Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Sibling Differences

(This is a repeat of one of my favorite blogs, originally posted last February)

Ask anybody and they will tell you that there are people on the branches of their family tree exactly like my Aunt Gloria.   No children, loveless marriage, obsessed with her dog, martini drinker, snobbishly passionate about art, ballet, and orchestra, and unable (or unwilling) to relate to anyone under the age of 16.

Until I reached early adulthood, I never quite knew if my Aunt Gloria realized I existed.   Technically my great-aunt, (my grandfather's sister), she and her husband George were a permanent fixture at  holiday dinners.  After planting the obligatory welcome  kiss on my cheek (which I always tried to wipe off without her seeing), she only had eyes for one - just one - of my parent's three older sister Bev.

Something about my sister's personality captivated Aunt Gloria, and a result, Bev became the lucky recipient of her attention.   At the time, I told myself it didn't matter, that my aunt was old and snobby and crabby and that I didn't want to talk to her anyway.

My brother Steven, six years my junior, didn't seem to care.  But to me, it really did matter...

It mattered a lot.

She liked Bev better than me, and, not understanding why, in the mind of a painfully shy preteen girl....I came to the only rational conclusion I could at the time.....I must not be good enough.

As an adult, I can now look back and not fault my sister at all for being on the receiving end of my aunt's affection.  And in fact, in the waning years of her life, I reconnected with Gloria, and I feel blessed that, before she passed away, she had the chance to meet my 5-year old daughter Melissa (now 16).

Gloria treated my sister different than me because quite simply, she is different from me, just as all siblings have those remarkable, unique characteristics that set them apart.  As adults, we develop a deep love for our siblings, and celebrate our differences, as I have certainly done with both my brother and sister.  But as children, in most families, sibling rivalries abound, leading to jealousy and hurt only made worse when an adult who should know better showers one sibling with more love than another.

Like my Aunt Gloria.

Fortunately, as a mother, I have not had to cope with the pain of witnessing my own daughter suffer this kind of emotional confusion when adults favor one sibling over another.  I inherited my beautiful step-daughter Jessica when she was in the throes of her teen years.  However, by the time her sister Melissa came along, Jessica had entered young adulthood, living a life of her own.  My daughters, though so incredibly close, never lived under the same roof, and the two decade span between them keeps them immune from typical sibling battles.

Not so for my dear friend Angelica's sons Chris, 16 and Brandon, 13.   Incredibly close in age and with each other, they could not be more different in personality.  Recently, they told me about a negative experience that brought back memories of my own childhood, and my Aunt Gloria.

In response, I gave Chris words of support that I wish someone had shared with me. I told him, "Brandon is awesome because he's Brandon.  You are awesome because you are you, and don't ever change who you are because the people that come into your life who matter will love you for who you are."

Indeed, I speak from experience.  I have long since grown out of my painful shyness, yet the fundamental personality traits that were inherent in that preteen girl who sat ignored by her aunt at family dinners are still very much a part of me.  Thankfully, my wonderful husband Bob accepts  all of those traits.  He loves me for who I am.

So to my beautiful, talented Melissa who I love with all my heart, and to every child who has ever felt less than wonderful about themselves, I shout from the rooftops, "You are wonderful, you are awesome, don't ever change who you are!"

                                      Me with my wonderful siblings Steven and Bev!

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Catching Snowflakes on Your Tongue

I originally posted this in February, 2012.  However, in honor of our first snowfall of the season (9.4 inches in my southern NJ town) I thought it would be fitting to post it again! Enjoy!

After four weeks of festive frivolity, December eventually fades away, leaving January in its wake.  There’s a deep reluctance to spend, a strong desire to diet, and the cruel realization that the days are too short, the sun is scarce, and the bitter cold air bites like a knife.

Then, when all hope seems lost, I wake up one morning to see the landscape transformed by flakes of white powder that now cover nearly every outdoor surface.   This fleeting moment of beauty is made all the more wonderful by one simple fact…it is Saturday.  No need to drag myself out of bed early to shovel the walk and brush off the car so that I can navigate the treacherous roads to work.  I can lie in bed, relax, and enjoy.

Sadly, I know it will not last.  The temperature will slowly inch higher by the few degrees needed to turn fancy white flakes into boring drops of rain.  But until that transition takes place, I look out the window and relish the memory of another winter day, 13 years earlier.

My reaction to the snow on that weekday morning was quite different that the peaceful reaction I feel today.  I had to wake, shower, dress, get my three year old daughter Melissa (who is now 16) up, dressed, and fed.  Then I cleaned off my car, came back inside, and stuffed my little pumpkin into her coat, boots, gloves, hat, and scarf.   Finally, harried, and frustrated, I struggled to get my little girl and all of her winter coverings to fit into the car seat.

We drove to the day care center without incident.  Melissa sat silently in the back seat, watching the snowflakes fall in earnest.  We arrived.  I parked, and anxiously glanced at my watch.  Yes, today, I would certainly be late for work.   I unhooked the car seat and helped her out, and with, perhaps, a bit too much edginess to my voice, encouraged her to move faster. 

We started to walk towards the entrance to the day care center when suddenly, she stopped.  "Now what?" I thought, again glancing at my watch.  She looked at me, then tilted her head up to look at the snow, and said..............

“Mommy, I can catch the snowflakes on my tongue.”

I came to a dead stop.  Thoughts of traffic and work and being on time no longer existed.  Nobody had ever told my beautiful, sweet little girl about the simple pleasure of catching snowflakes on her tongue.  She had figured it out all on her own.   In her innocence, she reminded me that sometimes, life’s most precious moments come at unexpected times, and you have to stop and smell the roses, or in our case, stop and catch the snowflakes, as it were.

I took her hand, looked up at the sky and held out my tongue.  Together, we just stood there, catching snowflakes.  I’m not sure how much time passed, or how many flakes landed in my mouth.  I do know that once we decided to move on, my daughter’s face, nearly hidden under the hat and scarf, had lit up with delight, and I became much more relaxed, the prospect of being late no longer mattered.

As time goes by, there are so many wonderful moments with Melissa that touch my heart.  Some I will remember, some will fade away.  But a snowy January morning, when a three year old girl experienced the simple pleasure of catching snowflakes on her tongue for the very first time, will stay with me forever.

My 3-year old daughter Melissa and I enjoy a snowy day, winter, 2001

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Lisa the Broadway Sensation!

Growing up as the middle of three children, alone time became a rare, albeit welcome respite from the daily squabbles with my older sister Bev and play time with my baby brother Steven.

My tiny bedroom, which boasted brightly colored walls painted to match the orange shag carpeting, played host to two twin beds, two dressers, and not nearly enough closet space.   My side of the room, much to my neater sister's chagrin,  could best be described as a "slob paradise". Yet I didn't care.

For when Bev wasn't around, my bedroom became my haven. My escape. My place where it felt safe to unlock an imaginary world where I could become an adored actress, a best selling author, or a world famous rock star.  Yes, with my brush microphone in one hand and tennis racquet guitar in the other, I'd sing along to my 45 records, giving the performance of a life time to sell out crowds.

45's how we listened to music in the dinosaur era
Just when I thought that being an actress, author, and rock star wasn't parents introduced me to something truly mesmerizing! Live theater!  At the tender age of 10 I joined Bev, my mom and dad in the orchestra section at the Forrest Theater in Philadelphia to watch the national touring company production of the Broadway hit "Annie".  Surely, if a precocious little red head could bring the house down by belting out "Tomorrow" like there was no tomorrow, then I could do it too.  It didn't matter that at 10, the gawky years had begun to rear their ugly head.  It didn't matter that producers of Broadway musicals were not looking for shy little girls with stringy hair, glasses, and braces, who didn't know how to adjust to figures that had become "feminine" much too early.

Yes, none of that mattered.  Alone in my bedroom, I too belted out "Tomorrow" like there was no tomorrow, practicing for hours on end for my Broadway debut.

I only had one teensy weensy little problem.....

I couldn't sing.

I didn't know that I couldn't sing.  Or shall I say, I didn't know that I didn't know how to sing.

I'll explain.

When the radio played one of my favorites songs and I attempted to sing along, my family members chastised me for not staying on key.  It may seem strange, but I had absolutely no idea what it meant to sing on key.  I tried to correct the problem to no avail, because I didn't know that I didn't know how to sing.

Without my own personal Maria Von Trapp to teach me Do Re Mi, I survived my teen years and all throughout my 20's not realizing that when others sang "Do", I would more than likely be singing "Re" or "Fa" or "Ti".  It all sounded the same to me.

Enter my "oh so patient" husband Bob.  Early in our courtship, Bob realized his girlfriend had a sweet sounding voice, if only she could sing in the correct key.  But instead of chastising me, Bob took a different approach.....

He taught me!

For some reason he chose the song "Age of Aquarius", (From the musical "Hair" for the young folk reading this blog) forcing me to sing it again and again and again until I began to understand the difference between the key of C, D, E, F, G, etc.  And with that understanding, I finally learned how to sing.

Over 20 years later, I can proudly share that, thanks to Bob, I have realized my dream of becoming a Broadway sensation  singing without enduring taunts from anyone within a five mile radius.

While I may never smile down from the stage at an adoring crowd, I get to do something even vicariously through my 16-year old daughter Melissa!  You see, Melissa has been blessed with the musical talent I lack...and then some.  She taught herself to play guitar, and her beautiful singing voice is as sweet as an angel.

In the coming weeks, I will happily play the role of proud mom as Melissa performs with the prestigious All South Jersey Senior High Chorus.

As for me, I'll be glad to demonstrate my singing ability for anyone brave enough to listen....
.....When the moon is in the 7th house, and Jupiter aligns with Mars, and peace will guide the planet, and looooove will steer the stars.  This is the dawning of the age of aquarius, age of aquarius.....

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Bob is Forbidden to Buy in Bulk

Within ten miles of our home, situated in a typical suburban shopping center, sits the "Buy in Bulk" Super Club store, inviting the gullible to walk through its doors and take advantage of all of the supposed "huge savings."

If you look closely as you approach the entrance to the Super Club store, you'll notice a small sign fastened to the door.  This sign carries a very clear message:

Bob Weinstein Not Permitted

Yes, that's right. My husband Bob is banned from the "Buy in Bulk" Super Club store!

Why, you may ask?

For the answer, I take you down memory lane to the first year of our marriage.  On the way home from work one day, Bob decided to peruse the aisles of our local Super Club store.  While perusing, he determined that our cozy family of 3 desperately needed a 10-gallon jug of maple syrup, which of course, was on sale.

Just how many pancakes he thought my step-daughter Jessica and I were going to eat, I'll never know.  (My daughter Melissa, now 16, had not come along yet)

To this day my Bob is mesmerized by the concept of buying in bulk...even though the only people who live under our roof are Bob, Melissa, and me (Jessica is now happily married). Oh, and I suppose I should also include our cat, since Bob insists on buying in bulk for him too.  (The darn kitty will be munching Friskies until the next Millennium)

I'm not sure why bulk buying holds such allure for Bob, but it may have to do with growing up as one of 10 children (4 belonged to his mom, 6 belonged to his step-father).  Every night at his dinner table, 20 little hands grabbed for the grub.  If you didn't take charge, go in head first and act quickly, all would be gone.

Perhaps that's why, some 4 decades later, he's afraid we'll run out of... everything.  Our weekly trips to the supermarket turn into an argument within every aisle.  Armed with his envelope of coupons, Bob sets out to do battle. While in contrast, my goal is to:


It's not unusual for Bob to come home every single week, with:
48 roles of toilet paper. ("We'll use it!")
12 bottles of diet coke ("We'll drink it!)
5 cartons of zip lock plastic bags. ("We'll store it!")
15 jars of soup (We'll eat it!")

Usually I just sigh, put up with Bob's "Buy in Bulk" mentality and make room on the shelves for all of the things we don't need.  However, I reached my boiling point with the coffee.

Yes, the coffee.  The 7 ounce container of instant coffee that normally sells for  $13.

A fortune, I know.

However, every other month or so the super market or local drug store will offer a half price sale on the coffee.  When Bob learns of this fantastic bargain opportunity, he is first in line at the store the day the deal goes into effect, and he comes home with as much coffee as he can carry (or as much as the store will allow him to buy).

Over the past few months, it seemed the store has offered the half price coffee more often than not, causing my husband to make his frequent pilgrimage to the store, salivating with excitement with each successful purchase.

I made room in the pantry for 3 containers. Then 6.  Then 9.

"Stop buying the coffee!" I exclaimed in exasperation.

"But they are on sale, and we use them," came his attempt at a rebuttal.

I made room in the pantry for 12 containers. Then 15.


Still, he didn't listen.

In an effort to figure out where to put all of these containers of the coffee, I decided to schedule my annual Cleaning of the Pantry.

I found coffee containers hidden inside a bowl, behind the flour, under the trash bags, next to the cereal, etc...

In fact, to prove to Bob just how large our incredible coffee collection had grown, I took the containers out of the pantry and lined them up - all 19 of them - on the kitchen floor!

At long last, I made my point!

When Bob saw his coffee containers lined up like little soldiers, he couldn't help but laugh.

He has since promised he will not purchase any more coffee until we are down to 3 containers.

So if you happen to drive by my house and spot my hubby lying on our front lawn covered in coffee grinds, you'll know he broke the deal.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Learning to Accept My Middle-Aged Self

When I look at photos of my elementary school years, there are a number of adjectives that come to mind.  Young, innocent, gawky, and dare I say.... nerdy.  My long, stringy hair fell limp onto my shoulders, while my horrible vision dictated the need for glasses so large they framed half my face.

However, there is one adjective I would not use when I see the face of my former self smiling from the pages of decades-old photo albums. That adjective is "fat".

Quite simply, as a young girl, I did not have a problem with my weight. Yet at the time, I felt like a whale compared to my peers. Taller than most of my fellow students, I went through the grammar school years convinced that my body took up much more width and depth than those of my classmates.

At no time did this feeling become more pronounced than when the school nurse performed our annual physical exams.  A homely looking woman in her 60's, she checked any semblance of compassion at the door prior to entering the building each morning.

She had us all stand in a line, waiting to take our turn on the scale. I cringed with terror as my turn to step on that dreaded apparatus inched closer and closer.  It seemed my waif-like classmates barely weighed enough to be alive, while the number on the scale that described my body weight might as well have been 3,752 pounds.

Making matters worse, the school nurse insisted on announcing each student's weight with a voice that echoed off the walls with such force that everyone in line, yes, even the boys, now had knowledge of the deepest, darkest secret I swore I would take to the grave.

I suppose it didn't occur to her that it really matters to young girls if others know what they weigh.

It certainly mattered to me.

It mattered a lot.

And unfortunately, it still does.  That is why my 16-year old daughter Melissa calls me a hypocrite.

Yes, that's right. A hypocrite.

Seems I earned the hypocrite title during my attempt to explain that teenage girls shouldn't focus so much on body image, but rather on all of the wonderful things about themselves.  I told my daughter she is beautiful, has a radiant smile that lights up a room, a singing voice as sweet as an angel, and a passion for guitar that has pushed her to develop into a musical talent in her own right.

In response, she said, "Mom, how can I think positively about myself when you are always commenting on how fat you are?"


I had to admit, she was right.

I experienced my heaviest weight the year following Melissa's birth. Seems I still considered it "healthy" to eat an entire bag of Oreo cookies, even though I was no longer eating for two.  Thanks to the arduous task of giving up nearly all carbs, I eventually shed the pregnancy pounds and then some, dropping two clothing sizes in the process. Yet despite my best efforts, while walking the path on my life journey towards the inevitable "change", some - not all - but some of the weight came back to stay, resulting in sagging in parts of my body that had never sagged before.

Today, at age 48, I wear the same size clothing that fit me at age 16.  I felt large then.  I feel large now.  
However, Melissa's eye-opening revelation forced me to take a step back and reevaluate my perception of my middle-aged self.  I have a wonderful husband who loves me, a good job, dear friends, an amazing step-daughter and the most incredible teenage daughter any mom could hope for. We have a roof over our heads, we are healthy....we are happy.

So why should body image matter?

The answer?  It shouldn't.

And I'll try to remember that every time I look in the mirror at my magnificent middle-aged self!

Enjoying a spectacular autumn day with my beautiful daughter Melissa!

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

A letter to my 15-year old self
*This is a repeat of a blog I originally posted in March, 2013. Melissa is now 16, but the words still ring true!

During a recent trip to the book store, I found myself flipping through the pages of a hard cover  collection of letters by celebrities to their 15-year old selves.  Since then, I have often wondered what I would tell my 15-year old self.

I look at my daughter Melissa, well into her 15th year, and I see a young lady full of life and spirit.  Most evenings, when home work is complete, she'll sit on the couch and pick up her guitar and start strumming away, sometimes adding her sweet vocals to the mix.

My 15-year old self longed to be so much like the 15-year old young lady I marvel at now.  I longed to step into the spotlight and mesmerize audiences with my amazing talent.....but alas, my lack of said talent, along with an inability to sing on key, kept that dream at bay.  Instead, God blessed my beautiful girl with that ability.  Perhaps he just wanted to save it for the next generation, or perhaps the blessing is that I can now revel in my daughter's gifts from the perspective of a mother, and know that those gifts are also my own.

So as I watch my daughter evolve into such a remarkable young woman, I try to remember how I perceived the world when I turned 15.  Shy, insecure, with a stream of never-ending crushes on boys whose names I no longer remember.  So full of wonder for my future.  Would I ever feel pretty, thin, or at least comfortable in my own body?  Would I ever find someone who would love me?  Would I ever experience the joy of becoming a mother?  Would I use my love of writing in a way where I actually might make money?   Would I go to college?  Make new friends?  Travel?

Of course, the answer to all of these questions is a resounding YES.  However, I would not reveal that to my 15-year old self, for I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise, or run the risk that my words of comfort could cause actions that would change my future and the place of contentment and happiness that defines my world now.

So, to my 15-year old self, I write the following words.

Dear 15-year old Lisa,

You will experience joy and endless laughter.  You will find friendships so strong their bonds are unbreakable.  You will discover the love of a man only found in fairy tales.  You will also learn that, at times, life may throw challenges at you.  Tears and heartache will fill your heart...but it will pass, and you'll be better and stronger for it.  

Quite simply, please Lisa, just follow your heart and I promise, everything will be ok.

With love,
Your 47-year old self

And to my own daughter, who, despite her active life full of music, friends, laughter, and love, still asks herself some of the same questions that once plagued her mother, I write the following words.

Dear Melissa, 

I lack the ability to gaze into a crystal ball and reveal what awaits you in the years to come.  But I can say with near certainty, my words of wisdom to my 15-year old self are the same words I will share with you.  

Quite simply, my dear sweet girl, just follow your heart and I promise, everything will be ok.

With love, 
Your mommy

Mother and daughter bonding during a recent trip to Disney!

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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Teaching Melissa to Drive

"Mom, will you help me study for my driver's ed test?" pleaded my 16-year old daughter Melissa.

I admit, I tried to pretend I didn't hear her request.

Why, you ask?

Shouldn't I be a dutiful mother and help my child study?


I had just plopped my weary bones onto the couch in the family room where my husband Bob had been enjoying his mandatory "Sunday Evening Sports TV Viewing".

Switch to hockey.
Switch back to football.
And so on.....

I had recently returned from food shopping, put away the groceries, poured myself a diet coke, and filled a bowl with pretzels.  Yes! The woman who never sits still might actually (it's so hard to even say the word) RELAX!

Alas, t'was not meant to be.  My baby needed me. Football and hockey and yes, even Bob, would have to wait.

We settled in at the kitchen table where Melissa handed me a sheet of paper with answers to common sense driving questions scribbled across the page.

Q. What does the fuel gauge measure?
A. Duh.

Q. What does the steering wheel do?
A. Duh.

Q. What does the flux capaciter do?
A. Send Michael J. Fox back to 1956 (Just kidding, that question really wasn't on her test)

After 30 minutes of mindless back and forth, it suddenly occurred to me that a real life scenario would do a much better job of reinforcing the rules of the road.

So, for the first time in my life, I let my daughter, my sweet little girl, my baby.....GET BEHIND THE WHEEL OF A CAR!!!

Before the local law enforcement officers arrest me for allowing a cherub to drive a car without a permit, rest assured that we did nothing more than sit in the driveway with the motor running.

Yes, that's right. I actually had Melissa put the key in the ignition. And, as the engine roared to life, she shuddered with equal parts anticipation and equal parts terror!

After she marveled at the ability to adjust the seat and steering wheel to her liking, I pointed out the mundane aspects of our automobile.

Speedometer - check

Odometer - check

Fuel gauge - check

Rear view mirror - check

Brake - check


She stepped on the accelerator so hard, had the car not been in "Park", it would have crashed through the garage, the living room, the family room, the bathroom, the kitchen, our neighbor's house...etc.

Unable to hide her surprise, Melissa turned to me and gasped, "I DIDN'T EXPECT IT TO DO THAT!  (followed by a few choice expletives)

My response?

I simply threw my head back and laughed and laughed and laughed.

As we walked back into the house she mumbled in fear about never, ever getting behind the wheel again, a sentiment that's just fine with me, because 16 is simply way too young to operate such a complex piece of machinery.

My, how I have changed.

For years I counted down the days until the calendar turned to April 22, 1981.  For on that day, I would turn 16.  Then I could finally experience the thrill of getting into the driver's seat, turning the key in the ignition, and taking off to anywhere I wanted to go!  No more walking or riding a bike for me....I'd be a legal, licensed driver!!

Until I reached that fateful birthday, "pretend" driving would have to suffice.  As a young school girl, my friends and I would climb behind the wheel of my mother's "no longer functioning" 1969 Rambler. I am sure, at some point in time, my mother actually drove the Rambler. However, for as long as I can remember, the car sat idle, defunct, parked outside of our house, a perfect vehicle to propel young imaginations to a future where, as licensed drivers, we could travel to the supermarket, the bank, the drug store and all sorts of "exotic" locations frequented by our hum drum parents.

The 1969 Rambler

Finally, the day came for me to take my driver's test, and I am embarrassed to say........I failed.  To this day, I blame my ineptitude on my mother, who had the nerve to start an argument with me on the way to the Department of Motor Vehicles. (Now that I am the mother of a 16-year old, I can say with much certainty that the fight was most likely started by my 16-year old self, not my mom.)

A few weeks later, I tried again, with dad as my escort to the Department of Motor Vehicles.  This time, I am happy to say.......I PASSED!  I could now, finally fulfill my life-long ambition to drive a car!

The envy of all of my "not yet 16" friends, I couldn't wait to hit the road.  My parents purchased a huge, ugly, brown, boat-sized vehicle that I happily navigated throughout the streets of my neighborhood. The front seat, wide enough for a basketball player to sleep comfortably, stretched straight across, without any pesky gear shifts or cup holders separating the driver's side from the passenger's.  Every weekend I trekked the short distance to my "not yet 16" friend Wendy's house. She'd hop into the car I had affectionately named "Betsy Boat" and slid all the way over until she was practically sitting on top of me. Then I let her take the wheel of the car, while I controlled the brake and accelerator, and around the town we drove!

How we were never arrested, I'll never know.

Wendy and me

Today, Wendy and I are both moms to 16-year olds. Will our kids try the same type of "illegal" shenanigans with their friends?  We'll probably never know.

What's more, as moms we now have to worry about technology that didn't exist during the dinosaur era when we learned to operate a vehicle.

Will our kids reach for their phone while cruising down the highway?

Will our kids have the patience to wait to respond to the familiar ding of an incoming text until they are safely out of the car?


I could forbid Melissa to drive until she's 30, but I know that her urge to get behind the wheel will continue to grow stronger until I'll be forced to relent.

I'm sure, in a few months or so, after I finally get used to the idea that I gave birth to a child who can drive, I'll appreciate her willingness to run out for a gallon of milk.  But for now, I am, quite simply, just not ready to let her become a licensed driver.....because that also means I'll have to try to let her go.

And I can't.

Oh well, maybe she'll fail driver's ed.  One can only hope!

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Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Change Jar

It seems every household has a change jar.  A tupperware bowl, a tin canister, a flour jar, a piggy bank, or, in our case, a three foot high, plastic container shaped like a beer bottle and decorated with a Philadelphia Flyers hockey logo.

Steadily, day by day, my husband Bob and I threw our spare quarters,  nickels, and dimes into the change jar, until the sea of coins began to slowly ascend towards the rim.

We were saving for something....anything! A rainy day! A vacation! A new car! A new home! Retirement!

More change!  More change!  More change!

Bob even started to throw dollar bills into the change jar.  Then $5 bills, and (gasp!) he even parted with a $20 now and then.

Finally, last month, as a family vacation beckoned, we decided that the contents of the change jar could provide some much-needed financial assistance.

That is why, on a summer evening, the neighbors gave strange looks to Bob, my 16-year old daughter Melissa, and me as we struggled to carry the 3,964 pound change jar to our car and place it gently in the trunk.  Onlookers continued to stare as we took our "treasure" out of the trunk and lugged it into the bank, where we exchanged enough coins to fill a baseball stadium ( or so it seemed) for crisp, clean paper money.

Yes, three years of emptying our wallets of coins had certainly paid off! We now had some unexpected cash that could surely be used to enhance our week-long stay in the Great Smokey Mountains of Tennessee.

Thank you to the change jar!!

It had not been the first time that Bob and I reaped the rewards of our "sophisticated" saving plan.  As we left the bank, I thought back to a time, long ago, when the money in the change jar gave us a gift much more valuable than vacation spending money.

Towards the middle of a difficult pregnancy that left me confined to bed and quite ill for several weeks, I finally felt well enough to take a temporary job as a receptionist at a library at Princeton University.  We had recently relocated to central New Jersey after spending 18 months living in Queens, NY.  Bob, looking to reinvent himself, had changed his career and now worked in a sales job that had, as yet, failed to deliver on its promise of huge commissions.

Our income barely covered the rent, let alone car insurance, the electric bill, the phone bill, the water bill, and a staggering amount of credit card debt that threatened to suffocate our future.  Reluctantly, we traded in the car we loved to avoid the monthly payments.  Week after week, we sat at the kitchen table, the stack of bills piled high, the check book in hand, as we determined which lucky utility or creditor would get paid that month.

Our financial situation reached its lowest point when Bob and I discovered we barely had enough for our next meal.

We had no choice but to turn to the change jar, which yielded a welcome $75. Certainly not a windfall, but enough for the basics -  milk, bread, eggs, cereal, and meat.  In short....enough to get by.

Thank you to the change jar!!

The lack of money caused worry, and stress, and yes, of course, a few tears.

We were poor. Yet.........we were happy.

We were young.  We were in love  We were waiting in anticipation for our baby Melissa to enter our lives.

We were happy.

Today, we're not quite so young anymore.  Our "baby" is now in high school.  Our two full-time jobs provide the financial security that allows us to use the coins from our change jar to fund a vacation, instead of food.

But most important, we are still happy....

And still very much in love!

Our Flyers "beer bottle"  change jar yielded enough nickles, dimes, and quarters to help pay for a family vacation!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

As we remember the heartbreaking events of September 11, 2001, I am honored to repeat a blog I first posted last year.

September 11

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, 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 step-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.

Melissa and me in New York City in front of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, December, 2011 - thousands came to New York City a mere three months after 9/11...the terrorists did not win, life went on.

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

Sunday, September 1, 2013

I originally wrote this post in February, 2012, when my now 16-year old daughter Melissa was in 8th grade.  As she prepares to start her sophomore year of high school, the words I wrote nearly two years ago still hold true.  I dedicate this post to all the moms and dads out there who will watch their cherubs get on the school bus this week. Whether it is for the first time, or, in my case, the 10th....the emotions that come with letting go never change.

Waiting at the Bus Stop with Mommy

Pencils?  Check! 
Crayons?  Check! 
Glue?  Check! 
Pink back pack?  Check!

Yes, the first day of kindergarten had arrived, and my six-year old daughter Melissa brimmed with excitement, a precious cherub waiting to embark on her newest adventure.

She skipped along between my husband Bob and me as we made our way to the bus stop, at least 20 minutes early.  I soaked in her emotions, while keeping my own in check.  The anticipation of the first day reigned supreme among the handful of kids who greeted her at the corner.  With camera in hand, I snapped still poses, while my next door neighbor Angelica shot video footage of her son Christopher, who would be in Melissa’s class.

At long last, or all too soon, depending on your perspective, the school bus arrived. We paused for a moment to let the older students climb on first.  Christopher boarded next, jumping the stairs and taking his rightful place among the big kids.  Then came Melissa’s turn.  She stopped half way up the steps and, in response to my pleas, turned and gave me one more smile.  Although the camera lens captured the scene, I need not have bothered taking photos.  The moment has been burned into my memory forever.

The bus pulled away and I stood there, watching, finally allowing my own feelings to swim to the surface.   I dabbed at the tears in my eyes, wondering just how many times I would experience this strange sort of melancholy every time Melissa passed through another milestone in her young life.

The next day, despite our best laid plans, instead of being at the bus 20 minutes early, we were still gulping down breakfast, and running through the house, making sure we had everything we needed for “Kindergarten: Day 2”.  Bob shouted words of encouragement, hoping to motivate us to move faster, yet his effort was all for naught. 

This time, the tears that flowed were Melissa’s as we watched the bus pull away, minus one member of its precious cargo.

“Mommy can drive you to school day,” I said reassuringly as I wrapped her in my warm embrace.

Soon enough, I found myself walking my baby into the office of her elementary school.   The secretary greeted me with a brusque smile, and asked the reason for the lateness.  

Great, I thought.  They are going to bestow the mother of the year award on me right now.  How was I going to handle 12 years of schooling for this child when I couldn’t even get her out the door on time for the second day of kindergarten?

Before I could answer, the vice principal stepped out from behind her desk and held out her hand, giving my daughter a wide, sweet, calming smile.  “It’s alright sweetie,” she told Melissa.  “I’ll walk you to your class.”

I certainly appreciated her kindness, but walking my daughter to class ranked as the number one, top priority on my to do list at that moment.  I wanted that honor, not some unknown school administrator!

“It’s ok,” I said.  “I don’t mind taking her.”

“Mrs. Weinstein, we really ask that the parents don’t walk the kids to class, it helps them to get used to their new environment,” came her text book reply.

With that, she took my daughter’s hand and off they went.  I stood there in the hallway….frozen…. watching them walk away toward Melissa’s classroom….away from the office….. away from me….

Wait.  What?  NO!  That’s my baby you are taking away!  THAT’S MY BABY!

I wondered if I would ever learn to let her go.

Eight years later, I still wonder.

Melissa, who is now in 8th grade, has no longer granted permission for her mother to accompany her at the bus stop.  The strict rules allow me to walk outside with her and chat for a few minutes, however, as soon as the bus turns the corner and her fellow classmates get any inkling that she might be standing there with (gasp!) her mother, I must retreat back inside the house.

I break this rule quite often, retreating only to our front porch where I stand until I am absolutely, positively sure she is safely on the bus and on her way to school.  This constant rule breaking is often met with scolding from my teenage offspring.

“Mom, the little 6th grader down the block doesn’t even have her mother wait at the bus with her!” she yelled in exasperation. 

I’m not sure why I can’t let her go.  I am gripped with some irrational fear that if I do not actually witness her stepping onto the bus, something will go wrong, she’ll be in harm’s way, and it will be beyond my control to do anything about it.

I try to explain that I worry out of love, which just leads to more exasperation on her part.  She assures me that she is fine, and deep down, I know she is right.

This morning, I tried to follow the rules.  Indeed, I removed myself from the vicinity of the bus stop and went back into the house within the designated time frame.  But the rules couldn’t stop me from watching out the window until I knew she was safe.

Next year, high school beckons, and four years after that, college.  It’s ok though.  I’m going to stow away under the bed in her dorm room.  She won’t even suspect I’m there.

When will I let her go?

The answer is quite simple.  Never.
Melissa on her first day of 10th grade!

As Melissa followed Chris onto the bus, she turned to give me one last hesitant smile before she embarked on her journey to her first day of kindergarten. This week she will start her sophomore year of high school.....10 years later, it's still so hard to let her go!

To my readers, can you tell me in the comments section below how you found my blog? Thanks so much!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

White water rafting during our fantastic vacation!

The Hypnosis Show

All summer long, my husband Bob and I had been struggling to find the perfect spot for our annual family getaway .  Our goal? To carefully accrue our precious time off at work so we could tack on a week's vacation following our daughter Jessica's wedding on August 10 in Virginia.

Bob's original desire to spend a week touring civil war sites throughout the south did not meet with raucous enthusiasm from my 16-year old daughter Melissa...or me.  While I enjoy American history as much as the next guy, the thought of spending our afternoons under the hot summer sun on a civil war battle field, when we could just as well be at the beach...well, you get the picture.

As the weeks inched closer to the wedding, we still had a planned week off with no place to go!  We had been to Disney countless times, same for the Jersey shore. What's more, the myriad of suggestions I provided as an alternative were either deemed:

1. Too expensive by my hubby
2. Too boring by my daughter

Finally, one evening as I scrolled through pages and pages of hotel listing at nearby beach towns, Bob made an "out of the blue" suggestion.

"Why don't you Google the Great Smokey Mountains in Tennesse?"

"Tennesse?" I exclaimed with skepticism. "What in the world could be in Tennessee?"

I typed the unlikely vacation idea into the search engine, and immediately, Google showered me with pages and pages of results for a place called Gatlinburg.

With interest, I clicked on a link, only to discover a town that offered white water rafting, zip lining, amusement parks, arcades, hiking, alpine sledding, a zoo, a wax museum, dozens of restaurants to tap anyone's taste buds, and no shortage of family-friendly evening entertainment!  Upon further research, we discovered some terrific hotels with a host of amenities, offering accommodations that didn't empty our bank account.

When we suggested this seemingly terrific place to Melissa, her response was, you guessed it...

"It sounds boring."

Further conversation revealed that the boring aspect of Gatlinburg did not involve all of the wonderful involved doing all of the wonderful activities with .....(egads) HER PARENTS!

Hmmmmm. Who could we bring with us on our journey that would:

1. Keep Melissa company
2. Not drive us crazy

"I know!" exclaimed Bob.  "How about if we bring the boys?"

The boys, my dear friend Angelica's sons Chris, 16, and Brandon, 14, had become a part of our family over the past year. But would they want to spend a week with us in Tennesee?  The answer, after speaking to their mom....a resounding YES!

So, the morning after the wedding, we packed our three teenagers into the back seat of the car...and away we went!  Each activity-filled day passed much too quickly as Bob and I relished in the kids' adventurous spirit. Our last night in Gatlinburg found the five of us in the audience of a small theater, waiting with anticipation for Guy Michaels, a self-proclaimed hypnotist, to make his entrance.

In response to Guy Michaels request for volunteers, Bob, Chris, Brandon, and I enthusiastically jumped from our seats and ran onto the stage with Melissa, who left the safety of her seat a bit more reluctantly.

Guy Michaels sat each of his "subjects" in a chair and instructed us to sit back, tilt our head and attempt to relax.  He told us to visualize a spot where we felt at peace, an outdoor spot, a happy place. I struggled to find this unspoiled place of perfection.  I imagined various places in my world - the beach, the pool, my patio - with none giving me the serene sense of satisfaction that Guy Michaels had asked us to find.

I should have relaxed.
I tried to relax.
The truth was, I simply could not relax.

The more I heard Guy Michael's voice, the more my daily worries crept into my thoughts, barring all attempts to embrace a hypnotic state.  Feeling like a failure, I dutifully followed Guy Michael's instructions to leave the stage and return to my seat, where I discovered my daughter who, like me, could not find the happy place of hypnosis.

Disappointed, I wondered why the attempts at relaxation resulted in negative images flooding my mind. I felt lucky to be on a fantastic vacation with people I loved, yet I could not escape the stress that plagued my life back home.

Troubled by my mind's refusal to let go,  I instead turned my attention to the nine people who remained on stage, slumped over in their chairs in a hypnotic state...including Brandon, Chris, and Bob.

Melissa and I instantly forgot our failure as we focused on the scene that had unfolded in front of us.  A middle-aged woman had fallen asleep on Chris's shoulder, yet he seemed unaware of her presence. In the meantime, convinced that Bob would break out into his trademark "rock the rafters" snoring, we struggled to stifle our increasingly loud laughter.

As the show progressed, Guy Michaels had his "subjects" act like piano players, dancers, kittens, and body builders. He had them sunbathing on the beach (Chris really acted the part by taking off his shirt), shivering in the rain, and roaring like dinosaurs!  Watching my mild-mannered, couch potato Bob strutting around the stage resulted in panic-stricken laughter that had Melissa and I wiping tears from our eyes.

When the show came to a close, the "subjects" claimed not to remember anything....statements that were not entirely true. Had they been hypnotized? We'll never quite know.  Bob simply explained that because he felt so relaxed, he didn't mind hamming it up for the crowd. So maybe he had, indeed, slipped into a hypnotic state.

As for me, for that delightful hour, while watching the antics of my hubby and my two favorite boys, I embraced a pure, unadulterated place of joy and just laughed and laughed and laughed.

And the laughter knocked the negative thoughts from my mind.

And the laughter kept my stress at bay.

And thanks to the laughter, finally....

I relaxed.

Hmmmm.....perhaps I had been hypnotized after all.

Chris (center) and Bob strut their stuff during the hypnosis show

Brandon becomes a dinosaur during the hypnosis show

A middle-aged woman unknowingly fell asleep leaning on Chris during the hypnosis show

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Toast to the Maid of Honor

During the early evening hours, after my family has spent quality time at the dinner table rehashing our days, we all tend to retreat to our favorite places in the house.

My husband Bob sets up shop in his "Man Cave" - AKA the Family Room - 20 remotes by his side, as his 70 inch TV screen blares the latest zombie movie.  My 16-year old daughter Melissa finds her place of comfort on the living room floor, guitar in hand, and starts strumming away, while I sit on the living room sofa, working on my blog and savoring the beautiful music brought to life by my oh so talented offspring.

For the past few weeks, however, the music stopped every time I walked into the room.  Troubled by her sudden tendency to not want me around while she played, I inquired about her change of heart. Seems my baby was attempting to add "song writer" to the list of her multiple musical abilities, and her mother's presence just stopped the creative process in its tracks!

The reason for the song? Her sister Jessica's wedding!

Melissa had been appointed to the important role of Maid of Honor, which meant she would be required to publicly toast the bride and groom during the reception.  Public speaking? Not my daughter's thing.  Yet put a guitar in her hand and my Melissa becomes one with the audience, connecting in a way I never thought possible.

So instead of giving a speech, Melissa sought to write a song - a special song to express to her sister just how very much she loved her....and to her brother-in-law Brian, how happy she was to welcome him to the family.

The result? A poignant parody of Taylor Swift's "Love Story".

To view the video of Melissa's performance at the wedding, 
click here

By - Melissa Weinstein, Maid of Honor Extraordinaire

We were on a long 8 hour car ride when Jessie mentions that she met a new boy
She gives a sigh
Everything he says is from Family Guy

Brian knew he had to get on my good side
He texted me so I wouldn't be bored on the way home
Little did I know.....
That Jessie and Brian had to be together
Ohio's not nearly close enough for her
Planes are too expensive, driving is way too far...

And she said
Brian move in with me please don't leave me all alone
I'll be waiting all that's left to do is pack
We'll get some dogs they'll chew up the sofa
It's a love story
Baby just say....

So mom asks Jessie is this new boy Jewish
She says kind of he's half and half is that ok
Mom says to marry him anyway

We were at the mall we were going shopping 
Then I turn around to Jessie I said wait hold on
Have you thought about it lately is Brian gonna be the one?

And she said
Yes baby sister Brian is the one for me
We love each other and that's how it should be
We're gonna get married but don't tell a soul yet
It's a love story baby just say....

Oh ohh   Oh ohh

But as I started thinkin....
Wondering if I've said this enough to no end
But Jessie I love you....
And did I mention that you're my best friend

Brian please take care of her
She's helped me through everything
First year of high school and how to deal with stupid boys
So let's make a toast to Jessie and Bri 
'Cause he knelt to the ground and pulled out a ring and said

Marry me Jessica you'll never have to be alone
I love you and that's all I really know
I talked to your sis go pick out a white dress
It's a love story baby just say....

Oh ohh  Oh ohh

We were both at AFSCME when I first saw you........

My beautiful step-daughter Jessica and her new husband Brian!

In addition to her beautiful performance, Melissa made this poster for Jessica and Brian - it's a Dr. Suess quote!

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

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Walking Off My Fat Arms

Two weeks ago, on a Monday morning at 6:30 am, dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, with one pound weights held firmly in each hand, I left my house and began my brisk walk through the still sleeping streets of my quiet suburban neighborhood.

As the occasional jogger passed me by, we both followed the "runner/jogger/walker code of ethics" that states, you must make eye contact, smile, and say good morning.

Yes, by dressing the part and even adding the weights for good measure, I had managed to fool "professional" runners, joggers, and walkers that I had been doing this for years!


The truth is, my idea of exercise is getting up and walking the measly two inches from the sofa to the bathroom several times a night during my evening sedentary activities of either:

1. Blogging
2. Facebooking
3. Reading
4. Watching TV

All noble hobbies, I might add, but good for getting those cardio juices flowing? I think not!

So why, you may ask, for every day for the past two weeks, with the temperatures steamy enough to pop popcorn on the sidewalk, did I leave the comfort of my cozy bed at the insanely early hour of 6:30 am to go outside for a walk?

I will tell you the answer in two words.

Fat arms.

Some of you may be scratching your heads?

Fat arms you say, Lisa. Is that the name of a new rock band? (If not it should be)

For those of you wondering why fat arms are relevant, allow me to share that I recently tried on the dress I am going to where to my step-daughter's wedding in two weeks.

(My middle-aged, female readers are beginning to understand and empathize, I'm sure.)

Since my "I must lose 3,000 pounds before the wedding diet" falls victim on an hourly basis to pretzels, cookies, pasta, and ice cream, I have come to the cruel realization that I just might not lose the pitiful pounds before the blessed event.

This left me in quite a quandary.  Sure, I loved the dress, but it came with a billboard attached blaring the following advertisement.


My solution? 

Use my magical powers to transform my fat arms into impressive, "Don't mess with Lisa" muscular arms.

But how?

I know! I'll lift weights! 

(Keep in mind that the closest I have come to lifting weights is lifting a one gallon container of milk from the supermarket shelf into the cart)

But lifting weights is boring. Then it hit me!

I know! I'll lift weights and walk....AT THE SAME TIME!

Since the mandatory summer heat wave had settled over my southern New Jersey neighborhood, stepping outside anytime past 9 am was out of the question.

However, at 6:30 am, the sun's rays had not yet peeked over the trees, whose branches provided welcome shade as I forced myself to maintain a brisk and steady pace, swinging my arms back and forth so that the weights would do their magic.

The early morning hour kept the oppressive humidity temporarily at bay, allowing me to relish in the calm serenity of my world at dawn.  My early morning exercise had become much more than a ridiculous quest to look good in a dress.  It had become a time to capture of few moments of peace before the start of a hectic day filled with work and family and chores and appointments and precious little time to sit back and well....just BE.

Now, when the alarm so rudely jolts me from my slumber, I resist the temptation to slam my fist on the snooze button. Instead, I get up, throw my hair in an "oh so flattering" ponytail, and hit the sidewalk.

After several days of trying to convince my husband Bob and 16-year old daughter Meliss to experience the serenity by my side, I finally won half the battle....Melissa agreed to join me.

There are precious few moments to connect when your offspring becomes a teenager. Moms who were revered from birth through the tween years, are suddenly ridiculed for singing, laughing, dancing, and (egad) attempted to engage in public displays of affection.

However, in the early morning hours, before the rest of the world joins the fray, the rules between mother and daughter are relaxed just a bit.  And during our brisk walk down the tree lined streets, we share in something special.....we just.....well.....we!

We talk about anything. We talk about everything.  We just talk.

All too soon, we're back home, where we walk through the door and symbolically part ways. Melissa grabs breakfast, and I head upstairs for a warm shower, signaling the start to another busy day.

My walks may not result in any change in my fat arms....but I guess in the end it really doesn't matter.... because time with my daughter is worth so much more.

My beautiful daughter Melissa and me at her 16th birthday party!

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

Monday, July 22, 2013

Taylor Swift and Broken Cars and Lightening Storms...Oh My!

Horror movies? Not my thing.

Not so for my husband Bob.  He thoroughly embraces the horror movie experience, reveling in the suspense and marveling at the special effects. However, by the time the credits roll, Bob pushes the imaginary "delete"  button in his brain, rendering the movie null and void. In other words, it's completely vanquished from his mind, and he simply moves on to the next movie or TV watching experience.

As for me, on the rare occasion I do sneak a peek at a horror movie, you'll find me curled up in bed in a fetal position for weeks on end, thumb in mouth.  Why? Because for me, horror movies are REAL!

Therefore, I do not actively seek out horror movies, leaving Bob to watch them alone, or find others who share his strange enjoyment of being scared to death.

So, on Saturday night, as my 16-year old daughter Melissa and I prepared to spend the evening hanging with Taylor Swift, Bob made the brief journey to the next town over to pick up "our" boys (my dear friend Angelica's sons Chris, 16 and Brandon, 14) who were enthusiastically willing to participate in the horror flick experience!

In the meantime, Melissa and I climbed into our "secondary" car, an 8-year old, boat-sized Mercury Marquis with nearly 100,000 miles under its belt.

I gave Melissa full radio control, and, getting into the concert spirit, we sang our hearts out during the 40 minute drive from our suburban home in southern New Jersey across the bridge to Philadelphia and our final destination,  Lincoln Financial Field, a huge football stadium affectionately known by the locals as "The Linc".

Tonight, The Linc would play temporary host to Taylor Swift and her opening act, singer Ed Sheeran. Bob had surprised Melissa with the tickets nearly six months ago, and now that only a few hours remained until the concert, we couldn't hide our excitement.

I know. I am a 48-year old middle-aged woman, but YES! I admit it! I like Taylor Swift!

As we approached the concert venue, we joined approximately 50,000 cars all vying to get the best spots inside the limited parking facilities.  I vowed to stay calm as traffic ground to a halt, and continued to enjoy the time with my daughter.  Finally, after what seemed like 21 years, we inched our way into the lot, paid the outrageous $30 parking fee, (A few choice words shattered my calm as I prepared to part with the cash) and found the perfect spot to leave our car for the evening.

Or so I thought.

I put the gear shift into park, and prepared to turn off the engine...however, the car continued to inch forward. Perplexed, I slammed my foot on the brake and the movement stopped.  Slowly, I lifted my foot off the brake and sure enough, the car resumed its forward motion.

A bit panicked now, I employed the use of the emergency brake and pulled the key out of the ignition.

The car stood still.

Melissa and I cautiously got out, only to discover that because of the car's mysterious forward movement, the Mercury Marquis had come to rest too far outside of the designated parking space. I jumped back behind the wheel and put the key in the ignition, while Melissa waited outside.

Once again, I could only describe my emotions as perplexed as I wondered why Melissa held up her hand, signaling for me to stop moving. I had done nothing to make the car move, yet it slowly inched backwards this time, seemingly of its own accord.

I slammed on the brake, bringing my possessed vehicle to a halt.  Sure enough, when I removed my foot, much to my horror the car resumed going backwards.  I again turned to the safety of the emergency brake, which seemed the only means of controlling the ghosts and goblins that had surely taken residence under the hood.

I attempted to start the ignition, but turning the key produced zero results.

My demon-car had the ability to move forward and backward on its own, yet decided it would not let me start the engine!

Clearly it was time to perform an exorcism call in the big guns, the expert, the big kahuna...Bob!

Meanwhile, unaware that Melissa and I were experiencing our own horror movie - Bob, Chris, and Brandon were killing time at the mall until it was time to see their own horror movie.

In response to my call of sheer panic, Bob assured me that he and the boys would abandon their plans and drive immediately to The Linc to investigate the situation. He told us to go in and see the show, to have a good time, and not to worry.

Easier said than done.

Had my car not waited until we had parked to reveal its demon side and acted out while travelling 65 MPH on the expressway, we could have been in serious danger. My daughter, my baby, the love of my life, my reason for living.  If something had happened to her...

I couldn't finish the thought.

Instead I focused my energies on joining the throngs of moms, daughters, tweens, and teens making their way into the stadium. I tried to concentrate on the show, but my mind stayed on Bob, and the car, and our transportation home.

Once we had hiked up the 2,972 stairs that led to our upper level seats, I sent Bob and the boys text after text after text that went unanswered, thanks to the lousy reception in The Linc, which only served to magnify my frustration!

As Melissa happily turned her attention to Ed Sheeran, I stole glances at my cell every three seconds, hoping for an update from Bob.  After an achingly long hour, my "Night in Shining Armor" ensured me the car had been towed, he would take Chris and Brandon home, and then come back to The Linc to safely escort his girls back to New Jersey.  He also emphatically told me to enjoy the show.

So I took his advice and kept my worries at bay..... until I looked at the sky.

Ominous clouds had gathered on the horizon, while the occasional flash of lightening signaled the approach of an impending storm.

It is important to note at this point in my tale that The Linc is an outdoor stadium.


Suddenly, a voice came over the public address system blaring a message I could not hear thanks to the screams of the tweens who mistakenly thought they were listening to an introduction to Taylor.
Fortunately, the message repeated over and over and over again.

"The national weather service has issued a severe thunder storm warning. We are expecting heavy rain, wind, and lightening.  Please leave your seats and take cover in the stadium concourse. We will inform you when it is safe to return to your seats."

Melissa and I made our way down the 2,972 stairs and claimed our spot among the thousands of moms, daughters, tweens, and teens who now occupied the stadium concourse.

While the snack bar employees helped pass the time by playing Taylor Swift music for the crowd, we stared out at the incredible spectacle unfolding before our eyes. Lightening strikes of epic proportion invaded the sky, creating unstoppable sparks of jagged, electric beauty...nature's own spectacular strobe light.

Then came the rains, and the wind, coupled with sounds of little girls screaming in response to the thunder.


Ten minutes ticked away. Then 15....25...35....

Tired of standing, we joined a number of other moms, daughters, tweens, and teens who decided to simply sit right there on the concourse floor.

Five more minutes ticked by.

Would the rain ever stop?

Ten more minutes.

Would the concert be cancelled?

Fifteen more minutes.

People were getting to their feet!

Could it be!?

Could the rain have stopped?

Would the show go on!?


At 10:45 pm, two hours later than planning, Taylor Swift finally greeted her Philadelphia fans!

Fast forward 90 minutes. Amid a dazzling display of fireworks, Taylor belted out the last note to her hit single "We are Never Getting Back Together", took a bow, and left the screaming crowd to navigate their way out of the stadium. (The show was very good, I might add)

Once again, Melissa and I joined the throngs of moms and daughters and tweens and teens into the concourse, down the stairs and out into the midnight air, where a slight drizzle was all that remained of the earlier storm.

Our next task at hand....find Bob among what seemed like the entire population of North America.

With one hand holding the cell to my ear and the other trying to grab Melissa's hand so we wouldn't get separated (she refused take my hand, she is 16 after all - there was a principle to uphold here) we pushed our way through the throngs of moms, daughters, tweens, and teens, all walking in 27 different directions.

In the meantime, my cell conversation with Bob went something like this:

Bob: "I am parked on Darien Avenue, you have to walk about a half a mile."

Me: "What!"

Bob: "Just keep walking on Darien"

Me: "I am on Darien, where are you."

Bob: "I'm on Darien, keep walking."

Me: "Are you on the left or right side of the street?"

Bob: "The left side."

I grab Melissa's hand as we shoved 32 moms and daughters out of the way in our mad dash to get to the other side of the street.

Me: "Ok, I'm on the other side."

Bob: "Stay right there, I'm coming to get you."

Me: "WHAT?"

Bob: "Stay right there on Darien, on the right side."

Me: "WHAT?"

Bob: "I'm driving up on the right side, stay there."

Me: "I'm not on the right side I'm on the left side!"

Bob: "WHAT?"

By what can only be categorized as divine intervention, Melissa and I finally saw the familiar headlights of our car, my "Night in Shining Armor" tucked safely behind the wheel, ready to whisk us home.

As soon as we climbed in I took one look at Bob and knew something was terribly wrong. Sure enough, when we arrived at our house in the wee hours of the morning, the thermometer confirmed my hero had a 102 degree fever.

I took off my concert-goer hat and replaced it with my caregiver hat, nursing my man back to health.

Two days later, the car's still in the shop and my man is still sick.  If anyone needs me I'll be a fetal position...thumb in mouth...

Melissa at the Taylor Swift concert! Great show, despite the 2-hour rain delay and our broken down car!!

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