Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tree and Me...

For those of you who know me for the past 14 years - you know that I have an amazing group of 30+ women who have been my friends since I found out I was pregnant with Bob. I have only met about 6 or 7 of these friends in real life - but they have been a constant in my life through my journey as a mom...

What did we all have in common? We were all due in January of 2001. Some of the babies joined us as early November - Bob brought up the rear as the last baby in February. We have shared joys, tragedies, loss of parents, loss of pregnancies, end of marriages, new beginning and even the birth of GRANDCHILDREN.

Today we found out we lost one of our own. Tree was an amazing constant in all of our lives...and a personal blessing to me. See Tree lived right outside of Vancouver, only a 45 minutes from where J grew up and my in-laws lived.

Tree and I first met in person in December of 2001, when J's dad was in full swing with his treatment for brain cancer. My new friend came to see us with her beautiful daughter Niamh and her husband at the time Dave. It was Shabbat, and we didn't get any pictures of that first visit - but it was a visit with a friend that felt like we had known each other forever...

Fast forward to September of 2002...

By this time Belle was born and we traveled to Vancouver more often as my FIL was loosing his battle. Tree was my island of peace as I was trying to juggle my two young children while trying to figure out how to support my husband during this time...Once again being with Tree was like being with a friend you have known all your life.

We spent the day together...and we became family....

By our third visit in July of 2003 we were all in...husbands and all! 

And in 2004 Tree's 4 children and our 3 were all part of the posse...

Our last in person visit was August of 2006...which seems crazy to me - as it feels like yesterday.

After J's grandma passed we didn't go out to Vancouver as often. Each time we went out Tree and I talked between visits and during even when we couldn't get together. 2011's trip I was really worried about her...she didn't sound right, didn't ask if we could get together, it left me feeling uneasy. 

But in 2013 she was sounding so much better. So.Much.Better. We couldn't make it out to visit her on that trip and I was relieved to hear her voice and really felt her joining me in our disappointment of not being able to meet up...she messaged me: "We'll get together again :). Am so glad you are having fun!" 

I am so sad to say today we found out that Tree is gone...she had been trying so hard for herself, for her four beautiful children...and she lost her battle. I pray for her beautiful children...and I pray that she is now at peace...and I pray that one day...we'll get together again...

Thursday, May 15, 2014

"Please help me by being support to my family....that is what I want the most."

For those of you who have been in my life at any point in time over the past 21 years know my Sister from another mother - SAS. 

We met at freshman move in day at AU in 93. We were two first born girls, with relatively young parents (her's even younger than mine), with much younger siblings. We were 18, SAS had a 14 year old sister JSM and an 8 year old sister Nean.... (I had an 8 year old sister Lolo and 7 year old brother Unc at the time). 

SAS and I became instant friends and we each became additional sisters/ daughters to the other family. SAS came with me often to visit in NY and I spent many summers with her at her parents' home on the Cape. 

When we graduated from college SAS and I and W rented a row house together on Capital Hill, SAS was in my wedding party and present at the birth of one and a half of our four children...and is Bob' godmother.

Her younger sister JSM moved here to DC area after she graduated from college, met her husband and settled here. A few years ago SAS moved back to New England, but JSM and her husband stayed here. We got to be not only friends through her sister, but friends ourselves as adults. JSM lovingly called our home the "abyss" ....some might think that is because our house is a mess.... which according to some family members it is...but this was JSM's way of expressing how people can say they are stopping by SCentral for a short time - and end up staying much longer than expected. It makes me smile that she coined that term for us.

In March of 2011 JSM and her husband G had two beautiful baby boys - twins. It was amazing to watch this young woman transform to an amazing wife and mother. While she was pregnant with the boys, she felt a lump. Whatever the reason there were back and forths and suggestion to come back when she was finished nursing. 

August of 2011 - when the boys were less than 5 months old, at the age of 32 JSM was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic breast cancer that had spread already to her liver and bones.

When JSM messaged me to tell me about her diagnosis she said:  
"Often when someone is sick so many people want to know how the "sick" person is doing and how they can help them. . . well if you are wondering that at anytime. . . now or in the future, please help me by being support to my family (and Hubby) as you and they feel appropriate. That is what I want the most." 
It has been a long 2.5 years for her family. In June of 2013 JSM, G and the twins moved in with her parents. Nean, her husband and their son (weeks apart from the twins) and SAS all live in New England and have created a support system 2nd to none for G, JSM and the boys. 

This week the world lost JSM...but more importantly G lost his partner in life, K and E, at the age of three, lost their mom, T and M lost their daughter, SAS and Nean loss their sister...Grandma and Grandpa S lost their granddaughter...She was such an amazing, gracious, humble fighter....We are devastated for their loss.  

I am trying to figure out how to continue to honor JSM and her wishes...I have not figured that one out yet.

As for SAS - From our 18 year old selves on 5th floor Hughes, to that infamous road trip to and from FL in which I would not fight with her, to RA training, to our summers on the cape trying to dye our brown hair and trips to crazy the MANY nights she stayed up to keep me company while I pulled an all my amazing bachelorette party, to being in the room for 1.5 of my practicing being an "Auntie" on my kids so she could be a perfect one for JSM and Nean's becoming the "fudge lady" our present day 38 year old selves (at least for a few weeks/months when we turn 39) she has always been next to me no matter how many days have passed or miles are in physically between...

SAS is such a support to everyone - and she has been one to me for the past 21 years -SAS does not like sappy, she is stoic, she is patient, she is practical, she is loving, she is kind, she is sarcastic and funny...but after 21 years of sisterhood....I know that SAS is bottling it up inside, while worrying about others. 

I am hoping to be able to do something to support her so she too may grieve in a way that is appropriate for her... If that means multiple pitchers of margaritas and making fun of those we love...and some we love to hate, that is what we will do. After all, I owe it to SAS and I made a promise to JMS...and intend to honor her and that promise. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lessons, Torah, Sandy... Modern Day Life Lessons

Attending a bar mitzvah this past Shabbat in a shul out of town I had many emotions that I wasn't expecting. The Rabbi began to talk about this week’s parsha, Chayei Sarah. As he was discussing Eliezer going out to find Yitzchak’s future, not just his wife, my mind began to wander. Rivkah reminded me of our children’s school, not only was she attentive to one aspect of the approaching stranger – but holistically.

When J and I got married and began our family 13 years ago, just two months shy of this Bar-Mitzvah boy’s birth, we had already had the opportunity to think about what our vision was for our children’s education. We had our Eliezer to help us scout out our children’s best option for a holistic education. Our Eliezer was the many families and even some friends who had already sent their children to this school, helping us gather information about this amazing place of learning. During our past 6 years and into our 7th we have become our school’s Eliezer as well. We have been part of this amazing community – a Rivkah that has not only shown us a holistic approach to education, but also community.

Our school has been our community and family through the tragic death of my grandmother erev pesach 2007, to Bean’s 10 day hospitalization in 2009 and diagnosis 8 months later to our latest health scare in 2012. Our school has seen our children holistically helping, guiding and supporting all 6 of us through learning disabilities, diagnosing ADHD, sever anxiety and behavioral issues that often come with each of these diagnoses.

But the parsha begins a bit earlier – it begins with Sarah’s death - the parsha says she had “a good life” and ends with Avraham’s death.

We were in NJ, where just like my hometown, Sandy brought alot of devastation. The Rabbi asked us what we would choose to bring if we hadonly 20 minutes before we had to evacuate, things that were not replaceable by insurance money (we weren’t talking lives but rather objects). He talked about prize possessions we would take, the family heirlooms.

My mind wandered from Bubbie’s candlesticks and the ones the kids made in 2nd grade to family pictures to the four, individual, boxes we have in our basement that contain our irreplaceable children’s creations for every chag, every American holiday, every topic of education from Picasso to the Colonies.

I could no longer hold in my emotions, as the next place my head went to, was what if Puppy’s box  didn't  get to be full of all these wonderful things…what if he  didn't  have a crown from his chaggigat hasidur? What if  didn't  get to have a t-shirt from star gazing? What if he  doesn't  get to make his candle sticks for his Kabbalat Shabbat ceremony?

And then I focused back into what the Rabbi was saying. The torah said Sarah had a good life. Was it the life that she had planned? Was it the life she was promised? No, she and Abraham  didn't  have the land they were promised nor the number of children, it  wasn't  the vision she had for her life. And those affected by Sandy, whatever their plan was for October 30th changed when Sandy hit on the 29th. In whatever capacity they were affected, weather that was not having power for two weeks, or lost their homes completely. And people had to grieve; everyone has the right to grieve.

Our own little world had a perfect storm on November 2nd. We made a mistake while giving Puppy his medicine, he  didn't  get 1/3 of it. And the shadow who has been in place to watch Puppy’s every move during this transition  wasn't  nearby. Puppy behaved inappropriately. A little boy told him something Puppy knew not to be true, and instead of either of them finding an adult to help – the verbal escalated, Puppy then grabbed him and stomped on his foot. Puppy’s behavior was not ok, it was not out of the range of age appropriate, but it was not ok. Even though he has progressed so beautifully, so.beautifully., these past 6 weeks his career at our beloved school is in jeopardy. And now my vision for what I had planned for his life, for his education for his future is changing.

I began to question our Rivkah and weather she is truly as holistic as we thought she was. Maybe Eliezer made a mistake with reading his signs…or maybe history of being holistic with others in the past is not representative of the future. But I don’t think so – I think there are other pressures.  

But I grieve that our Puppy will be the one to lose the opportunity of the future wehad planned for him. It is possible the other future will be an okay one for him; it is possible the other future may be a better one for him. But I can’t seeany of that yet; I can only see the doom and gloom that needs to be rebuilt after the storm.

Our school has such a great gift in our son Puppy as a student, not only is he an amazing kid with amazing gifts and qualities, his challenges, which he does have his share of – helps our Rivkah reveal some of her own hidden riches she might not have known she had.  

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches but reveal to them their own.” Benjamin Disraeli

So for now I grieve. I grieve for the change in plan, the change in vision, the feeling of Puppy being cheated of this wonderful future, this wonderful community. I grieve that this opportunity to help build community and teach children how each one of them has challenges, and how they can work as a team building unity and support for one another is being missed. And I cry, loudly and often.

But as the Rabbi said, Sarah saw her life as good, even though it  wasn't  the future she had envisioned. I pray that I will get there soon, for the strength to get there soon and the ability to support Puppy through his anxiety, fear and grief of a future he has too envisioned for himself that is changing – way beyond his or our control. And I cry, loudly and often.

"Never apologize for showing feelings. When you do so, you apologize for the truth." Benjamin Disraeli

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Ten Years

Today is the my father-in-laws Yahrzeit. The hebrew anniversary of his death.

It is amazing to me that so much time has passed. It is amazing to me that's he did not have the opportunity to meet Bean or Puppy.

I love remembering how welcomed he made me feel to the family.

I felt his presence this past week, his gentle and kind reassuring hand....

May his memory be a blessing to all who knew him, and to all the lives he touched.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My Grandfather's Clock, 90 Years

Today, June 5th 2012 would have been my Grandpa J's 90th Birthday. He has been gone almost 4 full years - but his spirit and legacy are still very much with us,

As I began to think about this day all I could think of was the song - "My Grandfather's Clock" - for some crazy reason we sang it in a play in second grade - it was a "Father Time" play. Seems a little morbid looking back - but I remember DG dressed up as Father Time - and I have never forgotten the words to this song.

Grandpa's Clock
My grandfather's clock
Was too large for the shelf,
So it stood ninety years on the floor;
It was taller by half
Than the old man himself,
Though it weighed not a pennyweight more.
It was bought on the morn
Of the day that he was born,
And was always his treasure and pride;
But it stopped short
Never to go again,
When the old man died.
Ninety years without slumbering,
Tick, tock, tick, tock,
His life seconds numbering,
Tick, tock, tick, tock,
It stopped short
Never to go again,
When the old man died.

My grandparents had an amazing clock in their living room - (so happened it was a 'grandmother' clock but still, it is big). The sound is magnificent - and the memories of watching Grandpa wind it fill my heart - it was almost ritualistic.

I worried, as a 7 year old, if this clock would stop working when my Grandpa died...and if it did, what would I have to remember him by.

The clock still works beautifully - and I love listening it to it whenever I am at my parent's home - but I never had to worry about how I would remember him - he is a part of my every day.

He has influenced so much of who I am today, how J and I raise our children, how we value family and relationships, how we observe our Judaism. I know how proud he would be of all of us today, knowing that he had a hand in raising all of us and the decisions we make today as adults.

That other song that comes to mind is one that he used to sing: My Zayde 
But Zayde made us laugh,
Zayde made us sing,

And Zayde made a kiddush Friday night;

And Zayde, oh, my Zayde,How I loved him so,
And Zayde used to teach me wrong from right

So much has happened in the past 4 years, his absence has truly been felt...from the birth of E, to RD & D's wedding, and DR & A's wedding, Lolo's graduation from graduate school, DR & DL's graduations from law school, JP on Broadway, JP's engagement to A, Lolo's engagement to P, Unc on birthright, Bob and Belle learning to read Torah, all the teeth that have been lost and so many other everyday happenings where we would love to just pick up the phone and share it with him...

Happy Birthday George. We love you and we miss you everyday - but we know you are watching over us and all we do. From the tick-tock of the clock to kiddush Friday night and everything in between, you are a part of us and we are your amazing legacy.

Grandpa and me 1975
Grandma, Grandpa and Me 1977

Eulogy I gave at Grandpa's Funeral - 8-15-08

When thinking of Grandpa J, we think of a strong man, with strong values and strong opinions. Grandpa J was not shy about telling us, or anyone, his opinion. Everything he did, and all the choices he made were made with the best intentions and with his bubie – children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in mind.

We as his grandchildren learned much from him – but most importantly, the importance of family relationships. Grandpa, weather he meant to or not taught us that family time, through traveling and spending chagim together, create our most important memories and bonds. We as siblings, in groups, of three – EJ, SJ and RD – Lolo, Unc and me – JP, DR and DL, have emulated  the relationships our parents have modeled with each other…but we as cousins – all 9 of us - and now with the addition of our spouses – have a relationship that many siblings can only dream of.

As I stand here today– I can still here him say Hi Lissa Pooh as he answers the phone. Just in that right voice of his – in recent years it has been, how many kids do you have now? 4 – FOUR! You knocked out FOUR kids…but when I think Grandpa J, that isn’t what I remember.

I remember walking to the bathroom from my yellow room in their house – and hearing someone say, “is that a mouse I hear??” “a large mouse!”

Climbing into bed between Grandma and Grandpa and Grandpa trying to warm his toes on me – a talent I have inherited. I remember Grandpa rubbing his stubbly face on mine. And him smelling my cheek.

I remember watching fireworks out of the bedroom window after4th of July baseball games, and listening to airplanes overhead – by the direction grandpa knew where they were headed.

I remember sitting on the spinny stool in his office watching him work on everyone’s mouths. And I remember yelling at him to put both hands back on the wheel as he clapped to his chazonish music in the car.

I remember walking to shul with Grandpa and sitting on the wrong side of the mechitzah on his lap – with all the men, with the boys getting up to sing Anim Zemirot – and the bar mitzvah reading Torah – he would say, “Lissa Pooh, you are going to be do that soon.” The irony escaped me then,but he believed I would – and though it was at a very different shul, without a mechitzah – I did.

I remember walking to the record store, to buy my Aficoman present – Sader Party that has become infamous over these years and that Grandma B was able to bring back to us last year.

I don’t know if the other grandchildren know this – and I’m pretty sure my kids don’t – but Grandpa was way ahead of his time – maybe 4 or5 decades – with recycling. Grandpa used to type letters and notes on envelopes that he pulled out of his trash can in his office.

Long before the 75 year old Grandpa J mastered the world of“web-tv” 10 years ago, Grandpa wrote letters to congressmen and senators,presidents and vice presidents alike – and when that standard form letter came back he believed that people like the likes of President Regan were really writing to him. Boy were we concerned when his ability to mail out letters multiplied exponentially by the power of the forward button.

Grandpa J loved each one of us, in his own way. There were times when he was hard on each one of us – but grandpa truly believed that it was his responsibility, as the Dad, as the Grandpa and as the Zayde– like Moshe Rabeinu taught - to make sure his children all lived up to the best of their potential.

(Bob) – “the one with brains” you are named after  Zayde's cousin Jack.  Zayde loved your love of Judaism and your inquisitiveness, and your love for knowledge and reading. May you think not only of Hashem every time you “put a kippah on your head” – but  Zayde also.

(Belle) – “the smart blonde one” – you are named after  Zayde's brother Uncle Eli, Yechielle  - he loved your sensitive nature and how you sat and talked with him, and I loved the way you had patience and reminded me very much of my relationship with  Zayde when I was your age.

(Bean) – “little girl” – you are named after Grandpa G –who anytime his name was mentioned  Zayde said, he was such a nice man.  Zayde judged character – he knew when he liked someone – and your are someone who is special and sensitive to others' emotions.

(Puppy) – “gan eden" – you are named for the praise to god of having achieved the garden of eden, paradise – with four healthy children. You are the youngest of all of  Zayde's 8 great grandchildren. What paradise  Zayde was able to achieve – a loving beautiful wife of 63 years, 5 wonderful children,– 11 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren.

My wish for my children is that you remember the relationship you had with your  Zayde – and that you strive each day to be the best person, friend and family member you can be.

May we all live healthy long lives full joy, knowledge and compassion – living life to it’s fullest.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Beautiful Partnerships

Life is not always easy. There are ups and downs. Choosing to share your life with someone is a personal choice. and who you choose to share it with, even more difficult and more personal.

I cannot remember a time when I did not believe that same sex relationships were beautiful. Maybe it was the family I grew up in. I remember cousin H and his boyfriend, I remember cousin R. The older generation, the G siblings seemed just as excepting of them as any other relationship in our family. Maybe it was just my perception. But that is my memory from about the age of 5 on, sitting in Aunt F and Uncle H's back yard, being welcomed and welcoming others into the family.

It is very much how my Grandma B was. She was not judgmental. Very accepting and loving of people for who they are and what they were able to being to the table.

I chose a life partner who believes the same way I do. We believe, when finding love, sex/gender is not an issue.

One if my favorite memories of the kids, when they were little (Belle was 4 and Bob was 5), was a Sunday morning, J and I were trying to doze while the 4 were watching TV on our bed. Bob said to us, "Belle thinks that two girls can get married!" J and I simultaneously in our sleep blurted out, "she's right!" I added just not in the state of MD yet, but hopefully soon. They took it and moved on. You see it was 2006 and by then same sex marriage was legal in Massachusetts...we were hoping that Maryland wouldn't be far behind.

I have tried to take the opportunity to point out the beauty of relationships, healthy ones, whenever I can.

Recently, a friend from college received an award for his journalistic piece on DOMA. I was cuddling in bed with Bean and telling her about it. She said "mommy, I don't know why they make such a big deal about people who love people who are the same gender, it just makes it seem like they are different - but they aren't, they are the same, they just want to marry the people they love..."

How right she was, my heart filled with was so matter of fact for her, it upset her that people made a big deal.

And then this past Saturday night, as we were lighting candles to bring in the holiday of Shavuot, Belle was asking why I got to light 2 candles and the kids only 1.

J explained to her that girls light one before they are married for themselves, and two after- one for themselves and one for their husband. Without a split second of delay Belle said, "or wife!"

Two very amazingly proud mommy moments for me. They give me hope for the future and the feeling that with all the ups and downs of parenthood we are clearly doing something right.

I hope and pray that our four beautiful children will each find a life partner who loves them as much as their father loves me, who is able to bring out the best in them and who can support them in their life journey navigating through life's ups and downs and celebrating the beauty of all healthy relationships!

Monday, May 28, 2012

New Favorite Holiday

My favorite holiday used to be Passover, but that changed back in 2007. So for the past five years I have been trying to create new traditions for my "new favorite holiday," Shavuot. Shavuot starts 7 weeks after the first day of Passover. It tends to be a lesser known Jewish holiday - maybe because as a friend recently said it is after most of the learning during the school year is done, or maybe because only 7 weeks after all the work of passover another holiday is almost too much to think about.

5 years ago we made our way to Bethany Beach - we rented a house with NES (who was pregnant with L), her lovely husband M, and E who at the time was 16 months old. It was a testament to our friendship - can  you imagine 9 of us, in a 3 bedroom house for a week - two of the days being holidays with NO TV or electronics of any type. It is one of my favorite memories.

And then we did it again the next year! L was almost 6 months old and this time with 10 of us in one house

It is amazing to know we have people in our lives that we choose to spend time with and see benefits all around! I think that trip with Bob and L really began their love affair. This is one of my favorite pictures! (He wanted her to look at the camera).

Unfortunately in 2009 things got more difficult Bean got sick, and over the weekend of Shavuot we were in Vancouver and Seattle for J's Grandma's funeral. And we didn't get our "get-away." In 2010 while we got to cohabitate with NES and family we didn't get our "get-away" either. Rinse repeat 2011 sans the baby and snow - though we did get to spend a Shabbat at NES's home in November.

One of my favorite traditions from our Beach Shavuot was fondue, the boyz men didn't like it as much as NES and I, but they put up with us. So while we haven't gone away the past few years, we have brought a little bit of the beach memory/tradition to our home.

Gather 3 fondue pots, 7 children and 4 adults and you have my favorite ingredients for my new favorite holiday! For the past few years we have done just that.

Not going away has blessed us with the opportunity to add new friends to our tradition - we have welcomed  S and M and Little SJ. So make that 8 children and 6 adults.

And while it isn't a "get-away" it is nice to know that we have friends who "get" us, accept us and have helped create new traditions and memories for my new favorite holiday.

I look forward to Shavuot 2013 - when it is only a few days past Mother's day. Maybe we will "get-away" maybe we won't - but the Minhag has been set - fondue and friends are on the menu.