Ping Pong

Tonight, I am going out with colleagues to a hip and groovy place.  Which means that the people who go to this place could easily be my children. 

It is part-owned by Susan Sarandon (as a gift to her new arm candy).  Susan is the only non-vampire that is ageless and gorgeous at 60+ years old.

Apparently, there are ping pong tables there.  Like in a fraternity basement.  Further indicium that I have aged out of this place.

Last time I played “pong” was beer pong in my sorority basement.  Actually it was slam pong.  My foot slipped on the mung beer stinking up the floor and I pulled my hamstring.  The campus police had to drive me to my various classes for two weeks because I kept slipping on the ice and re-injuring my muscle.  Imagine trying to go out frat-hoping and asking the campus police to drive you. 

Ok, 25 years later, I am going to a place — where the bouncers will probably keep me out because of my gray hair — to play pong.  I wonder if I will be able to finish that slam pong game that got interrupted by my fall so many years ago.  .  .  .

More tomorrow, if I survive.

Toxins aren’t only in labs

A great philosopher and life coach (and a college friend) once offered up a simple, yet mind-blowing concept:  situations and relationships can be toxic.  Now, this great philosopher and life coach may reveal herself in a comment but I do try (as best I can) to exercise some discretion in naming names.

Think about that: not just WMDs and not just science experiments gone wrong, but the relationships can be, well, combustible. Or more often, a slow carbon monoxide leak.   And this is true in business relationship as well as love relationships as well as family relationships.


It is possible to overstate the point.  My child’s periodic tantrums and exhortations of “I never get to do ANYthing” are annoying but they are not toxic.  And they are more than balanced by the sheer joy I get from spending time with my partner and our son.  My partner and I may argue, but we are soul mates.

Even relationships that ostensibly start out fine can turn toxic.  They get toxic when one feels bad and unloved and exploited.  But we must remember that relationships are not balanced all the time, every day.  For example, recently I have been leaning more on my partner for emotional support than usual (and I am so lucky to have her).  So, technically, there is an imbalance.   And I may never be as supportive of her as she is of me now, but as long as she feels loved and respected and appreciated, that can also balance the cosmic equation.  Toxicity comes in when the power in a relationship is taken or (let’s admit it) ceded to one person.  Usually that happens out of fear but sometimes it happens because that is the only relationship model one knows.

Over some months, I realized a dangerously high toxin level in one relationship.  Still, I was desperate to keep it in part for economic reasons, but mostly because I was looking for vindication, acceptance and a great epiphany that I imagine I deserved.

I keep reminding myself that if I knew I was being poisoned by carbon monoxide, I’d run, like the wind.

Still, breaking up stinks even if it is for the best.

Fantasy Football Undone

Remember the intro to “ABC’s Wide World of Sports”?  The announcer gravely intoned, “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”

Fast-forward 30 years, as I sit with my young son after an awesome first half of the Jets-Colts game.  Awesome because the Jets were ahead and it was his team!!  He does like Peyton Manning, the Colts QB, but my son IS a New Yorker, after all.

Then came the frustrating second half in which the Colts players showed themselves to be too much for our Jets.  Aggravation, disappointment and helplessness in a sports game generally means that older boys (as in 20s and up) drink away their sorrows.  Not so for a 7.5 year-old.  He has to have a tantrum the old fashion way — whining, being obstreperous, fresh and generally miserable company.  At some point, he pushed enough of my buttons — some I didn’t know I had.  I maxed out on the tantrum and matched his yelling with my yelling.  At this point, POB (partner of blogger)  — G-d bless her — ushered our son out of the room and said, “I have to separate you, two.”

So, there it was.  POB actually has two children but only one is really able to use age as an excuse (hint: not me).  Ok, so my homework is to figure out how to help my son channel his agony of defeat in a way that works better for him (and me) and how to stand tough when my son can’t.

Fantasy Football and Real Life

My son’s best friend is wild about football.  So, my son is now, too.  This is an awesome event because my son has had trouble connecting to peers in the past.

So, football.  Ok, two women raising a boy and he wants to watch football.  My son, who learns through reading — books, websites, whatever — said to me, “E-Mom, we need to fire up the iPod with serious football apps!!”  Ok, how did he know there were football apps?  So now we have THREE football apps on two iPods but because they are not iPhones we cannot play together.  Uh-oh.  I am feeling an upgrade on the horizon.

When kids want the next new gadget (or at least the gadget they’ve recently discovered) and are feeling extra deprived (as only spoiled children can feel), they no longer make references to the Stone Age or pre-WWII Europe, like we did or our parents did.  My parents would quote their parents, as in, “when we were starving in Europe, we only asked for food and water” to which I remember responding, “gee, sorry, can I get Frye boots anyway?”

No, our kids say things like, “we’re being raised like the Aaaa-mishhhhh!!”  As I remember, Kelly McGillis was very hot in that movie with Harrison Ford, “Witness,” about an Amish boy who witnessed a murder in Port Authority or Penn Station.  Ok, so I am missing the point of the intended scathing analysis of our child-rearing techniques.  Never mind.

It is important to listen to kids because they are experts in being children and being childish.  If they are happy all of the time, then you are a push-over, the moral equivalent of a chump, and, ultimately, a bad parent.  I hear tell of a magical zone where good parenting meets the right level of whining for proper childhood development.  This may be a myth (actually, I know it is because I just made it up). But there are books written about errogenous zones that exist only on runway models and elixirs of youth, so maybe I have found my way out of the daily grind by discovery a new theory.  Hmmm. 

What does this have to do with fantasy football?  Work with me here.  My son is into football and I have a fantasy that he and I will both survive his childhood and adolescence as high-functioning individuals in environs more luxurious than Amish.   Also, part of my fantasy involves my brother-in-law watching the football games with my son.  Here the reason why it is a fantasy: he is an artist and in touch with his animus and anima (I think these are Jungian terms) — that is to say, he is too evolved for football and in touch with his feminine side as well as his masculine side.  Bottom line — he is not a chest beater or head-butter.   Which makes him wonderful in general but useless at football.  Maybe he is a closet alpha male.  (Don’t tell SOB — sister of blogger — because she will un-alpha him in a NY minute.  She IS tough but gentle and uses her powers for good.)

I am rambling because my mind goes to crazy places on Friday nights as the work week winds downs and cartoons cometh in the morning.  I feel a good kind of tired — the kind that comes from playing with my son — tackle football, of course, and “keep away” and monkey-in-the-middle with POB.  Then as we wind down to bed time, we have pretend adventures — because my son has an incredible imagination — I am a British tourist to Oregon (who would not set foot in the former colonies) and only goes to place that revolted against the French, Spanish and Dutch and my son is my uncle George.  Then I am a Kenyan who travels to Jamaica in hurricane season (because the airfare was cheap).  Where does he get this stuff?.  Soon to be followed in a slightly altered Fred Flintstone voice as I reprise my “Big Tuna” role in an undersea world where I have a talk show and he is my little ramora whom POB, as Secret Agent Swordfish (don’t ask), saved on her nose as he fell off a whale.   I am exhausted to my core.

Now, my son who is my joy is in his jammies and reading an encyclopedia of something.  Because that is the way he is.  And I love him because he is kooky and loving and kind and imaginative.  And I can take no credit — I am genetically irrelevant to him.  He is like the most fabulous gift that keeps changing and challenging the recipient.  Sometimes, like tonight, I max out from his intensity.  But no worries, he will come charging at full volume into my bedroom tomorrow to wake me up.  Thank G-d POB is following with hot coffee.

I love my family.  I am blessed.  I am tired.

The greatest generation

I know, I know. I write about death and destruction a lot. But life is like that. And movies and TV depict death and destruction with a certain enthusiasm that seems, well, ooky.

Today, I went to a friend’s father’s funeral. I didn’t know my friend’s father but I knew about his life.  I heard him speak once.  And his is a life story worth telling again and again, over and over.

He was born in Turkey and raised — before World War II — in France. He was a Jew and fled to the forests in unoccupied France.  There he met his wife and together, with others they met in hiding, fought with the Resistance.

I remember his saying at a talk at our synagogue that he never really thought of himself as a survivor in the same way that those who survived the concentration camps were survivors.

At the funeral, the rabbi asked those who hid with him to stand and three very old people slowly, and with assistance, stood, two of them very stooped over.  These old people did heroic things in a world gone haywire and they survived in a jungle of sorts where other humans were hunters and they were the game.

This man did the exact opposite of what was done to him. He loved, he gave generously of his time and his resources, he was grateful for life‘s gifts and, as someone at the funeral said, he didn’t blink when adversity hit.

He is truly the epitome of our greatest generation.  He saw the worst, endured the worst and gave his best back.

I didn’t know him but I stand on his shoulders and those like him — my own parents and grandparents — and therefore I need to pay my respects to a man who made possible the opportunities in my life.  For the debt I cannot repay to those who so willingly gave to me, I promise to pay it forward to the next generation, all the while telling the heroic stories of those who came before me.

Monsieur Henri, your memory is a blessing to all who know you and your family.

The hardest part about having kids? Living through their childhoods.

So this weekend, we went to the birthday party of our son’s betrothed (she turned 8, he is 7.5).  He asked her to marry him at summer camp and she said, “sure!”  We adore her and her parents so life is good so far. And both children attend the same school (but different classes, thank G-d).

Her parents (machertunim in Yiddish) and we went out recently and, among the stories, there was one in which the husband, a gentle giant (did I mention giant?) went — in his own words — ape-shit on someone.  He was justified in his reaction but, still, I thought, I am not sure that I want to tell him about an “oops” that could occur in adolescence if our children are still betrothed.  So, I am thinking about a chastity belt for boys.  All this going through my mind as we listen to jazz at a club and eat great food and wine.  I then start thinking about body armor for my son AND me.

My son is a gentlemen and a hyper-heterosexual young man.  Oxymoronic in the truest sense.  I guess being raised by lesbians will do that.  I am afraid, like any sane parent, about adolescence and what kids can watch on TV and then do in the instant that a parent is not watching.  Case in point: we are watching the Jets game on Sunday and a Viagara commercial comes on.  Try to explain erectile dysfunction to your 7.5 year-old to whom, at age 3, we had to plead “point it down” (so the pee would go in the overnight diaper) after “exploring”.

SO, back to the party.  The birthday girl’s mother says that the leader of their play group, an experienced child expert in something (vays nischt, as they say in Yiddish), thinks they are like brother-sister and not boyfriend-girlfriend.  I am relieved only to the extent that I don’t have to worry about plastic surgery after the gentle giant is finished with me if, G-d forbid, I had to explain about crazy adolescence and hormones (think, military school).  The grandmother overhears this and says, “the way they touch each other and interact, it is DEFINITELY boyfriend/girlfriend”.  Mothers know these things and I am scared once again and thinking about multi-generational living as a consequence of my son’s future indiscretion.  Until POB (partner of blogger) tells me that I am over-reacting.  Then I remember that she thought that the “bad girls” in hebrew school (yes, we’ve known each other since age 10) were still virgins.  I sink into despair.  I check my investments.  I move money to a separate account for contingencies.  I rest easy while searching the internet for his and her matching chastity belts.

This parent thing could kill a person.  I KNOW I was easier on my parents.  Or maybe they were not as crazy as I am.  Maybe they should have been because I did some crazy things.  Ok, I am stopping this loop because only bad things can come of it.

Keeping CNN Honest

Haiti is in the midst of an unspeakable humanitarian crisis.   Groups with food, water and medicine were having hard times getting into the country because the Port-au-Prince airport was badly damaged. 

Still, CNN managed to put 6 correspondents on the ground to report on the misery and the sadness, in order to “get us the news we need to know”.  Thanks, Wolf Blitzer, but did your correspondents fly in ahead of the humanitarian relief?  Did your planes carry medicine and other necessities, too?  What are the reporters and camera crew eating and did they bring enough to share?

And how much do we really need to see after the initial footage of devastation?  How about just giving us phone numbers to call to donate for the relief effort, with hourly AP updates on relief efforts without new footage? 

This a tragedy of epic proportions.  Not an opportunity for a media circus.

I’ve lost that blogging feelin’

I need help.  There are not too many bloggable moments as of late that are not work-related (or family-related with an unappealing message about those still alive and able to read my blog).   In fact, life has gotten, in some ways happily, ordinary.  Even mundane.

I had to be Mommy in the middle of the day — something I secretly enjoy but is still anathema to corporate America.  I picked up my son and his “bethrothed” — the young lady, soon to be 8 years old — to whom he pledged his love and undying loyalty at summer camp — and took them to a play group.  They talked about life when grown up and in the “hereafter” so much so that I suggested that they had long lives ahead of them and the “hereafter” could wait.  They held hands on the walk to the street corner and made sure each other was buckled in for the cab ride to the play group.  As the adult/guardian/interloper, I felt it was my duty to let them converse as they wanted.  They surprised me at the good habits they learned from their respective parents.  Old beyond their years.  Which means wild days are to come.  Be afraid.  Very afraid.  Apparently my son’s betrothed wants a marriage proposal for her birthday.  I was relieved that a ring wasn’t requested.  Knowing what I know about my son’s feelings for this little girl, it would be a BIG ring.  The kind you mortgage your house for.  Luckily, a solid birthday present and a marriage proposal are all that are warrranted.   I have time to save up for the wedding, because by that time, the groom’s family will be paying for the wedding.

Racism in America

Harry Reid is an ass for saying what he said but, unfortunately, I can’t imagine that he is alone in thinking this way.

And we should talk about it.

President Obama is a transformative figure in so many ways but right now, most minority candidates don’t have a credible chance at national elective office.  Not even a wise Latina.

And we should talk about it.

But let’s not confuse Harry Reid with Trent Lott.  Trent Lott, when toasting segregationalist and white supremacist Strom Thurmond, told an admiring crowd that life would have been a lot different if Thurmond were elected president in the 40s and 50s when he ran for the office.  Harry Reid was talking about Barack Obama’s appeal to the electorate; Trent Lott was talking about the continuation of Jim Crow.  The comparison is made only for political gain.

Miep 1910-2010

Miep.  A little lone woman who stood up to a great evil machine. 

She risked everything to hide the Frank family and others in Amsterdam during the war. 

In a taped interview, she was talking to the son of another man she helped hide along with the Frank family.  She said simply “[your father] asked for my help and I helped him.” 

Miep had courage, kindness and humanity.  She should be our next American Idol.