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, education 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’ 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 five 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…. or is it “pro”-nouns???


In a Perfect World

In a perfect world, there would not exist any group who feels they are superior, thereby violently attempting to rid the world of anyone in disagreement, calling them infidels.  Nobody would hate anybody because of their religion, color, sexual preference, country or birth, mental/emotional capacity, or any other reason one human being may vary from another.  We are all, at the core, people.  Needless deaths would never happen.  People wouldn’t be killing each other with weapons that were made simply to cause fatal harm.

In a perfect world, perhaps our own government would somehow remember why it was they went to Washington in the first place: to represent the people of their respective states; it wasn’t to WIN, it wasn’t to beat the opposing party, it wasn’t to save their jobs, and it wasn’t to save face.  It was to govern for the people… after all; they were elected by the people.

But this isn’t a perfect world.

In our world, extremism is not only spreading and infiltrating democratic countries, its being quietly funded by enemies of the same.

Hate is not only tolerated but it is perpetuated and validated by elected (?) officials.

Incidences of gun violence, including mass murders, continue because governments are held in check (with a financial strangle hold) by special interest groups like the NRA, and elected (?) officials lie to their base about their opposition’s desires to strip them of their constitutional rights.  How about stiffening the laws so that automatic weapons cannot be converted into submachine guns?  How about selling hunting rifles and handguns only???   Why not make background checks even tougher?  Haven’t we had enough?

No, this is not a perfect world.

People get shunned, beaten up or even killed because they’re different.  Hate crimes need to be enforced.

Nobody seems to care about the environment.  Please explain why science can prove so much but it isn’t enough to create legislation to make this world green.  There are plenty of jobs in green energy as opposed to coal.  Why did we just suffer through Harvey, Irma and Maria?  Storms that were “the likes of which we’ve never seen before.”

All it takes is training.  And our construction industry would have Houston, the Keys and Puerto Rico rebuilt a whole lot faster if there were an incentive for young people to work with their hands instead of looking for a high minimum wage to flip burgers.  All it takes is training.  (And by the way, training them would create teaching jobs).

People wouldn’t have to suffer needlessly from financial ruin, trying to pay for their healthcare; nor would they have to lose sleep fearing that they would lose their insurance coverage altogether.  Instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, try working together (on a bi-partisan basis) on healthcare.  Work together on budgets, and anything else that affects the well being of ALL Americans could make things better.

Nobody ever achieves perfection.  If that were the case, then we would stop trying.  But why not try for excellence?  I believe that was the intention of those who braved the seas, fought a revolution and crafted a constitution.  In my humble opinion, we are letting them down more and more with each passing day.


Now, An Only Child?

Not that I am an only child, as I was blessed with growing up in a large family.  I’m thankful for that.

I feel sometimes like an only child.  The last of my siblings left two years ago to start a new life elsewhere, leaving me, alone, with my husband, as the sole care-takers of my mom. 

 Now, mom does not need a caretaker, yet.  She has made that abundantly clear.  She does occasionally needs things done around the house.  She does need rides to get her hair done or to go to the mall.  But her current needs are minimal.  I’ve been taking her to do the grocery shopping every week for years already, but that never felt like an obligation.  In fact, it was fun.  I look forward to it.  I’m sure there will come a time when Mom will need more from us, but for now, the most imposing she has been is to ask us to be her paid escorts because she felt like dining out.  No problem.

But my mother is not what this is about.  It’s about family.  It’s about nurturing.  It’s about love.  It’s about goodbyes and it’s about hellos.

Families have changed so much in the past five or thirty years.  I’m not talking about blended families that ensued after a soaring divorce rate, or same sex parents after the acceptance of same sex marriages.  I’m referring to transient families, whose children, when they completed higher education or when they married, settled to build their lives far away from where they grew up; specifically, far away from home.

When I was growing up, both sets of grandparents, all aunts and uncles and all cousins lived within a 30 mile radius.  This was two and a half generations ago, if a generation can be cut in half.  In the fifties and sixties in suburbia, nuclear families remained together.  If there is blame to be laid (and there isn’t), it was my generation that started the trend of spreading out all over the country.  Commercial air travel, faster communication methods and changes in social and economic opportunity have made all of this possible, no probable.

I miss my big brothers.  When the last one asked me to hang out while the movers packed up his house, I thought it would be an opportunity to spend some quality time with him.  I’m still trying to get over having to say goodbye to his wife and daughter two weeks ago in New York.  (We were all there to see my niece in a show.)   I figured we’d have a little time to talk, have some lunch, get a little work done and maybe reminisce a bit about some of the stuff that was being packed.

What actually happened was chaos.  His head was full of nine thousand thoughts.  He was attempting to get the house ready to sell while at the same time getting it packed up to move.  He missed his wife who had been out in California for a few weeks already.  Wasn’t sure all of the furniture was going to get picked up (that which was not going with him).  He felt bad about leaving the dogs outside in the heat.  I’m pretty sure he was pausing to glance at my mother, wondering when the next time was that he would see her.  I watched all this in silence.

That’s a lie.  I’m never silent.  In fact, my reaction was, as usual, the exact opposite.  I was hyper, and silly, and trying as hard as I could to be funny and engaging, to make everyone laugh.  You could cut the tension with a machete from an earlier exchange between my brother and the movers, and I was doing what I could to make everyone laugh.  That all worked out fine.

I spent a lot of time outside with the dogs, playing, smoking cigarettes, dunking my feet in the pool and weeping.  See… it wasn’t just my brother I was going to miss.  It was hard growing up in a houseful of men.  When my brother first met his wife, they were teenagers.  She immediately took me under her wing, and except for maybe wrapping her hair around a soup can every night to straighten it out, I looked up to her for just about everything.  They became my best friends and she became my sister.   You know, the one I never had.  For the past 44 years, she has been my sister, a confidante, a punching bag, a shoulder to cry on, a sounding board, and my personal baker (I think that may be the part I miss the most).  Even my closest friends don’t know me as well.

And so it goes.  My siblings all settled elsewhere and somehow because of my mother and the closeness between my brothers and me, all of our children are unusually close, even though they didn’t grow up in the same city.

Now, when I look at this next generation of cousins, they live even further away from each other, yet as siblings they are close.  My one brother’s kids are in California.  Mine are in Florida and Wisconsin.  Another brother’s kids are in Georgia and South Carolina, and the other brother’s kids are both in Pennsylvania. Thanks to cell phones and social media, everyone seems to stay in touch.  They all seem to know what’s going on with each other.  I’m thankful for that.

Having just returned from California, where we celebrated the marriage of my niece to a terrific young man, although I don’t know if he’s aware of into what he’s gotten himself. We also welcomed another family member… my nephew and his wife brought a beautiful boy into this world.  Most of the cousins were there to engage in merriment and togetherness. That’s what families do.  Or at least, that’s what our family does.  I’m thankful for that too.

Here’s Why I Write!

In the last few years, so much has happened in the news and in my life that I’ve gone through my own personal metamorphosis… It was at that point in my life, a year and half ago, that I realized that I had much less time ahead of me than I had behind me, and I wasn’t about to waste another moment being quiet, because I finally, in middle-age, have found  my voice.

So I wrote a novel for women; to let them know that everything that happened in their lives is what made them who they are, whether they were bad things or good things; that it is okay to talk about these things and tell someone who can help; that you are not alone.

Rita Coolidge said (and unfortunately I have to paraphrase because I don’t remember her exact words), that you can either let these things stop you in your tracks or you can grow from them.  In middle age, I decided to grow from them.  This was the impetus for “A Life, Well… Lived!”

My second book, “Okay, So I Lied!” is the story of a young woman who knew what she wanted and was willing to do anything to get it, even if it meant lying to those she loved.  Her lies took her many places, many of which were unpleasant, as is the case with many or most lies.  When she comes clean… well, you have to read it to find out.

I am currently working on my third novel.  Stay tuned!  You can access links to learn more about me and my books (and the purchase of same ~~hint hint) here:

JTFisher-A Novel Approach to Life

Change Only Hurts If You Resist It

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 35th 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. After all, how many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?  One, but the light bulb has to really want to change.



Right at Home

There is certainly no shortage of animal lovers out there.  If you have a question, just take a few minutes to look at Facebook or Instagram, or any other of the social media.  And the cute kitties and stupid dog tricks will overwhelm you.

I’m not really different from most of them.  I, too, share plenty of photos of my “pets.”  Notice how I cleverly put the word pets in quotation marks?  That’s because I’ve never really owned a pet.  In my adult life, or during my marriage of 32 years, my husband and I have raised two human children and have adopted four four-legged ones.  Since I’ve written copiously about my two legged children, I thought maybe I’d spend a few minutes reflecting on my other children.  Some of the latter have behaved better than the former in a lot of ways, but they all had a way of making themselves right at home.

Fake BlackyHad the internet and Facebook been available to me early on, I could have shown you how Blacky, our white Boxer, protected our children, stole entire loaves of bread (and then hid the wrappers in the corner under a chair), and pulled the covers off of my husband when she wanted to go out for a walk.  Blacky hated when the kids went swimming, and hated taking a bath herself.  She was strong, husky and aggressive toward anyone who seemed a threat, yet would belly crawl across the floor to a baby who was playing on a blanket in the living room.  She allowed my daughter to put dresses and tiaras on her, but would tear through a rawhide bone in three minutes.  Blacky was truly a member of the family.  (This is a substitute photo.  It is actually a Blacky look alike named Hector.)

Our second adoption came three years after Blacky left us.  My husband was in no hurry to have the responsibility,Sophie and Daniel nor the expense of another “child.”  Sophie, however, was in dire need of a home.  Her original family had a new baby who was violently allergic to her.  They were also not aware of the fact that cats eat when they’re hungry, but dogs eat when there’s food.  Consequently, Sophie was a prime candidate for Woof-Woof Sophie Weightwatchers.  We put her on a diet, and after losing 30 pounds, she   was sleek and slim.  She was still lazy.  Sophie required emergency  surgery four months into her stay with us.  Six huge bladder stones and $2,000 later, Sophie made herself right at home.  She found her spot on the couch, and while Blacky didn’t care for the aluminum foil placed there to keep dogs off furniture, Sophie just kicked it off and got comfortable.  Unlike her predecessor, though, she liked water.  In fact, she liked it so much, she would climb in the shower with me.

When it was time for Sophie to go, I had convinced my husband, that the best way to replace the emptiness of losing a four-legged family member is to get another one.  Enter Goyo.  This old man was seven when he came to live with us, Goyo hugand he did so because I was afraid nobody else would adopt an old dog with existing medical issues.  He wouldn’t let me leave the Humane Society without him.  He barked until we took him, and then never said another word.  And he showed up just in time.  Soon after he came home, I lost my job.  We really needed each other during that time, because not only did I have no place to go during the day, but both my kids were away at school, so I had that empty nest thing going as well.

Goyo must have come from a different generation.  I say that because he had better manners than most people I know.  First, he would sit with his legs crossed, paw over paw, like a true gentleman.  Second, when he was finished playing with his toys, he would put them away, and I didn’t have to tell him to do so.  Years and Goyoyears of asking, begging and cajoling and my children never learned to put their things away until they moved out and had to live with other people.  Maybe that was my fault, as I eventually ended picking up after them.  Goyo, like Sophie, was satisfied eating ice cubes and carrots for snacks.  None of our canine kids got table food as a general rule.  Goyo did, however, become my spaghetti tester.  He never told me if the pasta was ready.  He just kept asking for another and another and another strand of whatever pasta was being served.  Goyo was not only my food critic, my exercise partner and my therapist, he was my best friend. Goyo and I made a pact.  He was in pain from arthritis and was losing his hearing and eye sight.  He promised to let me know when it was time to go, and I promised not to make him stay one minute longer.

Only two weeks after we had to put Goyo down, I was already at the Humane Society where I met Alexander for the first time.  Again, my husband wanted a break, but I was devastated over losing my Goyo.  I wrote about him, I sang about him, I drew pictures of him and I talked about him constantly.   When I met Alex, I was told that he had been at the Humane Society for almost Alex hiding heada year and a half.  That broke my heart, and for the next two months, unbeknownst to my husband, I was visiting this boy.  I was bonding with him, and trying to figure out a way to bring him home.  We had agreed to wait until Labor Day, when we could spend a long weekend getting him used to our home.

I couldn’t wait.  I made arrangements with our vet, and with our dog-sitter, because we already had plans for a long weekend away.  When that was accomplished, I brought Alexander home.  This boy really needed (needs) a lot of love and patience.  He had a tragic beginning.  He was so skittish that even after several months, he still hides his head when he sleeps.

Alexander is no dummy, however, and has figured out who does what and when in our house. Alex protecting bowl He knows where the treats are, who gives the best scratch behind the ear and when to hang out in the kitchen (I’ve gotten softer in my old age, so Alex gets bits of chicken when I make soup).   Alex was extremely particular about what he ate in the beginning, and got very attached to his bowl.  In fact, he takes it wherever he goes.  He just picks it up with his teeth (and it doesn’t matter if it’s full or empty) and carries it to a place in which he feels more comfortable.

Alex with stolen blanketWhile doing some cleaning and downsizing, we left a pile of linens, pillows and blankets in the hall that we were going to donate, however Alex, in no uncertain terms, has told us that HE would like one of the blankets.  He dragged it out of the pile and just plain took it.  He pulled out one of the pillows, and used it like a toy (needless to say that one ended in the garbage).  Ultimately, he decided that the energy expended wasn’t worth it and made the whole pile into a bed for himself.

Last but not least, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the presence of my grand-doggy, Harvey at the tableHarvey Richard Fisher.  He was given the middle name by my daughter, although it is my son and daughter-Harvey on blanketin-law who adopted Harvey.  Harvey, wherever he goes, walks around like he owns the joint, and although I love him very much, he doesn’t give me any attention.  He is, in no uncertain terms, his father’s son.  I hope that if and when my children have children, they do a better job with table manners than they have with Harvey.  That’s all I’m saying.

I imagine these stories, if told about my human children, wouldn’t be as amusing as some of the others I’ve written.   I love my children first, but it is my four-legged children who will forever leave reminders that they have been there.  We are still finding Blacky hair, and she’s been in doggy heaven almost 15 years.   (What does that say about my housekeeping?)  It says that they all made themselves right at home.