Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's at Nanny's

It was a long way down and I was not afraid of falling.

I’ll tell you the truth. I contemplated jumping.

Warm sticky air blew my dark mane around in a swirl. I stood, barefoot, on the concrete, sporting black shorts, a red rhine-stoned t-shirt, and a devilish grin. I leaned far over the balcony railing, staring straight down a dozen stories. I gave it a good, long thought.

I glanced over at my sister. Her feathered dirty blond hair whipped around in the wind. Her sparkling blue eyes speckled with golden dots said what they always said. “Ga head, do it, I dare you.” She was my muse, and I, her monkey.

“Stacy, do it, do it!”

“Don’t you dare!” Nanny hollered through the sliding glass door. Our great-grandmother marched across the living room towards us in her white open-toed sandals, exposing her sheer stockings and two month old chipped pink pedicure. Her baby blue polyester pants hugged her thighs as she swished in our direction. Dozens of elephant figurines watched from their perch on the mantel. (They faced the front door for “good luck,” according to Nanny, a superstition savant).

“Do it, do it!” my sister encouraged.

I released a couple of colored paper streamers from my clenched fist and watched as they floated down, down, dowwwwwwwn. We squealed, “Whooooooooooa!”

Nanny’s Aqua-netted blond hair would have stood on end if it could have moved a millimeter.

“Stacy, that’s against the law!” she shrieked.

“No, it’s not,” my sister whispered to me, concealing her grin.

“You girls get in here right now!” Nanny tapped her long acrylic crimson nails on the glass.

Alissa handed me a noisemaker to see what I would do next. I wound up and released it off the balcony as if I was throwing out the first pitch at the Phillies’ home-opener.

“That’s it, I’m calling the police!” Nanny shouted from the other side of the door. She was too afraid to come out on the balcony. Always was.

“The police? Nanny, it’s New Year’s Eve!” my sister attempted. “They’re only streamers!” Streamers that Nanny had bought for us, assuming we’d have a tame celebration inside her modest one bedroom apartment, with Al Jolson singing, “You Made Me Love You,” softly on the record player.

“I don’t care. I’m calling the police! And you know what they’re going to do?"

Nanny’s made up face flashed scarlet and contorted into that of an angry clown. She shook a crooked finger at us through the smudged glass and hollered, “They’re going to come arrest you!”

I was six years old and my sister was nine.

“They don’t arrest kids,” my sister reassured me, with her signature eye roll.

Nanny stomped into the kitchen and lifted the yellow phone receiver, smudged like a spin-art painting, with coral lipstick and beige foundation. She pretended to dial, watching us, watching her.

She couldn’t fool us. She slammed the phone down, abruptly.

“Come back in here right now, we’ll play “Miss America,”” Nanny begged.

“Miss America” was a game we played every time we visited Nanny and Pop-pop, in their high-rise Hallandale, Florida, apartment. "Miss America" consisted of us dressing up in Nanny’s blond bob wigs, gawdy costume jewelry, and false eyelashes. We caked on her outdated smelly lipstick and clunked around in size 8 platforms from the ‘60s. Nanny loved to pick up a hairbrush (her microphone) and introduce us, even if it was only to the elephants and Pop-pop, who acted as the judges.

“And now I would like to introduce to you contestant number 4. This blond bombshell hails from Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and enjoys tennis and rollerskating. Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome, Alissa . . .”

“We don’t want to play “Miss America!” I yelled back, shaking my head at her through the glass. My long hair swirled up in the night air wildly.

Nanny would not give up. “I know, we’ll watch Marcus Welby.” Alissa imitated barfing off the balcony as Nanny paced back and forth on the linoleum kitchen floor.

My sister glanced down at the two fistfuls of silver and black streamers that she clutched in her hands. “It’s New Year’s Eve, Nanny! This is what people do!”

“Girls, I’ll make you some ice cream!” Nanny was desperate. “I have delicious vanilla ice cream in the ice box. I’ll make you a bowl.” Ice cream was Nanny’s best dish by a mile.

“Okay, Nanny, we’re coming in!”


I let both fists of streamers go, much to my sister’s delight.

“Girls!” Nanny yelled in a panic. Alissa launched her streamers into the humid air.


I felt a rush through my toes on the concrete. It sizzled up my legs to my outstretched arms, right off the balcony, and through the humid wind, over the palm trees toward the ocean in the distance and across the universe.





Thursday, December 16, 2010

Princess For a Night

I had always wanted to see Prince live in concert.
I had been a fan ever since my mom, exercising questionable judgment, took me to see Purple Rain, the soft-porn film, at the theater, in 1985 at the ripe old age of 10.

I loved Prince then, when he was a just a troubled son, a misunderstood musical genius and a loner, who charmed women into dropping their clothes with a simple devilish grin. I loved his poofy sprayed hair, his dark eyeliner, how he rocked out on guitar with every ounce of his soul.

And I loved Prince even through his "awkward stage" when he wanted to be known simply as a symbol.

Twenty years on, it seemed impossible that I had never seen Prince play live. I could not wait to get my hands on some Prince tickets. And, I didn't just want to attend the concert. I wanted to sit on the floor, preferably somewhere in the first 10 rows.

And, truthfully, I wanted to be called on stage to dance with Prince. I expected to be.

Was this a far-fetched fantasy? I honestly did not think so.

Did I know for sure that Prince would even call members of the audience up to dance with him? I was just hoping. I had seen Bobby Brown and countless other singers do it, so I thought it was a possibility.

I phoned my friend, Emily, to tell her that I had secured 15th row tickets for us to see Prince at the Wachovia Center in Philly, and I added: "You know we're gonna get called on stage to dance with him."

"Oh, we're TOTALLY getting on stage," she replied, genuinely believing in my dream too.

"Let's dress like Apollonia," I suggested. "Do you have any leather one pieces you could bust out?"

"Hm, let me think about it," Em laughed. "Or we could always wear raspberry berets?" she offered.

For weeks our conversations carried on like this. What could we wear/do/say to secure a spot on stage with Prince?

I bragged to my sister, too, about my impending big night with Prince. "Yeah, right," she snorted over the phone. "You'll see," I promised. "I'm getting called up there."

"Well, I'll be in the 5th row, so I won't miss you," she joked.

As the big night approached, I called Emily one last time.

"I'm just wearing jeans," she said, sighing, somewhat defeated.

"Jeans?! What about the leather, the beret? We need to stand out so Prince can spot us!"

"I don't know, I'm wearing jeans," she said. "Why, what are you wearing?"

"Black pants and a shimmery white tank top. I did some online reconnaissance and I saw some pix of Prince from a show in New York last night. He's dressed all in white. So, of course, I want to match him," I said half kidding.

I skipped through my high-rise building's lobby and waved to my favorite doorman: "Hi, Rafiq!"

"Hey princess, lookin' niceeee," he smiled.

"I'm heading to the Prince concert."

"Aw, girl, have fun!"

"Thanks! I'm going to dance on stage with Prince."

"Go get'em, girl," Rafiq replied, shaking his head, giggling.

Prince was electrifying on stage. His tiny stature gave way to an enormous presence, that of a musical genius and a born performer. He owned the stage, which was set up in the round - a complete circle with long walkways extending out of the circle in 6 different directions. The band played in the middle of the circle and Prince danced, jammed, and gyrated about.

Much to my dismay, the Purple One invited two African-American women up on stage to dance with him for the second song of the show.

"NO WAY!" Em yelled from our 15th seats, which may have well been the last row in the arena.

"This is BULLSHIT!" I joked. "I want my money back."

"Well, I guess we'll just have to sit back and just enjoy the show," Em conceded.

Several songs later, I stood up. "I'll be right back, I'm going to the bathroom," I told Em.

On my way back down to our seats on the floor, a heavy set man dressed in all black approached me.

"Are you a dancer?" he whispered/yelled into my ear over the booming bass.

"EX.......CUSE ME?" I responded, fearful he was seeking a stripper.

He saw the panic in my face. "I'm the guy who picks girls to dance on stage with Prince," he continued. My mind screamed, "OHMYGOD! NO WAY! NO WAY! NO WAY! I saw flashing images of me in a music video with Prince.

"Can you dance like a sistah?" he asked.

"Absolutely," I told him. I didn't know what that meant. Didn't care. I could dance. I would dance.

"Great, because you're going up on stage after this song," he said. He slipped a plastic bracelet around my wrist.

I looked around for the hidden camera and the team of producers spoofing me. I saw 15,000 screaming fans.

"Wait. WHAT?!!! I have to go get my friend! She has to come with me!" I yelled back at the guy.

"Ok, but hurry up, meet me up at the side of the stage after this song."

I skipped ran back to Emily and screamed:

I think Em lost consciousness for a second and then we bolted up to the side of the stage, jumping hurdles of chairs, shoes, and cups of beer along the way.

"This is my friend," I informed the man, catching my breath.

He scanned her up and down. "Sorry, Prince doesn't let anyone in jeans on stage," he told us.

"I'll TAKE THEM OFF!" Em begged.

"No, you can't take your pants off," the man chuckled, as if he had heard it all before.

"I'll trade pants with you?!" she offered. His pants would have fit 10 Emilys. "No, you can't wear my pants either," he explained calmly. "You need to go back to your seat."

Em was crushed, but she looked at me and did what a great friend would do: "You HAVE to go up. This is a once in a lifetime thing."

"But," I started.

"Just get up there and have fun!" she nudged.

And that was it.

Now, I'm walking up 6 wooden steps with 6 other women who look just like me or a shade or two darker, ready to dance with Prince. Our only instructions:

"Smile, dance, and DON'T TOUCH PRINCE."

I'm thinking those 3 commands over and over again, plus: "Don't trip, don't fall off the stage, and don't look like a deer in headlights."

The stage is sweltering hot from the white flashing bulbs and the energy of the crowd. And, there, right next to me, is PRINCE. Inches away, rocking out on guitar. I am clearly a head above him, despite his high heeled boots. I smile at him, he smiles back and I become part of the show.

He's belting out his hit song, "Kiss," and I decide to work the catwalk down towards the audience on the side of the arena where Em is sitting. I spot her jumping 10 feet in the air (15 rows back) as if she's hopping on a pogo stick. She has a huge smile stretched across her face and she's dancing while jumping.

And then, right there, 5 rows from me and Prince, I see a familiar face. It looks like my sister, only deathly, ghostly white. She spots me on stage and she takes a second to hoist her jaw off the floor. I am pulling out every dance move in my repertoire and pointing at her, mouthing the words, "I TOLD YOU! I TOLD YOU!" She snaps a photo of me and Prince but without a flash, it's too dark to ever see.

3 songs, approximately 15 minutes later, my mission is complete.

I return to Emily and we just start yelling at the top of our lungs. "OH MY GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!"

"We have to leave!" Em shouts to me.


"I mean, WHAT is going to top THAT? Let's go call everyone we know!"

We do just that.

My parents don't recognize my voice become I'm so high from my encounter with the Purple One. I have to convince them that it's me. "That a girl!" says my mom. "You said you were going to do it."

I don't know if it was the fact that Prince enjoys women with dark features, like me, or the fact that I was dressed to match his entourage, like a lunatic, or if I was just giving off a certain energy that night, like "damn it, I'm here to dance with Prince," but my night as a "princess" made me a believer in believing that anything and everything is possible.

The universe, much like my beloved Prince, is mysterious.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Serenity In Aisle 6

The grotesque glow of fluorescent lights welcomes me as I walk through the doors. I feel an immediate sense of calm pass through me.

It's not lavender that I smell, but perhaps basil or cilantro.
No cucumber mud masks here, just plenty of cucumbers.

An elderly gentleman smiles at me and shuffles by. A Sponge Bob balloon floats next to Mickey Mouse in the distance. I try my best to ignore them. I stroll casually along, hearing the babble of a baby wrapped up tightly in fleece. I tune it right out.

This is my night. My moment.

Supermarket shopping sans toddler.

Ah, serenity. Serenity. Serenity at the supermarket.

I might as well be at a spa in Sedona wrapped in seaweed. This is pure bliss.

I wouldn't care if the checkout lines were snaked around like those at Disney World. That would just mean extra time for me to be free with my thoughts.


Oh, wait a minute. Someone's calling my name.

Oh, lucky day! A friend is walking towards me, basking in the glow of her own ingenious idea of leaving her daughter at home with daddy.

"I feel high," I confess, giggling. "Isn't this FANTASTIC, just strolling the aisles without anyone yelling, 'SNACK!'?" She nods in agreement. "The only thing that would make this better: cocktails. Next time, I'm serving cocktails in aisle 4."

She laughs, wondering what kind of meds I'm on and how she can get her hands on some too.

Seriously, I may pour cocktails the next time I sneak out to the supermarket without my little cookie monster. Can you imagine if you're perusing the ingredients on the side of a cereal box and you hear:

"Attention shoppers: Calling all exhausted, hardworking, deserving moms. Were you wise enough to leave your kids at home tonight? If so, come sample some delicious strawberry mojitos in Aisle 3, as well as freshly made guacamole and chips. And that's not all! The bakery department is cutting a cookie cake in your honor."

Would you bolt towards Aisle 3?

What if it had been a particularly stressful day, full of antics, like your toddler standing, no, jumping, in his high chair, throwing chunks of chicken onto the Persian rug and banging trains on the window, with a mischievous gleam in his eye?

The announcement continues: "Looking to make an evening out of this supermarket outing? We've got toilet paper, facial cleanser, and any other toiletries you may need in Aisle 8."

Would you sprint towards Aisle 8? Would you stay the night?

I stroll through the frozen foods section, contemplating this idea. A slumber party at the supermarket. Wow.

But, then I think of my two favorite guys getting cozy at home, watching "Roary the Racing Car" in bed.

It's official. It's time to leave the "spa." It's time to say goodbye to serenity.

It's time to go home.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Moon, The Sun, and Everything in Between

"Da MOOON, da MOOOON!" my son exclaims, his little pointer finger poking up towards outer space. He peers out of the car window, into the pitch black night, clutching his stuffed monkey in his left hand.

"Hol, hol!" he yells, his eyes lit up as if the moon has embodied him.

"You want to HOLD the moon?" I ask, laughing, already sure of the answer.

"Yesh!" he shouts.

"But the moon is way up in the sky."

"Oh noooooooooooo," he moans. "Reach! Reach!"

"You can't reach it," I try to explain.

"Mommy reach!" he pleads.

"I can't reach it either. It's way up in the sky."

"Daddy reach?" he suggests.

"Daddy does have long arms . . . .but, Daddy can't reach it either."

"Noooo," he sighs.

"Should we try?" I ask, again sure of the answer.


I extend my arms up towards the sun roof. If I could just pluck the moon out of the sky and hand it to my little stargazer, I'd gladly do it.

We turn on his stuffed turtle at bedtime, which projects the constellation on his ceiling in blue, green, or yellow. "Da MOOON!" he shrieks.

"Hey Galileo, show Monkey where the moon is," my husband suggests. He stands up in his crib with Monkey in his outstretched right hand, like the Statue of Liberty holding her torch. Monkey's smile seems to grow a bit wider. Monkey catches the magic.

It reminds me of one time when I was home from college for Thanksgiving weekend. Ready for bed, I turned off the lights in my bedroom and my entire ceiling lit up shockingly like Times Square. My sister and her boyfriend (now my brother-in-law) had drawn pictures and notes to me in glow-in-the-dark chalk just for fun. I laughed myself to sleep under the majestic misshapen stars and doodles of Snoopy and Bart Simpson. Not only did I refuse to erase their "masterpiece," but my parents sold the house with my ceiling artwork about a year later to an unsuspecting buyer. It was no Michelangelo but, hey, to me it was magic.

Last night, there was a spectacular rare blue moon in the sky. My son almost "took a heart attack," as they say in South Philadelphia, when he spotted it through the high window in our living room's cathedral ceiling.

"Da mooooooooooon!"

And we had the same conversation that we have almost every night. Hol! You want to hold the MOON? Yesh!

I don't know what it is, but there is something so sweet and innocent and charming about a baby wanting to hold the moon and the sun and everything that is beautiful in nature that makes me want to stop and see things again, as if for the first time. It makes me want to jump up and down, laugh a maniacal laugh like he does, clap my hands, and feel a bit of that joy.

So, whether you have glow-in-the-dark stars on your ceiling, or clouds fogging your view, take a moment and see - feel - remember - what's out there. A whole universe waiting to be discovered.

Don't let the magic pass you by.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Never Negotiate with a Woman with Road Rage

We were getting a Prius.
Or so he said.

I wasn't thrilled about the idea.

He said we were going green.
I started to make a scene.

I come from a family of car crazies.
"I need to uphold the tradition of speeding tickets and questionable control behind the wheel," I argued.

I did not believe a Prius could handle that kind of responsibility.

"I need something with pep," I explained.

"The Prius is peppy, you'll see," he said. "Larry David drives one," he added.

I love Curb Your Enthusiasm, but I was not buying a Prius just because Larry had one.

"Just think about it," he begged as he kissed me goodbye and sent me off to my friend's wedding. "I'll see you tonight, after my cousin's party."

"Ok, but can you tell me how to get to the church again?"

He walked me through my turns and I was on my way, driving his slightly tattered generic white sedan. 20 minutes later, I made a panicked call from my cell phone:

"Sorry to interrupt the party, but are you sure you gave me the right directions?"

"Yes, Magellan, just keep driving straight another couple of miles and you'll see it. Love you."

I rolled on, staring at the clock. I had 5 minutes to get to the wedding.

"All weddings start late, they must be starting at least 10 or 15 minutes late," I convinced myself.

10 minutes passed. I made a frantic call:

"I am lost. It is NOT this way!"

"Wait, let me ask my dad," he responded nervously. I checked the clock. A time bomb was about to blow.

"Babe? I AM SO SORRY. It's the other direction."

"WHAT?!!!! I'm going to miss the whole goddamn wedding!" I yelled, pounding on the steering wheel.

"I ---"

"You told me not to print directions because you knew where it was!"

"I'm sorr-"

"I have to go!" I yelled. I stomped on the gas pedal and nearly took out a cyclist next to me. I flirted with tears but got a grip - of the wheel - and floored it. The car barely stayed in one piece as I zoomed up to the church.

I ran clumsily in my heels up to the church door. It was locked. A middle-aged usher in an ill-fitting suit frowned at me and shook his head. I was forced to wait outside. Apparently, not all weddings go off late. I watched the bride and groom kiss from behind a dingy window outside the front door.

I felt my face scorching, my blood pressure jumping off the charts.

I turned my phone off and refused to answer my soon-to-be husband's apologetic calls for the next two hours. When I did call him back, I spoke in a cool and calm voice that is often attributed to violent criminals:

"I missed the wedding. The entire ceremony. LOCKED OUT OF THE CHURCH! I drove like a maniac to get there, but was too late."

"Babe, I am so sorr---"

" I punched the steering wheel . . ."

"You punched ---?" He giggled.

"Sore knuckles and all, I concluded that I need a car with good handling and quick pickup that can handle such situations."

He paused nervously. "Is the Prius . . . ?"

"Off the table," I told him definitively.

"Ok, fine," he conceded. "The Prius is dead."


"And, in exchange, you'll never bring this up again?"

"Never again," I said curtly.

We were getting a Mercedes.
Or so I said.

He smiled behind the wheel,
a win-win situation and, all in all, a pre-tty pre-tty good deal.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A 3 Xanax Day

It's a 3 Xanax kind of day and you know how many I've taken?

It's not like I pop pills on a regular basis, but if I did, today would be at least a .75 milligram day.

It started uneventfully, but I learned quickly that I was dealing with a toddler still hung over from Halloween and the high of playing conductor on a friend's new train table well past his bedtime last night.

Then there were the teeth. Teething never seems to end and today, a new front tooth made an appearance.

All of these things together created the perfect storm.

My son eluded me as I tried to slip his feet into his sneakers. Everything is a game and now the stakes are higher because he is Usain Bolt fast. I finally got him dressed and carried him squirming out to the car.

He eluded me once again as I tried to strap him into his car seat. He arched his back gracefully and slid halfway to the floor of the car before I grabbed him and tried to go in for landing #2. No chance. Landing #3? I circled back again. Nothing.

"Okay, let's go back in and take a nap," I told him. Luckily, I only wanted to run some errands and there was nowhere we had to be.

I shot some Motrin into his mouth with some resistance and considered a shot of whiskey for myself. He screamed and cried and fell asleep 2.5 minutes later. It was great parenting, if I may say so myself.

An hour later, he woke up cranky, but happy to see me. We read a few books and he did a puzzle.

"Let's put your shoes on, okay?"

"CHASE!" he replied, grinning.

"You want mommy to chase you?"

He was already down the hall. I played along. Got his shoes on. Got him in the car on attempt #1. Handed him a football to hold. Forgot the monkey. I forgot THE monkey. MR. MONKEY, to those of you not on a first name basis.

Now, this I knew was a huge risk, leaving home without Mr. Monkey. But, we were already in the car, engine running, and we went.

First, a quick trip to the pharmacy. He was an angel. We played catch in the toy aisle and I let him pick out a matchbox car. We then ventured on to the supermarket and for the first 5 minutes, all was right in the world, or at least the Gladwyne Superfresh.

Then it happened.

He started yelling his favorite new word: "Nack! S - nack! Nack! S-nack!"

Now, I never thought I'd be one of those mothers shoving snacks down her child's throat in the middle of aisle 9, but now I know better. You do what you have to do. I was 1/4 through my shopping list (which I left conveniently at home and was trying to recall by memory). A snack seemed reasonable. I grabbed the nearest thing to me: a chocolate graham cracker box.

I opened it as quickly as a person defusing a bomb. Technically speaking, that's what I was doing. He smiled when he got the first taste of that cracker.

I raced down the aisles throwing in groceries like I had won a shopping spree and time was running out. Then he said another word: "Wa-ter."

I was in trouble.

Not only did I forget Mr. Monkey at home, but I had a purse without a sippy cup full of water. Now this is poor parenting, to say the least. The only reason I didn't have a cup full of water for my little man was because a second before we left the house, he grabbed it out of my purse and ran around, yelling, "Chase!"

"We don't have any water, but we'll get some as soon as we get home, okay?"

It was not okay. He freaked in a way that he rarely has. He threw the chocolate graham cracker at me with such force that it ricocheted off the shopping cart handle and landed in pieces on the floor. Mortified, I scooped up the pieces and threw them into my sweatshirt pocket.

Blame it on the Halloween hangover, blame it on the teeth. I don't know. I picked him up out of the cart and tried to give him some freedom to walk.

Literally 24 hours ago, he was gallivanting around Buddakan like Stephen Starr. Now, he was throwing himself face first onto the floor of Superfresh in the frozens section. I kept walking because I've read that you're supposed to ignore such dramatic conduct from a toddler. It did not stop. He started banging his mouth onto the floor.

I picked him up, tossing more items into my cart in a last-ditch effort.

"All done," I told him as he cried.

We got into a fast-moving checkout line and I tossed my items towards the clerk.

"Here, you want to get down?"

I figured he'd stand right next to me and continue admiring the Sponge Bob balloon he was checking out. Not so. He got that huge grin on his face and started booking. Straight towards the exit. I ran at full speed and swooped him up as he was exiting towards the parking lot.

"Now I have to hold you," I explained as he squirmed back down to the floor.

I was furious at myself for wearing Uggs. I felt myself melting into them, and I wondered if I might melt away completely. I hoped so. My core body temp spiked at 110 when I chased him out of the store for the 2nd time. I ran back in with him under my arm like a football. The checkout clerks cheered as if I had scored a touchdown.

I paid. We left. We got home. He ate a snack. He drank water. I emptied out chocolate crumbs from my sweatshirt pocket. I put him in his crib. With Mr. Monkey. I carried in the groceries.

And I write this now as an alternative to popping Xanax and/or slugging some vodka and, most importantly, to all of the moms and dads who know exactly what I'm talking about, to celebrate us.

If this isn't work, I don't know what is.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Inspiration, Move Me Brightly . . .

I love being in the company of people who are doing exactly what they live to do. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the famed memoir, "Eat, Pray, Love" is one of those people. I had the opportunity to hear her speak last night and here's what I concluded:

She's just like us.
Okay, not just like us in a witches and warlocks/Christine O'Donnell kind of way.

She's just like us in a human way.

Liz Gilbert has strengths (writing) and weaknesses (sense of direction, athleticism), successes (publishing) and failures (her 1st marriage). She is cerebral, anxious, charming, honest, intelligent, and witty in the same breath. She is average looking yet exudes an illuminating light. She struggles with real life issues, even amidst fame and fortune. She lives in a small town in New Jersey.

She's just like us.

She's not an expert on relationships or marriage or love. But when asked the key to a good marriage, she responded: "kindness."

Her key to a happy life: "Good work ongoing."

What sets Liz Gilbert apart from us?


She certainly has a gift. And she was gracious enough to share that gift with the world.

Does that make Gilbert extraordinary?

I don't think so.

I returned home last night inspired by Gilbert, but woke up this morning to her true message:

We all have gifts, it's just a matter of sharing them with others, sending them out into the universe. And doing so simply for the love of it.

So next time you're looking for inspiration from a favorite author, singer, (dare I say) politician, look no further than your own mirror. You know what your gifts are. The question is: will you share them with the world?

I'm going to try my best to live Gilbert's simple words and keep

Good Work Ongoing.

Friday, October 22, 2010


I never played soccer, nor lacrosse, nor field hockey. At least not very well. I'm not much of a goalie.

But I'm learning.

Every day, I find myself playing goalie in front of the dishwasher, or bathtub, or (wait for it) . . .

the toilet.

The little guy on offense is formidable competition. He comes at me with plastic fish, toy trucks, stuffed teddy bears, balls, even socks and shoes. He squeals when he scores on me.

He yells, "No, no, no!" when I make a dramatic save (i.e., Mr. Monkey skimming the toilet seat). I spin him around and say, "Go, go, go!" He giggles and comes right back in my direction.

He has other games too. I found a cookie magnet in my new knee high rain boots the other day. There were baby bite marks on it.

He's got some skills in the area of ultimate fighting as well. He head butts me and body slams himself on his stuffed hippo chair.

He recently starting playing "Capture the Flag" with my eyeglasses. Thankfully, they're just for reading, otherwise I'd have to feel my way around to find him. And them.

My bed has been turned into a virtual NASCAR speedway. Exciting? Yes. Treacherous? Can be. There were cars zipping across my back at midnight last night. You should have heard the sound of their engines.

All of these BOYS R US games have turned my world upside down. But, I've got games of my own.

I'm an old pro at the "night-night, Mama / Wake up!" game and I am a master pilot when it comes to airplane rides. In fact, my son is now giving airplane rides to his stuffed animals. I'm wondering if he'll start wiping their paws a hundred times a day too.

Clearly, he could start with Mr. Monkey.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Tailgating With Tots

Please sing the following lyrics to the tune of "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer":

Stroller got run over at a tailgate . . .
rolling into traffic, Sunday eve
you may think that's no place for a baby
in retrospect, of course, I must agree.

Everyone was drinking too much beer
And next thing you know, I had to "go"
Since I dread porta potties,
I checked RVs for someone I might know

When I returned one hour later,
at the scene of the attack,
the stroller had tire prints on its seat,
and incriminatin' marks on its back.

Stroller got run over by a drunk guy,
rolling into traffic Sunday eve.
You can say a baby should not tailgate,
it was a lapse in judgment, I believe.

Thank god our son was not in it,
He's been takin' this so well.
See him in there watchin' football,
drinkin' beer and playin' cards with cousin Al.

It's not the same without our stroller.
All the family dressed in black.
And we just can't help but wonder:
Should we buy another one or send it back?
(Send it back)

Stroller got run over at a tailgate
rolling into traffic, Sunday eve,
you may think that's no place for a baby
in retrospect, of course, I must agree.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Time to Stop and Think


The news that an 18 year old college freshman jumped off the George Washington Bridge to his death after his college roommate secretly videotaped his sexual encounter with another man and streamed it live over the internet is just heartbreaking.

By all accounts, Tyler Clementi was an extremely talented musician, devoted friend, beloved son. He was a shy freshman at Rutgers.

And, he was apparently beyond humiliated when he posted on his Facebook page eight minutes before he plunged to his death: "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry."

His roommate and a fellow freshman were arrested and could face up to 5 years in prison for invasion of privacy. No doubt, they will have a life sentence of torment and sorrow.

They probably thought that streaming live video of a gay classmate's intimate encounter was a funny, harmless prank.

But nobody's laughing.

We've all done stupid things and played pranks on our friends. But, in this new age where embarrassing video can go viral across the globe in seconds, the consequences are no joke. And our children need to get that message.

Just as easily as we can all jump online to bully, torment, or publicly humiliate someone else, we can use modern technology to connect, teach tolerance, and spread compassion. In the wake of this beautiful boy's death, I sincerely hope that happens.

A high school classmate said of Tyler Clementi, "When he played his violin, everyone felt something."

When I heard about Tyler Clementi, and how and why his life ended at the age of 18, I felt something.

He's not my son, but he could have been.

The roommate who set up the camera secretly to videotape Tyler is not my son, but he too could have been.

It's time to stop and think. And do better.

Our children's lives depend on it.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Build It and They Will Come

“Build it, Dad,” my sister begged.

“And they will come!” I chimed in.

Although my family was not particularly religious, nor had we ever celebrated the festive Jewish holiday of Sukkot, my twenty year old sister, home from college for the weekend, decided she absolutely needed a sukkah in our backyard.

If you have no idea what a "sukkah" is, you are in the exact same boat as my dad when my sister pleaded, "Come on, Dad, build one. I've always wanted my own sukkah."

"Really, doll? You have?"

My dad totally took the bait.

We explained to him that a sukkah is a temporary hut for use during the week-long holiday of Sukkot. It is a structure consisting of a roof made of organic material which has been disconnected from the ground. A sukkah is usually constructed outside a synagogue, where congregants gather to hang fruit as an offering of peace and hope.

Did we really know the history and religious significance of a sukkah on the day that we pestered my dad relentlessly? No way.

We simply felt that the construction of a sukkah was a good dare for my dad.

And, because erecting a sukkah seemed much more reasonable than the usual requests my sister made, like a white BMW 5-series, and much less controversial than the purchases she made on her own, like the $600 worth of lingerie from Victoria’s Secret (which appeared mysteriously on my parents’ Am X statement), my dad agreed.

Yes, a sukkah seemed reasonable.

Just one problem. My dad had no clue how to build a sukkah. In all seriousness, he had no clue how to build. Period.

But, if he's a genius in one area, that area is the garden. He is a wizard with wildflowers, plants, trees, garden sculptures, fountains, Buddah ladies, Native American chief carvings, what have you. A landscape architect extraordinaire in his prior life, no doubt.

But this sukkah was a whole different animal.

After all, my dad had grown up in a large Irish Catholic family. His early years were chock full of nuns, rosaries, and sins. He preferred the gospel of Bob Dylan to that of Jesus Christ. And, when he fell for a nice Jewish girl he met in school, the decision to convert was an easy one.

But he converted in his unique way.

He didn't abandon Dylan, he simply incorporated him into traditional Jewish festivities. At my Bat Mitzvah, he convinced the cantor to learn and perform an unforgettable spine-tingling version of Bob Dylan's "Forever Young."

He learned Yiddish expressions from my grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-aunts and even considered starting his own newspaper column, "The Tsatskeleh Sightings."

He loved to dance the Hora at every wedding and often requested to the bandleaders that they rock out to “Chavah Nagilah” “reggae-style.” (Whatever that means. I'm sure only he knows).

So, really, this sukkah dare was right up his alley. It was just off-beat enough for my dad to really dig in deep and go all out.

It was a crisp fall day. He threw on his dark black aviator shades, hopped into his convertible, and sped off solo to find the makings of a sukkah. Within a half hour, he pulled into our circular driveway covered in chicken wire, hay, palm leaves, bamboo sticks, and other foliage which nearly concealed his face behind the wheel. He had bags full of fresh, dried and plastic fruit, customary decorations for the sukkah.

My mom squealed, looking out the 2nd floor window, "Daddy's back! Look outside!"

It was on.

What happened next was breathtaking. My dad single-handedly built the most fabulous sukkah our neighborhood had ever seen. (Not to mention the only one it had ever seen!).

He built it and, just like I had predicted, oh did they come! In droves. Reclusive neighbors, small children, babies in strollers, poofy haired dogs with big butts. Everyone wanted a peek.

Our backyard became a Jewish version of Christmas-time at the mall. Instead of sitting on Santa’s lap, each visitor insisted on having their photo taken standing inside the sukkah.

Years later, friends and family still reminsce about the building of the sukkah. It has taken on a mythical quality, like the building of the pyramids or the Great Wall of China.

It was one man, one vision, and the gathering of one community.

Although my dad was a late bloomer to the Jewish faith, never had a Bar Mitzvah, and may not be able to identify one Hebrew letter, I believe that anyone who builds his own backyard sukkah simply to see his daughters smile surely has some serious soul.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dress for Success

It was time for my suits to go. They had been bogarting space in my closet since I was 5 months pregnant, when I could clearly no longer wrestle into them. Some of them still hung in plastic bags straight from the dry cleaners.

I decided I wanted to give them away to someone or several people who would really need them and appreciate them.

I found a website for Dress For Success. The Philly branch has drop-off hours for donations every Monday.

I loaded my suits and my son into the car. I explained our mission to him in 18 month old language. He smiled and pointed out trucks, trains, and airplanes on our ride into the city.

When we pulled up to the Center City drop-off location, I dialed the Dress For Success office. "Could someone please come out back and help me? I have my baby in the car with me, and I have a big pile of clothes to donate."

Within seconds, the door opened and a woman emerged, looking a bit sour. She surveyed my car, then me, suspiciously.

I wanted so badly to tell her what Deepak Chopra once said: "You can have [a soul] and a Mercedes at the same time . . ."

But I didn't.

Instead, I jumped out of the driver's seat, ran around to the passenger side, carefully gathered up my suits and handed them to her. "Thank you so much for coming out to help," I smiled at her. She didn't smile back.

I watched as she counted the number of suits in her arms and thought I saw her eyes light up.

I had considered putting "good luck" notes into the pockets of each of the suits.

But I didn't.

As she turned abruptly to head back inside with the suits, I stood at my car door, thinking of what to say.

I thought about yelling out to her: "Those suits have been with me through graduations, funerals, and everything in between. They have stood before television executives, federal judges and juries, and even maximum security prisoners. They have concealed life's best feelings, like being in love and carrying a baby."

But I didn't.

As she opened the door, I yelled out: "Please wish the women who end up wearing those suits much success and all the best life has to offer."

She spun around, almost startled. A huge smile overtook her face. She looked me right in the eyes. "Yes, I most certainly will."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Good Will, A Year in the Making

Everyone asks me where I'm sending my son to school.

I tell them I have no idea, I haven't really thought about it yet.

He's only a year and a half and thankfully, we don't live in an area where you need to register your child for preschool when he's just an inch long on the ultrasound.

I guess next fall he'll start somewhere, just for a few hours a day, maybe a few days a week. That's about as long as I can imagine letting him go.

So, this leaves me with one good year with my baby boy. One more year of playground visits and watching him belly laugh on the swings (and even swinging next to him when he points to the vacant swing and says, "Mama.") We have one more interrupted year of play groups, music classes, sledding on snowy days, morning walks along the river, visits to friends and family at our whim. Of course, this coming year will be full of "field trips" to the aquarium, zoo, art museum, apple orchards, and everywhere else.

But, slightly off the beaten path, I've decided to add to his "curriculum" a master class in "good will."

Every week for this entire school year, we'll do something to help others. It may be a small or large act. It may benefit one person or many, near or far. I have some ideas for where to begin, but I am open to suggestions.

What will my baby boy gain from this year of good will? Isn't 18 months way too young to remember these acts of kindness? Perhaps. But, I hope that somehow this year of giving will stay with my son forever, and, even if it doesn't, you can never imagine how one small act of kindness can impact someone else's life.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I must confess, I never really understood the mammoni.

"Mammoni" in Italian, means mama's boy. And, in Italy, they are as common as gnocchi gorgonzola. More than half of the single Italian men in Italy still live at home with their mothers. It has caused the birth rate in Italy to decline so much that it has become somewhat of a national crisis.

Blame the mammoni.

The mammoni are not all in Italy. This tradition has spread to the shores of America. You've seen them. You know them. Perhaps you are one yourself.

Not sure about the signs of a mammoni?

I had a friend who refused to shop for clothing without his mother by his side, well into his twenties. Mammoni.

My cousin claims he'll live at home in his mom's "compound" until he's at least forty. Mammoni.

I have a brother-in-law who insists on sitting next to his mother at the dining room table, even if that means booting a small child out of "his" seat. Mammoni.

My husband "conveniently" stops by his mom's house in the morning, just so she can make him her delicious eggs, hash browns, and creamed chipped beef. Mammoni (or possibly just hungry because we all know I'm no Julia Child).

The whole concept of the "mammoni" used to make me laugh, scratch my head, tease friends and family.

Until I had a son.

Now, I get it.

I totally get it.

I may not be Italian by blood, but through marriage and spirit, I have somehow created a little mammoni of my own.

I cannot go into the bathroom alone. Even for 10 seconds. If I try, I hear the pitter patter of little feet, bringing me a race car or a light up drum. (Both of which make the bathroom experience much more enjoyable, actually).

My little mammoni says the word, "Mama" at least 400 times a day, with various degrees of excitement and intonation.

He has accompanied me to the eyebrow waxer, the dentist, and, yes, even the gynecologist (where, in a paper gown, I tossed yogurt melts across the stark exam room to him in his stroller, while singing and dancing along to the radio playing, "Heat Wave"). A true mammoni goes where Mama goes.

On rare nights, when he sleeps in our bed, I watch him doze off, sucking his thumb, while rubbing his monkey's ears not only against his nose, but mine too. He curls up so closely to me, if he could "unzip" my belly and crawl back in, I swear he would. Every single night. When he wakes up, two centimeters from my face, he waves at me and smiles sleepily, "Ma-ma."

What can I say?

I've changed my view on the mammoni completely. To you skeptics, I say, don't knock it, 'til you try it!

I've gotta run . . . my mammoni is calling!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Walk With a Llama

"A-rriv-ing at Berk-shire Moun-tain Llama Hikes, two hun-dred feet."

Has your GPS lady ever mechanically sounded out those magical words?

Mine did the other day, as my husband snorted at our surroundings.

We had just driven a mile up a country road in search of a llama to "walk," and there was not a lone llama in sight amidst a rusted out pick-up truck, empty gasoline canisters and a possessed looking tire swing.

"Great! No llamas, see?"

A mile back down the road lay the beautiful Berkshire Mountains. "Can we please go someplace normal for our first trip to the Berkshires?" he continued.

"Normal is sooooo boring, Old Man Jenkins!" I teased him, poking him in the ribs.

"Why do you want to hike with llamas again?" he asked for the 5th time in 10 minutes, precisely when the llama lightbulb went off in my crazy keppe.

"I read it about the Berkshire Mountain Llama Hike online last week and it just appeared miraculously in GARMIN's 'attractions.' It must be a sign."

"Seriously? You really want to trek with a llama?"

I don't know why he was so surprised. You may recall that I once threatened that I would buy an alpaca for a deserving family in a third world country and name it after him if he didn't pass the CPA exam.

"But I passed the CPA!" he retorted, making a thee point turn in the "land of no llamas."

"Look, we're not buying an alpaca today," I explained, rolling my eyes. "We're simply trekking with a llama."

"And tell me why, again," he said.

"Because it sounds like fun . . . and it's my birthday . . . . and I have never walked with a llama before."

"Your birthday was two days ago," he reminded me with a smile.

"Yeah, but you still didn't give me my birthday card, so my birthday continues every day until I get it."

"That's fair," he replied sincerely. "What's with you and the cards?"

"Everyone likes birthday cards," I told him. "And llamas too."

I searched the internet on my cell phone and read this review aloud:

"Come and enjoy the novel experience of spending time in nature accompanied by llamas. Berkshire Mountain Llamas are known for their sweet dispositions, wooly coats, and unique personalities."

"That sounds like you, babe!" I complimented him.

"These llamas are a real treat for youngsters . . ."

"No, YOU"RE a treat," he shot back, laughing.

"As trusted hiking companions they are clever, gentle and willing to be led by young children."

"Now that sounds like YOU, babe!" he added.

Our son giggled in the back seat. (His favorite book is "Llama Llama Red Pajama," so he quite enjoyed our friendly banter).

"Do you want to see a LLAMA?" I asked him. He kicked his sneakers on the bottom of his car seat and flashed every tooth in his mouth. "Yeah, yeah!"

"You two are both nuts, there are no llamas here," "Old Man Jenkins" declared.

I had to admit, he was correct. I'm not sure if we were in the wrong place or if the Berkshire Mountain Llama Hike company simply could not keep up with competing local attractions. But, my husband made it up to me by riding an alpine slide (a bit tipsy and amidst the threat of wild turkeys on the course), buying me a beautiful birthday gift, and patiently waiting while I conquered a death-defying aerial rope course, like the one I used to live for at summer camp.

As for the llamas, I think we'll check out the zoo this weekend and see if we can find one. Technically, it's STILL my birthday.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Big Kahuna

“She is STROOOOOOOONG, capable!” the announcer bellowed in his southern drawl. “Here she comes, folks…she is POWERFUL!”

How I ended up hooting for cowgirls on a frigid summer night at a rodeo in Cody, Wyoming, I’m not sure. Then again, it was my idea.

My college roommate had previously mastered an impeccable swan-dive off the highest bridge in the world and come face to face with a buffalo “knocking” at her door in Kenya. Because she had already toured six continents, and I had just conquered law school, we decided to “see America.” Truthfully, I thought that if I was traveling on my dreaded 30th birthday, and away from home, then it wouldn't really count.

“It looks like a hearse,” I told the car rental clerk in Denver. “I’m sorry, I just can’t pick her up in that thing. Not unless there’s a dead body in the back.”

The clerk rolled his eyes. “The only other car available is that Dodge. It has a v-4 engine, no power windows, no CD player.”

“As long as I can plug in my ipod, I'll take it!” I decided hastily.

Rule #1: A good road trip requires good music.

“Nice wheels!” Sara joked as she hopped into the passenger seat twenty minutes later. She surveyed the car quickly. “She looks like a ‘Gloria!’” I had to agree, yes "she" did.

Rule #2: A good road trip requires a vehicle with a snazzy alias.

We motored, or should I say crawled, west in “Gloria,” stopping at a lovely bed-n-breakfast in Aspen.

“Watch out for the bears, sometimes they come in through the back door!” our host chuckled. I took no chances and locked all eight locks.

Rule #3: A good road trip involves the threat of bears busting up the party.

We stayed in the “Little Nell” room, named after an infamous madam from the 1800s.

“You look like a ‘Little Nell,’” I declared as Sara climbed into the raised antique canopy bed next to me. “You’re petite and you would have made a great 19th century madam!” Sara was flattered.

Rule #4: A good road trip requires a traveling companion with a snazzy alias. Clearly.

Gloria, Little Nell, and I trekked on to Moab, Utah, which may well have been the end of the earth.

We hiked through spectacular natural arches and later wandered into a dive bar, where we were greeted with stares appropriate for serial killers. The gum-chomping hostess spat something about a $4 “membership” fee. We chose not to become members.

We spent my 30th birthday in Jackson, Wyoming, one of my favorite places in the world.

"Now who is brave enough to "cow-girl up" and ride the BIGGGGGGGGGGGGG KAHUNA?" yelled our white water rafting guide over the churning category 4 rapids.

"Stacy is, it's her birthday!" Little Nell volunteered. Ah, thanks, Little Nell.

Rule #5: A good road trip involves a good dare.

The twelve people on our raft cheered and patted my back as Sara thrust me to the front of the raft. There were two gigantic men, perfect strangers, on either side of me.

"Listen," I told them, "I don't care what you do, just do NOT let me fall out of this raft, okay?"

The guide told me to sit up on the puffy part of the raft, hold on to the rope between my legs and dangle my feet over the front of the raft into the menacing rapids. I turned around to catch what I thought might be my final glimpse of Little Nell. She had a huge proud smile on her face, just like the one captured on video moments before she bungee jumped off the highest bridge in New Zealand.

Our raft slowed down to a near complete halt, like a rollercoaster at the top of the track. We plunged head first at a ninety degree angle into the "Big Kahuna."

The rush of water over my head drowned out my screams. I was completely submerged, but for a toe or two. I heard people from the raft yelling, "Man overboard! Man overboard." I was sure I was that man.

But then I realized I somehow managed to stay in the raft. It was one of the bodybuilders who had been sitting next to me who was overboard. Not just overboard, but under the raft. His three children were screaming and crying hysterically. Within seconds, he popped out from under the raft. He appeared fine, if not shellshocked.

"Thumbs up?" yelled our river guide. "Give the thumbs up if you're okay," he instructed.

The children on our raft were inconsolable.

"GIVE THE THUMBS UP!" Little Nell hollered furiously.

He refused to give the thumbs up. He floated toward the raft with a sour puss. But despite his brawn, he could not pull himself up.

Leave it to Little Nell to save the day. She used superhuman strength and sheer adrenaline to singlehandedly hoist and rescue a 250 pound man who refused to give the thumbs up. His children cheered and wiped away their tears.

Rule #6: A good road trip involves a hint of danger and activities you would never attempt in "real life."

“Next stop, Gloria, is Cody, Wyoming! Yeehaw!” Of course, that was after we hit a dozen Dairy Queens across Utah and Idaho. We imagined the locals posting our pictures, warning of the “Blizzard bandits.”

Rule #7: A good road trip requires lots of ice cream.

We stayed at a "horseback riding resort" in Cody, Wyoming, although Little Nell and I had probably been on 2 horses in our entire lives. It was funny how cowboys and cowgirls whom we met were fascinated by our daily existences. “

Y’all are law-yers?!” they asked, eyes wide. “Wow, y’all are like big city law-yers?”

“New York and Philly . . .”

“Amazin,” our wrangler responded, shaking his head, smiling. I think he thought we only existed in the movies.

“Please,” I countered, “you ride bulls for a living!” I definitely thought rodeo stars only existed in the movies.

"We both deal with a lot of bullshit!" Little Nell added, moments before our horses were spooked by a bear on the wooded trail and stampeded through heavy brush, crashing into tree branches.

It was time to head back east.

With hugs goodbye, the cowboys and cowgirls told us that they would never forget us.

Rule #8: A good road trip involves good will.

Little Nell and I hopped onto the mechanical bull at the rodeo campgrounds for one last hurrah. I barely held down my BBQ dinner, and tried to remember the words of the rodeo announcer, “She is strooooong! Capable! Powerful!!!”

Rule #9: A good road trip involves shutting down your computer, cell phone, Blackberry and all other hand held devices banned by the FAA for takeoff and landing. Go ahead, get out there and ride your own Big Kahuna.


ps. If you need some inspiration, here is a great look at the Big Kahuna. It is no joke!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Fate of Prop 8

“The times they are a’changing,” the prolific Bob Dylan once sang, and today, with the overturning of California's ban on same-sex marriage, it is clearly evident. A federal judge in California ruled that Proposition 8 ["Prop 8"], the voter-approved ban, violates the constitutional rights of gays and lesbians.

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker wrote in his decision: "Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license." "Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples."

Proposition 8 (or the California Marriage Protection Act) was a ballot proposition and constitutional amendment passed in the November 2008, state elections. The measure added a new provision to the California Constitution, which provides that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

Thus, Prop 8 purposely stripped many Americans of their civil rights. Same-sex couples in California were denied the right to marry that had previously been recognized by the California Supreme Court. To add insult to injury, gay Californians discovered that their neighbors, colleagues, and people they considered friends were the ones who made this decision at the polls; a monumental decision that impacts the personal fabric of their lives.

Who voted to ban same-sex marriage in California?

The Church of Ladder Day Saints contributed up to $22 million to pass Proposition 8. A whopping 70% of African American voters voted to ban same-sex marriage in California, as did more than half of Latino voters and 49% of Asian voters. What is most confounding and saddening is that all of these groups have been historically oppressed, marginalized and denied civil rights throughout American history. As Frederick Douglass once said, ““Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.”

Millions of Californians voted to desecrate the civil rights of another group of Americans because of extreme dissociation with the plight of gay Americans and compartmentalization of their own struggles. They cited moral or religious beliefs in support of the ban on same-sex marriage. Dare we forget that these very moral and religious beliefs once supported anti-miscegenation laws, which banned interracial marriage in the majority of states in America. It was not until 1967, in the landmark case of Loving v. Virginia, that the United States Supreme Court declared Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law unconstitutional, which finally put an end to the ban on interracial marriage.

Americans who are harboring bigotry and homophobia need to wake up and see that the right for same-sex couples to marry is a civil rights issue. We cannot forget that the most devastating and dehumanizing laws in American history were too supported by moral and religious beliefs, and often by majority support. In fact, it took the United States Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education to finally put an end to “separate but equal” education in America. It was not American voters. It certainly was not the 26 states that supported segregation at that time.

In this new era of hope, we should all broaden our minds, find tolerance in our hearts, and separate our own moral and religious beliefs from the civil rights protected by our Constitution. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere….” Thus, just as the district court did today, it is time for all of our federal courts, right up to the U.S. Supreme Court, to take a stand and protect civil rights in America. History has proven time and time again that the majority of voters will not.

I often wonder what we will tell our son about this period of time in American history when he is older. Sadly, many California voters feared that if they did not vote to ban same-sex marriage, their children would learn that it’s okay for a man to marry a man and a woman to marry a woman.


Let's not forget the times in American history when millions of parents lamented having to explain to their children the possibility of a white person marrying a black person or of a white child sitting next to a black child in the classroom. And yet, as a nation, we persevered and progressed.

Whom you choose to marry is none of my business and whom I choose to marry is none of yours. What I care about is that we all have equal rights.

And, when the day comes where we need to sit down and explain to our son that he can marry ANYONE, regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation, that will be one fabulous conversation, and I will never feel prouder to be an American.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Mom on the Moon

I don't know what it is about watching your baby take his first steps that gives a parent such a rush of excitement and pride. After months of waiting and sweet coaxing, our boy is finally mobile. And I am a mom on the moon.

As our son was approaching 16 months old, he was at the tail end of the usual age range that babies start walking. But, he was too busy "driving" his cars and trucks, pronouncing the word "tractor" flawlessly, and throwing a ball like a 5 year old to care.

For weeks, I asked him multiple times a day, "Will, are you STANDING?"
He would flash his toothy grin at me with great pride. "Yeh! Yeh!" He clapped his hands.

"That is soooooooo good!" Do you want to walk today?"
He would smile at me angelically, with just a hint of mischief in his bright eyes, and slowly shake his head, singing, "Nooooo."

So, one morning recently when I asked him, "Do you want to take a step?" I expected his usual negative response. I think he thought this was actually a game. And he was winning, clearly.

"Go ahead. You can do it," I coaxed him from 5 feet away.

"Ma-ma," he said softly, as his little bare feet took their first couple of wobbly steps across his foam play mat in my direction. He fell on his tush and said, "Boom."

I could not believe my eyes. "You WALKED! You WALKED!" I swooped him up into a bear hug and cheered and hollered for his daddy to come see. I danced around the living room with him, laughing.

I was so ecstatic I could have popped open a bottle of champagne, yelled to all of my neighbors to come witness this vision. I debated calling the local news stations where I used to work. ("Yes, I have breaking news! My baby just took his first steps! Send a news crew immediately! And get the chopper up for aerial views!")

My husband ran in and grabbed the video camera and Will took step 1, step 2, "Boom." He clapped his hands and grinned. And he was right back up on his feet. Step 1, step 2, "Boom!" I'm sure watching his mommy and daddy lose their minds cheering probably didn't help his concentration much. But it was a milestone to be celebrated, and that we did.

The moment I saw my baby take his first steps, I wondered about all of the places that his feet would take him throughout his life. I hoped that he would always be safe and surrounded by as much love and joy as he was in that moment. And I felt with great certainty that when he went step, step, "boom," he would always get back up again.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Dear Mr. Air Conditioning Repair Man,

I was hot in utero, I was born hot, always been hot, I'm hot. Okay?

I would be much more comfortable up to my ears in a snow drift right now, waiting for you, than here in my condo, roasting in this hellish humidity, counting down the seconds til my doorbell rings.

I just ate a popsicle. Stuck my head in the freezer. Nothing. No relief.

My forehead is sticky, my patience worn thin. I just called your boss for the 4th time in 12 hours. Thankfully, she did not refer to me as, "Ma'am," this time. She actually gave me good news. She said the part is in and you're on your way.

I have never been so excited to see anyone in my entire life. I would cook you a feast fit for a king if: a.) I could cook and b.) I wasn't worried about steaming up my kitchen even more than it already is. Come to think of it, I could probably grill you a filet right on my dining room table.

(Knock, knock, knock!)

The gods must be crazy!

Here you are!


You're not the same gentleman who tried in vain to fix my air conditioner for hours last week (in between chatting about your baby when you couldn't help but notice mine who was driving his trucks around the living room). I don't care who you are. You are wearing a shirt with an air conditioning company logo on it and you have a small toolbox and that is good enough for me.

"Oh, it's cool in here," you say as you enter my front door.

"You must be coming from hell," I say. My thermostat reads 81. My son's sometime straight hair is in all of its Jew-fro glory.

"Can I get you a drink? Anything?" I ask as if I'm on a first date.

"Not right now, but do you have a stool I could use?"

"Of course, you could use this, or that, stand on my shoulders, whatever you need."


I remember a few years ago when my cable was out for a week, I flipped. I called the cable company, "Please, take my oven, my stove, my bathroom, I don't care, just not my cable!"

Now I can appreciate what an idiot I was back then. Air conditioning is vital.

Sir, just hearing you puttering around on my balcony right now warms (or rather cools) my heart.

Please, please, please, Mr. Air Conditioning Repair Man, you suburban superhero, sitting on my dainty little stool where I iron my hair every morning, please make sure my air is kickin' once again. I want to rest peacefully tonight under my down comforter and pretend I'm hunkered down in the middle of a February snowstorm.

As for now, I'm melting. I don't think I'm fit for this climate. I was hot in utero, I was born (in August) hot as hell, always been hot, I'm hot.


One Hot Mama

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

My son zooms around our living room on a baby Harley. He does the "vroom vroom" and all.

He fills and empties his dump truck and carries a Thomas the Train bath toy with him most of the time.

He "reads" car brochures in his spare time and points out every truck and school bus on the road. He can identify the sunroof, window, windshield, and steering wheel. He has never met a vehicle he doesn't like, and that includes wheel barrows and wheelchairs. His face lights up when he sees wheels of any kind and he usually yells, "Whoa!"

I read an article recently, titled, "Even 9-month-olds choose gender-specific toys," and I witness this phenomenon every day with my son. He went gaga for cars and trucks and soccer balls and footballs at about 8 months old. And, it's been off to the races ever since.

I seriously think he is counting down the days until he gets his drivers' license.

He's 16 months old and he sees cars wherever he looks. He picks up a shoe and pushes it along the floor, "Vrrrooom." He transforms plates and even Cheerios into tiny steering wheels and turns them back and forth, with sound effects.

It's amazing to watch. Nature definitely has him wired to love wheels.

Sure, he'll entertain the thought of playing with a baby doll in my old bedroom at my parents' house. He blinks nervously when "Nicole" gets too close to his face and sometimes claps his hands and rolls his arms to impress her. After a few minutes, he yells, "Caar, car," with a Boston accent. And he's moving right along.

He squeals when he sees men working in our development and I make sure to take him outside to see the cement mixers or diggers or whatever equipment is on the job.

CRAZY OLD NYMPHO NEIGHBOR LADY asks, "Whada ya want em to grow up to be a truck driver?"

I smile and respond, "He can be anything he wants to be."

Needless to say, CRAZY OLD NYMPHO NEIGHBOR LADY is not the sharpest pencil in the drawer. Just because my son is obsessed with cars, trucks, and tractors doesn't mean he's going to become the next Mario Andretti, or haul furniture
cross-country for a living, or marry an Amish woman and work on a farm in Lancaster. And, if he did choose any of the aforementioned occupations, I would support him 100%.

As for now, my baby boy has the need for speed, and whatever makes him happy, (within the speed limit) makes me happy too.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Once in a While, You Get Shown the Light

July 1, 2007 started out as an unremarkable day.

We drove to the shore for my nephew's birthday party on the beach. After a long day of playing with 60 children in the sand and hanging with family and friends, we took a walk on the boardwalk just before sunset. I wore my Wonder Woman flip flops. He suggested we walk on the beach, towards the pier.

His face turned dark, somber, as we strolled along the surf. He said that being at the shore reminded him of his grandmom and how much he missed her. I wrapped my arms around him. We sat down in the sand, watching the waves breaking gently on the shore.

"I had a dream about her the other night," he whispered.

"Was it a good dream?"

"She was wearing some crazy dress and I was telling her all about you," he said, as a couple of tears streamed down his face.

"What did you tell her?" I asked.

“I met this girl, grandmom, and she's the most wonderful person I've ever met . . . I love her so much….I’m going to marry her…and have children with her…and be with her for the rest of my life….”

I responded, “Well, that sounds like a great dream…what was her response?”

“She said, 'Well, what are you waiting for?!'”

Suddenly, while hugging him, I felt him fumbling in his pocket and I started shrieking, “Babe, you’re freaking me out, what are you doing?!”

He dropped down to one knee in the soft sand and pulled something bright out of his shorts pocket. In a sheer panic, I tried to yank him back up to his feet.

"Will you marry me?"

I saw light transfer from his hand to mine and dance back and forth between us.

Monday, June 28, 2010

So Long, Farewell, auf Wiedersehen

Regrettably, there was no Dunkin' Donuts farewell party for me in the firm cafeteria this morning when I arrived to collect my belongings.

I whisked my little boy through the front entrance in his stroller and down the hall.

"This is where Mommy used to work."

My name plate was still hanging outside my office door. All of my personal effects had been boxed up by a legal assistant already. There wasn't much work to be done or celebrating to be had. I, at the very least, deserved doughnuts, or so I thought.

It's been one year since I learned in a 30 second "conversation" over the phone that my maternity leave had morphed into "eternity leave." Of course, in the past year, I have earned the title, "Employee of the Month (or make that Year)," (along with many of you, I imagine). So, today, when I packed up my car's back seat with my framed diplomas, state bar admissions certificates, and my super cool personal note from Spike Lee, it was bittersweet.

I had my baby with me, two strollers from his fleet, two blankies from his collection, a Thomas the Train bath toy, a little fire truck and a stray plastic fish. I watched him doze off in my rear view mirror, his chubby cheeks pink from the record heat. All was right in the world.

I don't remember what was playing on the radio, but in my head, I heard:

There's a sad sort of clanging from the clock in the hall
And the bells in the steeple too
And up in the nursery an absurd little bird
Is popping out to say "cuckoo"
Cuckoo, cuckoo

Regretfully they tell us Cuckoo, cuckoo
But firmly they compel us Cuckoo, cuckoo
To say goodbye . . .
. . . to you

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night
I hate to go and leave this pretty sight

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu
Adieu, adieu, to yieu and yieu and yieu

So long, farewell, au revoir, auf wiedersehen
I'd like to stay and taste my first champagne

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye
I leave and heave a sigh and say goodbye -- Goodbye!
I'm glad to go, I cannot tell a lie

I did leave one thing behind. Underneath my name plate on the door, I wrote on a post-it:

"is gone on eternity leave."

In the meantime, life certainly goes on . . .

Friday, June 18, 2010

Have I Told You That I Love You Today?

My dad used to ask me this every morning before I headed off to school. He was handsome, charming, and a true gentleman.

Having grown up in the age of free love and rebellion, my dad was also wild and unpredictable. From spontaneous whipped cream fights to screaming contests at the dinner table, he believed that childhood should be one thing and one thing only: happy.

My dad would wake us up at 11pm to catch the midnight Rocky Horror Picture Show on South Street. We would take road trips to Disney World at a moment’s notice, with him howling in excitement at the thought of riding the backwards roller coaster in pitch darkness.

On Halloween, my dad would bust out his legendary collection of costumes. He would run around the house in capes, monster masks, and do just about anything to spook trick-or-treaters, even jumping out of a rocking chair and right through the front window screen.

My dad was always cold, ever since his army days, when he patrolled the German border, through frigid winters. He wore flannel pajamas in July and pleaded for a “hot dinner” every night. He always made sure that we were warm too.

He bought me red fuzzy feet-in pajamas until I was 15 and constantly worried that my bedroom was drafty. Suspecting a problem with the insulation, one day my dad decided to investigate. Wearing his favorite Cole Haan loafers, he slipped into my bedroom closet and busted through to a crawl space. He accidentally stepped off a wooden beam and onto the insulation, which sent him crashing through the ceiling. He landed downstairs, in the dining room, covered in plaster and dust, inches away from the glass table, on his feet! Home improvement was not my dad’s forte, but still, he was our hero, always holding down the fort for his girls.

My dad loved having daughters. He appreciated the little things, like our all day shopping sprees, impromptu “fashion shows,” and the smell of chocolate chip cookies wafting from the kitchen or our Betty Crocker Easy-Bake Oven.

There was just one thing that made my dad absolutely nuts: boys. Let’s just say he was slightly protective. Okay, overprotective. He once threatened an 8 year old neighbor boy who threw pebbles at my sister at the bus stop. But that was nothing compared to the time he chased down and frisked some teenage boys- in his underwear- after they turfed our front lawn at 2 a.m. Or the time he warned an oral surgeon to be gentle while extracting wisdom teeth from my sister and me. (My dad scared the surgeon so much, HE had to be extracted from the office!) My dad always made it clear that his girls were the most important things in his life. He warned a former boyfriend of mine as we were departing for a week in Alaska, “Look, if you see a bear, let the bear eat YOU, tell Stacy to run!”

My dad is young and vibrant, but he’ll tell you he has the mileage. He also has soul. He, who inspired, loved, and cherished us, who lectured us on everything from the lyrical genius of Bob Dylan to the “righteousness” of salmon, who never got rid of my size 3 red cowboy boots in his closet, has something in him that is pure magic.

Maybe it's in his love of nature and garden creatures and shamans of all kinds. Maybe it's in his "isms," such as, "If you're not a little weird, you're not worth knowing." Maybe it's because he's not above speaking to a dog. Maybe it’s the way he twirls us on the dance floor or makes elegant widows feel like schoolgirls again. Maybe it’s the way he delights in hearing his beautiful grandsons say the words, “Pop pop.” Maybe it’s the way he loves my mom, his high school sweetheart, who could not have possibly imagined the journey she was in for when she hopped on his 1965 Triumph motorcycle.

The magic of my father is woven so deeply into every thread of my life. From the steamy summer nights when we’d catch lightening bugs in the backyard, barefoot, in our pajamas, to the long walks on the beach, jumping waves in the ocean, and feeling the sun shining so bright on our faces. Through every season of every year, that magic left a trail of unforgettable memories. Like the time my dad put down the roof of his convertible and drove us through a beautiful snowfall, with us wrapped in mohair blankets, to our new home. He was never short on creativity.

I don’t know if a father is born with this magic or it simply emerges the first time he sets eyes on his newborn baby. I do know that something magical passed down from one generation to the next when my dad asked me, day after day, with a glimmer in his eye, the very same question I would ask him this Father’s Day,

“Have I told you that I love you today?”

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

First Father's Day

“I wish it was the 1950s and I could hang out at a bar, smoking a cigar with my buddies while you’re in the delivery room,” my husband sighed, half-joking. He told me this at least once a week throughout my pregnancy.

“Sorry, it’s 2009, and you’ll be in the room!” I explained for the hundredth time, rolling my eyes. “This is all part of the deal.”

“Alright, I’ll be there, but I’m not watching,” he insisted.

When the time came, during a rare March snowstorm, not only did my husband make good on his promise, he even watched.

He watched as I labored on our sofa for 6 hours. He massaged my feet and timed my contractions, jotting down each time he saw me close my eyes and grimace.

He watched as the pain grew more intense. He placed a cool wet washcloth on my forehead and called the doctor.

He watched as I got an epidural. He held my hand when my heart rate dropped and told me about the road trip we would take this summer.

He watched as 10 hours ticked by and doctors and nurses rushed in when the delivery grew complicated. He stood by my side and wiped the hair off my forehead.

He watched as I pushed. He cheered for me, squeezed my hand, and reminded me to breathe.

He watched when our baby boy willed his way into the world. He kissed me. He cried.

And I watched too.

I watched as he lifted our newborn son and kissed him. I saw his heart open and unconditional love flow out.

I watched how he cradled him like a tiny football.

I watched as he fed our baby and changed his diapers when I was in too much pain to do either.

I watched as he slept next to me on a chair in the hospital, never leaving my side.

I watched as he learned how to swaddle better than the maternity nurses.

I watched as he jumped out of bed in the middle of the night to feed our son.

I watched as he changed the baby’s clothes so delicately and bundled him up to keep him warm after his bath.

I watched how he spoke and sang to our son and how excited he was to see his first smile.

I watched as he told our baby boy all of the wonderful things we would do with him as he grew up.

In those seconds, minutes, hours, days, and endless nights, I watched my husband become a man. A father.

And so it is time that my husband gets his wish. For father’s day, in addition to our baby boy, the most precious gift in the world, I’m giving him that cigar that he wanted. He’s earned it. Happy Father’s Day!

(this appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News last year, but I thought it was worth reprinting in honor of my husband's 2nd Father's Day).

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Bad News Babysitter

Our babysitter can now add "DUI" to her resume.

Let me clarify: our FORMER babysitter, A.K.A. CRAZY OLD NYMPHO NEIGHBOR LADY.

Yes, the woman who brags about her sexual exploits the way other senior citizens boast of the polyester slacks they bought on sale at Loehmanns, now has a DUI under her girdle. At least in theory anyway.

She confessed to my husband that she hopped behind the wheel of her car all boozed up and bumped into a neighbor's car. Her front end damage tells the whole story. It was so bad that she's now driving a rental car, which has developed mysterious dents over the past week.

Did I mention that CRAZY OLD NYMPHO NEIGHBOR LADY doesn't see well either? That's when she's NOT liquored up. She's had various eye surgeries over the past year and she should have her driver's license confiscated or at least locked up in a safe with tiny numbers that only someone with 20/20 vision could see.

CRAZY OLD NYMPHO NEIGHBOR LADY was sipping tea at the small table outside her home yesterday. It was an odd sight to see her with a teacup instead of a wine glass.

"This is my new drink," she cackled to my husband. "Because one glass of wine turns into two, two turns into three, and then I get in my car and . . . "

You know the rest.

" . . . I get in trouble," she giggled, rolling her one good eye.

You're probably wondering why we would ever in a million years have this nut babysit our precious boy. Two reasons: guilt and desperation.

From the moment she noticed my protruding belly, CRAZY OLD NYMPHO NEIGHBOR LADY begged us to babysit. And, one night, we had a rehearsal dinner to attend and no sitter in sight.

We justified to ourselves, "CRAZY OLD NYMPHO NEIGHBOR LADY has a very big heart, loves our baby and our baby, too, gets a big kick out of her, especially when she plays "Bom Bom Butz" with him and they head butt one another.

Maybe it would be okay, for just a couple of hours?"

We called her. Within seconds, she was banging on our door like a disgruntled Census worker.

"Okay, here are our cell phone numbers, here is his bottle . . . "

"Can I just throw it in the crib with him?" CRAZY OLD NYMPHO NEIGHBOR LADY pondered.

"No, they don't do it that way anymore, you need to hold him while he has his bottle," I explained patiently, trying to ignore the fact that my recently ironed hair was starting to frizz from beads of sweat at my hairline.

"And here is his blanket that he sleeps with." I handed her a soft breathable baby blanket.

"We're fine, we're fine! Go 'head, go have fun!" she cackled.

As our dinner rolled on hour after hour, I pictured CRAZY OLD NYMPHO NEIGHBOR LADY holding my baby on one skinny hip, smoking a cigarette, mixing a gin and tonic, while pulling sizzling Shrinky Dinks out of my oven.

I threw back a vodka cranberry. I imagined her feeding my baby Pop Rocks, chasing them with a bottle full of Pepsi, and showing my son how to cruise the Internet for porn.

He's gonna be a good lover! CRAZY OLD NYMPHO NEIGHBOR LADY once told me after my 8 month old patted her cheek, as most babies do.

"Okay, that's it, time to go home!" I announced to my husband abruptly. I pushed back my chair and said the fastest fifty goodbyes possible.

We found CRAZY OLD NYMPHO NEIGHBOR LADY with wild bedhead from being curled up asleep on our sofa.

"He didn't want to sleep!" she bellowed, cackling. "So I brought him back out to play!"

"Was he good?"

"He's a doll! An absolute doll!" she yelled to the entire neighborhood. (Maybe she has hearing problems too?)

As I thanked her and showed her to the door, my husband tiptoed into the nursery to check on our son.

"He's fine, babe, he sleeping like an angel . . . " he reported on his way back to the kitchen.

"Thank God," I replied.

"But . . .

"What?" I spun around.

"he was sleeping with this . . . " He held in his hands a KING SIZED chenille throw blanket that we keep on our sofa.



"That CRAZY OLD . . ."

She must have brought him out to play and he probably started sucking his thumb and fuzzing the nearest blanket in sight, and then she probably tried to pry it out of his hands before carrying him back to his crib. He clearly won that battle (if it was a battle at all) and she figured, what the hell? It's a blanket. He can have it in his crib with him.

"I need another drink."

"He's okay, he's fine," my husband smiled.


Okay, what should you take away from this cautionary tale?

1. Do not let anyone babysit your child out of guilt.
2. Do not let anyone babysit your child just because you're desperate for a sitter.
3. Avoid a babysitter who has at least one bum eye.
4. Avoid a babysitter who is approaching 80 years old and hits on your husband. Kind of.
5. Avoid a babysitter who has a DUI, or by the luck of the draw, avoided getting one. Don't go anywhere near her while she's in a vehicle.

As for CRAZY OLD NYMPHO NEIGHBOR LADY, she still holds a dear place in our hearts. However, she will never babysit my boy again and if she wants to come over and play, fine, but I am putting away my son's fleet of vehicles. If she wants to hop onto my baby's Harley, dump truck or red wagon, she'll need to pass a Breathalyzer first!