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!

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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!

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