Saturday, December 29, 2012

Melissa's Beauty Parlor

The room had all the makings of a "real" salon.

Hair gel.
Hair spray.
Pony tail holders.
Bobby pins.
Eye shadow.
Uncomfortable chair.
And of 6-year old daughter Melissa a professional beautician!

I donned my best "sophisticated lady" accent, (which sounded like a cross between a southern belle and the queen of England) and waited patiently in the hallway outside of my bedroom the salon until my daughter  the ower told me it was ok for me to come in.

"Oh dahhhlllinnggg, " I drawled when the "salon owner" opened the door.  "I heard you were the absolute best and it was so haaard to get an appointment.  Thank you for seein me on such short notice."

The salon owner giggled, and instructed me to sit in the chair so she could begin the beautification transformation.

"I've been invited to a faaabuuulous, fancy ball this evening and I knew there was only one person who could just make me look absolutely perrrrrfffeccctttt!" I exclaimed.

"Please be quiet ma'am and close your eyes, now this might hurt a little bit," said my little beautician as she tugged through the thousands of knots in my long, perm-induced curls.

"Ohhhh Ah don't do what evuh you need to do...after all, beauty is pain, right! HAHAHAHA!" laughed Lisa the lovely British southern belle!

Without the benefit of a mirror (what fun would that be) I tried to hold steady as she brushed my hair over my eyes, behind my ears, to the front, to the side, to the back, split down the middle, back over the eyes again, up, and over.  Her little fingers began braiding and twisting and pinning and tugging until I imagined I resembled an alien from outerspace  the most beautiful belle at the ball.

After much concentration and a considerable amount of time, the beautician surveyed her handiwork and nodded an approval.

"May Ah look in the mirror," I timidly asked, only to have my request harshly denied.

"I am not finished yet," admonished the beautician.  "I still need to do the make up."

Ah.... the make up. 

I stood still once again as my pores took the brunt of 3,000 pounds of perky pink foundation topped off with rosey red blush.  Next came the eye shadow, blues and greens and purples and browns, matched to "perfection" with my olive white complexion.  Imagining I now looked like a circus freak a fashion model, I once again requested a peek in the mirror.

This time, after much serious consideration, the beautician approved my request.

When I saw, first-hand, the extent of my talented beautician's hard work, I burst out laughing and ran down the hall to show my husband Bob how lovely and appealing his wife had now become.

He took one look at me, merely shook his head and uttered these simple words,   

"Lisa, that is love."

Being tortured primped and pampered by my 6-year old? 

Love indeed.

I don't recall how many visits I made to "Melissa's Beauty Parlor" over the years.  All I know is that the salon has long since closed its doors.


I'll be hard pressed to find someone who has the talent to braid my strands into nine puffy pony tails smothered in so much gel they defy gravity and stand on end.  I'll be hard pressed to find a beautician whose skill and craft will hide my big, brown eyes behind a coating of make up so thick the casual observer will think I've been in a fight.  I'll be hard pressed to find a beautician so adorable that I'll be willing to sit in an uncomfortable chair while she tugs and pulls and twists and turns in an attempt to achieve perfection.

The salon owner exists now only in fond memories, and in its place is a 15-year old who would rather spend hours on her own hair instead of mine.

But that's ok.

As I watch her get ready for an evening out, we chat about school, guitar lessons, her upcoming chorus concert, her friends, shopping, music, and movies.   As she skillfully braids the bangs of her long, thick, brown hair, I somehow convince myself that it was all of my visits to her "beauty parlor" that helped shaped  her desire to work hard, be the best, and settle for nothing but perfection.

Melissa's Beauty Parlor may no longer be open for business, but its spirit will live on in the amazing, remarkable young woman that my "little beautician" has become.

If you like my stories please feel free to tell me in the comments section below!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Finding Marty

Early in our courtship, my husband Bob and I found ourselves strolling through the picturesque campus of Princeton University.  After browsing through the quaint shops and enjoying our fill of ice cream, we made our way back to the car, admiring each ivy-covered building full of stories seeped in history.  Yet the structure that caught Bob's attention - a bland looking series of buildings reminiscent of army barracks and seemingly devoid of any beauty at all - held stories of a different kind for my husband-to-be.

"Susan and Ron lived here," he whispered, staring at the building.

I looked at my beau and his eyes seemed far away, lost in another time.  He had journeyed to this place before, accompanied by a man named Marty and his wife Frieda who had lovingly opened their hearts to a precocious young boy.   They had brought Bob to Princeton with them to visit their daughter Susan and her new husband Ron, who was a graduate student at the prestigious school.

"I always wonder whatever happened to Marty," shared Bob, who continued to stare at his memories.  "I wonder if he's still alive."

I wondered too.

Bob, who grew up in a single-parent home, first entered Marty and Frieda's life at the age of two when the couple volunteered to babysit him for a week.   Almost as soon as he came through the door, the family embraced him as their own.  And for the young boy who lacked a father, Marty's love helped to close a hard to fill void.

Bob spent many a weekend with Marty, going to the movies and baseball games, sitting on his lap and reading comic books or just enjoying one of Frieda's delicious home cooked meals.  Their loving relationship spanned several years, but as Bob inched closer towards adolescence, things slowly began to change.   Bob's mother found well-deserved happiness with a new man in her life, and eventually she remarried and moved her four children from their apartment in Nassau County, Long Island to a home on the north shore of Suffolk County, only an hour's drive, yet worlds away.

Out of respect for Bob's new step-father, Marty drifted away, leaving my then 13-year old husband left to wonder why this man that he had loved no longer had a place in his life.

The years passed by.  Bob married young, divorced a year later, and became a single parent to his  daughter Jessica, who had just turned 15 when I came into their lives.  Marty had missed out on so many of life's precious moments for the boy that he had loved like a son.  Bob thought of him often, but didn't know where he was, or what to say if he ever did manage to find him.

As we stood looking at the barracks which had so long ago served as campus housing for Marty's daughter Susan, I resolved, right then and there, that I would find Marty.  I would do it for Bob, for the man I loved.

Since Facebook and Google had not yet taken us out of the dark ages, I began my search at the local library, where I looked up phone directories from the New York City area, only to discover there were a myriad of "Martins" who shared the same last name as Bob's Marty.  Not to be deterred, I photocopied the pages, typed out a letter, and sent it off to the many "Martins" of New York City.  While my search did not yield success, I still treasure a heartfelt response I received from one of the "Martins", who wished me luck in my quest.

Unsure if Marty and Frieda still lived in the New York area or if they had moved to Florida, Bob and I turned to Plan B, which involved finding Susan.   Bob could only remember the first initial of Susan and Ron's last name, and he also had the approximate year of Ron's graduation from Princeton.  Not much to go on, but still, it provided a starting point.  I decided to contact the Princeton University archives department and spoke to an incredibly helpful woman who, once I explained the reason for my search, eagerly helped me with my sleuthing activities.

Turns out she had a work phone number for a man who matched Ron's description.  Throwing caution to the wind, I dialed the number as my heart beat in anticipation.  When a man's voice answered the phone, I tried as quickly as possible to describe the purpose of my call, fumbling my words along the way.  The man's response:  "I'll call you back."

Convinced I had done nothing more than make a fool of myself, I had no choice but to wait out the agonizing ten minutes until, true to his word, the man named Ron did, indeed, call me back.


Later that evening, via telephone, my husband reunited with Susan, who now lived in Buffalo, New York, coincidentally only a few miles away from Bob's brother Bruce.  Marty had, indeed, moved to Florida and sadly, Frieda had recently passed away.  Throughout the intervening years, both Susan and Marty had often thought of Bob and wondered how he was, where he was, and if he had turned out ok.

A few months later, our annual visit to Bob's family in Buffalo also included dinner at the home of Ron and Susan, who had three grown children of their own.  Within a year's time, we were able to travel to Florida, giving Bob the long sought after opportunity to embrace and thank the man who had been there during such a vulnerable time in his young life.

On April 23, 1994, Ron, Susan, and Marty lovingly took their rightful place among our circle of family and friends as Bob and I exchanged our vows of marriage.

Although we cried upon learning of Marty's death a few years later, Bob will be forever grateful for the opportunity, however brief, to see him again.  For the reunion finally put to rest the fears that Bob had held onto for so many years.   Marty had never forgotten him, and never stopped loving him.

If you like my story, please feel free to comment below!  Thanks for visiting!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Saving Melissa From the Train

Last summer, my husband Bob, 15 year old daughter Melissa and I spent a well-deserved mini get away in New York City.  Our original plan had been to merely hop on the train on Sunday for the 90 minute ride to the city, catch a show, then return home the same day.  However, thanks to a discount website, Bob found a relatively inexpensive hotel, so off we went on Saturday morning to enjoy the sights and sounds of the "Big Apple" for an entire weekend.

When Sunday afternoon came, my little family stood wearily in the massive lobby of New York's Penn Station, staring at the giant board, waiting for the flashing signal to indicate that boarding had begun.  The return trip proved uneventful.  Melissa listened to her iPod shuffle, Bob slept, while I nurtured my Facebook habit.

Upon arrival at the station in Hamilton, NJ, we absentmindedly dragged our luggage up the stairs, down the sidewalk, then into the elevator for the brief ride to the third floor of the parking garage.  As we began the journey towards our car located several feet away on the other side of the massive structure, I suddenly heard an insanely loud, terrifying, screeching sound.  For reasons unexplained, my brain processed the frightening noise as an out of control car on the garage level above us....careening its way down the ramp with the sole intention of harming my child.

At that moment, genetically induced "mom behavior" took over!  I would not let a runaway car hurt my little girl.  I instinctively held out my hands and gave Melissa a big, strong, push...assuring she would be out of harm's way and leaving myself directly in the path of 3,000 tons of moving metal.

My daughter's response to my life saving behavior?  "Mom, WHAT THE HECK?!"

I looked around.  Neither mother nor child had been injured by a possessed vehicle.  The "danger" I had shielded her from proved merely to be the sound of an approaching train.


We were in a train station, after all.

Feeling somewhat sheepish, I returned to the car and attempted to ignore the taunts of my husband and daughter who dared to call me............OVER PROTECTIVE!

Yes, I admit, it's true.  I am overprotective, yet I wear the title proudly.

Despite our best efforts, 24-hour protection of our offspring is a task beyond reach.  For at some point, we have to let them out of our field of vision and just pray that in the hours when we are not at their side that they are safe and happy and that soon enough, they will return to our loving embrace.  

It seems logical for parents of young babes to experience these notions, but what my moody, brooding, eye rolling sweet teenager fails to understand is, despite her evolution into young adulthood, my fierce love for her only grows stronger, making it that much harder to let her I know I some day must do.

As a toddler, my Melissa never left my side.  The simple act of me leaving the room resulted in my baby's inconsolable tears.  Today, those tears are more likely to result from embarrassment, as I still insist on peeking out the window every morning to ensure she does, indeed, actually board the bus that takes her to high school every day, an activity that has resulted in my teen giving me the  title of "stalker".

I would proudly admit to being a stalker, if it means protecting my baby from harm.

I would proudly jump in front of a careening, out of control vehicle, if it means protecting my baby from harm.  

I would proudly stand facing a mad man, feeling the brunt of hundreds of bullets, as 20 sets of parents in Connecticut certainly wished they'd had the opportunity to do......if it meant protecting their babies from harm.

My heart aches for the families of the beautiful children and adults who lost their lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  

I dedicate this blog to you.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Hanukkah Fairy

We all know of the famous Christmas tale that begins, “Yes, Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus.”  Well, my story takes somewhat of a different spin.  You see, five years ago, I finally had to say to my then 10-year old daughter, “No, Melissa, there really isn’t a Hanukkah Fairy.”

It all began when my baby girl (now a teenager) still enjoyed the innocence of kindergarten.  As December approached, her classmates chattered endlessly with anticipation, wondering aloud what wonderful presents they would find under their tree Christmas morning, courtesy of their hero, the one and only Santa Claus.  From the perspective of a five year old, not getting a present from Santa just seemed so unfair.  It didn’t matter that her grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, family friends, sister Jessica, and of course, my husband Bob and I showered her with presents for the eight days of Hanukkah.  As one of only a few Jewish children in her class, all that she knew was that her gifts did not come from Santa, and that, in her young mind, made her feel terribly left out.

Sooooo…in a “crazed mom” effort to ease my daughter’s pain….I sort of made up a teensy weensy little lie.   I told her she should feel lucky, because the Jewish people had the Hanukkah Fairy. 

Ok, I admit, I am not proud of my deception to my five-year old.  However, when her big brown eyes lit up, and her frown faded away, I simply had to perpetuate the myth.  What I didn’t count on were all of the questions.   “Where does the Hanukkah Fairy live?”  (At the mall.)  “How does she know what I want for Hanukkah?”  (I tell her when I go shopping, and she picks out the presents and gives them to me) 

The hardest questions were targeted to my husband, who desperately struggled to elaborate on a lie he didn’t invent! 

“Daddy, is the Hanukkah Fairy real?” she asked during a quiet moment when the two shared a car ride alone. 

“Uh, well, hmmm,” came his eloquent response, as he wiped the sweat off his forehead and secretly cursed me under his breath.   “The Hanukkah Fairy is real if you believe it’s real.”

The holiday came and went, and thanks to the Hanukkah Fairy, Melissa finally felt just as special as her friends who received gifts from Santa.

When the holiday season approached the following year, I naively thought my little girl would forget about the Hanukkah Fairy.  Alas, t’was not meant to be.  As Hanukkah inched closer, not only did Melissa wonder aloud about the many presents the Hanukkah Fairy would bring, but she told all of her friends about it, who in turn told their parents, who in turn asked me about this totally unfamiliar Hanukkah tradition.  I had to whisper out of earshot of my daughter and explain to my Jewish and Christian friends alike how and why I invented Melissa’s new-found favorite fairy.

As Melissa got older, Bob and I tried very hard to help her understand that, even though we celebrated a different holiday, we shared with everyone the spirit of faith and goodwill that for me, is the best part of the holiday season.  Each year, we would “adopt” a less fortunate family, and Melissa took delight in wheeling the shopping cart through the toy store, helping to pick out gifts for the kids.  On Christmas day, Melissa made cards out of construction paper and we delivered them to patients in the local hospital where I worked at the time.

We also tried to help her understand the story of Hanukkah.  It takes place in ancient times, when the Syrians attacked the Jews, trying to force them to give up their faith.  Although horribly outnumbered, the Jews won the battle, but their Temple was destroyed.  However, amid the devastation, they found enough oil to burn in a lamp for only one day.  Yet, miraculously, the oil burned for eight days, and that is why we light a candle for each of the holiday’s eight days.  Hanukkah pays homage to everyone who has fought for the right to worship as they please, to celebrate their heritage, to share their own traditions with their children, and to be proud of who they are.  In short, Hanukkah celebrates freedom!

Today, at 16, Melissa has long since put aside the notion that presents arrive thanks to magical beings carrying baskets full of Barbie dolls and Disney princesses.  While she still gratefully appreciates the numerous American Eagle gift cards she is sure to receive this holiday season, for my teen, the holidays have evolved into something much more than an excuse to exchange presents.  It is an opportunity to help me create a festive holiday dinner, to appreciate the memorable traditions that connect us to past generations, and to relish in the love of dear friends and family, both near and far.

Happy holidays to you from The Weinstein family…and The Hanukkah Fairy!

I love getting feedback!  If you like my stories, please tell me in the comments section below!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Operation Duck Rescue

Eight years ago, thanks to the prospect of a new job, a "For Sale" sign went up on the front lawn of our small town house and we soon found ourselves two hours to the south, riding in the back seat of our realtor's minivan, being "chauffeured" from one flawed home to another, trying to find the perfect fit.

Weekend after weekend, that minivan created well-worn tracks in our soon-to-be South Jersey neighborhood, as my husband Bob and I rejected each potential place to lay down our roots.  

Too expensive.  Too old.  Too big.  Too small.  Too many trees.  Not enough trees.  

The list went on.

Finally, Bob and I noticed the brightly colored balloons inviting prospective home owners to check out a single family home on an extremely busy main road.  As we parked the car, I watched the heavy traffic fly past this house at speeds upward of 50 miles per hour.  Is this where I wanted my 6-year old daughter Melissa to grow up?  In fear of her going outside and running straight into oncoming traffic?  


Today I sit in the living room of the very house I refused to consider, thinking about the two reasons why I changed my mind.

1. The kitchen.  Large, open, bright, and airy, this beautiful room beckoned with promises of future, fun-filled family dinners full of love and laughter.

2. The back yard.  Bob and I walked through the sliding glass doors in the kitchen into a back yard utopia.  A finely crafted deck gave way to a classic, kidney shaped, in-ground swimming pool, complete with diving board and slide.  What's more, one merely had to look out past the hedges to view the  beauty of a crystal clear, glistening lake which took its place amid the peaceful landscape of a professional, 18-hole golf course.  The busy, outside world that plagued the front door of this property disappeared when setting foot in the back.   

Bob and I made an offer that same day!

While Melissa took delight in a swimming pool to call her own, for her parents, the thrill quickly began to wane.  The pool, we learned all too soon, could be described as a relic.  Built over 40 years ago, its outdated filter system resulted in hours of backbreaking work to keep the water clean.  To make matters worse, it nearly required a second mortgage to cover the cost of its upkeep.  Since Bob and I worked full-time jobs and Melissa spent the long summer days at a local camp, we figured the few times we actually splashed around in the water cost us at least $200 per dip.  After two summers, we surrendered to our wallets.

Melissa watched in horror as a thick blue tarp, anchored on all sides by a dozen heavy bricks, permanently covered her very own watering hole.  As the months passed, the tarp began to sag, allowing the formation of a rain-filled mini-lake on top of our pool, which played host to an assortment of frogs guessed it, ducks!

The following summer, we sat in our cozy kitchen, enjoying breakfast with my mother-in-law Pearl, who had traveled from North Carolina.   Suddenly, Melissa glanced out the back door and noticed a rather large duck sitting motionless on the edge of the pool.  We watched with curiosity, waiting for this feathered water fowl to do something, anything.  But still she sat, and sat, and sat.

Finally, by lunch time, curiosity got the better of us.  Melissa, Bob, Pearl, and I slowly opened the back door and cautiously crept towards the duck, taking care not to startle the poor thing.  Our efforts at stealth were for naught, for the duck ignored our steady approach and still refused to show any signs of movement.  As we inched ever closer to the edge of the pool, we soon learned the reason for her vigil.

Our eyes feasted on four tiny, yellow, fluffy, baby ducklings splashing innocently in the mini-lake.  Too young to master the art of flying, the ducklings had no way to get out.  Their mother sat helpless, watching her babies.

They were trapped.

The four of us looked at each, and unspoken meaning passed between us.

It was time to put Operation Duck Rescue into action.

My first thought led to the garage where we had stored the pool equipment, including a net attached to a long pole, generally used to remove leaves and other type of clutter from the pool water.  Perhaps we could scoop up the ducklings in the net?

However, after further discussion, that idea was deemed too risky, as mommy duck might misinterpret our good intentions as an attack on her youngsters.

Thankfully, my brilliant Melissa came up with Plan B.  Coax the ducklings to the pool's stairs and have them hop right on out of their lair.  Of course, this meant removing a portion of the tarp so that the duckling could get access to the stairs.  Unfortunately, removing the tarp also required  moving the 3,974 pound bricks that anchored it in place.

The four of us got to work.

After several minutes and lots of sweat, we pulled back the tarp to reveal the four steps that allowed entry into, or in this case, exit out of the pool.  Instinctively, mommy duck correctly interpreted our good intentions.  She jumped back into the mini-lake to guide her offspring out of the pool.

We watched in quiet fascination as the four ducklings gathered in a single file line and followed their mother to the stairs, where their exit sat ready and waiting.  We watched in quiet fascination as mommy duck hopped skillfully onto step number one, step number two, step number three, step number four, and out onto solid ground.

Uh oh.

The steps were too high.  Try as they may, the babies just could not hop as well as their mother, who now realized that the plan had failed and jumped back into the pool.

Time for Plan C.

We needed to put something on top of each step so that the babies didn't have to jump so high to reach their goal.  

The Bricks!

Once again, the four of us heaved four, 3,974 pound concrete blocks onto each step, wiped the sweat from our brow, watched, and waited.

Once again, mommy duck understood our intentions, and once again, she led her brood across the water to the steps.  With fingers crossed, this time we prayed our exit strategy would, indeed, be successful.

Mommy duck hopped onto step number one, and baby duckling number one followed.

Mommy duck hopped onto steps two, three, four, and out, while, baby duckling number one followed.

Hooray!  We could now celebrate the escape of at least one of our new found feathered friends.

But wait.

Baby ducklings two, three, and four were still struggling to get from step one to step two.  Mommy duck, seeing them in distress, jumped back into the pool.......aaannnndddd, baby duckling number one instinctively followed.

Four ducklings were still in the pool.  We were back to square one.

Unable to devise a brilliant Plan D, we simply watched, and waited.

Mommy duck again hopped from step to step with ease, as her offspring struggled to emulate her skillful moves.  We held our breath as each duckling fought their way from step to step, some making it to new heights, while others reaching a milestone only to fall backwards to their starting point.  Finally, after what seemed like hours, all four of our feathered friends now stood on solid ground!

Mission Accomplished!

We watched once again in quiet fascination as the four ducklings fell into place in a single file line behind their mother, who led them out of the back gate, onto the golf course, and towards the glistening lake which beckoned them home. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Due to a very busy week, I didn't get a chance to write a new blog post this week.  So, for your entertainment pleasure, I am rerunning a post from last April!  Enjoy!

Off to The Mall…I Better Bring My Ear Plugs

I need to return a pair of jeans for my 14-year old daughter Melissa, who refused to try them on when we were in the actual store and insisted on buying them and bringing them home.

“It’s no big deal mom,” she reasoned. “If they don’t fit we’ll just return them.”

No big deal for her maybe, she’s not the one who has to make another trip during her precious and limited work lunch hour to the “Land of Wonder for Teenage Girls”. Or, as the old folks call it, “The Mall”.

I set foot inside “The Land of Wonder” and search the directory for a particular business establishment we’ll refer to as the “We’re Going to Encourage Teenage Girls to Use all of Their Senses in Their Decision to Purchase our Clothing” store.

Well, that is quite a long name. Let’s give it another alias. Hey, I know, how about: “The Store”. Yes, that has a nice ring to it.

The directory reveals a long list of shops dedicated to selling skimpy, tiny, small, and revealing shirts and jeans for their eager target market, namely, skimpy, tiny, small, and revealing teenage girls. I find “The Store” on the directory, but soon realize that the map really is not necessary, for I can smell “The Store” from three football fields away. My nose is greeted with a nauseating mix of perfume and suntan lotion which grows stronger the closer I get, while my ears are greeted with the  “soothing” sounds of hip hop loud enough to please teenagers in "The Store", the mall, across the street, in the next state, throughout the country, in China, Australia, etc…

Outside “The Store”, two soft, cozy armchairs beckon potential shoppers to sit and relax, take in the nauseating fragrance, and listen to the “soothing” hip hop music.

I walk into “The Store” and I am immediately greeted by a salesgirl who looks like a recent kindergarten graduate.

“Hi, we __ hav__ a _sale if you buy __ you __ one __for half _ _ per __.”

 “CAN YOU REPEAT THAT!” I shout over the din of the hip hop tunes.

 “You can get ___ off __ of shirts and __ yes __thank __ so __need ___ help__ percent__ tomorrow__ok?”


 “We are hav__ a __new __yes__today__jeans___tomor___ right? ___help ___see___ok?”

 I give up.

I make my way to the register where the 12 year old manager is waiting on another aggravated looking mom and her excited teen. When it is my turn, I shout, “I NEED TO RETURN THESE JEANS!”

“Would _ like ___ put____store____American____credit___you?”


 “Will this___be___your___express____store____thank__?”

By using an unknown ability to lip read, I manage to discern that he is asking if I want to put the refund on my credit card or if I want store credit.


Credit card = money for me

Store credit = clothes for Melissa

I choose me.

As he is pushing the beeping buttons on the register, I am overcome by a sudden desire to speak my mind.


My mini-tirade is met with a blank stare.


 He hands me back my credit card and I hustle out of the store, barely noticing that the kindergartener is saying, “Thank_ come__ two__ percent ___ see___ sale___tomorrow___ notice___you___bye.”

I rush back through the mall, longing to go into that bastion of fun for old fuddy duddy dames like me, “The Department Store”. But alas, my journey into “The Store” has taken all of my time. I must get back to work. Shopping for professional garb would have to wait.

Later that evening, Melissa grills me.

“Did you return my jeans?”

“Yes, I did,” I reply.

“Oh, thanks mom.” Pause. Pause. “Y’know, I still need to get new jeans. Can we go back to the mall on Saturday?”

“Only if you let me take some time to shop for shoes,” I demand.

She rolls her eyes and begrudgingly agrees.


Another trip to “The Store”.

I’d better get my ear plugs now.

If you like my stories, please feel free to tell me in the comments below!! 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Fat Lip

Preteen girls tend to lack somewhat in the areas of judgement and rational thinking.  That could be why, at the tender age of nine, my friend and I walked her bike up to the top of a very large hill, she jumped on the seat while I positioned my rear on the handle bars......and down, down, down we flew.

Needless to say, within mere moments, I found myself flat on my face on the hard concrete pavement.  The fat lip that ensued lasted more than a week's time.  I refused to go outside.  I refused to go to school.  Heck, I even refused to leave my room.

Of course, as the cliched saying goes, time heals all wounds.   And in fact my lip did, eventually return to normal size.  However, little did I realize how forceful the impact of my "biking accident" was until 37 years after that traumatic event.

Cut to last Friday evening as I made my way home after a long, long week.  Most Fridays usually find me in quite the good mood, excited to leave my work world behind and embrace the relaxing, welcoming, open arms of the weekend.  Not so this time.  If I could use one adjective to describe myself during that short journey home, I'd use the word "exhausted".   The sore throat I had nursed all week had taken its toll, draining my energy and ability to focus.  What's more, incessant pain in my jaw served as a reminder of the recent dental work I had suffered through a few days earlier.   That, coupled with relentless worry about a dear friend going through a tough time, all added up to a burning desire to pour a huge glass of wine, crawl into the bathtub, and escape for a while.

As I steered my car along the well-worn road to home, another minor ailment reared its ugly head, my chapped lips.  With my cherry flavored lip balm therapy safely out of reach inside my pocketbook, which sat on the passenger seat floor, I absentmindedly began picking at my lips until....


I now had a self-inflicted wound to add to my woes.

When I arrived home, I pushed aside the welcoming hug from my husband Bob and 15-year old daughter Melissa, ran to the bathroom and looked in the mirror in terror, afraid of what I might see.  A tiny bit of swelling had already started where I had picked at the skin on my lip, however I convinced myself that nobody would ever notice.  What's more, Bob and Melissa also assured me that the sore spot could barely be seen and I should certainly stop worrying.

Their reassurance, however, did nothing from stopping me from running into the bathroom every ten minutes to watch in horror as my bottom lip swelled to 3,000 times its normal size.   As I emerged from the bathroom nearly in tears, my family could no longer pretend I did not resemble a circus freak....however they assured me the swelling would go down in the morning, and nobody would ever notice.

Later that evening I sat in bed, held an ice pack on my lip, and stared off into space.  Melissa came in and, seeing me in my pathetic state, gave me hug after hug, trying to relieve my depression.  Her support, while appreciated, did nothing to deter my feelings of utter frustration at my own actions.  True, this time around I must admit the fat lip did not come as a result of an attempted acrobatic cycling feat....but still, I felt just as responsible as I did on that fateful autumn day, 37 years ago when I landed flat on my face.

Suddenly, I was no longer a 47 year old working wife and mother.

I was nine years old again, falling off the handle bars, and feeling the punishing pain of stupidity in action.

I was nine years old again, with a grotesque fat lip and feeling like a freak.

I was nine years old again, afraid to come out of my bedroom, full of the insecurities that grip young girls who question their beauty, their value, and their place in the world.

I was nine years old again, longing for normalcy, stability, and love.

As morning dawned, I stumbled out of bed and, with fear in my heart, stole a quick glance in the mirror.  The swelling had, indeed, subsided a bit, at least to the point where lipstick could hide the abnormality (an advantage I lacked at the age of nine).  Both Bob and Melissa lovingly lied, again assuring me they couldn't see it at all.   In fact, by day's end, the lip had nearly returned to some semblance of normalcy.

I relished in the love of my family, who instinctively knew all the right things to say and do to make me feel whole again.  As I emerged from my bedroom, I bid farewell to the nine year old girl who returned to her rightful place, buried in memories.

As for me, I vow to never, ever pick my lips again.........or ride on bicycle handlebars!

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Surviving Sandy

I like hurricanes.

Wait.  Please allow me to rephrase that.

I am completely fascinated by nature's ability to combine a series of seemingly random, yet complex weather events that come together to unleash incredibly powerful forces that define...and, in some cases...even destroy our precious landscape.

We can predict storms, prepare for storms, calculate, coordinate, and evacuate ahead of storms.  However, we simply cannot, try as we may, control their path, their intensity, their fizzle, or their fury.

Therefore, when television stations and newspapers alike blared their resounding warning of the approach of "Superstorm Sandy", I positioned myself in front of The Weather Channel and drifted into a hypnotic trance as the forecasters described my impending doom.

My husband Bob, on the other hand, had more important things to worry about, such as having enough food and battery powered flashlights to get us through the blackout that news outlets were predicting would grip half the civilized world.  So, on Friday evening, he and my 15-year old daughter Melissa (along with every other resident living within a 4,000 miles radius) descended upon the supermarket.

On Saturday, we enlisted the support of "rent-a-teen" (my friend Angelica's sons Chris, 16 and Brandon, 13) to clear out the roughly 7,924 cardboard boxes that littered the floor of our garage so that we could safely house our new car during the storm.

By Sunday evening,  I gathered all of our candles, lighters, and flashlights, placed them on the kitchen table, then resumed my hypnotic Weather Channel trance.

Schools throughout the state announced closures, my supervisor urged everyone to stay home, government agencies declared a state of emergency, and at the Weinstein household, we watched and watched and watched....and waited.

As Monday morning dawned, we expected to awaken to scenes of total destruction, however, Sandy had not yet "officially" arrived to our neck of the woods.  Light rain showers and a steady breeze greeted the residents of Medford, but for the coastal communities of the New Jersey shore located about 60 miles to the east, the break of day told a different story.  With Sandy still dozens of miles away, beach towns were already coping with unprecedented flooding that promised only to grow worse by the hour.

I decided to do case we lost power.  Bob decided to get as much work done on his computer as case we lost power.  We decided to cook dinner early.... in case we lost power.  

As the day wore on and the rain and wind picked up in intensity, our little family began to feel a small sense of relief.  Our house and the trees that surrounded it remained intact.  We sat in the living room, watching TV (yes, you guessed it, The Weather Channel), joking, laughing, and coming to the conclusion that Sandy must have been nothing but hype.

Then suddenly....the lights flickered. 

But wait!  False alarm.  Light returned in five seconds.

Ten minutes later....the lights flickered.

But wait!  Another false alarm.  Light returned in five seconds.

Five minutes later...the lights flickered.  However, this time the lights did not return.

By the time the sun set, our house had been plunged into...................TOTAL DARKNESS.

Melissa and I lit the candles and grabbed the flashlights, while I prepared our family for the mandatory evening blackout activity, a game of monopoly.  As Melissa proceeded to purchase all of the valuable properties and take all of my "fake" money, mother and daughter ignored Bob's warning to conserve our cell phone batteries and gave in to the urge to text repeated updates, jokes, recipes, the complete works of William Shakespeare, etc to friends and family. 

After we tired of Monopoly, Melissa picked up her guitar and mother and daughter sang our hearts out to Beatles tunes, Taylor Swift, and Green Day, while Bob bestowed upon us appreciative applause.  Finally, by 10 pm, as power seemed unlikely to ever return, we conceded defeat, piled the bed with dozens of covers, and tucked in for a long, rainy, windy night.

By morning, an eerie silence told us the storm had moved on.  Devoid of the electricity needed for warmth, the house temperature had plunged below 60 degrees.  I texted Angelica, who responded immediately with an invitation to spend the day at her warm and well lit home.  She sealed the deal with a promise of home made pumpkin pancakes for breakfast. 

A few hours later, I found myself once again staring at a monopoly board, although this time I had to contend with not only Melissa, but Angelica, Chris, and Brandon as my worthy opponents.  (Bob, who abhors board games, remained content to watch TV).  Amid much laughter, when we had all made it around the board a mere three or four times, we cleared the table to make room for spaghetti with Angelica's home made sauce (yum), while Chris and Melissa both insisted they had won the game.

After lunch and a quick walk in the drizzle, Chris challenged us to a game of Scrabble.  However, he didn't get the chance to prove he could indeed, beat anybody at the game, since Bob realized he had forgotten his medicine...forcing us to return to our cold, dark, gloomy home.

Obviously, without light or energy to power the stove and microwave, a home-cooked meal remained out of the question.  As we munched salads at a local diner, we pondered our next move.  The temperature promised to dip into the 40s that evening, making sleeping at home quite an unwelcome prospect.  Melissa's best friend came through with the offer of a mid-week sleepover, while Angelica begged Bob and me to come back, even promising to give up her bed so we could sleep in comfort.

We stopped back to the house of gloom so Melissa and I could pack overnight bags.  Bob, on the other hand, decided to spend the next several hours secure on our living room sofa, clad in a winter coat, hat, and thousands of blankets.

As Melissa and I used our only two flashlights to scan our closets for clothes to pack, Bob groped in the pitch black that had enveloped our kitchen, tripped and accidentally spilled his coffee, which now covered the entire table, dripped onto the chairs, and began its sinister spread across the kitchen floor.

In response to his screams of horror, Melissa and I raced downstairs, only to find my poor husband at his "Hurricane Sandy Blackout" breaking point.  We grabbed paper towels and began cleaning the mess, while he tried to cope with his feelings of utter frustration at our predicament.  Clearly, the time had come to simply leave Bob alone.

A few hours later I found myself in Angelica's comfy living room, watching TV, sipping wine and laughing as her boys hit each other with rubber bands, balls, rolled up bits of paper, candy bars, etc.  Having raised a sweet, calm teenage daughter, I found Chris and Brandon endearing and funny....adjectives that Angelica, who simply ignored their behavior, would certainly not use to describe their antics.

Much later, after Chris had graciously agreed to give me his room for the night, I laid in bed, eyes wide open, thinking about my husband and daughter.  During that first evening, the hurricane had brought us together as a family, playing board games and strumming guitar.  Then, the hurricane brought us together with dear friends, sharing good food, good times and lots of laughter.  But now, the hurricane had driven a huge wedge in my little family....and even though I knew we were safe, still, we were all under separate roofs. 

I missed them.

Fortunately, by evening, we were reunited in our house which now glistened with light and warmth.   As we celebrated our new-found appreciation for all things electrical, reports were coming in from others who had not fared quite as well.  Many were still without power.   The New Jersey shore, now in ruins, suffered catastrophic devastation,  as did parts of New York City and Queens.

Did I actually say I like hurricanes?    Not anymore.

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Melissa's Fan Club

Last Monday evening during my daily drive home from work, I made a slight detour so that I could stop into the lobby of the local School of Music.  Seems during my 15-year old daughter Melissa's lesson the previous Friday, she had packed away her guitar, and left her capo behind.

Now, I will tell you, one year ago, if you had asked me to describe the function of a "capo", I might have thought about explaining how to cook a type of poultry. (No Lisa, that's a capon.)  However, today I can proudly tell you that a capo is some kind of contraption that Melissa puts on her guitar to give it a different sound.  Oh alright, if you insist on knowing the actual definition, according to Wikipedia, a capo is a device used on the neck of a stringed instrument to shorten the playable length of the strings, hence raising the pitch. (Although I liked my explanation better).

Since my daughter embraced the guitar a couple of years ago, I am slowly but surely finding a cure for my musical illiteracy.  I now understand the difference between regular chords and bar chords (Something to do with where you place your fingers...I think).  Plus, I can honestly differentiate between finger picking and strumming.

Melissa's incredible musical talent obviously passed to her through the Y chromosome.   During my husband Bob's teen years, he and his buddies formed the infamous garage band they creatively dubbed, "Orange Ash".  Sadly, after touring the junior high school dance circuit, the members of "Orange Ash" went their separate ways.  However, the love of music stayed with Bob, and he passed that love onto Melissa.

In addition to Bob's influence, Melissa's evolution into a guitar-player extraordinaire began at the onset of 5th grade, when she decided to join the school band, for the logical reason that all of her friends were doing it.  Her instrument of choice - the flute -  a decision made thanks to her sister Jessica, who had also dabbled with that reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening. (Aren't you impressed that I knew that?)  (Oh ok, I admit, I looked it up on Wikipedia again.)

Playing the flute taught Melissa the basics about reading music and performing.  Bob, motivated by her new found passion, dusted the cobwebs off his 30-year old guitar and placed the instrument in her waiting hands.  Now the cobwebs began to form on the flute, as Melissa traded in the wind instrument for the strings, and eagerly looked forward to Bob's daily instructions on where to place her fingers on the guitar, how to play chords, and eventually, how to perform a handful of Beatles songs.  (If you are learning to play an instrument in the Weinstein household - playing the Beatles is a prerequisite to anything else.)  She supplemented Bob's instruction with online lessons, courtesy of some very cool, self-directed learning websites.

As Melissa's natural skill for guitar continued to blossom, she also honed her talents as an alto vocalists.  Middle school chorus concerts helped her prepare for a successful audition for the All South Jersey Chorus.  Now, a veritable expert both as a singer and guitarist, the only thing left to do...combine those two musical skills.

Every Friday night for the past year, Melissa fine tuned her craft thanks to private instruction at the School of Music.  Still, for Melissa, playing and singing at the same time seemed like an out of reach goal.   Despite her beautiful rendition of Green Day's "Times of Your Life" performed in the safety and privacy of our living room, she became a bundle of nerves when asked to actually sing and play that song at the same time in public.

Enter the now infamous...."Monday Night Band".

Why the catchy name, you ask?

Quite simply, they rehearse at the School of Music on Monday nights.

During the summer, the owner of the School Of Music, looking to replace two teenage boys who had dared to quit the band in favor of going away to college, approached Melissa about becoming the newest member of the "Monday Night Band".  The instructor, Dave, had given up hope of ever having his all boy band perform hits from Pat Benetar, Stevie Nicks, or Taylor Swift.  But wait, a teenage girl wanted to join the band!!!  And she can sing!!!  Hallelujah!  A match made in heaven!

At first, Melissa seemed a bit hesitant about becoming an actual band member.  She felt a bit awkward and shy, and convinced herself that the other members had to be, by far, much better musicians.  I walked her down the hall to her first rehearsal, where she arrived 10 minutes early.  Like any good teenager, she promptly shooed me away, rather than risk the embarrassment of having the all male band members see her there with her mother.

Following the hour-long rehearsal, Bob and I anxiously awaited her reaction.  The larger than life smile that lit up her face told us all we needed to know.  Our kid was hooked!

For six weeks, the "Monday Night Band" dutifully practiced together, getting to know one another's style, and preparing to perform in a local street festival.   Bob and I became accustomed to the sound of the guitar as pleasant background noise throughout the house, as Melissa practiced 'till her fingers burned.

As the day of the concert drew nearer, only one question still remained.....which members of Melissa's circle of friends would find the time to cheer her on.  She had been talking about the performance for days, and, to her dismay, received a less than enthusiastic response from the teenage boys and girls who roam the halls of high school with her each day.  Some had other plans, family functions, prior commitments, etc.  A dark cloud of disappointment threatened to ruin my baby girl's positive spirit.  Desperate times called for desperate measures!

I put on my "Super Sleuth Spy Hat" and emailed the moms!  They all agreed to bring their kids to the designated time and place....and to keep it a surprise.  In the meantime, Melissa's friends, knowing full well that they would be attending her show, still remained evasive when asked if they were coming!

Autumn sunshine in all its glory greeted us on the morning of the concert.  A picture perfect day for an outdoor show!  As Melissa took to the stage, she looked out to see her mom and dad, her Aunt Bev and Uncle Rick, and a large group of teenage boys and girls screaming,

"We love you Melissa!"

She looked out at her friends, smiled, winked, and, channeling all of the rock stars who came before her, spoke into the microphone and said, quite simply, "I love you too!"

Then, my child sang and played the guitar as she performed the world's best version of Taylor Swift's "Picture to Burn"....EVER!  (Not that I am biased).

Proud doesn't even begin to describe my feelings in that moment, but another emotion also took hold.  Looking at this group of teenage boys and girls who had come out to show their support, I felt truly touched, deep within my heart.

Melissa's fan club made the day!

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Friendships Lost and Friendships Found

In the summer of 1996, my husband Bob and I spent our days in a small apartment in the heart of Queens, one of the five boroughs that comprise New York City.  Born and raised in Philadelphia, I made peace with the move to the Big Apple not out of happiness, but pure necessity.   Bob had been transferred, and, well....we needed to pay the bills.

Throughout that long, hot summer, I longed to move to a more suburban home closer to my friends and family in Philadelphia...and I also longed to start a family.  For quite some time, neither objective seemed achievable, until finally, luck drew us to a townhouse community in central New Jersey.  The owner of the tiny, two bedroom home could not wait to find tenants, while Bob and I were more than willing to move right in!  Several weeks later, we learned that in nine month's time, we would happily welcome our baby daughter Melissa to the world!

In the summer of 1997, a new baby in tow, our days should have been full of delight...however, new challenges forced us to rethink our lives.  His sales job produced limited earnings, while I brought home a tiny slab of the bacon through a part-time public relations job.  We juggled the bills, raided our change jar to buy groceries, traded in our car for a used lemon, and begged and borrowed from sympathetic family members.

The bright spot in our lives...our townhouse community!  Full of fellow young parents, Melissa joined a team of toddlers in daily play on our close knit street.  Eventually, my job turned into full-time employment, and Bob started his own business, a move that, a few years later, began to pay off.  By the time Melissa turned four, we were more than ready to change our status from home "renters" to home "owners".  Our meager savings bought us a slightly larger townhouse a couple miles away.  I hated saying goodbye to my neighbors, but happily embraced my new home, equipped with three bedrooms instead of two, and..wait for it, an actual dining room - which my former townhouse lacked!

Any doubt I harbored that my new neighbors would not be just as nice as the old floated away the day I moved in.  For there, standing outside on her front steps, stood our new next door neighbor Angelica, who gave me a truly warm "welcome to the neighborhood" greeting while holding a chubby cheeked, adorable two-year old baby boy.

Angelica and I bonded instantly.  The baby, Brandon, I soon learned, was the younger of her two boys.   Her first-born, Chris, at five years old, became a ready-made play mate for my four-year old Melissa.  We took turns hosting dinners at each other's homes, whiling away the hours with wine and conversation while the kids, safely tucked away in the playroom, tackled puzzles, and videos, and board games, and TV.

The friendship grew over the ensuing months.  From trick-or-treating, to holiday dinners (I hosted Hanukkah, while she treated us to a Christmas feast), to playing in the snow, to swimming at the town home association's pool, to standing together, cameras in hand, as Chris and Melissa boarded the bus for their first day of kindergarten.

I silently cried inside the day she told me that she would no longer be my next door neighbor.

Fate took Angelica and her family to North Carolina, but a small silver lining landed them just a few miles from Bob's parents.  When we traveled to my in-laws the following year, our trip included a visit to Angelica.  We had breakfast, and reminisced....then we got in the car for the 10-hour long drive home.....and then...well...

we lost touch.

Thanks to a new job, we moved away from the old neighborhood a year after Angelica left, and traded in our town house for the family home we always dreamed of in a suburban community about two hours away.  I don't know why, but I never contacted Angelica to tell her we had moved.

And then.....

Two years ago, on a chilly December evening, Melissa and I sat in our living room, busying ourselves, as usual, on our respective computers while Bob sat comfortably watching TV in the family room.  I honestly don't know what made me think of Angelica, but I suddenly turned to Melissa and asked her if she remembered Chris and Brandon, even though she had been so young. She, like me, had not forgotten.

A search for the boys on Facebook ended with no luck.  I then discovered I had an old email address for Angelica, perhaps it still worked.

I asked if she remembered me.  I told her that we tried to get down to see Bob's parents at least once a year, and that perhaps during our next visit, we could get together.  Her reply came about an hour later.  Of course she remembered me, and, she said we didn't have to come to North Carolina to visit, because they had returned to New Jersey.  Unbeknownst to both of us, she now lived a mere 10 minutes away!

I called her immediately and we scheduled lunch the next day!  Everything had changed, yet nothing had changed!  That weekend we reunited with the kids, who, despite their obvious evolution into teenagers, still looked the same!

Since that fateful December evening two years ago, we have, once again, shared holiday dinners, lunch dates, movie nights, and countless hours together talking, laughing, and sometimes, even crying.

When Angelica told her mother about our reunion, she had a simple explanation...she said it was God.

As for me, I'm not sure whether to thank God, or fate, or telepathy for my sudden desire to send Angelica an email.....I'm just so glad I did!

Bob, me, Brandon, Chris, Angelica, and happy we reunited!

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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Back to School Night: High School Edition!

It is 6:30 pm on a Wednesday evening.  My tired bones have been plodding along since 6 am.  My brain is trying to siphon out the stress of a standard work day.  The temperature hovers around 80 degrees, with the humidity at 3,974% and rising  - a strange forecast for October, but nonetheless, a forecast we must accept.  I want nothing more than to pull my humidity-induced flattened hair into a ponytail, throw on a tattered t-shirt and shorts, fill a giant bowl with ice cream, situate myself in front of the TV and enter a vegetative state of nothingness.

I am unable to put these fantasy plans into motion however, for tonight is back to school night - high school edition!

Yes, it is my 15-year old daughter Melissa's first foray into that land where childhood notions are left behind and adolescent expectations take hold.  A world where sleeping teens board the bus before the sun rises and then attempt to digest and retain information from nine different teachers, all while navigating the maze-like halls of this behemoth of a building.

I ask Melissa for the better option, short sleeves or long.  Both, she explains.  Some classrooms are broiling hot, while others mimic the arctic circle.  I soon discover she speaks the truth.  A short sleeve shirt and a jacket solves the dilemma.

I arrive 25 minutes early, but so do 1,927 other parents.  Luck is with me as the seas part and a parking space suddenly appears before my eyes, a mere three feet from the front doors of Behemoth High School.  I turn off the ignition and look around.  Dozens of hesitant parents are sitting in their cars, attempting to determine the appropriate time to actually exit their vehicle and walk into the school.  As for me, I throw caution to the wind and leave my car in preparation for the short journey.  The humidity has not loosened its grip on the area......the jacket comes off.

I walk into the building and am greeted by a blast of cool air....the jacket goes on.   I glance at the poor excuse for a map that my dear child had attempted to make easier to read by color-coding all of her classrooms.  My first stop, room B100 is in the aptly named "B" wing.  I begin my hallway navigation and much to my surprise, arrive early with no difficulty whatsoever.  Only trouble is, I am now too early.  I can see Melissa's home room teacher through the small window getting the room ready for the influx of moms and dads.  I lean against the wall, trying not to appear awkward, until I am accosted by two teen boys, one carrying a microphone, the other a video camera.

Oh no.

"Would you like to say a few words for the camera," asks teen boy 1.

"Sure!" I say with enthusiasm, fully aware that this video has a higher than average chance of embarrassing my daughter to such an extreme that she may just have to run away and join the circus.

"What is your student's name?" asks teen boy 2.

"Melissa Weinstein," I happily reply.

"Would you like to say anything to Melissa?" asks teen boy 1.

"Melissa, I am so happy to be here at Back to School Night.  I know I will have fun and I am sure all of your teachers will think you are wonderful!"

Teens 1 and 2 thank me and move on.  I walk into home room, fully aware my actions may have just cost me all of my limbs.

During home room, we watch a prerecorded video of the principal, the superintendent, and the school board all telling us in a cue-card reading monotone how excited they are for the new school year.  I feel my eyelids getting bed is calling to me....I am drifting...drifting...


My eyes instinctively open in response to the sound of the bell.  Time to move on.

My next task is to find my way to Melissa's health class in room D122.  The home room teacher provides helpful directions.

"Make a left out of the classroom, then an immediate right, then a left, then a right, then a left, then a right, then a right, then a right, then another left, then go up the stairs and make a right, a left, a right,  a left, a right, a right, a right, and another left."

Predictably, I am now lost and running the risk of being late for health class.

I turn right, then left, then right and find myself in the "C" wing.  I spot a small sign, with an arrow indicating the elusive "D" wing is to the right.  I start walking, and walking, and walking....until finally I come across a group of students.

"Which way is the "D" wing," I ask in desperation.

The girls point to the left.

I silently curse the sign and rejoin the sea of befuddled parents until I finally find my way to the "D" wing.  I begin the walk down the long hallway, strategically following the signs on the classroom doors.

D116.  Ok, seems I'm heading in the right direction.

D117. This is good, just keep going.

D118. Almost there.

D119. Should only be three more doors.

D120.  So close I can feel it.

D100. Wait?

D101. WHAT?

Where in the &*@#$ is D122!?

A security guard points me in the right direction and I arrive in health, catch my breath, and shrink against the wall in the now standing room only class room.  Five minutes later, the bell rings again, giving the helpless parents the signal that it is now time to claw their way to second period, which, in my case, is Honors English.

I practically run down the hall, ignoring the friendly greetings from moms and dads I've known since our kids started every morning with circle time in first grade.  I would not be late this time!

The English teacher, like those before and after him, attempt to explain the 10-month long curriculum in the allotted 10 minutes time.

"This year we are going to ......"


Time to move on.

And so it went.  For 2 long hours.

Spanish class...jacket comes off.

Science class.......jacket goes on.

Algebra class........jacket comes off.

Lunch.  Hooray!  Snacks in the cafeteria.  I drink a bottle of water in one gulp and  inhale a soft pretzel.


Photography class....jacket goes on.

Finally, it is time to leave Behemoth High School and journey home......... to my bed.

As I walk in the door, Melissa eagerly wants to know what I think about her school and her teachers.  "I got lost," comes my best attempt at describing the evening.

She nods in agreement.  "I knew you would," she laughs.

I then try to share my impressions from the brief flashes of information shared by nine different teachers.  Suddenly I remember the video.  I consider not telling her, but then, if I appear on Behemoth High School's morning news without a warning, well, I'll just have to learn to cope without arms or legs.


Thus ends my first high school back to school night.  Who needs limbs anyway?

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Sunday, September 30, 2012

This week’s blog is a bit of a departure from my usual style.  I saw a movie yesterday, and, at the request of a friend, wrote a review which I am now happy to share with you.

Review – The Perks of Being a Wallflower
(Rated PG-13 - sex, drugs, mild profanity, and adult themes that may be difficult for children under 13 to understand)

As the opening frames of the movie adaptation of Stephen Chbosky’s novel roll across the screen, audience members are immediately duped into thinking they are going to see a typical tale of teen angst.  There’s the shy freshman loner, the openly gay class clown, the football star and resident bully,  the shoplifter, the punk rocker, and of course, the sweet, pretty girl who is forever relegated into the “just friends” category.

However, as the movie progresses and the clich├ęd outer layers of the characters are peeled away, the audience begins to embrace the world of these adolescents who are full of love, fear, uncertainty, and unabashed emotional pain.

At the center of the film is Charlie, brought to life in a controlled, yet heart-wrenching performance by Logan Lerman, best known for playing the lead in Percy Jackson and the Olympians.    We understand that Charlie is painfully shy, however, the audience is only permitted a limited understanding of how deep that pain flows as brief flashbacks offer clues to his traumatic childhood.

An upper middle class Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania suburb in the early 1990s provides the back drop for this tale, however, neither the place nor the decade are particularly relevant.  Trapped in the shadow of his college football star brother and a high school senior sister who ignores her freshman sibling, Charlie finds solace sitting alone at a cafeteria lunch table, hiding behind the safety and anonymity of a book. 

As the story unfolds, Charlie is welcomed as family into a group of misfit high school seniors.  There is Patrick, (Ezra Miller), whose class clown antics hide the pain of being in a homosexual relationship that he is unable to share with the world; punk rocker and Buddhist Mary Elizabeth, (Mae Whitman), whose feelings for Charlie extend beyond friendship; and Sam, the girl who is the object of his seemingly unrequited love, played beautifully by Emma Watson, whose performance makes the audience forget she roamed the halls of Hogwarts for 10 years.  Watson brings her own brand of magic to Sam, a girl who makes bad choices, yet values the deep roots of love and friendship above all else. 

The film takes us through Charlie’s freshman year, as he develops a profound bond with this band of self-described misfits, and we share his reactions to those adolescent “rights of passage” such as sex, drugs, and a longing to fit in and belong.

As we learn the reasons for Charlie’s intense emotional pain, we also discover his “real” family – the parents and siblings he has pushed away, truly love him as much as his “adopted” family – his new found friends. 

We laugh as he laughs, cry as he cries and celebrate a beautiful story of a teenage boy who finally learns to break free from the darkness of his childhood and learn to trust the love of  family and friends.

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Big Foot Lives Among Us!!
(One woman's quest for size 10 wide shoes)


We interrupt this blog to bring you breaking news from the heart of New Jersey.  Ordinary citizens have reported frequent sighting of the horrifying, elusive creature known to many as "Big Foot" or "Sasquatch".  

Upon further investigation, scientists have new reason to believe that these sightings could truly indicate this frightening monster does, in fact, exist.

Mrs. Mary Whorple, 59, of Anytown, USA, described her encounter in great detail.  "I was comin out a the card store, ye see, cause last week was ma sister's birthday and I forgot to get er a card, and, well, y'know, she always send me a card on mah birthday so I really felt terrible, especially since her husband Larry, that no good louse, always forgets."

Announcer:  "Um, Mrs. Whorple, did you actually see Big Foot."

Mrs. Whorple"  "Oh yeah, ah did.  The monster was sitting on the curb right in front of that shoe store that's next to the card shop and it seems like it was..."

Announcer: "It was what Mrs. Whorple?"

Mrs. Whorple:  "Well it seemed to be cryin it did.  I felt kind a bad for the poor thing, but by the time I went over to see if ah could help - the thing had disappeared."

Yes, strange tales like these have been repeated again and again throughout New Jersey.  The sightings always seem to take place in front of a shoe store, although there have been reported incidents within the vicinity of department stores as well.

Scientist who have dedicated considerable resources to unearthing the identify of this terrifying creature, have finally been able to say, with utmost certainty, that Big Foot in none other than....


Yes.  T'is true.  Your's truly has been blessed with the world's largest feet.  For the majority of my adult existence, I fit quite comfortably into size 9 wide.  My quest for shoes often presented challenges, but somehow, some way, I managed to find the perfect pair.  That is until several months ago when I innocently entered a shoe store with a simple task in mind, find a comfy pair of sandals.  I located  a pair of size 9 wide from among the many boxes, slipped them on my feet and discovered to my horror..........................................................................................................  


In some cruel, twist of fate, the shoe gods decided that size 9 wide did not present enough of a challenge for me.  Somehow, the shoes gods felt I needed something to test my resolve, to strengthen my character, to make me break down in fits of hysteria in the middle of the store.


I don't know how it happened, but I like to blame Zumba.  A few weeks after embracing my twice weekly classes of sizzling Latin dancing, I began to experience a throbbing, shooting pain that found its origin in the souls of my feet, then shot through to my two middle toes, making the simple act of walking an agonizing prospect.

The podiatrist hypothesized that my feet had suddenly become flat, perhaps as a result of toe tapping to the Latin beat.  He could offer no explanation, and suggested I take out a second mortgage to purchase $3,672 "SUPPORT" sneakers and wear them ALL THE TIME, at home, at work, at sleep, in the shower, while swimming, etc....

I lasted one whole day before the technically advanced sneakers landed in the back of my closet, never to torture my toes again.  

Thus began my quest for shoes that would bathe my tired toes in luxurious comfort.  Would I ever experience that pure feeling of bliss that comes when a pair of shoes becomes one with your feet?

Store #1

Me: "Do you carry these in a size 10 wide?"

Salesman:  "I'll have to go in the back and check ma'am.  Goes into back room.  "Hey Joe, get a load of this, some lady wants shoes in a size 10 wide.  Who does she think she is, Big Foot?  HAHAHAHAHA!."   Returns from the back room.  "I'm sorry ma'am, we are out of size 10 wide."

Store #2

Me: "Do you carry these in a size 10 wide?"

Saleslady:  "No, we don't but I can order them for you online."

Me (feeling somewhat hopeful)  "Really???"

Saleslady:  "Sure, no problem.  And if they don't fit you can return them here to the store."


I came home to find a package waiting for me on the front door step.  My new shoes!!!  I ripped open the box to find a pair of black sandals staring back at me.  I crossed my fingers, praying to the shoes gods for the perfect fit.

I tentatively placed my right foot into what appeared to be an extremely comfortable pair of sandals.  Then followed suit with my left, only to discover.....LOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING!

As promised, the shoe store did, indeed, accept the return, except for one small caveat - they refused to reimburse me for the shipping.  


Thus, since I determined the online option would not work on my feet or my pocketbook, I continued my quest.  After sobbing uncontrollably in front of countless shoe stores, I had almost come to the realization that I might have to wear the only comfy shoes I owned (fuzzy slippers) every where I went.  

Then, the shoe gods guided me to New York City.  While taking in the sights with my husband Bob and daughter Melissa, the shoe gods caused the skies to open up and the rain to come streaming down.  In search of shelter, my little family took comfort guessed it, a shoe store!!!  Aerosoles, to be exact!

Once inside, the shoe gods guided me to the perfect sandals, available in a size 10 wide.


As the weather began to grow colder, I faced, once again the arduous task of searching for size 10 wide shoes.  But this time I took comfort in knowing I could visit the Aerosoles location a few miles from home.  

The shoe gods had other plans.

instead of happily skipping into my local Aerosoles, I stared up at a luggage store in bewilderment.  "Oh yes, this is wear Aerosoles used to be," explained the kind sales woman in response to my desperate plea for information.  "I think they went out of business."


Several eye witnesses have reported a sighting of the elusive creature known as "Big Foot" or "Sasquatch" sitting on the curb in front of a luggage store in the heart of New Jersey.

Mrs. Agnes Smith, 76, explained her encounter in vivid detail:  "I tell ya I saw the darn thing and I swear I heard it....I heard it....

Announcer: "You heard it what Mrs. Smith"

Mrs. Smith:  "I heard it crying."

If you like my stories, please feel free to tell me in the comments below.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Eleven Years Ago....

Last Tuesday I woke up to greet a southern New Jersey morning in all its September glory.  The humidity that had plagued our region for weeks on end had finally given way to the cool, crisp air that signals the start of autumn.  Abundant sunshine, a slight breeze, and barely a wisp of clouds, coupled with temperatures hovering in the high 70s made me yearn to spend the day outdoors.

In meteorological terms, we had stumbled upon a picture perfect day.  Much like the weather that had greeted an eerily similar Tuesday morning, 11 years ago, on September 11, 2001.

When a colleague arrived a few minutes after 9 am to the hospital public relations office where I worked, she shared some troubling news.  Seems a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York City, located less than an hour away.

My first reaction?  Honestly, I don't recall, but I know that I would not describe it as surprise.  I, like many others on that day, naturally assumed a small engine plane had veered of course, and, with a building so tall, a tragic accident such as this seemed inevitable.

I called my husband Bob at his home office.  Like me, he had not yet comprehended the magnitude of the events that were yet to unfold.  Citing his busy schedule and an upcoming meeting, he said he'd call me back.

A few minutes later, another co-worker came in to share the unbelievable truth.  Another plane had struck the World Trade Center.  

This could not be an accident.

This could not be random.

We were under attack.

We walked the short distance down the hall where several people had gathered around a television housed in the physician's lounge.   As the news replayed the searing image of a jet plane making sickening contact with the building, we gasped in horror.

I recall my emotions in vivid detail as I watched the moment of impact.  Anger.  Anger that whoever flew plane number one into the building wanted to make sure that TV news cameras were fixed on the World Trade Center so that the world could witness, live, in vivid, heartbreaking detail, the shock of plane number two. 

First New York City.

Then Washington, DC.

A field in rural Pennsylvania.

Where would the terrorists strike next?

We were at war.

With a growing sense of dread and urgency, I irrationally longed to crawl under my desk and hide, as if the terrorist planes could not find me there.   Instead I tried to call Bob again, and, much to my dismay, could not get through.  Panicked, I needed to tell him to pick up our innocent four-year old daughter Melissa from day care.  For, once again, I held onto the irrational belief that the terrorists would surely find her at Kiddie Academy, but she'd be safe at home.

What's more, my inherited daughter Jessica, at the beginning of what has evolved into a successful career in political and grassroots advocacy, had been in New York on that beautiful Tuesday morning working on a local election.  We were somewhat sure that her destination did not involve the World Trade Center, but still....unbridled fear filled our hears.

When I finally reached Bob, he agreed to "rescue" Melissa from day care.  He spent the rest of the day fielding calls from worried friends and family who, knowing of Jessica's plans, needed the reassurance that Bob could not yet give, for we had not heard a word....we could not get through.

At the hospital public relations office, we discarded the routine of a typical Tuesday as we drafted statements for the media, responded to hundreds of callers wishing to donate blood, and watched as the towers came crumbling down.

By 2 pm, a bright glimmer of light flickered during this unnaturally dark day.  Jessica had called.  Tucked away in Brooklyn, she had observed the events of the day from the other side of the East River.  Horrified and shaken, she was, nonetheless, safe.

I'm not sure what time I finally left my office on that day.  During the drive home, the streets were eerily quiet, thanks to the recently imposed state of emergency in New Jersey.   I desperately wanted to turn on the news, to find out the latest, to get answers to the questions that now plagued an entire globe.  However, I refrained from situating myself in front of the television and instead,  gave my daughter the rare treat of eating her macaroni and cheese in the living room while our TV played the well worn Disney classic Beauty and the Beast.  Images of death and destruction filled every void that day, but I'd be damned if I'd let my four-year old witness footage of people choosing between a blazing inferno or a fall from 100 stories high.

During the surreal days that followed, while the realization that our world had forever changed slowly took hold, I found solace in the innocence of my beautiful daughter.  While shielding the horrors of September 11 from her, I subsequently shielded myself as well.  I took comfort in her sweetness, her smile, her delight, her routine, her likes, her dislikes, and her complete ignorance of her changing world.  Perhaps, in holding onto her innocence, I tried to hold onto the notion that things could still be the same.

A planned trip to Disney World two day after September 11 had to subsequently be cancelled.  We told Melissa the pilot had become sick, and, with the complete trust that a preschooler instinctively bestows upon her parents, she believed our tall tale.

I'm not sure how many years passed before we finally came clean about the pilot, the airplane, or the horrible events of that terrible Tuesday morning.  When we did talk about it, we made sure to explain in terms she could understand.....even though the events of that day were still beyond terms we could understand.

Three months after September 11, 2001, Bob, Melissa, Jessica, and I visited the famous Rockefeller Center in New York City.  Thousands of tourists had the same idea, as we braved the cold and the crowds to get a better look at what was perhaps the largest and most beautiful Christmas tree I had ever seen.  Despite my claustrophobic dislike of being surrounded by so many individuals, I couldn't help but feel a strong sense of satisfaction.   We were all there, in New York City, thousands strong, determined......and unafraid.

The terrorist did not win.

Life went on.

If you like my stories, feel free to leave a comment below.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The First Day of High School

"A" my name is Alice
and my husband's name is Alan
we live in Alabama
where we sell apples

"B" my name is Betty
and my husband's name is Ben
we live in Boston
were we sell bananas

And so on it went, from A to Z.

Three teenagers in the back seat of the car, rehashing a childhood game in an effort to pass the hour-long ride home from the beach.  With the knowledge that my daughter Melissa preferred we didn't exist, my husband Bob and I resisted the urge to listen, to laugh, and to shout out suggestions.

As we continued on our effortless and (shockingly) traffic-free journey, the rhythmic sound of wheels on road, coupled with the innocent giggles emanating from the back seat, lulled me into a dream-like state where I floated back in time.  There I stood in my kitchen, holding a ball in my hands.  A blue, basketball-sized ball, much softer than the professional version but with a sure and steady ability to bounce its way across the tiled floor.   My six-year old Melissa had picked it from among dozens that had been stuffed into a six foot cage in the middle of the supermarket, just beckoning children to bounce them all over the store.  For a few dollars I figured, "why not?".

As a stood in my kitchen with my eager young offspring watching in wonder, I taught her a new game, bouncing the ball as I uttered each syllable.

"A" my name is Alice
and my husband's name is Alan
we live in Alabama
where we sell apples

"I want to try mommy, I want to try!" she squealed.

I handed her the ball.  With hand and eye coordination not quite perfected, Melissa tried her best to bounce the ball while thinking of things that started with the letter "B".  After running after the ball several times, and a wee bit of help from her parents, she happily allowed her mommy to have a turn.

And so on it went, from A to Z.

Nine years later.

"H" my name is Helen
and my husband's name is Harry
we come from Houston
where we sell um, um, um

"Hats!" shouted Melissa in an effort to help her friend Sarah.
"Horses!" shouted teenager number three, Melissa's friend John
"Hoses!" I chimed in, unable to help myself.
"," struggled Sarah, not wanting to take any suggestions and determined to think of something to sell beginning with the letter "H" completely on her own.

Finally, with an air of triumph, Sarah shouted, "Houses!"

And so on it went, from A to Z.

In three more days, the three teenagers in the back seat of my car would be entering that building where childhood is checked at the door.  Yes, my daughter and her friends were going to start high school.  If they had been nervous, their fear didn't show during the drive home from the shore.

"N" my name is Nancy
and my husband's name is Ned
we come from Nebraska 
where we sell napkins.

They had taken it upon themselves to hold onto their innocence, and from my invisible position in the front seat of the car, I relished every last moment.  For I knew in a few short days, a whole new world of wonder, uncertainty, and fear awaited them.   Would they get lost on the first day?  Would they miss the bus?  Would they handle the increased and much more challenging course work?  Would their hearts get broken? Would they succumb to the taunts of bullies?  Would they be tempted by alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs?

"R" my name is Robin 
and my husband's name is Ralph
we come from Rhode Island
where we sell roller skates

Would they stay so young, so carefree, so innocent?  Three teenagers, laughing through a childhood game learned so long ago?

Three days later, Melissa awakened at 5:45 in the morning, styled her hair to perfection, and made sure her clothes were just right.  Then she reluctantly stood in the same kitchen where I taught her how to bounce a ball so many years ago, and allowed me to capture the moment through the miracle of  smart phone photography.

As she walked down the street towards the corner bus stop, she turned her head and signaled for me to go in the house, not to watch, she'd be just fine.  I made my way back through the front door, then immediately turned and ran to the car, jumped in and drove to the end of my driveway, craning my neck and squinting my eyes in an effort to see down to the corner.

Too far to get a glimpse, I conceded defeat.

Back in the house, as I poured my coffee, it suddenly occurred to me.  The smart phone!

Not quite an expert in the art of texting, I painstakingly tapped out the brief message, "R u on the bus yet?"

I waited a few anguished moments before the phone let out the familiar "ding" alerting me to her reply.

"Yes we r almost there"

"Great have a fun day" I texted back, trying to show some emotional restraint.

"I love you" came her reply.

And with that, I smiled,  as some....not all.....but some of my fears washed away.

"L" my name is Lisa
and my husband's name is Bob
we come from New Jersey
where we're the proud parents of a high school freshman

Yes, Melissa was going to be just fine.

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