Fatigue Fatigue

Election fatigue.  Fiscal Cliff fatigue.  War fatigue.  War hero sex scandal fatigue.  Bomb Iran or not fatigue. Crazy politicians saying psycho things fatigue. Human-engineered natural disasters fatigue. Finger-pointing fatigue.  European debt crisis fatigue.  Stock market sinking fatigue.  Living in precarious economic times (controlled by others) fatigue.  Dealing with a failing parent fatigue.

Wow, I am tired.  If one or more of these things come to fruition, it (or they) will dwarf the others and can send our nation, our society and/or just me into a tailspin.

In fact, I was too tired to get all excited that President Obama was re-elected.  I was more relieved that the months of uncertainty were over.  And BOB, who lives in a Red State, wrote a poignant Facebook post just before the election that made me re-think any self righteous glee after the president’s re-election.  BOB wrote:

I don’t post, particularly about politics. Others do, for whatever reason. I am certain that whoever wins the election tomorrow, and his supporters, will continue to be reviled and mocked by those that did not vote for him. I do not care who my friends vote for and will respect the fact that they believe what they believe. I do not try to lobby them and I ignore any efforts to lobby me. The diversity we have is what makes us a unique place in the world and what makes no sense to one makes all the sense in the world to another. So, my hope is that on Wednesday morning we get back to (or start) respecting each other, doing good in our own way and not just complaining about what others are not doing the way we see fit, and working together instead of bullying and demeaning, recognizing that it is too late to take all of that money that was spent (read: wasted) campaigning on all levels to help feed hungry mouths here and elsewhere around the globe. And that’s all I have to say about that.

BOB is a good and smart man.

But Nate Silver (fivethirtyeight.com) is my new pin-up boy (ok, so many levels of complexity there).  Nate:  you have gotten far too many love letters from straight and gay men and women for a numbers geek.  I think Brad Pitt’s agent is trying to have the exact tally sealed.  It is a Hollywood thing.  And that guy with a girl’s name who is really popular now is soooooo not loving you right now.  Neither is Karl Rove and that is just fine with me.

But, I digress, comme d’habitude.

I am so tired of our national issues being treated like a really bad reality TV show that masquerades as news.

I am hungry for good news, for hope, for public service without political advantage.  I am hungry for good things happening to good people who work hard and do the right thing.  I am hungry for a commitment by those of us who have more to share with those who have less.  Not wealth redistribution; rather, compassion.

Good policy and hope come from searching, sometimes emotional, debates about our national values and our common future and how we best meet the challenges ahead.  It involves compromise and respect.  It is not a winner-take-all game.

Until then, the fatigue will slowly, but surely, become indifference or powerlessness.  And, assuming it spreads beyond just me to the greater populace, that will bring a good and mighty nation to its knees more surely than any war or any economic crisis could ever.

Songs in the Key of Life

This was a particularly hard weekend.  In the Jewish calendar, Friday was the 9th anniversary (a Yahrzeit) of my mother’s death.  We went to synagogue together:  Dad, SOB (sister of blogger), HOSOB (husband of SOB) and I.  We endured the endless rituals that preceded the recitation of the names of those with Yahrzeits and saying the mourner’s prayer.  Each year, SOB and I ask each other “why is Mom on the list with all the dead people?”  Both of us pull out worn pictures of Mom and run our fingers over them.  I also have an emergency Mom slideshow on my iPhone in case we still do not feel her presence.  “Blogger family does death” is not for the faint of heart.  We pick every scab, open every wound, dredge up every Hallmark moment.

Dad loves the Oneg (the after-service nosh and schmooze) especially when there are Bar and Bat Mitzvahs the next day because there are really good hors d’oeuvres.  The rest of us wanted to get out of synagogue because HOSOB and SOB were particularly afraid that my constant transgressions might cause a biblical conflagration that would consume the congregation and they didn’t want blood on their hands. Wow, they think I have power.  I surveyed the attendees at the service and I assure you that there are others whose trespasses run afoul of Big Ten (the Ten Commandments) constantly and consistently.  So, my snarkiness and anger at G-d (we are not close, G-d and I) pale in comparison.  Mom might send a flicker to remind me to mind my manners, but there were way bigger fish should G-d want to fry.

Dad poured himself a wine in a water glass (good thing he is still steady at 91) and dug into the not-so-very-kosher looking edibles (it is a Reform synagogue, but STILL).  The Onegs also attract homeless people who don’t abide by ritual cleansing before entering a house of worship.  They should eat and be full, without curling my nose hair.  But I digress.

SOB and I were heartened when people came over to say Shabbat Shalom and tell us that they still remember Mom and miss her.  Each said that how shocking it was to hear Mom’s name on the Yahrzeit list.  Once we counted 10 people who remembered Mom, we were ready to have dinner.   We made sure she lived on in others, even nine years later.  Mom was indeed remarkable and her memory is a blessing.

We peeled Dad away from the cheese tray and went off for some indigestion-inducing Indian food.  We had a lively conversation because, around Mom’s Yahrzeit, Dad is really clear-headed and “present” in the way he was when Mom was alive.  As sad as it is to hear her name on the list with the dead people, the people who remember her and our presence at synagogue invigorate Dad.  He said he feels as if Mom is right next to him.

The conversation went along crazy tangents about Dad and others his age finding new companions and his comments about the capabilities of men his age made us need to stop the conversation and move to another direction.  His comment about what an 85 year-old man can really do with a 45 year-old made us laugh, cry and turn purple.  He is still married to Mom, he says.  Somehow, it makes us want him even more to find a companion to fill his days in his final years.

It was a cramped place and Dad is hard of hearing so we had to talk very loud.  Dad says there is nothing wrong with his hearing.  I tell him he can’t hear when the ear doctor recommends a hearing aid.  At various points in the conversation, I needed to repeat things right into his ear so he could catch the conversation.  I always started by saying, “I love you Dad and you need a hearing aid. . . .”  He laughed and repeated that his hearing was excellent.  But then why was I screaming into his ear?  “Everyone mumbles.”  Look, everyone needs a good dose of rationalization every single day.

POB (partner of blogger) left a Yahrzeit candle out for me to light in Mom’s memory.  The acts of striking the match and lighting the wick really personalize the moment in the way a recitation of a prayer in a congregation cannot.  In the darkness of my kitchen when my family was asleep, I lit a candle to remember my mother and bring light into the darkness she left behind.  Imagine Carly Simon’s song about losing her mother.  Weep.

HOSOB had lunch with Dad on Saturday and took him to a museum.  Dad called each of us Saturday night, a little bored and somewhat despondent.  Imagine Jim Croce’s “Photographs and Memories.”  It is a hard time for all of us.  We are glad he reached out but we cannot fill the void.  We can just be on the other end of the phone line.  I wonder how much that helps him but I hope it eases the loneliness.

Dad is man with a past much fuller than his future.  I love him because he kind, generous and able to be vulnerable in front of his children, and acknowledge our love and trust our decisions.  Enter a medley of “Sunrise, Sunset” with a smattering of “Circle Game” and “Life is Eternal”.

But then there is Sunday night dinner.  The weekly ritual during which my father pushes my emotional buttons the way Cole Porter could make a piano sing.

Since I was kid, Dad and I fell into this rhythm that a 8pm on a Sunday night, we would get into an argument about something.  Many times, neither of us had any basis for our opinion.  Other times, one was indeed an expert (me, for example, when it comes to life as a lawyer in law firm) and the other (Dad) was not.  Most times, it was about politics; sometimes it got personal.  Mom and SOB used to set their watches by the argument because it was more regular and constant than any clock in the house — 8pm.  Mom and SOB also tempered the “conversation” and brought us back to civility.

Over the years, we have dinner earlier because of SOB (son of blogger, our source of sanity), so the argument starts promptly at 7:15 and lasts to 7:45pm.  Usually, Cousin Gentle, CB (cousin Birder), HOSOB and SOB come over, too.  So there are plenty of people to help Dad and me back from the brink.  Tonight, everyone was busy. Dad came over at 4pm because he was lonely.

Tonight’s argument was triggered by my young cousin’s desire to go to law school and my visceral “NOOOOOO!!!!” response.  I thought he should do something with a better business model and that could not be outsourced, like plumbing.  My point was that law school is not the default choice of this generation if the student was paying for his or her own education.  For me, it was easy.  Mom and Dad were paying.  But life in a law firm is hardly the easy life or the cash cow it was a generation ago.  Dad wouldn’t listen to me and continued to discuss how important and rewarding was the practice of law.  He did admit that it was snobbery that precluded him from considering non-professional avenues.  I applaud his self awareness.

Of course, I went to law school because I was not fit for medical school and I didn’t want to be a pariah in my family.  I guess I wanted some acknowledgement, at long last, that my parents’ dreams were not mine and didn’t turn out the way everyone imagined.  I wanted Dad only to say, “we did the best we knew how.”  That would have been enough.

These arguments are about mental exercise and the eternal struggle between parents and children for acknowledgement, acceptance, honor and respect.  We have settled the struggle, more or less, but there are occasional border skirmishes.  But we always leave the table hugging and kissing and saying “I love you”.  And then, if SOB is not present, I call her immediately after I come back from putting Dad into a cab.  I must download the events — for guilt, for the collective memory, for the continuity of family.  What guilt you ask?  The guilt of putting the welfare of sick people in the hospital over the mental health of her sister.  SOB should be indebted to me for decades to come.  [There must be some song from old Yiddish theatre that captures all of this.  If I find it I will update my blog.]

Of course, notwithstanding the sometimes harsh words, Dad is coming with us to the Metropolitan Museum of Art tomorrow, because  . . . he needs us and we need him.

Serenity and Renewal

My professional coach (not CAFOB) had sent me a New Year’s greeting card which I finally got around to opening at a computer (as opposed to a blackberry).  It was warm and wonderful and direct.  Wishing me the usual for the new year, but also renewal and serenity.

Eureka!!!  (My coach is awesome, but not as awesome as CAFOB who is my friend for 30 years.  If you need a coach, I can give you two people who are amazing.)

Renewal.  Not a theme of the Jewish new year (which has more of a return to G-d and atone theme).  More a Passover theme (spring time, rebirth and renewal of the covenant with G-d).  Nevertheless, I have been feeling the weight of creating business generating opportunities in a terrible economy.

I was so exhausted in August that when it came time for our family week in Montauk, I told the COB (colleague of blogger) that I would not be checking my blackberry and that all calls had to go through POB (partner of blogger).  Originally, POB told me there was no wifi where we were staying and only POB’s phone would work.  As it turned out, there was wifi and my blackberry worked.  If POB lied to me, well, then I love her more for realizing that I needed a blackberry-free zone.  Only twice did work intrude on the week.

When the world is in chaos, it is still navigable but it takes so much more energy that I often feel — well — spent.

My family re-charges me.  POB and SOS (our son, source of sanity) are my mainstays, but SOB (sister of blogger) and HOSOB (husband of SOB) and Cousin Gentle help hold me up.  They are daily miracles in my life.  Even DOB (father of blogger) with all his eccentricities grounds me.  And CB (Cousin Birder) links me to my mother’s family and he is such a wonderful guy. (I wish that CB only realized how awesome he is.  I lectured him about this on Rosh Ha-Shanah — of course I did.)

And there are my goddaughters.  They don’t have to love me because of family connection.  We created that connection together.  These relationships are among the most important in my life.

By their presence in my life, all of these people feed my soul, lessen my burden and give meaning to life.  They are my agents of emotional and psychological renewal.  I hope that I provide for them even a fraction of what they provide for me.

Serenity. Acceptance.  Roll-with-it.  What will be, will be.  Take it as it comes.  Don’t worry forward.  Be in the moment.

Discussion:  compare and contrast blogger’s personality with the above themes.  (Hint: no common ground, as in blogger is the antonym of each of these themes.  Don’t believe me?  Read Wikipedia (right after I send in my comments).)

Ok, clap your hands if you’ve heard this before:  someone has business in this economy, someone is figuring it out, someone is benefiting from all the problems!

Ok, if you have heard this, clap if you heard:  “An A minus?  What’s wrong with an A?  Did someone get an A?”

Whoa, I hear a round of applause throughout the blogo-sphere.

This serenity thing is a hard one.  But I did laugh these last two days when I looked at the wild ride of the stock market and how our retirement is now effectively pushed out to age 113.  I will be the dead, yet-propped up greeter at Walmart’s.  The company will love me because it won’t have to pay overtime (how will I know? I’ll be dead), and I won’t mind being in the freezer section.

At least I laughed.  Ok, gallows humor, but, hey, it IS a start.  I am trying to focus on the things that renew me because they also provide the building blocks of serenity — love, constancy and laughter.

*     *    *    *    *   *    *   *   *   *   *    *   *  *   *

But renewal and serenity are sooooooo much easier in a bull market and a roaring economy.  Just sayin’.

My coach knows me well.  This is the start of a journey for me — to allow time for renewal and to allow a sense of serenity in a chaotic world.

Really, email me if you want a lifeline (or two).

Just Give Us Something To Talk About

A friend who is slightly paranoid about being known as a friend of blogger (and ergo, SPOBFOB) and I were discussing (and, might I add, solving) the world’s ills over lunch.  It is so frustrating when two people make major breakthroughs in world peace, economic policy, and moderate reformist politics and no one will let us see the President.  We wouldn’t have made him take notes (he is the President); we know enough about protocol (we could write the book) to bring a short-form and long-form memoranda setting out the action points for achieving these huge global steps forward.

Not only did SPOBFOB and I have important problem solving breakthroughs, but we also took stock of the freak show that comprises the leaders of our nation.  Let’s face it:  Men like the game — thrust and parry, if you must — of negotiations.  Women want to get the damn thing accomplished in the least amount of time with the most impact. Sure there are women who are impossible to deal with in these situations (Michelle Bachmann, par exemple) but by and large, you don’t hear women say, “let’s say this and see what they come back with” when you know full well that “saying this” will only lead to vengeful behavior and reverse any constructive negotiations up to that point.  We rarely make grand pronouncements that make compromise impossible because our egos are in the way.  Just sayin’.

Maybe President Obama would not like to think that he is pretty much in the same camp as John Boehner and Mitch McConnell when it comes to purposeful and constructive negotiations.  Ok, so the answer is that the White House would slam the door on our advance team.

I was despondent because here we had answers and no one who would listen.  I mentioned having a cable talk show and SPOBFOB came up with the brilliant idea of naming it the “Alternate View” because we look at the world quizzically and with our heads tilted, as if we were trying to understand really edgy art.

[So, this is where I go off on one of my tangents and SPOBFOB has no responsibility for anything that follows:]

We can invite our friends and family to come on the show.  They represent a varied and seasoned cross-section of America.  Ok, the liberal, urban/suburban, well-heeled and over-educated America.  So, there would be wide national appeal.  (Ok, that would be in the sovereign nation of No-Where-istan, a state of my mind (see prior blogs).  But, I digress.)

Everything would be fair game, from:

  • did anyone really think Justin and Selena were anything but a media creation?
  • to: should you home school your children in places where the gay liberal communist agenda has not fully infiltrated main stream public school education?
  • to: should fertility treatments and surrogacy be tax deductible for same-sex couples in states where gay marriage is legal?
  • to: who is the sanest person in the Tea Party asylum? and is that like debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
  • to: whether quinoa is subversive grain that could reduce America’s dependence on hamburgers?
  • to: how to keep skin from sagging without surgery?

And everything else anyone wants to cover.


Sometimes it is ok to wish away a day

I know that each day is a gift, but some days, you wish you had the receipt so you could exchange it for a better day.  Today was one of those days.  Humbling, tender, sad, crazed, scary, and ultimately safe at home with my beloved family.  It was not about too much work, which is a blessing in this economy, but a lot of other things which, suffice it to say, sucked.

I went out with a colleague to commiserate over a glass of wine about mutually horrific days.  Afterwards, I was thinking about the blessing of coming home to my family.

And this Dan Fogelberg song started an endless loop in my head — “I have these moments all steady and strong, feeling so holy and humble.  The next thing I know I’m all worried and weak, feeling the world start to crumble. . . .”

Happiness is having loved ones who will abide you when you are all holy and self-righteous and shore up your foundations when you are feeling about to crumble.

It is a moment to be thankful for the spirituality gained from a day’s worth of testing one’s sanity.  It is also a moment to go to sleep, with rejuvenating cream slathered on, and promise yourself you will never have such a shitty day again.

Martin Buber meets Scarlett O’Hara.  I am feeling a cosmic shift toward the drain. . .

Take-Out Take-Away

From age 21 to 44, I lived on take-out food.

In the beginning, it was cool to order during a late-night at the office especially since I couldn’t afford to eat that way if I were actually paying for it.  Then I had dreams of eating tuna fish out of a can over my kitchen sink if only I could be at home at dinner time.  And then I realized that I never had time to be in my kitchen, much less clean my kitchen, so I really wouldn’t want to eat anything in there.  The dream remained, even though interrupted from time to time by reality.

At some point, I was living with someone who cooked (pre-POB (partner of blogger)) and the food was good but hard on my digestive track.  And before the days of blackberries and remote access, I had to go to the office with my intestines in a twist.  So, as a matter of honor and sacrifice to my colleagues, I was forced to stay late and eat Shun Lee and other take-out so that I didn’t smelled of garlic or other spices anymore than anyone else.  In typical blogger family fashion, it was, in fact, the least I could do.

When POB came along and beepers were available, we would work long hours, meet at the gym, have a little falafel and hummus with hot sauce that tested our abs of steel — in a slightly different way.  We learned that some days were more — how do you say? — microbial than others.  But these are the sacrifices we make to “have it all”.

Then came TLP (our son, the little prince) and there was no time for sleep, let alone cooking or even eating.  Exhaustion won over hunger every time, except when we absolutely, positively needed energy.  “Don’t talk with your mouth full” became “don’t-sleep-with-your-mouth-full-because-I-am-too-tired-to-do-the-Heimlich-and-I-can’t-stand-the-smell-of-whatever-you’re-eating.” As many of you will remember, love is an emotion that is felt but not expressed when you have a newborn.

Then, came the Great Recession.  Time for family and friends.  Time for hanging out.  Time to have our families over for Sunday night dinners.  POB decided after a while that she would rather cook than order another dinner from Saigon Grill (and we were supposed to be boycotting them anyway for labor violations).  So, she started cooking.  And she didn’t stop.

And the take-out stopped and the cook-in began.  POB cooked, I cleaned.  When she needed to prove a point, she dirtied every pot and utensil in the house.  Point taken and respect paid.  Harmony restored.  Paradise, momentarily lost, was regained.  A possible script for a Sunday night movie, although no one is dead or psychotic — yet.  (I’ll get back to you on this.)

Tonight, these many years later, we are companionably cobbling together dinner from the fridge — cold carrot soup with cumin and lime, quinoa with tomatoes, onions and black beans, a salad and some wine.  A perfect repast for a hot summer’s night.  And our kitchen is cozy (yet cool thanks to air-conditioning) and inviting.

Take-out was my food source for over 20 years.  I don’t miss it at all.  And now we have a kitchen in which I would eat tuna out of a can just to be home with my family.

And to think, she still wants to marry me next year.

The job I want

The meteorologists predicted a sunny July 4th weekend in New York, with some scattered thunder showers late in the afternoons or evenings.   Today, the fierce thundershowers woke me at 7:30am.

This is not a new story with weather forecasting.  Since I was a kid, I always heard the refrain, “Never trust a weatherman.”

So, how can I get a job where I can be wrong over 50% of the time and not get fired?  Maybe I’ll run for Congress.


From wikipedia:

pel·lu·cid — adjective /pəˈlo͞osid/

  1. Translucently clear
    • – mountains reflected in the pellucid waters
  2. Lucid in style or meaning; easily understood
    • – he writes, as always, in pellucid prose
  3. (of music or other sound) Clear and pure in tone
    • – a smooth legato and pellucid singing tone are his calling cards.

 I had to look up this word because I couldn’t understand it in the context of a lawyer describing his verbiage.  Yes, you heard me. A lawyer referred to his own drafting as pellucid.

Ok, transactional lawyers have to carve out any number of hypothetical and theoretical scenarios — from probable to impossible — that would absolve a client from an obligation or a liability.  So, the contracts or documents are exhausting to read (even by fellow attorneys) and invariably torture the native language and contort its rules of grammar beyond recognition.

In our defense, we have complicated clients with complicated deals.  Accordingly, we write complicated documents.

So don’t give me that PELLUCID shit.  Are you on drugs? Or just being gratuitously condescending?  I am no rocket scientist (my mother would have liked one in the family, but that is another back story for a different blog entry) and so if I don’t get it, it is not PELLUCID.

Maybe the lawyer thought that his verbose and somewhat confusing prose was mellifluous and therefore possibly satisfying the “pure in tone” definition, albeit in an intellectually scrambled manner.

As someone who drafts documents for a living, I try to use an economy of words.  Certainly we aspire to clarity of ideas in a minimum of words.

But let’s be honest:  most legal writing is as PELLUCID as . . . as . . . as . . .


[as in dense, murky, turbidity or opaqueness, courtesy of Oxford English Dictionary]

The Vegan and the Hot Dog

Yesterday, I was part of a group of colleagues entertaining an out-of-town colleague’s client who was visiting New York.  The client is vegan, so we tried a highly rated vegan restaurant in Gramercy Park.  Not a piece of bread for the table.  There is nothing non-vegan about bread. The food was tasteless.  There is nothing non-vegan about flavor.  There was not enough food in a serving.  There is nothing non-vegan about healthy-sized servings.  Somehow even the protein sourced from non-animals didn’t fill me up.  There is nothing non-vegan about a few extra pounds around the midsection. Maybe I ordered wrong because all I seemed to eat was grass and shrubbery.

Later in the day we took the client to a basketball game.  There is nothing non-vegan about popcorn, french fries, onion rings, beer, pretzels and peanuts.  Being vegan CAN BE awesome.  Imagine being able to say the following: “Sweetie, I had to eat the fries and rings and roasted peanuts, because there was nothing else.  What could I do?”

But everyone grabbed all the food I had and left me alone, waiting for some miscellaneous things, like wine and mixed drinks that were ordered. And, I was starving.

I looked to my left.  No one I know.  I looked to my right.  No one I know.  I turned around.  Uh oh, a colleague on his cell phone. But, wait, I remembered that he doesn’t have such good far-vision.  So, the coast was clear.  I put on my sunglasses anyway.

I proceeded to order a decidedly, and possibly offensively, un-vegan hot dog and scarfed it down so no one would see. Immediately, I felt terrible about what I had done.  Here I was stuffing sausage derived from mystery meat of inhumanely killed animals and we were entertaining someone who has a conscience.

Then I was sure Karma would boomerang and I would be the Lucille Ball character in a “Here’s Lucy” episode where she was at a gallery opening and she started breaking out in hives.  Lucy excused herself.  Then the spotlights turn on, a curtain is pulled back and there is Lucy behind the prized sculpture, scratching her hives and looking like a deer caught in headlights.

But I wasn’t caught.  Except when I got home, I noticed a mustard stain on my jacket . . . .

Karma IS a boomerang.


For the record, THE COB (THE colleague of blogger) felt bad that I wrote that he is the colleague worth writing about. 

He was happy that I wrote it, but he is being self-conscious about the obvious implication as to all of our other colleagues.  So, he wants me to retract it.  And I want to retract it, too, since it was a short-lived thrill for him and now it is over.