Sunday, December 18, 2016

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, nine 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 freshman in college) 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 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 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 King of Syria outlawed the Jewish religion, a Jewish rebellion broke out and although outnumbered, the Jews were able to drive the Syrians out of Jerusalem. During the fighting, the Holy 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, giving them time to find a fresh supply. 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 19, Melissa has long since put aside the notion that presents arrive thanks to magical beings carrying baskets full of Barbies and Disney princesses.  While she still gratefully appreciates the gift cards and generous checks 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 brunch complete with latkes (fried potatoe pancakes), bagels and creamcheese, and kugel (a staple at every Jewish holiday, this casserole can be made many different ways, but usually features noodles, eggs, milk, and cheese - I like to add appricot jam!);  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!

This post is a repeat of one of my favorites. In the spirit of the season I am happy to run it again, with some minor updates to the original.

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Coupon Savings with my Birthday Boy

As my husband Bob searched through the weekend circulars, his eyes lit up with delight. Seems our local supermarket offered quite the tantalizing deal. If you purchased a certain amount in gift cards, the supermarket would generously bestow upon you $20 to be used towards your next purchase.

But alas, the offer came with caveats, as most great offers do.

The gift cards had to be purchased on either Friday or Saturday, and the $20 could only be redeemed during the following week.

But wait, there was more.

The savvy shopper had to purchase at least $20 worth of groceries in addition to the gift cards, or else.....no deal.

But wait, there was still more.

A quick look at the fine print (using our "old folk" reading glasses of course) revealed yet one more pesky rule:

Limit one per person.

Bob and I were technically two people, yet the supermarket savings cards we each carried on our key chain featured an identical account number.

One account.

Two people.

Would we be able to beat the system and save $40 instead of $20?

(Cue the theme from "Mission Impossible")

Our weekend plans were set!

On Friday, we put our conniving scheme into action. We entered the supermarket and each took a cart. Bob placed $20 worth of groceries into his cart, while I did the same. Bob grabbed the required amount of gift cards, while I did the same.

With phase one of our plan complete, we nonchalantly meandered over to the checkout, Bob choosing register 5 while I stayed far away at register 12, lest our actions raise suspicion.

After paying, I thought the cashier would simply hand me a coupon for $20 - but nooooo -  the store had other plans. At the bottom of my receipt, in the tiniest of type (yes, reading glasses again) I discovered a numerical code. Seems I had to give this code to the cashier when I came back to redeem my $20 worth of free groceries.

But wait, the plot thickens.

Upon careful examination we discovered that Bob's receipt featured the identical numerical code.

Two people.

One code.

Would our carefully constructed plan backfire?

Two days later we found ourselves back at the supermarket, ready to put phase two of our mission into action. Once again we grabbed separate carts. Once again, we each filled said carts with $20+ worth of groceries. Once again, he chose register 5 while I strolled over to register 12, trying not to raise any alarms.

I gave the cashier the code, and with a sigh of relief, she subtracted $20 from my total.

The plan, thus far, had gone off without a hitch!

But our mission had not yet come to completion. Bob still lingered in line back at register 5. Would his code work? Would he get through the check out process without blowing our cover? Would he be questioned by the cashier...or worse yet, by the manager. Would he be denied his $20 in savings? Would he be escorted from the store, never to be welcomed again?

I waited at the other end of the supermarket, holding my breath. Bob completed his transaction and wheeled his cart in my direction. I followed him out of the store and into the parking lot, not daring to speak lest our secret plans were overheard.

Once safely tucked into the car, Bob pulled out his receipt to reveal to me that yes - indeed - his code had worked too! Together we had saved $40 on our grocery bill!

Mission accomplished.

As we drove home I came to the realization that my husband, who celebrates his milestone 60th birthday tomorrow, is a giant goober. And the kicker is, so am I.

We are two goobers who have been married for 22 years, together for 26. We are two goobers who raised two daughters, married off the oldest, welcomed a grandson, and sent the youngest to college. We are two goobers who are now empty nesters, whose life has come full circle - who are now, as we were in the beginning - living together with only each other for company.

We are two goobers who would rather spend a milestone birthday weekend plotting against the supermarket rather than celebrating with a wild night on the town.

And you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way.

Happy 60th birthday Bob. You are my love, my best friend, my everything, and most of all...my favorite goober.

I love you!

My birthday boy and me!

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

Sunday, November 6, 2016

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

BREAKING NEWS!

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....uh....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....

LISA WEINSTEIN

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..........................................................................................................  

THE SHOES WERE TIGHT!

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.

MY FEET HAD GROWN BIGGER!

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."


ONE WEEK LATER

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.  

Sigh.

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 in......you 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.

MY FEET HAD BECOME ONE WITH MY SHOES!

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."

BREAKING NEWS!

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."

*This blog is a repeat of a post that originally ran in 2012. After a weekend of unsuccessful shoe shopping, I had the overwhelming desire to run it again. 

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

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Selling Our Home

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

Wonderful plans!

Exciting plans!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The first step towards selling our new home? Purge.

Purge.

Purge.

And purge some more.

Bob's office was just the beginning.

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

Next step?

Paint.

Paint.

And paint some more.

Next step?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next step? Lower the price.

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

Lower the price again.

Endure more negative feedback.

Install a new sink and toilet in the master bathroom.

Edure more negative feedback.

Lower the price again.

Endure more negative feedback.

Remove the wallpaper in the upstairs hall.

Endure more negative feedback.

Lower the price again.

Endure more negative feedback.

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

Endure more negative feedback.

Change realtors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So now we sit in the living room in our cozy new town house, surrounded by boxes, relieved that the home selling journey has come to an end, and looking forward to the next chapter in our lives.

Let the new adventures begin!

Melissa in the driveway of our new home!

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

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Hallowed Ground

The tiny physician lounge on the first floor of a small community hospital in central New Jersey featured a few comfortable chairs, a conference table, cubicles offering computer access, and a large television set mounted on the back wall. The room, located across the hall from my public relations office, required a key code to enter, and only those who had earned their medical degree were granted access.

However, on that morning - that fateful morning - the room played host to a sea of humanity who did not carry the title of "doctor". With the normally locked door unceremoniously propped open, the lounge filled up with nurses, therapists, accountants, administrators, cafeteria workers, housekeepers, and me....all gazing in horror at the incomprehensible images on the television screen.

As the sickening, slow motion video of a jumbo jet deliberately slamming into the World Trade Center replayed over and over, the ticker crawl at the bottom of the screen informed the world that a plane had crashed in Somerset County.

Somerset County?

I lived in Somerset County!

Did the plane crash in my neighborhood? Near my home? Were my husband Bob and four-year old daughter Melissa in harm's way?

Before I had time to even process these thoughts, I read the ticker more closely.

Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Not Somerset County, New Jersey.

My relief, however, was short-lived. People died in that plane crash. In Washington, DC, the Pentagon erupted in flames. In New York City, the World Trade Center came tumbling down.

We were at war.

And the world would never be the same.

Nearly 15 years later, Bob and I turned our car off the highway and wound our way through the rolling hills of the rural, central Pennsylvania landscape enroute to the town of Shanksville, population 245.

The countryside seemed unchanged. Stuck in time.

It was not difficult to imagine this remote part of the world as it had been 15 years earlier.

As it had been on a glorious September morning.

As it had been before these rolling hills became a final resting place for 40 heroes.

A permanent memorial now sits  atop one of these rolling hills, bearing the names of ordinary men and women who decided to go out fighting, on their own terms, in their own way. Their acts of bravery forced the terrorists to bring the plane down in a lonely, deserted field in central Pennsylvania, rather than our nation's capital. The ultimate sacrifice of 40 unsuspecting heroes undoubtedly spared countless lives.

Bob and I walked silently through the Visitor's Center, where an exhibit gave a detailed account of the day's events. Thanks to evidence recovered from the passengers' calls to home as well as the black box recorder, officials were able to conclude, with near certainty, what had happened during the final few moments of Flight 93.

Fifteen years later, people come. Every day they come. They come from near and far. Hundreds of people winding their way through the small farming communities of Somerset County, PA.

They come to listen. To learn. To understand.

They come to gaze at a peaceful field once ablaze with an act of war.

They come to pay their respect.

For on September 11, 2001, the beautiful, rolling hills of Somerset County, PA, became hallowed ground.



Sunday, August 21, 2016

College Move In Day

Trips to the supermarket to buy food for my small family rarely come with surprises. I set myself on autopilot, throwing the same items into the cart, week after week after week.

Eggs for Bob.
Chicken for me.
Bananas for my 19-year old daughter Melissa.
And on and on it goes until the cart overflows with a host of routine items to feed my creatures of habit.

This week, like so many others, I picked up my cart and headed straight for the produce section to pick out bananas for my daughter's breakfast eating pleasure.

But wait.

I came to a stop.

Realizing with a jolt that I no longer needed to buy bananas.

Realizing with a jolt that the moment I had dreaded for the past 19 years had finally, brutally, become reality.

My baby, my cherub has officially become a college student.

Melissa now lives in a tiny dorm room on the campus of American University in Washington, DC, located about three hours from our south Jersey home. At least until winter break....some 3,974 years away (or so it seems.)

Melissa and I are so close.

We talk. We share. We laugh. We argue. We annoy each other.

But we are so close.

I simply could not envision our home without her steady presence.

Throughout the summer I had imagined that move-in day would come complete with enough heart-breaking tears to empty a tissue factory.

Alas, t'was not the case.

Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your perspective) insane crowds and long lines coupled with "balmy" temperatures of 95+ degrees pushed any thoughts of an emotional farewell out of our minds.

Bob, Melissa, and I pulled up to the campus in a car bursting with books, decorations, laundry supplies, toiletries, photos, and what seemed like every article of clothing she has ever owned. In the car behind us my faithful and oh so patient step-daughter Jessica and her husband Brian transported Melissa's printer, storage containers, pillows, linens, towels, games, and their 12-month old baby - my grandson Miles.

We pulled up behind what seemed like a five mile line of cars, moving at approximately one inch per mile closer to their final destination - their child's residence hall. A kind volunteer informed us that we would most likely need to wait one to two hours in this car line from hell until we were able to unload the items that would transform Melissa's bare dorm room walls into her temporary home.

While Bob and I waited, the volunteer suggested we save some time by having Melissa walk over to the residence hall and register, advice she promptly heeded.

Lucky me! For the next hour and a half I had the fortunate opportunity to sit in the passenger seat of our car, inching along with a man  behind the wheel who desperately needed an overdose of valium.

"THIS IS REDICULOUS!" Bob exclaimed. "THERE HAS TO BE A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS!"

"It's ok Bob," I said in a lame attempt to soothe his nerves. "At least we are in the air conditioned car."

"HOW LONG DO WE HAVE TO WAIT?"

"We'll be there soon, sweetie."

"WE SHOULD GO PARK AND CARRY ALL OF HER STUFF ACROSS CAMPUS!"

"She has too much stuff Bob, we really just need to wait until we unload in front of the dorm."

"WHAT IS MELISSA DOING? SHE SHOULD COME BACK TO THE CAR WITH A CART AND UNLOAD HER STUFF!"

"There is a long line to register and a long line for the cart."

"WHAT IS THAT CAR IN FRONT OF US DOING? WHY ARE THEY STOPPED? WHY DID THEY TURN? HOW MUCH FARTHER DO WE HAVE TO GO? GO ASK SOMEONE! GO FIND OUT WHAT'S GOING ON"

One hour later as I tried my best to fight the urge to drug and restrain my husband, our car approached the elusive residence hall, where Melissa stood waiting for us. I unloaded her worldly posessions, only half of which fit into the cart. So, while Bob parked the car and Melissa took the cart to her room, I waited in the "balmy" weather, guarding the other half of her loot while hundreds of students and their harried looking parents weaved their own loot through the obstacle course of suitcases and carts that littered the narrow sidewalk.

Finally, we managed to get every last item out of both cars and into the wonderful air conditioned dorm room.

While Jessica and Brian attempted to stop the baby from grabbing at every electrical wire in the room, I helped Melissa unpack. Jessica, who lives a mere 30 minutes away, didn't stay long, promising to visit in a few day's time to take her sister shopping for items she might have forgotten.

Bob (who had regained his sanity) and I offered to take our cherub to dinner, but she wanted to decorate her walls, unpack, and get settled.  Caught between wanting to spend more time with my baby, and wanting to haul my aching, sweating body to the car and go home, I didn't object to her decision.

We exchanged hugs and said goodby, all of us feeling much too hot and tired to even consider getting emotional.

And that lack of emotion stayed with me through the overnight hours, and through most of the following day.

Until I got to the supermarket and realized I no longer needed to put bananas in the cart.

Until I realized she's no longer home.

Melissa, Bob, and me in her dorm room at American University.
Have a wonderful college experience Melissa! We love you!



Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Haunted Dorm Room

Day one of American University's two-day orientation for new students and their parents passed without incident. My daughter Melissa joined her peers for ice breaker activities and tours of the Washington, DC campus, while my husband Bob and I sat in a conference room for the better part of eight hours, learning about financial aid, campus security, and how to cope with letting go of our "baby."

The evening offered Melissa the chance to join a number of different social activities, capped off with an overnight stay in a dorm room. Parents were also invited to stay in the dorms, however we chose to spend the night with our daughter Jessica, her husband Brian, and our baby grandson Miles who live a short distance away in Virginia.

Day two of American University's two-day orientation also happened to be Melissa's 19th birthday, which unfortunately didn't exactly start on a celebratory note. Seems there were some uninvited guests staying in her dorm room....some guests of the "supernatural" kind. And to make matters worse, the girl who was supposed to share the dorm with her never showed up, leaving my poor cherub alone in this strange, unfamiliar place, lying awake until 5 am, listening to the frightening sounds of rattling door knobs and heavy footsteps.

Yes, of all of the evening events to choose from, my daughter had decided to join a campus ghost tour.

During breakfast Melissa shared the spooky tales of a college campus infiltrated by restless spirits, which included:
 - The ghost of a star football quarterback murdered by the team mascot
-  The sound of religious hymns that emanated from the bowels of a campus building erected on the   site of an old church
-  An old playground where, late at night, echoes of young voices served a lasting imprint of children at play long, long ago.

But wait.

The most chilling tale was yet to come.

Seems that one of the residence halls on American's campus played host to a nasty ghost...and of course it just happened to be the floor of the residence hall where my darling spent the night.

My husband and I looked at each other with skepticism. Surely these stories must simply be tall tales, urban legands passed from generation to generation.  After all, wouldn't the murder of a college football star have caused a media sensation?

But Melissa insisted that the upper classmen who served as their orientation leaders spoke the truth!

Not wishing to argue with my baby on her birthday, we merely shrugged and went on with our breakfast.

Much like day one, we split from our daughter as the kids headed for more fun and the parents shuffled back to the conference room.

As luck would have it, later that day two of the upper classmen who served as orientation leaders spoke to the parents, providing us with insight into college life from a student's perspective. As their presentation neared its end and the parents had exhausted all of their questions, Bob bravely raised his hand, determined to bring up one more important topic!

"My daughter went on the ghost tour last night and she told us about the murder of the star quarterback....is any of that stuff true?" he demanded.

The two girls looked at Bob...then looked at each other...then burst out laughing!

"Oh no, she believed us," they laughed with delight! "We made everything up!"

Feeling a bit relieved that the place where my daughter would be spending the next four years did not play host to a grisley murder, Bob and I nevertheless felt bad that Melissa had spent the entire night absolutely convinced that her new home was haunted.

When Bob and I explained that the supernatural stories were, indeed, tall tales made up by orientation leaders with a warped sense of humor. Her response came as no surprise.

"THAT IS SO MEAN!"

Alas, at 19, Melissa has evolved into a smart, confident adult, yet in so many ways, she is still a naive teen. She is aware of, but not really sure what lies beyond the "safety bubble" of our small suburban New Jersey town. Admitedly, part of that bubble came at the hands of her overprotective mother, who now has no choice but to let her face ghostly spirits, and everything else that college life has in store...on her own.

However, I know that my strong, amazing daughter will tackle each challenge, overcome each hurdle in her own time, in her own way as she leaves her small town (and her parents) behind in favor of new adventures in Washington, DC.

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



Sunday, July 10, 2016

It's Hard to be "Different"

It's been a difficult week.

Heck, it's been a difficult summer.

One can barely wake up without hearing about violence, murder, racism, anger, pain.

If this summer has proven one thing, it's that it's hard to be "different".

And by different I mean someone who sees themselves as not part of the majority, either because of skin color, religion, ethnicity, language, disability, sexual preference, gender identity, body shape.... I think you get the idea.

When you identify as different, people treat you as different. Even if their treatment is subtle, and meant without harm.

Still.

It reinforces what you know and feel.

That you're different.

Many years ago, my now college-age daughter Melissa accompanied a friend and her aunt on a summer outing to a book store. They were in their elementary school years, perhaps eight years old.

Melissa came home from the outing with a brand new book, a gift from her friend's aunt.

My daughter showed me the book, and I suspect my expression mirrored her thoughts.

"Mom," she asked? "Why did Jennifer's aunt buy me a book about Jewish holidays?"

Why indeed?

Did Jennifer's aunt intend any harm by giving Melissa that book?

Of course not!

Did she purchase the book out of generosity and kindness?

Absolutely!

So why did her actions rub me so wrong?

It would never occur to me to buy any of my daughter's non-Jewish friends a book about their holidays. So why did this woman feel compelled to gift that book to Melissa, who became aware of her minority status as one of the few Jewish children at school at quite a young age. While my daughter has always been proud of her religion, as an elementary school student she sought to avoid being labeled as "The Jewish Girl".

She merely wanted to fit in.

To be like everyone else.

But through the seemingly simple act of buying my daughter a book about Jewish holidays, the woman considered Melissa to be Jennifer's "Jewish friend."

She subtly labeled her as different.

And that label caused my daughter to question the gift, instead of embracing the women's kindness.

Yet, unlike Jennifer's aunt, not all subtle forms of labelling are filled with good intentions.

I speak of the callous board member who, during budget negotiations, uttered that horrible phrase "Jew em down", while unaware a Jewish employee sat in his midst.

I speak of the hospital volunteer who, unaware of my religion, complained how the Jewish patients were so pushy and demanding.

I speak of the teenage son of a friend who thought that telling my husband Bob and me jokes about the Holocaust was somehow ok.

I speak of the executive who, momentarily forgetting a Jewish employee sat in his office, sarcastically asked "Do Jews even realize that December 25 is Christmas day?" (Yes, we do.)

Subtle?

Yes?

Violent?

No.

But unrealistic stereotypes against anyone who is different can and have led to violence.

In a world where I have long hoped the lessons of the Holocaust will ensure that never again will people be tortured or killed because of being different, I mourn.

I mourn the death of three people gunned down by a neo-nazi on April, 13, 2014 at the Jewish Community Center of Kansas City. And my fear is all too real that my daughter, who frequents the Jewish Community Center in our area, will suffer the same fate.

I mourn the death of nine innocent people, gunned down by a crazed man hoping to start a race war on June 17, 2015 at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC.

I mourn the death of 50 Orlando souls who were gunned down because they dared to love.

I mourn the death of black males gunned down by the very law enforcement officials who are supposed to protect them.

I mourn the death of five innocent Dallas police officers, gunned down in a senseless act of retaliation.

I want to take action. I want to stop the violence. But I'm at a loss of what to do. Blogs and Facebook posts seem hardly enough. Prayers can only go so far.

Perhaps I'll lend my time and talents to a non-partisan organization that seeks to make the world a better place. I welcome suggestions from my readers.



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

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Melissa and the Police Car

An evening that started with a simple quest to take my 18-year old daughter Melissa to vote in her first presidential primary, ended with said daughter riding in the back of a police car.

But wait, I digress. Let's start at the beginning.

I left work without incident and proceeded to the drug store to pick up a few things. Upon my return to the car, I called Melissa to let her know I'd be there in ten minutes to take her to our local polling place.

Ho Hum. Still sounds like a fairly uneventful evening, right?

But wait...the plot thickens.

The familiar ding from my cell alerted me to an incoming text from our local police department, informing residents of a road closure thanks to a downed power line.

A storm had rolled through a few hours earlier so the news of a downed power line did not come as a total surprise. What did come as a surprise was the location of the downed line....on the road that I call home.

I called Melissa (while stopped at a red light) and asked her to go outside to see what had happened. Indeed, she informed me of a large police and fire department presence on our street. In fact, one of the officers gave her a friendly warning to stay away from the power lines. She asked the officer if I would be able to get onto our street, which can be accessed from two different crossroads, let's call them "Road A" and "Road B".

The officer confidently informed her that I would absolutely be able to turn onto my street from "Road B".

The officer lied.

I approached "Road B", only to find my path blocked by several representatives from the fire department.

I tried to explain that I lived on the closed road.

I tried begging.

I tried pleading.

I finally gave up.

Forced to turn around, I made my way back to "Road A", hoping this route would lead me onto my closed street.

At the intersection of "Road A" and the road I call home, several official looking people glared at passing motorist, just daring them to break through the barricade. When I dared turn my car onto the road I call home, the group of those official looking people held out their hands and demanded, "Where do you think you are going!?"

"I live on this road," I explained. "My address is 245."

They waved me through, but my luck did not last long.

I drove about a block, only to be greeted by a barricade, a number of uniformed police officers, and, much to my surprise, another car trying to get through. A car belonging to my husband Bob, who coincidentally had arrived home from work at the same time.

Bob made a u-turn, pulled up next to me, and rolled down his window.

"Lisa, they won't let us through, we have to go all the way back around to "Road B" to get to our house," he said.

"I just did that," I shared with exasperation. "They wouldn't let me through."

One of the police officers, overhearing our conversation, walked over and assured me that I would, indeed, be able to get through if I drove back around to "Road B".

"But I'm trying to pick up my daughter and go vote," I pleaded once again. "Can't I just drive through and get her."

"I'm sorry ma'am, the downed lines are right there, I can't let you through," came his firm response.

"Well, can't my daughter walk up the road to meet me here," I logically suggested.

"NO!" came his even firmer response. "It's not safe, we can't let anyone walk through."

Then the police officer very calmy said, "Everything is ok right now, but just as a precaution we evacuated 249 and 247, the two houses next to your house."

Wait.

WHAT?

Did he just say "evacuate"?

Suddenly everything had changed!

Even though the police officer had uttered the words, "everything is ok", what my deranged, over-protective mommy brain heard was, "MY HOUSE IS ABOUT TO GO UP IN FLAMES WITH MY DAUGHTER ALONE INSIDE."

"WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU ARE EVACUATING!?" I screamed. "YOU HAVE TO LET ME GET MY DAUGHTER!"

"Ma'am, I can't let you drive down the street, but everything is ok for now."

"THEN YOU HAVE TO GO GET MY DAUGHTER!" I demanded.  "GO! GO RIGHT NOW AND GET MY DAUGHTER!"

"Ma'am really everything is ok."

"GO GET MY DAUGHTER RIGHT NOW!"

I didn't care that I was screaming at a man of authority. It didn't occur to me for even a fraction of a second that I probably shouldn't give hysterical orders to a police officer who had the power to cart me off to jail.

My one thought.  My one and only thought. I MUST GET MY BABY TO SAFETY.

In the meantime, my "oh so calm" husband did not share my sense of urgency. "Lisa, stay calm, it's alright, everything is ok," came his attempt to comfort his lunatic wife. An attempt that went completely ignored because nothing stands in the way of a mother trying to rescue her child.

Finally, the police officer consented, realizing that it would be much safer to go get Melissa than to deal with her deranged mother.

He drove the short block to my house and pulled into the driveway where my cherub stood peacefully waiting. She happily climbed into the back seat and sent Snapchat photos to document her cool, albeit short ride.

And that's how an evening that started with our quest to vote ended with my daughter in the back of a police car.

The moral of the story? Don't ever take for granted your right to vote....even if downed power lines get in your way.  (Yes, we did finally make it to the polls.)

And don't ever, ever, ever stand in the way of a deranged mother!



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



Monday, May 30, 2016

Terror on the Turnpike

The first half of our seven hour drive home to southern New Jersey from Buffalo, NY can best be described as uneventful, routine, mundane.

The family visit for my niece's christening had been lovely, albeit quick.  Now, as we traveled east on the New York State Thruway, my 18-year daughter Melissa, with ear-buds firmly in place, rested her head against the back seat window and shut her eyes to the world. In the front, with my husband Bob at the wheel, we made small talk to pass the time.

My husband Bob snapped this incredible image of a storm
front approaching just east of Rochester, NY. Little did
we know these ominous clouds were a sign of things to come!
Storm clouds rolled in as the highway took us past Rochester, NY. However, a mere five minutes later we bid the dark skies goodbye.

A quick glimpse at my trusted weather app told me that the brief Rochester rain was part of a wide-spread system of powerful storms wrecking havoc across the midatlantic states.

Fortunately, the ominous clouds steered clear of the New York State Thruway, allowing us to continue on our journey, complete with a couple of potty breaks and quick pizza dinner.

As we inched towards the Pennsylvania border, Bob and I watched the sun disappear behind the cloud-filled western sky. Our eyes adjusted to the dark highway while the car pushed on.

The first drops hit the windshield as we entered the northeast extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, a road that gives motorist ease of access to the state's Poconos Mountains region and points further north.  Without worry, Bob flipped on the wipers to keep the windshield free of rain, which fell at a slow, yet steady pace.

Annoying?

Yes!

Dangerous?

Not really.  At least not yet.

Melissa slept on as we drove down the northeast extension. I continued to make small talk, hoping Bob wouldn't notice the fear I struggled to keep at bay. After all, a nervous wife in the passenger seat would do nothing to help him navigate this wet road made narrow thanks to never-ending construction.

Another quick look at the weather app radar revealed a large swath of red, indicating a violent storm immediately to our south.

I counted down the miles, hoping we would outrun this monster.

Alas, t'was not meant to be.

With a mere 60 miles left in what had become an arduous journey, the skies ripped open to unleash mother nature's fury.

Without warning, our car was engulfed by a massive wall of torrential rain that fell thick and fast, blinding everyone in its path.

Some cars decided to pull over, while others drove at a snail's pace.

Bob decided against either of these options, citing both as too dangerous. He remained calm while the storm continued to unleash its wrath, even though visibility had been nearly extinguished.

I could not see anything as the relentless storm became sentient, alive, ready to swallow us whole.

My entire being gave way to fear, then panic.

Inside this car was everything.

EVERYTHING!

My child, my husband.....my entire world.

Panic turned to terror as my hands went numb, I shook uncontrollably, and the sobs buried deep inside were set free.

Bob stroked my arm, assuring me everything would be okay, that we would make it home alive.

Indeed, at his words, the rain seemed to lessen in intensity, allowing us to safely exit the turnpike.

Slowly, the torrents gave way to a steady drizzle.

My shaking subsided.

I dried my eyes.

And my husband safely guided his precious cargo those last few miles through our neighborhood to the welcome embrace of home.

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Fun With FAFSA

 FAFSA, which stands for F***ing Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a wonderful document that allows you, by answering a few simple questions, to receive unheard of amounts of free money to send your child to college. When my husband Bob and I were faced with the prospect of filling out the FAFSA form, we shouted with glee.

Ever since my daughter Melissa informed American University that she would, indeed, accept their offer of admission, Bob and I spent many pleasant afternoons working on the FAFSA form. In fact, we were quite dissappointed when we finally hit "submit" because we no longer had the wonderful opportunity to type in our user name and password...to feel that rush of exhilaration watching the page load...to jump for joy when the pop up message informed us that our user name and password were wrong...to sing and dance with unbridled enthusiasm when, after resetting our user name and password for the 3,964th time, we were told that our user name and password were still wrong.

Yes, when we hit "submit" we were so, so sad, knowing we'd have to wait an entire year before we could relish, once again, the enjoyment that only the FASFA form can bring.

But wait!

As luck would have it, a letter arrived in the mail from American University. Turns out they needed additional paperwork in order to provide Melissa with an accurate financial aid package.

Bob and I popped the cork on the champagne!

Hooray!  We get a chance to work on the FASFA form again!!

The letter from American University informed us that we needed to submit the following information:

  • The federal indemnity doowackleshnort form 392100945556667 Section A, Section P, and Section QZ
  • The IRS 1962, 1963, 1978, 1984, 1998 federal gumpshum form section XL
  • The work enhancement student study worker's wages WT, WTH, and WTF form
  • The independent student aid challenge IRS suggested waiver wages inheritance muggle form 1080 ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Yippee!

We didn't have any worthwhile plans this weekend anyway!

1:00pm
Bob and I sit down at the computer with the following essentials:
  • All requested paperwork
  • Scanner
  • Stapler
  • Stapler remover
  • Vodka
  • Divorce Attorney
1:05pm
User name and password are incorrect

1:15pm
User name and password are incorrect

1:30pm
User name and password are incorrect

3:00pm
User name and password are incorrect

3:30pm
More vodka

4:00pm
"WHAT DID YOU DO WITH THE GUMPSHUM FORM?" exclaims Bob.

"It's right here," I calmly respond. "I removed the staples, scanned it, and sent it to my email."

"WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU REMOVED THE STAPLES! NOW HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW WHICH FORM GOES TOGETHER??!!" he shouts.

"It's not a problem," I say. "I put the gumpshum form over here because I already scanned it, now all you need to do is give me pages 4, 10, and 692 section A, Q, and L of the doowackleshnort form."

"DON'T PUT THE GUMPSHUM FORM OVER THERE, HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW WHERE IT IS IF YOU PUT IT OVER THERE??" shouts Bob in exasperation.

"I ONLY PUT IT OVER THERE BECAUSE I ALREADY SCANNED IT!" I exclaim, losing my patience.

"Oh, ok. well don't go moving things around," he says, trying to maintain control. "Now the doowackleshnort form wants an accounting of my income since 942 BC."

"No wait," I say, examining the form. "They want my income too, including the $350 I made as a junior counselor at Adventureland Day Camp in 1979."

"I am pretty certain they only want my income," he counters.

"I don't think so," I object, looking more closely at the form. "Look, it says: when in the course of human events it comes to pass that the borrower of the lending parent's student put her left leg in and shook it all about, then the diameter of the isosceles triangle shall include the guardian parent (s) income as reported on form ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUV."

"Right," says Bob with confidence. "That means they only want MY income!"

"I don't think so," I counter.

6:30pm
More vodka.

7:00 pm
Bob frantically searches through 952 piles of paper. "WHAT DID YOU DO WITH THE LETTER!?"

"WHAT LETTER!!??" I shout, about to pass out from starvation.

"THE LETTER FROM THE SCHOOL!" Bob shouts back in frustration.

"WHICH LETTER FROM THE SCHOOL. THERE ARE 22,000 LETTERS FROM THE SCHOOL." I ask, trying to refrain from my desire to swat him across the head.

"THE LETTER WITH THE INFORMATION! YOU KNOW THE ONE WITH THE NUMBERS!" comes his incoherent response. "THE FORM YOU LOST WHEN YOU INSISTED ON MOVING ALL OF THE PAPERS AROUND WHEN I TOLD YOU TO KEEP EVERYTHING TOGETHER!"

7:30pm
Sob hysterically. 

7:35pm
Get tissues.

8:00pm
Wake up the divorce attorney.

10pm
Hit "submit" and hope for the best.

Ah yes, the FAFSA form. I bet you can't wait until you have a college-age child so that you, too, can experience all of the love and joy that my husband and I shared this weekend.

In the meantime, if you need me, I'll be sitting in a fetal position in my home office, sucking my thumb, and trying to remember my user name and password.

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


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Seas of Change

I sat in the driver's seat, two hands on the steering wheel, one eye on the road, and one eye in the rear view mirror watching my 6-year old daughter  Melissa, whose non-stop tears fueled the overpowering ache in my broken heart.

As we drove onward down the road to change, the newly formed leaves on the trees served as a reminder that this right of passage had happened two months too soon.  Bidding a fond farewell to childhood classmates is a ritual that should take place in June....not April.

A bag full of sweets and home made cupcakes, remnants from the well-intentioned goodbye party, sat ignored on the seat next to Melissa, who clutched a small scrapbook filled with heart-felt notes and smiling faces of children I suspected she'd never see again.

Onward we drove, towards our new home, my new job, her new school....our new life.

I reassured Melissa we'd come back, we'd make plans, we'd visit....longing for her to believe my lies. For although the next chapter on our life journey was merely an hour to the south, new friendships would form and time would be scarce, making trips to our former home seem highly unlikely.

Sure enough, my husband Bob, Melissa and I settled in... and never looked back. Yet, more than a decade later, the pain of hearing my baby's sobs as she reluctantly said goodbye to her friends still echos in my heart.

Melissa's tears were a solemn reminder that my daughter does not like change.

The truth is..........neither do I.

When things are comfortable, and safe, and familiar  - I long for the stability that will keep change at bay.

I approach change as if standing on the deck of a rickety old boat lost in a squall.  The rollicking waves prevent me from standing up straight on equal footing, and I'm not quite sure if the seas will ever transition to the peaceful calm that defined my life before the storm.

Of course, the seas did eventually relent, however the calm that greeted my family came not from the familiarity I had left behind, but the wonderful new life that beckoned from a different shore.

Today, my daughter sits at the dining room table, diligently studying for a biology exam. High school will soon come to a close, and summer, with its promise of no homework for two full months, is almost within reach. Then it's off to college...and more change.

Much, much more change.

I often wonder, had I chosen not to accept the new job that took us on that tear-stained drive so long ago, would Melissa, now 18, be privileged to this life filled with family, friendship, and love?

Change can be full of wonder and delight, yet those concepts can be difficult to grasp while you are standing on deck, holding on for dear life. The seas are about to get restless again as move-in day at American University is less than four months away.

Over ten years ago, despite the sobs of a distraught six-year old, I made the decision to embrace the seas of change. And thanks to that decision, my baby is happy, well adjusted and far too willing to now embrace her own sea of change.

Even if I am not.

But I know, just as I knew over 10 years ago, that the storm clouds will fade, the seas will turn calm, and a new shore will beckon. A shore without my daughter by my side.

My daughter Melissa, 4th from left, is pictured with a group of friends during their senior class trip to Disney World.  Would she be so happy had I not embraced the seas of change over ten years ago?

*This story first appeared in April, 2013. It has been updated to reflect my new normal.





Sunday, April 3, 2016

Transitions

For one joyous week during the month of March, college students across the country happily board buses, planes, trains, and cars, full of anticipation at the thought of spending every moment of their seven day spring break with their parents friends.

Their mothers and fathers will wait anxiously for their arrival, listening for the familiar sound of their offspring's footsteps walking through the front door. They will throw their arms around their cherubs, weeping tears of joy, only to have said cherubs throw their bags down, grab some food, respond to a text, and run straight back out the door.

"It won't be that way with my Melissa," I firmly declare to a friend with a son in college.

She gives me a stare. A poor pitiful stare. A stare that women reserve for friends who are truly delusional.

"No seriously," I say, trying to convince myself. "Melissa and I are so close, she'll want to spend her break with me."

My friend replies with a laugh. A mirthless laugh.

"You'll see," she says.

Although I hate to entertain the notion, I have to admit she's probably right.

While I have approached each milestone of Melissa's senior year in high school with a sense of meloncholy, my daughter has approached each milestone with a mixture of relief and delight. Still to come are her senior class trip to Disney World, the Senior Prom, and then of course, graduation (sob) day.

We'll spend the summer shopping for new sheets, towels, and toiletries to transform a tiny dorm into Melissa's new home. We'll stress. We'll argue. We'll laugh. We'll hug.  We'll probably throw a tantrum or two as I try in vain to hold onto her childhood while she moves ever so closer to independence.

Come August, my husband Bob and I will pack up the car.  We'll drive to American University in Washington, D.C.  We'll help unload. We'll help set up.  We'll make sure she has money. We'll make sure she has food. We'll make small talk. We'll linger.  We'll hug. We'll hold back our tears.

We'll wave goodbye, thinking about the baby we held in our arms, the sweetheart we taught to ride a bike, the home work assignments and sleep over parties, chorus concerts, and high school musicals.

We'll get in the car and drive back to an empty house. We'll be overcome with sorrow, and overflowing with joy, content in the knowledge that our daughter is about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.

For despite the sadness, despite the tears, despite the emptiness, we'll know...we'll truly know, that we did good.

And we'll hold onto the hope, that small slimmer of hope, that when she comes home for break, she'll want to spend it with us!

My baby (on left) has evolved into a beautiful young lady (on right) who will soon be starting college (sob).

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Revenge of the Bat

Weekday evenings in winter are fairly uneventful inside the Weinstein household. I walk in the door after eight hours of work and immediately rip the professional attire off my weary bones in exchange for sweat pants and a t-shirt.

Following dinner, my husband Bob and I head to the Family Room to watch TV while my 18-year old daughter Melissa retires to the living room or her bedroom to tackle the latest senior year home work project.

After a couple hours, Bob tunes the tube to zombie flicks or election coverage (not much difference, I know).  Having no desire to watch either, I typically join Melissa in the living room, becoming one with my computer as Facebook fills the hours 'till bed.

As last Tuesday evening unfolded, our routine bore no difference to every other winter night. By 9 pm, I had digested all I could from my Facebook news feed and decided to head upstairs to read before bed. I stopped into the kitchen where I had a clear view of Bob, sitting comfy on his designated spot on the couch.

Before I had the chance to let him know that he could find me upstairs, my husband let out these now infamous words:

"Oh Crap!"

I took only a fracture of a second to realize why he had uttered the expletive. An unidentified creature with wings had taken up residence in the family room, circling and circling in search for blood!

Being the oh so brave, devoted wife that I am...I stayed by my husband's side so that we could tackle this crisis together as a calm, loving couple  I ran like a looney tune to the safety of the upper level of our home, charged into my daughter's bedroom, and slammed the door behind me.

"THERE'S A BAT IN THE HOUSE!" I exclaimed in response to Melissa's befuddled stare.

My thoughts turned to Bob, trapped downstairs with our new house guest. Oh well, logic dictated I must stay in my daughter's room until, um, let's see, the end of time?  Bob and I had enjoyed nearly 22 years together. We had a good run. It had to be this way.

But wait! Another crisis. In my haste to escape the death grip of our flying friend, I HAD LEFT MY PHONE DOWNSTAIRS.  I could let the bat take my husband, but no way would I part with my phone!

But wait! Crisis averted! Melissa had her phone.  My connection to the world had not been severed!

Much to her chagrin, I ripped the phone out of her hands and dialed my darlin', who, fortunately was still alive downstairs.

My "brave" husband cowered by the front door, keeping a sharp eye on the house guest from hell, who had decided to move the party to the kitchen.

This was not the first time the Weinstein family had encountered a noctural terror. A bat had entered our dwelling in the summer of 2002, a story you can read by clicking here.

You would think our previous encounter with bats would have boosted our confidence.

Yeah...not so much.

From the safety of Melissa's bedroom, I gave Bob instructions, such as "swat it with a broom".

Only one problem. The broom lived in the pantry, located in the kitchen, which was now under complete control of Mr. Bat.

Time to move onto Plan B.

"Open the front door," I suggested, still giving instruction via phone from my daughter's barricaded bedroom. "Maybe the thing  will fly out."

Bob dutifully obeyed, but our guest had no interest in escaping the Weinstein's hospitality. It flew back into the Family Room and promptly disappeared, perhaps plotting its next move to annihilate our family.

"I don't know where it went," shouted Bob as he creeped into the now bat-free kitchen and finally grabbed onto the broom.  Acting much braver than I felt, I slowly opened Melissa's bedroom door and made my way towards the lower level of the house, stopping halfway down the stairs. I figured it I didn't actually set foot on the lower level, the bat would leave me alone.

Mr. Bat, in the meantime, had resumed flight in the Family Room. Trying to think logically while my husband swatted at the creature (to no avail) with the broom, I called animal control. No luck. They were closed.

At a complete loss, I mentally ran through my options:
1. Attempt to go to sleep and call animal control in the morning, content with the knowledge that a creature from hell had taken over the lower level of my home.
2. Go to a hotel.
3. Burn down the house.
4. Call the police.

I chose option 4.

The officer who showed up at our front door a few minutes later could not have been nicer. I felt terrible for calling, knowing that surely there were more important things for a police officer to do than help the wacky Weinsteins rid their house of a bat.

He shrugged off our concern, assuring us that bat-calls are a fairly routine occurence for our local police department.

With the calm born out of his training, the officer used a tupperware bowl to gently trap the bat (who now clung to our fireplace) and set it free outside, where it belonged!

Crisis averted!

As I fell asleep that night, I wondered, did our house guest know about our previous bat adventure that humid summer evening some 14 years ago. Did it know that I killed his cousin with a can of Raid? Had it come back, all these years later, to seek revenge?

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!


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PS - this is my 200th blog post! Thanks to all of you for visiting my blog and reading my stories. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Melissa's Beauty Parlor

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

Brush.
Comb.
Hair gel.
Hair spray.
Pony tail holders.
Barretts.
Bobby pins.
Ribbons.
Lipstick.
Eye shadow.
Foundation.
Uncomfortable chair.
And of course......my 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 mind....you 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.

Sigh.

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 18-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, youth group, the upcoming chorus concert, friends, the senior class trip, prom, graduation, college, and of course, boys.   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.

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

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Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Last Show

My husband Bob and I first enrolled our daughter in day camp at the tender age of six. While we were thrilled with the prospect of our offspring learning to swim, play softball, and create arts and crafts projects for display in my office, Melissa did not share our enthusiasm.

My cherub would have preferred to spend July and August taking advantage of one of the most important inventions of modern times (air conditioning). However, we had no choice. Bob and I both held full-time jobs, and full-time sitters were hard to find.

So my daughter suffered for seven long summers before we finally lamented. As a middle school student, she had matured far beyond the age where we could force her to board the bus for camp. Yet passing the time between seventh grade's end and the start of eighth by staring at the TV was simply not an option.

Enter an unlikely advocate in our quest for a more meaningful summer....Melissa's history teacher. When not spending his time educating apathetic adolescents about ancient Egypt, Mr. "D". served as Director of a summer drama camp production of The Music Man....and Melissa's friends couldn't wait to audition!

My daughter's excitement evoked memories of my senior year in high school when I joined the ensemble cast (despite my lack of ability to sing or dance) of an obscure musical called "The Boyfriend".  The experience earned its place among the best of my teenage years, and I couldn't wait for Melissa to capture that feeling.

I became a member of a diligent group of "Drama Mamas" who supported the show by selling ads in the program book, constructing the set, and staffing the refreshment table during intermission.

Forced to dress in early 19th century garb and placed unceremoniously in the back behind dozens of more experienced actors for every ensemble scene, Melissa nevertheless embraced the adventure and couldn't wait for more!

Bob and me with our "Maid" Melissa
During 8th grade she earned the title of "Maid" in her middle school production of Annie, and as a high school freshman, she rocked out as part of the cast of Footloose. 

But the pinnacle came during her sophomore year when her school took on the ambitious task of performing the classic broadway musical, Les Miserable.

When Melissa shared this exciting news, I admit to feeling a small amount of skepticism. How could a group of teens pull off such a powerful, professional musical where the entire story is told through song?

At the end of the day, the director of Les Mis cast her as a girlfriend of one of the students. It gave her the chance to showcase her beautiful voice as part of a group of young ladies singing a sorrowful melody about the sensesless loss of life of the young, idealistic students turned soldiers.

Aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins came
to see Melissa in Les Mis
All told, Les Mis broke records for the high school's show. Each of the six sold out performances found the cast bowing to thunderous applause by an audience on their feet in awe and admiration.

In her junior year,  Melissa joined the ensemble cast of Oklahoma, another chance to share the stage with the castmates and crew who had become the closest of friends.

Fast forward to February 27, 2016 when the curtain closed on the school's final performance of the fun-filled, whimsical Disney classic, Peter Pan.

It was the last show.

Melissa's last school show.

The last school show for all of the seniors who traded in countless carefree evenings and weekends in favor of long, tedious rehearsals. The last school show for the seniors who juggled homework and tests and lack of sleep while giving 100 percent to their passion for performing.

The last school show for the seniors who have evolved into incredibly talented actors and actresses in their own right, many of whom will go on to study musical theater in college.

The last school show for the moms and dad who spent countless frigid evenings waiting in their cars for their kids to emerge from late rehearsals.

The last school shows for the moms and dads who helped their kids learn their lines and practice their songs.

The last school show for the moms and dads who sold candy, built sets, and bought tons of tickets for relatives far and wide.

The last school show for the moms and dads who came to every performance, who watched with delight and wonder for that shining moment when their child took the stage - no matter how large or small the part.

The last school show for the moms and dad who supported, invested, and loved the experience with a passion that riveled that of their kids.

Next year at this time I am sure that Melissa will come home from American University in Washington, DC where she'll be studying communications and public relations. I'm sure she'll want to see the school show, and there's a chance I might go see it too.

But it won't be the same.

It will never be the same.

For the show has ended...and it's time to move on.

The seniors of Shawnee High School's production of Peter Pan.
Melissa, who played a Lost Boy, is in the first row, far right, wearing the white baseball hat.

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Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Slide Show on Plaza Place

I cried when I heard the news.

My beloved grandparents were moving to Atlantic City.

Sure, it was only a 90 minute drive from our home in the northeast section of Philadelphia, but to a 10-year old girl, Atlantic City might as well have been on the opposite coast.

"We'll never get to see you!" I wailed, not realizing how very, very wrong I would be.

My grandparents' cozy, one-bedroom apartment on the 12th floor of a beach-front high rise became host to my family more often than I could ever have imagined.  The building, called Plaza Place, was so named not because it boasted rich and famous tenants, but because it was built on a street of the same name.

We certainly visited during the colder months, but it was those summer days...those warm sweet summer days, that captured our fancy.

My older sister Bev and I spent our adolescent Plaza Place days flirting with the cute teenage lifeguards at the pool or helping our little brother Steven build sandcastles on the beach. Evenings in 1970's pre-casino Atlantic City brought everyone to the boardwalk, the place for parents to see and be seen while their kids played skeeball at dozens of arcades or rode the coaster at the now defunct Million Dollar Pier.

But the best part of a trip to my grandparents' apartment?

The slide show!

After one of my grandmother's delicious dinners, the family would relax for a bit before heading to the boardwalk. That's when Bev and I begged my grandfather to bring out the slide projector.

He pretended to object at first, but Bev and I knew we would always get our way. He'd set up the screen, pull out the projector, place the slide deck on top, all the while hiding the twinkle in his eyes.

Instead of developing his film into the more traditional photo album-ready prints, my grandfather chose to have his pictures made into thousands of slides, and ninety percent of them contained what I considered to be incredibly boring images of vacation destinations from exotic locales across the globe.

However, my grandfather took delight in "secretly" placing family photos at the end of each vacation slide deck. That meant we were forced to politely sit through what felt like 3,794 images of Russia or Spain or Portugal or Egypt. We waited in anticipation, listening to that distinctive "kachunk" sound the projector made when my grandfather pressed the button to advance to the next slide. We never knew which images would appear on the screen. Pictures of Bev and me holding our infant baby brother, pictures of us frolicking in the ocean, pictures of birthday parties, dance recitals, holiday dinners...he had them all. Precious memories placed strategically at the end of each deck.

Today those memories are stacked unceremoniously amid dozens and dozens of boxes of slides bathed in decades of dust and grime inside my parents' garage.

Lost memories hidden in slides that are impossible to see without a projector and screen.

Lost memories that someday, someday, I'll find a way to transfer to prints.

Not surprisingly, there are very few photos of my grandfather hidden amongst those slides, for he took pride in his skills behind the camera, not in front. When a devastating stroke took its toll, my grandfather passed his treasured Nikon to me.

As a young adult, I used my grandfather's gift to capture autumn's spendor, spectacular sunsets, and scenic gardens in spring-time bloom. But I soon realized what I longed to capture belonged not to nature, but to my heart.  I captured photos of the college friends who joined with me on the journey through our 20s, where fun began when the work day ended as night clubs held promise for finding our future Mr. Right.

I captured photos of an adorable guy named Bob whose title soon changed from boyfriend to husband.  I captured photos of a newborn baby girl named Melissa....a toddler at play...a pre-teen frolicking with friends in the ocean...birthday parties, dance recitals, holiday dinners....I had them all.

Today, instead of viewing treasured family photos on a screen in my grandparents' Plaza Place living room, I can simply scroll through life's moments conveniently stored on my phone. Yes, the technology has changed, but the time-honored tradition of reliving my memories has not.

In the coming months, I'll add photos of a high-school graduation to those memories....and before long, bittersweeet images of college move-in day.

Perhaps, just perhaps, when my "baby" is tucked away in a distant dorm, that's when I'll finally find the time to tackle the ardous task of transferring those slides to prints.

And while my daughter embraces her exciting future, I will embrace my distant past.... where summer nights found my family gathered in a cozy living room to watch the slide show on Plaza Place.

Me (in the orange coat) with my sister Bev and our beloved grandmother Ann.
One of thousands of pictures stored in my grandfather's old slides.
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