Contact Me

Any time - drop me an email
miriamhendeles@gmail.com
1-323-243-7116

Groovy Granny’s Back-To-School Musings

It’s back to school for  my grandsons and that includes a couple of toddlers in playgroups, a kindergartener, first grader, a fourth grader and a fifth grader.

I remember those days back when I was in those classes and beyond. I recall the mix of emotions – from anticipation, worry, excitement, happiness to eagerness. I remember looking  forward to the daily music, art, lessons and new friendships. To the newness in everything.

Children’s Art

 

And today,  as a grandmother who doesn’t attend formal school anymore, I still can relate to every one of those feelings of going back to school. The newness and freshness of a back-to-school child are feelings I enjoy in my everyday life with all its mundaneness.

“Back to school” feelings don’t only belong to children who begin school each year. The feelings and experiences are universal to everyone in our everyday experiences, even grandmothers, bubbies and all of us in middle-aged years.

Here they are – the newness of our lives as groovy grandmas and groovy grownups.

  1. New Friends – Both online and in person I tend to collect friends and acquaintances.
  2. New Clothes – Ya, I buy those sometimes and it’s a great feeling.
  3. New Lessons – every failure and success is a chance to learn new lessons.
  4. New Classrooms – whether in the grocery store or at our computer, we create our virtual classrooms.
  5. New Teachers – I look to my friends, family, students and grandchildren as my mirror and teacher.
  6. New Books – We feel like we are inundated with reading material, but each day I try to weed out the relevant material and incorporate
  7. New Chances – Opportunities abound every day of our lives. Do we grab them or let them pass?
  8. New Games – Our leisure time is spent with games, laughter and fun. Or do we create unhealthy games to mask our true feelings in relationships?
  9. New Rules – We are continuously reconciling old and new rules and figuring things out.
  10. New Shoes – Who doesn’t love a new pair of shoes? Or two or three?

 

What are your Back-To-School Life experiences?

 

 


My Expression of Gramma-Tude

Life is hard and complicated and I find myself complaining about stuff to my husband,  friend or two, relative, my mom,  sister(s), my husband (oh, did I mention him already?) or anyone who will listen.

But other times, I just feel a surge of gratitude for the blessings in my life. And at those times I write. This happened a few weeks ago when I wrote an article for Binah Magazine about my gratitude or “Gramma-tude” for my life as a grandmother.

And a special shout out to Ruchi Koval of  Outoftheorthobox.com, whose insight constantly inspires me, and whose anecdote is part of this article.

Please click on the photos below to view the article. Or print them out for easier reading…


Should Age Be a Private Matter?

A few  nights ago our family was invited to the100th birthday party of my mother-in-law’s cousin.  To me, the celebration of his becoming 100 indicated that he and all around him were grateful for his blessings of a long life.

It was a time to announce his age to those who were there. Something that is often private was the topic of the event.

My MIL has lots of friends around that age, including someone from our synagogue  who turned 100 a few months ago and celebrated with a party in synagogue on Shabbat. Oh, and did I  mention my MIL’s best friend, Anne who turned 102? That was a milestone which our family and Anne’s children celebrated at a restaurant.

Until about 6 years ago, my mother-in-law’s age was private. No one seemed to know her age and if they did they certainly didn’t discuss it.

After that, her age was officially public knowledge and no longer a taboo subject.

So I’m wondering: Why wait till you’re 90 or 95 to announce your exact age? I think it should be something to boast about when we are still in our 30’s, 40’s and beyond.

I guess this belief stems from my childhood and how I was raised.

The adults in my life always discussed their age. I had two sets of grandparents growing up and I knew all of their ages as a child. And that’s not just because I was a nosy kid who asked a lot of questions! (although that may have something to do with it.)

But seriously, when my maternal grandmother was in the hospital and not feeling very well the last year of her life, she maintained her sense of humor and shall I say, brutal honesty.  When the doctor came in to examine her and asked her how old she was, she said, “90 1/2,” in a decisive tone of voice. No one was going to leave out that half a year that she was proud of.

Every year one of my sisters writes a poem using my mom’s age that year as a takeoff for a theme. That poem gets emailed to all the cousins and friends by my mother herself.

So I grew up with the adults around me treating age as a number denoting an accomplishment.  Nothing to hide or be ashamed of. Another birthday means we have arrived. And thank G-d we have more time on this earth to accomplish things.

Still, age continues to be a taboo subject in some families and cultures. It’s still considered impolite for children or adults to ask one another how old they are. I get that.

But I wonder whether the hiding of one’s age or considering it not a topic of conversation in polite company contribute to unhealthy messages about our aging bodies and souls.

Personally, I think it’s a good thing to be open about one’s age, because it helps us grow and move forward emotionally. I believe that when we pretend to be what we are not or forget that we are 56 (that would be me!), maybe we won’t take care of our health. We may neglect ourselves and skip mammograms or colonoscopies or bone density exams or other checkups… because we think we are still 25 or 35.

By contrast, when we focus on the positive aspects of growing old such as having more wisdom and experience we embrace our age.  Rather than getting depressed when we reach a new decade or big number,  I do think it’s better to reach a place of acceptance.

That celebration doesn’t have to be in the form of a party or getting gifts. It can be in the simple acknowledgment of our moving forward. Our growth. It could be a time to take stock of what we’ve achieved the past year or years and what we want to achieve in the next year. A time for gratitude and prayer.

Children are proud of their age because it denotes being more grownup and having more privileges. To them every fraction of a year counts. My young grandson has been keeping track of when his 5 1/2 years became 5 3/4 until he turned 6.

We don’t have to have that kind of glee for a new age or fraction of an age. And some people choose to keep it private. Whether we admit it or not, we feel our age. Every. Single. Day.

But instead of seeing that as a negative, let’s see it as a reminder of our blessings.

So the next time the subject comes up, be proud of your age. Whether you are 20, 30, 40, or 50 +, let’s celebrate our birthdays, not just with a party and lots of cards.

Oh and by the way, my birthday is coming up soon in a few months and I’ve been reflecting as I reach that number and as I watch others have birthdays. It could be this post is my way of working through my unconscious anxieties about the new number. Or maybe I’m just reflecting on a common societal trend of age and privacy. I don’t know.

All I know is that I  pray that we can all embrace and celebrate our birthdays by having our cake and eating it too. That means being grateful, taking care of our physical and emotional health and reaching out to loved ones.

 

 

 

 


How My Mom, Sisters and I Had our Great Experience

My husband and I never travel to exotic places and we’re pretty much okay with it. We have thank G-d a lovely climate here in Southern California where the sun shines pretty much on most days and where we get to complain when it’s 50 degrees how freezing it is. Our idea of a good vacation is a drive to the San Diego Zoo or Laguna Beach.  Even Disneyland is out of the question as the prices have become astronomical (sorry, Disneyland).

But all that aside, it has been my dream to go to Israel for like forever. I had been there as a child with my parents, then as a high school graduate with my friends and 22 years later with my husband.

I’ve wanted to have what’s called a “chavaya” – a memorable experience in Israel that is imprinted on my mind. I wanted to really feel like I lived there – even for just a few days, not in a hotel or motel, but in an apartment with friends or family.

I wanted to go to the Holy places such as the Western Wall to pray. I yearned to pray at the graves of our matriarchs such as Rachel’s Tomb  and the Cave of the Patriarchs or Me’arat HaMachpeilah.

I wanted to visit our youngest son who is there now in Israel and to experience the new and modern country that I’ve heard from friends that Israel has developed into since I’ve been there over a decade ago. In fact, the only time we went together in all our married years was when our older son was there for yeshiva and we went to visit him. I still remember that trip because it was several months after 9/11, tickets were cheap and the entire country was devoid of tourists.

Still, I longed and pined for that next honeymoon with my husband but figured it wasn’t going to happen very soon. I was content with the amazing mini-vacations to San Diego and Laguna and the great theme park of Knotts Berry Farm (sorry, Disneyland; Knott’s is more affordable). And we are fortunate to go  the East Coast for nieces’ and nephews’ weddings, for family events and so forth. And even though we miss many such family events, I feel blessed to be able to go to the ones that I do.

It’s all good. One of the many lessons I’ve learned (and tried to practice) over the years is  to have gratitude for the good in my life  and to keep my expectations realistic. Dreaming and longing is nice but when we have high expectations that are over our budget or lifestyle, we set ourselves up for disappointment.

So I put the dream out of my mind.  I told my husband when we win the lottery or win one of those many raffle tickets we put in $18 for to win that elusive “trip for 2 to Israel”,  we will get to go.  That and also if  he gains more vacation days at his workplace (right now all his yearly vacation is used for Jewish Holiday breaks),  and we have enough to spend on a hotel and a few tourist attractions….we will go somewhere. If all that’s in place, we will fulfill our wish list of travel.  Israel was at the top of that list followed closely by Alaska in the summer (to see the midnight sun – my husband’s dream).

Then last month we traveled to NY from LA for our niece’s wedding.

At the wedding I was schmoozing with one of my sisters when she told me that our mother was asking to visit Israel this winter and this sister wanted to take her there. As this sister and another are the ones who live closest to our mom, they had heard my mom expressing a longing to visit the Holy Land and see her cousins whom she hadn’t seen in over ten years. Additionally, since my father passed away, our mom hasn’t traveled much and she felt lonely and an eagerness to go somewhere special. To see and pray at the Holy places and  to visit with family and friends who lived there.

That’s when I blurted out, “Oh, that’s so nice. I want to come along!” I didn’t think of the cost or the time off from work and how that would be possible. I just had this sudden urge to go with my mom and sisters. For some reason, I disregarded any of the kinks that would have to be worked out such as leaving my husband behind.

And suddenly money became irrelevant as my husband and I talked it over and his remark was that this was a trip of a lifetime and we would make it work. (Even if we had to work Sundays and evenings and extra hours for the next few weeks.)

Within a day, I had a ticket to Israel for three weeks later,  found my recently renewed (whew!) passport in the place where we keep them,  my husband’s blessings and encouragement, my three sisters including the one who initiated it coming along, and my mother extremely excited that her four daughters would be traveling with her to Israel. Oh, and our spouses, our brothers and their wives were not invited, thank you. This was an all-girls event.

For the next few weeks we went back and forth with plans for the Big Trip. The anticipation was so much fun. From the beginning our goal was to make my mom happy and that we were doing this for our mom. That meant that we would fill our days with activities that my mom could do. Since she is thank G-d in her late 80’s (may she live till 120) and doesn’t walk as fast as she used to, activities such as climbing Masada and touring the North or South of the country were out.

The trip lasted 9 days of which we were in Israel for just under 6 days. But no worries. We knew were going to have a blast breathing the air of Jerusalem and other places we went and just being with each other.

A day before we left to Israel we found out that El Al airlines was on strike and we had to quickly scramble with the airline to get a refund and buy new tickets with a stopover. Still, we were thrilled that we were able to work it out. Never mind that our trip was cut short by about 12 hours since we had to make do with whatever return tickets we could get on the new airline. Never mind that I had to quickly get on a plane that night (a day early) to NY to meet my sisters and mom at the airport for the new flight outbound. And never mind that I had to pay extra for that quickly made flight.

Nothing mattered because we were going to be traveling together and having  a blast on the trip of a lifetime.

And as we took off on that Monday evening on the plane, the only regrets I had were  for the flight attendants on Brussels Air who had to put up with our constant standing up and loud talking. Our passing diet food brought with us to each other. Our laughing and giggling and loud playing of word games  (word mix is a great one by the way!) on the screen.

Still I had so much to be grateful for: First, I had a husband that was fine (thrilled) with my getting away for a week (oops 9 days including travel). Second, my adult kids were thrilled for me and their grandmother and aunts. And finally, this was an easy trip to plan for since I wasn’t leaving any carpools, babies, school schedules and play dates for someone else to worry about. In fact, the only baby I was leaving in the care of my husband was my new kitchen. He had strict instructions written down how to care of the various appliances.

One of the things I’ve learned as mother-in-law and grandmother and in general a middle aged person is to have lower expectations of events and happenings.  That philosophy ends up being quite freeing. It’s a way of letting go and allowing things in life to evolve the way they will. It means letting other people including friends, relatives and our children be who they are. It means  allowing our married couples to make their own decisions without us offering unsolicited advice. It means doing the best we can do in situations using our skills without beating ourselves up when we make mistakes.

And when we do all that, we can free ourselves to let in all the fun and laughter and just enjoy the ride . (and lots of city walking too!)

Visiting one of the holy places

 

 

 


A Tribute to My Father on his YahrTzeit

What do you say when someone asks you for information that is readily available on the Internet?

Google it! That’s code for “Look it up. Figure it out. You can do it….”

My siblings and I reminisce that my father would encourage our independence in learning new things, by telling us to  “look it up.”

In honor of  the yahrtzeit or anniversary of my father’s passing two years ago, I write this blog post. This one’s for you, Daddy.

Shalom Stern, or Shalom ben Shlomo (the son of Solomon) Halevi (a descendant of the Levites) passed away after a diagnosis 14 years earlier of Parkinson’s Disease. My father passed on September 28, 2014 but the Hebrew date falls on today’s Hebrew date which is the day after Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year). Today we lit a candle that lasts for 24 hours and my brothers recited kaddish in my father’s memory.

My father was a paradigm of punctuality. Descending from German ancestors, his motto was “a place for everything…everything in its place.” This time of year which precedes the holiday of Sukkos has a theme from the book of Ecclesiastes which reads, “A time to mourn, a time to rejoice…..a time for everything.” Similarly, my father believed that there is a time for everything and he stuck to a sensible daily schedule in his life.

My father was born in Antwerp, Belgium May 27, 1926. He attended Cheder (traditional Jewish elementary school) there along with his sister. He had a relatively uneventful childhood with his parents, many cousins and friends in the little town where they lived. In the early 1940’s,  the political situation changed and they left their home and moved from country to country, town to town, living over the next few years in France, Portugal, Cuba, followed by the U.S.

IMGThis is my paternal grandmother

According to stories we heard from my father and my aunt, “everything was an adventure” during these unstable times. Yes, they were afraid but it didn’t cripple them. They trusted their parents, prayed and continued on with their  daily activities and schooling in each place that they lived. Time to be afraid and time to move on. My aunt recalls saying the prayer “Shema Yisrael” in her bed as the war planes were flying in earshot. My father spoke about his countless stories of escape and survival into a recording and one of my nephews created a CD for all the family which I cherish.

When my dad came to the U.S. at age 16 (1942), he attended high school in Brooklyn and learned the English language rapidly. After high school he continued in with his Jewish studies in a local yeshiva while attending Brooklyn College to earn a degree in Economics. In 1949, my father met my mother and they married that year in June. He went into business while my mother stayed home with the children and together they raised a family of six children. They were the matriarch and patriarch of  many grandchildren and great grandchildren.

dadyoung

My father had a very disciplined and hard working nature. I was proud to have such a “perfect” father who was so smart, wise, kind, learned and accomplished. On the other hand, there was this pressure to keep up, to do things correctly. My husband spoke at a small memorial meal that we sponsored in my father’s memory last Shabbos (Saturday). One of my husband’s key comments was that he felt that our father was someone to look up to, to emulate and to aspire to be like.

He had a meticulous schedule in which he rose early, prayed, studied Talmud, ate breakfast, went to work and then came home at the same time each night. Looking back, it seems kind of idyllic in some ways. The predictability, the security and all that. At the same time as I said there was this pressure to do good work. It was sort of an unspoken expectation of “You can do it. You will do it.” Each one of us siblings has differing interests. But, we each try to do our best in whatever we do.

daddyThis is my father speaking at a family event in the final year of his life.

My father learned and studied Torah deeply and often could be found in his study poring over books either alone or with one or several grandchildren. Even in the last days when his PD had progressed to its worst symptoms of not being able to talk above a whisper, my father enjoyed listening to stories about Torah. This energized him. I believe this means my father was a very spiritual person.

Additionally, in his life, my father was active in founding a girls’ high school in our community and he gave charity to many institutions around. My father had a witty sense of humor, enjoyed being around people and socializing in the free time that he had. He liked traveling, people and words.

momdadMy Mom and Dad

Just this morning, I asked my brother a question and my brother’s return text to me was “as Daddy would say, ‘look it up!'”

I recall my father’s study with his unabridged dictionary and huge atlas along with many encyclopedias and books surrounding him, we always had to resources to “look it up.”

As we come out of the two intense days of the New Year and move forward into the 10 days bridge until Yom Kippur, I make that my new mantra. Whenever I struggle with something, I will think of my father and how he used all his abilities to look things up, to figure things out and to grow. I will remember his motto of a time for everything, a place for everything.

Whether I’m studying, reading, learning, blogging, working or socializing, I will be mindful of doing things carefully and properly to the best of my ability at the appropriate time.

My father was a tough act to follow – but definitely someone to aspire to. All in the right time.

May his memory be blessed.

daddymatzeivah

 

 


10 Things You’re Doing that Drive Your New Daughter-in-law Crazy….and How to Fix Them

milhoodladies2

I originally wrote this post for my website page that offers help exclusively for mothers-in-law on how to cope. I launched that page in 2013 and this was my first broadcast I sent out.

Well, I’ve come a long way since then. Many people have corresponded with me through that site with questions on how to cope. I have tried to answer their queries to the best of my abilities based on my own and on others’ experiences shared with me. However, I sometimes wonder whether I have fallen behind in some of these skills. Having had several more sons get married thank G-d, increasing my number of daughters-in-law to four (and counting!), I’ve had some tricky scenarios occur in our family(and no, I will not share them in this post!). I can picture my daughters-in-law reading this and thinking, “Hmmm…” Yes, confession: I have broken these rules (from time to time!).

Rereading my own tips leads to me realizing I need a tune-up and some studying of my own rules.

So in hopes of increasing my own commitment to these guidelines and possibly helping others in the process, I’ve decided to rewrite and slightly revise them with updated 2016 situations such as text and what’s-app and Facebook. So, without further ado, here they are:

10 Things That Drive Your DIL crazy….and how to fix them

1. You call your daughter-in-law too much. The rule of newlyweds is “don’t call – let them call you.” By your calling them, you may be pressuring them to talk when they may be busy with something else.

How to fix:

a) Tell your new couple that for the first few months, you are available if they need you – and mean it. Make a commitment to them never to call them in the beginning. When I was a new mother-in-law, I remember picking up the phone…and putting it down. It took all my inner strength to refrain from calling.

b) If they call you, return their call within a reasonable period of time, and help them out if you can. This will build trust as they realize you are there for them, while not hovering over them. Better to let them find a time that works for them and call you, rather than put them on the spot. This applies to leaving messages too.

c) You may text or “what’s-app” them but do so with just information that you are giving them about something upcoming in the family, rather than with expectations of them to respond.

2. You compare your own family members to your daughter-in-law and/or her family. Okay, you’re proud of your own family and biological children. Fine. But, by comparing openly or talking about another person too much, you may be giving the unwitting impression that you don’t value your new daughter-in-law as an individual.

How to fix:

a) When you are with your dil, don’t share or brag about your own family. At least in the beginning few months, be a listener, more than a talker and sharer.

b) As a side note, this comparison factor may come into play when the various couples start to have children. It’s best to listen to your individual daughters-in-law share and discuss about their children, without interjecting comparisons about another of your daughter-in-law’s children.

3. You ask open-ended questions such as what she is making for dinner, or how she spends her time. To you that may be a matter of conversation, but to her it is personal and perhaps not something of interest to her.  Starting conversations with a question can only lead to defensiveness, or feeling pressured into sharing.

How to fix:

a) Avoid appearing curious and asking too many personal questions.

b) Allow the relationship to build through your sharing with her and then letting her share spontaneously.

4. You give her advice that she does not ask for, or you give your son advice about something that pertains to both or one of them. When your children get married, they are under new management. They are adults in charge of their own life. By you offering advice, you are demonstrating that you still see them as children. They should know that you are there for them (as much as you can) when they ask. But never ever offer unsolicited advice. Whether it’s about housekeeping, finances, child-raising, health. Anything.

How to fix:

a) No advice at all. Only if they ask. And even then, reflect back to them by saying, “So what are your options? How do you want to handle it?”

b) Now, it’s okay to say, “if you need any help, feel free to ask” to them or to offer your opinion – ONE time, but then you need to drop it. Try never to bring it up again.

5. You criticize and find fault with her. This will drive her crazy and will drive a wedge between you and her. If you see your son or daughter-in-law doing things “wrong” in your eyes, keep you mouth shut. Do not criticize her. Ever. Let’s say she makes bagels and cream cheese for dinner five days a week (maybe an extreme example). Don’t say anything about it. Don’t offer advice on other nutritional offerings (see rule #4). And don’t tell her how unhealthy an unbalanced it is to serve such dinners. Just let it be. Whatever she does or is, is not your business.

How to fix:

a)  If you notice that you are criticizing too much, stop.

b)  Apologize if she or they were hurt and resolve to never find fault.

c)  Realize they are a married couple and if you want them to be happy, then finding fault with either one of them is not going to create good feelings or happiness between you.

d) Maybe find a friend or mentor to share and vent with about your thoughts. Try to find solutions within yourself to reframe situations so that you don’t appear critical.

6. You rarely praise your couple and/or daughter-in-law. Not only is it important to avoid criticizing (rule 5), but you must find ways to praise them sincerely. A mother-in-law who rarely finds good in her daughter-in-law is at best going to have a stilted relationship. You can offer the praise to your son about her, some of the time. It doesn’t have to be always to her, but still she must know that you approve of her. If you don’t approve in some areas, find other areas that you do approve and make sure she knows.

How to fix:

a) Make a list of things that you appreciate about them and try to remember to point out every now and then when you truly admire something they did.

b) Be grateful in your heart for their good qualities and make mention of them from time to time.

7. You pop into their home without calling first. I don’t think I have ever popped into my married couple’s apartment without calling(or texting, emailing or calling) first. Even if you have something you want to bring them or give them, never just show up.

How to fix:

a) Always call to ask if you can come before even considering coming to them.

b) If you have something you want to give them, leave it in a special place in your home and mention to them that the next time they are over they can come get it.

8. You follow up on issues or events that they confide in you about. Let’s say your children share with you such as a visit to the doctor, or a challenge they’ve had with something. While it’s okay to follow up afterward with friends in such a situation and say “hey, how did that go…” – with daughters-in-law and especially newly married couples, it’s best not to keep tabs on their private lives. They shared. Fine. Let it go. Maybe in a few weeks or months, you can say “by the way what happened with that?” But in the meantime, don’t go there. What you view as concern, they may view as intrusiveness.

How to fix:

a) Try not to obsess about things they share with you. Unless it’s an ongoing thing that they may need support with, just put the details of their life out of your mind.

b) In your daily prayers, offer a thought or beckoning for help in whatever area they (or you) may be struggling.

c) Keep busy in your own life and you will resist the urge to follow uop.

9. You remind them about invitations and obligations. This can be a biggie. You know, thank you cards after the wedding or after a baby is born. Right? You have the urge to remind them of keeping to the family tradition of good manners. Right?  Or here’s another one: Let’s say there’s a wedding in the family. Everyone has received an invitation that you know of. It’s probably best not to prompt the new couple and say, “don’t forget we have that wedding….” Or even worse, “Um…please be on time to the wedding…” This will drive them up a wall. They may have their own plans or agenda for that day and it’s between them and the hosts whether they come. You can ask casually if you will see them there. But to actually prompt them and remind them as if they are children is not appropriate.

How to fix:

a) Realize that their behaviors are not a reflection of you. They are their own entity now and their coming or not coming to an event on time (or at all) should have no bearing on you and don’t be involved.

10. You insist that they come visit. It’s perfectly okay and wonderful to invite your married children for a weekend or ask them to come over for the afternoon on a Sunday or evening. But when inviting becomes insisting, you are instilling pressure and having expectations.

How to fix:

a) When they do come to visit you, make your home a pleasant and fun place to hang out. They will be more likely to come by more often.

Conclusion:

Remember that the more we mix in and the more expectations we have, the more we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. All of the above missteps are okay once in awhile.

We are all human and perfection is not the goal. I have made many of the above mistakes and learned from them in the process. Just be aware and be careful, and if you make a mistake, discuss it and move on. And yes, fix it using the tips for fixing above. That’s what it’s all about – improving and repairing our relationships that need it.


Copyright 2013 by Miriam Hendeles

Original Source: http://bubbyjoysandoys.com/miriam-hendeles-2  or http://miriamhendeles.com

Email: Miriamhendeles@gmail.com

 

 

 

 


A Tale of Two Trips – Part I of II

airport-sign-1404331261bvS

A few weeks ago I traveled to New York for a quick one day/one night trip. While there I visited my mom and my oldest son and daughter-in-law and kids, which was wonderful. But my main agenda on that short trip was to meet a new person who happened to be my son (#4)’s friend, whom he’d been dating  for a few months. They were getting serious and he wanted me to meet her.

I was a little jittery, and also excited and hopeful. My son had dated for marriage for awhile and we were thrilled that he had found his match. Everything seemed to click. I could tell from his voice stamp and his tone that he was completely happy and content.

All my feelings mixed together formed a big blob of nervousness.  Somehow that general nerve blob colored my travel experience and translated that experience into Bad Trip.

In fact, when I arrived in NY and my sister picked me up from the airport the next morning, she noted that all I could talk about to her in the car was how exhausted I was and how long the trip was.

The fact that I was there in NY for an exciting reason was lost on me. I was in a bad mood. I was nervous, anxious and worried. And unsettled.

So, what was so bad about this trip, you ask?

Well, one factor in the trip’s difficulty was its length. The sheer flying time cross country should be about 4 1/2 hours from west to east. But this trip was different.

In our attempt to get a ticket in a short amount of time, we rushed into getting an inconvenient ticket arrangements with not one, but two stopovers.

Since we had little mileage left for use at the time, the only normal direct ticket was about $800. In our effort  to find tickets for me to go meet this wonderful girl on a short notice, my son (who shall remain nameless – isn’t it great to have several sons so one never knows which one I’m talking about?) picked  the only itinerary that was available for a decent price. This itinerary was one with a stopover in Phoenix and another stopover in Charlotte, NC.

So at 5:45 pm on a Wednesday evening I took an Uber to Long Beach airport to wait in line and then fly to Phoenix.

Now a little geography here: Long Beach airport is about 35 miles from Los Angeles where I live. Yes, that’s right. Part of the allure of this wonderful cheap inexpensive ticket was that it flew out of the doo-hickey airport of Long Beach which is about the size of my backyard.

Wonderful airport and very quick service, but hello. It took the Uber (my second son, by the way, ) 90 minutes to get me there from LA in rush hour. And that was with using the carpool lane!

And by the time I got there, I had just about 15 minutes to get my boarding pass, go through security, wait on line and then board.

Finally, I was the plane – all was well, we took off, we landed  a little less than 2 hours later and then we deplaned.

The new gate to depart from Phoenix to Charlotte was about 20 minutes away by foot on those moving sidewalks or whatever they are called. And so I lugged my luggage across Phoenix airport, around and around until I found my gate.

airpot1230899352heEg

 

I checked my second boarding pass (yup, I had 3 altogether, isn’t that cool?) and the plane was to take off 3 hours from then.

Hmmm. I took out my food that I had taken along and ate some of it, being careful to ration, because it had to last my full journey across the  U.S.

At 11:15, we got called to get on the plane, and luckily I had a “priority” seating marked on my boarding pass (cost me $12 at the kiosk – best $12 I ever spent). This meant that after First Class folks, I was invited on to the plane to load my hand luggage in the still-empty overhead compartments. Such luxury.

My good mood about my priority seating was aborted by the sudden drop in temperature on the plane bound for Charlotte. This flight was about 4 1/2 hours and for some reason it was freezing cold. I had to wrap myself in my light jacket that I had taken with me and was still shivering. I could barely sleep.

airport-sign

I asked the flight attendant for a blanket because I saw some of the First Class folks use blankets. No blankets anymore, I was told.

Anyway, after 4 1/2 hours on the plane to Charlotte, we landed, got off, and it was even colder in the airport. The airport was beautiful with white, wooden Adirondack chairs for lounging, and lots of outlets for charging phones and ipads. The accents were a bit hard to understand so that was a little annoying but the main issue was that I was freezing.

By then it was 6 a.m. North Carolina time (same as NY? are we almost there yet?) and I still had to walk across the airport to the departing gate (far!),  wait 2 hours in the airport (yes, I checked my crumpled boarding pass) to be called up to board “Prory  boarding” which is Charlotte accent for “priority boarding” I realized after asking, “excuse me? excuse me? did she call our group yet?”

Anyway, finally we were on the last leg of the journey across the good ol’ USA and I was headed from Charlotte at 8:15 am.

Destination: La Guardia Airport – so says my crumpled boarding pass.

When I landed in LGA, I turned on my phone and saw a few texts from my sister. I went outside and noticed how warm it was (everything is relative compared to that plane with no blankets), and I started to look for my sister.

I found her. She found me. I got in the car.

It was 10 am. It took us 45 minutes to get to Brooklyn, to my mom’s house. Just enough time to freshen up before having the meeting we had planned the trip for in the first place.

Total flying time: 8 hours.

Total waiting time in 4 airports (Long Beach, Phoenix, Charlotte, La Guardia) – 6 hours

Total driving time to and from airports on each coast (2 1/2 hours).

Listen – you do the math – I’m too tired! But basically, in that time…I could have flown to Israel, right?

Oh – and in case you are wondering, I loved meeting my son’s friend (who is now my future daughter-in-law!). I traveled back to California the next day on minimal sleep and only had one stopover.

I was cranky as ever, came down with a lousy cold and had to take erythromycin to get rid of my bronchitis.

Mazel Tov! Stay tuned for the next installment of…..A Tale of Two Trips – Part II. Over there, I will discuss another trip – one which I had an entirely different experience than the one in this post.

Hint: The next trip (also no-frills and quite long) was sooooo much more fun! Hmmm. I wonder why.

See you at my next post….sooner than later!

 

 


Thumbs Up to 10 Blogging Buddies

thumbs-up

As we enter the New Year of 2016,  I thank a group of  people who enrich my life with their insights and creativity. They enlighten me with their humor and spirituality. And they inform me with their knowledge and wit.

Most of these women are  younger than me; some are older and a few are just about my age and stage. Whether they blog about parenting, spirituality, grandparenting, midlife issues, world events,  religion or anything else…their sharing of ideas online  has improved my life.

Without further ado, I wish a Happy 2016 t0 the following talented bloggers (listed below in alphabetical order).

1.

An Empowered Spirit. Cathy Chester

From writing and advocating for those who have multiple sclerosis to bringing a positive angle from events….to teaching us the value of friendship and love….kindness and creativity to her friends and acquaintances…to reminiscing about oldies in movies, books and culture…to sharing exciting happenings in showbiz and musicals…..and how to age with grace and love and humor, and mindfulness….Cathy’s prose always inspires, hits the spot. Her ideas expressed on popular sites  and her personal blog resonate with spirituality and her words sing with just the right tones and beats, encouraging us all to find the beauty in the everyday lives we lead. Cathy’s blog has garnered a great deal of public attention, winning numerous awards, especially in her capacity as an advocate for people with disabilities.  One of these days, Cathy and I will meet – hopefully sooner than later.

2.

Cycling Grandma. Lisa Winkler.

Lisa and I began as grandmother friends as we both have grandma blogs and found each other online. Pretty soon we were swapping stories and grandchildren cute antics through email and some posts. Eventually, we actually met IRL when Lisa came to Los Angeles last year. Lisa is a woman of many passions: bike riding (“cycling”), knitting, play scripting,  teaching, stimulating her grandchildren’s growing minds, reading, traveling, and of course writing (I’m sure I left out a lot!).   I consider Lisa a dear and supportive friend who has given me many tools and tips for coping in my personal and professional life.

3.

Empty House Full Mind. Sharon Greenthal.

Sharon is one of  the founders of  Midlife Boulevard, a community of women who blog.  I joined that group a few years ago and met some like-minded and similar-staged friends. Sharon’s posts on her personal blog and other online platforms cover versatile topics including being a “mentsch” in social media, dealing with empty nest syndrome, perspectives on marriage, relating appropriately to adult children, and appreciating the good in our middle aged lives.  Sharon’s subjects are relatable and timely but always with an original twist that keeps me entertained and enlightened.  Her material is a reality check reminding me to laugh, relax and enjoy the ride. Sharon recently  became a columnist on About.com as their  expert in young adult parenting.  Thanks, Sharon!

4.

Friend for the Ride. Barbara Younger.

Barbara, a fellow grandmother was one of the first people that I met as a blogger. Barbara ran a guest post of mine and the rest is history.  Recently when I had a health scare that related to  menopause, Barbara gave me the encouragement I needed (and everything worked out well thank G-d!). You see, menopause –and everything tangentially related to it – is Barbara’s niche and expertise. Barbara is a hoot and expresses  serious medical topics with refreshing humor and candidness. Barbara’s bravery and optimism along with the accurate information that she posts are what attracted me to her blog. Her stories about being a grandmother and mom who juggles the sandwich generation are always relatable. Thank you, Barbara for being there.

5.

Grandma’s Briefs. Lisa Carpenter.

Lisa’s blog struck me from the beginning as the consummate “Grandmother Blog.” I loved the way Lisa gave her grandsons anonymous “bloggie” names on the blog. (Check them out on her blog in the sidebar). Lisa’s sense of humor, down to earth writing and really professional layout are what got me coming back. Lisa’s recent subjects on her blog have been movie reviews, combatting weight gain around holiday time, and other family matters. Lisa is the coordinator of an event where bloggers contribute their best post in one spot. She calls it the Grand Social and holds it weekly, inviting other grandmothers to submit their links on any topic (even non-grandmother topics – just no sales).  Lisa loves traveling and can often be found visiting her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren in nearby Arizona. Check out some of those fabulous photos and videos  she takes of her grandsons. Thanks, Lisa for the inspiration.

6.

L.ife in the Married Lane. Rivki Silver.

Rivki, SAHM mother of four, musician of too many instruments to count (clarinet, piano, saxophone and more) published writer, and performer,  blogs (in her free time…) a potpourri of ideas including Judaism, parenting, music, marriage,  motherhood and general “of interest” subjects.  Whether she’s covering serious or funny topics, Rivki’s writing is both engaging and gripping.  Check out some of  Rivki’s published posts and amazing you-tube videos where she articulates thoughts on spiritual growth and healthy priorities. Enjoy her musical selections such as “Ode to a Cosmic Carrot” that she’s composed and arranged. Rivki’s story about her spiritual journey and her gifts at combining technology,  spirituality and art with down-to-earth topics, inspire me to personal growth.  Thanks, Rivki!

7.

Nina Badzin, Writer.

In the beginning I read Nina’s blog to gain insight from an accomplished writer and blogger. I saw how vast her publishing experience was and I wanted to learn from her. But soon I realized that I was learning more about character traits and relationships than about knowledge on how to write. Nina has an intuitive sense of honing in on a theme and  is the go-to person for  how to navigate the complexities of social media;  I read her  friendship advice column and am amazed how spot-on she is. Nina seems to get so much done in a day that often I’m dizzy (in a good way) after reading her posts. From Challah baking groups to the myriad books she devours and reviews…. to the creative things she does with her cute kids, to her ambitious yet pragmatic outlook, I’m constantly inspired. But what I most enjoy about Nina’s writing is her solid voice with a sense of who she is and who she aspires to be. We can all identify with her  practical and sensible advice that always has a positive and hopeful tone. Keep teaching, Nina and thanks!

8.

Out of the Orthodox Box. Ruchie Koval.

Ruchie Koval’s blog’s title is reflective of her mission to bring Orthodox Judaism out of the box or to demystify the customs and practices of Orthodox Judaism for the Jews of all ages, affiliations and levels. Besides being the the author of the newly published book, Conversations With God,  her articulate posts offer perspectives on hosting unaffiliated guests for Shabbat meals  , a young Orthodox girl’s  conviction to wear a skirt for gymnastics, Orthodox Jewish women covering their hair after marriage, parenting, and relationships. Ruchi and her husband are the dynamic team who run the Cleveland program of Jewish Family Experience or  JFX, an organization for Jewish outreach. They, their seven children and staff  bring  Jewish people back to their roots through lectures, programs, entertainment and trips to Israel. With raw honesty and sincerity,  Ruchi breaks down complex issues into little understandable bites. Thanks, Ruchi.

9.

Rebecca Klempner’s Blog.

Rebecca Klempner, my IRL friend before my blogging friend,  was the one who got me motivated to get into blogging. She is the mother of four, science fiction fiend, and talented author of children’s book. Additionally, she has published anthology collections online and on the website Tablet magazine, and countless short stories and essays. A regular contributor to several print magazines and periodicals, Rebecca has become the go-to person in our community for knowing the ins and outs of the publishing world. Rebecca’s blog is about writing including her journey as a writer, her writing process, struggles and successes in composing essays and novels, news about her new publications, and general tips on writing for all of us readers. I always learn about the industry and the craft of writing when spending time with Becca or reading her blog.

10.

Renee Jacobson’s Blog.

Talented artist and painter, writer, blogger, lover of cute hats,  Renee and I met when she organized a Hannukkah Hoopla blogging event for a group of bloggers in December 2014. After that, we became fast Face-book friends (love that alliteration…) and Renee even painted a set of colorful canvases (!) for my new kitchen. Renee’s creativity in fashion, writing and teaching are only a small part of who she is. I’m happy to have met Renee online and look forward to meeting one day! Maybe you’ll come out to LA and give an art workshop. Who knows?

 

My wish for the coming year is that we continue to enjoy to gain inspiration through reading, writing and sharing our thoughts. Happy 2016!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


FAREWELL TO A HOUSE

IMG_3904

When a neighbor sold her house, her grown children complained. “How could you give up our childhood home, Ma?” they asked. My friend couldn’t understand what the fuss was. Her kids were already married and settled in their own homes with growing families. Why the guilt trip?

A few months ago, my mother sold her house of 53 years – the one my siblings and I grew up in — to a construction company.

Today, I’m that balking adult child who dislikes any change. I’m miserable at the thought of our house being demolished, unhappy that a huge apartment building will replace my childhood home.

I want to kick and scream, “No, No!” I am emotionally tethered to this home and I need some closure. Badly.

So I travel to Brooklyn from my home in Los Angeles to help Mom clear out some final things before she moves and to say my official farewells to… The House.

To me this is not just any house; it’s many things to many people.

For five decades the house was a constant, a symbol of sameness. So much happened there, yet so much stayed the same. This is the house where we laughed, played, sang, ate, (and sometimes dieted.) The one where we studied, learned, listened, cried, complained, talked, yelled, argued, and partied. The house where my father, the disciplinarian punished us and the one where my mother pleaded for mercy.

The one where we hosted friends, had sleepovers, welcomed guests and celebrated milestones like bar and bas mitzvah’s, sweet 16 parties, and engagement parties. The house where all six of us brought our respective spouses to meet my parents.

This is the house that was always there, while molding us all into the individuals we are today. Saying good-bye to the house signals the end of an era.

My sisters, who live a few miles away helped her toss, throw out, purge. Together, they’ve been sorting through her stuff, discarding, deciding, selling on e-bay, giving away, and packing up her life in the form of furniture, clothes, toys, games, books, pictures, appliances, and so much more.

Ma, you don’t need this. Throw it out,” my sisters told my mother about some yarn and fabric and other objects that have been there so long.

During my visit, mom and I are upstairs in one of the bedrooms. She hands me a bunch of photo albums, tablecloths, and artwork by my late Grandma.

Here, take these, Miriam. I can’t throw them out and the girls don’t want them.” By “girls,” she means my sisters.

I’m sentimental about stuff so I carefully lay the albums in the empty suitcase we dragged down from the attic. I take the lovely round, lace tablecloths even though my linen closets back in LA are full. I pack the art canvases that my then-90 year old paternal grandmother painted.

My father saved everything: Old report cards, New Years cards, some projects. We laugh and reminisce. I take a few and throw out the rest. I take some old sheet music from my piano lessons.

My parents built this house in 1962 when I, then the youngest of four children, was 2 years old. Two younger sisters were born there in that five-bedroom brick home of 2 stories plus a large basement. So many events took place there that our neighbor across the street used to say to my mother, “Eva, this house could write a BOOK!”

The last chapter in that long 53-year old volume reached its downhill conclusion when my father (after 65 years of marriage) passed away last year. Since then, my mother has contemplated the idea of living closer to my siblings. The idea became a reality and the house was sold. My mother began the packing process.

Soon, my mother, who lived and breathed her home, her hearth, celebrating days, months, years and decades of history will be moving – or “downsizing” — to an apartment a few miles away.

The thought of not being able to just pop in there anymore pains me. Till now, living far away, I could fantasize that things stayed the same. Whenever I came back “home” for family events, things were just a little different. My room became a computer room; my sister’s room, my father’s exercise room. My brothers’ room became the sewing room, after a room in the basement morphed from a sewing room into a speech therapy clinic for an acquaintance. Two of the upstairs bedrooms became guest rooms; the basement, an area for guests with a separate entrance.

But the four walls of the house and exterior pretty much stayed the same. The peeling paint and woodwork refreshed every so often, the outside shutters missing. The bathroom tiles, my father’s bookcase, my mother’s breakfront with china, the dining room table, the living room rug where the kids played stayed the same.

More clutter, progeny visiting on weekends and playing Legos and blocks on the living floor. I was now one of many many others who called this home their home away from home.

But that house with that driveway, lawn, front door, combination lock, code and extra set of keys hanging on the gold curly-bumped edges of the front mirror for anyone from the family who needed the car. And the coins and dollars in the “front hall drawer” for needing extra change for the bus or subway.

No longer will I be able to punch in the code on that combination lock on the wooden front door when my husband and I arrive from the airport and quietly take the luggage upstairs while shushing my children in middle of the night.

No longer will I go past the front foyer, down the hall and past my father’s study where he would be sitting there and doing his work. No more smile and wink and kiss. Even as my father has passed away 9 months ago, knowing his study with his desk and bookshelves were still there was comforting.

My siblings lived so much closer to The House all these years as adults, certainly spent even more quality time on a daily or weekly basis than my own long-distance family who came for family occasions, The house was a hub for everyone.

Many grandchildren would spend the night while passing through to summer camp or yeshiva. Neighbors would use the basement for overflow out-of-towner guests. Grandchildren would come by to spend a Sunday afternoon, take pictures, sit and shmooze in the kitchen, and run down to the “avenue” to shop for unique items.

Toddler grandchildren would throw things down the laundry chute and then giggle as the other one stayed downstairs to catch it. Oh what fun! Until my father (RIP) would shush everyone up. But not for long.

Parties for charity were held in the basement and/or the living room, school events took place in our living room, high school play run-throughs, color war projects and cooking classes for organizations were held in our home. My mother said yes to practically everyone or anyone who asked to use her house for an event.

An acquaintance psychologist used the guest bedroom off of the kitchen once a week so that he could be near his part-time practice in the area. A friend who had a speech therapy practice drove in every Sunday and used one of the large areas in the basement for her speech therapy practice. A separate entrance was designated for her clients, right through the basement. The waiting room was the room that used to be our “bike room” when we were growing up.

A cousin in Israel hears about the move and writes, “I can’t imagine that she won’t be living there – so many good memories – such a part of my life. I know it’s only a house – but what a house so full of warmth and love, not to mention good coffee…”

Soon, the house will be demolished – the one with memories of yarn turned into knitting or crocheting, fabric made into clothes, photos taken, old letters sent and received, smiles and tears, parties and homework, meals and friends, sleep-overs, visits, children, grandchildren, home-comings after camp, visits after marriage, baby’s nursed, and non-surprise surprise parties. Cousins coming by, places for our children to stay during school vacations, and places for others to drop by when just in the neighborhood.

It is the end of an era of punching in the combination into the front door to spend time with loved ones in a large and welcoming house.

All that’s left are the myriad pictures in our memories, on computer and in albums to show to future generations and say, “See? That’s where we grew up. That’s the house that could have written a book…”

I sit with my mother in the kitchen, eating salmon that she’s baked in her GE oven with the manual knobs. We talk about the baby grand piano, and that she has no room for it in her new apartment. She offers me the piano.

We research prices on piano movers. I take a look at the keys, some of which have been stripped of their ivories by wear and tear. We talk about moving the piano and restoring it. I visualize the baby grand piano of my childhood in my living room.

As each of us takes whatever material pieces of the house with us, we embrace lessons learned from living there in our hearts and minds. Kindness, flexibility and hospitality. Friendship, love. Knowing we can take those intangibles with us makes me feel just a little bit better about the loss of the house.

Letting go of The House becomes easier with the memories turned into lessons.

But still. No amount of letting go will enable me to walk down that block again.


Please Tell Me That Story Again!

About two weeks ago, my mother-in-law had hip surgery. After several days in the hospital, and a remarkable recovery thank G-d, she was released from the hospital and admitted to a rehabilitation center where she stayed for about a week. While my mother-in-law (we call her “Grandma”) was in the rehab,  I visited her. Wanting to cheer her up, I shared a cute story about one of my grandsons.

My husband mentioned to  me that after I told Grandma the story, she was so happy that she repeated it to my husband that night when she saw him. And the following evening she asked my husband to review the story again with her.

She wanted to remember every detail.

When my mother-in-law (did I mention she will be 95 kain ayin horah, in May?) joined us at Pesach where our family was together for the Holiday, the first thing she asked me was “Miriam, please tell me that story again. The one about the little one who you took shopping with you. I love to hear it…”

And so I agreed!

Her eyes lit up in excitement as she leaned forward to listen to the story yet again.

Several weeks ago, JoJo (my grandson’s name changed to protect the adorable) who is 4, came shopping with me to K-Mart, where I needed to pick up a few items.  After about an hour of shopping, where JoJo was being a very good boy, he asked me for something to eat.

‘I’m huuuungry….can you buy me something to eat?’

Looking around as we were waiting in line at the checkout, the first thing I saw was a Hershey Bar. I asked him if he wanted that, and his said, ‘Yes!’ Fine, I thought. It will keep him happy till I get him back home.

Isn’t that sweet….said Grandma while I continued on with the story.

Okay, so I paid for my items, and handed him the chocolate bar, which he held carefully in his hand while we walked to the car, with my bags in the shopping cart. I opened the car door, and helped him into his booster car seat.

‘Can I eat it now?’ he asked.

milk-chocolate

‘Sure,’ I said.

Turning toward her daughter, my sister-in-law, (who was with us at the time) Grandma said, Pshhhh. Could you believe the maturity? Unbelievable…

I continued: And I buckled him in and  loaded the car.

After driving a block or two, I stopped at a stop light, turned around briefly to check up on him, and  saw him munching the chocolate bar. He was busy and all was well.

Then I saw him fold the wrapper over the chocolate, as if he was done eating. He had eaten about half of it, and I wondered why he wasn’t finishing it.

Figuring he wasn’t that hungry, I didn’t say anything.

‘I’m saving the rest for B.B. (his older brother’s not-real-name).  It’s his birthday today,’ my grandson offered.

Doing a Mitzvah!

I love mitzvos!

Grandma opened her mouth in wonderment, as if hearing the story for the first time. She threw back her head and laughed with sounds of joy and nachas that only a great-grandmother can do. Then she leaned forward, looked downward, and shook her head, “Unbelievable…just unbelievable…such kindness!”

I continued on:

So, the whole thing happened so fast, I really didn’t know how to react or to think anything huge about it. I just simply said,”OH, that’s so nice of you. What a good idea! Such a mitzvah!”

‘Omi,’ said JoJo. ‘Can you take it from me and put it in a plastic bag? I don’t want it to melt.’

I took one of the shopping bags and put it inside, but JoJo wasn’t satisfied.

‘Can you put it in by itself?’

Not wanting to ruin the birthday gift, I did. I emptied the contents from another bag and put the half eaten chocolate bar into the bag and held onto it until later when JoJo’s mom came to get him.

Sure enough, later on he gave his 7 year old big brother the special gift of the leftover chocolate bar.

And that’s the end of the story, I told Grandma.

No, it’s not, no, it’s notsaid my mother-in-law. He’s going to be some great person…because he’s so kind.

And me? The grandmother? The teller or kveller or bragger or boaster of this story about my grandson? What do I gain from this story?

I realize how powerful one positive event can be in a person’s life, in ours and those whose lives we affect.

What narrative do we create out of the stories in our lives? How do we interpret them?

Do we repeat and reinforce the positive events over and over by sharing with others or at least in our minds and our hearts for posterity?

How do you feel about sharing or reinforcing positive events with others and ourselves? Let me know.

And by the way:

Postscript: This morning, I was passing my mother-in-law while she was talking to her physical therapist who came by for scheduled sessions. I overheard my mother-in-law tell the therapist, “You have to hear what my grandson did. His mother…or someone…bought him a Danish…or a candy bar…I don’t know what… and he only ate half of it, and offered to give the other half to his brother whose birthday it was! Could you believe how special he is?”

Happy Holidays to all! May you have much pride and joy from your families and loved ones!

 


Subscribe to Blog!

Would you like to be notified of new posts? ENTER YOUR EMAIL HERE please and then look out for an email to CONFIRM your subscription.

Proud Member of Midlife Boulevard

Proud Member of Midlife Boulevard

Community

View Past Posts

WP-Backgrounds Lite by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann 1010 Wien