Category Archives: Love

To My Son, One Month After

Dress rehearsal. No cameras allowed on the real day.

By the time you read this, it will have already slipped into past tense.

I will have already sat in synagogue and listened to him chant from the Torah.

It’s a little surreal, eighteen months of talking about it and suddenly, it will be over.

At the time, I wasn’t sure what to say.

Because I didn’t know how I would feel.

Everyone always talks about the party, the theme, the food, the DJ.

But for me, the most amazing stuff happened in the synagogue, hours before.

At one point, our family stood on the bimah together, facing the Torah scrolls, the congregation at our backs. We had just finished singing and the rabbi whispered, “Now turn and face front.”

This was taken right after the “glow moment.”

As we all turned, the room came into focus. We woke that morning to a stunning blue-skies day, as we stood in shul, the sun streamed through the stained glass windows.

From my vantage point, everyone’s head seemed to be glowing, especially the men’s heads underneath the neon green yarmulkes Tech had selected for the day. I saw every row filled with people — our people — family and friends and members of the community.

It felt like G-d was touching our little corner of the earth.

I thought back to eighteen months earlier, when we learned that Tech’s bar mitzvah was going on to be on June 23, 2012, how my husband took two giant steps backward.

“No way,” Hubby put his hand on his forehead. “I made my bar mitzvah on June 23rd. In 1979.”

My son was going to become a bar mitzvah and stand on the same bimah where my husband made his bar mitzvah thirty-three years earlier.

It was definitely beshert, meant to be.

And it felt a little bit magical.

Tech’s Hebrew name is Abbe Reuven, after two of his great-grandfathers. And, on his bar mitzvah day he received his tallit (traditional prayer shawl) from one grandfather and his other grandfather (my father) presented him with a tallit bag which had belonged to his father: these are ancient rituals, traditions passed down from one generation to to the next.

Our son is the walking embodiment of our faith. He has always been proud to be Jewish. He has never complained about going to Hebrew School, the way most some kids do. Each summer he heads to Jewish camp, and he says his favorite place there is at the waterfront, by the fire circle, during Friday night services.

Tech takes Jewish Law seriously, and — as he said during his d’Var (personal reflection) during his bar mitzvah — he truly wishes everyone followed the 10 Commandments. He feels these rules were designed to keep people out of trouble with themselves, family, friends, and neighbors, and he believes if we look at the lessons of the Torah, we can figure out how to stay out of trouble and live in peace with one another.

As he stood before a congregation of over 200 people, I was amazed by his composure.

I have always said Tech has an “old soul.” It is like some 93-year old Jewish guy died and on his way out, his soul went straight into our newborn. Tech has always understood the important things in life. He is comfortable in his own skin and with who he is, regardless of whatever others think.

[I expect to get to that place. You know, like any day now.]

I don’t pretend to know where Tech is going.

He is still becoming.

All I know is that if you can get up and sing (and speak) in front of hundreds of people at the age of 13, you can do anything.

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Helplessly Hoping David Crosby Notices Me

Back in May, Kevin Haggerty asked an intriguing question in a blog post: “If you could talk to the you of 5-10 years ago, what would you say to yourself?” (Both Leanne Shirtliffe and Jessica Buttram wrote a gorgeous letters to their 20-year selves. Kevin later went further back and wrote a letter to his 2-year old self.)

I, of course, had to go in a different direction.

Instead of talking to myself, I decided to write a letter to David Crosby in December of 1967.

In real life, I would have been 1 month old. But for the purposes of this exercise, I am going to ask you to suspend your disbelief and please pretend I am 21 years old. You know, so this doesn’t get any creepier than it already is.

• • •

Loved him then…

Hi David. I know that you have this thing for Joni Mitchell and everything, but the thing is that I have been crushing on you for a really long time. When you sing “Guinnevere,” I tremble.

Wait, you might not have written that song yet.

Let me check.

No, you didn’t write it until 1969.

But that’s good.

Because now I’m sure that when you sing about how Guinnevere has “green eyes, like yours / lady, like yours,” I am certain you have always been talking about me.

And when you wrote “Triad,” I know you didn’t really want to have a ménage a trois. You were just restless. You wanted out of the Byrds. You were just pushing the envelope. It was the era. Everyone was all about free love and stuff. I like to push the boundaries, too. Everyone once in a while I like to be naughty. Sometimes I sunbathe topless in my backyard or dance on tabletops in bars.

But that Joni? She’s just going to hurt you, David. She’s going to fool around with Graham Nash and Jackson Browne and a lot of other people, too. Because she’s a hot chick with a cool vibe and a guitar. And she is ambitious, David. She’s like a wild horse: beautiful — but you are not going to get that one to settle down.

I know that there are going to be some tough times for you. Unwelcome events like car wrecks which will leave you wanting to escape. I know you will want to pull away from everyone during these times. That you will seek comfort in needles. And being “Wasted on the Way” might work for a time, but I would follow you into the “Cathedral” and hold you while the demons swirl around us.

I know you love to sail. You have seen “The Southern Cross,” floated all along “The Lee Shore,” and have seen time stop on the “Delta.” I’m a Scorpio, a water sign: the most passionate sign in the horoscope. I love to write the way I imagine you love to compose music. I understand the magic of putting words together, how even cigarette smoke can smell beautiful sometimes – if you lay it down just so.

Oh, David, if you pick me, I would dance for you — the way I have since 1982.

So pick me, David.

Let me be your “Lady of the Island.”

Your “Dark Star.”

I’ll be “Helplessly Hoping” forever.

Love him now.

The last time I saw you perform, you recognized me. You waved, whispered to Graham, and then you dedicated “Guinnevere” to me.

“To the girl in white,” you said.

So I’m telling you, David, that I’ll be at CMAC on June 12th, wearing white – along with my magic beads — like I always do.

And when I smile, you’ll know it’s for you.

Only for you.

If you were going to write a letter to someone famous upon whom you’ve always crushed, to whom would you write? And what would you say?

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How Could We Have Known?

Who knew, this person would become ...

He was tentative. A boy who

walked ahead but

always looked back to be sure of me.

At night, his pinky-finger

curled neatly beneath his chin,

He was gentle.

Too gentle, we worried.

He didn’t like team sports, games with balls or pucks.

He said they were not games.

That games were supposed to be fun.

That some sports were mean.

“There’s too much, too fast,” he said.

“And so much yelling.”

Still, we made him try.

Made him put on uniforms.

Made him get on the field.

On the court.

On the ice.

We told him to have fun.

To get dirty.

And he came home, quietly peeled off his outer layer

and (without complaint), he took a scrap of soap

to wash his hands.

He was delicate, a white moth fluttering against the night window.

But he knew something that we didn’t.

He knew it with certainty, something

we could have put all our faith into.

If we had only been listening.

He knew

That he would grow into himself.

... this person?

This piece was written for Galit and Alison who asked us to share the “MEMORIES WE CAPTURE.”

Note: I am thrilled to announce that I actually was the lucky winner in the “Memories Captured” contest, and I can now select any image that I love and have it transformed into a  16″ x 20″ canvas from Canvas Press! Yay! Can’t wait to show you the results!

Lessons From Splinters

Splinter removal is serious business in our house

Many Junes ago, after swimming all afternoon with friends in a pool that was nestled behind a tall fence on the grounds of the apartment complex in which my grandparents lived, I decided to pay my grandmother a visit.

My decision to visit was not a completely selfless act. The ice-cream man had come and gone, and I had forgotten to bring money to go to the 7-11 down the street, so I was crazy hungry and figured my grandmother would make me some of her fabulous french fried potatoes.

To get to my grandparents’ apartment, I could have walked on an asphalt road, but I generally opted for the short-cut across a broad expanse of grass that had been allowed to grow tall and wild. The prickly weeds made quite the obstacle course, and I always made a game of zigzagging from one patch of yellow flowers to another.

On that particular day, as I raced across the field barefoot, I stepped on something that made me look around to see if I had landed on a discarded cigarette. Alas, there were no burning embers, just a partially squashed yellow-jacket clinging to me, his stinger nicely embedded into the arch of my foot.

Midway between the pool and my grandparents’ apartment, I alternately limped and hopped across the grass. It was an eternity. The grass grew taller as I walked; the sun burned my shoulders. Eventually, I hobbled up the three flights of stairs to my grandparents’ apartment and knocked on the brown door marked simply with the number “7”.

I knew my grandmother would be home.

When I told her what had happened, she looked nervous. I showed her where the stinger was lodged and asked her if she could, maybe, get it out. A pre-teen at the time, I could tell from the look on my grandmother’s face that she would not be able to help me. Rather than get upset, I simply asked for some tweezers – which she ran to retrieve. Try as I might, I couldn’t get that pesky stinger out. I asked my grandmother for a needle and some ice, and while she obliged, she turned her head as I drove the needle into my own foot, digging around for the elusive stinger.

Eventually, victory was mine and, the stinger – pinched between the tips of the borrowed tweezers and no bigger than the sliver of hair – was inspected. Sure I bled a little bit, but as I rubbed antibiotic ointment on the area and put on a little Band-Aid, I felt strangely euphoric, crazy proud that I’d been able to take care of business, independent of adult help. As I devoured the french fried potatoes my grandmother set out before me, I remember feeling that I needed to rely more on myself, a simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying realization.

I haven’t needed tweezers or a needle again as I have managed to remain splinter free for nearly 30 years.

Until this past Monday night.

Monday night, I walked around the house doing what mothers do. I was cleaning up, making sure everything was where it was supposed to be, checking that all laundry was in the bin, and taking inventory of what food would need to be purchased during the week. Basically, I was on the prowl for misplaced K’Nex, unplugged gadgets, and dirty underwear. That’s when I felt it.

I screamed out loudly and uncharacteristically enough that Hubby and Monkey called out in unison: “Are you okay?”

“I stepped on something,” I said attempting to balance gracefully on my left foot while trying to check out what was going on with the bottom of my right. Instead of awaking my inner White Swan, I succeeded in recreating a pretty pitiful imitation of an uncoordinated  pink-flamingo with a nerve palsy. Finally, using a chair for balance, I inspected the sole of my foot, where I saw a perfectly black and tiny, round something-or-other lodged in my heel.

Stooopid graphite!

I did what had worked before. I went straight for the needle. I dipped the pointed tip into rubbing alcohol and got to digging, but I couldn’t get anything out. I didn’t know what I might have stepped on, but that same stinging heat had returned. A body remembers things.

I called to my husband. “What is it?” he asked.

I have no idea, I said, “But I can’t get it.”

Hubby put on a headlamp.

“We may have to get you some lidocaine or something,” he said. “I don’t know if I can poke around without hurting you.”

“Just get it,” I said.

So Hubby took the needle and the tweezers and dug around for a good fifteen minutes, peeling away layers of skin and blotting blood, trying to grasp the foreign object which kept crumbling into dark fragments each time he announced he had it.

“Do you think it’s a rock?” I asked.

He shook his head.

“Do you think it’s a twig?”

Silence.

“Do you think I’m going to die?”

“You know what I think?” Hubby asked. “I think you stepped on a pencil.”

Great, I thought of my ironic obituary.

Teacher steps on pencil, dies of lead poisoning.

How rich.

“What happens if you have lead in your body?” I asked.

Hubby kept digging, “They don’t use lead in pencils anymore. These days, they use graphite.”

“Even in Ticonderogas?” I asked nervously, “Because those are really good pencils. You’re sure? Graphite?”

Hubby ignored me.

Awwwww, shizzle sticks.

“We have to get it out because you could get an infection. And I can’t get it because it keeps breaking.”

So I did what any woman who does not want to spend the next eight hours at the hospital would do. I gave my husband carte blanche. “Don’t worry about how much I complain. Or scream. Or bleed. Just dig.” (Oh, and be a sport and try not to be bothered by the fact that I am asking you all the questions that I just asked you – again. And that I’m filming you. It’s for my blog.)

Eventually, Hubby was the victorious and removed the slim sliver of graphite from my foot. Seriously, there was no way I was ever going to get that thing out by myself. And you know what, it’s nice to know there is someone you can rely on in times of need. Not like I didn’t know that before, but sometimes it’s nice to be reminded.

So anyone think it is hot to have the tattoo of a tiny, black circle on your heel?

‘Cuz, you know, I’ve got one.

Also, if you are looking to find me between now and September, I’m the one wearing flip-flops. Everywhere.

How do you do with splinters? And would you trust your spouse to do the deep probing?


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Lessons on Valentine’s Day

Early 20th century Valentine's Day card, showi...

Image via Wikipedia

Picture me in third grade, roller skating with a certain someone special. Yummy Boy Billy is shorter than I am, but he is an awesome skater, and we are zooming around the rectangular gymnasium to The Bay City Rollers’ (what else?) “Saturday Night.” Suddenly, Yummy Boy decides to cross his right skate over his left on the turn. He falls, dragging me down with him. I was wearing my favorite pair of Levis, and they tore at the knee. I was so pissed. It was over before it started.

Fast forward to high school, a much beloved boyfriend got me one of those Cabbage Patch dolls for Valentine’s Day. Had I asked for a Cabbage Patch doll? No. Those suckers were creepy. (Still are.) But he gave me one, and in exchange for his gift, I gave him tongue. ‘Nuff said.

In college, I dated a guy who insisted that Valentine’s Day was an excuse for capitalist pigs to convince the masses they needed to buy ridiculous items to convince their companions of their undying love. Yeah, he was a cheap bastard. Our first Valentine’s Day together, he bought me a slice of pizza. For our second Valentine’s Day, he bought me a pencil with a heart eraser on the end of it. (Was he frickin’ kidding me?) For our third Valentine’s day, he bought me a fish tank. Why? Because he wanted fish. Still, it was better than nothing, and the bubbler turned out to be a lovely, relaxing way to fall asleep. We stayed together for one more year (what was I thinking?) but I believe things actually ended on or near Valentine’s Day, so he found a way to get out of that rather nicely. Oh, and when things went south, the fish tank stayed with him. Nice.

My knight riding a white ass.

Husband is much better at Valentine’s Day. When we were in the “I-so-want-to-impress-this-woman” phase of our relationship, he made an amazing dinner at his friend Brian’s house. (Okay, maybe Brian made the dinner, but I’m sure Husband helped). We ate escargot and filet mignon and a green salad. And we drank wine. It should be noted that this was around the time that I punted a wineglass across Hubby’s living room floor causing it to smash against a wall into a zillion little pieces and, as an added bonus, coat the wall in a fabulous shade of blood-red. You would think someone would have thought to hand me a plastic glass, but no. That was the Valentine’s Day that I smashed an irreplaceable wine glass (hand blown in Germany and borrowed from Brian’s mother) against Brian’s stereo. (For all you young’uns out there, a stereo is a device we old folks used to use to play our music.) Anyway, Hubby wasn’t mad at me. Brian’s mother probably was, but Hubby made me feel okay about being human.

Over the years, Hubby has brought me flowers and made me breakfast. We’ve gone skiing, seen concerts, done great dinners. Lots of stuff. I don’t know what we’re doing this year, but Hubby did teach me that I am worth slightly more than the cost of a slice of pizza or a pencil. And for that, I am grateful.

I am also grateful to know that I do not have to work that hard as Hubby is genuinely happy with a bag of York Peppermint Patties – and a little tongue. ‘Nuff said.

My Annual Birthday Poem: A Terribly Self-Indulgent, Truly Narcissistic Post

Today is my birthday. I’m um… a year older than I was last year. 😉

Every year, for as long as I can remember, my parents have sent me a birthday card. Generally, my card arrives about two weeks early. This year’s card arrived on November 11th, so they are getting closer.

Inside the card, my mom always tells me that I am beautiful, that she remembers my birth as if it were yesterday, (I’ll bet she does), and she wishes me happiness, good health and good luck.

My father always writes me a poem. Well, technically, they are written an anonymous poet, whose handwriting just so happens to look exactly like my father’s script. Since nobody writes anymore, I have come to cherish these little ditties that my father (I mean, “anonymous”) pens for me.

This year’s poem reads:

There once was a girl named Schuls
Who didn’t care much for jewels
Her greatest wish
Was for people to be good in English
And follow the grammar rules.

And it’s true: I don’t care much for diamonds or pearls or rubies or emeralds or gold. And I do wish everyone would walk around with his or her grammar style-book at all times (just in case of an “affect/effect” emergency). But my greatest wish is that my parents stick around for a really long time – at least another hundred years – and that they keep sending me their fabulously goofy cards once a year. At least two weeks early. Their continued wackiness makes getting older a little easier.

Do you have a favorite birthday ritual?

The Blessing of the Ugly Casserole Dish

photo by Stacy Lynn Baum @ flickr.com

A little nostalgia, if you will indulge me. My husband and I attended a wedding this past Saturday night: Fifteen years and two days after our own wedding day. The day after we were married, as my new husband and I were opening our wedding gifts, we quickly noticed someone had given us a used casserole dish. It was yellow and chipped; it was even a little dirty. I ranted: “Who would give us a used dish?!” I was astonished and, frankly, pretty pissed.

Then I read the card.

The casserole dish had come from a distant aunt who was in her early 90s at the time, and quite ill. Still, Aunt Bea wanted to send us something. Her husband, whom she had loved dearly, had passed away by then and she was alone. In her beautifully written penmanship, Bea explained that a dear friend had given her (and her new husband) that very casserole dish that I now had before me over fifty years earlier. She apologized about the chips and dings, but pointed out that the dish had seen her family through the good years and the lean years. That casserole dish had fed them through The Great Depression, fed their children and grandchildren. She told me that – while she no longer cooked her own meals – she still cherished the dish, but now she wanted me to have it.

Suddenly, everything changed. I no longer hated the old, used casserole dish; I cherished it. It was infused with so much meaning, and over the years I used it all the time. I always put sweet things in it: apple crisp or blueberry cobbler. So many yummy things.

Not too long ago, my casserole dish split into two pieces as I carefully washed it in the sink. It was old and fragile. Its time had come. Nevertheless, I wept. Who knew that something that I had thought represented such a thoughtless gesture would become one of my most precious possessions? It was hard to throw away the pieces.

Now whenever my husband and I attend people’s weddings — while we don’t give them something used — we nearly always give the couple a hand-thrown casserole dish, usually one made by my husband’s uncle, Earl Jacobson, a talented, local potter, and we attach a note explaining the story about the casserole dish we received on our wedding day. We always wish the bride and groom well and hope that — in the very least — they always have a pot to cook in. (Then we stick a check inside!)

It is amazing how one’s perspective can quickly change when presented with the right lens through which to view things. Ugly things can become beautiful; things that seem like curses can be blessings in disguise. Aunt Bea taught me that sometimes my eyes lie. Sometimes people have to go deeper and see with their hearts.

What is something you have unexpectedly come to cherish?

Lessons in Losing It: The Sequel

photo by thetechbuzz @ flickr.com

A few entries back, I wrote about how I got my son through a mini-freak out session when he thought he lost a 544 page hardcover public library book. I explained how I had pulled out all the stops and used my best parenting skills to talk him off the proverbial ledge and to teach him perspective.

Last week, something happened to my stupid iPhone which resulted in the voice activation feature to accidentally turn on. I don’t have a clue as to what series of keys I may have pressed, and I’d like to know so I never do it again, because suddenly this computer generated female voice – let’s call her iJill – is shouting all kinds of commands at me in her terrible and very unstoppable voice: “Settings. General. Settings. Settings. Settings. On. Settings. iPod. Email. Settings…”

I fiddled with my phone, which made iJill furious and the screen locked up on me. I tried turning the phone off and doing a soft return. It was all for naught, when the phone turned on again, iJill was still shouting at me, my screen would not move and, I started to lose it. Here, I’d just come home from a fabulous vacation where I’d seen elk and bats and fox and lizards and butterflies; I’d climbed rocks and ridden horses; I’d flown in a 6 person airplane over the Colorado River and then floated down the Colorado River on a pontoon raft. Suddenly all that serenity disappeared because there was unpacking to be done, groceries to be purchased, laundry to be cleaned – and, frankly, I just needed my phone to stop shouting at me.

I started losing my mind. I think I was actually pulling my hair and screaming at the phone to shut up.

“Mom…” my son said placing a hand on my arm.

“Not now, Cal…” I said, pretty emphatically.

“Mom…” he continued relentlessly. “…I’m going to give you the worst case scenario…”

I looked up. Because, honestly, how could I not look up? He was using my lesson against me!

“Mom,” he said, “Your cell phone is broken.”

Oh. My. God.

“You have food and clothes. We have cars that work and air conditioning to keep us cool. Plus, we just took a great vacation and no one is sick or dying. And a lot of people love you. We have other phones, and you always say that you didn’t even get a cell phone until you were 32 years old…”

Ooh. Snap! He got me. He played every card. Basic needs. Check. Health. Check. Luxury items. Check. Love. Check. He even played the cell-phone card.

Instant perspective.

And honestly, I had to giggle a little because iJill was still babbling nonsense on the table, “iPod, iPod, Accessories. Settings. General. Settings. General. Settings. Settings…” and the world just seemed a little bit funnier. My son grinned at me, his freckled-face tilted to the side. Sometimes the student is the teacher, and my li’l guy continues to teach me near daily.

(NOTE: Child also reminded me that I have the Apple Protection Plan on my iPhone and that the Apple Care people are there to help me 24/7. And he was right again. So after one quick phone call, within 10 minutes, iJill was silenced and all was right in the world again.)

What are the best mini-lessons you’ve learned from a child/children?