Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Employee of the Month (No, make that Year)

I have an office in a fancy law firm with my name etched on a plate next to the door. It sits barren.

My college and law school diplomas, Bar and federal court admissions certificates, files, law books, and photos from my wedding collect dust in that office. They are all that's left of me at the firm.

But just because I have a vacant office and no job doesn't mean I'm not working.

Do you know how many hours I have billed over the past month? Year?


I don't fill out timesheets anymore. Time keeps on ticking and my days turn into nights turn into days.

No reason to write down "1.5 hours" for "Singing multiple songs while holding a toddler still on the changing table with one hand, picking up a plastic fish on the floor with my toes and using the other hand to change a diaper." It seems odd to jot down ".5 hours" for "Reviewing Babyproofing Videos on YouTube." And it clearly doesn't make sense to document "2.5" for "Reciting the alphabet," or "6.5" for "Identifying (and cheering loudly for) trucks on the road, in books, and on television."

My rewards these days don't come in the form of a paycheck. The "direct deposit" that I get now is not wired to my bank account, but to my soul. Payment comes daily in the form of smiles, kisses, chubby little hands literally patting my back as I carry my son around like a doll on my hip. Or when my husband tells me every now and then, "You don't know how much it warms a dad's heart to know that his son is so well loved and cared for every day."

One of these days, I'll retrieve my diplomas, certificates, files, law books, and wedding photos from "my" office, if my electronic key card still works. They, of course, are prized possessions for all that they represent. But, what is truly priceless to me is time.

This time.

It only happens once.

And I don't need an office in a fancy law firm to define my fulfillment.

All I need are MY two partners.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Another Mutter

It had been exactly 13 weeks since I last attended spinning class.

That break allowed me the opportunity to erase all memories of my bruised behind and lazy legs. It was the perfect amount of time for me to convince myself, yet again, that spinning might be fun.

Little did I know that there would be a new member in the class. Or should I say, a new member "with child."

There is a new pregnant spinning chick. (It appears that the original pregnant spinning chick, about whom I blogged months ago, has taken a week off to spin out her baby).

I am shocked and sort of appalled that there are at least two women in the world, let alone my spinning class, who are crazy enough to spin while 9 months pregnant.

Am I just "old school?"

Are pregnant women in 2010 that much more aggressive in their fitness regimens than pregnant women were in 2009 (when I was pregnant)?

I can tell you that my idea of exercise was huffing and puffing up my stairs, rolling over in bed, and running frantically from my living room to the toilet to flush a stink bug (when my husband wasn't home to save the day).

Are ob/gyns recommending spinning these days instead of Lamaze class?

Seriously, what will be next for the pregnant people? Zip-lining? Pregnant paintball? Heli-skiing?

The only thing that shook me out of these endless thoughts was the spinning teacher's entrance.

She bounced in the door on her perfectly tanned and toned legs, all amped up. As she hoped on her bike in the center of the room, she announced to the class:

"Alright, everybody, I have fresh legs today. I haven't worked out in a few days, although I danced for 5 hours the other night at my best friend's wedding. It was at the Mutter Museum. And I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND having a wedding there."

I hung my head and tried to conceal my smile. I felt like I was going to laugh as hard as I used to in 8th grade science class, which would frequently lead the teacher to kick me out of class and make me stand on one square of linoleum in the hallway.

She did NOT just say "Mutter," I chuckled to myself.

A WEDDING? At the MUTTER? This idea was, by far, crazier than puffing up fake hills on a stationary bike with a basketball of a baby under your tank top.

I imagined the bride and groom posing with Grover Cleveland's tumor.

I must respectfully disagree that the Mutter would be a perfect spot for a wedding, (unless you're marrying Marilyn Manson). A funeral, Halloween party, rave, or brief 3rd date at the Mutter? YES. Nuptials? NO.

And, my suggestion on spinning while 9 months pregnant: Do it at your own risk. I'll stick with the zip line.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Mutter, May I?

I'm considering a donation to the Mutter Museum.

For those of you who have not had the pleasure of visiting the Mutter, it's a museum in Philadelphia "founded to educate future doctors about anatomy and human medical anomalies."

I am not considering a monetary donation. I would like to donate Lucille. So that she may educate future doctors.

I think Lucille (my lipoma, which I plan to have removed from my back in a few weeks) would be right at home with the Mutter's "collection of over 20,000 unforgettable objects, such as fluid-preserved anatomical and pathological specimens and skeletons."

I am not sure that Lucille would be considered a "one of a kind treasure" of the Mutter Museum, like:

The plaster cast of the torso of world-famous Siamese Twins, Chang & Eng,
Joseph Hyrtl's collection of skulls
the preserved body of the "Soap Lady"
the collection of 2,000 objects extracted from people's throats or
the cancerous growth removed from President Grover Cleveland.

But, still. I am pretty sure Lucille would be in good company with the "Soap Lady." She could cozy up to the torso of the Siamese Twins, and, no doubt, gross people out for centuries to come.

I also think a donation to the Mutter is particularly appropriate since it was the site of the 3rd date my husband and I shared. After our 1st date (drinks at Rouge) and our 2nd date (dinner at Radicchio), I thought we needed to try something off the beaten path.

I suggested the Mutter Museum. He was game. My husband claims he knew he wanted to marry me as he watched me stroll along the glass cases, grimacing at one medical abnormality after the next, repeating the word, "Ewwww! Eww! Ewww!"

"Check out Grover Cleveland's tumor!" he pointed out, with wonder and disgust all over his face.


"Did you see the 19th century stirrups and forceps?"


"I'm so nauseous, I have to get out of here," I finally confessed to him after 7.5 minutes in the museum.

"Perfect, let's go to brunch," he smiled. "That is, if you still have an appetite."

Just think, a century from now, Lucille could be the catalyst for another young couple's union. Their eyes might meet over a dusty glass display case containing Lucille. They might exhale lovingly the very same word at the very same time: "Ewwwwwwwww!" And the rest will be history. When their future grandchildren ask them how they fell in love, they will tell them one word:


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Other Woman

Yesterday, my husband received an email:

"You know you want me. Don't deny it.

That hussy.

Home wrecker.

He wasn't going to be fooled.

He replied:

"Good Day Lady Lucille,
I'm a happily married man who has a wonderful wife and little baby boy. Please seek opportunities in other homes. You're not
welcomed here!"


First she moved in on my upper back, now she's movin' in on my man!

"Lucy, your days are numbered in this house!" he tells her. She gets insulted.

I'm living in a bizarro episode of "Big Love," with a lipoma playing the role of another "wife." And I'm stuck with this bitch for at least a few more weeks.

In the meantime, I'm trying to make the best of it.

'"I'm taking Lucille to the playground," I'll say.
"Luce LOVED the fries at Elevation Burger!"
Clearly, I'm trying to expose her to a little culture before she leaves.

My friend, Bess, suggested that if I register for the Broad Street Run (10 mile race) next month, Lucille get her own bib number. Can you imagine if Lucille beats out the Kenyans to win the race? Now that would really be SOMETHING!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Yom Hashoah

We knew we were going to hell. Our worried parents had warned us, tried to protect us, but we insisted the journey would make us stronger.

Our faces resembled those of old weary passengers. A quick glance at each other's glazed over eyes quickly sent our focus to rest on something safer, our feet, perhaps, or the dusty floor of the car which carried us.

I shut my eyes, but horrific mental snapshots began to unravel as if played back on an old dusty movie reel. History book images of walking corpses, tattered shoes and mountains of nude bodies piled high like tires in a junkyard filled my mind as the dreaded hour drew near. The sun was radiant and eager to usher in the first day of spring.

Breathtaking German countryside whizzed by as my mind spun Hebrew school lessons of scarlet swastikas and mindless soldiers marching in perfect cadence into a macabre montage.

As the local train approached the station, schoolchildren with toothless grins and bright colored backpacks skipped by me and hopped down onto the platform, anxious to get a head start in their playful dash for home. Quietly dazed, my friends and I boarded a local bus en route to Dachau. Peering out of gray windows, I was greeted by a quaint European town that reminded me of so many others through which we had recently passed. I watched plump women riding bicycles with baskets full of groceries, fathers taking the hands of their children, lovers smiling and laughing and strolling through the streets.

I falsely reassured myself that this methodical, yet surreal, daily rhythm of life in Dachau must have been interrupted by the business of mass destruction--- the train loads of expressionless soldiers marching through barbed-wire into the army of the damned, the faint putrid smell of human carnage, the familiar cloud of smoke and quiet gray storms of raining ashes.

The German woman next to me read quietly as we passed one convenience store after the next. The colorful scenes of typical European life were swiftly interrupted by the jerking halt of our bus. Surrounded by suspicious glares of the locals as yet another group of foreigners gathered somberly, we disembarked to witness the town's greatest shame.

I braced myself, and slowly pushed through the entrance gate, reading "Arbeit Macht Frei," ironically boasting "Work Gives Freedom."

Inside Dachau, I separated from my two traveling companions. I paced through the museum, which once served as Nazi bunks and offices. The pictures, memoirs, letters, and prisoner uniforms on display painted a picture of unspeakable crimes. The haunted eyes, emaciated bodies, and pallid cheeks of prisoners bombarded my every move.

I paused in front of a photo of what appeared to be an elderly man, who actually was no more than twenty-five. I stopped to notice not his pain, but his radiant smile; incomprehensible is the capacity of the human poised between life and death to smile for the sake of a photograph and the hope of emancipation. I gazed into the bewildered eyes of living female corpses who, with closely shorn hair and figures which no longer curved, were almost indistinguishable from the male prisoners.

I pushed through the museum's heavy metal doors and stepped outside. Surrounded by death, I shivered in spite of the luminous rays of spring sunshine. As I shuffled down the gravel walk towards the center which once served as the "roll call" square, never shifting my focus from the silent imposing watch towers, I pictured cold and lifeless puppets marching endlessly in a funeral procession for the living, a privilege that the dead would never know.

I envisioned the endless rows of feet which stood, frost-bitten, exhausted, bloated, bleeding, jammed into ragged shoes two sizes too small, barely able to support the diminishing frames of skeletons. I recalled the strength of souls resolved not to be broken by any manifestation of evil, fighting to the bitter end to maintain a thread of dignity. Rocking softly on throbbing heals to find heat, occasionally sneaking a pinch to the cheeks to circulate blood, here they would gather, in every season, waiting to be judged.

They struggled to appear healthy regardless of the most excruciating pain, because one sign of illness meant imminent death. I felt the presence of innocent people from all over Europe: the Pole, Hungarian, Italian, Russian, the condemned, collected from all corners of the map, united here under the sadistic reign of Hitler.

I could hear, "Achtung, Jude!" the familiar shrill command which echoed throughout the square, collapsing the multitude of national identities into one, as the prisoners were called to judgment. Barking SS commanders pointed this way or that way; one towards life and a grunt signifying death. The unmerciful game of selection.

In the center of the square, once marked by thousands of bodies unable to dodge the constant hail of bullets from the towers, a monument had been erected depicting a mass of tangled bodies with agony stretched across their faces. The words "Never Again" inscribed in various languages at the base of the sculpture screamed out to the conscience of each visitor making this journey.

I was suddenly approached by a young man. Through a thick German accent and the help of his cameraman, he introduced himself as an Austrian journalist who was investigating visitors' reactions to Dachau for his newspaper.

"I don't know where to start," I began in a distant and unfamiliar voice, finding that my tears flowed easier than my words. "I....I am Jewish..." I continued slowly and clearly, "My grandfather fought against the Nazis in the war....he....he shot down a plane...liberated a camp in grandparents have friends who are survivors. I've seen their numbers...their tattoos," I rambled, pointing to my arm, as my eyes at last allowed a defiant tear to fall.

"Wan more," he reassured me. "Why vizit Dachau?" I choked back tears threatening to boil over. I leaned in close to the Austrian and whispered, "Every human who enters these gates to remember the past liberates the souls of those who lost their lives here again and again."

Walking the overwhelming grounds in silence, past rows of lifeless trees planted ironically by dying prisoners, I noticed only the concrete foundations of the original thirty barracks remained. A bulldozer had helped clear the conscience of this average German town thirty years ago. As I crossed over a tiny stream to reach the furthest spot of the camp, a floating duck, unaware of the barbed wire and the unmarked grave of masses beyond the hill caught my attention.

I approached the incomprehensible. Standing inside the gas chamber that was disguised as a shower room I envisioned the horror, felt the masses of whimpering bodies who would have stood suffering in solitude.

Finally, I entered the crematorium. I stood transfixed, picturing an assembly line of grotesquely twisted bodies entering the furnace, churning out heaps of gray ash floating softly down to the cold stone floor. Dead red roses marking the site in remembrance caught my eye and in an instant interruption of my flow of conscious, my head began to pulsate as if it might burst, as my entire being longed to scream out, "My God, how many died here?!!!" I stood alone, staring into hell, sensing angels at my side. All I could think was we were all in the wrong place.

Outside now, searching for my two friends, I cautiously allowed myself one picture- something to show my family and friends at home. I carefully chose the location of the main entrance and quickly snapped a photo of the gate ajar, symbolizing the freedom that would never be for so many.

My thoughts immediately turned to my grandparents, living luxuriously in Miami, beautifully tanned, and probably out at the "early bird special," laughing over a bowl of matzo ball soup. Overwhelmed by the urgency to escape, I collected my friends on this magnificent April afternoon, pushed through the heavy gate and walked briskly away from the barbed wire.


In honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, take a minute to remember:

"Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart." - Ann Frank

“Remember the past to make a better future, always have hope, and never give up. Be a true friend even in hard times!” - Gerda Weissmann Klein

"I decided to devote my life to telling the story because I felt that having survived I owe something to the dead and anyone who does not remember betrays them again." -Elie Wiesel

“The aims of life are the best defense against death.” - Primo Levi

"The Holocaust is not only a tragedy of the Jewish people, it is a failure of humanity as a whole." -Moshe Katsav, Israeli President

"Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world." - Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 4:8 (37a)

Friday, April 9, 2010


A few weeks ago, I felt a strange lump in the upper left part of my back. I assumed it was a knotted muscle, but it felt more like a third shoulder when I moved my hand across it. Gross.

I dismissed it. Forgot about it.

Then, the other night, after begging my husband for a massage, he felt it too.

"WHAT IS THAT? You need to get that checked out."

Great. Now he had me convinced that the clock was winding down on my days left on earth. I thought: should I plan a safari in Kenya? Nah. Should I ignore his comment and the gigantic growth the size of half a tennis ball? Nah. Should I, against my better judgment, research online what this ball in my back is, in the hope of finding a benign explanation? Yes.

"Lipoma, that's got to be it," I thought as I read about a fairly common benign cyst. Of course, I was just hoping that was it. It could have been something else, something terrible.

Yesterday, I went to the doctor. My blood pressure was off the charts because death still seemed a distinct possibility, not to mention the fact that my son's snacks were running low and he was whining for more while watching me from his stroller. My doctor gave a two second check of the lump and confirmed, "It's a lipoma, benign, you should probably get it removed."

Why do I have it? What causes it? Apparently, modern medicine does not provide all of the answers.

"Why anything," my doc replied, smiling, "Have your blood pressure checked again, now that you know you're going to live." Ha. Ha.

So, as much as I've enjoyed carrying around this 1/2 baseball in my back, I think it's time to say goodbye. And, before I say goodbye, I think it's fitting that I name this lump and share her story with you all, in case you too find yourself with unwelcome company at some point.

I will call her Lucille Lipoma. We will treat her like a temporary member of our family. But, we will celebrate when she leaves, which I hope is sooner than her May 3rd ticket out of town. If anyone knows anyone who knows anyone who can get me a quicker appointment with Dr. Greenbaum on Walnut Street, I would appreciate that greatly. I'm not gonna lie, Lucille is cramping my style.

But the good news is, I'm going to live.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Shed a Little Light

by James Taylor.

Let us turn our thoughts today
To martin luther king
And recognize that there are ties between us
All men and women
Living on the earth
Ties of hope and love
Sister and brotherhood
That we are bound together
In our desire to see the world become
A place in which our children
Can grow free and strong
We are bound together
By the task that stands before us
And the road that lies ahead
We are bound and we are bound

There is a feeling like the clenching of a fist
There is a hunger in the center of the chest
There is a passage through the darkness and the mist
And though the body sleeps the heart will never rest

Shed a little light, oh lord
So that we can see
Just a little light, oh lord
Wanna stand it on up
Stand it on up, oh lord
Wanna walk it on down
Shed a little light, oh lord

Can't get no light from the dollar bill
Don't give me no light from a tv screen
When I open my eyes
I wanna drink my fill
From the well on the hill

(do you know what I mean? )
- chorus -

There is a feeling like the clenching of a fist
There is a hunger in the center of the chest
There is a passage through the darkness and the mist
And though the body sleeps the heart will never rest

Oh, let us turn our thoughts today
To martin luther king
And recognize that there are ties between us
All men and women
Living on the earth
Ties of hope and love
Sister and brotherhood

Friday, April 2, 2010

An Electronic Embrace

There is a ton of crap on the Internet. We've all glossed over inane postings on Facebook: "OMG! My dog just barfed all over the kitchen floor."


It is odd that we are all more connected than ever before, but much less connected at the same time. So, it came as a surprise, even to me, that the other day, I reached out and actually made a connection with a woman whom I barely know over Facebook.

It all started when I slipped on my gray Georgetown t-shirt from 1990. It's as thin as paper and as soft as a baby's blanket. I bought it for a friend who loved Georgetown basketball. A friend who passed away way too soon, at the age of 16. I bought the t-shirt to remember him.

In the past 20 years of traveling, gallivanting through college, moving a dozen times, giving away heaps of clothing to good will, I refused to part with "Matthew's" t-shirt. It would have been like parting with a cherished friend. And because I remember my cherished friend every time I slip into this t-shirt, I decided to reach out to his mother.

I composed an email to her, telling her that I have never forgotten her son, his heart and his spirit. I was nervous that my note might dredge up painful memories of the car accident that stole her son. But I took a chance.

And she wrote back, thrilled to hear from me. She was kind enough to congratulate me on the birth of my own son. We exchanged a few more messages and decided we would meet next time she's in Philly.

And then something else amazing happened. I received an email from Matthew's niece, who was born 7 days before he passed away. I provided some funny and poignant memories about her uncle whom she never had the opportunity to meet. I told her how he was a basketball star in school and camp and he had the nickname, "Magic." I told her how he and I commiserated in 9th grade biology class together and how we loved rap music and Camp Akiba. I told her how Matthew had taken his allowance money and bought basketball sneakers for a teammate who could not afford them. I told her how he was a caring friend, a sweetheart, a person whom everyone loved.

It was so simple to reach out over the Internet. It was so refreshing to send messages that actually meant something to me and to the recipients. It was as easy as slipping on my Georgetown t-shirt and imagining the warm embrace of my friend.

If any of you who happen upon this blog would take 1 minute out of your day to post a comment or memory about Matthew Greenburg (if you knew him), that would be fantastic. We could send his family a gigantic electronic embrace. I don't think there is any better use of modern technology than to reach out and send some love. And, we all know, what goes around, comes around.