My Definition of Wealth

Automatic Pool Cover.

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Fantasy Wealth vs Reality Wealth

Wealth, to me, is just a fantasy. It is an incredible amount of money that you win and don’t earn. A game I play if I drop a dollar or two on the lottery. In my mind I see big houses overlooking the water in different places, being able to redecorate without first looking at the price tag. Designing a swimming pool so that at night when I went to bed I could picture its beauty and smile into my fancy pillow. It’s not ever having to think about money for anything. Travel? No problem, I would have a private jet. Drive my car when I am scared to drive at night? I would have a driver. Lovely, original art on the walls, gifts to nice

Handkerchief

people who I don’t even know; giving to family and friends is of course, a given.

I realize it’s a fantasy, I know I’m never going to have the money to buy such things, ever, but for a dollar per dream, it’s worth it to escape reality. Wealth, in my fantasy, is never having to worry about money ever again. Wealth in my reality is everything I have, a loving family, some great old friends, my gorgeous nine-year old shelter dog and an old handkerchief that belonged to my father when he was alive, soft, thread bare but always with me in my pocket.

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My End of Day Routine

Flashdance

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I haven’t worked full-time in a long, long time but the first thing I would do, without variation, is to change my clothes. Off came the Laura Ashley  flowery dress with the shiny, black pumps or the sky-colored blue suit; on came jeans, a loose shirt, and clogs. Never being the real corporate type, the clothes I had to wear to work were my corporate persona. My real persona danced around my studio apartment to music, like “Flashdance” when I got home. I may not have looked like Jennifer Beals but I felt like I was her in my comfortable clothing, singing out loud to music, arms swinging, heels hopping. The inexplicable feeling of freedom as your entire body sighs in relief and the automatic happiness that a young, independent woman feels in her own space. Enchanting.

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Customer Service Winners and Losers

Nordstrom at Washington Square (Oregon)

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You Get What You Pay For?

This is a SNAP! Hands down, best customer service goes to Nordstrom’s which is a bit of a shame because they are so expensive I never get to shop there. Worst? a tie between Kohl’s and Target, for lack of anything to do about customer service. It seems that employees seems to disappear when I shop at Kohl’s or Target. I know it’s a hard job to work for either of those companies but stop being so grumpy!! All you need is a smile, go to Nordstrom’s and learn their tips.

p.s. @Nordstrom: those sailboat shirts for men are to die for!

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What I'd Name My Own Clothing Line

Donald Trump

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Real People Inc (RPI)

My clothing line would be called Real People Inc. (or RPI). It would cater to all of us so that all men and women from teeny- tiny to large and extra-extra large would be accommodated in the same store. Why should people have to go to different stores to buy clothes? I think it is unnecessary and I also think it categorizes people into groups. There’s no need for that. We need to encourage tolerance for everyone. This is for men and women, young and old, boys and girls.

My style is comfy, with a touch of bright color, usually in an accessory (my 17-year-old daughter taught me that.) Take all the Big and Fat, Husky and Hot, Size 00, 0,1 and 2 stores and blend them together. It’s one way of not dividing people but including and appreciating everyone. We all need to embrace TOLERANCE. This would be a start. If I had the money, I would design that line and build that store. If either Oprah or The Donald needs a new investment, please have your people call my people. ( I don’t really have people but I can pretend!)

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Cleaning From The Inside Out

(Meditation

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It started out as a summer closet-cleaning project, as it does every year.  What differentiates this year from the last seven is that I am actually doing it. I started cleaning out our closet several days ago and I haven’t stopped.  Among some if the items found are: bags, shoes, books, sweaters, children’s toys, my own stuffed animals. The closet is very crowded with boxes upon boxes of paper and old clothing and photographs, about fifty books, drivel in adolescence journals and every memento since I was a teenager.

I bought new bright aqua hangers at Target feeling confident and ambitious. Only minutes after my mug of espresso I was ready to start. I cleaned for hours as music blared from my computer:  The Beatles and Glee, America and Bruce Springsteen,  I revisited Natalie Merchant, The Beach Boys and songs from Grey’s Anatomy.  I sang as loud as possible, off-key.  I found cookbooks, a dozen notebooks, and old, scratched CD’s. I made a pile to give away perfectly fine clothing that fit my far younger self. Clothes, past their expiration date by twenty years, as I looked down at my larger body. I sighed as I stuffed them into black garbage bags shaking my guilty, downtrodden head. I tried to soothe myself by saying they will go to people who have nothing, but I don’t deep down, forgive my slovenly self.

I was enjoying putting some order into chaos carrying out box after box of stuff I hadn’t seen or used in years. It felt really good to finally attack at least ten to twenty years worth of stuff. That is, until I found “Baby.”Baby was my son’s love object when he was very little. I remember we flew to Oregon for a vacation with our six month year old son, the Buddha Child.  This was a boy who fell asleep in a second. One day, while we were in Oregon we put him in his car seat and he cried and wouldn’t be soothed. The child who fell asleep immediately in any car ride fussed and could not sleep and we had no idea why. As new parents do, we thought ear infection? He looked fine albeit cranky but he didn’t look sick.

All of a sudden as if  I had just discovered the new 500 million dollar invention, an idea popped into my head? Baby?  I made my husband pull off the side of the road and he searched for Baby; Baby was found in the trunk.  Baby was given to our son as we watched in wonder. He clutched Baby in one hand, my son’s thumb slid smoothly in his mouth and he fell asleep immediately. We hadn’t known Baby was that important until that moment. When Baby needed surgery, he was not allowed to be fixed by my mother-in-law, an expert seamstress. Only I was allowed to fix Baby; to me, it was a proud moment.

When I found Original Baby and Substitute Baby today scrunched in the back of my closet I gasped and exclaimed “Baby!!” Then I burst into tears. I thought I had worked through the anticipated separation from my first-born son going to college in three and a half weeks, apparently I wasn’t done. Holding Baby in my arms, clutched to my heart, I sobbed.

When you clean out old things, you find emotional reminders of the past. I found letters from my dad who died ten years ago, it makes you more aware of what you are missing; it brings up sadness, longing, for things that will never again be the same.

I’ve decided to put away all the not-so-gentle reminders of my children’s younger lives into boxes.  It’s time. My  father’s shirt and his letters will get another box and it will also live in the basement. I don’t want to bump into Baby or Dolly or the cards that they made for me and cry. As my son and daughter move on, so must I.

The sad part of seeing Baby was that I thought, I have only one more year with my daughter staying home. My life as being their mother will never be the same.  What on earth am I going to do now?  Sobbing answered that question quickly and then I normalized. I will always be their mother, I will always be my father’s little girl but relationships shift and change. It was time for all of us, including Baby and his friends, to move to a different place. When my son and daughter want to look for memories of their past they will know where to look and that’s how it should be. Life moves on and I with it. Starting from the inside, then moving out.

The Sweet Scent Of A Perfect Peach

Helianthus annuus (Sunflower). Taken at garden...

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In my imagination I think we would be friends if only we lived closer together. I would give her, and only her, the true secret ingredient to my super moist banana chip/raisin bread. Her mouth would smile widely and crumbs would spill happily from her mouth as she ate it with delight; her big doe eyes would nod in agreement. I can’t compete with her cooking of course, she was born baking and cooking but there is no competition between friends. We laugh together at my lack of cooking skills and she constantly admonishes me and tells me she will force me to learn. Knowing her, I have a feeling, she will make me follow through.

On the side of her house I imagine her large garden where she picks her own deep, red  tomatoes from the vine and takes a big bite of one warmed by the sun. She has sunflowers, big tall, brown, vibrant orange and yellow, about fifty of them, near the rows of green peas and lettuce and carrots hiding in the moist soil. Next to them, sweet butter corn  grows tall and stretches to the sun like a morning yoga pose. Wildflowers grow nearby, purple, yellow, pink, white and the blue of a delicate robin’s egg. There are so many vibrant and intense colors in her garden, it’s like staring at a painting by Matisse.

I’ve never had the actual opportunity to meet an idol, someone I’ve cherished since I was a teenager, but I came close, by association, a few weeks ago. I spoke with her warm and friendly assistant and it was such a pleasure. Melissa, her assistant, told me something I will always remember. “She liked your writing and wants you in HER group.”  That lifted my spirits for days. While I could not go to the current workshop she was holding I hope one day to meet her and attend a different workshop.

I read her first book about one hundred times; a book that still sits on my living room shelf now,  forty years later. I share my house with my husband, a son who is soon off to college for the first time, a daughter who will now be a senior in high school and a nine-year old adopted shelter dog named Callie who is sleeping on top of my feet. That first book has been carted from my parents’ apartment to college to every city I have lived in.  We grew up together, she and I, for a forty-year time period, she just didn’t know me.

There’s no doubt in my mind, from her first magazine article in the New York Times that she would grow up to be an amazingly talented, gifted writer. True to herself and her family and friends. She grew as a writer and as a person, I wonder if people expected her to stay nineteen and if that was hard for her? We all change and grow, make mistakes, learn; stagnant is boring.

I think she would be warm and funny, intense about her work and friendly, she probably just baked apple muffins with a crumb topping and served it with sun tea. There’s a colorful tiled table that holds chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies that she whipped up in a spare hour;  sharp, white cheddar cheese and crispy pita chips would be nearby. Family and friends are always invited to her kitchen; there are always people and animals nearby.

I imagine sitting on a large white patio, rocking slowly on our rocking chairs and exchanging whispered secrets and watching the red sunset fall slowly into the water to form three lines of color, orange, dark green, ultimately black. I remember when my family and I used to go to Cape Cod, when our kids were much younger, at every sunset we would sit on the sand, other people around us, and we would wait for the sun to set. When it did, everyone clapped. That is my idea of heaven, living near the ocean, watching the sunset with strangers sharing stories, listening to Reggae music provided for free. Sitting still in front of nature as if we were in a theater waiting for the curtain to rise.

At night, in my imagination, we would creep down the stairs and meet in the kitchen unplanned. We would burst into giggles when we found out we were there for the very same thing.  I always snack after I am supposed to be asleep and I eyed a bowl of ripe peaches on a small, round table that she had recently repainted in pink-rose paint. That first bite of that juicy peach would make me happy, so happy I  can’t even describe it. This peach, this wonderful gift from nature was just perfect. It was ripe, juicy, sweet and had a silken texture. The juice rolled down my chin and I groaned with every bite of happiness. It was the sweet scent of a perfect peach with my new friend, laughing into the dark night.

Dedicated to Joyce Maynard and Melissa

*”Bye, Bye Borders, Borders, Bye Bye”

Borders store closing

Image by scazon via Flickr

Closing all Borders stores is an out-and-out major disappointment. It stinks, big time. What now? Adios Barnes and Noble too? I’m not saying that I don’t love Amazon.com because I do, I like it for its convenience and low prices. Sigh, but really, you can’t sit at Amazon and drink a cup of coffee. You can’t leisurely and lovingly stroll down the aisles to see what the new hardcover books look like or how the new in paperback books are all lined up in a perfect row begging for hands to fondle them. It’s just not right and it’s sad.

Now, there is no where to go and stroll through the aisles, looking at book jackets, stopping to read the titles, gently touching my fingertips to the outline of the illustration. Borders was a great place to meet, it was in the perfect place for so many people from nearby medical offices, stores, office buildings and deli’s to meet.  Closing Borders is closing a network of people who like to linger, socialize and have a damn cup of coffee even it tasted like dirty dishwater. It was a place to sit and not ever feel rushed. You could linger among magazines and mochachinos. You could also meet like-minded people, give unsolicited advice about books, make friends, start a book club, read books to their springy, enthusiastic children.

So now, what do we do? Read our lifeless Kindles (I don’t use the one I ordered years ago) by ourselves, never touching a piece of fine, heavy, cream-colored paper? Part of  closing this particular business is not like saying good-bye to a furniture store or a nail salon, it’s saying good-bye to a way of life. A nice, peaceful way of life where people could talk, they could exchange ideas and suggest books for each other or lend coupons. It was a social place as well as a store. My children may never sit in a bookstore and linger over a heavenly array of different books, with different colorful covers and  eat snacks. They won’t meet other people or share a cup of coffee or talk to other people their age. They will be hunched over their iPhones and all they need, it seems, is a credit card and a computer. It’s a sad statement for our society.

*Sung to the tune of  “Bye, Bye, Baby, Baby Goodbye…” By the Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons

A Discontinued Product That I Want Back (FOR HIM)

Chocolate hills in Bohol, Philippines
  • A Discontinued Product that I Want Back (FOR HIM)
  • Bring Back His Chocolate Bar None Candy Bar
    I am psychic because just yesterday I asked my friends if they had heard of a product, a candy bar that my husband dearly misses. It’s called BAR NONE and life for my husband, has not been the same since it disappeared in chocolate heaven. My friends also found an on-line petition to bring back, Bar None candy bar. Hon, I’m doing all that I can. This is my gift to you.

ICD Jewelery Store – Meant To Be

This is a true story about how things sometimes work out the way they should. Oprah used to talk about that a lot.  Synchronicity, things happening because they are “meant to be.” Yesterday, I wrote a blog called “Saying Goodbye To Oprah” today I experienced what she has always talked about.

1) I had a new Doctor’s appointment and when I asked the new Doctor if she was ever in touch with the Doctor who had retired she said “in fact, I’m seeing him tonight.”  I asked her to please tell him about an article I wrote about the loss of my dear friend “Loving Dawn” that was published in a local magazine. She said she would but as I was about to leave I remembered I had copies in my trunk that I had just picked up from the editor the day before. I ran down and got the magazine, happy to show them.  No coincidence there.

2) I stopped by the florist to order my son’s girlfriend’s corsage, continued on to the library and decided to go to a shoe store.

3) I parked my car, (having no sense of direction whatsoever) where I thought the shoe store was. I couldn’t find it. It turned out that I parked in front of a store called ICD Jewelery. When I saw the name I remembered my son saying that he bought his girlfriend’s birthday present there. The door was held open and I decided to walk in and browse. In the past I had always assumed that it was just high-end stuff but it isn’t. It’s a wonderful combination of completely affordable jewelery AND beautiful expensive, sparkling pieces.

4) I  looked around keeping my daughter’s upcoming 17th birthday in mind, I even saw the lovely bracelet my son had bought. There were beautiful pieces in EVERY price range. After chatting with a nice woman named Sarah I softly said:  ” You are doing this store a disservice, you really should advertise more.” She smiled and said “can I repeat that?” I said “I guess so.” She called the owner over, an absolutely stunning and  beautiful woman (she should be a model) named Varda Singer and asked me to repeat my comment. I did, I asked where they advertised because I had no idea that this store sold things in all price ranges. I am the type of person that should live with focus groups. I try every new product, I can predict if something will work or not, I know “star” quality before others. If I really liked this store my friends would too. If I didn’t know about this store they probably didn’t either.

5) The owner, Varda, said “she pays so much in advertising in publications it’s sometimes not worth it.”  After talking with her about the jewelery, both high-end and inexpensive, she fell silent. She looked at me, took a gorgeous pink beaded bracelet off the display, handed it to me and said, “word of mouth: this is how I like to get people to the store.” Before I knew it she took the price tag off and presented the bracelet to me as a present.”If people like it and ask where you got it, you tell them.”  No one had ever given me a present like that and I was shocked.  I said “No, no, no, no… ” but she insisted and put it on my arm.

6) All she knew was that I was a mom window shopping for her daughter. She had no idea I wrote a blog.  We laughed and talked some more and out of the blue she threw in a Hebrew word that I recognized immediately.  The word “Beshert” it’s meaning:  “meant to be” or “destiny.”

7) I told them I wanted to blog about this experience (I am not a paid employee nor am I a sponsor or a PR agent and I am not getting any kind of kickback!)  I asked Varda if we could tie this special day in with my blog. If people read this blog and wanted to go to the store, perhaps they could get a $5 dollar discount? She thought about it, shook her head and said with a smile said:”please tell people that if they just drop by the store and mention your blog, they will get a free “bracelet” too.”

I will REPEAT THAT: Mention that you read this blog and get a free bracelet. Stop by there, look around, you won’t be disappointed.  They are located in the town of Chappaqua, NY, 75 South Greeley Avenue. You can reach them at 914-238-3646 or at ICDJLTD@aol.com. or visit:  http://www.icdjewelry.com/

Thank you again, Varda, for my pink bracelet.

My free gift from ICD Jewelery in Chappaqua, NY

“(S)He’s Leaving Home, Bye, Bye”*

Kleinkind beim Laufen

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(April, 2011)

My son, my first-born made his final decision for college in September. He’s excited, thrilled and after celebrating with him, I slipped away and am now holed up in my bedroom, sobbing. It’s not like I haven’t been prepared for this, it’s not like he’s still six it just feels like he was six a moment ago. He’s my boy and as much as I know how happy he is with his choice, the deposit put me over the edge. I fell apart; it was now official.

I know I am being ridiculous, this is not sudden bad news but it feels like a total shock to me. I am weeping and I can’t explain it except to say that while I am so happy for him, I feel vastly sorry for myself. This is my son, my first child, the kid I called “buddy” so many times my husband was worried people would think that was his name. This boy is a delight, a warm, compassionate, smart young man. At the age of 2 1/2 he stunned a grown-up friend when he used the word “compromise.” When the friend doubted him and asked him if he knew what that meant, he explained it beautifully: “If I want to go to bed at 9 and my daddy says 7 then we compromise in the middle.” You can’t argue with facts.

(June, 2011)

I lost it today, in the supermarket between the pizza rolls and the pizza bagels, two past favorite foods of my son. The tears welled up in my eyes and I started crying, quietly, discreetly but that was just strength of will on my part. I could have sobbed but I held myself together. My son is graduating High School in a week and a half. The day after, he leaves to go to his old camp to be a counselor. I never liked being left, that’s for sure. My parents left me alone a lot when I was younger so they could travel together in Europe. I would cry hysterically but once the yellow taxi disappeared from the view from my sixth floor kitchen window, I was alright.

I feel, like many other mothers and fathers feel that he is leaving me and us, the family. I know I am overreacting but this is how I feel. It’s a great thing, a joyful thing but the good feeling hasn’t caught up to my heart yet. In time, I’m sure it will. I just have to get used to it but it is a drawn out process.  I like to think that when he actually leaves FOR college I will be better, but who am I trying to kid?  I’ve never been great at change and this is a big one.

It doesn’t help that my daughter, only one grade year apart from her brother, will be a Senior in High School come September. This little girl of mine is smart, independent and always knew what she wanted from the minute she was born. She planned her birthday party themes four years in advance and stuck to each one of them. She is a fierce animal lover, and vegetarian, she is very smart, extraordinarily beautiful and has an incredible quick wit. This girl, wrapped her arms around my neck for years and wouldn’t let go. No one else could soothe her except me. Soon, she too, will be running out the door, this independent free spirit that I fervently admire.

In our hearts, our secret fear is that our sons and daughters will forget us. So, I am saying this now. Please remember we love you so much. Please don’t forget us or stop loving us. Keep in touch and the hug you give when you visit, try to make it last a second or two longer so that we can remember just how good it feels.

*Courtesy of The Beatles song