My first short-lived job out of college I worked for a small weekly newspaper in a rural county in New Jersey. So rural that the grounds for the county fair, complete with livestock competitions with pigs and cows, was right out the back door of the newsroom.
That weekend, the staff worked a booth to promote the paper and increase circulation. I was in charge of blowing up helium balloons and handing them out to children who stopped by to visit.
With each child I gave a balloon, parents were sure to ask that child in a prodding manner:
“What do you say?”
It seems the thing you teach your kid to say, that kindest phrase, cannot be said enough in life.
Just saying thank you. Showing gratitude for every experience, some good, some not so good, but recognizing that each moment teaches and shapes you.
In addition to nurturing this practice in our children, for saying thank you for getting material things when they are younger, we hope that as our kids grow into adults, they keep saying it for the intangible things too.
So there I was, out at the Crofoot, a nightclub in Pontiac, Mich., trying to make eye contact with my 17-year-old son as he opened for touring folk-rock bands The Mountain Babies and The Cactus Blossoms, mouthing the words:
WHAT DO YOU SAY?
Now, I am not saying that he did not say thank you to his audience, or to the headlining band. But you just can’t say it enough.
This is the summer that my 17-year old son, soon to be a high school senior, truly hustled to get out his music as a solo guitarist and songwriter. The band that he and his mates tried so hard to get off the ground during sophomore and junior year never took off. There were too many conflicts. Too many SAT prep classes and cross-country meets. Too many mothers filling up weekends with family obligations.
This summer, he did not get a job at Kroger, or Old Navy, or a summer day camp. It was not from a lack of trying.
What he did get were a few paid gigs.
So I just want to say, thank you.
Thank you to the Teen Council of Detroit and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit for fostering creativity through your rap and songwriting workshops, your uncensored teen Open Mike nights.
Thank you to the Farmington Civic Theater for letting my son busk (yes, this is a verb that you learn when you know a starving up and coming musician) on a couple of Friday nights for dollar bills and pocket change, and a free drink and two movie tickets.
Thank you to Goldfish Tea in Royal Oak and all the tea sipping folks there who listened and cheered for my son on open mike nights.
Thank you to The Hopcat who, though he was underage, let my son open up your open mike night a little early at your upstairs bar before he had to get thrown out. And, of course, thank you for Crack Fries.
And all along the way, I am thankful for the friends here, people I did not have in my life only three short years ago since moving to Detroit, who not only have come out to hear him play, but who ask me when he is playing next.
So, my son, I know you are never more comfortable than when you are up on stage playing, but when you are up there, you know what to say, and you cannot say it enough. Plug the band for whom you are opening. Give praise to your audience. You just cannot do it enough.
While I’m at it, I would be humbly thankful if you check out my son’s music here.
Last night, I volunteered at Detroit’s evening of Solidarity with Israel. After attendees passed through a strict security screening process, I gave them each a sticker bearing the logo shown above. Fellow volunteers gave out over 2,700 stickers to Israel supporters.
While the world looks bleak now for all world Jewry, and while radical Islamists spread their fiery hatred for Jews just like the Hitler Youth did in the 1930’s, it soothed my soul to see so many: Jewish, non-Jewish, black and white, coming together for a few hours to support the United State’s biggest ally in the Middle East in her war on terrorism.
By the way, my daughter is still on her trip in Israel. She just returned safely to Jerusalem after a sea-to-sea hike in the North.
Last weekend, she did spend some time in a bomb shelter. She heard the Iron Dome obliterate an incoming misile. But then, after they got the clear, she and a family she was staying with went on with life.
Here is my most recent piece published in the Detroit Jewish News.
A few weeks ago, my parents, husband, son and I were riding down the Belt Parkway in New York to take our 17-year-old daughter to JFK. She was about to embark on Ramah’s six-week Israel Seminar, a trip she knew she wanted to do since she was about nine years old. The news that Hamas murdered the three teenaged boys was less than 24 hours old. Seated in the middle row with my mom, I curled my hand into hers. I just kept squeezing it.
The scene at the departure terminal, though chaotic, was almost healing. Hundreds of Jewish teens about to leave for Israel on one trip or another greeted each other with smiles and hugs.
Expressions on the faces of the parents revealed one thing: we all knew our relatively carefree Jewish American kids were headed to Israel in a time of national mourning. Who could predict that a war would unfold in just days after their arrival?
What have I been doing since she left?
It has been a surreal time. While the program posts photos of the kids having fun on hikes and gazing over the Haifa skyline, while my daughter calls me from Jerusalem telling me about the fantastic time she had working with the children at the Ramah Israel Day camp in Jerusalem, friends in Tel Aviv, Ra’anana and Be’er Sheva post on Facebook about dashing for stairwells or shelters when the sirens blare.
On my wrist, I wear a blue Stand With Us rubber bracelet showing my support for Israel. My watch is set to Jerusalem time so I know the best time to call my daughter. My cell phone has become an appendage to my body. I pray daily for her safety, for all of Israel and her Defense Forces.
I thank Ramah Seminar in Israel for their tireless efforts of keeping our kids safe and having as an enjoyable and educational experience as possible while constantly keeping parents in the loop of the changing security situation. After an extended stay in their northern base in the Hodayot Youth Village, the “seminarniks” finally traveled safely to their home base in Jerusalem on July 15. In fact, a parent conference call to update us on the matzav started just as the IDF launched their ground offensive into Gaza.
But life goes on. I have taken the cue from my Israeli friends who endure this daily threat to keep moving on through routine and simple distractions. If my Israeli psychologist friend, an olah from New York, can help spread calm by teaching Yoga to women in a bomb shelter in Sderot, I too will try to find Zen on my mat. I work in my garden and take walks.
Even as the bombs fall, and the inevitability that she may spend some time this summer in a bomb shelter is very real, I have no regrets that my daughter is in Israel. I will not deny the danger or my worry. I know that this time in Israel will be a transformative one for her that can only strengthen her understanding of what it means to be a Jew and never take our Jewish homeland for granted.
When midnight here rolls around, my mind is already seven hours ahead wondering what the dawning day on the other side of the planet will hold for Israel. If you too have a loved one in Israel and find yourself up in the middle of the night, I’m sleepless right there with you.
- Why we’re letting our daughter stay in Israel in wartime (haaretz.com)
Speak trippingly on the tongue – the complete works of Shakespeare in 90 minutes at Pittsford Mendon HS
As a columnist who has to write ahead, I am always thinking two weeks into the future. But, in the whirlgig of time, I was not in time on writing an advance for a great high school play taking place this weekend. But this sounds too auspicious of an event, and I had too good a time looking up Shakespeare quotes not to share. Thanks to all my friends on Facebook who fed me with witty Shakespearean quotes and sources for this post:
The Sutherland High School players present a fall comedy, The Complete Works of Shakespeare Abridged. This parody incorporates all the plays written by William Shakespeare into one show and will be on the SHS stage October 27, 28, and 29 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the door for $10 each.
“This is different from anything I’ve ever done before,” said Colin Perinello, a senior who will major in musical theatre next fall at a college to be determined.
“In one sentence, I have to use a high falsetto voice when I say Juliet’s line, then have to drop to a deeper voice in a Scottish accent when I am the narrator. Sometimes, I mix up my voices and roles, so what comes out is a twisted Juliet with a Scottish accent. Let’s just say it is a very humourous outcome,” he said.
In our world of 140 character tweets, it’s refreshing to know that there are still high school kids out there who will put on puffy shirts, tights and kilts and learn the poetry of Shakespeare. But, in this age of short attention-span theatre, this play indeed makes “use of time” to “let not advantage slip” as snippets of all 37 Shakespearean plays are squeezed into this upcoming 90 minute performance.
This weekend, I’m planning on seeing the movie Anonymous, a movie with a premise that Shakespeare never wrote a word. Shakespeare: was he or wasn’t he? But in the end, does it matter?
As I write this, I am watching the academy awards. No, my biggest fashion blunder thankfully wasn’t televised, nor was it as bad as Bjork’s Swan dress from 2001. But, in a time when one should try to act as cool as possible – the first day of high school – I truly missed the mark.
My 25th high school reunion is coming up. Now, I don’t remember what I wore my very last day as a high school student, but I sure remember what I wore the first day.
No, the picture below is not actually my legs. Thankfully, I dont think there is a photograph to document my first day of Freshman year of high school.
My mom had just started a subscription of Seventeen Magazine for me. The preppy look was totally “in” for the fall, according to Seventeen’s big, thick back-to-school August issue. Maybe if you went to a prep school in New Hampshire, but back in Staten Island, not so much.
So there I was, high school freshman, which is cause enough to get egged or suffer a head full of shaving cream the first day of high school. But no, I had to draw further attention to myself with khaki knickers, argyle socks and penny loafers.
I just got it all wrong.
Ahh, the high school dating scene….
Did you go to high school in the 1980’s? I did. There, now I’m dating myself, pun intended.
Back then, I didn’t date anyone because no one was asking! Maybe it was because I went to the same high school where my dad taught physical education and coached two teams, and maybe dating a coaches’ daughter was off-limits in some unwritten high school code of law.
But, those in my high school who were seriously “going out” – and by that I mean they didn’t just “hook up” — were so very much in love and so happy the whole world needed to know. As sickening as it was for the rest of us.
In high school, you knew who was going out with who because of all the of PDA (and that’s not Personal Digital Assistant. Remember, this was the 1980’s. These were Public Displays of Affection) in the hallways, the stairwells, the cafeteria, in the schoolyard and on the bleachers.
Girls with boyfriends would go to the Mall and have these sweatshirts made up. (Another memory of the 1980’s, the melting, rubbery smell of the T-shirt shop.)
On the front of the sweatshirt, and it was usually a pink sweatshirt, would be the girl’s and boy’s name in a big air-brushed heart.
On the sleeve of the sweatshirt would be the date of what I guess was their first date, something like this:
Then on the other sleeve, something like this would be written:
And, if the happy couple were dating a really long time – say, six months – the boy would bestow upon on the girl as a gift an ankle bracelet. Only the ankle bracelet was not worn on the ankle but on a chain around the neck.
No other time did the have-nots of high school romance feel more left out than around Valentine’s Day.
Every year in my high school, the Key Club would hold its annual rose sale for Valentine’s Day. Roses were sold in different colors:
Red – I love you
Pink – I want to get to know you better
Yellow – Secret Admirer
White – Friendship
Roses were distributed the morning of Valentine’s Day in homeroom.
In the days leading up to Valentine’s Day of one’s senior year, seniors had another big day to think about and that was prom. That’s because at the Staten Island Mall, the prom dress displays would go up pretty much as soon as all the Christmas decorations would come down.
What made it worse was I believe that was the same year Pretty in Pink was in the movies. So many questions arose months before the prom among my circle of friends:
Who are you going with?
What will you wear?
What other friends are going in the limo with you?
In the timeline of high school, receiving a rose on Valentine’s Day could be a determining factor for answering the above questions about prom night.
So, there I was in homeroom on Valentine’s Day, when to my shock, I received a rose.
A red one.
Now, at the time, I was not interested in anyone, at least anyone who went to my school.
At that moment I thought of my mom’s wise words: it will happen when you aren’t looking. Someone sent me a red rose! Whoever this person was had circumvented the rose selections of friendship, get-to-know-you-better or secrect admirer. The sender of this rose went straight to
This could be big! This could be my first Love!
My 17-year-old mind whirred. Who could it be? Someone in my AP English class? Certainly not anyone in AP biology, I hoped. Or, someone who was in none of my classes who would see me in the hallway and confess his love and we would go to prom and everything would be wonderful!
With each class I went to, I walked in expecting – I don’t know what.
But nothing happened.
Then, it was time to go to gym.
As I headed across the gym floor to the girl’s locker, my dad was heading out of the boy’s locker.
He greeted me with a big smile.
“Hi honey! Did you get my rose?”
I gulped. “Rose?”
“Yes, I sent you a rose!”
At that moment, I wanted to die. Just someone, please drown me in the locker room shower.
But I know my dad really meant well. Looking back, my dad just wanted to send his little girl a rose. But then, the 17-year-old me just died on that shiny gym floor.
“Thanks, dad,” I said, and I think I even smiled. Because I knew he meant well. But when you’re in high school, with the sweatshirts and ankle bracelets, a rose given to you by dad is well, not all that – womantic.
In comparison to last year’s Bat Mitzvah extravaganza party, this year’s birthday celebration was quite low-key: T-shirt decorating, Pizza & other munchies, cookie cake and – watching Eclipse.
I think I found my cure for the winter blues and the remedy is inviting over 11 girls aged 13 -14 and add pizza and Shirley Temples for extra joy. How can anyone be down amidst the constant chatter and giggling? I was happy that my daughter let me be around her friends, who showered my daughter with hugs and presents accompanied by cards that were no shorter than novellas. The cards, written in every conceivable color of Sharpie, were filled with private jokes and all the ways my daughter is a good friend. Those cards I know will be treasured just as much as the gifts.
Then, it was time for cake and movies. This was a very important agenda with a limited timeframe. With all the girls refusing to leave until they saw every second of Eclipse, a vote needed to be taken as to when to eat cake.
Who wanted to eat cake now?
Who wanted to take a short intermission in the movie to eat cake?
Eating cake while watching Eclipse on the family room couch was not an option.
My daughter piped in: “Hey, how about: we watch the movie,and the first time Taylor Lautner takes his shirt off, we eat cake!”
Friends: “No, then we will want to watch the whole thing.”
So, cake came out, candles were lit, a wish was made. Within 10 minutes, the cookie cake was completely snarfed down. Then, all lights went out. It was time for Eclipse.
Again, I was so glad my daughter let me watch this movie with her friends. The comments made were even more entertaining than the movie itself.
As overheard in the darkness:
“I can really learn how to kiss by watching this movie!”
“He’s sooooooo cute!”
“No. He’s sooooo cute!”
“Even as a wolf, he is cute!”
“The wolves look so fuzzy and cuddly!”
“Bella, you need to wind up with Edward, because then Jacob will be mine!”
And on and on and lots of giggles and screams to go right along with it.
Then, at some point of the movie (and I couldn’t hear a word of dialogue because of all the giggles and nonstop chatter), Bella and Edward are on a mountain. Bella is in a coat and wearing a hat. Then, Jacob shows up – shirtless – and a pair of shorts.
So, being the Jewish mother, I ask, “So why is Bella all bundled up and Jacob is walking around without his shirt for a change?” Because, I had fallen behind (no, I had become sick of) reading Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series and didn’t understand the complexities of man/wolf biology.
The replies were instantaneous:
“Because Jacob is a werewolf and his blood is warm!”
“His blood is hot, his blood is boiling hot!”
“His chest is so hot.”
“His chest is so hot you can bake cookies on it!”
“If someone baked cookies on Taylor Lautner’s chest, I would certainly eat them!”
Oh. Well, now it is all completely logical to me.
A woman I know from a playgroup from many years back asked me the other day if I missed the days when my kids were really little.
And I thought: No, I don’t miss the diaper bags, the diapers, the stroller shlepping. I do miss picking up little people and swinging them around, but teaching preschool cures my fix for that. No, I love the ages my kids are in right now and I wouldn’t change a thing.
So, girls, when are you coming over next?
Last week, my family stayed two nights in Lebanon. We sat on one of the world’s biggest harem pillows eating halvah as we watched a belly dance performancee. After that, we saw a fireworks display over a river. That day, we also picked raspberries as we hiked through the wilderness and swam in a pristine lake, and sampled some of the best guacamole this side of the Rio Grande.
Where were we?
I know. I’m starting to sound like one of those tourism ads of the 1980s starring Bill Cosby. But I can’t help it. My family and I had a great mini vacation in The Garden State, the place of our former residence. New Jersey is conveniently sandwiched between visiting the family back in New York and our home in Rochester. Between our old life and relatively new life.
Ten years later and I still feel a pang when we drive by the exit that we used to take to go home when we lived in Central New Jersey. Every return trip to Rochester, when I see the exit for S. Plainfield off of Rt. 287, I think, we could have been home by now.
My kids are getting older. They have no memory of our tiny Cape Cod in Fanwood. I think they are getting to the point that they are actually enjoying parent-free time (demonstrated by the camp countdown that started 40 days ago) more than hanging with parent time. That’s to be expected. But, damn it to hell, I wanted some happy family memories before we shipped them off.
Now, the highlight of our just-the-five-of-us mini vacation was a four-hour tubing excursion down the Delaware River. A time of family bonding. Togetherness.
Do you see these happy people in the picture to the right? That is not us. It is a picture from the Delaware River Tubing Co., the nice family-run business that supplies the tubes, the mid-river hot dog (or veggie burger) lunch, and the bus ride back up river. We did buy a waterproof camera from them, but I broke it. I would have had much difficulty navigating my tube and photographing the family anyway. On the course of the river, I lost my hat, and nearly lost both of my shoes.
The water was warm. The currents were minimal. It was like a lazy river ride at a water park. Only, the river was real. The kids were – bored.
Floating down a river for four hours with the family taught me many lessons that can apply to being a family:
- You can only control so much. You have to go with the flow.
- Children need solid boundaries. Encourage them to stay in their tube as much as possible.
- You can try to stick together. You may float away from each other from time to time, but eventually, we all come out of the river together.
- Try to go against the current to stop, or go backwards, and you will capsize your tube.
- Always make sure your shoes are securely fastened, or you can lose them in river mud.
- Facing rough waters is always a little better when you hold someone’s hand.
Back on dry land, the next day, on a bridge between New Hope, Pa., and Lambertville, NJ, we watched an impressive fireworks display. Last year, Toby cowered at the booms of fireworks. This year he cheered them on, the louder the better.
“I sure wish we lived in New Jersey!” He said.
I guess he was 10 years too late.