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Beyond Knitting in the Rocking Chair

somegrandmasOne of the best things about being a grandmother is that I get to define my role as I go along. I can be hands-on sometimes, hands-off other times, fun-loving when I’m in the mood, and too-busy-to-take-care-of-them at other times. It’s all good and it works; my relationships with my grandsons are really comfortable. My daughters-in-law appreciate the time I spend with the kids, and the family dynamics are great (most of the time!).

So when last week, photographer Gloria Baker Feinstein from Kansas City,  emailed me and asked if I would I write a review of her new children’s read-aloud photo book called Some Grandmas, I said yes!

Some Grandmas is a collection of photos taken by Gloria of  all kinds of grandmothers from all over the world doing all kinds of things with their grandchildren. Short captions accompany each photo for reading aloud to a child.  While one grandmother might be flying a kite with her grandchild, another will be painting. While one grandmother might be in a wheelchair talking to her grandchild, another will be riding a bike. All the photos are captivating, and capture the mood of love, caring, and bonding between grandmother and grandchild.

While the stereotypical grandmother with the silver or white bun and spectacles who sits in a rocking chair and knits is one type of grandmother, she is not necessarily the only image of a grandmother nowadays. Just as 60 is the new 40, grandmothers’ hobbies are getting more youth-oriented these days. Grandmothers are free to be who they are, and bond with their grandchildren in ways that they (and the children) choose. The opportunities are endless and it is helpful for all generations to realize that.

The words on each page of Some Grandmas, as is typical of children’s read-aloud books, are few. Every page starts with the words, “Some grandmas…” and is followed simply with what the grandma in that picture is doing.

My own grandmothers who were from Europe, were the free-spirited kind of women, who liked art, photography, literature and theatre, and I had close relationships with both of them, sharing my hobbies and passions with them. I would go to one grandmother’s house and we would make arts and crafts projects together. My other grandmother took me by subway to plays on my days off from school. She helped me with my French homework and cut out newspaper clippings for me for my school projects. Some of my friends had grandmothers who were less hands-on, but were equally warm, loving and friendly.

Nowadays, with life expectancy hitting a record high,   the types of activities and pastimes that grandmothers do with their grandchildren are evolving from knitting to  playing Chinese checkers to doing sports to shopping and other active games. All of these activities – from the wheelchair bound grandmother to the hiking or bicycling one, are worthy of getting grandparent and grandchild to bond.

Gloria Feinstein is an experienced and renowned photographer living in Kansas City, Missouri, with her work displayed at various exhibitions. The idea for this book came to her after she had already written adult books. Gloria had photographed a woman, Linda Cohen in her Sukkah before the Jewish holiday of Sukkot with her grandchildren and both grandmother and child were looking up at the roof of the sukkah. Gloria noted the wonder and curiosity in both of their faces and decided to explore the expressions and wonderment of other grandmothers in their activities with their grandchildren.

That photo and her grandchild is now on the cover of Some Grandmas.

The Grandmother Appellation

A grandmother of two, with the older one only 4 1/2, Ms. Feinstein, who is called “G-Lo” by her grandchildren dedicated her book to “all the Grandmas, Omas, Abuelitas, Savtas, Gramma, Gran, Bubbie,  Nonna, Yaya…..” and listed no less than 54 (yes, I counted!) names for grandmothers. I was proud of myself for knowing many of them, although I learned quite a few. (I had never heard of Yaya!).

One on One Relationship

What I liked about this book is that each picture has only one grandmother and one grandchild in it. That is significant to me because it shows the quality time and closeness inherent in the special relationship between grandparent and grandchild. Naturally, grandchildren often share their time with their grandmothers, but for this book, Ms. Feinstein photographed the one-on-one relationship.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the books Some Grandmas, go to a large care center in Kansas City to help support their Volunteer Grandmother program. The center provides services to children of the working poor.

Ms. Feinstein also made a creative set of items:  tee-shirt and tote bag, which are featured on the site with the book. Take a look there for those and other items!

Some Grandmas is currently available from the author (, from local stores in Kansas City, and on Etsy. For more information, please contact the author.






30 Ideas for Bored Bubbies (Grandmothers)

The Case of the Bored Child goes like this: The child has a day off from school, and flops around while whining, “Mommy, I’m soooo bored! What should I do?”

To which the mom calmly points to the Bored Check List that is posted on the fridge door. The boldly typed fridge list has 30 ideas faster than a child can utter,  “I’m bored.”  And the kid gets the unspoken message – loud and clear from mom: Listen, it’s time for you to figure it out and find a way to entertain yourself.

Okay, so that’s what’s done when kids are bored stiff.  But, what about when grandmothers are literally bored out of their minds? How do they occupy their time? Continue reading

Passions + Addictions = Passiaddictions!

Passions are hobbies. Painting, coloring, drawing, knitting, playing music, and so forth.

People are “into” their hobbies. They enjoy doing them and keeping busy with their pastimes.

Hobbies and Passions - Or Addictions?

Hobbies and Passions – Or Addictions?

These days everyone is talking about their addictions – otherwise known as things that they can’t stop doing, which by the way is the actual definition of “addiction.”

When someone  is addicted to alcohol or drugs, they cannot stop.

When someone is “addicted” to carbohydrates (that would be me!), they can’t stop (but wait! I haven’t had carbs in several days, right?).

But lately the word “addiction” has become loosely used for folks who have passions and interests that they enjoy. Dr. Abraham J. Twerski, M.D., discusses addictions in his own writings.

For the purpose of this post, we can call many passions “addictions” if we enjoy them so much that  “cannot stop” doing them.

For example, writing. Continue reading

The Pile on the Nighttable

Oh – that pile on the nightstand. That neat pile of books. The last I counted, there were four of them. The unfinished pile. It beckons. It calls me. Every night at around 10 pm or later, when I retire to bed after a long day, I have full intentions of picking up one of those books and reading them. One of them is half read. Another one just came from Amazon to my home yesterday. A third one is a Jodi Picoult book, a novel that I started reading, but got caught up into the Half-Read-Book previously mentioned. Alas, these books remain unfinished.

The Unfinished Symphony – you know the one that Joseph Haydn the composer, wrote? He never finished it, and that’s what made it famous. Why would someone write something and leave it hanging? Why would someone read something and not finish it? Lots of reasons: no time, boredom, other interests, lack of concentration.

What about pure exhaustion? Yes, I literally start to read the book, and my eyes close. In the morning, or when I get up in middle of the night, I find that book buried under my covers, or more likely on the floor, cracked open at the spine and lying on its back, all forlorn, with one page half up in the air.

I wonder how to overcome this book hurdle.  How do I keep myself from falling asleep? (take a nap in middle of the day?) I love reading. It has always been something I did for relaxation. And for stimulation. A good book’s message and compelling characters stick with me for days or even weeks.

But now, my energy level just runs out, and I can’t stay up long enough to finish a page or a page and a half.  And at that rate, beyond a bunch of short magazine articles that I easily complete, I will be the eternal reader of the Unfinished Novel.

Any ideas?

The 7 Habits of a Successful Zaidy

Mazel Tov! It’s a Zaidy!

What? Am I changing my title? Writing a new book? Having amnesia?

None of the above (yet), actually. I just decided to write about my perception of what it must feel like to be a Zaidy. Of course this is only guess-work, as one can never know what another person is feeling. Yet, still I tend to observe behaviors and patterns. Therefore,  based on my “research” on the various Zaidies (grandfathers) that I have known, I have reached a conclusion.

Here are the 7 habits and theories of successful grandfather-hood.

Disclaimer: The examples below are purely fictional. Any resemblance to a grandfather in a reader or even this blogger’s life, is purely coincidental.  And yes, this disclaimer is absolutely honest and sincere! (notwithstanding previous post “disqualifying disclaimers”)

* Zaidies take pride in their  Zaidy-hood. Just as grandmothers feel happy and proud to be in that new status of doting on her grandchildren, and spoiling them rotten, so do grandfathers. This is quite interesting, especially keeping in mind that men are from Mars and women are from Venus (or is it the other way around? I forget…). But in this case, grandfathers are equally crazy about their grandchildren, and relish the time they have with them – just like their female counterpart, the Bubby.

*A Zaidy has no qualms about being or feeling old. Unlike the Bubby, who likes to remain young and cool, the Zaidy is not interested in that sort of thing. In fact, the Zaidy ages quite UNgracefully in his role as Grandfather. He gets white hairs, wrinkles on his forehead and a pot belly, faster than one can shout the words, “Mazel Tov!” at the bris or kiddush for his first grandchild.

*A Zaidy has zero patience for diapering his grandchildren. If he was the kind to diaper his own kids when they were small, consider those skills completely forgotten. Once he puts his official Zaidy cap on, he loses all abilities to place velcro over plastic of the diaper. Finished. Kaput. Done. Don’t expect it and all members of the family will be happy.

*The best way to get a Zaidy to relax is to put a grandchild on his lap. Even if the Zaidy is eating lunch on Shabbos, or doing work at his desk during the week, or otherwise occupied, he will be most agreeable to having a small child interrupt his activity and will smile, coo and wink at that child.

*Zaidies love telling stories of their own childhood to all who listen. Good listeners often include the grandchildren. This penchant for storytelling begins around when the moms and dads of said children leave the kids with the Zaidy for babysitting. Said children are to be found on Zaidy’s lap when parents return,  well taken care of, well-storied, and well educated. No comment on the status of the cleanliness of clothes or mess in the home.

*Zaidies love to teach, to instruct, and to pass on skills. Whatever skills their own children resisted are given a “second chance” to be integrated into the next generation’s psyche. So for example, if Zaidy’s own children hated astronomy, Zaidy has another chance with his grandchildren, and he buys his first grandson a telescope at the first opportunity.

*Zaidies get quieter as they get older. The more talkative the Bubbies get, the quieter the Zaidy’s become.

There you have it – The 7 Habits of Successful Zaidy-hood. (and of course the old adage that “all  generalizations are false”… applies here – for those who find this post highly generalized!)

“ARK”….. (Old-Age Redefined)

When I was growing up,  both my grandmothers lived nearby.  They were busy, active  and had set routines in their lives.  However, to me, they were —well, old.

In fact, at that time, I considered the elderly to be in one broad age bracket – 45 and up. Anyone above the age of 45 was “old” to me. Anyone above the age of 60, was “very old,” and anyone above the age of 70 was “ancient.” I don’t know when this self-created age chart  changed, but these days I don’t think any age is really old. I truly believe age is a state of mind, as cliche as that sounds. If someone is active at the age of 95 (and I know many who are extremely vital and active at that age), then to me they are not old…at least in the broad brushed sense that I perceived back in those childhood years of mine. Continue reading

My Harp

I am a pianist. I have played since I’ve been a little girl. Somehow the piano resonated with me; I loved moving my fingers across the keys, practicing my songs so that I got them to sound better and better, and just relaxing through the music.

I tried some other instruments over the years – guitar, recorder – but none of them stuck. As a music therapist, we had to become “proficient” at guitar – but it never happened with me.

Then came my harp. It was love at first sight and sound. I don’t recall what made me try that instrument, but it might have had to do with the fact that I was friendly with a friend of a harp teacher. One thing led to another, and I was taking lessons on this huge, humongous harp that I rented. It sat in my family room. Continue reading

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