Mindsight vs. Hindsight – Dear Beth, Thank you.

It took me a long time to learn that whatever decisions we make in life, are ones that we, alone, must live with.  There may be lessons learned from those decisions.  Whether large or small, physical, financial or emotional, there are often ramifications or consequences.

I had to make one of those decisions yesterday.  In short, I had to decide whether or not to visit an old friend in the hospital or not.  I should clarify it to say that she was not just in the hospital, but in a nursing home, in Hospice care.  She’s dying.  In fact, she was, at the time I saw her yesterday, fairly close to the end.

My decision to visit her wasn’t an easy one.  Seventeen years ago, I watched my father die a slow, agonizing death over the span of three and a half months.  I visited him nearly every day on my lunch hour, through the compassion of my employer at the time, and by so doing, I watched him die just a little bit every day.  The result of this experience left extremely stunning visual images in my head… images that took me years to replace with the sweet memories I have of him today.

I fought with myself as to whether I wanted to do the right thing, say my final goodbyes and offer love and support to her beautiful family.  If I chose to do that, the last memory I would create in my mind would be that one of her as she is today.  If I chose not to go, and do the wrong thing, it would have been selfish, leaving me with vibrant, full-of-life memories of my dear friend. It would have also left me with a raging case of guilt and remorse.

Hindsight is twenty-twenty.  I don’t want to ever have to look back again, and feel as though I didn’t give all of myself to the people who mean the most to me.  I want my “mindsight” to be remorse-free and guilt-free.  With all that being said, I did visit my friend.  I don’t even know if she knew I was there.

I know I was there.

I love you, Beth.  I always will.

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!


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.

The Blue Thumb

Have you ever heard the expression, “every time someone gets a new hammer, everything around them looks like a nail?”

I know someone like that.  Everything this person gets started with becomes not only a passion, but an obsession.  It doesn’t matter if it’s something to eat or a hobby or a philosophy.  This person has to nail it to the wall.

For me, it has been so hard to watch, because nothing ever really sticks.  It has been a constant search to find the right hammer.  I used to hold the nails in place while the hammer was wielded.  I was just trying to be supportive and helpful.  Somehow, the nails would get wobbly and we’d go on to the next project, find a new hammer, and begin again.

Lately, somebody else handed my friend a hammer.  In fact, the hammer had a sticky resin on the handle.  Suddenly, my friend became, once again, passionate and obsessive.  The only difficulty I had with this new hammer was that the project itself was very self-limiting, and my friend began to forget the lessons learned from all of the other “projects” along the way.  I tried to hold the nails in place, but in an effort to swing so hard with this new hammer, my friend actually missed the whole point, and instead of hitting the nail on the head, hit my thumb instead.  It really hurt me, in so many ways.

I had to stop trying to work on this project.  I had to let go of the hammer and my friend, lest I wind up with a blue thumb… or a black and blue thumb.

Over the Speed Limit

Well, it has finally happened.  I’ve done it.  I have passed the speed limit.  Tomorrow marks my 56th birthday, and since most highways (except for maybe the turnpike system) have a speed limit of 55 miles per hour, I think it’s finally time for me to slow down.

Not that sitting in my car for nearly three hours every day, travelling at an average speed of 27 miles per hour is going fast.  I know that because my car can tell me my average speed.  It can also tell me my average miles per gallon, an approximation of how many miles are left in the current tank of gas, who is texting or calling me, and what color underwear I have on.  This is part of what I’m talking about.  Life is going too fast.  Information is flying in and out of my world as fast as best friends did when I was seven.

I’m tired.  I have done my time.  I’ve raised two children to adulthood.  I have been working full time since I was twenty-one.  I’ve maintained a home, the finances, the health, the kitchen (including a table full of teenagers every night for a span of about six years), and a not-so-demanding husband.

I am often reminded of Rose, in the story of Gypsy.  The consummate stage mother, wife, etc.  When she was left alone in the end, which is what we, today, refer to as the “empty-nest” part of her life, unlike me, she sped up.  She sang about how it was “Mama’s turn.”

When I first felt the very painful effects of an empty house, less errands, laundry and cooking, and an eerie quiet all of the time, except for maybe the drone of television sports emanating from the man-cave, I suffered a deep depression.  I didn’t know what to do with myself.  Everyone around me said I should find something to do.

Not me.  Not now.  For me, it’s time to slow down.  It won’t be long before I’m looking through the steering wheel rather than over it.  I’ve got to make the morning last.

Necessity- the Child of Invention???

We knew our son was smart, and resourceful. He had given us many indications thereof early on. He walked early; he mastered coordination of simple tasks early; he was even speaking in short sentences as early as ten months of age. When I say short sentences, I mean three words. He was not a great orator then, but he did surprise some adults along the way.

Our surprise at his cognitive ability came when he was around fourteen months old, battling a double ear infection that was coupled with a high fever and the gastric symptoms that generally came along with it. He could keep nothing in his stomach. Not even clear fluids. We were instructed, by his pediatrician, (and not his grandmothers), to give him one ounce of Gatorade every hour, until he could keep that down, and then gradually increase the amount.

Our efforts were simply to keep him from getting dehydrated. For him, apparently, it wasn’t enough. We were trying everything we could to divert his attention to other things. Videos, storybooks and games didn’t work. Finally, Daniel decided he wanted to take a shower.

At the precise moment my husband stepped into the lukewarm spray, my son on his shoulder, Daniel turned around, strained his neck toward the water and opened his mouth to drink. He was thirsty. He had a drink. He was satisfied. He kept it down, and he felt better!

What do we know???

Parents, What Constitutes an Emergency?

As a parent, we go through stages.  For me, an emergency is all about perspective.   From the time I was a little girl, I didn’t have aspirations to be anything when I grew up (besides a movie star), other than a mom.  It was at something I seemed to know I would be good.

 Unfortunately for me, and for everyone around me, I wasn’t successful immediately, as I suffered two miscarriages first.   My doctor, who, by the way, knew me well, decided not to wait to do the obligatory testing, saying that he usually would wait for a third miscarriage, but “knowing me…”

 All tests were normal except for one errant lab artifact.  There seemed to be no reason for this other than the fact that every time I conceived, I quit smoking and drinking!!  After nine months of trying again, we finally conceived.  I have the only physician in modern times who recommended that I smoke a few cigarettes a day, and drink four oz. of white wine before bed every night.

 I did this, and nine months later, my son was born with a little butt.  (Forgive me… that has always been my husband’s joke).  We fell into parenthood very easily, until… 10 days into his life, our son had to have a kidney scan to see if had both, due to a single umbilical artery.

 Colic set in at six weeks on the nose.  Was that an emergency?  To us, yes.  To the doctor, no.  For four hours at the same time every evening, our son regaled us from the depths of his lungs.  We called the doctor every other night.

 At four months, we were playing with him on the floor, when he toppled over and bumped his head ever so slightly on the leg of the crib.  His screams reminded us of those colicky days, and yes, we called the doctor.  It was an emergency because there was a pink spot on his forehead.

 When he was two, our son fell off of his tricycle.  I had him under one arm and the bike under the other and ran home.  Was this an emergency?  There was no blood.  There weren’t even any tears.  But he fell…

 Okay, so we overreacted.   When he was two and a half, he finally gave us a real emergency.  He mustered the strength to slide a nineteen inch television out of the wall unit, and had I not caught it and flipped it over it would have landed on his head.  Instead, it landed on his hand, crushing two of his fingers.  Into the ice and down the street to our neighbor the doctor, who sent us immediately to the “emergency” room.  He’ll never be a brain surgeon, but he survived.

 My mother always told us that boys are harder to raise physically and girls are harder to raise emotionally.  I think all parents learn to listen, finally, to their parents when they become parents.  My mother was right.

 My daughter crept into our world very quietly when our son was two, and until she could talk (she was a late bloomer) she didn’t create any emergency situations.  That is, until one night, she popped a double inguinal hernia!!!!  At four months, she had turned blue from the waist down, so we left our son in the bathtub (with his grandfather babysitting), and made another trip to the emergency room.  A month later, she had surgery to correct the problem.

 When she was two, our daughter slipped and chipped her tooth on the side of the bathtub.  That in itself wasn’t a real emergency.  It fit her personality… that is, until she developed an abscess and had to have the tooth pulled.  That was rather emergent.

 We were all outside playing one day, and our daughter went inside and locked the door.  This could have presented a plethora of problems.  But that was during my skinny period, and I was able to climb through the dining room window, grab my keys and my child, and go back outside.  Just as a point of reference, even today, I don’t go anywhere without my keys in my pocket.

 The truest test, I believe, as to whether something becomes an emergency is the level of panic it can create.  We had a neighbor who was pregnant, who was extremely panicked over the fact that she had eaten a bagel that had a little mold on it.  Having been through what I had with my pre-school aged children, I had become an old pro.  I was much more aware of what an emergency was and what wasn’t quite as important, so I was able to allay her fears.

 Later that summer, my husband was outside playing with the children when my daughter came running inside to use the phone.  She was all of four.  I said, “Who are you calling?”

 She said, “9-1-1.”

 “What’s the emergency?  What’s wrong?”

 “The kite is stuck in the tree.”

 It’s all about perspective.

Mr. Manners

Out of work for six months now, and my nest seemingly emptier than ever, I’ve had the chance to reflect on raising my children and how fast the time passed.  I was a follower of Dr. Spock, firmly believing that children needed discipline to make them feel secure.  They needed to hear the word “no,” to understand that somebody cared enough to set limits for them and teach them to set limits for themselves.

 Yes, we let them cry themselves to sleep to learn that bedtime was bedtime.  Yes, we made them taste everything that was served to them (not necessarily cleaning their plates).  Yes, we punished them when they did wrong.  No, we did not shower them with either idle threats or expensive gifts.  No, we did not let them “find themselves” at age three.  No, we did not let them get up from the table until everyone was finished eating.  

 In so doing, we did get a lot of compliments on the behavior of our children over the years, but it didn’t start out so smoothly.  They were polite and well-behaved.  Or so we thought…We could take them anywhere.  If they acted up or cried, we simply removed them from the restaurant or movie theater so they would not disturb other patrons. 

 One particular evening, we were dining at a family style restaurant which allowed  children.  My husband and I were appalled to see dozens of children running around screaming and crying, with what seemed to be no supervision.  We looked at each other and nodded in agreement that our son, age two, was, indeed well behaved, only to find him leaning over his plate of macaroni and cheese, and eating it like a dog.

 He hasn’t done that since.  It is, however, twenty-three years later.