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Life Goes By in the Blink of an Eye

In one week’s time, I was able to relive a lot of the life I’ve led that brought me to this point.  No, I’m not a time traveler, but I certainly felt like one.

From 1965 through 1976, I had the great fortune to spend my summers at sleepaway camp in the Berkshire Mountains.  The camp, opened in 1950, was celebrating its 65th anniversary, and the current owner was celebrating 25 years of owning and running the camp, and as a result, invited all counselors and campers back for a weekend reunion.

I was a child again.  I was able to forget about the everyday stresses of my life as an adult in an unforgiving world.  I rolled down hills, I toasted marshmallows around a campfire, I sang camp songs and I renewed friendships with people I hadn’t seen in 40 or   45  years.  (Stop counting on your fingers if you’re trying to figure out how old I am).  WP_20150606_13_53_11_Pro[1]I even stretched my limits, forgot my fears and challenged my body physically by going zip-lining.  I competed in color war, pulled pranks on my bunkmates and relived the end of the summer banquet traditions.  And then it was over.  The reunion seemed to have passed as fast as my life is passing, in the blink of an eye.

Then it was on to Boston, where I met up with my husband, the American history nut.  His intention was to see everything he possibly could that related to the birth of our country.  WP_20150608_13_49_31_Pro[1]We traveled the route of the Freedom Trail, two and half miles, stopping at every attraction, and did so in one day.  Living in Florida, I’m not used to hills… including Bunker Hill.  It took us nine hours, with 30 minutes for lunch and a half a dozen water bottles each.  Paul Revere had nothing on me!

A cool, indoor activity, like visiting the New England Aquarium, was a welcomed relief.  In fact, it was a huge surprise.  No, we didn’t fall in the shark tank.  We did, however, receive a private tour of the “behind the scenes” of the Aquarium.  We learned some most fascinating facts, most importantly was one, not to raise dragonfish unless you are financially independent, and two, always be nice.  Karma works.  As my cousin’s late daughter, Carly Ferro would say, “Be kinder than necessary.”  That, I believe is why we were picked for the tour.

In Boston, I got my lahbstah, my chowdah and a big fat piece of Boston cream pie.  I was still the happy camper I was when I started this week.

We hopped a plane to D.C., where we grabbed a car and drove to Baltimore to “relive” our parenting days, by visiting our daughter.  Somehow, with time, the roles have reversed.  Our daughter was the consummate hostess, treating us to meals, filling the refrigerator in our hotel room, and sharing her life with us.  We visited Annapolis for the history and the Naval Academy for the cute guys in uniform.  Our daughter provided lunch, again.  The next day, we visited Botanical gardens and a Conservatory,WP_20150612_11_25_59_Pro[1] got lost coming back, and shared a delightful Shabbat dinner.

True to our calling, (like John Muir), we headed for the mountains of Shenandoah National Park on Saturday.  We explored caverns and went horseback riding.  We even had to call my husband’s old boy scout skills to find our way back, because GPS doesn’t work in the mountains.  Back in Baltimore, I got my long-anticipated crab cakes.

On our last day, we went into the city to visit the Maryland Jewish Museum.  The oldest standing Jewish Temple in the country, some great exhibits and then one last visit with our daughter at her home.WP_20150614_16_56_26_Pro[1]

And as fast as that, my vacation was over.  Well, not yet.  After driving back down to D.C., and dropping of the car with 4 minutes to spare, we, through no fault of our own, got to extend our trip for two more hours due to a flight delay.

It was a whirlwind week, which started with a visit to my happiest place.  Then, a lot of history, a lot of hugs and a tearful goodbye.  Both to my daughter and to that relaxed feeling.  I had to return to the everyday stresses of my life as an adult in an unforgiving world.  I’m trying to enjoy every minute these days, because before I know it… in the blink of an eye…

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2015 in General, Phase 2

 

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Not So Easy Street

Nobody said life was easy.  In fact, nothing about it has been actually EASY.  Even the things I thought I at which I would be good, and the things I would love… those too have proven to be challenges at one time or another.  Nothing goes smoothly.

A prime example of this was the smack in the face I received when I became a parent.  I never had any real career aspirations.  I only wanted to be a mom, because I thought I would be really good at it, and I knew I would love it.  Within the first sleep-deprived, spit-up filled, post-partum week, I found myself asking myself (sometimes out loud), “Is this somebody’s idea of a bad joke?”  I can say, 28 years later, that most of the ride has been absolutely wonderful, with only a few minor glitches along the way.

Parenting is a major example.  Something on a lesser scale?  Try putting together a piece of furniture from IKEA.  There’s always a piece missing… or a cable missing when I try to set up a new electronic gadget.  It seems we always have to run back to the store for something.

Worse than going back to the store, is ordering something on line and getting the wrong order or what you ordered doesn’t fit.  We ordered a parking pass for the third base garage and got one for home plate.  We got a new modem, and in so doing, lost our phones, cable and internet, until hours later when the cable company helped us fix the problem.

Growing up I thought I’s be a good athlete and maintain a healthy body.  Oops.  Besides falling victim to addiction to nicotine, I had to stop drinking, eating sugar and high cholesterol foods.  I’m lazy and overweight, sooooo that didn’t work out as planned.

Did I anticipate working in a field I didn’t study?  No.  Did I think I would do and say some of things I’ve had to do to further this career that was not of my choice?  No.  Is there time to start over?  Maybe.

Don’t get me wrong.  There are some things in life that have come very easy to me.  The tickle I get in my heart at the mention of my children… the swoon when my husband is dressed (black tie optional) like 007, or when he brings me roses or dark chocolate… the sheer joy I get in driving my mother to laughter..  Those things come easy.  And it’s those things that steel me to face the rest.

So no, life isn’t easy, but if you revel in the things that bring you joy, then running back to IKEA, or tolerating the “not-so-perfect” job, or cleaning the dishes after a diet meal… none of those things are insurmountable.  There just may be some bumps in the road on Easy Street.

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2015 in General, Phase 2

 

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Tasty!

Someone once told me, in reference to fashion, that “that lady’s taste was all in her mouth.”  Pretty rude comment, if you ask me, especially because the first part of my professional career was spent in sales in the apparel industry, and “that lady” was one of the designers for whom I worked!

That being said, I tend to be more literal in my old age, and I do believe that taste really is mostly in your mouth… with a little help from your nose.  The smell of my mother’s kitchen on the morning of Thanksgiving of onions sautéing, or the aroma of cookies baking heralding an afternoon or late night snack with a glass of cold milk.

I happen to be one of the adventurous types, and am willing to taste just about anything once.  Some of the things I’ve eaten, I’ve had three times: first, last and only.  Like octopus.  That was one of those foods that was prepared ever so delightfully, but no matter how long I chewed, I couldn’t bring myself to swallow it.

I was raised on “no-thank-you portions.”  We would sit at the table, and be coerced to put a small portion of everything that was served on our plates, and then have to sit there until our plates were cleaned.  I figured out early on, that my napkin could be a good friend.  Many times, I wiped my mouth free of a mouth full of creamed spinach, excused myself, and then flushed it down the guest bathroom toilet.  I thought I was being so clever.

We came to find out later on that my father, in his efforts to present a united front in parenting with my mother, was a very good sport.  One evening, during a family dinner, with all of his adult children seated around the table (a very rare occurrence), my father finally, after thirty years of marriage, balked when the broccoli was passed to him.  “I don’t care for any,” he declared.

“Why not?” my mother asked.

“”I hate broccoli.  I’ve been eating it for 30 years to set a good example for the kids,” he lamented.  “They’re grown now, and I’m never eating it again.”

Years later, although my rules at the table were a little more lax, a similar ruse was played upon me.  Our table rules never included cleaning your plate.  At our table, you were only requested to taste everything that served, and if you didn’t care for it, you didn’t have to eat it.  (I may have served the same thing many times, and my kids had to “taste it” many times, but they were never forced to eat more than one mouthful).  Consequently, they grew up with, I believe, healthier eating habits.  I did, however, find out that my daughter used the same napkin deception to rid her plate of that lone standing Brussel Sprout, every time I served them.

Today, both of my kids eat mostly everything.  They’re slim and trim, and healthy. I, however, could stand to eat a little less.  But I have good taste!

 

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2015 in General, Phase 2

 

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All in the Genes

Margaret Meade did countless studies on Nature vs. Nurture.  In today’s world, the “nurture” part, I think, has suffered due to the breakdown of the institutions of marriage and family.  I am grateful, however, to have come from a long line of fine people.

If I could have picked out the best qualities, in my own eyes, of those who came before me or were around me as my personality, my character and the sense of who I would turn out to be was being formed, I would have likely chosen the following.  Please know that this is an extremely incomplete list, derived strictly from MY memories and feelings, although it’s likely to start a firestorm amongst other family and friends…  Please family and friends, feel free to chime in.  (I chose not to mention my own siblings as I can’t publish those nouns).

My Mommom’s worldliness, understanding and back-scratching ability;

My Poppop Jack’s faith, perseverance and altruism;

My Poppop Daniel’s spontaneity, lust for life and sense of humor;

My Nanny’s green thumb, etiquette, and ability to finish a crossword;

My father’s persistence, sales ability and silver hair;

My mother’s looks, positive attitude and baking ability;

My Aunt Ticky’s artistic talent;

My Brecker Cousins’ musical talent and passion;

My Uncle Danny’s business acumen, vision and confidence;

My Bernheim Cousins’ fairness, capacity and tenacity;

My Aunt “A”s optimism, goodness and laugh;

My Miller Cousins’ resiliency, inspiration and creativity;

After living with my husband for thirty three years, I have to believe that he came from a long line of good genes too.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t see in my own children: my daughter’s wit, inner beauty and conviction, and my son’s compassion, perceptiveness and charm.

That, my friend, is a bunch of nouns.

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2015 in General, Phase 2

 

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What a Co-Ink-i-dink!

There are many instances when my thoughts go back to my childhood days, whether it’s a particular song, a letter or email from an old friend or coming across a bit of memorabilia.  Since my dad’s passing fifteen years ago, every time I see a rainbow, I think of him.  Every time I hear Barbra Streisand sing “People,” I think of him.  Every time I eat broccoli, I think of him.  That may sound like a strange combination of things to make me think of my father, but then my father touched me in many different ways.

Growing up with a dad who had all kinds of silly names for people and things, I’ve almost added them to my vocabulary as if they were accepted by Webster.  He never called any of his kids by their given names, that is, except for my brother Richard.  I still can’t figure out the stream of consciousness that got him from Judy to “Gnu,” but that’s what he called me.  It was at one point Elsie Gnu, but then he just dropped the Elsie part.

He had nine grandchildren, and if he didn’t make up strange names for them, he just kind of mangled the names they were given.  He called my son Maniel Dason.  You figure it out.  He called my daughter, Smudlyn.  He called my nephew, Aaron Ocoggy.  I have a niece named Yexis, and a nephew named Schmichael.

Mom and DadDad wanted to know, “what are you didding?”  It was, in a sense, his own vernacular for “whazzzzzup?”  So much of this came rushing back to me in the past few weeks as my mother was sorting and packing her belongings to move to her new home.  Pictures and mementos, letters and telegrams, collectibles and awards, everything that was Dad went into boxes for moving, selling, recycling, donation or throwing out.

Mom took along a beautiful photograph of my father that was taken when he served as the Chairman of the Board of Parkway Hospital, which is now Jackson North.  I looked at the picture for a few moments and thought about the expression, “turnabout is fair play,” because when I eulogized Dad, I used all of the names with which people referred to him.  As a kid, he was known as Ticky, and my Miller cousins knew him as Uncle Ticky.  My Brecker cousins called him Muck.  The guys at Citizens Crime Watch called him Smooth Blend- his CB handle.  He was Mel.  To our friends, he was Mr. T.  He was Dad, or Daddy when I wanted something.

When Mom finally made the move last month, I was standing at the front desk in the lobby, next to a sign that said, “Welcome Jean Tecosky,” when a lady approached me and asked me if I was a Tecosky.  I said I was, and she introduced herself as the daughter of Abe Tecot, my grandfather’s first cousin.  She and my Dad were second cousins.  All I could think of was that Dad would say, “What a co-ink-i-dink!”

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2015 in General, Phase 2

 

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My Advice

I’ve seen a lot of How-To articles, and a lot of stories that were long discourses on how someone would do it, if they had a chance to live their life over again.  But I also read somewhere that you are supposed to “express and opinion, but send advice by freight.”  I would attribute the quote appropriately, but being one of those people who are old enough to suffer from senior moments, though not yet silver-haired, I can’t remember where I saw it.  So I write this, mainly to remind myself, but also to intimate that there may be some wisdom in my suggestions as well.

Having been on this earth long enough to have my own memory lapses, I decided to write down a few things that I have learned while I’ve been here.  Before I forget.

The first thing I’ve learned is to respect older folks.  Learn from them.  They have, as they say, been there, done that.  They carry around with them a wealth of intellectual lore, right there in their heads, and even if they can’t always remember what they had for lunch, they possess such valuable wisdom, earned simply by living life.  If nothing else, I’ve learned that there are really no big deals.

My grandmother gave me two choice pieces to live by.  One was that it doesn’t pay to get upset about something that money can replace.  That was after I spilled tomato juice on her brand new lemon yellow carpet.  “It’s just a thing,” she’d say.  “If something bad happened to you, then I would be upset.”  The other thing I gained from her was that worrying is like wasting energy and emotion on something that hasn’t happened yet.  She told me to pick out one hour a week during which to worry.  Hers was Tuesdays, between three and four AM.

The second thing I’ve learned is to respect younger folks.  Learn from them.  You can gain so much by growing along with them, and looking at the world through their innocent and questioning eyes.  They help you to forget being jaded and pessimistic, and remind you that anything is possible.  While raising my kids, I tried very hard to respect their points of view when making decisions that affected them.  Often, they had valuable and practical input that was worth considering, and would change the outcome.

If they didn’t, I stuck to my original plan, but I showed them the same respect that I wanted them to show me.  In the end, both of my children grew up knowing that they have a voice.  And I grew up right along with them, understanding that I don’t know everything, and never will.  A one hundred year old friend of mine once told me that when we stop learning, we stop growing.  She continued to take classes at the community college until she couldn’t travel anymore, at age 102.

I’ve never been a religious person, however I am spiritually connected.  I believe there are forces greater than my own will at work in the universe.  Over my lifetime, it’s been made abundantly clear to me that I talk a lot, first by two of my three brothers, who each gave me nicknames that depicted that quality: one called my Yak, and the other, Herkimer J Mouth.  My grandfather would often ask me if I ever stopped talking.  So in the spirit (pun intended) of a higher power, I’ve developed a prayer that I say probably too often, and that is, “God, keep one arm around my shoulder, and one hand over my mouth.”  As I always told my children, you can think whatever you want, but as soon as you say it out loud, you can’t take it back.  Ever.

Through my own life experiences, I’ve learned that we only get one shot at life.  I’ve taken some twists and turns, some of which I regret, but most of which I do not.  What came out of all of it is that I found that you should never do anything to sacrifice the integrity of your own potential.  Treat yourself well, body, mind and soul.

That’s my advice.

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2015 in General, Phase 2

 

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My Family Tree

When we all get together and reminisce, I sometimes find it hard to believe that this family tree of mine ever took root, at least on my mother’s side.  That’s not being said to be derisive in any way.  My mother’s family was and is lovely in many ways.  But there was one member of her family, who, in his own way, could have shattered any hope, of any of the female members of the family, of maintaining a relationship, much less getting married.

Starting with my mother.

Mom tells many stories of the ways in which my grandfather scared many of her boyfriends away; things like coming to the dinner table dressed in my grandmother’s bathrobe and shower cap, or sticking his thumb in a piece of chocolate cake as it was passed by him, only to “see if it was fresh,” or the ultimate story, which commands its own paragraph.

Mom had been invited to Princeton weekend by a young suitor, but before she would be given permission to go, the young man was invited to Friday night dinner at her home.  Friday night dinner was always a formal occasion.  My grandfather would come to the table in a suit and tie.  This particular evening, someone spilled a bit of gravy in front of him.  He proceeded to add some salt, pepper and ketchup to the stain, all the while stirring it with a spoon.  The young man just stared in disbelief.

Subsequently, while quietly enjoying the repast, he reached inside his jacket, fumbling around the shoulder area, and then took his cufflink off, and promptly pulled his shirtsleeve out of his jacket sleeve.  He then proceeded to do the same on the other side.  By the time he had finished his antics, he was sitting at the table with nothing but his jacket and tie… no shirt.

Needless to say, not only did my mother never get to Princeton weekend, but she never heard from this young man again.  I remain grateful that my father was able to withstand my grandfather’s antics.

Far be it for me to expose the private and very personal lives of my female cousins, because there were, indeed, other “Poppop” interventions.  For me, however, my boyfriend met my grandfather under typical circumstances.

My grandparents, like a lot of people from the north, wintered here in South Florida, and were here for Thanksgiving.  My boyfriend was a little bit of a prankster and jokester himself, so as we walked up to my parent’s home, I begged him to behave himself.  I didn’t want to be embarrassed.  We were greeted by my Dad, as usual, by an offer for a cocktail, and took our seats on the couch, opposite my grandfather.  After very cordial introductions, my grandfather piped up with, “So, Judith, do you have socks in your bra?”  My boyfriend looked at me and calmly asked, “And you wanted ME to behave?”

Less than a year later, my grandfather had the opportunity to meet my soon-to-be father-in-law.  You see, not even Poppop was able to scare off my boyfriend.  Nor was my grandmother, who tried to fatten him up for the kill by piling food on his plate at every meal.

It was the night of the bachelor party and Poppop had been remanded to the back patio to smoke his cigar.  When my father-in-law arrived, my grandfather yelled into the house, “If you want to meet me, you’ll have to come out here.  They won’t let me back in the house.”  My father-in-law had been warned, but in his sweet, southern gentlemanly way, he started to say, “I’d tell them to go jump in the river.”  He never got to finish, as Poppop, once again, tried to impress (or stun) by saying, “I told them to all go pound sand up their asses.”

Yes, we got married.  My grandfather danced “The Bump” at my wedding, but sadly, all that’s left are the memories, stories and laughs.

We named our first born after him.  I imagine what really took root in our family tree is the love.  Today, my mother has four children, nine grandchildren and two great grandchildren (so far), and they all know who Poppop Daniel was… the Patriarch of my mother’s family, who gave us all his wit, his sense of humor and his lust for life, which I believe are three very good elements for growing a family tree.

 

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2015 in General, Phase 2

 

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