On Transparency

Someone recently called me “transparent” in my writing. I thought about it and the question came to mind, if not here, then where? I obviously can’t show my true feelings in the workplace. Aren’t we taught to leave our problems at home? And it has been proven many times that dragging my work issues home only upsets the dynamics of my family. My husband, like most men, can’t just listen and let me vent. He has to solve the problem and fix things; one, because he’s a man, and two because he hates to see me unhappy.

When my dog is around, I can tell him anything. He doesn’t judge me or try to solve the world’s problems and then go back to his nap. He just naps right through them. I envy him.

A while back, my life took a turn, for a long time, where I had isolated myself, and there were not many friends to whom I could vent. As a result, I created a cocoon for myself and the end result is that I now have very few people in my life to talk to, openly and honestly.

So, I talk to myself. In my blog and in my shower; on a walk or while on the treadmill; while doing computer work or gardening; while mixing up a cake batter or watching a baseball game. There’s a pattern here. All of these things are done alone. And if you know me, you know that I’m lying about the treadmill.

I noticed just recently that I had more followers on this blog than I realized, so being so transparent is probably not such a good idea. Or maybe it is. Maybe I’m not so alone.


My Mother’s Hands are now My Grandmother’s Hands

Oh, how we become our parents as we age.  While I was raising my two children, I often heard my mother’s words coming out of my own mouth.  I assume that’s because as an adult, with my own children, I finally came to realize that my parents weren’t as dumb as I thought they were when I was a teenager.  It comes full circle when your children present you with the same issues that you presented to your parents, and they to theirs.

While I believe fully that where human beings are concerned, there really is nothing new under the sun, technology has shown us that there are always new things out there.  I also believe that if you don’t learn and grow, and keep up with the times, you aren’t being fair to yourself, and you cease living authentically.

I was looking at my 85-year-old mother’s hands the other day, and recalled, very vividly, the hands of my grandmother.  I then looked at my own hands and saw that I was well on my way to perpetuating the family genes.  This prompted me to dig up an essay I wrote when my mother’s mother passed away.  I’ve shared it below.  Enjoy.

My Grandmother’s Hands

Originally written in 1992

My Grandmother!  She seemed so unapproachable, yet I had been able to get under her skin just enough to develop a delightful relationship, which I cherished during her life and remember with great fondness since her passing.  I remember that she was stand-offish when we tried to show affection, turning her cheek when we tried to zero in with a kiss.  My cousin, Sally, had given her the ultimate challenge when she said, “Nanny, if you really loved me, you’d kiss me on the lips.”  She would give in, because she loved us— all of us, each one in her own way.  There were many sides to her.

The one thing I remember vividly about my grandmother was her hands.  She always kept them neatly manicured, yet I used to marvel at her past and wonder about the millions of things those hands had done in her lifetime.  Did she scrape her palms when she fell while roller-skating down her street?  Had she ever held a butterfly in her palm or had she pointed to the sky to count the stars?  What was she thinking when my grandfather slipped a wedding band on her ring finger? 


I know she had a love for things that grew, and I can still picture her with dirt under her fingernails, having just repotted a philodendron.  Had she ever felt compelled to make a fist and strike someone in anger?  I couldn’t imagine that.  I recall watching when she would knead yeast dough for her cinnamon bunds, or roll the kifflin cookies in the powdered sugar.

My grandmother loved to work the daily crossword puzzle, and I can see her tapping her pencil in thought.  She would very carefully calculate the numbers on her purchase orders for the kitchen at the family’s summer camp.  My grandmother did a lot of needlework.  One piece hangs in my dining room, a constant reminder of her.  Nanny also painted.

I can just imagine her wringing out a cool wash cloth to lay across the fevered brow of any of her three children, eight grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren.  I heard stories of how she would carefully tear off just the right amount of toilet paper for everyone during the depression.

Though she tried to appear tough, there was always evident a distinguished tenderness when she would wipe away a tear.  I remember the way she held my face in her hands on my wedding day, noting how soft her skin was against mine.

When my children were born, I typically counted their fingers and toes.  I watched their chubby little hands grasp a pencil or crayon that was just fat enough to enable them to handle it gracefully.  I’ve noticed, as they’ve gotten older, how they have lost their baby fat and have grown slender, right down to their fingers.  And I’ve wondered what magnificent things they will do with their hands, and will their grandchildren marvel at them?

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.

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.

Happy Birthday Mom

October 22, 2014


Dear Mom:

When I was a tiny baby, I wasn’t aware of all that you did for me. I know you had your hands full with four of us under the age of six.

While I was growing up, I always wanted to be like you. I thought you were beautiful.  I remember going into your closet and trying on your shoes, and leafing through your wardrobe or watching you put on your eye shadow or your nylons.

When I was a teenager, I didn’t have much to say to you. As Milton describes relationships between a lot of girls and their parents… you knew nothing, and Dad knew less.  I loved you, but I couldn’t sit in the same room with you.

When I went away to college, I first realized what a wonderful mom you truly were. You and Dad instilled in me a solid  set of morals and values, a sense of responsibility, and a pretty good sense of who I was (or at least from whence I came).  The self-discovery part, I believe, is ongoing; as well it should be, because when we stop growing, we cease living authentically.

As a young mother myself, I relied on your wisdom, and that of Dr. Spock. Lord knows you had plenty of experience.  I think I did okay raising my own kids.

I watched how you unfolded and went through many changes in your life, and how gracefully you handled them.

Being a woman is not easy. It isn’t today, and it never has been.  We are called upon to play so many different roles in our lives.  You, my dear mother, have nailed it.  With each passing phase in your life, you get stronger and more able to handle what life brings you.

So today, on your birthday, I want to thank you, for the gift you have given me: the example you have set in being a wife, a mother a woman and a human being.  I am so grateful to have you in my life, and I wish you many more years of health, happiness and fulfillment.  I do that selfishly so that I may continue to have you as my mentor, my best friend.




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.

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…