Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Birthday Card

I walked towards the mailbox, tentative in my approach, a sealed and stamped birthday card in hand. If I dropped the card in the box, I ran the risk of an uncertain response. She might send me a polite, albeit, brief thank you text, or I could be on the receiving end of a nasty diatribe warning me never to contact her again.

But in all likelihood the response would be, quite frankly....nothing. She'd ignore my good wishes altogether.

Our friendship had lasted nearly four years when it came to an abrupt end last summer.  Thanks to Facebook, it's now easier than ever to cut emotional ties by simply clicking on the "unfriend" button.

And that's exactly what she did.

Trouble is, I never knew why.

I debated the pros and cons of calling, or texting, or sending a heart-felt email, but kept coming back to one final truth...she no longer wanted me as a friend.

So I moved on.

That is, until I stood at the mailbox, birthday card in hand.

I didn't tell my family or friends of my plans to acknowledge her birthday, not so much because I knew they'd tell me not to send the card.

But because I knew they'd be right.

Yet I wanted to try.

I wanted to send an olive branch of sorts in the hopes that perhaps, just perhaps it would serve as a catalyst for a conversation. Not to rekindle the friendship, but to learn why it had ended.

Two days passed after the card had been placed in the box, and as predicted, I heard nothing. Three days passed, then four, then five.  Still nothing.

I felt like a fool.

A fool who needed to confess to my husband Bob in the hopes he would share words of comfort.

And that's exactly what he did.

We were walking hand-in hand, enjoying nature's autumn splendor when I built up the courage to tell him.

He took me in his arms and held me tight. "Lisa," he said, as he looked in my eyes, "you have the biggest heart of anyone I know."

We lingered for a moment, while I took solace in his warm embrace.

Sometimes I need Bob to remind me that having a big heart is not such a bad thing. Yes, it means opening myself to hurt at times, but it also means opening myself to the love of a husband who has stood by my side since we said "I do", to my beautiful daughters Jessica and Melissa, my grandson Miles, my extended family, and to the incredible women in my life who took the reins of friendship decades earlier and will never, ever let go.

I'm not sure if I'll ever get a response to the birthday card, but as I stood in my husband's arms I realized, it no longer mattered.

I have more than enough love to fill my big heart.  And that's all I need.

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

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Game Night

In the early 1980s, a new type of board game landed in neighborhood toy stores across the country. A game where mindless bits of meaningless data burried deep in the recesses of your brain suddenly became the key to earning the title of smartest player in the room.

A game where the correct answer to a question earned you a "doo dad" which fit snugly into a circular token which looked very much like a pie. Fill in your pie with all 6 multi-colored "doo dads" and you held bragging rights forever, or at least until your opponents begged you to play again.

I am talking, of course, about the Trivial Pursuit craze of the mid-80s, when shoppers across the nation gobbled up an estimated 20 million copies of the game, giving them the chance to demonstrate that they knew exactly who lived at 221B  Baker Street in London (if you answered Sherlock Holmes, give yourself a brown "doo dad"). 

My college friends and I, circa 1985, jumped right onto the Trivial Pursuit bandwagon.  A typical Saturday night would find at least eight of us squeezed around my parent's kitchen table, munching on chips while desperately trying to out-wit each other in this tried and true trivia show down.

Thirty years later, I no longer remember who claimed the title of the smartest in the room...but memories of the resounding laughter that filled my parent's kitchen during those innocent Saturday nights has stayed with me through the intervening years.

While I can't pinpoint an exact reason why our weekend Trivial Pursuit challenges came to an end, I can blame a likely  You see, we graduated college, found jobs, planned weddings, and all too soon, our days were filled with soccer games and dance recitals, and PTA meetings, and last minute trips to the store to buy poster board for the science project due the next day.

We attempted to find those few fleeting moments to connect by phone or social media...and sometimes we even managed to get together for a rare Saturday lunch.  But our weekend Trivial Pursuit parties had become a part of our treasured past...never to happen again.

That is, until last weekend.

Since our college days we have collectively survived first marriages and second marriages, toddlers and teens, new jobs and lay offs, health scares, and money woes.  But there we sat, munching on chips, sitting comfortably around my friend's kitchen table, teamed up with our spouses, roaring with laughter, and once again reaching into the deepest bowels of our brains to remember which two actors starred in Gone With the Wind. (If you answered Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh give yourself a pink "doo dad".

I left my friend's house that night with a feeling of love and warmth that I had so desperately missed....but had never really gone away.

While my husband Bob and I didn't earn enough "doo dads" to fill our pie, I'm confident that the winner won't hold onto their bragging rights for long.  Because now that, 30 years later, we have resurrected game night, I can't wait for a re-match so I can try to fill my pie with "doo dads".....

and fill my heart with the love and laughter of good friends once again.

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Christmas on the Starship Enterprise

There have been an onslaught of Facebook posts of late expressing outrage that the management of a number of shopping malls across the country opted to have jolly St. Nick grant children's wishes using a backdrop that looks more like the deck of the Starship Enterprise than Santa's workshop on the North Pole.

Many have claimed that the mall management removed the traditional Christmas scene in an effort to avoid offending anyone. While I am not sure if this is, indeed, the true reason (I have yet to read anything from the mall management that claims this as fact) I would like to share my views.

I am Jewish. I am Liberal. I am not offended by Christmas.

I am not offended by Christmas trees. I am not offended by Christmas lights. I am not offended by Christmas movies, Christmas TV specials, Christmas books, or Christmas songs. I am not offended by Christmas cookies, or Christmas candy, or Christmas pie  (my waistline protests....but not me). I am not offended by Christmas displays at the mall. And I am certainly not offended by Christmas sales at the mall. I am not offended by Christmas parades, Christmas concerts, and my quaint New Jersey town's annual Christmas-themed Dickens festival.

I am not offended by Christmas stockings, Christmas ornaments, Christmas sweaters, Christmas pajamas, or the cute Christmas saying on my bottle of diet coke. I am not offended by red cups, or cups with snowflakes, or blue cups, or purple cups with pink polka dots. I am not offended by Christmas cards, or Christmas Carolers, or those cute stuffed Christmas reindeer toys you find in your local Hallmark store. I am not offended that my doctor's office, dry cleaner, hair salon, gas station, pharmacy, and supermarket boast festive red and green Christmas decorations.

I am not offended if someone wishes me a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, or Happy New Year. I am not offended by the countless acts of kindness displayed by non-profits, churches, synagogues, businesses, and civic organization who donate toys, food, and funds to ensure those less fortunate have a joyful Christmas.

What I am is grateful that I live in a country where I will not be arrested or persecuted because I choose to put an electric Menorah in my window for eight days each December.

So please, please everyone, there is no war Christmas or any other holiday for that matter. Relax and enjoy the peace and good will of the season.

Although I do have one, teensy weensy request....can we please wait until we've digested our turkey and cranberry sauce before we start celebrating Christmas?

My daughter Melissa and me in front of the beautiful Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center
 New York City, December, 2001

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Melissa's Elementary School Papers

In my laundry room, nestled among the detergent, fabric softener, ironing board, and the endless pile of soiled clothes, lived three huge plastic tubs.  Inside these tubs were the precious memories created by my sweet little cherub Melissa when she entered the "big girl" world of elementary school.

After first grade, I discovered that three huge tubs were not nearly large enough to host the precious memories of 2nd grade and I purchased more.  Tubs number 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and so on had their permanent resting place in my bedroom, a storage room, my husband Bob's home office, and in the bowels of our gararge.

Notice the use of the past tense in the above sentence. Yes, that's right. They had their permanent resting place throughout nearly every nook and cranny of my house, that is, until last weekend.

You see, now that my cherub is a high school senior and filling out college applications, I decided that I probably didn't need all of the precious memories I saved over the years. I knew that someday I would have to tackle all of those tubs.  But oh, it would be so hard!  How could I get rid of those precious memories? How could I throw away all of the evidence of my baby's hard work from 1st through 5th grade?

It would be an emotional challenge, but I rolled up my shirt sleeves, sat cross legged on the floor, and kept a box of tissues by my side in the event that looking through her old papers became too much for my emotions to handle.

Let's just suffice it to say that I really did need those tissues, but not for reasons you'd expect. The Puffs got plenty of use as dust from the first tub immediately found a new home... in my nose.

As I sneezed my way through math home work and spelling tests and history projects and letters from the teacher, one and only one thought ran through my mind.


To any mother who is about to send their child off to elementary school, I offer these words of wisdom.  If you are thinking of saving every single piece of paper your baby brings home, I caution you, I urge you, I beg you....DON'T DO IT!

Why, you ask? Because 11 years later you'll be sitting cross legged on the floor, staring at dust-filled bins of old papers, thinking to yourself, "Why did I save all of this crap!"

I suppose I had visions of someday sitting together with an adult Melissa, lovingly sharing these precious memories of her childhood.

Yeah.  Not going to happen.

Devoid of the emotional obstacles I thought would stand in my way, I systemically placed all evidence of my baby's hard work from 1st through 5th grade in the recycling bin.

Now before you accuse me of being a heartless mother, I will tell you that some items were spared. Birthday cards, Mother's and Father's Day projects, a cute little story about the day we adopted our cat, and a tale of her visit to a local farm with her Brownie Troop.

All told, I whittled 10 huge tubs down to 2.

Now I'll have room to save every single piece of paper she brings home from college next year!

Melissa's first grade tale about a field trip to Paws Farm with her Brownie Troop!

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

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Confessions of a Naïve Step-Mom

Following our nuptials in April of 1994, my husband Bob and I had planned a spectacular 10-day honeymoon in Hawaii.  The only challenge: who would stay with my newly inherited step-daughter Jessica? 

At 18, and only 10 years my junior, Jessica certainly had the maturity and responsibility to stay on her own for a day or two.   However, we both felt 10 days just seemed too long to leave her alone.  Fortunately, my mother-in-law agreed to come in from her home on New York’s Long Island and keep her oldest granddaughter company.  The only caveat, a prior commitment meant she had to return home a day before Bob and I flew back into Philadelphia.  Jessica would be by herself for 24 hours, how bad could that be?

The answer to that question would come a few years later.

While giving our living room bookshelf a much overdo dusting, I came across Jessica’s high school year book.  I put down my sponge, settled on the couch and started flipping through the pages, smiling at images of Jessica and her friends.  It seemed nearly every blank space had been filled in by fellow seniors wishing her well.  Most of the messages were the fairly standard, “Good luck in college”  “Have a great summer”, and “I’ll miss you.”  However, one tiny note scrawled in the corner of the page caught my eye.  

Dear Jessica,
     I will never forget your, “My Parents are on Their Honeymoon” toga party!

We left her alone for one day.  ONE DAY!

Seems I had entered into the mother-daughter relationship with the proverbial “rose colored glasses”.  After my first few dates with Bob, I imagined Jessica and me becoming the best of friends.  “She’ll be the Maid of Honor at our wedding,” I told my friend Fern, who naturally assumed I had become quite delusional.   “Lisa,” she said, bringing me back to reality, “you haven’t even met her yet!”

The truth of the matter is, Jessica did take her place as Maid of Honor on our wedding day, but the journey to that wonderful occasion did not include the bonding that I had imagined.

The first inkling that shattered my skewed view of life as a step-mom came not long after Bob and I got engaged and I had officially moved in.  One Saturday afternoon when I found myself home alone, I noticed that Jessica had left her normally shut tight bedroom door slightly ajar.  I tiptoed into the room, which played host to my step-daughter’s incredible creativity.   Every inch of the four walls were covered with magazine posters of handsome young actors and the latest guitar strumming rock bands, hand crafted paintings, sappy poems, photos with friends demonstrating the silliest of poses, and drawings of the moon and the stars that glowed florescent when one turned off the light.

Impressed, I later told her how much I liked her bedroom.  Apparently, Jessica did not appreciate the compliment.   The next day, a photo of a vicious Doberman pinscher guard dog appeared on a sign taped to her bedroom door, with the following threatening message:  KEEP OUT, THIS MEANS YOU! 

Oh, can you feel the love?!

Poor Bob, forced to play tug of war with the two women in his life.  Jessica privately complained to Bob about me, and I, in turn, kept him at full attention with my rants about her.   Fortunately, my husband had the wisdom to know that the two women he loved would be able to work it out.  And in the end….through the angry tears and shouting matches, we grew to love each other, and work it out we did!

Over years later, Jessica is a Washington D.C.-based union lobbyist fighting for the rights of working individuals.  I have watched her evolve into a beautiful, poised, and professional young woman who constantly demonstrates a fierce love for her family and an unwavering commitment to her work. 

My adorable grandson Miles!
She and her husband Brian recently welcomed their first baby (and our first grandchild) Miles. 

Today, we laugh about our early years together and my foray into the world of becoming an instant parent to a teenage girl. 

However, those early years with Jessica did help me prepare for the wonderful, daily teen drama and angst brought to me courtesy of my own teenager, the love of my life Melissa.

Today, the posters, poems, and pictures now adorn Melissa’s bedroom walls, as she is well on her way to following in the footsteps of the big sister she adores.  As for me, if she ends up anything like Jessica, I know she’ll be perfect!  Two beautiful daughters, what more could a mother want!  

My beautiful daughter Jessica and me!

*This post originally appeared in February, 2012. It has been modified slightly from the original version.

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

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Melt Down in the Produce Section!

There are many interesting things to be found in your local supermarket produce section.  You've got your cucumbers, your squash, your broccoli, your asparagus.  Then there's your strawberries, your blueberries, your lettuce, your 14 varieties of apples, and your crying 18-year old teenage girl.



Yes, that's right.

Take a trip to your local supermarket during Labor Day weekend and you too will see this strange phenomenon.

She'll be standing right there, a granny smith apple in hand.

The crying teenage girl.

Whatever could have moved this poor dear to tears?  Perhaps the apples were bruised.  A tragedy, yes, but hardly worth such an emotional response.

Perhaps she wanted to purchase six granny smith apples, but her mother would only allow her to place five in the cart.  Yes, that certainly would have led to a tantrum, but hardly worth a tantrum of epic proportions.

Perhaps the girl wanted to purchase the apples as a snack to take to school.



Did you say school?


That's it!  That's it!

The poor dear suffered an emotional breakdown, right there in your friendly neighborhood produce section, because she truly could not accept that after two glorious months, she had to go back to school! Back for her last year of school!

Yes, that's right!  Senior year.  Something that should have made the teenage girl quite happy.

Our heroine (we'll call her Melissa) woke up that morning full of promise.  She would get organized for school! She would get prepared for school!  She would gather her books, pick out her clothes, plan her meals for school!

She would spend the entire day doing nothing but getting ready for school!

That is, until her horrible mother (Lisa) and her equally terrible father (Lisa's husband Bob) forced her at gun point merely suggested she accompany them to ShopRite so she could pick out her lunch for the first week back at school

The supermarket trip was doomed from the start.

"I don't want to go," she wailed!  "I have too many things to do!"

"I don't know what you want to eat," said Bob. "Come with us and you can pick out your own stuff. You can get anything you want."

"Fine!" she retorted.

Upon arrival at the supermarket, Melissa grabbed a cart and promptly disappeared from view.

In the meantime, Bob and Lisa calmly purused the aisles, putting various necessities in their cart. After several minutes, they decided that perhaps it would be prudent to try and find their daughter.

And find her they did. In the cereal aisle.

"There's nothing for me to eat for breakfast," she whined.

"How about oatmeal, I thought you loved oatmeal," Lisa suggested.

"Ug, I can't stand oatmeal anymore," came her response.

"How about granola bars?" asked Bob.

"I don't like any of them and they are all so bad for you," came her response.

"How about bagels," said Lisa

"I am sick of bagels!" proclaimed our heroine.

And so on it went.  Apparantly this football field sized supermarket did not carry one item that would suit Melissa's taste buds.

"How about fruit, you love fruit," suggested Lisa, refusing to give up their quest for satisfactory food.

"Noooo, I don't want fruit, it always goes bad and then we end up wasting money!" came Melissa's battle cry.

Nevertheless, Lisa marched her offspring off to the produce section while Bob took a detour to the men's room.

Taking advantage of her husband's momentary absence, Lisa decided to have a mother-daughter chat with her cherub, right there in the middle of the produce section.

"Melis, you are normally so happy, but you've been really negative ever since we got here," she said with kindness.  "What's going on sweetie."

"I don't know mom," Melissa confessed.  "I'm really worried about school.  I mean, I have to wake up early and pick out my clothes, and I have to figure out something that I can make quickly for breakfast and what if I get tons of homework, how am I going to handle it and still keep my part-time job at the senior center!?"

And then the tears began to flow.

Right there in the middle of the produce section.

And Lisa did what any mother would do when witness to her child's pain.  She threw her arms around Melissa and whispered words of comfort and held her tight.

Right there in the middle of the produce section.

By the time Bob returned from his detour, Lisa thought she saw the hint of a smile on her daughter's face.  In fact, Melissa even agreed to re-evaluate her harsh judgement of the cereal aisle, and actually found a new brand of oatmeal that made it into the cart.

She had survived the produce section melt down.

A few days later as morning dawned on senior year, Melissa consented to allow her mother to take the final "first day of school" photo. Then, without fanfare, she got into her car and drove off to school...leaving her childhood (and her mother) behind.

But Lisa didn't get sad, and Lisa didn't cry. Because Lisa knew, deep down, that whenever her baby needed to cry, and whereever her baby needed to cry, a hug from her mom would make everything ok.

Melissa's first day of senior year! The last "first day of school" photo. Sob!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Daughters and Grandsons

My grandson Miles lay in my arms, eyes shut tight, lost in a world of newborn dreams. With the free hand that didn't play host to a snoozing baby, I scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed, reading post after post from parents painfully parting ways with their college-bound teens.

As I looked down at the two-week old miracle so content in my arms, my heart ached for so many of my friends who had driven home that day from universities across the country without their "babies" in the backseat of the car.  At that moment, a worn out cliche came to mind ....they really do grow up in the blink of an eye.

My grandson's mommy, Jessica, the daughter who entered my life as a teen when I said "I do" to her dad (my husband Bob), has embarked on that remarkable journey called motherhood, a journey I began on July 1, 1997 when I held my firstborn (and Jessica's baby sister) Melissa in my arms.

On that miraculous day when I looked at my baby girl for the very first time, I simply didn't know.

I didn't know about playdates and preschool and dollies and Disney Princesses.

I didn't know that I'd cherish pushing my cherub on the playground swings and reading her books each night before bed.

I didn't know about tricycles and trips to the beach and Thanksgiving visits to grandma and grandpa.

I didn't know that she'd break out in scary hives when her fever topped 100 degrees, or that her annual appointments with the pediatrician would be followed by ice cream to soothe her tears.

I didn't know about countless hours watching her play in the tub with naked barbie dolls, or countless hours spent untangling her long brown hair while she snuggled in my lap.

I didn't know I'd be shedding tears as she boarded the bus for first grade, or that the tears would still flow as the bus whisked her off to high school.

I didn't know she'd take up the flute in 5th grade or that she'd start playing guitar soon after.  I didn't know she'd have a singing voice like an angel and that chorus concerts and school shows would become an intricate part of her world.

I didn't know she'd be elected as president of her youth group, or how beautiful she would look at her junior prom.  I didn't know that my baby would drive a car, hold down a job, and start filling out college applications the summer before her senior year.

Yes, next year at this time, the mother posting those tearful college farewell photos will be me.  

All of those years ago when I held Melissa for the very first time, I didn't know that my heart would succumb to such powerful love....and that there would come a time when I would have to say goodbye.   

I simply didn't know.

Today, I look at my grandson, Miles, with quite a different perspective.

Because now I do know.

I know that his mommy Jessica and his daddy Brian will mark every milestone in their young son's life with all of the fascination and wonder that all new parents deserve.

They don't know now, but so soon will learn that their unbelievably happiness at earning the title of parents will only grow stronger as Miles enters each phase of his life.  

Because the span of 18 years that today seems like forever will indeed the blink of an eye.

My daughter "Aunt Melissa" with her newborn baby nephew Miles!