Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Awkward Years

The other day I wrote about our 6th grade class making a movie for Coronet Films. The movie was called "Courtesy at School". I may have mentioned that, gratefully, I was in 1 very fast shot. 6th grade was definitely not my best time or look, for that matter. If you look up the word "awkward" in the dictionary, I am certain my 6th grade picture will be there.

To say I looked even remotely like the person I am now or for that matter have been since my late teens, would not even be close. For I truly was an "ugly duckling".
I often wonder what a different turn my life would have taken had I realized in my 20's that I was truly beautiful, instead of always feeling like an "ugly duckling". My baby fat didn't disappear from my face until my mid twenties.

When I look at pictures of me in my 20's and 30's, I think to myself "I was gorgeous". I just didn't know it and therefore had very low self-esteem. It makes one wonder how different life might have been had I just a little more self-esteem. Certainly not conceit. Just some confidence. It makes me wonder if my life would have been different.

Would I have chosen different paths? Would I be in a different place now? Probably not, it seems we are often destined to take the path we end up on. But, it does make you wonder. Would my life have been more glamorous? Would I have married a different man?

I know that if I had, I would not have gone through the experiences that have made me the woman I am today. However, one does wonder! It seems I've turned out very well. My confidence is very high although I am still humble, maybe. At 63 I think I'm a "babe". What would have happened if I realized at 25 that I was a "babe"?

My belief system is such, that I truly believe that "going through the fire" makes us stronger. Much like molten lead, that finally becomes steel. That is what hard times does for us. We grow, we become strong and hopefully people who know how to make the best of every situation that we face.

My life has gone, I believe, just where it was meant to go. I am told that I am a good person with good ideals. Fortunately, I married a man who holds dear the same beliefs I do, that one gives back to society for all that we have been given. That we are grateful for the life we live and the people who make our life more rich every day. That we have been blessed with wonderful children and grandchildren. So I think I am truly where I belong. I am a very lucky woman...who just happens to be a "babe".

With confidence and love,


"Courtesy At School" Our Wonder Years

My friend Leni Jane and her husband Michael were in California a couple of weeks ago. Leni Jane, whom I have known since Freshman year at Maine East High School in Park Ridge, IL, is a wonderful friend. She has enriched my life so much over the years. I doubt she realizes how much. Anyway, I digress as usual. When she came back from California, she emailed all of us her pictures from California. We have been out of high school for some time now.

There were 2 faces I immediately recognized and the rest were all a group of strangers. Funny how we change over the years. Of course, WE don't think we've changed, just everyone else has! I emailed her and said, "who are those people"? Leni Jane replied with everyones name. The memories just came flooding back. If we don't think about someone for a long time, it's as if they had no impact on our lives.

When we see them again, it's as if we had been in contact forever and amazingly, a new friendship starts. It is extraordinary! When many of us were in 6th grade at Ballard School (no longer there), we made a movie for Coronet Films which was a division of Encyclopedia Brittanica. The movie was an educational film called "Courtesy At School". The star of the film was, of course, the cutest boy in 6th grade...Tommy Hawkins. Now he is just Tom and looks exactly the same as he did when we were kids. Tom had a copy of the movie and showed it to Leni Jane and Michael.

Leni Jane, ever the organizer, wanted to know who we all were in the movie. You see, those of us who went to Maine East came from many different grammar schools. Leni Jane went to Lincoln, I think. But those of us at Ballard in 6th grade are in that movie.

I had a 35 mm copy for years which I recently sent to my friend Renee. Just before she got the copy I sent her, she had found our movie posted on the web at http://www.avgeeks.com/pivot/entry.php?id=165. Now, our Leni Jane who organizes all our reunions and is in touch with everyone who is still around from our enormous class of over 700 kids, wants to know who all was in this movie. The movie, is, as they say, a hoot!

Because of this moment in time, I have found a long lost friend, although, I'm not certain we were friends in the true sense of the word. We certainly were classmates from 6th to 12th grade. Now, I feel this strong sense of friendship...perhaps, it is just nostalgia. Whatever it is, it's nice.

Leni Jane has been emailing all of us to try to remember everyone who was in our movie. We have come up with many names, but not everyone. I suggested Leni Jane get in touch with Renee (you all know her from previous blogs). She has a mind like a steel trap and will remember almost everyone in the movie. I emailed her and, of course, she remembers so many of the kids, now grandparents in many cases, who were in our movie.

But the nicest thing that has happened to me, is the contact with Dwight. The reconnection is so nice. We have similar memories of those times, amazingly we are quite similar today. He has been married 3 times, unfortunately, he lost his 2nd wife at an age when they should have been planning a very long future. However, he is happily married again and has been for 17 years. He has grandchildren and sounds extremely happy. (What more could we want for the people who we knew when.)

We have been corresponding almost daily, sometimes just a quick note, sometimes more. I warned him, he would appear here. I don't think he minded. I am happy that he is happy. Now, if only I could find the rest of them...those people who appeared for a brief time in my life...from 6th to 12th grade.

What I wouldn't give to know where they all are. Are they happy? Did their lives turn out as they hoped? What a movie we could make now. Maybe we should..."Courtesy at School, The Sequel"!

If you are interested you should go to the site and watch this short, but actually, funny movie our 6th grade class at Ballard School in Des Plaines, Illinois made for Coronet Films.

Dwight, I'm so happy that you are happy...but watch out, The Dread Pirate Roberts may be lurking just behind the next corner.

With love on Christmas Day 2007,

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The 2 Most Important Words In The English Language

The 2 most important words in the English language are "I am". With those 2 words we commit ourselves to whatever we wish to do. "I am the leader people are looking for." When we put these words before a declaratory statement, we are, in fact, creating an affirmation for ourselves.

Affirmations are very powerful! If we write affirmations and put them up where we can see them daily, they will become real. Our lives can significantly change by putting out positive energy everyday. The key is to truly believe your affirmation. They must be written in the present tense.

I choose...I am totally committed to...I am capable of...Think of how amazing our lives will be if we are constantly reinforcing our inner voices with positive talk. Then add prayer to what you want for yourself. Of course, using the same tense. Now you've added your spiritual belief to your affirmation, making it even more powerful.

Commit totally to what you want. I choose to be healthy and therefore, I'm going for a 25 minute walk every morning. Imagine if you will, going to bed at night and your last thought is I am waking up at 6:30 in the morning, completely refreshed and ready to have a very productive day. I think you will wake up refreshed and ready to conquer the world.

It is, also, important to remember to thank your higher power for all the gifts you have. Even those who do not believe they have any gifts or blessings should look around. They will find them. Are you healthy? Are the people you love healthy? Are you lucky enough to have a roof over your head? Do you have people in your life that you love, who love you?

Your life may not be exactly what you want right now, but it can be better. Your life can be exactly what you desire. Write down what you want, work toward your goals every day. Before you go to sleep at night, look at yourself in the mirror and tell you, that you "love" you. When you get into bed tell yourself how you're going to feel in the morning. When you give, do it with an open heart, expecting nothing in return.

Remember, just a smile can be a blessing for the stranger you encounter who has had no one to smile at him/her in a long time. Life itself is an extraordinary miracle. Celebrate it every day.

With love,


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Life Just Keeps Getting Better

I believe that every day we have a choice. When we wake up, we can choose to "be happy" or we can choose "be miserable". Personally, I always choose to be happy. Extraordinarily it is when we choose to be happy, we are. Our choices are very important to how we live our life.

Have you ever noticed that when you are positive, everything that happens to you is, in fact, positive. Our minds are very strong and what we think and believe usually relates to our behavior. How others see us. I know this sounds simplistic, but the truth is, it is simple. Our thoughts create our behavior and the outcome of what we want for ourselves.

People who go around telling everyone how unhappy, miserable, broke, kids don't call, etc. usually are unhappy, miserable, broke and their kids don't call. Conversely, people who tell you that everything is wonderful, have everything. Health, happiness and kids who call! Many years ago, when I was quite young, I read a book called "The Magic Of Believing".

It was a time in my life when I needed some magic. That book taught me to be positive. To believe, truly believe that what I thought directly related to how the world would treat me. It was no surprise that I found a great job at a great salary and my life just got better every day. All because I changed my belief system.

The next time you have a negative thought, immediately replace it with a positive one and watch what happens. Your life will change before your eyes just because that voice in your head that talks to you, is now speaking positively. Affirming that you are worthy of everything you desire. Therefore, dear reader, as my friend Renee would say, "what have you got to lose". Try it. You might just discover that next year at this time...your life and you are in a better place.


Sunday, December 09, 2007


This certainly is the season of miracles. For the Jews, the reclamation of the Temple in Jerusalem with oil for the ark that was only enough for 1 day, burned for 8 days, ergo the celebration of Chanukah. For the Gentiles, this is the season of the birth of Jesus Christ who many believe to be "The son of G-d", "The Messiah".

Even though it is the season of miracles, it is tarnished by the rush to buy, buy, buy, instead of appreciating the miracles all around us. I believe miracles happen every day. We are just too busy to notice that a miracle just happened. Perhaps it is the smile that a stranger gives you as you pass or the accident that was so close, but didn't happen. It might be the $10.00 bill you find in a purse or jacket you haven't worn for a while or maybe a piece of jewelry that you thought was gone for good. These don't seem like miracles, but they are.

Every day new lives are born...they are miracles. People meet for the 1st time and something clicks. They know they will be together forever. A friend from whom you haven't heard gets in touch. Young men and women fighting a war they have no business fighting, are spared, perhaps for just 1 more day, perhaps so they can go home to the ones that love them.

You see, I believe in miracles. I always have and everday that I get to share with people I love is truly a miracle. One for which I am incredibly grateful. So believe in miracles. Before you know it, you will start noticing them.


Monday, December 03, 2007


Have you ever met someone for the 1st time and immediately felt a connection. You can't stop talking to one another, you don't run out of things to talk about and feel as comfortable as if you had known them your entire life. I believe that when we meet someone with whom we instantly connect that we have known them in a previous life.

There are those of you who don't believe that we come this way many times...I do. Perhaps it is because I don't believe this is all there is. Perhaps it is due to the fact that I have been to foreign countries and somehow knew what was around the next corner, even though I had never been there before. I've also had feelings of dread in a city I've never been to, half way around the world and just knew that something terrible had happened to me there.

Maybe I just have a screw loose...of course, those of you who know me, probably would agree with that. But, I have, for my entire life, at least to my earliest memory, believed that I lived before and I believe that I will live again. It just seems incredulous that this amazing journey called life simply ends. Those who believe in past lives, believe that we come back until we learn all the lessons we are supposed to learn.

When one thinks about this, logically, it explains why there are those who have so much, while there are people who have nothing and yet manage to live a life worth living. This enormous disparity is not random. At least my belief system is such that I believe it is not random.

Think about Mozart who at the age of 4 wrote his 1st concerto. There are so many child prodigies, how do these children know what they know at such young ages. If you believe as I do, it is simply that they have been here before and learned these things. Whether it's playing an instrument or being able to do complex math problems or whatever skill they have at a very young age.

Back to "Kismet", when we are lucky enough to meet someone with whom we have an instant connection, it is not coincidence. But rather, meeting an old friend which is why we are so comfortable so quickly. I'm certain that like me, you have people in your lives, usually relatives that you have known forever and yet you've never truly been comfortable with them, they just don't fit as well as someone you have just met.

One doesn't have to believe as I do, just be aware the next time you meet someone new...are you immediately at ease? Do you have people in your life that you have known forever and yet feel as if you are strangers? All I ask is that you think about it. You don't have to agree and you probably don't...but it should make you think!

Been here before,

Friday, November 30, 2007


It is late and I am awake! I was asleep until Rocky decided to get off the bed and then return. For some reason, when I am asleep, he doesn't use his stairs to get up on the bed. Rather, he comes to the side of the bed and "harrumphes" until I hear him and pick him up. By then, of course, I am awake. If only he wasn't so cute.

Those of us lucky enough to have animals to share our life will understand. Pets enhance our life by giving us true, unconditional love. When you come home they are at the door wagging their tail and letting you know you are the most important person in their life. Imagine, if you will, your spouse standing at the door shaking all over with glee because you have returned home. Now that takes a great deal of imagination.

I'm not certain I would allow my husband to wake me in the night and help him back to bed. It's not that he doesn't love me...he just is not as effusive as Rocky or Bullwinkle in showing that kind of love. If only we humans could show our loved ones how excited we are when they return home, in the same way our pets do. Marriages would certainly never be dull. Perhaps more of them would last longer.

Late night thoughts are not always as profound as we think when we look at them in the morning, but here goes.

Wouldn't life be better if we stopped complaining and instead felt grateful for every moment we are given on this earth. Without complaining we could turn a bad situation on it's ear and see it for what it truly is, nonsense. We need to remember that our thoughts create our reality. What we put out into the world comes back to us.

Think how wonderful it would be to let the people we care about that they are IMPORTANT to us every day. Without them their would be a hole in our soul. We need to remember that they are our blessings in life, not things. How easy it is to get off track and forget that it's our loved ones that count more than a new bag or piece of jewelry or a car. I think if we have all our needs and some of our wants...we should be grateful.

Material things can never give us love. But somehow they have become more important all the time. Our vision has become skewed. We have forgotten how the simple joys in life can fill us with happiness.

I was born 2 years before the "baby boomers". We lived on the near west side of Chicago. Like most families in that era, we lived close to one another. Our extended family was usually only walking distance, sometimes as close as the stairs. When I would come home from school in the afternoon, I would run into the house and let my mother know I was home and immediately go upstairs to my Grandmother who always had a glass of milk tea and a game of Casino for me.

Those memories are tucked away deep in my soul and if I need a lift I reach for this memory. On terribly hot nights we would sleep out on the porch or even better take blankets down to the lake with all the other incredibly warm people, spread our blanket and sleep like babies with a cool breeze coming off Lake Michigan.

I remember my Cousin Mel and I sitting on the front steps and watching the old Palmolive Beacon go around. We lived close enough to downtown to see it. To us it was like magic, this wonderful light in the sky that would make this enormous circle every couple of minutes and then be back in our vision. Of course the Palmolive building is no longer in Chicago and the beacon stopped years and years ago. But the memory of if lingers and fills me with delight.

Holidays the entire family gathered at one of our homes. Our mothers always brought something to add to the extraordinarily large dinner. I remember the night my Aunt Ida was bringing the Challah's and handed 2 bags to my Uncle Bill, one with the Challah's and one with the garbage that was to be thrown out.

Of course, the garbage ended up at our house and the Challah's in the garbage can. My Uncle Teddy and Aunt Eve would arrive and Uncle Teddy would announce "okay, we can eat now". Our homes were incredibly small, but somehow there was always enough room at the table for everyone and everyone pitched in.

After dinner the adults would play penny poker and tell dirty jokes. We were always sent out of the room to play our own games. What the adults didn't know is that we would sneak up the back stairs to hear their jokes. It is amazing how tame they were compare to the jokes of today.

We were such innocents. Life was simple and easy. Doors were left unlocked until my Dad went to bed at night when he would "lock up". I remember on very cold Chicago nights how many times my Dad would find a homeless man and usually give him the coat off his back, but not before he brought him home to have a hot meal with us.

Money was always tight, but we never needed much, just one another. How lucky we were. Perhaps that is why we have always been able to make do and the youngsters of today just can't. They don't know how to struggle or accept "no" for an answer. They need the newest gadget or the newest pair of sneakers.

We hear of Bar and Bat Mitvahs and Sweet Sixteens that cost hundreds of thousand of dollars. What is wrong with us. How are able to teach our most precious commodity, our children, the value of hard work or for that matter, that it is people that matter not things.

So now that I have come back to almost where I began, it is time to say good night. Time to go to bed and hopefully in my dreams see all those that I have lost and remember them and our life then.

Sweet dreams,

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

New Friends

A couple of weeks ago I received an e-mail from an e-mail address I did not know. I wrote and asked "who are u"? "How did you get my e-mail address"? The response I got was "I don't know how I got your address". So we played a little "Jewish Geography". No connection but obviously we were meant to meet one another.

She is an extraordinary woman. Stacy is involved in so many community projects and not just from the sidelines, but right in the middle of the huddle. I believe G-d meant for her to come into my life to get me more involved in important community projects.

We are going to meet face to face this coming Monday and I am so excited. For without ever meeting her, she has become someone very important to me. Someone who has already blessed my life with her presence. For many years I worked full time so I didn't get too involved in anything other than Opera. I was a docent for Lyric Opera of Chicago for many years. I would go to the various chapters and talk about the operas of the upcoming season. Additionally, the night of performances restaurants that offered a package (dinner, lecture and bus to the Opera house) would have me come to give that evenings' lecture.

But my joy was "Opera In The Classroom". We would go into classes from 2nd to 6th grade once a week for 4 weeks and teach the children about the different vocal ranges, the vocabulary of opera, tell them the story of an Opera and the last week, we would bring costumes and the children would pantomime to the musical excerpts that they had heard the previous week while the story of the Opera was told. It was a very special time in my life.

Once again, I have to opportunity to get involved in something and hopefully bring some joy into other peoples lives by just being there. Most people don't realize that when you give of yourself, you receive blessings ten-fold back. I believe that Stacy has come into my life to help me give of myself and somehow bring joy and happiness to others.

Thank you the G-d of "no coincidences" for bringing me Stacy. Even though we only know one another through e-mail right now, I just know we are going to be friends forever. It is extraordinary how blessings work...just like miracles they are around us all day. every day. All we have to do is look for them.

Truly blessed,

Monday, November 26, 2007

Giving Thanks

It has been quite a while since I have written anything. Today seems like a good day to write. We just celebrated Thanksgiving. It should be a time for reflection not just a day we stuff ourselves with food. My feeling is every day should be a day to give "thanks". Just opening our eyes in the morning is a really good reason to give thanks. The alternative is not good.

Or as my southern belle sister-in-law says, when asked how she is, her reply is "above ground". I realize that many of us have great hardships in our lives, or are lonely, or broke. However, I've learned that it is easy to complain...it is hard to be thankful when it seems as if the sky is falling.

I've also realized that we bring into our lives what we desire most. If we want to be happy we have to be happy. There are days when this is simply not easy. But if you wake up determined to be happy today, put a smile on your face and sometimes just pretend to be happy...it is very likely that by the end of the day you, truly, will be happy.

I believe we create our own reality. The more good feelings we put out, the more we will get back. It is important to not allow negative people into our lives. The reality these people create is negative and therefor they are miserable and who wants to be around misery.

Many years ago I read a book called "The Magic of Believing". It came into my life when I needed something to believe in. I soon came to realize, I needed to believe in me. Once I did, my life changed because I had changed, at least something in my brain had changed the way I looked at life.

I had a neighbor who never learned that "how are you?" is usually a rhetorical question, unless it's your mother or best friend asking. She always told you the worst things that were going on in her life. This was a woman who was married to terrific man, they had all their needs and I'm certain almost all their wants. Yet, she was always miserable. They had just come home from a 3 week vacation to San Francisco and Napa Valley. I saw her outside and said, "how was your trip"?

Her reply was, "how could it be...I have to make the reservations, I have to do the packing, I have to get us to airport and check us in, I have to get us to the hotel and check us in and then I have to do it all over again to get home". Her husband was blind in 1 eye. I said to her, "Ellen, Ronnie (my husband) has 20-20 vision and I have to do the same thing". So you see, dear reader, it is all in our attitude.

We can choose to have a great day or we can choose to be miserable. For me, I will always choose the great day...even if it isn't so great, I will make it so. I choose to be thankful for all I have. I choose to keep my palm open in giving and therefore good things come back to me. I choose to remember the people I love and keep them in my prayers. I choose to be happy!


Sunday, October 07, 2007

The State of Health Care

2 weeks ago my husband was hospitalized for pneumonia as well as blood in his stool. Jim is 82 and in good health. He does, however, take Coumadin, a blood thinner, because he has atrial fibrillation. Upon his admission many blood tests were required, as well as x-rays of his lungs. They did not, however, collect a stool specimen to identify whether he was truly bleeding internally. The doctors simply did a digital exam and ascertained that since his stool was black, he was bleeding.

When one takes Coumadin, it is advised to have a Pro-thrombin time blood test taken. Today it is commonly called INR, International Normalized Ratio. This is the rate at which one's blood clots. A normal PT is between 2 & 3. When Jim's was taken, his PT was 44, which meant he had water, not blood flowing in his veins. It certainly could explain why he was bleeding internally.

The doctors claimed the inordinately high PT was due to his fever and pneumonia. Needless to say, they immediately started to treat the high PT. However, they simply missed on his admission papers that he had pneumonia and was to be treated with I.V. antibiotic immediately. We waited all that 1st day, no antibiotic. At 8:00 p.m. they advised that I would have to leave. I foolishly assumed they would start the antibiotic that evening.

After all, they had already run a line for an I.V. and had started giving him plasma. Upon my return the next day, I asked him if they ever gave him an antibiotic. He simply did not know, so I went to the Nurse's station to inquire. The head nurse was sitting at the station so I asked, "have you started my husband's antibiotic"? She looked at me as if I had 2 heads and replied, "no antibiotic was ordered, it is not on the Dr's admission sheet". When I suggested that they may have overlooked it, after all he was admitted with pneumonia, she said "we wouldn't miss that".

Of course, they did. I stood there and asked to see his admission form. Of course, our Doctor had ordered antibiotics to be started immediately. It was now 24 hours later. After a lot of excuses as to how they missed it...it wasn't written in the right place...the pharmacy should have picked it up, etc. I suggested that they order the antibiotic immediately and start administering it. Had I not been there to advocate for my husband, who knows how long he would have been in that bed without antibiotics for his pneumonia.

On Thursday the Gastroenterologists did an endoscope to see if they could find bleeding in his stomach. By this time he had been give 6 pints of plasma and they still could not get his PT down. However, they decided that as long as he had been on liquids all week and had found nothing on the endoscope that they would do a colonoscopy on Friday. So that evening they had him prepare for his colonoscopy. If you have not had one you don't know how miserable the prep is. The test is easy, you are under light sedation. The prep is horrid.

Add to this he is schlepping around a large IV machine with minimally 4 bags of IV on it and he is weak from both the pneumonia and only a liquid diet for 5 days. On Friday morning I called the Nurse's station to see if he was back from the colonoscopy. They told me he had gone down, but it wasn't done.

I called my husband to ask why they didn't do the test. He said "the doctor told me there is something wrong with my blood and they don't want to take any chances so they were calling in a hematologist". By Friday morning, he had received 10 pints of plasma and the doctors had been telling me he was severely anemic. When I heard that they were calling in a hematologist my heart started to race.

In my 1st life I was a Medical Technologist. My specialty was abnormal hematology or only those cases that did not have normal blood. So upon hearing that a hematologist had been called, along with all the plasma he had received and the fact that he was anemic and they still had not found the source of the bleed, or tested his stool to see if blood really was present...or if it was the blueberry blintzes he had eaten Saturday night that turned his stool black...I was certain they were suspicious of a serious anemia, Pernicious or Hemolytic Anemia...or that his spleen was not producing red blood cells or that he had a leukemia. I got in my car and raced to the hospital for fear of missing the hematologist.

I shouldn't have rushed. The doctor didn't come in until after 3:00 p.m. When he arrived and I expressed my concern about why he was called, he told me "it's only because his PT is still too high". It would have been so easy for the GI doctor in the morning to simply say, "your PT is too high, I don't want to take a chance that I may nick you and you will bleed". Instead, he had to frighten us by saying, "there is something wrong with your blood". "I am calling in a hematologist".

It is incredibly important that we know our bodies. That we ask questions when we are uncertain about our care. Most importantly, we have to remember that doctors are not G-d's, but human beings who are not always right and don't always do the right things.

On Saturday, they did a colonoscopy on Jimmy as well as an upper and lower GI. They never found the source of the bleed. Of course, they also never tested his stool to see if he really was bleeding or if it, in fact, was the blueberry blintzes on the previous Saturday. By Monday, one week after being admitted to the hospital, his pneumonia was much better and his PT was coming back to normal, so they discharged him.

However, I believe that enormous stress could have been prevented, as well as unnecessary testing, if only they had done 1 simple test...for occult blood in the stool. You see, by Wednesday, the 3rd day he was in the hospital, his stool had returned to it's normal color.

One has to wonder how many people are killed in hospitals every year because they have no one to speak for them and the nursing staff misses something on a chart. Doctors do, what may be, unnecessary testing because they don't do the right test to begin with, or patients are just ignored if there is no one with them to continually question what is being done.

Health care is costing us millions of dollars per year. One cannot be without insurance and yet our insurance determines how much doctors should be paid. Perhaps this is why the care we get is not always the best care.


Sunday, September 23, 2007


Last night as the sun set, we Jews finished the last of our High Holy Days, or what is called "The Days of Awe". Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish year, for it is on this day that we are inscribed in "Book of Life" for the next year. To be Sealed in the Book of Life requires reflection on the past year and making amends for any wrongs one has done in the past year.

We have 10 days to do this..."The Days of Awe", from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur. We are to use this time right any wrongs we have done, make amends to anyone we might have hurt. For we are to come before G-d with a clean slate, as it were. Were we kind? Were we thoughtful? Did we gossip about a neighbor? Perhaps, we did something worse. Perhaps we were unkind to our parents (if we are lucky enough to still have them). The 10 commandments tell us we are to "Honor our Mothers and Fathers".

Were our transgressions worse? Did we cheat or steal? All of these must be made right if we are to be Sealed in the Book of Life for the coming year. On Yom Kippur we fast for 25 hours. No food, no water. Nothing is to pass our lips. This is one of 4 fast days we have a year, but this is the most important one. For doing this helps us to atone for any sins we may have committed in the past year. It also allows us to realize that we can do anything we truly set our mind to, we don't have to give in to temptation.

This New Year is 5768. It is the 1st time in many years that I have joined a Temple and have participated in services. I have always believed in G-d, always considered myself spiritual but have felt for a very long time that something has been missing from my life.

What was missing was an affiliation with a Temple and celebrating all our Sabbaths, all our holidays. Last night when the Shofar (Ram's horn) sounded to close out the "Days of Awe", to end Yom Kippur, my soul was full.

It is extraordinary that we Jews are still here 5,768 years old. Why is it extraordinary? Because it seems that for almost all the years we have been on earth, someone has been trying to kill us. Hitler almost succeeded. After all, he killed 6 million of us and yet we still survive.

The State of Israel is approximately the size of New Jersey and yet it continues to thrive in a very hostile area. Our Torah survives. Every time it is brought out of the ark and we read the stories of the Old Testament, it is a thrill. This great, sacred Torah has survived for all these years. The story of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. The story of the exodus from Egypt or as we read yesterday from Leviticus, what we are supposed to do...the law.

How is it possible that in spite of all the hatred of the Jewish people we survive? Just looking at the continuation of the Jewish Religion, for 5,678 years is a miracle. I was lucky enough to be part of this miracle during this Holy season. Hearing the sound of the Shofar. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by people whom I love and who love me. I was lucky enough to live to see another year and pray for the next one. All the while, wondering and anxiously awaiting the adventures that I will have in this coming year.

5768. That is the year on the Jewish Calendar. We are almost at the end of the reading of the Torah and when we finish the reading of the Torah next month, we will celebrate another year of reading the Torah and roll it up and start at the beginning once more. This sacred document resides in the Ark until it is time to take it out for the reading. How lucky we are to have these amazing stories to help shape us as a people and move us individually.

I go to sleep now and pray as I always have, but now, I really believe G-d is listening. One of my favorite phrases is, "Pray as if everything depended on G-d, Act as if everything depended on you." This is how I pray and now it fills my soul.

Feeling fullfilled,

Living Well

As we get older it isn't always easy to like what we see in the mirror. My girlfriend Renee put it into perspective last week in a way that only she can. "Maybe my 'packaging' isn't as nice as it once was, but that's okay because the inside, where it counts, as far as I'm concerned, is still, and will always be, beautiful."

She is so right. The years fly by...it is almost as if it all were a dream! Where have all the years gone and why didn't we use the time for efficiently. I believe that we used the time as we were supposed to. Of course, I am a "fatalist". My belief is that our lives are basically charted out for us when we are born. This doesn't mean we don't have free will. We do. There are many roads in the chart that is created when we are born...our free will allows us to take the different roads. Not always the right one, but the one that brings us to the place we are supposed to be in our lives.

We wake up one morning and discover that we are just a short trip away from Medicare. How did we get here so fast and where was I while it was all happening? I'll tell you where we were. Right here, living! When you are living, you are not necessarily paying attention as the days flash by. The big events in our life, we plan for months and in a few short hours they are over, whether it is the birth of a baby, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a wedding, an anniversary...whatever it is. We plan and then it's over.

That's the way it is supposed to be. These are what make our memories. These are what we take to old age. These wonderful, and sometimes not so wonderful, memories. How lucky we are to have them. How comfortable they are on a cold, lonely night. How loved we feel by our memories.

So, it's not so terrible to get old. The alternative is worse. It is better to have lived our lives as fully as possible and wrap ourselves in our memories as well as the love we have felt and hopefully still have. Of course, our memories are not always what they had been.

Sometimes your mind reaches for a word or a phrase and it isn't there. Our we walk to another room to get something and forget what we went for. That's when we start to worry...is it Alzheimer's? Of course not, it's simply that we weren't concentrating or that we have so much junk shoved into our brains, we don't always remember. My girlfriend Renee told me a very funny story about being forgetful.

She said,"my very favorite forgetful story is about ten years ago Adrienne and I were talking then about how we forget things and can't remember so much. Then one day I found this really great article on Alzheimer's and I thought, 'ooh, this is really interesting' and so I sent it to my sister. She called me when she got it and said, 'I just sent this to you last week'!"

Adrienne is Renee's younger sister and like the rest of us is growing older. Unfortunately, about a month ago her husband, Bob, to whom she has been married forever was diagnosed with lung cancer. We are all praying and Bob is getting wonderful treatment. So once again, life shows us, don't blink. Because in that blink, life can and often will change. There is a saying, "man plans and G-d laughs".

I've heard it since I was a kid. I believe it, for we never know what is around the next corner. So keep living your life. Kick up your heels, celebrate every day and love deeply and strongly. For we don't know what tomorrow will bring, but whatever it brings we will still be beautiful!

Living well,

Sunday, September 16, 2007


I heard a Kenny Chesney song the other day. The song could have been written from my blog. It's called, "Don't Blink". I'm certain that somewhere in my blog I've written that. I know I say it all the time to young women and men who have small children with them or a baby.

I always say, don't blink. For when you do, life just flashes by. I'm certain that somewhere I wrote about my girlfriend Renee. We have been friends since we were 11 years old. I won't tell you how many years that is, but dinosaurs were walking the earth when we met.

She and I were sitting in my mother's kitchen, both with new babies in our laps...we were all of 20 years old. Renee said, "you know 10 years ago we were 10 and 10 years from now we will be 30...can you believe that". Well, we both blinked and life has flashed by so quickly our babies are in their 40's, while she and I remain in our 20's.

There are moments when one looks back on one's life and it feels like a dream because it has all gone so quickly. Don't blink. I remember another time in my mother's kitchen...it was her 30th birthday and she was so depressed that she was no longer in her 20's. She looked at me and said, "just wait, you will understand when you hit 30". I didn't understand when I was 30 for I have been grateful for every birthday...it beats the alternative.

My mom is now 82 and beautiful. She is possibly more beautiful than she ever has been. I would like to say she is more serene, but one can't have everything. She is who she is and may she never change. It just doesn't seem fair that when we finally become comfortable with who we are, our bodies are falling apart.

I love to walk around naked. My husband calls me "the naked Contessa" because I frequently am completely naked with jewelry on. Oh, of course, I'm getting ready to go out. The other night he looked at my naked body (believe me, it's not so beautiful) but he thinks so. Love does that,
it allows us to look a the person we love and truly see them with rose colored glasses. We don't see their wrinkles or that they've aged. We only see the person we love.

The only problem with my walking around naked is that my breasts are not where they used to be...high and proud. What's most amazing, is when I had a beautiful body I wouldn't think of walking naked through my home...I just didn't have enough confidence. But today, with age, I have all the confidence one could possibly hope for. I believe I am beautiful even though I don't have the face and figure I had in my 20's, 30's and 40's.

Age does that for us...it seems to boost our self esteem. Such a shame that as young people we are always so worried about other people and how they view us. Then we get to an age where we just don't care what other people think...it's very liberating.

So, living is good. Experience is better and we only acquire it by living. So live every day as if it is your last. When you say "I love you" mean it. Apologize, don't be too proud. Count your blessings and not what you don't have. Most of all, love yourself. Because in the end, we are all we have.

Living every day,

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Days of Awe

Tonight we began the 10 days known as the "Days of Awe". They start with Selichot, which literally means forgiveness. Then we move on the Rosh Hashanah and end with the holiest day of the year, the day we are inscribed in the "book of life" for another year, Yom Kippur.

These 10 days are time for introspection into our lives. How do we treat people, how do we treat our families, are we givers or takers. It is a time for us to change, to grow, to be better people. I have always felt that G-d plays an important part in my life, for I believe G-d is in all of us and for better or worse, I need to believe.

There is a wonderful saying from our Friday night prayer book, "Pray as if everything depended on G-d, Act as if everything depended on you". I believe that in this frightening time we live in these are incredibly important words.

Tonights service was moving and touching in ways that are almost impossible to describe. My soul is full and I wish everyone could feel this way. It sounds simplistic, even sophomoric, but it is true. For one brief moment in time, everyone in that Temple tonight felt the spirit of G-d.

My wish is for the world to be as one. For people to remember we are all the same race...human. That no matter what we call G-d, no matter if you believe, if we were just more kind to one another every day, life could be better for everyone, even those who hate us.

In awe,

Friday, September 07, 2007

The High Holy Days

Tonight we were in Temple celebrating the Sabbath. I always forget how important Temple is to me. The extraordinary joy in the simple celebration of the Sabbath is almost bewildering, for it fills my soul in a way nothing else can.

It has never mattered where I am or who I am with when I am in Temple. For it is there that I truly feel G-d's presence. It isn't that I don't think about G-d when I am not in Temple, it is just that when I am there, in the house of worship, that I feel G-d's arms around me. I know we can get very existential here and ask if there truly is a G-d.

For each of us it is different and very personal. There are those people who say man created G-d and others, such as me, who believe in evolution and yet believe in a power greater than all of us. Many would argue that if there truly were a G-d we wouldn't have the horrors we have in this world. I would have to disagree and say, "G-d gave us free will and the terrible things that we do to one another are frequently in the name of G-d". Just look at the terrorists.

This Islamic Jihad is the most frightening time I have ever spent on this earth. These people want to see all westerners and non-believers dead. They march through the streets with placards that decry Western civilization and tell us that a "true holocaust" is coming unless we accept their way of life.

They outnumber us, they certainly could cause and have caused terrible tragedies in this world in the name of their G-d...who isn't a G-d but a prophet. How can people have so much hate in their souls. I guess I will have to add them to my prayers. Perhaps G-d can show them the way to peace and not to hate.

These next couple of weeks are called the "days of awe". They must have been for many and hopefully they still are for those of us who believe, for those of us who still feel "awe". All one has to do is look at a newborn to be filled with awe. Biology is incredible...so which came first, the chicken or the egg?

I know that I shall be very introspective these next few weeks, in between making gefilte fish and challahs and everything that goes with them. It will be a time to count my blessings (many) repent my sins (few) and pray that everyone I love will be well and happy for another year. And so, dear reader, I wish you a happy, healthy and sweet New Year. Let's try and fill it with peace.

Looking inward,

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Old Friends

I received an e-mail tonight from an old friend...or should I say "friend of long duration", because we are anything but old. We were friends in grade school and high school, back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Something wonderful happens when we keep in touch with people we knew when. We go back to when. You know "when we were young" and the biggest responsiblity in our lives was getting up to go to school. There is a joy that I feel when I hear from an old friend. I guess because that voice, even if it is an e-mail, can take me right back to those days.

If we only knew then what we know now, but that is not the nature of living. For it is in the "living" that we grow to become who we are supposed to be. If we don't taste the sour, how will we ever know what sweet tastes like. Life is like that. We have to go through many experiences to become the person we are today. Some experiences are wonderful, many are not. However, all these times mold us and help us grow.

The lucky ones of us get through the fire unscathed and come out the other side better than we could have imagined when, you know, when we were young. I remember my mother saying to me, "if you would only listen to me". "I've been there, my experience can help you."

Would it were, that their experiences, their life lessons could have molded us. As parents we want to make life easier for our children. But the truth is, we all have to feel the pain or the joy ourselves, so when we are not so young, the decisions we make will be right. Perhaps, not right all the time, but most of the time.

For those of us lucky enough to live a full life, we have many battle scars. Thankfully, most of them don't show. However, once in a while something touches one of those scars and we feel the pain again just as we did the 1st time. Tonight I was reminded that we don't all get to live a full life.

Too many people in my life left too early. Too early to see the accomplishments of my siblings as well as mine. Too early to know grandchildren and the joy they bring. Too early to live a "full and rewarding" life. Those are scars that never truly heal. We just bandage them and move on.

So tonight I am grateful to have heard from this dear old friend, for he has allowed me to go back to that innocent time of our lives. To remember all the fun we had as kids at Oketo Park and at each others houses. I am filled with joy tonight because I got something as simple as an e-mail. Thank you Michael.

With love,


Friday, August 31, 2007


Forgiveness is extremely liberating. It appears I've never truly had to forgive before now. I've written about the difficulty of being married to an abuser and the subsequent divorce. This past week-end I was looking for pictures of landscapes to paint. This involved going through myriads of pictures I've taken over the last 30 years. While doing so I relived a lifetime. The life I lived with Ronnie.

I didn't find a lot of landscapes, even though we had been all over the world, what was there was pictures of a life. There were pictures of us before going to a formal event, parties that we had given, family dinners at our house, barbeques with friends. Pictures of a life, one I no longer have. The sadness that filled my heart was extraordinary and unexpected.

However, in addition to the sadness, was anger. Anger that he allowed this 26 year marriage to die so easily and made no attempt to help save it. The divorce was his final hurt. For not only did he take away my life, he took all the assets we had accumulated over 26 years and truly left me destitute. (Fortunately, I've been there before and as hard as it is to go back to being broke, I made it.)

By Monday, I was so filled with anger and pain that I had to call and ask him why. Why he didn't want to save our marriage? Why he hid all our assets to insure that his way of life would not change? During that phone call I realized 2 things; 1. that we both still have extraordinary love for each other and 2. he couldn't help what he did because that is who he is.

He has remarried a very wealthy woman who has no children, has never been married and he doesn't ever have to work again because he hid all the money and assets we had and now he has her and her family money. Oh, and she is an only child, albeit no longer a child, but will inherit all the assets from her very wealthy family.

Ronnie has changed. Extraordinary, but true! I realized he treats her with respect because she has the "gold" and whoever has the "gold" rules. So he is respectful and different with her. At first I was conflicted. Why could he not be that way with me and our children? Then I realized, he couldn't because he had gotten away with it for so long.

That realization led me to different thinking. I am truly happy that he has, the life he apparently always wanted and that I could finally forgive him for all the past hurts. I read somewhere that "anger eats up the vessel it lives in". I no longer want to be the vessel for all that anger.

So I called him yesterday and told him how happy I am that he has the life he wants, that he and his eldest son are seeing one another again and he is spending time with our 2 granddaughters for the 1st time in 6 years. That phone call healed my heart. It is no longer filled with all that anger, it is filled with forgiveness.

Always learning,

Thursday, August 30, 2007

When Life Throws You A Curve!

It seems that when we least expect it, life changes. Sometimes our lives change for the better and sometimes for the worst. Every moment is so precious because we never know when a change is coming. I haven't written for months. In December I had foot surgery and was in a cast for 3-1/2 months and really not able to sit at the computer to write.

No sooner had I become mobile again when my mother became ill. It was a life changing experience. My mother had shingles. We've all known people who have had the disease. The pain is incredible and can last for months or even years. Generally the rash is on the abdomen or around the hips.

Not my mom. She always does things a little better than anyone else. (In this case, it was much worse.) My mom had shingles down her right arm. For those of you who don't know what shingles is, it is herpes zoster. The same disease we know as chicken pox. If one has had chicken pox, as those of us pre vaccine, we have this virus sitting in our bodies ready to attack. It can be brought on by stress and that is usually what brings it on. It is not contagious if you have had chicken pox. However, if you have never had the disease you should not be near anyone with shingles. This applies especially to babies.

Shingles start in the spinal column and then work their way down the nerve endings, ergo the pain. My mom had the rash on her right arm. It was diagnosed very quickly so she never had the blisters that can accompany the disease. However, what happened to her was so much worse than just the pain. Because it went down her arm, she completely lost the use of her right arm. Overnight she went from complete independence to one who was completely dependent on others for her care and the care of my 91 year old dad.

April, May, June and July were lost months for all of us. Every day there were doctors appointments, either for mother or dad. Physical Therapy when she was finally ready for it was 3 days per week. My calendar was filled with appointments daily. My life as I knew it stopped when I became a caretaker.

Everything revolved around their care. Getting them to the doctors, taking notes because she was so drugged up for the pain that she couldn't remember anything, getting them home. Walking the dog, putting out the garbage and recycling for pick-up and all the little things that one does for oneself but can no longer do. By the time I got home at night all I could do was wash my face, brush my teeth and fall into bed, because at 6 or 6:30 the next morning it would begin again.

I have new respect for caretakers. They are truly the unsung heroes. So many adults my age are taking care of aged parents and working and trying to live a life. We don't hear about them but perhaps you know 1 or 2 people who are in this situation. If you do, ask what you can do to help...even if it is only to make a meal to bring in or a cup of coffee. Just the kindness goes a long way.

Happily, as of last week, my mom regained the use of her arm. She is the independent woman she has always been and how wonderful for her and my dad. My life is back to normal as is hers. However, I learned a very important lesson...even in tragedy their can be blessings. It was truly a blessing to be with them every day and to listen to how smart and funny my dad is and how infuriating my mom can be. When life is "normal" we don't spend that much time with the people we love so much.

Therefore, I think the lesson is, spend time with the people you love, as much time as you can because you never know when life is going to throw you a curve.

Counting my blessings,