Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Quilt

My high school drama teacher must have liked me.

That's the only reason I can explain why she cast me in the ensemble of our school show, an obscure little musical called "The Boyfriend." After all,  I couldn't sing on key, and my dancing skills were negligible. The perfect, peppy, pretty cheerleaders who also auditioned earned the majority of the stage time, while the choreographer positioned me way in the back, where the audience might not see me turn right while my fellow dancers turned left.

But still. I had fulfilled a childhood dream.

I became an actress in a musical!

The experience introduced me to the castmate camaraderie that comes with being a part of a show. Those perfect, peppy cheerleaders, girls I had viewed (I hate to admit) with envy,  became my friends. What's more, I discovered a newfound sense of self-esteem that would stay with me throughout senior year, through college, and beyond.

That's why, in the spring of 2011, when my 7th grade daughter Melissa told me she wanted to attend summer drama camp, I could barely contain my excitement. As she prepared to audition for the camp show, The Music Man, I knew that my cherub had one advantage over the high school version of her mom....the girl could sing.

But still, as one of the youngest members of the cast who had no prior experience - like the high school version of her mom - my baby took her rightful spot way in the back.

But still,  it didn't matter!

Even though my offspring's stage debut found her hidden behind the other 3,492 drama campers who belt out The Music Man's signature showstopper, "76 Trombones", my husband Bob and I still attended every single performance.

As a thank you for her participation in the show, (and as part of the summer drama camp fee) my little actress received a t-shirt to commemorate the experience.

Unbeknownst to me, she actually saved that Music Man t-shirt, along with t-shirts from school shows to follow:


  • Annie (8th grade)
  • Footloose (9th grade)
  • Les Miserable (10th grade)
  • Oklahoma (11th grade)
  • Peter Pan (12th grade)

She also saved t-shirts from:

  • Her 5th grade elementary school picnic
  • The day camp where she (begrudgingly) spent every summer from 1st to 6th grade
  • Her middle school graduation
  • Her brief foray into the world of athletics when she played defense on the youth association soccer club team
  • The 9th grade color war competition
  • Her high school senior class trip to Disney World
  • Her high school graduation
  • Her college orientation at American University, where she is now in her sophomore year
The moments of her life.

Moments I treasured.

Moments that, like her first school show. I embraced with the unbridled enthusiasm that comes with being a mom, watching from the sidelines as she celebrated the milestones of her life.

Moments that, all too soon, seemed to slip away.

Or so I thought.

A few months ago, again unbeknowst to me, Melissa (with Bob's help) packed up all of her old t-shirts and shipped them off to North Carolina. Those t-shirts landed in the skilled hands of my niece Amanda, who, with help from my nephew Nick's fiance Kimmie, worked magic with a sewing machine.

The result? 

A quilt.

But not just any quilt.

A quilt made up of every one of those t-shirts. A quilt that captures my daughter's journey from a shy elementary school student to the talented, confident young woman she has become today.

When I wrap that quilt around me, I capture all of those moments that seemed to have slipped away. I capture Melissa' passion. I capture her spirit. 

When I wrap that quilt around me - a gift given from daughter to mother with love - I capture my baby's heart and keep it close to mine.

Always.

This quilt, a gift to my from my daughter Melissa, captures the moments of her life


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Sunday, November 26, 2017

Thanksgiving Without Bob

I sat across from my daughter Melissa in a booth inside a small, Mediterranean-style restaurant, eating a falafel and enjoying our conversation.

Yet, something didn't feel quite right.

While Black Friday crowds filled shopping centers and malls across the nation, the stores and restaurants  that usually enjoyed a lively Friday night business in this Washington, DC neighborhood were virtually deserted. The business district had all but closed up shop as its steady stream of customers, courtesy of nearby American University, had returned home for Thanksgiving weekend.

Except for this small, Mediterranean-style restaurant.

The few people that did venture into the eatery were, no doubt like my daughter, fellow American University students.

I savored my meal as much as the company, yet, still, something didn't feel quite right. Fellow moms, or fellow adults for that matter, were non-existent.

I felt strange. Out of place.

Two days earlier, my husband Bob and I were packing for our Thanskgiving journey to North Carolina to visit his family. We were going to leave Wednesday afternoon and drive straight through, with plans to check into our Raleigh hotel around 10 pm. However, our plans were thwarted when Bob woke up with a headache, chest congestion, runny nose, fever, and unrelenting weakness that rendered him barely able to walk across the room, let alone drive eight hours to North Carolina.

We were forced to choose between two options:

1. Both of us would stay home
2. Bob would stay home while I joined his family in North Carolina

I didn't want to leave him alone, especially during Thanksgiving. But Bob knew how much I had been looking forward to seeing the family. He also knew that if I stayed home, I'd spend my days alone in the house, my only company a contagious husband who would while away the hours fast asleep on the couch.

He forced me to go.

But driving eight hours all alone seemed like a daunting task. Fortunately, my elder daughter Jessica and her husband Brian, who live in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC,  had room in their car. Following an uneventful three-hour drive to their house, I took my rightful place in the back seat next to the cutest toddler alive (my grandson Miles). We picked up Melissa at American, and hit the road.

What followed was two days of being pampered and fed by Bob's parents, and his sister Stacy and her husband Greg, who opened their home and their hearts.

On Friday morning as we packed up the car for the return trip to the Washington, DC area, I had an idea. I thought it might be nice to stay an extra day in DC and spend some mommy-daughter time with Melissa. I could take her shopping, or we could do some sightseeing...or both. Plus I thought it would be fun to live like a college student and bunk with Melissa in her dorm.

Bob encouraged the idea, assuring me he didn't mind if I spent time with the baby girl I so rarely get to see.

Melissa also welcomed the idea, especially since I volunteered to take her to Target, where she loaded the cart with clothes, shoes, and, of course, plenty of food.

But as we sat in the small, Mediterranean-style restaurant, discussing the next day's sightseeing plans, I looked around at all of the students and suddenly realized that the prospect of a 52-year old woman spending a night in a college dorm didn't seem quite as inviting.

What's more, I missed Bob terribly.

I just wanted to go home.

Melissa understood. For her, dorm living was the norm. She was in her element. With her peers. She was home, where she belonged.

For me, home was where I collapsed three hours later, into Bob's welcoming, loving arms.

Thanksgiving just wasn't the same without my husband Bob.


Monday, November 20, 2017

The Monster MRI Machine

"You'll need an MRI," said my doctor in the most nonchalant voice imaginable.

"NO, THAT'S NOT POSSIBLE!" came my panicked reply.

To him, an MRI is no big deal. I'm sure he sends hundreds of patients to their doom to the imaging center for this valuable diagnostic test each year.

But for me, it is a big deal. It's a HUGE deal.

An MRI to me is akin to being buried alive. Trapped forever in an enclosed tunnel with no escape in sight. No, there had to be another way to diagnose the nerve pain that has plagued me on and off for the past decade.

But wait, I've read about these new fangled Open MRI machines that don't require your body to be forced inside a tunnel just big enough for a Barbie doll to lie comfortably. An Open MRI would be so much easier because, well, it's OPEN.

"No dice," came my doctor's firm response. "Open MRIs don't produce good enough scans."

Seriously?

If the  Open MRI means I won't have to suffer through crippling, anxiety-induced claustrophobia, then who cares if the scan does something as insignificant as produce an accurate report?

In fact, who cares if I get diagnosed at all. Sorry to have wasted your time doc. I don't need any tests.

I'll live with the pain.

But then.......... the doctor uttered those magical three words.

"I'll prescribe valium."

Valium, you say? Well perhaps I can consent to forcing my body into a vaccum tube if I can take valium.

Reluctantly, I scheduled the MRI.

On the day of reckoning I enlisted the support of my loving and patient husband Bob to take me to the imaging center, knowing that the valium would render me incapable of driving home

I swallowed the magic pill about 30 minutes prior to the test....and the effects were nearly instantaneous. A warm, comforting wave of oblivion made it's way through my body, settling into the part of the brain that controls claustrophobia (as well as the ability to function - which really didn't matter.)

I handed my insurance card to the friendly lady at the registration desk (or it might have been my credit card, or my library card, or a photo of my daughter - I'm honestly not sure). Then I handed my valuables to Bob and followed the technician  to the back where I entered the.....

(cue Twilight Zone Music)

Chamber of Horrors!

The MRI sat there, looking innocent enough. But I knew that its wide, open mouth was just waiting to swallow me alive.

But thanks to the valium, being swallowed alive didn't seem to be such a terrible fate anymore.

The technician had seen cases like mine before. Seems that crippling claustrophobia is not a unique problem.

She placed a blindfold over my eyes, shielding my view of the belly of the beast. In addition, ear plugs helped drown out the sound of the machine's terrifying knocks and booms as it digested its latest prey.

Thanks to the valium, the blindfold, and the ear plugs, the 15 minute test seemed to last a mere 30 seconds. When the technician entered the room and pulled me out of the belly of the beast, my foggy brain soon came to the realization.

I had survived!

I bid farewell to the kind technician, then allowed Bob to guide me to the car, drive me home, and put me to bed so that I could sleep off the effects of the valium.

The Monster MRI Machine put up a good fight, but was no match for "Loopy Lisa", who lived to tell the tale.

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Love/Hate Relationship with My Glasses

I listened in horror as the eye doctor uttered those now infamous words to my mother....

"It looks like she's going to need glasses."

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

This is pretty much what my
glasses looked like!
And with those words, the eye doctor sealed the horrible fate of a shy, gawky 10-year old girl. I would forever be known as "Four Eyes" by my peers. I would forever be forced to hide my small face behind the large, thick, round, devoid-of-style frames that were so popular in the mid-70s.

At least until the eye doctor gave me the green light to switch to contact lenses at the age of 15, which might as well have been 974 years away!

I don't know why the myopia diagnosis came as a surprise. After all, both my parents wore glasses, and my younger brother Steven would soon follow suit. Only my sister Bev was spared. She wouldn't need assistance with her vision until much later in life.

It didn't matter that I suddenly had the ability to see the classroom blackboard. It didn't matter that I had stopped bumping into walls.

I felt awkward. Unappealing. Ugly.
This is how I viewed the middle school
dance when I refused to wear my glasses
.

So ugly, in fact, that I hid my glasses in my pocketbook during middle school dances. True, I couldn't see my fingers if I held them in front of my face, but without my glasses, boys wanted to talk to me. Without my glasses I felt popular. Without my glasses I felt, dare I say...a tiny bit pretty.

Finally, I turned 15 and with it shed my glasses in exchange for contact lenses, which I refused to take off.

Ever.

I wore them when I slept. I wore them when I swam. During one summer as a senior counselor at Nock-a-Mixon overnight camp I only wore the right contact because the left lens had torn in half. It didn't matter if I could only see out of one eye. The alternative  - wearing my glasses in full view of my new camp boyfriend - was not an option.

As the years wore on I reaped the benefit of disposable contacts, which allowed me to change them every few days. I also stopped wearing them to sleep, as I grew tired of waking up with my eyes glued together by the force of dried out lenses.

My eyesight, while quite horrible, remained unchanged throughout my 30s. As 40 rolled around, I received the added diagnosis of an astigmatism, which occurs when the cornea becomes irregularly shaped. It became increasingly difficult to find an effective contact lens prescription. What's more, the eye doctor suggested I switch to glasses - but not just any glasses - bifocals!

I refused to stop wearing my contacts, but agreed to at least try the bifocals after work during the short evening hours at home, prior to bed.

I couldn't do it.

While my husband Bob managed to get used to trifocals, I experienced the sensation of walking through a carnival fun house while wearing bifocals. A "normal" glasses prescription would have to suffice.

Even though I could see much better with glasses, I insisted on wearing my contacts the majority of time. True, my stylish frames were a far cry from the thick lenses of my childhood, but my vanity still got the best of me. In addition, my glasses simply were not comfortable. After an hour or two they dug into the back of my ears and irritated the bridge of my nose.

As I crossed the threshold into my 50s, my eyesight continued to worsen. Night driving became downright difficult. I had to squint to see my bedroom TV.  I changed the font size on my iPhone and computer to jumbo, but still,  I continued to wear my contacts.

Little did I know that those trusty contacts that had kept me from the petrifying fate of wearing glasses for the past four decades would soon meet their untimely demise at the hands of an unlikley enemy.

An enemy commonly known as (cue theme from Jaws)......ALLERGIES!

Nothing worked.

Allergy medication.
Over-the-counter eye drops.
Prescription eye drops.

Nothing.

As soon as I put my trusty contacts in my eyes, goops of allergy-induced gunk would stick to the lenses, making them uncomfortable, and oftentimes, even painful.

My eye doctor gave me a prescription for stronger glasses. I picked out new frames that felt much more comfortable on my nose and ears. I put on those new frames and marvelled at finally being able to see a crystal clear version of my world....and I never looked back.

Today, at age 52, the desire for clear vision far outweighs the desire to feel pretty. Although, I must admit my husband, daughters, colleauges, and friends all insist that I look really good in my new frames. So the next time you see me, there's a pretty good chance I'll be wearing glasses.

Unless, of course, I'm attending a middle school dance!


Yours truly (center) wearing glasses while I happily take a selfie with my daughters
Melissa (l) and Jessica (r).

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Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Cancelled Trip to Washington D.C.

There are three things that are exceptional about Washington, D.C.

No, it's not the White House. It's not the Smithsonian. It's not the Memorials honoring Presidents Lincoln, Jefferson, and Washington.

It's not the Capital Building, or the Supreme Court, or the majestic Kennedy Center.

The three things that draw my husband Bob and me to our nation's capital time and again are Melissa, Miles, and Jessica.

Melissa, our college girl, is in her sophomore year at American University. Jessica, our oldest, lives across the Potomoc River in Virginia with her husband Brian and their son Miles.... our precious, precocious, two-year old grandson who "visits" us several times a week thanks to the modern miracle of Facetime.

"Papa Bob and Mommy Weesa, will you come to my house?" asked Miles during one of those "visits" as he took time out from splashing in the tub to acknowledge that his grandparents' faces had suddenly appeared on his mommy's iPhone.

"We're going to see you next weekend," said Papa Bob. "Would you like that?"

"Yes!" came his enthusiastic response, while he attempted to pour water onto his mommy's head.

It had only been two weeks since our last visit, but Bob and I just couldn't say no to Jessica's invitation to make the trip yet again. Brian would be going out of town and she could really use the help with Miles.

Our plans were set. We would leave Friday after work. Break up the three-hour drive with a dinner stop. Spend the night in Jessica's comfy guest room, and connect with Melissa on Saturday.

I counted the days . Oh, who am I kidding. I counted the hours.

Monday passed without incident. Same for Tuesday. Wednesday began as a seemingly normal day...until I noticed something sinister. A feeling deep in my throat. A tickle. An irritation. Surely it was just allergies. Surely it would go away in a day's time.

As Thursday dawned, I found it a bit harder to ignore that "irritation", as I turned to cough drops to help ease the pain when I swallowed. By Thursday evening, the "irritation" had made its way to my nose, which decided to close up shop altogether, obstructing my ability to breathe.

I could not ignore it any longer. The "irritation" had developed into a full blown cold.

My caring, compassionate husband responded by ensuring I had piping hot chicken soup for dinner, and insisting on sleeping on the sofa to avoid his germ-infested wife.

"Maybe we should cancel the trip to Washington," he suggested.

"No!" I replied with stubborn determination. "I'll take cold medicine. I'll feel better. It will be ok."

He looked at me with skepticism, and retreated to the living room couch.

I woke up on Friday coughing and sneezing and blowing my nose. Bob again, strongly suggested I reconsider our trip.

Once again I insisted I'd be fine. My desire to see my girls and the boy far outweighed a silly little cold. I'd pump myself with Tylenol, and all would be well.

Or so I thought.

I showered and dressed, ate breakfast, and started to walk out the door for work. However, the pounding in my head could not be ignored. Neither could the sudden onset of the chills.

The thermometer confirmed my suspicions. What started as an "irritation" had now become a full blown fever.

I couldn't risk getting my family sick. Plus my "oh so caring" hubby wasn't looking forward to spending three hours in the car with the wife he now called "Typhoid Mary".

Begrudgingly, I called Jessica and Melissa and explained the situation, then retreated to my bed, which became my home for the next 24 hours. It turned out that both Jessica and Miles were also struggling with a cold, so the cancellation was for the best.

However Melissa expressed her disappointment. Although I'm not sure if she was upset at not getting to see mom and dad, or not getting the package full of groceries and other goodies we had planned to bring her way.

On Saturday I felt well enough to venture out with Bob to the post office to mail Melissa her package before retreating back to bed, where I watched six hours of Harry Potter movies.

By Sunday morning I no longer reached for the tissue box every five minutes. I had regained the ability to breathe, and the coughing had returned to a mere "tickle" in my throat. What's more, the thermometer once again read a normal 98.6.

Great. Just in time to go back to work.

Now I'll count the days until Thanksgiving when I get to see my girls and the boy again. Oh, who am I kidding. I'll be counting the hours....and minutes....and seconds.

Pictured during a recent trip to Washington D.C., (from l to r) Melissa, Jessica, Me, Bob,
and the handsome dude in the stroller, Miles!







Thursday, October 26, 2017


I am honored to be a guest blogger on my friend Allison Lazicky's blog Top Notch Teams.



Life is “Bluetiful” When…  

With these words I accepted a challenge from my friend Allison, who invited me to become a guest writer on her new blog, Top Notch Teams. The play on the word “beautiful” is a tribute to Crayola’s new crayon color – “Bluetiful”.

The task seemed fairly straight forward. Write a blog post about anything, as long as it starts with the words “Life is Bluetiful When…”


Only problem is, I’ve been having a difficult time finding beauty in life of late, and that difficulty has caused me to search deep within to find meaningful, insightful words to fill the page.



Sunday, October 1, 2017

Selling Our Home - One Year Later


I sat on an old, uncomfortable folding chair in my husband Bob's home office, staring wistfully out the window at the inviting autumn sunshine. Our southern New Jersey community offered a host of Fall festivals and pumpkin picking, but Bob and I had other plans.

Wonderful plans!

Exciting plans!

Plans that would make the entire population of the United States seethe with envy.

We had the incredible good fortune of spending our entire October weekend going through the 9,756 bags of receipts, invoices, bank statements, medical records, exterminator bills from 1996, used napkins, gum wrappers, apple cores, and other fascinating specimens  that littered the floor of Bob's office.

Yes, we had embarked on the first step of what would become a year-long journey towards selling our home.

How hard could it be to sell? Sure, our house was built over 50 years ago. Sure, we lived on a busy road with heavy traffic. But still, how hard could it be?

Our single family home offered 3,000 square feet, an in-ground pool, five bedrooms, four baths, a family room with fire place, an eat-in kitchen, living room, dining room, two-car garage, and a huge yard. Surely everyone who set foot in this fantastic suburban "paradise" would immediately fall in love, just as Bob and I had done 12 years earlier.

Of course, to us, the house had always been much more than a real estate listing. Bare walls were transformed into a place that provided the warmth and shelter we needed to help our shy first-grader evolve into the confident, college student she has become today.

We knew, we planned, we told ourselves when Melissa went to college we would put the house on the market. After all, what did two people need with 3,000 square feet? We could stay in the area but downsize, saving on mortgage and utilities so that we could fulfill our dream of travelling the world allocate every penny for tuition.

The first step towards selling our new home? Purge.

Purge.

Purge.

And purge some more.

Bob's office was just the beginning.

We soon filled the township dump with Weinstein wares that had outworn their welcome. Broken lamps, abandoned stuffed animals, obsolete electronics, cracked bowls, mismatched tupperware...you get the idea.

Next step?

Paint.

Paint.

And paint some more.

Next step?

Hire a realtor who researched the selling price of "comps" (a real estate term to describe similar homes in the areas) and priced our house accordingly. Based on this amount, Bob and I foolishly anticipated a financial windfall to land in our lap within a few short weeks.

We prepped for our first open house with nervous anticipation. I cleaned the place from top to bottom and concluded, in our 12 year occupancy, it had never looked better.

We vacated the house and left our realtor in charge, expecting to return three hours later with news of throngs of people vying for the chance to make an offer. (Cue the diabolical laughter.)

Our realtor, instead, shared feedback that went something like this:
"This house is way over-priced."
"It needs updating."
"I don't like the floor plan."
"The kitchen border is old fashioned."
"The bathroom fixtures are disgusting."
"This place isn't fit for a family of fleas."

I digested the opinions of these ignorant people with a heart full of denial. They were crazy, insane, full of crap. What did they know anyway?

The next open house came two weeks later, where we received feedback that went something like this:
"This house is way over-priced."
"It needs updating."
"I don't like the floor plan."
"The kitchen border is old fashioned."
"The bathroom fixtures are disgusting."
"This place isn't fit for a family of fleas."

Next step? Lower the price.

The next open house produced more feedback that went something like this:
"This house is way over-priced."
"It needs updating."
"I don't like the floor plan."
You get the idea.

Lower the price again.

Endure more negative feedback.

Install a new sink and toilet in the master bathroom.

Edure more negative feedback.

Lower the price again.

Endure more negative feedback.

Remove the wallpaper in the upstairs hall.

Endure more negative feedback.

Lower the price again.

Endure more negative feedback.

Remove the kitchen border and lower the price again, and again, and again, and again, and again.

Endure more negative feedback.

Change realtors.

Accept an offer of $20,000 less than the drastically reduced asking price.

Gasp in horror at the 424-page inspection report which concluded that the house we had lived in without incident for 12 years was not fit for human habitation.

Gasp in horror at the email from the buyer's realtor, which went something like this:
"Our official inspection indicated a 1/4 inch chip in the paint on the windowsill of the 4th bedroom, therefore we demand you give us an additional $3 million to cover the cost of repairs, in addition to your entire wardrobe, your car, your furniture, your cat, and the blood of your first born."

Enter the next step of the home selling proces...the fighting.

"I WOULD RATHER SIT IN THIS HOUSE UNTIL IT ROTS TO THE GROUND BEFORE GIVING THEM ONE MORE DIME!" came Bob's "calm" and "rational" response to the buyer's demands.

After so much time, money, and work, I feared the deal would fall through. What's more, we had put a deposit on a lovely town home in the same area...a town home I desperately wanted to own.

Much yelling ensued. Followed by my ultimate weapon...tears.

Finally, Bob threw up his hands in defeat, claiming he could not handle the stress of negotiations. He put the ball in my proverbial court, closed his ears and eyes and let me run with it to the end zone.

And run with it I did! We even got to keep our cat.

Aside from the some hiccups with our mortgage application for the new home (produce a signed, notorized affidavit providing the reason for the $10 deposit into your passbook savings account on April 23, 1975) the remainder of the process went according to plan.

Today, we sit in the living room on our comfy new sofa. These walls that provide us shelter are now adorned with family photos, representing much more than a mere town house. One year later, Bob and I have transformed this place into our wonderful new home....and we never looked back.

*This post originally ran on October 5, 2016. It has been edited slightly from the original.

Melissa in the driveway of our new home!