Closing in on the goal and lessons learned

This morning, my trainer, Wendy, texted me that she had a migraine and couldn’t go to the Rings with me.

First, I thought, “my poor Wendy.”

SIDEBAR:  Once a mother, always a mother, although sometimes I believe SOS would pronounce “mother” in that particularly uncomplimentary way often spelled as “mudder”.  I hear it only gets worse in the true teenage years.

Then, “Phew, no pain, no failure. Sweeeet!”

Then, realizing that I was drawn to the Rings, I got up and dressed.  I took off my wedding ring and my grandmother’s wedding ring (which I wear on my right hand), so I could go mano a mano with my nemesis.  For those of you who have forgotten the brief history of pain and humiliation, let me provide a little back story:

There are 8 equidistant rings.  The space in between is wider that my wing span and the rings are higher than I can reach; therefore, I cannot take advantage of a running start.  The partial view of my chosen instrument of torture and defeat:

photo(8) I have to build my own momentum or, what I call, the “swing thing”.  One of my attempts to get the rhythm of the “swing thing”:

photo(9)And of course, the out-take video: IMG_1068

And finally to the perils doing the “swing thing with rings”:

photo(14)So, today, with Wendy in bed with a migraine, I went alone.  Without weddings rings and videographer (thank G-d for undocumented foibles), but lots of chalk.

First few attempts were lame, except I was able to hold on and swing with one hand.  This is way harder than you would think.

I was ready to stomp off in a “Woe is I” sort of self-pity.  Then, I remembered how I was really getting a groove last week before I had to stop (on account of blood).

I stopped.  I thought.  I chalked up.  I felt the stillness of a near empty park on a cool late summer morning.  I focused on everything that needed to be in synch: I needed to turn to ring I was dropping, crunch my abs, kick up my legs (like a swing) and then let my arms flow with the momentum to bring me up.  Then let go the minute the swing of the legs hit its height and let the momentum carry me forward as I grabbed the next ring.  I needed to trust my body and let go of fear.

I needed to soar. 

And then I did.

I almost grabbed the seventh of eight rings.  I didn’t do the whole thing.

photo(15)And here is the only picture that shows I was there.  Swollen chalked-up hands.

But I did soar.  And it was great.  And there is work still.  A goal that seemed impossible in June and now seems within reach in September.

And I have to reach that goal.  Because, among the many personal reasons, there is one reason that stands out — the silent lessons we teach by action or inaction, or giving up, or persevering, when the going gets tough or frustrating.  I have to credit my friend, TsanOB, in making me think about this.

First, I want to be proud of me and, second, I want SOS to be proud of me, even if I will be the “mudder” of his teenage years.

Not yet Lord of the Rings

Ok, this “Ring thing” is getting old.  And so am I.

But, on Saturday, I was really kicking up my legs to get momentum and I did the most rings ever.

Until . . . . photo(14)The callous wasn’t really a callous.  And then it was an oozing, blood blister.  OUCH!!!!

My trainer (and dear friend) Wendy showed my hand to people around, and said, “Look what marriage gets you!!!”  (That is my wedding ring in the picture.)  Hmmm, I thought, I will have to delve into that in our training sessions.  As I am doing pull-ups, I will gasp, “tell me, sweetie, about your view on marriage. . . ”  I probably won’t get out the whole sentence in a single session, but, ultimately, I will get the details.

Maybe I will try the acrobats gloves again.  In a few days.  But for right now, I am basking in the afterglow of really swinging until the blood made my hand slip.

Wendy said, “And we didn’t even get run this on video!!!”

Yeah, I kicked it! and there are two people who really know — Wendy who watched and I who did it.  And all the prior “out-takes”?  Erased.


The title, Lord(ess) of the Rings, will have to wait.

Raising a Boy

It is SOS’s first full day home from 7 weeks of camp.

Judging by what came out of his duffel bags, he must have swam in his clothes and then rolled around in sand and soil and let them ferment.  Nothing to do but “up-cycle” them as, well, trash.

SIDEBARNot all of his stuff is beyond salvage.  We just need to dye them all either black or gray so that each article has a uniform color.

The Cape Cod Crud is essentially off (baby oil is a tried and true remedy), but his feet need work.  And only boys can scratch themselves without thinking it is a problem.  (We have bought copious amounts of the necessary sprays and emollients.)  But, so far (a little over 24 hours), SOS is polite and helpful.  So camp and communal living must have done something good.

So it was odd, non-linear and totally out of left field when, tonight, in addition to requesting a nail brush and extra-strength shampoo (even though he is having a serious hair cut tomorrow), he asked:

“[Blogger], can I get something in addition to soap?  I mean, not just for attracting girls, but so everyone know that I am clean and fresh-smelling.”

Whoa, my little baby has grown.  And I am smiling ear to ear.  And I am going to research male chastity belts because some of my friends are parents of girls.

Midlife Resolutions

It is funny that I am approaching “midlife”.  I am not really going to live to 100 and I really can’t afford it and I will have lost my mind along the side of the road at 82 and so what is the point?

But 50 is big.  A lot has happened around me to make me think about my life.

I have a good life.  No question.  I am a lucky person.

And I look at the remarkable people in my life — my friends, my family and my colleagues — and think about the fights they fight, the regrets they harbor and seek to resolve, the fears that they conquer.  And I resolve to do the same.

Life is never what we imagine, when we are in school.  How could it be mapped out so perfectly?  Life is like a mercurial, quixotic, unfair, tempting and mysterious lover.

[SIDEBAR:  that word was for you CTFOB and all the Soeurs]

It brings you highs and lows.  The highs are as if you are on top of the roller coaster and the lows are the swift ride down.  And the pain is immeasurable.  And the unfairness of it all is staggering.  But for the fortunate ones, like me, life has given us immeasurable moments of insight, happiness and people whom we love and who love us right back.

I have been consumed by responsibilities lately.  They have overtaken my spirit and conversation (and my blog).  I have been focusing on the downside on the roller coaster.

But today, today, I feel re-directed out of my silo.  I need to do the things I enjoy:  see friends and colleagues, take time to laugh, enjoy the wonder of this City, and engage with family over things not funereal.  Really dig deep and enjoy life’s blessings until life sends me on a hell ride.

Not Days of Wine and Roses (the movie did not end so well) but not always Days of Obligation.  But a place in between, a place filled with friends and love and fun, where my mind is not wondering about the next catastrophe.

I resolve to drop the fear and lift up the light side of life.  And enjoy it.  And fly to see friends.  And do the things of my dreams.  Because I am, for now, on the lucky side of Lady Life.

This is my early 50th birthday present to me.


The Challenge, Part X

The challenge of the Rings keeps calling my name through the haze of the summer and my various responsibilities in elder care and elder posthumous clean-up.

Without lots of practice, with many weeks in between, I give you, my status as of two weeks ago (as pathetic as it is):  IMG_1068

Yep, you and I — both — thought that, by now, I would be soaring through the air like a slightly ruffled, slightly uncoordinated, bird.

Nope, not there yet.

My agility this weekend was less than I had hoped.  And, Wendy, my trainer and my friend, was not available to push me and coach me from the sidelines.

But, soon, maybe even before Rosh Ha-Shanah.  Oy, it is early this year.  No time to waste. I may have to take days off from work and conquer the beast.

In the interim, CLSFOB has been reading my blog and decided that I needed to try her way of stress relief, running. She poo-poo’ed the “Ring thing”.

“You need to sweat this out; not dislocate your arms.  We are starting, ‘Operation Forrest Gump.”

SIDEBAR:  Is it just me, or do friends show their love and affection this way?

So, last weekend, dutiful and afraid, I dusted off my running shoes and met CLSFOB at the appointed place.  CLSFOB had already run her regimen in case I flamed out. To add insult to injury, she parked her car far enough away to run an extra mile before we met.

“Do you listen to music?” she asked.

“Why would I listen to music when I am running with you?  And I hate those ear bud things.”

“Ok, since you will be gasping, I will tell you stories to keep you going.”

“Horror stories?”  I asked, because it seemed appropriate for our undertaking.

“Shush.  Let’s start!”

Off we went.  We were not going very far.  Two miles down, stop for water, and two miles back.  And because, more than 30 years ago, she was a younger camper/counselor, I needed to do this and not flame out or look like a duck waddling on land.

I am 49 years old (or 53 depending on my blog), and I have not run any meaningful distance (except for the occasional cab or bus) in 5 years.  I had a pulmonary “issue” from May until early July.  What was I thinking?

True to her word, CLSFOB told me stories to keep me going.  She didn’t break a sweat.  And in truth, they were funny stories, except that gasping and laughing are not a great combination.

I was able to do two miles down, water, and less than one mile back up and walk another mile.

This weekend, CLSFOB had to work, but insisted that I run alone.

Her texts:

“Try three miles straight!”

“Don’t text back, run!”

“Don’t drink too much water, or you will cramp!”

Oy, I liked her stories better.  But I did run more and faster.

Then, the best text:

“You are awesome, I am so proud of you!!  Don’t forget to stretch!!”

Thank you, CLSFOB.  You are pretty damn awesome, yourself.  I can’t wait to hang out with you at our reunion and complain about my knees and hips because of this Operation Forrest Gump.

P.S.: what does stretching mean?

Post Script

Yesterday, we sifted through ULOB’s apartment for momentos.  And lasting evidence of his life on earth. 

He has no children; his DNA doesn’t survive.  He once said to Mom, in response to her question, “Don’t you want children?”

“I have yours.”

We, his nieces and nephew, need to preserve the memory of his life.

He was a dancer, a writer, a painter and a playwright.  He said he never worked a day in his life, because he loved what he did and he would have done it for free.

We were kids and he was a giant.  Fun, hip and he adored us.  And we adored him.

And then we grew up and our worlds expanded and his contracted.  And then the old days kept us together.  But not new days.

ULOB came to my office a few months ago.  He wanted me to have his memoirs.  He looked around and was amazed at my office and the law firm.

He was proud of “the kids” as SOB, BOB and I were called so long ago.  He had never said that to me before.  I don’t know if he ever said that to my siblings.

“Baby, you deserve everything in the world,” he said in his showman way.

There we were — a seemingly penniless old dancer and seemingly successful lawyer — being proud of each other even though we made opposite choices in life.

He spent a lot of time with us after AROB died, but, ultimately, her death and his realization that he was no longer self-sufficient were too over-whelming for him to continue for long.

When we left his apartment, arms filled with his writings and pictures, I imagined him in his youth, exiting the stage to wild applause.

A mash-up of pictures through the years.

Oh, the relationships we find in this City

Unfortunately, our family has frequent flyer miles at a particular funeral home.  We all hope that it will be a while until we need these services again.

ULOB was buried on Friday.  Yesterday, I received a call on my cell phone from an unrecognizable phone number.  Usually, this is not a good sign.

It was Frank, the man who assisted us in the recent burials of AROB and ULOB.

SIDEBAR:  Uh oh, I thought.  And, then, I thought, is the Grim Reaper REALLY “phoning it in”?

Frank called to make sure that we were happy with the funeral home’s services.  He also wanted me to know that he was dropping a customer satisfaction survey in the mail to me and that he is available when we were ready to deal with the headstones and any other internment needs.  Really?

I know, you are all thinking of the personal relationship I have with MiniStorage (see and  Well, there is another relationship I didn’t mention…..

With Disaster Masters.  When it looked like ULOB might be able to get out of the hospital and want to go home, SOB and I met with a consultant who prepares homes of elderly people for assisted care.  He has a whole shtick, he visits the house, takes pictures, gives an assessment, and tells you what he can do and what he can’t do.

“‘Clean’ is a bad word. This place will never be clean.  You see that yellow on the ceiling?  That’s from 60 years of smoking.  We are going to try to make this place habitable.  Let me state even more narrowly:  habitable so the home health attendant doesn’t do the ‘I quit dance’!!!”

And then Mr. Disaster Master demonstrated — spinning around with hands flailing in the air.

ULOB was off the respirator and possibly leaving ICU and I was so scared that he would be discharged before we had time to sanitize the place.  Mr. Disaster Master wasn’t in a rush — probably because he has seen this before so many times.  At first he only wanted to speak to me because I had power of attorney, but when I wanted him to make the place habitable whether or not ULOB ever came home, he only wanted to speak to SOB, because as a doctor, she understood the vagaries of life and post-trauma health.

I congratulated him on figuring out who was going to be his ally.  And I told him that, nevertheless, I wanted a plan after the weekend (I had given him a downpayment).

I sent him a reminder email over that weekend, to which he responded:


I need to learn how [ULOB] is doing physically and mentally.  These issues often change people.   Can he do the stairs after this trauma?  The PT and OT people should be TOLD that he lives in a tall 4 flight walkup when he gets into rehab.  These places generally only give one hour a day and ½ of that is billing time.  We want to assure that he is well up to speed. If not, then we may be looking at a downsizing move for him.  When I understand exactly what the deliverable is I will then be able to provide the right solution.  Till then we just play the what-if game and that is a waste of time for all of us.

Best, [Mr. Disaster Master]”

This guy sounds like an infomercial spokeman but, whoa, he could read a situation.

  • Anxious nieces.
  • A disgusting home.
  • A dying uncle who would, assuming that he survived the hospital stay, would surely die if he couldn’t go home to his disgusting home.

He knew so much about us — SOB, ULOB and me — in that hour that we were in ULOB’s apartment that it was eerie.

I really believe that he knew that ULOB could never go home again and he didn’t want to prey upon my willingness to throw money at the situation on the off-chance that ULOB pulled out a miracle.  It was frustrating in the beginning to feel that he wasn’t in a hurry, but he said it was because he knew his business.  And I believe that.  And he just didn’t think that his services would be needed after all.

Ron Alford ( is the one to call when needs like these arise.

He is a good man in rough city who helps people during heart-wrenching times.