Family Album

I am the archivist for my original nuclear family (FOB (father of blogger), MOB (mother of blogger, may she rest in peace), SOB (sister of blogger) and HOSOB (husband of SOB).  And of course, for my nuclear family, POB (partner of blogger) and SOPOBAB (son of POB and blogger).  I also have archived pictures of some of POB’s extended family.

After struggling to identify people in old photos, I decided that we need to catalogue pictures with names because the people who would know are forgetful or “no longer with us”.

So, I upgraded my iPhoto program so now I have face recognition software.  I will have to press FOB about some people; MOB would have known.  Thank Goodness, Aunt Betty was at FOB’s party and helped with some identifications.

Still, there isn’t room for the stories behind the pictures, but I will work on that next.

But there are some people in these photos who were important at one point but turned out to be rotters.  But if we don’t name them, then later generations might think they remained important but their names were lost to history.  THAT won’t do. So we have to name them, but in a way that conveys the backstory.

In the pictures of my sister’s wedding, there are many – dare I say TOO many — pictures of the one-time fiancé of one of SOB’s dearest college friends.  Subsequent to the wedding, problems arose and we took to calling him Stan (not his real name) so that if they patched things up, we could revert to his real name without negative attachments.  (Brilliant idea by HOSOB.)

Well, they didn’t patch things up and he is figuring TOO prominently in the wedding pictures.  (see back story  Just to call him “Stan” would only convey his loser-ish behavior to very few people in the family, leaving subsequent generations to think his name was Stan and there is nothing more to the story.  No, this will not stand. He was horrible to a dear friend of SOB, whom we have all known for 30 years and, despite her Republican party identification, is FAMILY.  Every time he ruins a perfectly good wedding picture by his mere image in it, I become enraged.  Yet, I am a mom, so I have to be careful how I characterize him (i.e., no profanity). I tried out a name, but I wasn’t sure.

As I was doing the endless name recognition (10,000 faces can be daunting), SOPOBAB was looking over my shoulder and asked, “Who is ‘Stan the Loser’?”  And so I explained to the next generation the sins of Stan.  And now the back story won’t be lost.

And then I knew I got the name just right.

Who am I; What am I?

For over 46 years, I was an American.  I was one of us — even though I am Jewish, an unrepentant liberal, and gay.  There was room in the tent, even if a few people called me unpatriotic for opposing the Iraqi invasion.

But this year, things are different.  Was my grandmother a citizen when my mother was born?  Yes.  Does it matter?  Maybe I get dispensation because I pay in taxes what most people earn in a decade.  I thought that in this country, one no longer had to buy freedom or the right to be protected from government interference.  But if neo-fascists get their way, birthright citizenship goes away.  If that happens, hell, I am moving because I am not paying my tax dollars into a system that makes me prove my mother’s citizenship.  I bet that America would find that most of their tax dollars comes from second generation Americans and not the Tea Party Express members who fear that their status as descendants of European conquerors doesn’t buy a loaf of bread.

Then there is this talk about the oppressive Atheists who deprive Christians of their right to pray in schools.   News flash:  it isn’t just the Atheists.  It is every mainstream of every minority religion that wants breathing space from fundamentalists — of whatever religion.  As religious as were the founders, they believed, and the case law of our nation’s highest court supports, that there be a separation of church and state, mostly for the protection of the minority against the tyranny of the majority (thank you, Thomas Jefferson).   Chew on that, Christine O’Donnell.

Protest is the hallmark of our nation.  We were founded upon the belief that we had a right to protest the edicts of King Charles of England.  So when video captures a campaign aide stomping on the head of a protester, one has to wonder who has hijacked our nation.  I disagree with the campaign aide’s candidate on more things than I can count but I support his right to campaign on his ideas.   If his staff cannot support the right of the opposition to protest, then they are totalitarian thugs.  They don’t belong in the great experiment in democracy that is America.

Also in this election cycle, we learned that there are those who believe that if this nation were to allow gay marriage, it would be tantamount to allowing a person to marry a piece of furniture.  No joke.  Try telling that to your girlfriend.

Where did the ideals and dreams of America go?  I am a stranger in my own land.

Mi Cherie Amour

On Thursday afternoon, I slipped into the bathroom of my office and transformed into a girlie-girl.  I traded my clogs for pantyhose and heels and my turtleneck and blazer for a sleeveless black number that swirls when I walk, along with some serious bling and a full face of make-up.  POB (partner of blogger) insisted on the serious bling (she wanted anyone who might flirt with me to know I was expensive).  G-d bless her to think that someone at this outrageously hetero event (for which I was dressing up) would even look twice at me.

Of course, I ripped the hose as I put them on and — uh oh — this was not my pair of hose.  POB and I are different sizes, so I felt the sli-i-i-i-ide down below my waist happening almost immediately.  Ripped and sliding.  Dressing up is always epic.

The event was a fundraiser for one of the most worthwhile organizations (outside of refugee relief) — The Hole in the Wall Gang camps for kids with life threatening illnesses.

I left my office to meet a colleague who was flying in for the event.  We were going to the pre-party that started at 5pm.  Nothing like alcohol at 5pm for pickling your brain.  And goyishe hors- d’oeuvres — meat and cheese or pork.  Not even mixed nuts for the Jews.  I realize this is going to be a long night featuring a liquid buffet.  And that is so not my cultural upbringing — run out of booze, ok.  Run out of food? Change your name and leave town because you’ll never live it down.

We attended the main event — a concert at Avery Fisher Hall, featuring Meryl Streep (looking fab without plastic surgery), Emmy Lou Harris, John Cougar Mellencamp, Bill Cosby, Lyle Lovett (I kept thinking, Julia Roberts, really?), Bette Midler (who got middle-aged), Renee Zellwegger (she looked so much better before all the plastic surgery) and Stevie Wonder.

More important than these luminaries were the campers who helped emcee the show, and the video of Paul Newman, who together with Joanne Woodward, founded these camps.  One of the campers belted out “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”.  I think everyone was crying.  Here is a terminally ill tweenager singing THAT song.  A song of the downtrodden, the sad, the defenseless, those with hopes and dreams that seem destined not to be realized.  THAT song.  My heart ached and my mascara ran all over my face.

Paul Newman (may he rest in peace) was so eloquent — in the video made some years ago — about why he started these camps.  (I am paraphrasing, but I recollect it this way:)  “I have been lucky all my life and I wanted to help people who only knew the other side of luck.” He is a good man but I hate his salad dressings.

He looked at luck as a zero-sum game.   And if luck is a zero-sum game, then our luck means someone else has less (or no) luck.  Contrast that with people who say today, “I make my own luck.”  As if to impart that those who are “unlucky” don’t deserve success.  Ok, let’s super-impose this paradigm on children.  Can anyone with a sense of humanity say to a terminally ill child, “you could’ve made your own luck”?

Surely, we can share our good fortune — our luck — with the children.  The children.

Of course the evening got lighter when Stevie started playing Cherie Amour and a few other standards.  My colleague and I were standing and singing in Avery Fisher Hall while everyone else politely sat.  After an evening of ill children with fight in their hearts, it was good to be on our feet and singing.  It was life-affirming.

There was an after-party.  Cheeseburger sliders were served.  Really?  Goyishe v’hetzi (150% non-Jewish).  Still with the vodka drinks.

There was a Motown band and singers who were awesome.  I dragged my colleague out on the dance floor.  I told her, it’s New York, no one cares if two women dance.   We totally rocked out.  Of course, at that point my hose were dangling dangerously low like the pants on some young men and I was scared that they would just drop.  And it was getting late and really I wanted to get home, get in bed and feel the serenity of having my family safe and asleep around me.  We were waiting for Stevie Wonder to show up at the after-party so my colleague could meet her idol.

Finally he showed up and she was star struck and frozen in place.  The batteries in her camera ran out.  I had to elbow my way to spend a few minutes talking to Mr. Wonder while I motioned for her to get next to me.  Mr. Wonder’s bodyguards were concerned that I was doing something dangerous and were ready to drop me.  Finally she got near enough to put her hand on his shoulder and I snapped the photo using my blackberry.  I thanked Mr. Wonder for his patience (and holding on to my hand for what seemed an eternity as my colleague got close) and the conversation and I receded into the crowd.

My colleague is on Cloud Nine.  We have bonded.  I can call her “friend” now.  Without a hard-headed New Yorker, she would not have even gotten close to Mr. Wonder.  As a friend, I tell her, “I have been in heels for seven hours, my pantyhose are almost falling off, and I need to go home now that we have a picture with you and Stevie Wonder.”  I am walking you to your hotel and I am throwing myself in a cab.  The alternative is to put a sign on you that says ‘return after 3 days to . . . .’  I would get to sleep but I would get fired.  So you decide:  How is this evening turning out?”

Having gotten a picture of Stevie Wonder, she didn’t put up a fight.  Thank G-d.  I got her back to her hotel and in 15 minutes I was in my comfy apple-green jammies in my comfy bed and ready to sleep.

I laughed, I cried, I danced, I shook hands with a celebrity, I was moved to help others.  A great day.

Driving and Fishing

Just last night over dinner out, POB (partner of blogger) and I were discussing our different approaches in dealing with annoying people or circumstances. 

POB is from a “good home”, has wonderful manners and rarely curses.  Even though I , too, came from a “good home”, I have a potty mouth. 

The practical difference is that POB can be baited for a long time before she boils over.  Someone has to dangle that fish hook at her for a good, long while.  In contra-distinction, I will drive to some barely noticeable bait, put in the water by a sleepy fisherman and impale myself on the hook, squirm and cuss.

Who knew that our theoretical conversation would almost immediately have practical application.

Our son’s teacher sent around an email that all the kids need to bring 2-litre clear bottles for a science experiment.  Because POB is a class mom (and so am I, by extension), we decided to get some extra ones in case some of the kids’ parents did not receive the email blast. 

Thinking, “reduce, re-use, recycle,” we went to the basement of our building to get used soda bottles.  It was an event so I had to document it (pictures are a little unclear; darn that blackberry camera).







Last night late, POB sent around an email suggesting that the recycling in everyone’s apartment buildings’ basements would be a good place to look for this particular “school supply”.  Just keeping with the “reduce, re-use, recycle” mantra.

One of the parents needed to send around an email this morning,  “I was rummaging around our basement recycling area at around 7:00 AM this morning – not part of my usual morning routine. . . .” 

Ok, AS IF any of us rummage through our building garbage as part of our daily regimen?

So, I had to, had to, had to email back (hitting reply to all, of course), that it was foreign for us, too, so much so that I took pictures to document the event.

POB emailed back to me (not reply to all, thank G-d — that good upbringing is so important):

“you just had to impale yourself on that hook, didn’t you?!”

Yes, yes, I did.



Ok, I am going to be self-righteous and over-bearing.  So, sit back and listen.  Then you may comment.  I may not read your comments.

What’s all this about people being too busy or disinterested to vote in an election?

Citizenship has privileges and responsibilities.  One responsibility is to vote in each and every election.  It is also our only protection from tyranny (and I know there are different views these days on what constitutes tyranny).

Not every vote will be momentous.  Sometimes we vote for council members and sometimes we vote for presidents.

And, no one is too busy.  And sick people can vote by absentee ballot.  In 1998, my 99 year-old grandfather shuffled with his walker to the voting booth to cast his ballot.  Why?  Because only in America did he have the right to vote and be counted.  Not when he was a child in czarist Russia or a young man during the Russian Revolution. 

If you don’t vote, you have let others make decisions for you and your opinion doesn’t matter anymore.  Because you didn’t do the least you could do to justify having an opinion — vote.

Uncommon Honor

Our god-daughters come over every other Friday night for family dinner. (I think “goddaughter” doesn’t sit so well with one, but it is just too impossible to explain the depth of our relationships, so it will have to do.)

We’ve been through a lot together. J. started out 9 years ago as a perfectly lovely undergraduate with lovely light brown hair. One day she came over having gotten a blond buzz cut and some metallica in and around her face.

Then she started playing rugby which is football without all of the protective gear (and we know that even that doesn’t help much).

Then she came out as a gun owner (her family is from out in the country where hunting is the norm).  This was a difficult issue because we are good New York liberals and my mother helped found New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.  She probably enjoyed the irony of my playing with light sabers yesterday (see prior blog entry).

Then, as a senior she brought home a peppy young undergraduate for us to meet.  (See below about K.)

Then, there was the living on our couch for a while (she can come back in a New-York minute).

Then, she decided, contrary to my better advice, to go to law school.  Nooooooo comment.

Most recently, she came out as a vegetarian (remember, she is from a meat-loving, hunting family).  We are fine with that, really, we just would have preferred to know ahead of dinner that evening.  So now we are searching for good, vegetarian recipes for Friday nights. (I bet you thought I was going to say that she came out as a lesbian, but that is soooo old school.)

So, K. came into our lives about 8 years ago after we had gotten a little too much information about her for any self-respecting godparents to handle.  Also, I think I intimidated K. in the beginning or, more to the point, she didn’t really “get” me.  Maybe I was too over-protective of J.  (Ok, I was too over-protective of J. but sometimes family is a burden in that way.)

Anyway, K. schlepped J. out to New Jersey (which was beyond the three-mile radius rule I thought I had set down firmly).  Already not good.

But as time and life enfolded, we love and adore K. and she loves POB, and even I am growing on her (like moss).

Now she tells us about her crazy externships and the dangerous crisis circumstances (without breaking any confidentiality) in which she does her clinical work, and we try to stay calm and not scream, “Get the HELL out of that place!!  Who the HELL needs that kind of insanity?? Can’t you find a wellness clinic and practice there???”  Neither POB (partner of blogger) or I actually say it.  We listen with concern and interest and try to keep the internal screaming, well, internal.

And there have been sad and heart-breaking bumps in the road that needn’t be re-hashed.

So, when on Friday night, they said they had an announcement and a question, POB and I were both panic-stricken.  They saw this in our eyes, so they tried to calm us but not give away the surprise.  I think I reminded them that we have middle-aged hearts and sudden shocks to our systems are dangerous and cruel.

It was good news: they are having a wedding!!!  So, I figured the question was, would we host the rehearsal dinner or help pay for the caterer.  They talked about the place they picked and told us every detail and all the time I am thinking about the question.  Maybe it isn’t about money.  Maybe we are not invited and they want to explain why.  Maybe they want our son to the ring-bearer.  Maybe they ARE converting to Judaism (they are Jewish culturally now anyway) and want recommendations for rabbis to lead the service.  Ok, ok, ok, ok, I think.  Please ask the question because I am still concerned that it is a scary, sad or bad question.

Drum roll.  Since they are married in Connecticut and New York doesn’t allow same-sex marriage, they asked me to officiate the wedding and be the general emcee of the weekend.  I was honored, humbled, scared, disbelieving all at once.  What an immense honor.  I couldn’t speak.  I kept trying to say something, but I couldn’t formulate a sentence — I was still shocked that they would give me this honor. Tears started to well up.  I am still so overwhelmed and honored.

And as J. and K. probably figured, I couldn’t sleep on Friday night because ideas about the ceremony were flooding my brain.  (Some were really good; some not so much.)

What an honor and privilege.  I am indeed blessed.

Play dates

Yesterday, my son had a friend over in the afternoon.  The ground rules were no electronics — no computer, no video, no TV.  His parents are rather concerned about the amount of time he spends on Wii and on the computer generally.  So, low-tech play date.  No problem, right?  Now, remember it is 2010 and we are taking about an 8 year-old and a 10 year-old.  BOYS.

First my son refused to stop what he was doing when his friend arrived.  His friend was kneeling in front of the Wii remotes.  Ok, ok, ok.  POB (partner of blogger) took out all of this cool building sets, some even have circuitry (electric ok, but electronic, no).  No one tried anything.  Variably mournful and angry eyes were watching us.  I started helping the friend put some circuit boards together and we made lights flash on and alarms ring.  Just like those awesome kits that you could do at camp if you brought an extra $5 dollars which in 1972, was a lot for an 8 year-old.  We were having an awesome time although my son was still pouting by reading train books, hoping that I would cave and let them watch a train video.  Nooooo. Then his friend got up and knelt by the Wii again.  I said no, and we had a tense moment when he kicked something over angrily.  We walked back into my son’s room.  At that point, the friend tried to make conversation with my son, but my son, who figured he was punishing me by being rude to his friend, was unresponsive.  So I sat down with this friend and played scrabble and asked my son to help me.  Finally, finally, my son decided that fun was a good thing to have and they started to play together.  Phew.  All is good, right?  Ten minutes later, “we’re booooored.”  Really?  Really?  With all of the toys in this house, you kids can be bored?

Then I remember what withdrawal was like when I quit cigarettes.  And, I realized that neither of them bargained for a non-electronic play date, although we did tell our son the ground rules.  So, in a lapse of parental judgment, I started a pillow fight in the living room with the couch pillows — some cushions, some just decorative.  All fair game.  POB looked on in horror and amusement as there were many near-misses with the lamps, etc.  But the humans were each in one piece.

They were able to amuse themselves for a little while.  But the electronic-free play date was running a little too long for anyone’s patience, let alone those of pre-tween boys.  Recently, I bought a Star Wars light saber to match our son’s (Mom, please forgive me, for buying something that is a weapon, but your grandson is a boy.)  My son didn’t want to play but his friend did.  So, I handed him a pair a protective glasses (see, Mom, you did raise me right) because I cannot live in a world where a child is blinded while playing while fencing with light sabers in my house.  Ok, I never, ever, imagined that I would be condoning, much less partaking, this behavior, but, sometimes, one has to stand less on principle in order to survive your child’s play date.  Then the boy’s father came to pick him up just as he was striking me in the gut with his light saber.  Score one for Luke Skywalker.

Luckily, POB and I had a dinner date with our machertunim (the parents of the girl that our son is intent on marrying).  Machertunim is the Yiddish word that describes the parents’ relationship when your children are married to each other.  This play date also did not have electronics.  We coped very well with these parameters, since we have great fun talking and laughing, and there was wine and great food.  Did I mention the wine?

Both play dates were fun.  But I suspect that they won’t need my facilitating non-electronic play dates after a while.  And to tell you the truth, the second play date was awesome.

Less Crazy Than . . . .

It takes all kinds of crazy from all kinds of people to make New York City a unique human experience.  A key to survival in this city is to think you are less crazy than at least one other person.  And if all you can do is feel less crazy than a raving lunatic, well, then, you only need to walk a few streets in either direction to find a more subtle version of crazy.  Of course, you don’t always have time to search for a less lunatic, but still crazier, person.

Here’s is what I mean:

If you are running late in New York City, the best way to travel is by subway.  Of course, the impulse is to take a cab because it should be faster since it is a door-to-door trip.  But there is always traffic in this City.  Yet, what did I do yesterday morning when I was running late for work (as I often do)?  Yep, I took a cab.  And I was surprised and frustrated that there was no magically clear avenue for the cab to zip down.  Even more irritating was that my driver was a traffic magnet.  Who drives down Broadway from the upper west side to midtown at 9:15am?  And, adding insult to injury, he had been a cab driver for years (I asked).  Still, I wondered why taking a cab didn’t miraculously reduce the time it takes to get to my office.  Crazy is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Realizing this, I had to find someone very quickly who was more crazy than I.

But I am in the backseat of a cab stalled in traffic a few blocks above the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle.  Agitated, I looked all around me.  There were the odd assortment of passersby but no one crazy enough to be crazier than I.  I felt a cold sweat come on.  In my head, I was screaming:  I cannot be the craziest person in this City!!!!!

Then I saw a homeless man standing in front of a former bank branch doing his Yoga stretches in the sunshine.  He was breathing in deeply as he moved his arms in arcs above his head and down.  Then he did the stretch with an arched back (something that has a name that contains the word dog?).  All I know was that he was breathing in deep, cleansing (ok, it is New York City, so not so cleansing) breaths and seemed to be calm and happy.  Ok, he is a crazy, homeless man because if you are homeless you simply cannot be serene and happy unless you are crazy. And, according to the great philosopher Forrest Gump, crazy is as crazy does.

So, I was less crazy that morning than the man on the street.  And some days, that is the best you can do.

Gays in the Military

Does anyone really believe that, with the lifting of the ban, gays will start wearing rainbow flags and singing Judy Garland songs instead of the national anthem? 

Military is a macho place where gays will be harassed for decades to come.  I doubt gays will start coming out of the closet in droves tomorrow. 

The point on the injunction is that no one can get forced from the military for being gay, so gay service members don’t have to live in fear of discovery while they serve our nation on the battlefields.  Our nation should be grateful to those who love this country so much that they will risk their lives even though they face senseless discrimination. 

Let’s get at the fear, which is sex:  Some people think that gay service members will start propositioning heterosexuals and start having sex in public. 

First, straight people over-estimate their attractiveness. 

Second, these people are trained military personnel who abide by a code of conduct. 

If a gay or straight service member acts in a way unbecoming an officer or enlisted person (use any example you want) then that service member can still be, and should be, discharged. 

And, President Obama, don’t fight this injunction.  We are here, we are queer and we are tired of waiting.

Tuesday, The Day My Pampered Child Called Me Lazy

Ok, Ok, Ok, Ok, Ok.  I am not good in the morning.  Mostly, because I have very unrestful sleep.  All day, every day, I am tired to the bone.  That is just life for me.  I yawn even when I work out because even that much adrenaline doesn’t keep me awake.  I would drink coffee all day if that burning sensation in my stomach or esophagus would quit.  You get the point.

POB (partner of blogger) has been away on business and is coming home late tonight.  Our son remarked that “Mommy will be so tired tomorrow she’ll seem as lazy as you, E-Mom.”  Shock.  Disbelief.  Dismay.  My son is calling ME, lazy?  At first I think maybe he understands the concept through comparison with his own exemplary model of laziness.  But then I realize there is neither an introspective aspect nor an attempt to bond with a fellow lazy person.

This is what “we in the Tribe” would call a Jewish compliment — an insult made less stinging by including someone, i.e., POB, with otherwise excellent qualities in your category of degeneracy.  So, since he has never been around Yiddish speakers or members of the immigrant generation, there must be a genetic component to his uncanny ability to deliver a stinging, yet subtly amusing Jewish compliment.

I would have appreciated it more had I not been appalled and yelling.  Yelling is the one throw-back parenting technique that is still grudgingly allowed by the good parenting police.  But it can only be used when you have had another stressful day at the office, working ever harder to mute the effects of a bad economy on your sense of self-worth and your ability to provide for your family.  So, I properly invoked the technique.

But then I know that my son was just expressing things as they appear to him, unencumbered by a social filter.  I know that others his age have some form of social filter.  My son is different that way.  And most times we work through the issue without my resorting to yelling, “how dare you say something like that?”  My son was a little freaked out but not the least bit bowed by the event.  Only now I have to put me in a time-out and have a serious talk with me about my behavior and how to channel my emotions in more socially acceptable ways.

And my son?  He had dinner, shower, books and music before bed.  I told him I love him and nothing changes that even if I was angry at what he said.  And I do love him, and I always will.

But I am NOT lazy.  (Ok, not compared to him.)