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Does This Fit Here?

My grandmother did crossword puzzles. So did my dad, in pen. My one brother would photocopy both the morning and afternoon newspaper puzzles and we would sit around the dining room table doing them, almost as if it was a race to the finish. Another brother used to pore over jigsaw puzzles. Still a third brother liked the logic puzzles that came in the Dell Puzzle books. Mom likes Sudoku. I was fascinated by the Rubik’s Cube. I like them all. In fact, I like word games, puzzles and just about anything that challenges my mind, that is, except for the puzzle that is my mind, which is the greatest challenge of all.

Even the artistic expression I’ve settled into has been somewhat fractured. I choose to blog about anything and everything that pops into my head. There’s no stream of consciousness and it would be impossible to put the individual posts into any semblance of order that would make any sense. I dabble in mosaics: cracking up pieces of tile and glass, and attempting to create a masterpiece of recognizable images. Most of the rest of what I do is graphic art, at best. Even when I sing, I do parodies of some of my favorite songs, never singing them the way they were written, but always in an attempt to make someone feel touched, loved or when it’s really good, embarrassed.

It should be no surprise, then, that I am, in middle age, attempting to piece together the splintered elements of the puzzle that has been my life. Now, I suppose, is the time when most women go through this: when their kids have grown and gone, when they’ve settled into a new normal with regard to their body, their health, and their sex life; when they have a whole lot less time in front of them than they do behind them. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it isn’t an easy thing either.

Having discovered much about myself through honest introspection, and having overcome some of my demons (we all have them); I have survived the hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes of life. And now, when things have finally settled down, it’s the aftershocks that have to be put into place… like the last pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, or that one last word you can’t get, even with the crossword dictionary or the internet.

What I have learned is that when you try too hard to seek happiness, you are often disappointed. When you attempt to please others to validate yourself, you do yourself a great disservice. I think the best way to find that happiness, to validate yourself and feel real and complete peace of mind is to live your life authentically. Listen to and follow your heart and the pieces of your own puzzle will fall in to place naturally.

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

 

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Lobster in the Sky

Day dreaming, for me, has become my great escape.  There was a time in my life when other things were my way of gaining attention, avoiding unpleasant situations or simply numbing myself to the harshness of the world.  Today, I can happily say that my path is well defined and much, much safer.

Most little girls dream of being movie stars or brides.  I didn’t have that luxury.  I was a kid who was self-absorbed and fearful, self-doubting and uneasy, insecure and apprehensive.  I tried too hard to fit in, and it never seemed to work.  The only place I was comfortable was on the stage in a play, and I was good, but then, I was acting as if I was somebody else.  Singing into a brush with me as the only audience…

There were very few people who understood and accepted all of this in me.  My parents had to.  It was a time when emotional and mental health in children was not on the front pages.  They didn’t recognize it and they didn’t know to help.  If they did know, they didn’t know how.  Making angels in the snow, but knowing they would melt away…

As a young adult, when my theater days were behind me, I took to drinking.  A lot…  Not a good solution.  There were very few dreams then.  Mostly nightmares…

I stumbled through a few years of this, maintaining a job, a marriage and parenting.  Somehow I emerged unscathed legally, financially, professionally and my marriage intact.  I had a guardian angel that interrupted my path.  This was no snow angel.  It was someone who reminded me that it was okay to dream again. It was then that the artist in me began to unfold.  I started work in mosaics, and the pieces began to come together…

The daydreams today are no longer filled with angst and fear.  Worry doesn’t take me to dark places.  In fact, since I live in Florida, there is no opportunity to make those snow angels. I write, I sing, I play musical instruments, I read, and I cook. I also have a new pastime. My nephew used to do this with my mother.  I’ve taken to lying in the grass and being at one with nature.  Staring at the sky, I try to see what the clouds look like.  Yesterday, I saw a lobster in the sky.

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

 

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My Book is a Short Story

I don’t know what happened to chapter one and chapter two.  All I know is that I had a taste of reflection on chapter one when I attended my summer camp reunion last month.  Camp song lyrics came flooding back to my memory and rolled off my tongue as if it was just last summer that I was swimming, playing volleyball, sailing, skiing, performing in a play, competing in color war, being homesick, and then crying because I didn’t want to go home.  I also had the opportunity to reflect back on who I was then, and see who I am now, understanding that life changes you; sometimes for the good, and sometimes it’s not so good.  Thankfully, most of it has been great, and that you can’t go back and rewrite once it’s been published.

Chapter two went just as fast.  My children are no longer children.  They are both young adults making their way in a challenging world.  Hopefully, we gave them a strong enough set of morals and values, sense of right and wrong, feeling of confidence, affinity for family and respect for mankind.  They both live far enough away from us now that I have to depend on that.  I long for the days when I could toss a ball with my son in the front yard, or help my daughter with cutting out flowers from magazines, sitting cross-legged on the floor in her room.  And now, every time I see a family with small children, I say to the young parents, “Don’t blink.”

People always told me Chapter Three would be my time… or our time.  We haven’t quite figured it out yet.  While we have had the blessing of falling in love all over again, we don’t have the energy or the interest to pursue the life we had before children.  We’re much older, and it takes some getting used to.  We’re still working, and certainly not financially independent, so all of our dreams have to wait a little longer, so I imagine you could say Chapter Three is really just a prologue to Chapter Four.  We do laugh a lot.

I am not permitted to discuss what I want to happen in Chapter Four.  I made a promise and I intend to keep it.  The one thing I have learned is that there are no guarantees.  I stay appreciative of every subplot and every page of my story, hoping that once in a while it’s a real page-turner, but that most of the time, its slow and steady, and ultimately, my book will be considered a short story classic.

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2015 in General, Phase 2

 

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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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