junior counselor at Adventureland Day Camp in 1979."

"I am pretty certain they only want my income," he counters.

"I don't think so," I object, looking more closely at the form. "Look, it says: when in the course of human events it comes to pass that the borrower of the lending parent's student put her left leg in and shook it all about, then the diameter of the isosceles triangle shall include the guardian parent (s) income as reported on form ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUV."

"Right," says Bob with confidence. "That means they only want MY income!"

"I don't think so," I counter.

More vodka.

7:00 pm
Bob frantically searches through 952 piles of paper. "WHAT DID YOU DO WITH THE LETTER!?"

"WHAT LETTER!!??" I shout, about to pass out from starvation.

"THE LETTER FROM THE SCHOOL!" Bob shouts back in frustration.

"WHICH LETTER FROM THE SCHOOL. THERE ARE 22,000 LETTERS FROM THE SCHOOL." I ask, trying to refrain from my desire to swat him across the head.


Sob hysterically. 

Get tissues.

Wake up the divorce attorney.

Hit "submit" and hope for the best.

Ah yes, the FAFSA form. I bet you can't wait until you have a college-age child so that you, too, can experience all of the love and joy that my husband and I shared this weekend.

In the meantime, if you need me, I'll be sitting in a fetal position in my home office, sucking my thumb, and trying to remember my user name and password.

If you like my story, please tell me in the comments section below!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Seas of Change

I sat in the driver's seat, two hands on the steering wheel, one eye on the road, and one eye in the rear view mirror watching my 6-year old daughter  Melissa, whose non-stop tears fueled the overpowering ache in my broken heart.

As we drove onward down the road to change, the newly formed leaves on the trees served as a reminder that this right of passage had happened two months too soon.  Bidding a fond farewell to childhood classmates is a ritual that should take place in June....not April.

A bag full of sweets and home made cupcakes, remnants from the well-intentioned goodbye party, sat ignored on the seat next to Melissa, who clutched a small scrapbook filled with heart-felt notes and smiling faces of children I suspected she'd never see again.

Onward we drove, towards our new home, my new job, her new school....our new life.

I reassured Melissa we'd come back, we'd make plans, we'd visit....longing for her to believe my lies. For although the next chapter on our life journey was merely an hour to the south, new friendships would form and time would be scarce, making trips to our former home seem highly unlikely.

Sure enough, my husband Bob, Melissa and I settled in... and never looked back. Yet, more than a decade later, the pain of hearing my baby's sobs as she reluctantly said goodbye to her friends still echos in my heart.

Melissa's tears were a solemn reminder that my daughter does not like change.

The truth is..........neither do I.

When things are comfortable, and safe, and familiar  - I long for the stability that will keep change at bay.

I approach change as if standing on the deck of a rickety old boat lost in a squall.  The rollicking waves prevent me from standing up straight on equal footing, and I'm not quite sure if the seas will ever transition to the peaceful calm that defined my life before the storm.

Of course, the seas did eventually relent, however the calm that greeted my family came not from the familiarity I had left behind, but the wonderful new life that beckoned from a different shore.

Today, my daughter sits at the dining room table, diligently studying for a biology exam. High school will soon come to a close, and summer, with its promise of no homework for two full months, is almost within reach. Then it's off to college...and more change.

Much, much more change.

I often wonder, had I chosen not to accept the new job that took us on that tear-stained drive so long ago, would Melissa, now 18, be privileged to this life filled with family, friendship, and love?

Change can be full of wonder and delight, yet those concepts can be difficult to grasp while you are standing on deck, holding on for dear life. The seas are about to get restless again as move-in day at American University is less than four months away.

Over ten years ago, despite the sobs of a distraught six-year old, I made the decision to embrace the seas of change. And thanks to that decision, my baby is happy, well adjusted and far too willing to now embrace her own sea of change.

Even if I am not.

But I know, just as I knew over 10 years ago, that the storm clouds will fade, the seas will turn calm, and a new shore will beckon. A shore without my daughter by my side.

My daughter Melissa, 4th from left, is pictured with a group of friends during their senior class trip to Disney World.  Would she be so happy had I not embraced the seas of change over ten years ago?

*This story first appeared in April, 2013. It has been updated to reflect my new normal.

Sunday, April 3, 2016


For one joyous week during the month of March, college students across the country happily board buses, planes, trains, and cars, full of anticipation at the thought of spending every moment of their seven day spring break with their parents friends.

Their mothers and fathers will wait anxiously for their arrival, listening for the familiar sound of their offspring's footsteps walking through the front door. They will throw their arms around their cherubs, weeping tears of joy, only to have said cherubs throw their bags down, grab some food, respond to a text, and run straight back out the door.

"It won't be that way with my Melissa," I firmly declare to a friend with a son in college.

She gives me a stare. A poor pitiful stare. A stare that women reserve for friends who are truly delusional.

"No seriously," I say, trying to convince myself. "Melissa and I are so close, she'll want to spend her break with me."

My friend replies with a laugh. A mirthless laugh.

"You'll see," she says.

Although I hate to entertain the notion, I have to admit she's probably right.

While I have approached each milestone of Melissa's senior year in high school with a sense of meloncholy, my daughter has approached each milestone with a mixture of relief and delight. Still to come are her senior class trip to Disney World, the Senior Prom, and then of course, graduation (sob) day.

We'll spend the summer shopping for new sheets, towels, and toiletries to transform a tiny dorm into Melissa's new home. We'll stress. We'll argue. We'll laugh. We'll hug.  We'll probably throw a tantrum or two as I try in vain to hold onto her childhood while she moves ever so closer to independence.

Come August, my husband Bob and I will pack up the car.  We'll drive to American University in Washington, D.C.  We'll help unload. We'll help set up.  We'll make sure she has money. We'll make sure she has food. We'll make small talk. We'll linger.  We'll hug. We'll hold back our tears.

We'll wave goodbye, thinking about the baby we held in our arms, the sweetheart we taught to ride a bike, the home work assignments and sleep over parties, chorus concerts, and high school musicals.

We'll get in the car and drive back to an empty house. We'll be overcome with sorrow, and overflowing with joy, content in the knowledge that our daughter is about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.

For despite the sadness, despite the tears, despite the emptiness, we'll know...we'll truly know, that we did good.

And we'll hold onto the hope, that small slimmer of hope, that when she comes home for break, she'll want to spend it with us!

My baby (on left) has evolved into a beautiful young lady (on right) who will soon be starting college (sob).

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Revenge of the Bat

Weekday evenings in winter are fairly uneventful inside the Weinstein household. I walk in the door after eight hours of work and immediately rip the professional attire off my weary bones in exchange for sweat pants and a t-shirt.

Following dinner, my husband Bob and I head to the Family Room to watch TV while my 18-year old daughter Melissa retires to the living room or her bedroom to tackle the latest senior year home work project.

After a couple hours, Bob tunes the tube to zombie flicks or election coverage (not much difference, I know).  Having no desire to watch either, I typically join Melissa in the living room, becoming one with my computer as Facebook fills the hours 'till bed.

As last Tuesday evening unfolded, our routine bore no difference to every other winter night. By 9 pm, I had digested all I could from my Facebook news feed and decided to head upstairs to read before bed. I stopped into the kitchen where I had a clear view of Bob, sitting comfy on his designated spot on the couch.

Before I had the chance to let him know that he could find me upstairs, my husband let out these now infamous words:

"Oh Crap!"

I took only a fracture of a second to realize why he had uttered the expletive. An unidentified creature with wings had taken up residence in the family room, circling and circling in search for blood!

Being the oh so brave, devoted wife that I am...I stayed by my husband's side so that we could tackle this crisis together as a calm, loving couple  I ran like a looney tune to the safety of the upper level of our home, charged into my daughter's bedroom, and slammed the door behind me.

"THERE'S A BAT IN THE HOUSE!" I exclaimed in response to Melissa's befuddled stare.

My thoughts turned to Bob, trapped downstairs with our new house guest. Oh well, logic dictated I must stay in my daughter's room until, um, let's see, the end of time?  Bob and I had enjoyed nearly 22 years together. We had a good run. It had to be this way.

But wait! Another crisis. In my haste to escape the death grip of our flying friend, I HAD LEFT MY PHONE DOWNSTAIRS.  I could let the bat take my husband, but no way would I part with my phone!

But wait! Crisis averted! Melissa had her phone.  My connection to the world had not been severed!

Much to her chagrin, I ripped the phone out of her hands and dialed my darlin', who, fortunately was still alive downstairs.

My "brave" husband cowered by the front door, keeping a sharp eye on the house guest from hell, who had decided to move the party to the kitchen.

This was not the first time the Weinstein family had encountered a noctural terror. A bat had entered our dwelling in the summer of 2002, a story you can read by clicking here.

You would think our previous encounter with bats would have boosted our confidence.

Yeah...not so much.

From the safety of Melissa's bedroom, I gave Bob instructions, such as "swat it with a broom".

Only one problem. The broom lived in the pantry, located in the kitchen, which was now under complete control of Mr. Bat.

Time to move onto Plan B.

"Open the front door," I suggested, still giving instruction via phone from my daughter's barricaded bedroom. "Maybe the thing  will fly out."

Bob dutifully obeyed, but our guest had no interest in escaping the Weinstein's hospitality. It flew back into the Family Room and promptly disappeared, perhaps plotting its next move to annihilate our family.

"I don't know where it went," shouted Bob as he creeped into the now bat-free kitchen and finally grabbed onto the broom.  Acting much braver than I felt, I slowly opened Melissa's bedroom door and made my way towards the lower level of the house, stopping halfway down the stairs. I figured it I didn't actually set foot on the lower level, the bat would leave me alone.

Mr. Bat, in the meantime, had resumed flight in the Family Room. Trying to think logically while my husband swatted at the creature (to no avail) with the broom, I called animal control. No luck. They were closed.

At a complete loss, I mentally ran through my options:
1. Attempt to go to sleep and call animal control in the morning, content with the knowledge that a creature from hell had taken over the lower level of my home.
2. Go to a hotel.
3. Burn down the house.
4. Call the police.

I chose option 4.

The officer who showed up at our front door a few minutes later could not have been nicer. I felt terrible for calling, knowing that surely there were more important things for a police officer to do than help the wacky Weinsteins rid their house of a bat.

He shrugged off our concern, assuring us that bat-calls are a fairly routine occurence for our local police department.

With the calm born out of his training, the officer used a tupperware bowl to gently trap the bat (who now clung to our fireplace) and set it free outside, where it belonged!

Crisis averted!

As I fell asleep that night, I wondered, did our house guest know about our previous bat adventure that humid summer evening some 14 years ago. Did it know that I killed his cousin with a can of Raid? Had it come back, all these years later, to seek revenge?


If you like my stories, please tell me in the comments section below.

PS - this is my 200th blog post! Thanks to all of you for visiting my blog and reading my stories.