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Friday, November 18, 2011

NEW BLOG SITE

Hello to all my blogosphere friends - please go to HERE to fine my new blogsite.  Thanks for your continued support and encouragement!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

HOW DID WE EVER GET THROUGH COLLEGE? A BOOMER'S LAMENT

Last night, I was talking with my daughter Katie, a senior in college.  We were chatting about the tv shows she'd been watching - and she mentioned the fact that she didn't have a DVR.

WELL!  Can you imagine?  No DVR in college?  It got me thinking about all the things I didn't have back when I was in college, in the ancient times of 1979-1983.  Not that I knew any better - most of the things our kids use on a daily basis now didn't exist back then - so I thought I'd take a little walk down memory lane and recall a day in the life of me, in college - and probably you too, if you're an empty-nester or baby-boomer.  Please note, all the corresponding items and/or activities of today are in parentheses.

Wake up for class to a clock radio (CELL PHONE).

Shower and blow dry my hair (STRAIGHTENER, "PRODUCT").  Get dressed and go to class.

Not sure if my friend will meet me at the dining commons, but just have to wait and see (TEXTING).  Walk across campus in the quiet (IPOD).  Make a stop at the bank to cash a check (ATM CARDS) because the weekend is coming, and I need some money.  Buy a newspaper (COMPUTER, IPAD), and read about the  ten percent unemployment rate and the discord in the middle east - some things never change. Get to the dining commons, where I use my cash (CONVENIENCE POINTS CARD, STUDENT CASH CARD) to buy a cup of coffee (CAPPUCINO, CHAI LATTE, ICED BLENDED, ETC ETC). My friend still isn't there, so I call her on a pay phone (CELL PHONE), and she tells me she overslept because she forgot to set her alarm (again, some things never change).  We make plans to go see "The Big Chill" that weekend at the movie theater (VCR, DVD, NETFLIX, DOWNLOADS)

During class, I take notes and listen, bored half the time, but with no other choice (IPOD, TEXTING, CELL PHONE). Decide to write a letter to one of my friends at another school (FACEBOOK, TWITTER, EMAIL, TEXTING, INSTANT MESSAGING).  Realize I haven't talked to my parents in a week, make a mental note to call them when I get home (SEE ABOVE).

After class, I head to the library, where I check out books, which I look up with the Dewey Decimal System (COMPUTER).  Again, stop to use a pay phone to call a classmate about an assignment (CELL PHONE, COMPUTER, ONLINE CLASS NOTES AND SYLLABUS).

After I finish my classes for the day, I head to work, where I make $3.75 an hour selling shoes.  I'm not allowed to use the business phone for personal calls, so I have no idea what the plans are for that evening...it is Friday, after all.  Have to wait until I get home to find out what's going on (ALL SOCIAL MEDIA AS MENTIONED ABOVE, PLUS PHONES). I stop by the local camera shop to pick up prints of a roll of film I had developed (DIGITAL CAMERA, DIGITAL PHOTOS). When I get home, my roommates have left me a note with a couple of messages on it (VOICE MAIL and/or ANSWERING MACHINES).  I call a couple of friends back.  One isn't home, so there's no answer - imagine that! and one's line is busy (CALL WAITING).  I consider watching a little tv, but it's mid-afternoon and there's not much on the 5 channels we actually get in our apartment (CABLE, DVR, HULU, ONLINE TV).  Break open a Tab (DIET COKE) and put an album on the stereo (IPOD, DOCKING STATION, ITUNES). When my roommate gets home we debate having either Top Ramen or Domino's pizza for dinner (once again, some things are pretty darn constant).

I have a few hours until its time to go out with my friends, so I start to write the final draft of a paper for one of my classes.  I drag out the Smith Corona - electric - which was my  high school graduation gift (COMPUTER).  I change the ribbon on it because it's starting to look a little faded.  I get out the white out in case I make any errors, and the dictionary to check that I'm spelling words correctly (SPELLCHECK).  There are a few facts that I'm not sure are right, so I have to wait until I get to the library the next day to research them (WIKIPEDIA, GOOGLE, ABOUT.COM, ETC, ETC, ETC).  When I finish the paper, I'll take it to the copy center to have a copy made for my professor, and I'll hand in the paper in class the following week (HOME PRINTER, COPIER, EMAIL to TURN IN PAPERS).

I dress to go out, dismayed to see panti-lines under my jeans (SPANX, THONGS, BOYSHORTS).  Change into different jeans, feel better.  Call my parents, but they're not home (ANSWERING MACHINE AGAIN).  After making dozens of phone calls, finally have a plan for the evening, so we head out, buy some beer, and go to a party (this will never ever change!).  Later that night I have a headache and I can't sleep, so I take some Tylenol and hope it will help (TYLENOL PM, ADVIL PM, MOTRIN PM, ETC).

It's interesting, isn't it?  So much of what we take for granted - and especially what our kids take for granted - was unimaginable back then.  Sometimes I think all of the connected-ness can be detrimental - it's as if, for some kids, they never really leave home - but overall, I'd love to try being a college student in 2011 - even without a DVR!

Did I miss anything?  What other antiquated things can you remember?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

LANDING THE HELICOPTER and LOVING MY SON

He's had an easy life, but his life hasn't been easy.

Do I contradict myself?  Not really.  While we gave him every bit of support, love, and encouragement two parents could give, our son has had challenges in his 19 years that, for better or worse, complicated things.  They may be no more or less difficult than what other children go through, but somehow we believed he was in need of...more.  More of us, more attention, more patience, more protection.  

My son, 3 years old, and me
He woke up one morning at 20 months old with a crossed eye.  Besides my initial terror and fear, there was this horrible thought, that he would be "that" kid, the one with the crossed eye, the one who the other kids taunted and teased.  Fortunately he was young enough and was treated quickly enough, with surgery and eye patches and glasses, that by the time the other kids were old enough to be that mean, he looked fine...with his glasses on. It was hard when he went swimming, or to sleepovers. After 2 more surgeries, he now, at 19, has beautiful green eyes that are nearly 100% straight. 

For me, that morning, seeing his adorable face looking so different, was a game-changer.  It wasn't until his most recent surgery this past May that I realized how overwhelmed I was by it all, that morning long ago - how my heart broke for him, and for me, and how I wanted to make things better, sooner, right away.


Then, at the age of 8, he was diagnosed with ADHD.  We sort of knew that was coming, but now we had to deal with it, with medication and tutors, teacher conferences and fights about homework.  Between his natural tendency towards inertia (much like his mother) and his obsession with all things visual, be it television, computer, or video games (something like his father), school was really, really tough for him. 

But he had a lot of friends.  And that made him really happy.  And since it made him happy, we encouraged them to be at our house, and so they did...growing boys who laughed and fought and ate and slept on floors and sofas.  We love those boys.  Maybe, just maybe we should have said no sometimes, sent the boys home, especially when his grades were poor or his attitude was bad.  

In high school, he found a level of commitment that he'd never shown before while playing football.  Finally, in his senior year, he was starting on the offensive line.  He was doing it, and doing it so well!  What a thrill it was to watch him play, to have him come home, stinky and tired and excited about the game that week.  And what a heartbreak it was when, after a couple of weeks of pain in his leg, we found out that he had a stress fracture in his femur.  He was out for the remainder of the season.  
My o-lineman and me 2009


Now, in college, he's had a huge awakening of sorts.  He has finally, finally! figured out that he can study, and learn, and take a test and get a good grade.  Most importantly, it DOES matter to him if he succeeds.  Freshman year, he was so anxious, so tied up in figuring things out, that he never really found his people, never really found a place for himself at college.  

So now he wants to come home, continue college here, near his friends and family, in a place where he feels safe and understood, with people who have loved him for a long time.  We understand this, we really do.  But we won't let him come home...not yet.

Our son is an incredible young man, on the verge of figuring it all out - for himself.  Where I think we went wrong while raising him was to figure out too much for him, and not let him fall and hit the ground without us cushioning the blow.  We weren't helicopter parents...we were Sikorsky military copters, eagle-eyed and ready to do battle.  Yes, he was stubborn and careless about his schoolwork, but we were stubborn and careless about the amount of energy we put into helping him, about never letting him pick himself  up without us lending a hand.  

My son and husband, 2010
So we're insisting he finish this year, even though he's not very happy there, because we know that what he's learned over the past few months is just the beginning of him learning about how to be a man, and how to be confident, and how to find his way in the world.  

We know he can do it...now let's hope we can.

Monday, November 7, 2011

INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS - PERIMENOPAUSE

Ah, the joys of getting older.  You know what I mean - the droopy eyelids, the dry skin, the more frequent visits to the hair colorist...and to the bathroom.  And that's just the beginning.  There are some definite pluses to aging, but they certainly aren't in regards to our bodies. Of all the things I find bothersome, the thing that causes  me the most distress - even more than not being able to see without my reading glasses - is perimenopause.




Perimenopause sounds sort of innocuous, don't you think?  It's almost a pretty word, like periwinkle - the little i in peri, there just to fool you.  Because, truth be told, perimenopause can be a nightmare for some, including me, and by extension my husband, children,family, friends, and pretty much anyone I encounter when those moods and pains and irritations descend on me, taking over my sanity for a few (or many) days each month.


 My husband has come to understand it, bless his heart. He's learned to live with me - or avoid me, probably - when I'm in the midst of the body snatching that comes each month, sneaking up on me - is this really happening again????  It's as if someone has stuck a tube inside of me and blown me up like a balloon, then added a vice around my head, then drugged me so that I feel as if I'm dragging 30 pounds of potatoes with me everywhere I go, I'm so tired.     This is way, way worse than pms, which meant a few days of bitchiness and that was about it.


I did a little research today about perimenopause, and I found here a list of symptoms that can occur during this phase of life, which can last a really, really long time for some women.  Seriously?  Haven't we done enough?  Didn't we give birth, have c-sections, struggle with birth control? Didn't we  nurse our babies, turning over our bodies to them for months and months?  Some of us went through hell and back just to get pregnant. And now comes the onset of middle age, and having to deal with the loss of our youth as we grow older.  Do we really need this? Do we deserve this? Come on!


Some of my friends are fortunate, and haven't really experienced much of the joys of perimenopause.  Others struggle with hot flashes -which so far, I rarely get - extreme fatigue, mood swings, ferocious headaches, and on and on.  We commiserate and help each other through the bad days, and understand completely the need to hide under the covers and not leave the house when things are especially tortuous.  Thank goodness for those women in my life - without them I might have assumed that, once a month or so, I was losing my mind.


Recently, Dr. Oz did a show about perimenopause, and here was the ad for it:


Sort of makes you wonder, doesn't it?  And what is the rage about...is it about being perimenopausal, or is it about the way it feels, or is it just a general rage at the universe that now, at this point in our lives, we have to deal with THIS.  I didn't bother to watch the show - it's not as if I don't know about this already.


And men complain about losing their hair.  PLEASE!


Pass the chocolate, NOW.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

THE 21ST CENTURY OBITUARY ON FACEBOOK

Yesterday I learned that a friend had died when I clicked on his Facebook page.  It had been a while since I'd checked in on this particular friend - and it was shocking, to say the least, to see the notice of his death dated September 19, at the top of the page.  I read it a few times, just to make sure I understood what it said.  I couldn't believe he had died, just could not believe it.

I think part of my shock was finding out this way, on his Facebook page, his happy face smiling at me from his profile picture as I read the news.  Is this any different than reading an obituary in the newspaper?  I guess it really isn't - except in the newspaper, when you turn to the obituaries, you kind of know what to expect.  When you click around Facebook, checking in on your various friends, picking a random person from your list for no other reason than curiosity, it's pretty shocking to find out they've died, believe me.  You go from looking at pictures of someone's pets on one page to a notice for a funeral on another.

I was very, very sad to learn this man had died, at the too young age of 57.  He had once been important in my life, and I had been happy to see him on Facebook when he "friended" me about a year ago.  There wasn't more to it than that - we didn't chat, or exchange posts or anything.  It was just nice to see him, older of course, but still the same face I remembered.

And then he died.  Wow.

I called his wife, just to tell her how sorry I was.  We'd never met, and she probably had no idea who I was - but she listened as I expressed my condolences and told me he had died quickly, of pancreatic cancer, 2 months after he had been diagnosed.  

I imagine this isn't the last time I'll learn of the death of a friend this way - Facebook has become such a big part of so many of our lives, and we share so much about ourselves and the lives we are living, it seems logical to find out friends have died on Facebook too.  

But wow. 

Rest in Peace, my friend.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

KIM AND KRIS - WHO KARES?

SERIOUSLY?
The Kardashians are clever folks indeed.  They have turned the skill of doing absolutely nothing productive into a multi-million dollar empire, and have captured the attention of millions of viewers each week who watch them do...I don't know what.  I am proud to say that I have never watched an episode of the Kardashian's show.  I'm not a reality tv snob - I love my hour each week with Rachel Zoe, and Storage Wars is pretty entertaining.  There's just something about the Kardashians and all of their self-promoting excess that seems gross.  Plus, the sound of their nasally, squeaky and utterly dumb voices makes my skin crawl - when my kids watch their show I have to leave the room.




So what to make of their brief, ridiculous marriage?  That 20 carat ring that Kim flashed so proudly on the cover of every magazine?  Obviously it was a publicity stunt, their wedding full of product placement (Vera Wang, anyone?), intended only to bring in viewers.  How could anyone take them seriously?  But sadly enough, many people did...especially the young girls who watch them, read about them, emulate them and (Lord help me) sound like them.  They should all be ashamed of themselves for putting on such a circus of a sham wedding which, from what I've read and heard, earned them 18 million dollars, or $10,000 per hour of the marriage.


The trouble I have with all of this is not so much that they put on this freak show of a wedding - it's that the media, the world, everyone, is taking this seriously.  CNN, the Today Show, Good Morning America, online news outlets - they are all covering this as though it were real news.  It's disturbing to me on so many levels, but mostly because marriage is a serious business, and these goofballs have turned it into a joke.  I'd have a lot more respect for them if they'd just come out and admit it was all for the sake of entertainment...in fact, I might even have watched the wedding, just to see the bling and the flowers and the clothes everyone wore if they had done just that.  But for me, or you, or CNN to actually discuss this as though it matters is just wrong.


Let's switch the focus from the Kardashian's 72 day marriage to couples who have worked, fought, loved and  succeeded for 20, 30, 40 years.  People like - oh, I don't know - you and me?  Those of us who take our marriages to heart, who know what it means to commit ourselves to making it work, without any kind of product placements, endorsements, or publicity.  Or those of us whose marriages end, and have to pick ourselves up from the mess of divorce and make our lives work again.  Why isn't there a tv show about people like us?  Well, we know why - it's boring, ordinary and filled with day-to-day humdrum stuff.  But that's what life is - that's what reality really is.  So enough with Kim, Kris, and the rest of the Krew.  They've made a mockery of marriage, but mostly they've made a mockery of themselves.


EWWWW.

Friday, October 28, 2011

WHY I FELL IN LOVE WITH FRANK SINATRA

The Voice
We all have soundtracks to our lives.  At times, music has been so important to me. During my teen years there were hours spent listening to the same record album over and over, sometimes even the same song, convinced that the artist had written the lyrics especially for me.  "OHMYGOSH" my friends and I would shriek.  That's EXACTLY how I feel!!!!" Neil Young, Elton John, Supertramp, Queen, Linda Ronstadt... it wasn't until we got older that we realized - that was exactly how everybody felt.  In college, music became the backdrop for parties, the thumping beat at bars and clubs - it was the 80's, after all, and the Cars and Blondie, the B-52's and Toto didn't make the kind of music that made you want to cry from the emotions their songs evoked.  We all just wanted to dance.

It was 1984 when I first fell for Sinatra.  And when I say fell, I mean really, really fell.  There was a period of about two years when he was virtually all I listened to, with a little Bruce Springsteen and old Motown mixed in, plus some Elvis Costello to stay current.  But Sinatra was the soundtrack of my early twenties, keeping me company on cassette after cassette as I drove around Los Angeles for my first job out of college.  Falling for Sinatra was an enormous undertaking - his catalog of songs is huge, and he recorded over 50 albums in his lifetime.  I zeroed in on the albums from the fifties, when his voice was strongest and his phrasing was impeccable, when you could hear the joy and sorrow in his voice as clearly as if he was speaking to you, which is what makes his music so appealing - that and the promise of something - love, romance, I don't know exactly what - but there was promise in his voice. 

Sinatra became a passion for me to share with my mother, my grandmother, and especially my grandfather, who as a young man had been a big band singer with Tommy Dorsey, and had known Sinatra.  My grandfather had a voice kind of like Sinatra's, deep and warm and lovely, and he would sing to me frequently while I was growing up.  There was always singing going on in my family...as strange as it may sound, we would often sing song lyrics to each other in lieu of speaking sentences.  We were big fans of musical theater, and there was always some soundtrack or another on my mother's turntable. Those were the years of  Bacharach, Barbara Streisand, and Neil Diamond.  We listened to "A Chorus Line," "Promises, Promises," and "Funny Girl," among many others.  My grandmother liked to play the piano and sing after we'd have dinner at her house. Fortunately, we were all fairly good at carrying a tune.

But Sinatra...he became the voice I chose to hear as often as possible.  The first year out of college was not easy for me, adjusting to being on my own, commuting to work every day, trying to prove myself at my job and find myself in the world - but Sinatra was the soothing voice of reassurance for me, as I learned each and every trip and lilt and turn of phrase he used on the songs I loved best.  From "Young at Heart" to "The Way You Look Tonight," "Love and Marriage" to "My Funny Valentine," there was a song for every mood, every time of day, every event.  I, like a million girls before me and a million since, fell in love with Sinatra through his voice, and what a voice it was.

I continued my love affair with Sinatra, and my children were raised on him...there's nothing quite like a 4 year old girl singing "The Lady is a Tramp," as my daughter did one evening, delighting us all.  I saw him in concert at the very end of his life, but it wasn't great - he was old, and his voice was wobbly and weak, and the teleprompter had letters that were at least a foot high - but still, it was Sinatra.  We even considered naming our son Francis, after my husband Peter's grandfather...and Sinatra.  I think Adam is happy we chose not to, though we would have called him Frank, of course.

On the morning Sinatra died, Peter woke me to tell me the news before I heard it anyplace else.  He knew how sad I would be, and I was.  But I listened to his music, and of course, that made me feel better - which is, I suppose, what Sinatra was all about - making the world feel better through his music.

Sinatra was fond of saying, at the end of his concerts, "May you live to be a hundred, and may the last voice you hear be mine."  I like that idea!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A MOTHER'S WISH FOR HER DAUGHTER'S DREAMS

We were in Boston for Parent's Weekend, visiting our daughter Katie, who is a senior this year.  Most seniors don't have parents visit for Parent's Weekend - after 3 years in college, it seems kind of silly to be the wide-eyed visitors, which we really weren't.  But Katie wanted us to meet her friends, some of them sorority sisters, some not - and we wanted to see our little girl, of course...only she's not a little girl anymore, in any sense of the word. Being on her turf, with her in charge - it made me both proud and sentimental at the same time.  She made all the dinner and brunch reservations, guided us through the streets of Boston, and generally took charge of our visit.  It was a pleasure to let her make all the plans, but oh my gosh, where did my little girl go?

Don't get me wrong - I'm thrilled to have such a self-sufficient, independent and confident young woman for my daughter.  I just couldn't help remembering the night we dropped her off at the dorms for her freshman year, after all of the shopping and moving and unpacking was done.  She was such a wreck...scared and crying and all alone, standing in the parking lot of Warren Towers, home to 1800 mostly freshman students, as we drove away.  But as overwhelmed as she was, I was probably more so - saying goodbye to my little girl, leaving her to find her way, to learn to live with a stranger for a roommate, make friends, and become part of the big, urban campus that is Boston University.  But find her way she did, with a few bumps in the road, both large and small - and over the past three years she's traveled through Europe, spoken at admissions sessions up and down the west coast, joined a sorority, and had 2 successful internships, all while maintaining good grades and (mostly) staying positive, happy and enthusiastic.  I suppose somewhere inside of me I knew she'd be ok when we drove away that night, but still...

Katie and Ana, doing the sorority pic head tilt
The weekend was wonderful.  We met her new friends, had dinner with her roommates, whom we'd known since freshman year, and went to the Founder's Day ceremony for her sorority, Alpha Epsilon Phi.  Every senior I talked to said she wished she wasn't graduating, that college is wonderful and the prospects in the real world are kind of terrifying.  It made me feel sad for these girls - young women - all of whom have worked hard in college, all of whom deserve a chance to make something great happen as adults - but with things the way they are in the world today, it's understandable, though sort of terrible, that they wish they could stay in college forever.  

What will happen to all of these young adults, recent and future graduates, with their expensive educations, student loans, and stars in their eyes?  A few will make it big in their chosen field, but many will struggle to find a place in the world.  Some will continue their education, spending more money, though the job market continues to be sluggish, and salaries and benefits continue to be meager for all but the most in-demand careers.  I hate to even say "when I was in college," but, when I was in college, jobs were easy to find, careers were long-term, and there was the sense of opportunity, even for me, an English major. Now, it's nothing short of miraculous to hear of a recent graduate who not only has a job, but is able to fully support him or herself on their salary. So many well-educated young people wind up having to live at home, cobbling together some sort of living out of part time jobs and help from their parents.  I don't believe that this generation, at least based on my limited knowledge, is entitled and lazy, as so many politicians, bloggers and editorial writers have suggested...in fact, I think they're extremely motivated, with big dreams and a lot of great experience and enthusiasm.  It's a shame that the world that awaits them makes it so difficult to hold on to all of that.

Rockport, MA. So beautiful!
The next time we go to Boston, it will be for graduation.  My wish for Katie and her friends is that they all have jobs lined up, or acceptances to grad school, or plans for whatever it is they want to do with the next phase of their lives.  I hope they are able to support themselves, find good friends, marry when they're ready, have healthy children, live in beautiful homes, and be happy forever.  My wishes are those of a dreamer, but these girls are all filled with dreams themselves - and I hope they all come true.

Monday, October 17, 2011

500 Ladies Who Lunch- NCL Tournament Day

Today I went to Tournament Day, an annual fundraising luncheon attended by over 500 women from our community.  The purpose of the fundraising is to support a variety of local charitable organizations and provide college scholarships for girls in need.  Tournament Day is put on by National Charity League (NCL), a national mother/daughter organization that consists of 6 years of commitment to charitable work by both mothers and daughters, plus social activities.  Our chapter, NCL South Coast, was founded in 1962, and at the event today there were a couple of founding members - truly inspirational women who are still active in supporting the chapter.  Our chapter raises more money than any other chapter in the country, and we are proud of that fact.


At first, I was reluctant to join NCL.  I thought it would be too much of a time commitment, and to be honest, I was a little put off by the idea of the presentation ball for my daughter Katie, which happens at the end of the girl's senior year, and requires each girl to wear a white ball gown with petticoats - a concept I had a hard time taking seriously.  But I went ahead and joined, and it was a terrific decision.  Though Katie wasn't able to give a lot of time to NCL due to a variety of other commitments, I became an enthusiastic member of the organization...and in fact, chaired Tournament Day my second year, and also served on the board of directors.  I made great new friends, grew closer with women I had already known, and felt that I was doing something to give back to my community.  And to my surprise, the presentation ball was a lovely and enchanting experience, and seeing my daughter all dressed up in her white gown was something really special, despite my inital misgivings. 


I've continued to attend Tournament Day each year after my tenure as a member was finished, and it's always fun to see old friends and enjoy a lady's lunch, while buying silent auction items and trying to win opportunity drawings (which I never do!).  It's amazing to see the power of women working together and raising money - anywhere between $80,000 - $100,000 each Tournament Day over the past few years. The generosity and enthusiasm of the women who attend is inspiring, and the amount of hard work and time that goes into putting on the event is huge.


But something happens each year that's a little unsettling.  As each group of girls graduates, and new, younger women join the organization at the beginning of their daughter's seventh grade year, The demographic shifts to a younger and younger group. There area fewer and fewer women that I know who are still members. Of course this is the way it should be, the way it has to be - but there's a bit of melancholy for me in seeing the younger women, and thinking of all they have ahead of them - not just in NCL, but as mothers of teenage girls. It seems like just a minute ago that I was one of the "young" moms, and now I'm definitely not - young - but I wouldn't go back there for anything.  Katie has grown into such a terrific young woman, and middle school is such torment...I'm glad to be where I am, but wistful that time has gone so quickly.
Katie at presents rehearsal


 One of the most interesting things about NCL is watching the girls in each grade grow and change - it's fun to compare group photos of the  awkward 7th graders with the later pictures of confident seniors on their way to college.  Some of the girls really embrace the philanthropic activities, finding true reward in helping others, and some of the girls are more enthusiastic about the social aspect of the organization, but overall most of the girls, though they may have grumbled as they were going through it,  wouldn't have wanted to miss their time as NCL Ticktockers (as the girls are known) for anything.  Though they may not all be close friends, there's definitely a bond that develops with each group, as they spend time together -  and especially as they prepare for the presentation ball.  One of the most poignant moments comes when the girls gather for the presentation rehearsal, wearing their petticoats and sporting their future college sweatshirts. 
Katie in her white gown - Presents 2008


Sharing an activity like National Charity League is a good thing for mothers and daughters to do through the teen years.  For some teens, there's very little they want to do with their mothers, and participating in NCL keeps them connected to their moms, if only for a few hours a month.  It's good for the girls to learn about how difficult life can be for some people, including some of their neighbors and classmates, and it's important for them to grasp the value of giving back.  But most of all, what I think NCL does for the girls - and some of their mothers, too - is instill confidence.  By participating in something bigger than they are, and seeing how they can make a difference, they realize that they are valuable members of society, not just because of who they are or what they look like or where they live, but because of what they can do for others.  And though the presentation ball may seem like an unnecessary indulgence to those not involved in NCL, it really is a magical night, when the girls are honored for all of their hard work, not just for the hundreds of hours given to NCL but in school, in sports, and in extracurricular activities. It's impossible to be there, and hear about each girl as their brief bio is read, standing in front of  hundreds of people in their white gowns, and not feel a great sense of pride - in the girls, their mothers, National Charity League -  and a job well done. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

SALON MERITAGE - MY SALON, OUR SALON

Not in my town.

Mass murders don't happen in Seal Beach, this sleepy little beachside community. I live in Los Alamitos, the next town over, but the two are intertwined by shared schools, shops, restaurants, hair salons. It's a place people come to raise their children, a place known for it's peaceful, friendly atmosphere.  It's where many of my friends live, many of my children's friends grew up.  It's where our favorite barbecue place is, the sushi place we love.  It's the place where a few kids from the high school could organize, in just 24 hours, a memorial to the victims that was attended by over 1000 people.

Not in my salon.

These things happen in other places...that's what they thought in Tucson, while they were grocery shopping.  They believed they were safe at Columbine High School, going from class to class, getting an education.  I believed, every five weeks for the past ten years, that I was safe sitting in Gordon's chair, laughing with him and the other stylists, 5 of whom were murdered. In fact, it never occured to me that I wasn't safe - it was such a nice place to be. By the grace of God, Gordon is ok.  For some reason, I scheduled my appointment this week for Thursday instead of Wednesday...a random decision. It's just by chance, by luck, that none of my many friends who go to Gordon to get their hair cut and colored were there that afternoon.  How lucky are we, and how unfortunate are the 9 victims of this man, only one of whom survived, this man whose vengeance and anger fueled the insane massacre of 8 innocent people, including the mother of his son.

Not to my friends.

Each person I knew that was murdered was someone I liked.  They were part of the big picture of my little life - people with whom I laughed, chatted, gossiped.  It's impossible for me  to understand how Michelle Fournier, who did my daughter's makeup for her Bat Mitzvah and her prom, could possibly be dead.  How could Victoria, the ball of fire who cut hair in the chair next to Gordon's and was his dearest friend, be gone?  How could sweet, adorable Laura, who not only cut hair but did manicures, as solicitous of her elderly clients as she was of the young ones, have been shot by this angry man?  Christy, the nail technician, who always looked so chic and incredibly youthful and made beautiful jewelry - how could he have shot her?  And Randy, the salon's owner and calm at the center of the busy craziness that was Salon Meritage, the unofficial dad of the place, how could he have been murdered? 

Salon Meritage was a really fun place to be every five weeks.  It was the kind of place where everyone chatted with everyone...and everyone knew everyone.  In a very real sense, it was a microcosm of Seal Beach.  Mention a name and someone knew that person.  Talk about a restaurant and someone had been there recently.  It was warm and cozy and welcoming - everyone said hi when you walked in.  They all watched my children grow up, and Victoria liked to say about my daughter - "She's gotten so stinkin' cute" (though she said this about everyone's kids!). When my son played varsity football at  Los Alamitos High, they asked about his games and his performance each time I was there. Just a few weeks ago, when Gordon cut bangs for me, they all hooted and hollered about how good it looked.  Salon Meritage had that kind of atmosphere - it wasn't "the salon," it was "my salon" - not just to me but to many, many people.

There's been a lot of chatter on the internet about this terrible tragedy.  A few comments have implied that those of us that live in this neighborhood were delusional to think that we were safe here.  I suppose there's some truth to that - certainly violent people are everywhere, as we see day after day after day in the news.  But feeling safe is a big part of living where we do - raising our children in a place where we can feel reasonably confident violence won't occur.  I used to tell both of my children, after Columbine, to be nice to the lonely kids, the outcasts - because we never really know what's going to push someone over the edge, do we.  Well, now we do, here in Seal Beach, at Salon Meritage.

Not in my life.

These kinds of things don't happen to us, any of us...until they do.  Violence occurs in other places, to other poor, tragic victims...until it comes to our neighborhoods and homes, touches our lives so profoundly, so intensely.  The shock of the murder of 8 people, right down the street, right around the corner, in my salon...to have known five of the victims, and now sense the empty space where they once were, and to feel so badly for the other three - it has turned me inside out, filled me with pain and fear and a deep, heavy sadness.  There have been constant phone calls, so many phone calls..."can you believe...I'm in shock...what can we do...how could this happen..."  We need to remind each other that we are all still here, still safe - and mourn together.

We are all so terribly, terribly sad.
Photo courtesy of Lynn Gosselin

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

MY FATHER, THE PAPA MY CHILDREN LOVED

One of the best things about being a mom has been the experience of watching  my parents be grandparents.  This was especially true of my father, who died four years ago this week - October 16, 2007 - at the far too young age of 67.  To watch him being the fun, loving, kind grandfather that he was really born to be was enormously gratifying, and kind of a reconciliation.


My father - 1977
My father would never have been voted father of the year, not by a long shot - though his intentions were good, his behavior...not so much.  I always knew that he loved me, though he sometimes had a hard time showing it as I grew from a little girl to a teenager, when my behavior and demeanor drastically changed after a cross country move at the age of 14.  I do remember being enchanted by him when I was a child - he was my big, strong, handsome daddy who would swoop me up in his arms and calm my fears when I had nightmares, who would watch Batman with me and take me with him on Saturdays to get the car washed.  But my father was difficult. He had very little good luck and even less common sense, and it caught up with him.  For all his charm, his great sense of humor, his knack for being the consummate party host, be it backyard barbecues or all night poker games, my father never really understood what it meant to be responsible for anything...and that was his downfall.  He was a dreamer, a gambler, immune to anyone's advice or opinions - and having lost his own father when he was 26, he'd somehow also lost the ability to see the writing on the wall, no matter how big the font may have been.


But then, my children were born.


My father became Papa, and he was the most loving and involved grandfather I could have asked for.  Though he still stumbled through his life, continuing to veer off course instead of following the road he was on, when he was with my children, all of that was forgotten - and he got such joy from being part of their lives as they grew up.  He went to their sporting events, cheering loudly (very loudly!), and spent countless evenings at our house for dinner, and, for a time when things were bad for him, even lived with us for a while. My son and my father had a particularly special bond, beginning with their shared birthday, and culminating, at the end of his life, with the thrill my father, a huge football fan,  got from watching my son play football in high school.  He gave so much love to my kids, and they loved him back so purely - because none of his shortcomings, his imperfections, or the mistakes he made had any bearing on them at all.  With them, he could just be Papa, with no real responsibility or accountability - and so they got the best of him.


Adam and Papa - 2001
The greatest part, though, was I ultimately got the best of him too.  Now that I was a mother, I could relate to him in a different way - and he finally could see me not as his "darlin' daughter," as he sometimes called me, but as a grown woman taking care of my family.  He grew to respect me in a way he never had before, and I learned to love him despite whatever pain he might have caused me as I was growing up. The similarities in our personalities became more apparent as I grew older, and I could hear my father in my voice on more than a few occasions...as could my husband!  One of the things I learned when I became a parent was how easy it is to make mistakes, to make bad choices, to miss the moment because I was too busy looking at the big picture.  I began to understand my father in a way I never had before, and we became closer, and - more importantly - comfortable with each other.


When my father was diagnosed with Lymphoma at 65, it was the beginning of  a difficult three years - for him, of course, but for all of us who loved him, too.  The disease took away what he prized the most - his physical strength and independence - and beat him up badly, as cancer does.  We did everything we could to help him, to be there for him, to love him - and losing him was by far the most difficult thing I've ever been through.  Because in the end, though I knew I'd told him I loved him so many times, and shown him in so many ways, it just didn't seem like I'd done enough. What I've come to realize is that's what it means to miss someone you love after they die.  You never feel as though you're finished with them, but there's no more time. I miss him every day.


My father - 2005


I'm not a very spiritual person, but every so often I have a dream about my father that seems so real, it's as if he's come to visit me in my sleep, and it affects me so profoundly...and though I'm sad, I'm also very grateful.  Because, even if it's only in a dream, I get to see him and hear his voice again - and to let him know just how much he is still with me, with all of us.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

THIS BLOG IS NOT ABOUT STEVE JOBS

I mourn the loss of Steve Jobs,along with the rest of the world.  He was one of the world's greatest visionaries ever.  However, I know that far more eloquent people than I will be eulogizing him, so I will pass on the opportunity to share my thoughts about this brilliant man. However, his death did get me thinking about something that is sort of overwhelming  - how many people's lives he touched, and, in a much, much smaller way, how many people's lives I've touched - and how many have made a mark on my life, too.  


Have you ever given this any consideration?  Do you remember the kid you used to wait with at the bus stop in 3rd grade?  How about the lunch lady you and your friends would harass in junior high?  Do you remember that boy that had a massive crush on you in 9th grade, the one you just wanted to "be friends" with?  Imagine what kind of an impact you might have had on his life.    There was your RA in college, the one you thought was such a dork, but who probably had to work his tail off just to pay the bills and tuition.  There was the waitress at the Denny's where you went with your friends after parties and ordered coffee and split one dessert between 6 people. Hmmm.


One thing facebook has done, for better or worse, is take away a lot of that "whatever happened to" mystery- wondering about old friends, romances, roommates, co-workers, even family members - pretty much any name a person can dig up. You don't always actually connect with everyone - sometimes its just enough to see their picture and where they live.  Now you can find out, basically, where most everyone you've ever been curious about is, and what everyone is up to.  And, of course, they know all about you too.  


Just this week, I had a cousin - well, the granddaughter of my grandmother's sister - (and if you know what cousin that is, please let me know!) contact me.  It was such a great moment, reading her email, in which she talked about her memories of my grandparents - just that little connection meant so much to me.  Then we became facebook friends, and looked at each other's pictures, and who knows if we'll ever talk again...but that's ok, because knowing that she was thinking of me, found me, and wrote to me was enough.  With facebook, this kind of think can happen often, but it never fails to give me a little thrill, finding someone I once knew, or, even better, being found by someone who was looking for me.


Sometimes people come back into my life who I barely remember, but who vividly remember me.  That's kind of an odd experience.  But it's ok too, because everyone who remembers you, even in a small way, is somehow keeping that version of you alive, their interpretation of who you are, or who you were, for better or worse.  And what more do we all want, ultimately, than to know that, out there, people are thinking of of us, remembering us - that we had, even briefly, an impact on their lives.


There's no doubt Steve Jobs will be remembered, written about, and revered for decades, if not centuries, to come.  And though the memory of who I am will certainly fade away from this world long, long before his iconic persona does, at least I know that I've made an imprint on some of the people whose lives I've passed through. And, more importantly, I know I wouldn't be who I am without the hundreds of moments shared with others -  both important and fleeting.

Monday, October 3, 2011

BULLYING AND THE FAT GOVERNOR

Yesterday in the New York Times, Frank Bruni wrote an editorial regarding the media's skewering of Governor Chris Christie from New Jersey, who is the latest in a long line of bright shining hopefuls for the republican party presidential nomination.  I don't know a lot about Governor Christie, though I've seen him speak and found him to be intelligent, engaging, and full of good energy and positive ideas. But believe me, this is not a political endorsement!

Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey
The reason some of the pundits have been going after Governor Christie is because he's fat.  Not just a little chubby, or sort of out of shape, but really, genuinely obese.  If you had to sit next to him on an airplane, it would be uncomfortable.  If he was in front of you at a movie, it might block your view a bit.  He undoubtedly shops at the big and tall store, as he is rumored to weigh close to 300 pounds.  But does that mean he wouldn't be a good president?  Does it mean that the American people would have a hard time turning to him in times of crisis for leadership, inspiration and comfort?  That seems doubtful to me, if he has the other qualities it takes to lead our country - something we are desperately in need of at this moment.


The real problem here is the way the media is bullying this man for being fat.  This is what children do to each other on the playground, and bullying is about the most heinous behavior a child can exhibit, and the most demoralizing for a child to experience.  So why is it ok to attack a man who is in the public eye for being fat?  Can you imagine if the talking heads did this to a woman?  The outcry would be instantaneous and furious.  


It seems to me that everyone, even those who are slim, fit, and committed to healthy eating and exercise in a big way, struggles with their weight. Some are much more successful than others at being able to control their appetite, work out consistently, and live a healthy life.  Because Governor Christie is fat, he is assumed to be undisciplined, lazy, unmotivated and slovenly - which seems a bit unfair.  Who knows why he's fat?  And frankly, who cares?  If a candidate was pockmarked, or short, or bald, or just plain ugly, we all might think those things would keep him or her from getting elected, but the commentators on television and in the papers would never say anything about it, because mentioning those things is not politically correct.


 If Dick Cheney could be vice president after 5 heart attacks, and George Bush, a recovering alcoholic, could be elected president, and if Jack Kennedy, who lived in chronic pain and took multiple medications could effectively lead our country, a fat guy should be able to be in the oval office too, if he's qualified and intelligent.


  


 It's commonplace for children to bully the fat kid, and its acceptable for news anchors and editorial writers to bully the fat politician...and that's not right.  Let's try and show some restraint, some respect, and some self-control when going after a candidate.  Criticize what they have to say, what they've done, or what their ideas are.  But  really - let's leave the fat guy alone.  Because, believe me, he knows he's fat. And so does the kid on the playground, the one who's being bullied right now.  

To help stop bullying, click here for organizations that offer support and guidance, courtesy of the Ellen Degeneres show.

Friday, September 30, 2011

WHO THE HECK IS THAT???

I look in the mirror each day, and I'm ok with the face that looks back at me, but I believe my eyesight is failing me a bit.  Because when I look at photos of me, I'm fairly terrified by what I see.  It's not the whole image - I've pretty much (sort of ) come to terms with how I look as I head into the home stretch of my forties...fifty is just a few months away.  What shocks me is my eyes, and it's gotten to the point where I don't even want to be in pictures anymore - I just want to remember what it was like to have eyelids that didn't droop and make me look way, way older in photos than I think (hope) I do in person.


Love GAGA
It's not really fair, the way the camera can catch me at my absolutely most unattractive moments, and then those images get seared into my brain, sending me into a frenzy of feeling old and unattractive.  Because in my mind, and in my heart, I'm not old, not in the least.  I pride myself on seeing things from a youthful perspective - I use my memories of being my kids ages to help me to relate to them and what's going on in their lives.  I keep up with pop culture and trends in fashion, movies, television, and, to some extent, music - though the last one is a little tough for me - I just don't get a lot of it - though I think Lady Gaga is a genius and the epitome of youth.  I know a lot of women who seem to have forgotten what it's like to be young and stupid and curious, and when their kids make mistakes, they seem shocked that they are just like everyone else, fumbling around and trying to figure it out.  You know who I mean, the ones who said, when their kids were in high school, "my son/daughter never drinks/tried pot/lies to me/had sex/does anything remotely wrong."

I mean, come on.

So I've stayed in touch with my younger self, partly because of my kids, partly because of my addiction to People and Us Magazine, Project Runway and Rachel Zoe (LOVE her) but mostly because youth is interesting.  There's nothing quite as lovely as a 20 year old girl in a pretty dress, nothing quite as touching as a high school senior boy in his tuxedo for prom - it's the possibilities that being young offers that make youth so fascinating, so appealing, so compelling.  The future is a place filled with new experience, choices, and milestones yet to be experienced.

The smooth skin doesn't hurt, either.
If you live in LA/OC, go see this - and take your daughter.





But getting back to my eyes.  I've pondered the eyelift thing, but to be honest, I'm a little scared - well very scared, actually - because, well, what if I don't like the way I look when its done?  We went to a great exhibit called "Beauty/CULTure," and when one of the speakers said just that, it really resonated with me.  Because the truth is, you can't undo what's done, and then you're stuck with eyes that you don't recognize, which you may or may not like.  Sort of like the mistakes I made when I was growing up - if I could go back and undo them, would I?  It's tempting, to say the least....there were some mistakes that were pretty big, pretty life-changing, and certainly unfortunate.  But they all led me here, to where I am today, and today is pretty good - so I think I'd have to say no, I wouldn't change a thing.  And chances are, I'll never get my eyes done either.  I'll just try to avoid having my picture taken.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

OUR CHILDREN ARE NOT OUR MASTERPIECES

Masterpiece - Van Gogh

I spent the weekend with some of my family, which was, as always, a lot of laughing, a bit of arguing, a lot of eating, and most of all, an abundance of love.  That’s how MY family interacts – quite different from others, similar to some – but uniquely mine.  There is no place better for me to be than with my family if I am in need of an ego boost,  confidence building, or just the feeling of being completely accepted for who I am.  I know that I’m fortunate in that way – but, despite the good parts, there have been some drawbacks to feeling so completely adored by  them all.  It took me a long time to accept, as my mother has described (and as she felt also) that the rest of the world wasn’t going to applaud when I walked into a room.  In fact, most of the world barely noticed – but I realized that’s ok, as long as the people I care about do.

Interestingly enough, my aunt Susan gave me an article to read about how detrimental it can be to children as they grow up when parents try to rescue them from every pain and disappointment that comes their way.  Both of us have had to learn to manage our urge to protect and insulate one of each of our children in a very profound way, for various reasons.  Some of what the article talked about was not relevant to me – for example, I was never one of those parents to rush in and pick up my child when he or she fell – I was pretty good about letting them get up and brush themselves off and continue on their way.  My Achilles heel was always about hurt feelings by other children – and later on teens – experiences I can vividly recall from my childhood, though in reality those episodes were few, both for them and for me, and not so awful.  The fact is, it’s the beginning of learning that the applause won’t always be there, that no one in the world will ever find you as fascinating as your family does (for my children, at least), and that, bottom line, self-confidence and self-worth come from inside of us, through achievements, relationships, and most importantly, moments of self-reflection and strength.

Masterpiece - Michelangelo
Leaving our children alone to develop the skills to be their own best fans is very difficult for many parents.  Every grade in a class, every game of baseball, is another opportunity for our children to feel successful or to feel like they have failed.  But succeeding and failing are important parts of growing up, and allowing them to find their way, as much as we can, without interfering in their internal development, is what makes the best adults.  One of the lines in the article that really made me think was this:  Your child is not your masterpiece.  For parents, that can be the most difficult lesson of all to learn.  We invest so much of our emotional, physical, and psychic energy into raising our children. This can make it hard to let them go and find their unique persona– especially for the type of parent who sees their children as an extension of themselves, to the detriment of everyone involved.



I know my children both, to some degree, expect the world to adore them as much as their family does – for them, it’s inevitable, because this is how we love each other.  But my hope for them is that they are able to find the ability to continue to see themselves in this positive, encouraging light, just by looking inside themselves and having the confidence in their skills, personality, and successes - things that have nothing to do with just walking into a room.

Pretty darn good - Greenthal
There is only one pretty child in the world, and every mother has it.  ~Chinese Proverb

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

HEY JUDE, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Friday is my mother's birthday.  We are celebrating by traveling to Atlanta to visit my grandmother, my uncle, and his family.  There are others who will be there too - my brother and his two kids, Katie, and one of my mother's oldest and dearest friends.  I'm expecting to have a fabulous time.

My mother, Judy, is really something.  I was born when she and my father were 22, and in some ways, we all grew up together.  After raising us, she went back to school and became a Marriage and Family Therapist, and when she and my father divorced, she managed to support herself and stay sane through some very difficult times.  She has had a very successful career, lots of interesting and unique friends, and children and grandchildren who love her and depend on her for a lot of emotional support (and I mean a lot!).  Up until recently, she hadn't been able to find the right person to share her life with, though she sure did try.  We saw her with some very, shall we say, interesting men.

I can't tell you how wonderful it's been to watch my mother fall in love - and that's what happened over the past year.  Judy met the right man, and that was it.  I have to say, I have never seen her as happy as she is at this point in her life.  And she certainly deserves it - as does her - ahem - boyfriend ( a silly word for a man of a certain age, but there is no alternative) who really is a wonderful guy.  Being with the two of them is so delightful - they are obviously so happy together, and I can see such a difference in Judy - her demeanor, the way she carries herself, and especially the way she looks at her life.  

We have always loved having my mother around, and she's spent a lot of time with us over the years.  Of course, there have been moments when things were a bit much for me - I'm not a very patient person, and sometimes, Judy needs a lot of patience.  But as I've gotten older, I've become a lot more tolerant of her quirks and unique personality traits, because the truth is, I've discovered, we all have issues (do we ever).  It's just that she's my mom, so it took longer for me to be tolerant with her than with anyone else.

When we get on the plane tomorrow, me, my brother, his kids, Judy and her wonderful guy, I know she'll get emotional and gushy and tell us all how happy she is that we're making the trip with her and it will make me all uncomfortable and squirmy, because that's so not the way I am- in fact, just writing this is asking for trouble.  But that's ok, because she's a great mom, and that's just the way she is.

Mom and me, 1971
Happy Birthday, Jude! I love you!