Monthly Archives: December 2017

Anybody

IMG_0392

You know me, but I could be anybody you see everyday, or just once.  All of us are statistics of one kind or another.  This week I became someone who had a basal cell carcinoma on her face, specifically on her nose.  I was lucky to have figured out what it was several months ago. I had it confirmed by my dermatologist and two days ago, it was cut out of the side of my nose, by a well regarded surgeon,  leaving me looking like Muhammed Ali had a moment, and gave me a good one two jab in the noggin and eyes.  The picture above, taken last May, doesn’t really tell the story, because lots of folks did what I did as a teenager.  What you see is lots of freckles and lots of sun damage.  I grew up in the years of baby oil on the face, and slathered over the rest of me.  I used one of those triangular sun reflectors on the beach, and an occasional sunlamp in the winter, not for seasonal affective disorder, but so I could have a glow like I had gone to Florida and baked in the sun.  Summers were for the beaches,  Coney Island, Rockaway Beach and Jones Beach in New York.  Fair skinned, blue eyed, and just another teen  getting a tan.

It was actually not my first skin cancer, but of course, when it’s on your face, the answer is pretty much right in front of you.  The dermatologist said it was important to find someone who could fix it and make it look good.  In her words “you don’t have a lot of real estate there, so you want it to be done correctly”.  Whatever vanity I have or had in the past, about my appearance,  was less important than knowing that the cancer was gone and never returning.  As my former neighbor, Betty who lived well into her nineties said “That’s no joke”.  Betty was right, all of the time.

There are many, too many, types of cancer.  We all are touched by it, either directly or close enough to matter.  It happens to people you love, hate and people you don’t even think about.  It is easily one of those six degrees of separation phenomenon, but it is closer than you want to think.  In the scheme of things, I am fine, going to be fine and will continue to pay attention to things that don’t seem right on my body.  I don’t avoid doctors and nurse practitioners but know that something benign can turn in a far more serious outcome.

I am not standing on a soapbox by any means, but want to emphasize the need to pay attention to the little things and big things and take care of ourselves.  We are often our own first responder.  The New Year is days away.  Let’s be healthy and wise and keep an eye on one another.

Goodbye and good riddance , 2017.

Advertisements

Pondering over a cuppa

coffee-cup-01

I like coffee.  Sometimes I like the thought of wrapping my hands around a cup of hot coffee more than the coffee itself.  It’s one of those rituals that lives in my days.  Recently I gave up putting cream (or half and half) in the coffee and now I can say, I actually know what it tastes like.  I don’t like it without sweetness, which is probably a bit like saying I like my music “lite”.

This is the vacation that started the Thursday before Christmas and ends the day after New Year’s Day.  Somehow the time seems scheduled already in ways I know I control, yet it is not long enough to feel the true sense of doing nothing.  My coffee ritual will occur each day, and might include a friend or two and then there will be the cups between clients and sometimes with clients.  It is often something I bring to share to a session, because it is joining feeling.  The dynamics of therapy should (in my opinion) allow the give and take as part of the process of moving forward to new places, and new thoughts.  What better way to engender trust but with the aid of something warm and comforting.  Tea often fulfills the same role.

Having  always had more than one job at a time has helped me become more organized and productive.  Having only one to do this week is a welcome break.  My plans of no plans include some writing, reading and not a lick of ‘rithmetic.  I encourage others around me to take the time to find the peace and quiet inside themselves.  I must do the same for myself.

The coffee is brewing and just about ready.  I’d invite you to join me, but I think I’ll drink this one alone.

 

That’s A Wrap!

maxresdefault

It’s about 26 hours to Christmas Eve.  I am having a “when I was a kid” moment.  My dad worked in midtown Manhattan.  He often would meet a colleague or client at the Oyster Bar near Grand Central Station for a drink before coming home. It was the 1960’s and the generation of the original Mad Men.  The men all wore trench coats over their suits, white shirts and neckties.  He would finish up his drink, take the No. 7 IRT train to the 82nd Street Station in Jackson Heights, and head home to our apartment.

Living in a pre-war 1936 apartment meant we had some interesting architectural features.  We had a sunken living room, moorish archways between rooms, and cut out niches in the walls.  We also had  a fireplace in the livingroom with a mantel.  Now it was not a working fireplace, but had the marblesque hearth with some andirons and logs.  On Christmas Eve I would yearn for some stockings to hang up on the mantle.  That was not a happening thing.  We are Jewish, and my father was most observant.  The most we could have, and if I remember this correctly, was the ability to watch the Yule Log burn on WPIX( Channel 11).  Since we only had five channels, and it was Christmas Eve, our choices were always limited.  We only had one television, which was the norm, and my mother would often indulge our desire to have something Christmas-y happening that night. My sister and I were sent off to bed.  My bed was situated in front of the window looking out into the courtyard.     I would look out the window for Santa Claus and imagine that I saw a small sleigh fly across the sky.

One Christmas morning, when I was six,  I woke up early, ever optimistic, that Santa might have found our apartment, with the fireplace (with no chimney or flue) and have something for us.  I remember that no one was awake yet, as our parents always relished the opportunity to sleep late.  I went from the bedroom my sister and I shared , down the steps (one step actually) into the living room.  I looked at the fireplace and there was a gift wrapped box on the mantel.  My wish came true!  It was the only gift there, but I was confident that it must be for me. I took it and sat on the floor.   I carefully removed the ribbon and blue paper.  I was breathless with anticipation.  I looked and found a beautiful hairbrush and comb set.  Thinking back, I never actually imagined what I would hope for, so this was quite a nice surprise.  I might have wished for a doll or game and yet, I was ecstatic.  Santa had  found me in apartment 5G.

I remember trying to temper my delight and not shriek too loudly.  I felt some eyes on me and turned and  saw my father standing nearby,  with a grin on his face.  He asked “what are you doing?’  I told him that Santa had left me a gift.  His eyebrows raised he said “is that what you think?”.  I nodded vigorously.  He responded ” I came home last night and the man I met with, knew I had a daughter and sent a gift home with me,  for you”.  My sister was much younger so perhaps the man only had one gift or maybe I was expected to share it.  I was a bit confused by my father’s reaction but then I figured it out.  My father must have had a drink with Santa Claus that night.

Wishing a Merry Christmas to all who celebrate and a lovely long weekend for all to enjoy.  May peace surround our world.

Not in the game…

a9d4e33bf480fe10b3316b621a9c7500--sports-graphics-boston-sports

A very long time ago,  I decided that I should learn about football.  My former father-in-law, who was a wonderful man and quite the sports enthusiast,  spent a lot of time watching sports.  He was very kind and loving toward me, and I thought, after his wife passed away, that I should get to understand one of his primary interests in life.  I thought we should bond.

I grew up in New York, a short distance from Shea Stadium, now Citi Field, where the Mets play and the Jets used to play before they moved to New Jersey.  It was part of Flushing Meadow Park and actually the first game the Mets played in 1964, they lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates.  I only mention that, not because I care one iota, but because my mother was a fierce Pirates fan.  I attended one of the longest double headers in the Mets history.  The second game went into 16 innings.  It ended after 1 a.m.  I went to the game with two boy cousins and their dad.  It was fairly traumatic for me since I didn’t have a clue as to what was happening, and they refused to leave until the bitter end.  They often tease me, even now about that evening.  I refused to attend a game for many years after that, or at least until I could drive myself home.

I went to one hockey game of the New York Rangers, playing the Minnesota North Stars.  I watched someone get removed from the stands by the EMTs after he got hit in the head by a flying, out of control puck.  That was enough for me.  I saw the Celtics once, in the old Boston Garden.  It was very late in the spring, and where we sat it was about a thousand degrees.  The sweat was pouring off the players, onto the floor and it made squeaky sounds as they ran in their knee highs and short shorts.  A long time ago.  I went to one college football game when the Fighting Illini (the U of I) played the Wolverines (UMichigan).  I’ve never seen a tennis match, boxing match or polo match.  I did attend little league games when my youngest son played several seasons and then played pony league.  I have been to my share of Red Sox games and I am the mother of a season ticket holder but clearly he did not get his enthusiasm from me.  When he was ten, we went with my parents and some of his friends and their parents, to Fenway Park.  My mother completely got into it and spent much of her time there trying to get the crowd to do the wave.  She had adopted the Pirates, many years earlier because a large group of cousins were always talking about baseball and she wanted to have a team to root for. The Pirates at the time were pretty much always in last place.  Yet, she was stalwart in her affection for them and when they won the pennant in 1960 (?) and people sent her telegrams to congratulate her since her loyalty was known far and wide.

Back to my father in law…he was sitting in the den watching a football game, per usual.  I took a seat next to him on the couch since he was sitting in the comfortable arm chair.  He didn’t seem to notice me walk into the room and sit down.  I stared at the screen, willing the knowledge to just jump off the screen into my brain.  Nothing was happening.  I sat quietly and then, in an attempt to kind of jump in, like in jump rope, I said “So Dad, that guy, number ” “, what is he doing when he runs around and knocks over the other guy in the other shirt?”.  He ignored me.  I don’t take hints easily.  I got up the courage to go over to the television and now point and ask another question about the players and what they were doing.  He told me nicely “Honey, move away from the television” and he did not take his eyes off the screen.  I heard a sigh.  I went in for the trifecta of annoying questions and said “How come they are fifteen minute quarters but the games go on for hours?”.  I was actually curious.  At this point, I could feel the heat off of his forehead as he turned and smiled. It was a polite but quite irritated smile.  He walked over to the television and turned it off.  He proceeded to walk out of the room. I caught up to him, because I just can’t leave things alone and asked “Dad, where are you going? The game is still on”.  He turned to me and said, “I am going where you are NOT going” and headed up the stairs to his room when he visited us, and the door was shut rather firmly.  He came down later and nicely told me that we would not watch football together, ever, and that  if I wanted to learn about the game, he was not the guy to talk to.  He gave me a hug and a look that said he meant it.

I took those words to heart back so many years ago.  I recognized that I would never be a fan of sports, and never that interested in reading about it or learning about them.  I can carry on a conversation for about three minutes and somehow, despite my lack of attention, I do seem to have synthesized some basic knowledge of things I don’t actually care about, ever.  My FHB enjoys his share of the “game” in various sports.  I like it best when he turns off the volume and watches.  I don’t ask too many questions since I try to keep my lines of communications clearly about things that are important in the scheme of life…” Do you want coffee or tea?  Peanut butter for lunch, okay?”.  Some days I hit a homerun, touchdown or goal.  Impressed?  Don’t be.  It’s just a game, right?

 

For Giving

1438789891495

An outstretched hand has different meanings.  It might mean to reach and help, or to reach and take, or perhaps to join with another human.  Much of the last week has been about asking for donations and help, not for me but for others.  It does seem easier to ask  for someone else, as though it is more humbling.  In most cases, the people I ask are extremely generous, in goods, as well as in time.  My struggle in the last twenty four hours has been with those who don’t outwardly refuse to give, but who chose to obstruct, when all it takes is a moment to solve the problem, by keeping our collective mission in their view.

The workplace is not only a place to educate high school students, but also a place that feeds, clothes,shelters, and supports students for at least seven hours a day.  For some, it is often a longer day of their choosing because going home means no heat, no food and in some cases, no one there.  The community at large has offered food and coats and some funds to fill the racks and pantry shelves.  The staff has given items for students to give their families for the holiday as well as some gently used things to regift. It is magical and heartwarming to see a child choose a stuffed animal for their younger sibling and a mug for their mother and maybe a pair of earrings for an elder.

It’s been an extremely cold few days with snow and freezing temperatures.  I drive past students who are barelegged, and are not wearing adequate clothing.  Yet, they are making it to school.  We were given a donation of coats and it became my focus to get as many students coats to have, especially since the break is coming next week.  It’s a big place and it’s not a one person task.  Everyone works very hard and we all seem to wear several hats.  I completely understand that.  I may not be as patient as I should be since I am recognizing the social injustice in the greater scheme of things.  I am trying to withhold judgement about extravagance in this “the giving season”.  In the background of my mind I am fighting the anger at the possibility that this is the “taking away” season of tax relief and health insurance for those who not only need it as a practical entity, but as a necessity for children and those who have serious health concerns.  I become enraged at the callousness of politics and the lines that are drawn based in ideology that is no longer based in our cold reality.  Shame, shame, shame.

Last night I did a shift of therapeutic baking.  My FHB helped roll out dough for pastry and was the clean up guy as I used pretty much all the pans, cookie sheets, and bowls we own.  The recipients of some of the baked goods have checked in with sincere appreciation. Quick turnaround and return.  Coats and cookies have been the menu of the day.  Between the members of Congress and the number of people who work in the White House, that would be approximately 1,085 coats.  I’ll bet they all have one to give, and still have another for themselves.

“It will be a great day when our schools have all the money they need, and our air force has to have a bakesale to buy a bomber.” – Robert Fulghum

 

Executive Decision

cds-pile

Have any of you done anything impulsively because you had made a decision, and it made sense in that moment?   Would I do it again?  Probably not.  In the meantime, I got rid of about 250 CDs.  I wasn’t smart enough to sell them on Ebay or Craigslist.  I didn’t donate them to some worthy organization.  I put them in our building’s common area where people put stuff to share, discard and get rid of.  Within a matter of probably less than thirty minutes they were all gone.  Nothing was left, not even the shopping bags I had put them in.  Someone “made out like a bandit” as my mother would have remarked.

The back story….and then you be the judge.  Probably a week or so before the event, my FHB and I had a discussion.  That generally means I have an idea, and I convey it to him and in his pleasant but half to one quarter listening mode of interaction, I told him that since we were giving some of our furniture to one of our kids, we needed to rearrange things.  I was fairly nondescript in my definition of “things” and when the day came, I moved like lightning and emptied, sorted and discarded our CDs into bags and boxes.  I felt rather victorious, much like I imagine Napoleon did until Waterloo.  My FHB helped me bring the initial group of CDs downstairs.  They included the oldies, the show tunes, classical, rock, classical rock (e.g. the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys), music from Frank and Dean and the Eagles and The Doobie Brothers.  It was a virtual CD bloodbath.  I couldn’t stop myself.  The jazz was gone and so was the salsa and tango music.  Oddly enough, I saved all the holiday music we own(ed).  We still have a CD player. Now we can play Silent Night and Carol of the Bells in summer if we want.  That’s about all that’s left.

A few days after (C)D-Day,  my FHB, who had taken the second wave of discs down to the second floor, remarked that he had been listening to the music we had danced to many moons ago, in the parking lot of a New Hampshire State Liquor Store. Back then it was a night in December,  and he put the CD on (Barbra Streisand) and opened the moon roof and we danced to a couple of songs while the music filled the cold night air.  We had been together for only a short time and those were the zany beginnings of our ongoing love affair.  He would take us to some random place to park and we would dance to the music. When he told me this,   I initially was unclear about what exactly he meant.  I think I said “what exactly do you mean?” At this point, he told me that he sorted through some of my discards and rescued them.  He looked at me reproachfully and said “why did you get rid of our music?”  That was the moment I realized I had not quite thought this process through.

My victory turned to ashes.  I asked where those rescued CDs were.  Apparently they are  safely stored in his car.  Different car, but still has a moon roof.  I can’t get the CDs back but with a little bit of luck, on a cold December night, we will dance under the moonlight.

Below …find someone, find a parking lot and dance….

Inge at 18

IMG_2050 2

We called her “Mommy”. It was often hard to imagine her at 18, a year and a day after Pearl Harbor.  She already had met the man who would become her life partner, and our father.  According to urban legend (her memory of her 17th birthday), as F.D. R. gave his speech one year earlier, her boss (our father), turned to her, as the workers all listened to the radio broadcast, and mouthed the words “Happy Birthday”.  This was quite the romantic story.  They wrote letters back and forth while he was in the army.  My sister and I found them among her possessions, when we packed up the apartment almost ten years ago after she passed away.  She was 83.  Today she would have been 94.

She had good legs and an eye for fashion.  She had hoped to become a fashion designer but things changed for her and her family.  Her father died in 1941, so she left school to work and bring in money for her mother.  She did return to finish high school and almost twenty years later (after fifteen years of working on her business degree) she finished with a BBA at Baruch College, at the City University of New York.  I was there at her graduation,  and pretty bored, and didn’t realize the magnitude of her stubborn determination to finish college.

She lived a pretty typical life as a wife and mother in the 50s and 60s.  She didn’t actually “take” to that life.  She longed to be working and she did go back to work when we were fairly young.  That was her comfort zone.  Stay at home mom, not so much.  Work defined her more than motherhood.  In retrospect I believe I understand that now, having followed a similar path and the desire to be out and about in a work environment.  She never actually retired and worked part time for several businesses.  She was good with figures and had a very probing mind and was a problem solver.  She was precise in her work but less so in things that mattered little to her.  As I type, I again am amazed at some of the parallels.  She loved her husband dearly and they had a deep friendship and synergy that was palpable when you saw them together.

I like to imagine her as that 18 year old in the photo, on the brink of something undefined.  Even when you know someone for fifty-five years, you don’t know your parent in many iterations.  A mother’s role in a child’s life shifts as that child grows up and on.  The child may not always look back to see who is there. The parent tends to look forward to see the child become the adult, and look back to remember when she was that child’s world.  Sometimes now, I wish I knew to look behind, to let her know I challenged her at many junctures, but appreciated her being a constant beacon in ways that mattered.

Happy Birthday, Inge!