To Mommom

Originally written May 22, 1995, edited July 16, 2014


She boasted of seven grandchildren, of whom I was the youngest and 16 great-grandchildren.

She didn’t like cow, she preferred beef.

She made knock-out stuffed cabbage, kreplach, cinnamon bar cookies, myena and cottage cheese pancakes, and she did so in armed services amounts.

She kept a special place in her end table drawer for all of our toys when we came to visit.  Mostly decks of cards.

She was the best back-scratcher.  Ever.

She always had broad shoulders and open ears.

She knew.

I didn’t get that one last chance to say goodbye to her and thank her for all of her love and wisdom over the years.  I never let her know that I would always carry a part of her with me, even though I think she knew.  She never gave me the recipe for oats, peas, beans and barley soup.  I think she did that on purpose, to make me experiment in the kitchen.

I didn’t want to grieve selfishly by saying that “I could have” or “I should have” been more attentive in the last few months.  It was a choice I made, albeit a bad one.  It really didn’t matter if she heard what I had to say, because I don’t think she even knew who I was anymore.  It was my need to tell her anyway, and I didn’t do it.  So I tell her in silence.  I hope she hears me and I hope she forgives me.

It is my belief that when someone dies, they are only gone if they are gone from your heart and mind.  I believe that whenever I think of Mommom, she’ll be thinking of me.  I know I’ll think of her when I’m in the kitchen, or when one of my kids asks me to scratch their back.  I keep her bagel man on the end table in my living room.

And I have her ring.  I would drive her crazy telling her how much I loved her jade ring until she finally got tired of hearing it and on my sixteenth birthday, she gave it me.  It was hers for forty years before that.  I’ve had it for over forty years now.  I still love it.

I remember our shopping trips before I would go ways to summer camp.  I never did get her to buy herself a pair of jeans.  It just wasn’t her, though she never said a word to me about how ratty mine were in the 1970’s.

She called me “bug.”  It was her special name for me, derived from “Judy-Bug,” which I imagine came from ladybug.  My cousin Emily took it a little further, calling me “Doodle-bug,” and then eventually just “Doodle.”  I’m a grey-haired, middle-aged woman, who answers to the name “Doodle.”

I could never argue with Mommom.  I could only discuss.  The minute our personal opinions crept in, we were doomed.  And as hard as I tried, I couldn’t joke with her.  Her sense of humor was on a totally different level.  I didn’t care.  She was always there for me and the best listener as I navigated through my teenage years.  Mom and Dad “didn’t understand.”  I’m not sure Mommom did, but she listened.

When my kids were born, she had some remarkable advice, for a woman who had never had any children of her own.  I remembered some of those phrases when dealing with child-rearing issues, and I still use them:

“Daniel may be your first child, but remember, too, that you’re his first Mommy.”  We were both strangers to our new roles in life.  Or, “the baby has a big world to grow into,” reminding me to stop at times, and remember to look at the world through their eyes before I deal too hastily with a situation.  Mommom was wise that way.

I post this in 2014, twenty years since she is gone.  I’ll always carry a part of her with me, besides the jade ring.  And while I don’t know how to make the soup or the kreplach, what I did gain from her is priceless.  I will always miss her.

25 Random Things

About five years ago, Facebook was throwing around a “note” that everyone was posting, in which they were to write 25 random things.  At the time, I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be about me or the world around me.  Funny how my life hasn’t changed that much in five years.  I wanted to add that post to my blog so I would have it as a part of my tools when I try to piece all of this together…

25 things

February 3, 2009 at 10:29pm

Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.

(To do this, go to “NOTES” under tabs on your “PROFILE” page (you may have to add the tab by clicking on the + sign), click on “Compose New Message” and paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click publish.)

1. When I grow up, I want to be a Broadway star. The challenge I face is that I’m already old, and I’ll probably never grow up, but I can dream, can’t I?

2. I’m finding it hard to think of one random thing, let alone 25. In the past few years, I’ve learned to live in the moment, and during most moments, I can’t afford to think random thoughts!

3. If there were no ramifications to my actions, I would most likely eat, drink and be merry… mostly eat… mostly chocolate…

4. Sometimes I look to the heavens for answers, but I get easily distracted by the cloud formations, trying to figure out what they look like. Hence, I seldom find answers, and often come upon a whole new set of questions. The last time I could really identify a cloud formation as anything, is was smooth jazz riff… and that was the morning after my cousin died. Then I had some real questions.

5. I’m not the boss of you. In fact, what you do or say is none of my business. I am only responsible for my own words and actions. (and since my kids are both over 18, I’m not responsible for their words or actions either).

6. Someone asked me to name my five best days. Here they are, in no particular order: my wedding day, the day I gave birth to my son, the day I gave birth to my daughter, February 4, 2006 and tomorrow.

7. I have a short attention span. Is it 25 yet?

8. I wasn’t a cheater in school. I tried to rely on my own academic ability and creativity. Having read other “25 things, I’m suddenly finding myself resorting to plagiarism, but then they do say that is the highest form of compliment. So, Miami isn’t for everybody.

9. When I was young, I never dreamed of a beautiful wedding day. I never had intense career aspirations. I just knew that I wanted to be a mom, and I also knew that I would be pretty good at it. I’m 50 now. I had a beautiful wedding. I crafted a career in non-profits based on my creative and cognitive ability, and have done well… but I was right… I am a pretty good mom! Dreams do come true.

10. Having grown up in a house full a boys, and a neighborhood that mirrored that, I learned to appreciate as well as play sports. I could always be the ninth guy on the baseball team. I could always fill in as the fifth on a basketball team. Through sports, I learned how to focus, that practice makes better (not perfect), that team sports teaches valuable lessons for later in life, that nothing beats good hotdog and some popcorn at a Marlins game, and that watching golf on TV makes for good naps.

11. If Ella Fitzgerald married Darth Vader, she’d be Ella Vader. How’s that for random????

12. If you add sour cream to a cheese sauce, it makes it very creamy. I talk a lot about food.

13. I have always wanted to have a real green thumb. There’s something about nurturing plants… (reminds me of my grandmother… one of the many things she did well with her hands.) Right now, I am painstakingly caring for three pineapple plants, eight different herbs, five stag horn ferns and a homestead full of landscaping that the rain G-ds have forgotten.

14. There is something soothing about being awake for the sunrise. The peace and quiet heralds a sense of hope (that is if the dog doesn’t wake us before the sun comes up). A new day can mean anything can happen.

15. I have made a list of the fifty states. So far, in my lifetime, I have visited 27 of them. I have 23 more to go, and then I’ll start on the National Parks. That’ll keep me busy for awhile.

16. Is it 25 yet?

17. Dark chocolate has flavonoids and anti-oxidants. Dark chocolate is lower in fat than milk chocolate. Dark chocolate is lower in calories than milk chocolate. I love dark chocolate.

18. I remember reading Erma Bombeck’s essay, “If I had my life to live over again…” I’ve had a lot of time and clarity lately, to think about how I would change her list. I wouldn’t. I might add to it, I might tweak it a little, but she had the right idea when she said she would take her shoes off earlier in the spring and put them back on later in the fall. Instead of marking time, her life lesson was to enjoy the ride a little more. Nothing is THAT important that a little dark chocolate on your tongue and some sand between your toes can’t fix.

19. Whoa oh oh— listen to the music.

20. Haagen Dazs is better than Weightwatchers (oops– there’s that food thing again).

21. Most of the time, I choose to be a Tigger rather than an Eeyore. Those that know me best prefer to define me as Judy rather than Hortense.

22. When I was a kid, I had one brother who referred to me as Herkimer J. Mouth, one brother who referred to me as Yak, and a grandfather who was constantly asking me, “Judith, do you ever stop talking?” So why is it, when I’m painfully close to completing this project, do I find myself at a loss for words?

23. Always wear good boots for hiking, sunblock on the beach, a sweater or jacket when its cold (or long underwear, depending on where you are), and a smile on your face. You’d be amazed at how glad you’ll be in the long run for each one.

24. There are friends who pass like ships in the night, who meet for a moment, then sail out of sight, with never a backward glance of regret– friends we know briefly and quickly forget. There are other friends who sail together, through quiet waters and stormy weather, helping each other through joy and through strife, and they are the kind who give meaning to life.

25. Thanks for letting me share, its 25.

I still want to be a Broadway star, but my niece is giving that a shot;  I stole number 24 from Mary Dawson Hughes; I still hate Miami; I still love dark chocolate; I still talk a lot; I still love sipping my coffee at sunrise; I miss my cousin’s sweetness and kindness, almost as much as the musical world misses his remarkable musical talent; and most importantly, I’m no longer afraid to think of random thoughts.  In fact, at my age, I think that’s all that’s left!



That’s not a word I would ever have used to describe myself, yet it’s the word someone who knows me better than I know myself used.  I’ve been called sensitive (too sensitive).  I’ve been called creative, eclectic, eccentric and emotional.  I’ve been called humorous, funny, quick-witted and clever.  I’ve been described as bizarre, silly, and childish.  I’ve been told I was impetuous, impulsive and spontaneous.  But delicate?

I am a marshmallow.  When it comes to animals, kids and chick-flicks, I am a marshmallow. I will even cry at a Budweiser commercial.  I do feel other people’s happiness and their sadness.  I am definitely the great empathizer.

When I used to be pre-menstrual and then later post-menstrual, I was certainly able to cry at the smallest things.  I do react to hormones and chemicals.  I am human.

Physical pain doesn’t bother me.  I’ve had my share.  I’ve had brain surgery that resulted in a mild seizure disorder.  I have a chronic condition that keeps me in physical pain most of the time.  I’ve torn my ankle in half due to a racquetball injury, and when it’s going to rain, I know it.  I’ve had a tumor the size of an orange grow and then be removed from under my arm, and then one the size of a tangerine do the same from behind my kneecap. I’ve given birth twice through cesarean section.  I have osteo-arthritis in my spine, and psoriatic arthritis in my knees and elbows. So, no, physical pain does not render me delicate.

When I looked up the word delicate in the Thesaurus, I found words like subtle, faint, tactful, refined, fragile, weak, frail, insubstantial, graceful, and elegant.  I see myself more like all of the antonyms: robust, straightforward, coarse, rugged and passionate.

Words are powerful.  At first, I was offended by the use of that word.  Offended is a strong word.  I was slightly insulted, because I saw it as a sign of weakness, but in retrospect, I’d rather be delicate than overpowering, tactless, inelegant and rough.  And if you don’t mind, I’m still going to cry at those mushy commercials.

Change is Inevitable

A few years ago, I saw a terrific show called, “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” which, if I recall correctly, traced relationships between a man and woman from dating, through marriage, through child-rearing into and through old age.  It was cute.  It was funny.  It was us.  And it was, once again, disparaging the role of women in a man’s life.  We are not all sculptors who feel we were handed a blob of hairy modelling clay that just happens to be full of testosterone.  I actually loved my husband just the way he was….  Sort of.

I gave up trying to change anything about him within a year of our marriage.  As we prepare to celebrate our 32nd wedding anniversary, and with the benefit of hindsight, I’ve learned that I had wasted a lot of time and energy, attempting to make him into something he’s not.  Even if it did mean that giving up trying to get him to remember to put down the toilet seat would later result in many instances of me falling in; Even if it did result in a multitude of rush clean-up sessions (errant shoes, phantom socks, empty envelopes from the opened mail and whatever else got left right where he finished with it), because of an impromptu visitor.

I have taught him a few things along the way.  (And he, me).  For instance, I taught him not to end a sentence or a question with a preposition, especially professionally.  It always sounded extremely unpolished to me when he would ask a potential client, “Where do you work at?”  I also have broadened his gastronomic horizons.  He no longer puts ketchup on everything.  I think that’s where I have drawn the line.

What I refuse to give up on, however, is trying to get him to change himself… to be adventurous, open-minded and willing to try new things.  The time in our lives when we had to be serious, responsible and passive, so that we could see to the needs of our children and our parents is over.  We are still young enough to take a shot at something new and different, but that would mean making a change.

My husband is a very bright guy.

How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?

 One, but the light bulb has to really want to change.

Love Me or Hate Me

Just when I’ve reached the age of not really caring what anybody else thinks about me, that time in a woman’s life where she’s finally content with who she is, and accepts in herself her flaws, imperfections and quirks, it dawned on me that no matter where I go in this nasty world we live in, somebody hates me.  By the way, besides accepting my flaws, I’ve also learned to see my talents, abilities and inner beauty.

First of all, I should give you an idea of how I see myself. And then perhaps explain why I feel so hated.  I am, (not in any particular order), a middle-aged, overweight, smoking, outspoken, Jewish, American, liberal-thinking, artistic, musical woman.  I’ve also been called dramatic, eccentric and florid.

I am an American, as a result of recent history, that has become more of a label rather than a badge of honor.  While we still stand tall and powerful, we are disrespected and hated by many countries around the world.  On the other hand, we are still the haven, the sanctuary for those looking for freedom from oppression, whether it is political, economic or religious.

An outspoken woman, in some cultures, would be either muted or shot.  I often show my legs and arms, and my middle-aged cleavage (for those desperate enough to want to see it).  My face is uncovered, my head shows my own hair, and my husband will attest to the fact that my lips are constantly flapping.

Because I was born a Jew, and because I maintain a great deal of pride in my religion and my heritage, I am a marked woman in many parts of the world. Indeed, in many parts of my own country, for whatever reason, I am hated.  The basic tenet of my religion, as it was taught to me, doesn’t comprehend this hate.  Our whole existence is based on tolerance and love.  We only seek the freedom to practice our religion in peace.

From my perspective, and I don’t claim to be a very well educated Jew as the extent of my Torah study is extremely limited, we learn, from our history, to live righteous lives.  We pass on that knowledge from generation to generation.  We treat all mankind with goodness.  We celebrate our survival and thank one G-d for same.  That’s all.  So, why is there the hate?  In 2014, why?

And now for the part that gets me the most, because it speaks to the human condition.  Our society has gotten worse and worse, rather than better with this, despite the women’s movement.  Our sexist society still attempts to make people like me feel lesser. I’m 57.  I’m medically obese.  My hair is grey.  Men still think with their other brains, which ultimately will render me unattractive.  I know women who have had so much plastic surgery that their next face-lift will actually be a cesarean, just to stay in the game.

Not me.  I am who I am, love me or hate me.  Just wish the whole world would just calm down and realize that we only get one chance at this thing.  Go for the love…

From Camelot to Disney World

Born in Camelot
I was born in 1957, towards the end of the Baby-boom. When John F. Kennedy came into the White House, they called it Camelot. The early sixties was an upbeat time, full of hope and growth and movement to suburbia. When I say growth, I mean it. I was the fourth of four kids, in an upper middle class family outside of Philadelphia. Camelot, or it was at least, until November of 1963.

Raised in Mayberry
It was a simpler, safer time. Neighbors not only knew each other but were friends, and looked after each other’s kids. Doors and cars were left unlocked; nobody had to x-ray Halloween candy; the neighborhood grocer would deliver your regular order to your back door, and the milkman and bread man would deliver to your front door. Doctors made house calls, and then called to check on you later in the day. We played outside until long after dark.

People had reverence for institutions. School was not optional, respect was required. Nobody talked back to teachers. Nobody carried weapons to school. Schools were relatively free from drugs at least until high school. Divorce was not as prevalent. There was no sex and violence on television. (At least not during prime time). Have you ever actually listened to some of the dialogue on today’s situation comedies? Try raising kids and having to answer the questions that come out of an episode of “Two and a Half Men.”

Several generations of families remained within a city area, and cousins grew up together, sometimes ending up closer than siblings or friends. But with my generation, that changed. We became more transient… staying in or near the city or town where we went to college; meeting and marrying someone from out of town; moving across the country to take advantage of a brilliant employment opportunity. It doesn’t matter. Today, families don’t stay together.

Living in Havana
I came home to Miami after college. There was already a large Cuban population in South Florida as a result of the Castro regime, who came here in the late fifties and early sixties. Most of them “Americanized” fairly quickly, attempting to learn the language of their new home, gain citizenship, and become productive members of society. Did they ever. They brought with them a wealth of culture, art, music, foods and more.

But a short twenty years later, another wave of Cubans made it to shore that did not have the same ambition. Since that time, Hispanic countries and cultures have poured into the United States looking for freedom from poverty, from political oppression, religious obstruction and many other reasons. Proud to be free and American, they have made Miami among other cities, their home, however because of the language barrier, I no longer feel at home. I cannot get a job unless I am bi-lingual. There are parts of town where nobody speaks English, and all of the literature is printed in three languages: Spanish, Haitian Creole and English. Even my Temple has a Spanish speaking Rabbi who conducts services in Spanish for part of the congregation. No Hablo.

Looking for Utopia
I’ve been in the workforce for over 35 years now. I’ve maintained a 32 year marriage, raised a family, kept a home, and have been available to be a caretaker. I’ve done everything that has been expected of me. Someone once told me that I have successfully lived my life by “default.”
Actually, I don’t think I ever really knew what I wanted to do with my life, so living my life by default worked, for a while. Other than raise a family, I never really dreamed of doing anything in particular. I had all the “movie-star” hopes that little girls have. I wasn’t encouraged to follow any dreams. Camelot and Mayberry didn’t lend themselves to girls having ambitions other than pillbox hats and cakes that didn’t fall.

I didn’t know I was good at anything. I didn’t know I had talent. I didn’t know I had dreams. It’s a little late, but now, I do. You see, that same person who told me to stop living my life by default also explained to me a highly technical psychological term. (That, by the way, is sarcasm, in case you didn’t recognize it). She said I have finally begun to “self-actualize.” I’m a late bloomer. But there are things I still want to accomplish.

The one thing I did realize is that I only have one life to live (sounds like soap opera). I want to enjoy what’s left of it, doing what makes me happy, what tickles my heart, what strokes my soul. I know, now, that it can’t be here, and it can’t be now.

Retreating to Disney World
Notice I didn’t call this section retiring to Disney World. I don’t intend to release my inner child, either, although that would be kind of interesting. All I intend to do are three things.

1) Simplify – that means return to Mayberry a little bit. Slow down the pace of my life by moving to a smaller town, to a smaller house and with that, a smaller overhead.
2) Recapture – the days when families weren’t quite as transient. While I don’t intend to become a helicopter mom, I do want to be closer to at least one of my kids, so I can see them more than once or twice a year, with the promise (to them), that I will be there if they need me, but they won’t notice anything different otherwise.
3) Enjoy – the rest of my life, whether its 30 years or 30 days, I want to grow old with the love of my life, doing all the things we always talked about but still haven’t had the chance to do. I want him to slow down too, and join me on my journey. He had his own Camelot and Mayberry. We’ve been together since Havana… we both could use a little mouse.

I Want a Do-Over!

Always had an excuse as to why I didn’t perform better on a test.  There was always a reason I forgot my lines in a play, or finished third in the race.  It must have been old baking powder that caused the cake to come out flat.  I struck out three times in softball because I had something in my eye.  Messed up my letter to the President on the school stationery because there was something wrong with the pen.

Didn’t take that job because I didn’t think it was a good idea to relocate for a three month contract.   Didn’t send my dinner back with the waiter when it was served cold because I didn’t want anyone else to have to wait.   Stayed in that other job too long because I couldn’t find anything else. Let my mother-in-law give the kids brownies right before dinner because she hardly ever got to see them.  Stopped after two kids because that’s what my husband wanted, and I didn’t want to rock the boat.

My mother always told me “little children, little problems, big children….”  You figure out the rest.  Well, right now, I consider myself one big kid, with one big problem.  I have a lot less time ahead of me than I have behind me, and besides my 32 year marriage and two (actually, now three) wonderful kids, I really screwed up, and am just now figuring out that its all my own doing.  All those excuses.  All that wasted time.

I can’t help but call to mind Erma Bombeck’s poem, “If I Had My Life to Live Over Again.”  I want a do-over.  I want the chance to follow my dreams, to stand up for myself, to make my own choices based on how I feel.  I want to put myself first once in a while, stop playing the martyr and the victim.  “I want to run barefoot in the grass earlier in the spring.”

My mother also told me I don’t have to be the “richest one in the cemetery.”   I don’t think I can retire yet, but I certainly can simplify what I’m doing to allow myself to “do-over” some of these things.  (That probably doesn’t include having another baby).

Put me in Coach… I want a do-over.