September 25, 2018

Memorial Day 2018

Every single day, including this Memorial Day, someone will die or be injured while serving this country on our behalf.  It is our duty to remember this weekend is about the troops, past and present, and not just about a BBQ or day off of work. It’s important to take a moment to acknowledge and thank our armed forces.

Remember those who are overseas.  Remember those here at home.  Remember those who are coming home injured. Remember those who are getting ready to go.  Remember every single person who has ever put on a uniform and served the United States. They dedicate their lives to service so we can live ours. To every man and woman who is serving in the armed services, every mother and father who has a child serving, every child who has a parent serving, every family who is waiting for someone to come home, and every family who has lost a member of their family, thank you.

There are kids serving who are younger than my own child.  There are men and women serving who are missing their kids.  It is a huge sacrifice to be in the military.  I can’t wrap my head around what it must feel like to be on a plane heading overseas, or on a plane coming home, but I imagine heading in either direction is scary.

If you see someone in uniform stop and say thank you. Let them know you appreciate what they do for us. Thank you to everyone who sacrifices every day to make this a great country. Your bravery and sacrifices are valued and matter. You are in our hearts, we are waiting for you to come home, pray for you, and are keeping the faith.

 

Dating 101 – The Last Word of Caution

I have written a couple of times this weekend about Benjamin. He is a man I spoke to for a week, made plans to meet, and then I was 30 minutes late for our first in person meeting due to insane Friday night LA traffic. After letting him know I’d be late, twice, and chatting on the phone while I was stuck in traffic, when I arrived he stood up, gave me a hug, sat down, and told me he was pissed off I was late and was leaving. Our meeting lasted about 40 seconds. This is after we spoke for endless hours on the phone before the meeting.

I drove 2 hours in traffic to meet a Frisbee player for 40 seconds. Annoying to be sure, and it totally hurt my feelings, but I took comfort in the comments I received from my readers when I wrote about it. People were kind when he couldn’t be, which was wonderful and made me feel better. It is impossible to have an experience like this and not take it personally. We’d been getting to know each other, had a great connection, then he saw me in person and bailed. I was late. I didn’t stop to kill someone on my way, I was just late. I don’t get his reaction.

Important to note that we met at a place between our two homes in the valley. I drove 2 hours from the Palisades, (Sunset Boulevard was a nightmare), but he drove to the meeting from his home, which in horrible traffic was about five-minutes away. I could assume he saw me and changed his mind, but that doesn’t really make sense, and why does it need to be something about me that made him go? The honest truth is I am beautiful, funny, and kind. Having a cup of tea with me would have been easy. He simply made a choice to be a douchelord.

Or, maybe it wasn’t a choice, maybe he is just a schmuck. Maybe he is rude, elitist, selfish, weird, and emotionally stunted. So different from what I thought about him BEFORE we met. This is the guy who is going to blame you for everything. He is controlling and intimidating, confusing and scary. He did me a favor by leaving, even though it wasn’t him who left. I got up and left. He was still sitting at the table when I drove by. Perhaps waiting for his next date. This is not a nice guy and I didn’t see it at first. Or did I?

Reviewing our conversations before we met, I thought he was great. Thinking back on our conversations after we met, he said some strange things, but I didn’t hear it because I heard what I wanted to hear. There is a lesson in this humiliation. We need to pay attention when dating. If there is a red flag, don’t tuck it away in the hopes you are misreading it. If you sense something is off, believe yourself. When you are dating it is easy to talk yourself into something you know in your gut is not good. I am embarrassed he was done after seeing me, but I don’t think it was me. He was enraged I was late and he took it as disrespectful. That is scary.

This was about him not me, but it doesn’t make the embarrassment any less. Dating is hard, and there are no guarantees, but it should not be hurtful. If someone is unkind, walk away. If someone talks unkindly about an ex, walk away. If someone blames you for things that are not your fault, walk away. In the course of 6 days this man charmed me, made me think I had been rude, made me think I needed to apologize, then ended our first meeting after 40 seconds because I disrespected him by being late. That is crazy and I can hardly believe it happened to me. For a minute I thought about taking down the blogs I wrote about him and simply erasing the experience, but that isn’t how I roll. I share the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I am a smart girl and it is fascinating I didn’t catch the red flags when they first appeared. Someone might read this and think I am overreacting and it was just a bad date, but I don’t think so. This is a horrible guy. This is not about having the last word, as much as it is about sharing words of caution. We are all in this together and as a woman searching for love, I sometimes stumble. My readers have picked me up every time I’ve fallen, and so I am swallowing my pride, exposing the ugly side of dating, and hoping it helps someone else keep the faith.

Dating 101 – Timing is Everything

This morning I posted a blog about a man named Benjamin. We have been talking for a few days on the phone and made a plan to meet for coffee after work today. I was looking forward to spending time with him all day. I found him to be clever and quick and I was excited about meeting in person. When we made the plan last night on the phone and I immediately had a flash of worry about the time.

There is a lot of traffic on a Friday afternoon and my ride home is long on a good day, so I should have made the plan for 6:30, but I wasn’t really thinking about it being Friday and agreed to six. Traffic was a nightmare and I was running late. I texted him to say I was would be 15 minutes late because of traffic. I should have called, but I was on the phone with work, so I texted.

I was in a bit of a panic about being late. As soon as I got off the phone with work I called Benjamin to say I was stuck on the 101 and crawling to him. I decided to get off the freeway and take surface streets, but I was still very late. I arrived to our 6:00 meeting at almost 6:30. Painfully late and rather embarrassed about it, but when I saw him I quickly forgot about how late I was.

He stood, we hugged and began to chat. He then told me he was pissed off that I was late not only once, but twice. I was late when I pushed to 6:15, then late again when I arrived at almost 6:30. He said he was going to leave. I was stunned for a second and apologized again, telling him it took me 2 hours to get to him, but he was done. He had no interest in talking or spending time with me.

I said I was sorry again, and then I left. I walked back to my car and when I drove past the restaurant I saw him sitting where we had met and I burst into tears. I am now home, still crying, and mad at myself for all the crying. I simply do not understand the need to be mean to someone, particularly someone you don’t even know when we had been having a lovely time getting to know each other.

I have arrived to a date and had someone be late, but I stayed. I have arrived to a date only to find a quadriplegic with a breathing tube, but I stayed. I have arrived to a date with a man who failed to mention he only had one arm, but I stayed. It is kindness. It would have taken no effort to put aside his anger at my tardiness and had a cup of tea. His decision was simply mean and hurt my feelings.

It could have been that he saw me and used my being late as a way to cut the date off. Perhaps I was too short, or hated my blog, or simply found me unattractive, but he still could have had a cup of tea. We had spoken for hours on the phone and twenty minutes more over a cup of tea would have been nice. Perhaps he would have forgotten about my late arrival, or not, but it would have been kind.

I am sad because I like him. It is that simple, I like him. When someone shows you who they are however, you must believe them the first time, and he has shown who he is. That said, I get it. It is a sign of disrespect to be late for a meeting and perhaps my nerves caused me to act like I didn’t care about being late, but that could not be further from the truth. I respect him, his time, my time, and I am sorry.

At the end of the day timing is everything I suppose. I am sad, but it won’t last. There is nothing like a real life fairytale wedding to give me hope. Mazel Tov to Meghan and Harry. Dating is hard and while I am feeling a bit sorry for myself right now, I also feel sorry for Benjamin that this was his choice. He lost out on me, and I am fabulous. This too shall pass, so I am keeping the faith.

Dating 101: Jaded but Hopeful

This week I was asked out by a yet another man in a dress, one in his eighties, one who posted jail pictures, and one who has a dog named Ned. By Ned, of course I mean his name is N.E.D. as in No Erectile Dysfunction. Important to note when he wrote to tell me what NED stood for, he spelled dysfunction wrong, which I found to be sad and hilarious. My dating life continues to be entertaining and pathetic. I’m exhausted from all the eye rolling I do.

Over the weekend I received an email from a man we will call “Benjamin”. Benjamin wrote me a short but sweet note. I responded, we briefly emailed, then moved on to phone calls. He is entertaining, funny, educated, open, honest, Jewish, a dad, good with banter, and attractive if he actually looks like his pictures. Over email he was very clever, which I find appealing. He drew me in with a wonderful combination of boyish charm and sarcastic smartass. I was interested.

He is very aware of who he is, what he needs, and how he is going to get what he wants. He is articulate and not afraid to speak his mind, which I find to be very attractive. He is a lot like me to be honest, which is interesting and strange. I like who I am and there are parts of my personality I think are wonderful, and the more we talk, the more I see similarities, which is fascinating because we are very different. It makes him both intriguing and intimidating.

I have been down this “pre-dating” road before and as you all know, and it never turns out well. I have pre-dated men who I was certain I was connecting with, only to meet them and have there be no connection at all. Pre-dating is tricky, somewhat necessary, yet useless. I’ve been divorced for 22 years. I have dated, had three important relationships, and had my heart broken. I want to believe each experience got me closer to my bashert, but that isn’t always easy to do.

I want to find love, share my life, go on adventures, and have a partner. I want my son to see me in a relationship with a man who loves me in the same way I love him. I want my son to see me happy in a way that he wants for himself. I have a wonderful life and sharing it is the goal, but it is a hard game to play, so goals can be elusive. I remain hopeful, which is frankly a miracle because I know many who have stopped trying. But enough about me, let’s get back to Benjamin.

We were texting and he responded to something I sent in a way that hurt my feelings. I wrote back with what I thought was a clever reply. I suppose I was thinking about only my feelings, so it never occurred to me that my response was anything other than funny and charming. What I said however, rubbed him the wrong way and he was put off. This is why texting is not good when you are getting to know someone, as interpretations are most often wrong. I am not a fan of texting and try to avoid it whenever possible.

Then yesterday something funny happened and I wrote to tell him about it. (We don’t know each other well so I wasn’t sure if I could call him the middle of a work day, thus the text.) He wrote back telling me to give him a call. I called, we chatted for a minute, then he said he wanted to talk about the text exchange. He told me how he interpreted my text, which was not good. He thought it was rude and condescending, which of course was not my intention, but in retrospect I could see how he might have thought it was. He then explained how he thought I had interpreted his text, which he understood, but felt was wrong.

It is truly interesting to be dealing with a grown up. He didn’t sulk, he didn’t disappear, he wasn’t an ass, he simply wanted to talk about it in a kind and open way. He is an advanced communicator, as am I, which I appreciate. We talked, each taking time to explain ourselves, both apologized for the miscommunication, agreed texting is not a good way to communicate, and moved on. He handled the situation with maturity, which I respect. It was a pleasant surprise to hit a bump, talk about it, and have it be done.

At the end of the day I have no idea what I am doing. I am jaded but hopeful, and blessed that hope is in the lead. I am old enough to know exactly who I am and I am searching for someone who is secure with who he is, so that we make sense. Benjamin seems like a good guy, but also very complicated, so we’ll see how it plays out. We are meeting today, and I have no idea how it will go, but there is pre-dating flutter that is lovely. I could be wrong, as I most often am, so all I can do is just roll with it, relax, and focus on keeping the faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Mother’s Day

When I woke up this morning I went into my son’s old room, crawled into his old bed, snuggled up with his old cat, and let my old body go back to sleep. It was fantastic! This is the first Mother’s Day in 22 years I didn’t wake up and see the face of my delicious boy. He has his own apartment now, but will be here any minute. We are spending the day together and I cannot wait.

He is taking me out for lunch at the beach, followed by some painting at Color Me Mine (our Mother’s Day tradition), then we are heading to the LAFC game. He has it all planned out and I am excited for every minute we will be together. I love my kid. I have raised him on my own and it has been the most challenging and rewarding experience of my life. He is a wonderful human being and my absolute favorite person.

I have learned to love my empty nest, but look forward to his coming home. I am blessed that he comes home often, usually with laundry, but that is cool. We are very good friends, always have been, but have managed to keep a respectful line drawn in the sand that maintains my role as his mother. I am a very lucky girl, but also an awesome mom. Yay for me! Yay for moms on our day!

To all the mothers, enjoy this day! Be kind to yourself. We can be tough on ourselves, and are our own worst critics, but we must take time today to be proud. Proud of not only our children, but of ourselves. Being a mother is hard. Being a single mother is tough. Being a Jewish mother is exhausting. We are remarkable. Happy Mother’s Day! Be safe, enjoy your kids, and keep the faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dating 101: Hookers and Judgment

Yesterday I was written to online by a 59-year-old man. He was attractive and had written an honest and funny profile about himself. He stated he was newly divorced and just starting to date. It was charming and I appreciated the honesty, so I wrote back. After 2 notes I gave him my number and he called. We are grownups, and texting and email is painful when getting to know someone, so we quickly jumped to a call. He reached out and we began the dating interview.

I found him to be interesting and witty, and was enjoying our chat, until I wasn’t. When he said he was newly divorced, what he meant was that he had signed his divorce papers last week. While he has been out of his marital home for a year, he is barely divorced and still hanging onto his old life. He spoke a lot about his ex-wife, which is fine, until it wasn’t. I suggested that perhaps he hadn’t been divorced long enough to know how it would affect him. I also told him dating had changed a lot in the years he had been married.

I explained that while I had been divorced forever, I remember my first relationship after divorce and it was doomed from the start because I arrived with so much baggage that still needed to be unpacked. He let me know he had unpacked all his bags already and was good to go. I explained that after 24 years of marriage, perhaps he should sew some wild oats and have single fun before diving into a relationship. Sleep with new people and discover who he was at this stage of his life.

He then assured me he had sewn his oats already. Without being prompted to go on, he let me know he had a sexless marriage and had spent the last few years of said marriage sleeping with hookers. He felt it was the respectful thing to do because he wanted the marriage to work, just needed sex, so he made it a business decision rather than an emotional one. Oh. My. God. Who tells someone they just met, and are interested in dating, they not only cheated, but paid for sex with hookers?

Important to note I have no issues with women who have sex for money. I have a good friend who worked as a prostitute to put herself through college. We met a few years ago while getting our nails done and I not only love her, but have no judgement about how she makes her money. When it came to this man however, I found myself sitting in a pile of judgement. I don’t care that he paid for sex, but that did it while married “to respect his wife”, is ridiculous and disgusting.

I can applaud him for being so honest I suppose, but no. He asked if I would like to go out on a date and I chose to decline. I also chose to suggest to him that perhaps he withhold some information from women moving forward. There is a lot to be said for honesty, but there is some information that simply does not need to be shared. I cannot think of any good that come out of my knowing the man I am dating not only cheated of his wife, but did it with hookers on a regular basis and over a long period of time.

It has been an interesting few days in my dating life. I was asked out by a man who was 82. I was also asked out by a man who was 25. They weren’t even the weird one. I was asked out by a man who is on parole and has limited mobility. Whoever said dating was fun, was drunk. Not tipsy and cute drunk, but vomiting on yourself and falling down stairs into a gutter drunk. I have been dating for a long time and I am tired. Not tired of dating, because I know it is necessary, but tired of the game.

I remain hopeful, which is key. Without hope there is no need to keep dating. I will meet a great man one of these days. He will be Jewish, not married, not wearing a parole tracker, and the only hooker he is interested in will be the one I am roll playing while we have a sexy night in Vegas. There is the right man out there looking for me. We will stumble upon each other one of these days. I simply need to pay attention, keep my eyes open, keep my heart open, and keep the faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recycling & Spaceships

Yesterday morning as I headed out to the farmer’s market, I came across a man rummaging through my garbage. He looked up as I approached, made direct eye contact, and said good morning. I said good morning in return, and kept walking. It was a little awkward and I wasn’t sure what to do, so I carried on. When I got in my car I noticed a water bottle in my cup holder, so I grabbed it and went back to the trash. I approached the man and gave him the bottle for his recycling.

He thanked me for the bottle, told me I was a nice lady, and said he hoped I had a good day. I felt an odd need to speak with him, so I asked if he was having a profitable morning. He explained he had been out collecting for a couple hours and was doing fine. He said he believed in recycling, but appreciated when people forgot to recycle and he came across a lot of bottles. He said he was surprised people don’t recycle better, seeing as we were in the state of California.

We ended up speaking for about ten minutes and it was really interesting. We talked about the weather, the president, cruelty to animals, and how important a good pillow is for your neck. It was a little strange, but also lovely. At the end of the day we were the same. Two people who work hard, have opinions, and have value. It was enlightening and I felt connected to a stranger, which doesn’t happen often, but is always a possibility. Our time together somehow felt important.

I told him it was nice speaking with him and asked if I could give him some money to get something to eat. The question immediately changed his demeanor and I felt that he was now irritated. I panicked a bit and told him I didn’t mean to offend him in any way, and was sorry. He looked confused and closed his eyes. I was now a little frightened and told him it was okay and de didn’t need to take the money. He then thanked me for the offer and asked if he could save the money.

I told him he could do whatever he wanted with it. I explained it was a gift and he could spend it, save it, or give it away, because it was his money. I reached out and passed him $10.00. He thanked me with sincerity, smiled, and was relaxed again. He then told me he would save it and eat on his next visit because he didn’t have time to eat as he was worried he would miss the spaceship that was coming to pick him up. I smiled in return and wished him well with his work and his travels.

I haven’t stopped thinking about him since we met. I’m glad we spoke and even though in retrospect it was perhaps dangerous to have engaged, if I’m scared to talk to strangers, my life would be very different. I like people. I particularly like people with stories, so I will always talk to strangers and always try to help those less fortunate. It is who I am, and who I have always been. We are all just one space ship ride away from crazy, so we should just be kind and keep the faith.

Dating 101: Highs & Lows

I had a date with a man I found to be physically and mentally attractive. He is a lovely man who is 51, never married, and has no kids. He’s worked at the same company for 30 years and is dedicated to his job. He is fiercely loyal to his friends, and has a great sense of humor. I liked him very much on the phone, and we spoke for a week before schedules allowed us to meet. When we finally managed to find a night to go out, we decided on dinner and a movie.

We met at the restaurant and I was pleasantly surprised to see he looked just like his pictures. He said he was 5’11”, I’m guessing he was closer to 5’9”, but since I’m only 5’3”, it wasn’t a big deal. We ordered a couple drinks and settled into easy conversation. We had a great time over dinner and then went into the movie. We held hands, which felt wonderful. I had taken an Uber so I could have a drink, and he offered to take me home, which I felt surprisingly comfortable with.

We left the theater and walked towards his car. We laughed together, had a kiss, and it was nice. It was a regular date, with a regular guy, and I was feeling good about it. He is not Jewish, but I am trying to think outside the dating box I have built for myself, because I’m not having luck dating within the parameters I have drawn around myself. It is scary to try new things, but I am trying, and that is what matters. One good date can change everything.

So we are strolling to the car, I’m thinking we will make out a little bit, and feeling good about the whole night. Then we got to his car and it was over. I am not a materialistic person, and I don’t care about what a man does for a living or what kind of car he has, but I simply cannot date a man who drives a purple El Camino with hydraulics. If that makes me shallow and judgmental, when then I will receive that and try to better myself, but I cannot get on board with that car.

We spoke about the car, the car groups he belongs to, the amount of car shows he goes to a year, the friends he is close to through his car club, and how his social life is woven into the car. No. I am not spending my weekends at car shows. I am also not putting my new bionic neck into a hydraulic car parade. I appreciate that this paints me in an unflattering light, but after almost a decade of sharing my life here, I am not going to start leaving stuff out just to save face.

Bumps in the road make me think I should stick to Jewish men, or just get another cat, but I need to be brave and not let this be a setback. I’m embarrassed the car was a deal breaker, but in the end it wasn’t the car as much as the lifestyle that came with it. I know who I am and what I want, so at this point in my life I need to stay true to me. One hopes each first date gets you closer to your last first date, so I am hoping and keeping the faith.

Musical Tables & Ladies Night

Last night I went to meet some ladies for dinner and drinks at Craig’s in Los Angeles. My friend Siggy Flicker is in LA from New Jersey and she always gets her LA pals together. They are lovely, accomplished, women and I enjoy spending time with them. It feels good to be in the company of smart women in a social setting. We laugh, catch up, and are supportive of each other.

I walked in ready for a Cosmo with the girls. I told the man at the front desk I was there to meet Siggy and was told she had arrived and was seated. I followed him to the dining room and saw a table with 5 women and an empty seat. One lady was looking away from me, but had long brown hair, so I assumed it was Siggy and plopped my myself down while saying hello to the group and looking for a waiter to get me a drink. (It is getting harder to find a good Cosmo in LA now that I’ve mastered the perfect one at home!)

It took about half a second to realize I had sat down at the wrong table. The women were lovely and told me to make myself comfortable. They thought it was funny I had made the mistake, and since I was already there, I decided to hang out for a minute and say hello. I explained I was meeting my friend Siggy and one of the women said she knew Sig. To my surprise, she then said she knew me too.

As we went around the table introducing ourselves, we figured out where we knew each other. Several years ago I was without plans for Thanksgiving. My friend Michael invited me to go with him to a friend’s house. I didn’t want to crash a party of people I didn’t know, but ended up joining him and having a wonderful time. The woman across from me, was the woman who hosted Thanksgiving!

I had not seen her for a few years, but she remembered me, which was lovely. She knew Michael was bringing me, knew I was a vegetarian, and had made sure there were things for me to eat. She welcomed me into her home like I was family, in the same way she welcomed me to her table at Craig’s. Lisa Gastineau you are a doll and it was great to see you again. Thank you for once again sharing your table.

I visited with Lisa and her friends, who were great, and as I was chatting to the fabulous actress Lisa Ann Walter, Siggy noticed me from her table, and came over asking what the hell was going on. I hugged my friend and told her I sat down at the wrong table and was visiting. Lisa got up to greet Siggy and it was all quite funny. We had a reunion and made introductions all around.

After about 20 minutes with Lisa and her friends, I joined Siggy and her pals at their table. Surrounded by some NBA players, Dame Joan Collins, and an actor I see in everything but never know his name, our group of 8 had a fantastic time. Craig’s has great food, terrific service, and a very good Cosmo. It is always a fun place to go, but even better when you are able to play musical tables.

Siggy is my Israeli soul sister and I love her. I’ll see her again tonight for dinner and will try to not sit at the wrong table, unless it is a table of gorgeous men. Important to note if I did sit at a table of attractive men, I can assure you it wouldn’t be by accident. I had a date this week that might take me a couple days to come to terms with. My dating life has always been entertaining, but last weekend it became unbelievable. Bloggable, but unbelievable.

I am back in a writing mood and excited to get back on track to share my life and opinions. There is a lot to talk about. I will catch you all up on my perfect Cosmo recipe, my dates, my son, my growing disgust with the President, and my plans to return to Israel for the first time in 30 years. Life is good, I am blessed, blogs are coming, and I am keeping the faith.

Cocktails and Motherhood

When my son turned 21 we went out for a drink. It was strange to have a cocktail with him and it didn’t feel as cool as I thought it would. I watched him drink a beer and all I could see was a baby drinking. It actually made me a little sad. When you have a drink with your kid you are forced to see them as a grown up, which is bittersweet. It was uncomfortable to drink with him, but at the same time I was proud my delicious baby was now a remarkable man. I am blessed to be this human’s mother and I thank God for every single moment we have together, but drinking with him was a hard pill to swallow.

I turned 52 last week and went to San Francisco for the weekend with my son. We walked, ate great food, and had a few drinks. I love a cocktail, as my readers know, and since it was my birthday, I enjoyed several libations. I started with a drink at the airport and ended with a drink at the airport. My son drank too, but it was different this time. He was still my baby, but also my friend, and it was lovely. He isn’t a big drinker, but enjoys big boy drinks. His cocktails of choice are a Negroni or a Whiskey Sour. I think they taste like cough medicine.

We sat in great bars and talked about life, love, politics, and plans. We laughed and debated, and were also happily quiet together. I love him very much and he is simply my favorite human being. He makes me happy. He makes me think. He makes me grateful. He makes me want to be better. He makes me feel better. He heals me. He eases my sorrow. He is my sunshine. He is my closest confidant. I trust him. Being a mom is hard. Being a single mom is really hard. Having a 22-year-old son allows me to celebrate not only my child, but also myself.

I have spent over twenty-two years being his mother and he is a wonderful human being both because of me, and in spite of me. I have had moments of real greatness as a mother, along with moments of epic failure, but all of them led to now, and now is good. My son is terrific and he loves me. He enjoys my company, asks me for advice, heeds my advice, and makes good choices. I won’t make a habit of having cocktails with my boy, but when it does happen I will embrace the moment. We worked hard to get here and having a cocktail with my son is all about keeping the faith.

 

 

Racism at Starbucks

I go to Starbucks most mornings during my work week. I order my drink via the mobile app and drive by before jumping on the freeway. My Starbucks of choice is very close to two schools and on any given morning there are a lot of kids there. For every one kid that orders a drink, there are three kids just hanging out. They don’t buy anything, just sit, loudly, and wait for the one kid who is getting a drink.

They use every chair, unaware of anyone but themselves, white, and loitering. In the years I’ve been going to Starbucks I have not only never seen anyone get arrested, I’ve never seen an employee of Starbucks ask one of these annoying kids to leave. I have personally waited at Starbucks without buying a drink many times. I’ve waited for friends, or a blind date, and never been asked to leave or been arrested, no matter how long I sit there.

I have watched the video of two young black men being arrested at Starbucks in Philadelphia and it makes me sad. Sad for not only them, but for every black mother who watches her kids walk out the door, scared of what will happen to them. It is heartbreaking.  I am proud of those two young men for walking out with their heads held high during the humiliating and blatantly racist arrest that happened to them.

I was not there, and I do not know the motivation of the phone call to police, but I am not going to Starbucks this week. It is my way of supporting these two young men. It may seem silly, but it is a way for my voice to be heard, and that is what we all need to do. It is dangerous to be black in America and that should break all of our hearts. Skip going to Starbucks this week. Rise up and keep the faith.

 

 

 

 

Am I as happy as Leann Rimes?

This blog is lovingly sponsored by Jose Cuervo.

I retired my “Keeping it Real” blog in 2017 after 8 long years. I wrote about pop culture, celebrity, and reality television, and it was frankly exhausting to keep up with everything going on in those worlds. My life changed for the better when I put it to bed. My schedule is no longer controlled by television, and I don’t pay much attention to celebrities. I write Keeping the Faith, and it is wonderful because I LOVE that blog. I have been chronicling my life and sharing my world view for almost a decade and it makes me happy to know my son, and one day my grandchildren, will read everything. It will provide a clear understanding of who I was, what I believed, and my world view. Keeping the Faith matters to me and while I sometimes miss Keeping it Real, not writing it does not mean I am not still keeping it real, which brings me to today’s subject, Leann Rimes.

I used to write about Leann Rimes quite often for Keeping it Real. I find Ms. Rimes to be an interesting subject to write about. Not that she is particularly interesting, but her mental health is truly fascinating. She has been in the public eye for decades and when you look at her when she first became famous, you cannot help but wish good things for her. She was ridiculously talented and painfully awkward. A sweet little girl with crazy parents you just knew were undoubtedly going to screw her over. As she grew up, and had scattered moments of success, I hoped she had come out of her childhood unscathed, but in the end she was damaged in ways that have caused her to unravel as an adult. Sadly, she was too simple to keep the madness private and instead decided to invite us all along for the ride. Bless her. Leann Rimes is brilliantly unstable.

What I find most fascinating is that after she chose to share her tragic choices with the masses, she began to get upset when people had opinions of her she did not like. I happen to think she is delusional, and since she is the one who gave me that impression, I wrote about it. Important to note I wasn’t the only one to write about her in an honest and perhaps unflattering way, but I was the one she targeted for revenge. Leann Rimes read my blogs like her life depended on it, and let me know in countless ways that she was trying to make me stop. When I think about Leann thinking she was the reason I stopped writing Keeping it Real, it makes me feel warm inside and laugh hard. She had nothing to do with why I stopped, and everything to do with why I am bringing it back today for a special bonus blog.

Recently an old blog I wrote about her resurfaced and some people read it for the first time. When I saw it going around on social media I read it too, and thought it was quite great. I am a gifted and funny writer on a bad day, but rather brilliant on a Leann Rimes day. About an hour after the old blog was retweeted, I started to get messages from Leann Rimes fans and they were not happy. By “they” of course I mean I think it is actually only one person, with several accounts, who may or may not be an employee of Ms. Rimes. Allegedly. This person went in and let me know I was a talentless and disgusting human being who was so jealous of Leann Rimes I could not function properly. Apparently I can only dream about being as happy as Leann Rimes is. It got me thinking about Leann and our history together. It led to this blog and the question of the day: Am as I happy as Leann Rimes?

It is a silly question of course, because Leann Rimes is not a happy person. She is miserable and lives her life with a constantly broken heart. She desperately wants someone to love her, and someone did, but she chose to give up everything for a man who is, as I write, not thinking about her. Not even a little bit. Allegedly. I have loved a man that much and had him not love me back, and it is crushing in a way that is hard to recover from. I can understand her staying in it rather than have it be over, but her instability is about a lot more than her marriage. Her issues stem from everyone wanting something from her. She does not matter, allegedly, to the people in her life and so perhaps the bigger question should be: Is Leann Rimes as happy as I am? I would actually love to talk to Ms. Rimes about happiness, but even thinking about talking to her might get me arrested.

I am not only happy, I am blessed. I have survived cancer, twice. Just had surgery on my neck with a remarkable outcome. I am mother to who can only be described as a truly wonderful human being. I am beautiful, funny, talented, and have the best hair! I have a great family, terrific friends, and an amazing job. I believe in love and search for it with an open heart, not an open wallet. Important to note more people read my blog than attend Ms. Rimes parking lot concerts series or buy her albums. One would think she would be smart enough to save and invest her money, rather than spend it on legal fees to try and shut me up, but I think we have established she is not a particularly bright girl. Bless her. I have nothing against Leann Rimes. I am just a writer, one she isn’t a fan of, and therefore when bored, she obsesses over me. It is kind of sweet. Bless her.

I wish only good things for Leann Rimes and my door is always open to her. I would happily chat with her so she can understand I am not the enemy and she gives me far too much power in her life. Instead of “reimagining” songs from 30 years ago, she should look forward and dream bigger for herself. Instead of wasting money on cease and desist letters, she should get a divorce lawyer and save herself. Instead of spending time in parking lots over the summer, she should spend time in a wellness retreat rediscovering her value. Instead of dreaming about being a mother, she should become one and even do it on her own. Instead of wasting her time obsessing over me, she should obsess over herself. Am I as happy as Leann Rimes? No I am not. Thank God.  Is Leann Rimes as happy as me? No, but she could be. I am counting my blessings, heading back to Keeping the Faith, and keeping it real.

Happy Shabbat Birthday to Me

I am turning 52 this weekend. While not one to make a big deal about my birthday, this one feels important. It has been an interesting few years. By interesting, of course I mean difficult and enlightening. I dealt with cancer, neck surgery, my son moving out, changing jobs after a decade, and a very close friend of mine passing away after a valiant fight. It was all rather exhausting and to add insult to injury, as each challenge was tackled and overcome, another challenge was placed in front of me. I am a tough girl, but even I was brought to my knees on more than one occasion.

April 7th, 2018 will mark a new beginning, and it has been a long time coming. As I begin my 52nd year, there is nothing looming over me. I am completely healthy for the first time in three years. I am embracing my empty nest in ways I never thought I would. I have learned the important lesson of never coloring my own hair or cutting my own bangs, instead leaving it to the professionals. I have mastered the art of making the perfect Cosmopolitan. I am aware of my own worth. Most importantly, I know I am a wonderful human being,  terrific mother, and getting better with age.

My life is blessed and I have nothing to complain about. How awesome is that? I am going to go to services tonight and pray with my rabbi because she brings me real joy. Tomorrow I will celebrate my birthday in San Francisco with my son. We will explore a city that matters to us, have an amazing dinner, do some birthday shopping, and have dim sum lunch in Chinatown. A 24-hour getaway with my favorite human. I will walk in the rain, and pause long enough to count my blessings between the martinis I’ll be enjoying. Shabbat Shalom and Happy Birthday to all who celebrate this weekend. Be safe and have fun. I will enjoy the weekend while keeping the faith.

Passover with the LAFD

Last Friday was the first night of Passover.  I got home from Seder, after hours of cooking and cleaning, and settled into a luxurious bath. As I soaked in lavender bubbles, feeling completely relaxed, my smoke detector started to beep. For a quick second I thought about ignoring it because the bath was so good, then snapped out of it and jumped out to see what was going on.

There didn’t appear to be a fire, so I changed the batteries in the smoke detector. When the new batteries were in it resumed beeping, only this time it detected carbon monoxide. I thought perhaps the unit was simply not working and took the batteries out, thinking I’d deal with it the next day. As I got ready for bed I worried I made the wrong decision.

I called 911 and was transferred to the Los Angeles Fire Department. I explained what had happened with the smoke detector and asked what they thought I should do. They told me it was better to be safe than sorry and were on the way. I worried I was taking their time away from someone who was dealing with an actual fire, but was grateful they were coming to check things.

I waited outside for the firetruck to arrive and when it did I was a bit overwhelmed. It is intimidating to have them come to your home, and when they get off the truck and each one is more attractive than the one before, it takes your breath away. I simply do not think there is such a thing as an unattractive firefighter. Each one of these men were absolutely gorgeous.

As they walked in the lead firefighter told me I had a beautiful home, and it made me feel proud. It has been hard getting adjusted to my empty nest and I have slowly been turning my home into a place that reflects more of me as a woman and less of me as a mom, so to have him acknowledge that it looked nice, mattered to me and I felt happy. It was kind of him to say.

They told me it was good that I called because people die every year from carbon monoxide poisoning. They assured me it was their job to check what was going on and I should not feel that I had bothered them. They were inside my home for about 10 minutes, confirmed there was no danger, but that the smoke detector was malfunctioning and needed to be thrown out and replaced.

I appreciate the work these brave men and women do. I slept well knowing I was safe and there was nothing to worry about. I hope everyone had a safe and happy start to Passover, and I send my thanks to the Los Angeles Fire Department. To the ridiculously attractive men who came to make sure I was okay, it was a pleasure staring at you. Stay safe out there and keep the faith.

Weekend of Faith

This weekend marks an important time for people of many faiths.  It is Passover and also Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  I am someone whose life is made easier with faith. I’m also one that does not judge people based on faith. The way I see it, faith allows us to lean on something bigger than ourselves, and if it gives us peace, then how we view the higher power doesn’t matter. Faith is a beautiful and powerful thing. It does not need to always be about religion.

I hope those who celebrate the holidays of this weekend will find peace within their faith.  For me, the weekend is about prayer.  Prayers of thanks for my Jewish life, prayers of thanks for my blessed life, and prayers of thanks for the health and happiness of my family and friends. I’m counting my blessings, embracing the history of my people, and taking comfort in the power of so many human beings on the planet praying at the exact same time. It is quite beautiful.

Take time this weekend to be kind to a stranger. Share blessings with people in need and let your faith inspire you to bring light to someone in the dark. Listen to a child laugh, reach out to someone you miss, ease someone’s sorrow, know struggles will pass, make a new plan, love someone, be aware, be happy, be brave, cry tears of joy, hug like you mean it, and enjoy the delicious holiday food. Enjoy the weekend. Celebrate, reflect, and keep the faith.

 

Love at First Seder

Photo from Wikipedia.

The attraction was instant and made me very, very anxious.

Her father’s courtship of me was a month in progress when he invited me to a seder that she — his daughter — and other relatives would attend.

It felt too soon. In meeting a man’s family in the first trimester of a relationship, an attachment could form with folks I might not see again. Unmarried all my life, I’d had many starter relationships. Children I’d known for a few holidays left my sad lap as I disconnected from the guy who had put them in it. But my fun new friend and I already felt familial. I took the risk.

As we entered his favorite Aunt Sandy’s home, there she was: Ariana — sweet-faced like her father, wise for her years. She hugged me firmly, fully to her heart. I was instantly smitten. She introduced me to her fiance, Marc. My promising Passover escort left us and engaged with his cousins.

Marc was Ariana’s first love. He’d recently asked her father for her hand in marriage, then put a big diamond on it. I’d never had one and, awed at the many facets of her and hers, wondered what it was like to be betrothed and so secure at 23.

“What could I offer her beyond old show tunes?” was one of the Four Questions I asked myself that night.

These two had their heads firmly on their shoulders, unlike other young heads that tended to roll right off. She was getting her master’s in social work, he in engineering. They were smart, acculturated and, like me, musical theater lovers. She could sing in sweet soprano every lyric to every score of every contemporary musical. I sang back lyrics of musicals I’d learned at her age. Marc hummed along on them all. We three had so much to harmonize about that her father receded in my attentions … a little.

The rest of my date’s family was more reserved. Apparently, I was not the first nice Jewish “date” her father had brought to Passover for observation. They seated me across from Ariana, next to her dad. As we noshed on parsley, his uncle politely gave me a small portion of the haggadah to read, which I reworded to include the female perspective. Ariana liked that, and I liked that she liked it. Well-versed in gender politics, as we sipped kosher wine, she whispered of her wish to work with cisgender and transgender clients alike. Her knowledge of all the pronouns and proclivities amazed me. My focus on the bitter herbs faded as I took stock.

“Why is this seder different from all other seders?” I thought as I masticated the matzo. Because I now had a big maternal crush on my date’s daughter. My enchantment with her was now neck-and-neck with my held-in-check enchantment with her dad. I began thinking too far ahead. She certainly didn’t need my mothering. Her parents had done a fine job on all the heavy lifting. Ariana was loving, smart and as tall as I was; pulling her into my lap would be unwieldy. She wouldn’t need my relationship counseling, my long dating life littered with frogs and other plagues. “What could I offer her beyond old show tunes?” was one of the Four Questions I asked myself that night.

We harmonized a hearty “Go Down Moses,” and as we parted I felt a pang. I hoped to see her again but would have to hold myself back and hope her dad and I grew closer over time.

We did, and I soon also fell for his younger son, Sam, a manly 19. I got enthusiastically included in all the next big moments in Ariana’s life — her graduation, her receiving of awards, her next Passover, at which everyone now knew my name and gave me more haggadah to read and portions to eat.

It would have been enough, I thought, to meet this wonderful man, but I got to sing at Ariana’s wedding to Marc a year later. Dayenu.

When her father proposed to me the following Thanksgiving, I asked if his daughter would feel OK about it. “Are you kidding?” he said. “After the first Passover, she asked, ‘Please, Daddy? Can we keep this one?’ and I said ‘Yes!’ ”

So, I said “Yes” too. And as a seasoned bride, Ariana helped me plan for — and harmonized with me to show tunes at — my wedding to her dad two years later.


Melanie Chartoff has acted on Broadway and on TV series, and is the author of ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Crazy Family.”

Motherhood in Black and White

My soul is crushed each and every time I hear of the senseless murder of an innocent person at the hands of law enforcement, but the murder of Stephon Clark has left me heartbroken in a different way. Stephon was the same age as my own son and I cannot wrap my head around the way he died, so close to being home safe with his two little kids. This one hurts in a way that feels personal.

Of course they are all personal because we live in this country together, and I cried for Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Gregory Gunn, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, and countless others who were murdered but those who were meant to protect them, but I can relate to the Clark family in ways that bring it into my home. Had it been my son in the same situation at Stephon, I can promise you he wouldn’t have been murdered. This is racism, plain and simple.

My son would have been offered a conversation. A chance to explain who he was and what he was doing. My son wouldn’t have 20 bullets blown into him steps from the safety of his home. It is black and white. Stephon Clark was killed because he was black, and when it comes to black people in America, we shoot first and ask questions later. It is 2018 and being black is America is very dangerous.

My son is a proud Jewish man, but if he was in a situation where anti-Semitic things were happening, he could join in the rhetoric to remain safe and get himself out. He would be able to come home because he can become what he needs to be. That is white privilege. That is a blessing afforded my son. I am able to watch him go out into the world with a level of comfort black mothers don’t have.

Ever since my son was very little I would send him off to school or out with his friends with the words, “Be safe out there and make good choices”. Those have been my parting words to him for as long as I can remember. I don’t have to tell him to keep his mouth shut, put his hands in the air, or get down on the ground without answering back. I haven’t raised my son with a fear of authority.

I worry about him 24/7 because I am his mother, and that is what mothers do, but I do not have the same constant fear that black mothers have. It is exhausting to just think about it. I would never want my kid to go outside. It would simply be too big a risk. The black and white reality is that this is about black and white. I cry with every black mother who fears the death of their beautiful children.

We have many problems in this country that need attention. Tomorrow I will march with the students of Parkland in support of changes to gun laws. I will march knowing that Black Lives Matter. I will march because when we unite our voices we can make change. We have to do better. We cannot think we are the greatest country in the world when this keeps happening. Wake up and start keeping the faith.

 

 

Rainy Los Angeles is a Nightmare

It has been raining in Los Angeles and the simple fact is that when rains in LA, the city falls apart. Nobody knows how to drive to begin with, so a small amount of rain causes bad drivers to lose their minds. One would think it was acid falling from the sky and we were all about to die, but alas, it is just water. When it is raining in LA you can immediately tell who is from here, and who came from a place with real weather. Southern Californian natives stick out like a sore thumb. They don’t know how to handle their vehicles in even the lightest sprinkle of water. It would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic.

Personally, I could be a NYC cab driver. I grew up in Canada and learned to drive in the rain and snow. I am fearless and able to handle all kinds of weather. Driving is a privilege and if you suck at it, you shouldn’t be given a driver’s license. At the very least there should be restrictions on driving when it is raining. I propose two types of driver’s licenses. One to drive in dry weather, and one for the rain. Everyone takes two tests. Pass one and you can only drive in good weather, pass both, and you also get driving privileges in the rain. Brilliant plan.

I started a new job recently and my commute went from 20 minutes to over an hour. It is a nightmare for a great driver to be stuck on two different freeways and Sunset Boulevard with thousands of people who don’t know how to drive. I do a great deal of praying while I’m driving. Mostly I pray I will not become engulfed with road rage and lay on the horn or flip the bird to a perfect stranger. My son bought me a stuffed Buddha that plays meditation music when you squeeze him. I’ve had it for about 5 months and have replaced the battery twice, which gives you an idea of how often I use him to get some peace.

I often look at the people driving around me and wonder where they’re going. I think about whether they’re driving without prescription contact lenses or glasses. If they bought their driver’s licenses on a black market for people with no depth perception. I wonder how many of the people driving taught their kids how to be bad drivers. Mostly I wonder about how good it would feel to drive to work one day with only good drivers. Even if just for one day I’d love that experience, but it will never happen. Sadly, I fear I may be the only one of my kind. I have yet to meet another good driver in Los Angeles. We really should have a club.

I am at work looking out my window, watching the rain, trying to decide how long it will take me to get home. I figure about two days. We need the rain, and I am grateful we are getting some, but a couple days into the first weather of the season and I am about done. Watching the news of the weather back east, and speaking to my family about all the snow in Canada, watching my local TV weatherman speak of the “storm watch” for Los Angeles is hilarious. By hilarious of course I mean I really need him to stop talking. I’d be willing to bet he is a bad driver, always looking in the mirror to check his hair.

It never rains in California, until it does, and then all hell breaks loose. To my fellow Angelino’s, do us all a favor and just stay home. Call in sick if you need to, but for the love of God, do not get in the car if you are a bad driver. Not sure if you are a good driver? You’re not. Now you know. To those currently dealing with REAL weather, I am sorry. This too shall pass, for us and you. Be safe out there. Don’t drink and drive, text and drive, or talk on the phone and drive. Pay attention and when some cute lady gets annoyed and flips you the bird, just smile, knowing I mean no harm. I’m heading home and keeping the faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kindness to Animals

The other day we found this little fellow sitting in the driveway at work. He was not moving, breathing heavily, and clearly struggling. My heart just broke for him and I never once thought about his being a rat, just that he was an animal in trouble. I wanted to help him and wasn’t sure how. By help him of course I mean take him home, introduce him to the cats, teach him how to speak English, and have him cook ratatouille for me. He was a sweet boy and I was on a mission to help.

He was trying very hard to walk, but kept tipping over. Bless him. We put him into a box and gave him some seeds and fruit. He was weary, but started to eat and seemed to be quite happy with his meal. He slowly started to regulate his breathing and within a half hour was walking around the box. He may have simply been in shock and terrified, rather than seriously hurt. We thought perhaps he had fallen off of the driveway gate and broke something, but he was getting better.

While he was eating and catching his breath, I called my local vet to see what I should do. I was placed on hold and then told by the receptionist she had spoken to the vet and he said to bring it in and he would take care of it. I was thrilled, until she clarified that by taking care of it, he would be euthanized. Not on my watch he wouldn’t. I get he is a run of the mill rat, but his life has value. I sound like the bleeding heart, liberal, vegetarian that I am, but whatever. He mattered to me.

The beautiful little rat ate his seeds and chilled out, then became restless and was trying to get out of the box. He got his footing back and was ready to go home, so we took him away from the street, up into the canyon, and let him go. He was given a stockpile of food, and simply sat there and ate. I think he was appreciative and counting his blessings. He looked at us with gratitude and it was special. I thought about going to check on him later in the day, but decided against it.

Mother Nature is powerful and she needs to take care of things in her own way. My job was to give another living creature comfort during a trying time, and I would do the same for any creature. Except perhaps a roach. I would not give a roach comfort. I would also not kill it, just run away screaming. I love animals, don’t eat them, and my heart breaks when they suffer at the hands of a human. Mother Nature can do her thing, but we must be kind because we are all in this together.

When you see an animal in trouble, help it. When you want to get a dog or a cat, get one from a shelter and give an animal who is sad and lonely, joy and comfort. Animals are truly wonderful and I am grateful for the interaction I had this week with a rat. I never thought I would say such a thing, but that is the great thing about kindness. It comes up in unexpected ways and will bring you profound happiness if you are willing to pay attention and are keeping the faith.

 

A Love That Never Dies

Photo from Pixabay.

I’m one of those people who feel guilty reading a book twice. So it was with great surprise when my father told me, as we prepared to pack up his belongings, that he’d be taking many of his dust-covered favorites with him.

“But there’s so much out there still to be read,” I argued. “True,” he answered, “but I’ve reached a point in my life where I’d just like to spend the time I have left with some old friends.”

My father is 83 and getting ready to move into the Jewish Home for the Aging in Reseda. His words struck me for their lucidity — he’s been in failing health for years. And so I wondered: What other “old friends” would he be keeping now that he’d chosen to remove mortality’s rose-colored glasses?

A few weeks later, I again found myself at his house winnowing down a wardrobe accumulated over years, holding up various articles of clothing one at a time. Almost as if playing out some macabre Roman tableau, they’d either be given a thumbs up or thumbs down. My father was merciless in the application of his “old friends” rule toward whatever it was I happened to have in hand.

This went on for hours. I’d pull something off the shelf; he’d yea or nay it. The nays were tossed into a pile on the floor that, as the afternoon wore on, rose to the height of my chest. I’m 6 feet 1. The yeas either were returned to the shelf or hung back up and allowed to live another day.

When our days are numbered, I’ve learned that it’s love, above all, that shines the brightest.

For a while it was even fun. Who doesn’t feel the need to clear out their closet? Who hasn’t accumulated clothes they rarely wear? For my father, a retired Conservative rabbi, every item seemed to have a story, whether it was a T-shirt from a visit to the Great Wall of China, a galabeya picked up in Amman, or a sweat jacket given to him by The City of Hope hospital for his volunteer work. Heck, I even scored some stuff that was old enough to be hip (black corduroy jacket, anyone?).

Then we came to his uniform. My father served as a United States Air Force chaplain for four years in active duty and 28 in the reserves. I’m also, in military parlance, an Air Force brat, having been born on a base. We Kollin kids grew up climbing in and out of old bombers, going to air shows and watching space shuttles land. But that’s not what I remember most. The best part was always, always, watching the MPs salute my dad as we drove onto base (he retired as a lieutenant colonel). To this day, my respect and awe for our military personnel is entirely because of him.

I lifted his dress blues, carefully protected in a clear plastic garment bag, sure of which way Emperor Kollin’s thumb was going to point. But I was wrong.

“Dad, they’re your dress blues. You can’t.”

“And when,” he asked, “will I ever wear them again?”

We both knew the answer was never. This was not a book he could re-read and enjoy. This was the memento of a distinguished past he could never recapture. Experience was more powerful than memory.

By putting his dress blues in the “nay” pile, there was no denying the painful truth that my days with my father were numbered — that we were easing past the time of symbols and into the ineluctability of life.

There’s a beautiful song by Tim McGraw called “Live Like You Were Dying,” in which a man who finds out he has months to live, suddenly sees the world in a way he never had before. He loves, he laughs, he forgives and he accepts. And his ode to the world is that all people should learn to live like that, too. This, I believe, is my father’s song.

There’s another song, one by Patty Loveless, called “I Already Miss You Like You’re Already Gone.” That’s mine. Both songs take a hard look at taking nothing for granted like, say, the love between a father and a son.

When our days are numbered — which is true for all of us — I’ve learned that it’s love, above all, that shines the brightest. Love for old books, love for old friends, and love for all those we crave to spend more time with.


Dani Kollin is the award-winning co-author of the “Unincorporated” books and an advertising creative director in Los Angeles.

In Search of a Prayer During a Trying Time

Photo from Max Pixel.

Last Wednesday I had anterior cervical discectomy and fusion surgery done on my neck. Two of my discs were bulging so badly they were pushing on my spine. My arm had been numb for several months and even though I did physical therapy for over a year in an attempt to avoid the surgery, I could longer wait and the procedure was finally scheduled. Four hours and six screws later, I am recuperating nicely and the benefits of the surgery were instantly felt. I woke up with no numbness or tingling in my arm, and am thrilled with the results.

My procedure was done at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank. When I checked in for surgery I immediately asked if I could see the rabbi from the Spiritual Care department for a prayer. I clarified that if a rabbi was not available, I would happily pray with any member of the clergy. I simply wanted to pray with someone dedicated to God, and the religious affiliation was not that important. As I sat with my son and told him how much I wanted for the rabbi to come and say a prayer, and he assured me it would be fine and we could pray on our own, but not to worry because someone was coming.

I was waiting for the nurse to arrive to insert an IV when Chaplain Phil Kiehl walked in. He introduced himself and said he stopped by as he had heard I wanted to pray with him. I almost started to cry I was so happy to see him. He sat with me and my son and took time to get to know us. He asked about the operation, who the surgeon was, who the anesthesiologist was, what my pain was, and what the goal was. After we chatted for a few minutes he joined hands with me and my son and gave what can only be described as a perfect prayer.

It was kind and honest and made me feel very safe in my faith. It was a prayer of compassion and blessings. When Phil left the room, me and my son turned to each other and both said it was the most wonderful prayer and had left us feeling happy and at peace. I went into surgery feeling comfortable with my medical team and embraced by God. The following day as I rested and waited for the doctor to give permission for me to leave the hospital, a woman from the clergy office stopped by. Her name was Rebecca Stringer and she was paying me an unexpected visit to check in on me as she heard I was leaving.

She had a beautiful smile and a warmth I could feel. Her soul was visible and I was profoundly moved by her. We spoke about prayer and the importance it has in both of our lives. We spoke about our children and she shared she had lost a child to cancer. Her beloved little boy had passed away and she spoke of him in a way that painted a picture of love. This angel has a remarkable mother who is rooted in prayer and faith. She helped me more than she could ever know. We did not share the same religion, but we shared a life of faith which was respectful and embracing in a way that I wish it could be for everyone.

She held my hand and said a prayer that made me cry. I will forever remember her generosity of spirit and the feeling it gave me. Her words brought me real healing. We may practice different religions, but we pray to the same God and our exchange was special. I am a woman of faith and have experienced many blessings, but this was a rare moment of an authentic spiritual connection to another human being. We were sisters in prayer and I felt God holding onto us. When you can connect through God, without the judgment of religion, it is remarkable.

When Rebecca left my room I had a feeling of gratitude in the wake of her grace. My surgery was a success and I thank Phil and Rebecca for their kindness. Prayer is personal and mine is generally private, but my prayer this week had company and it was lovely. There is power in prayer and when voices join together it is wonderful. I feel great and am getting stronger each day. I was terrified going into the surgery and am relieved it is over and went so well. Life is good and good health is a blessing. I am grateful, happy, healthy, and keeping the faith.


Ilana Angel writes the Keeping the Faith blog at jewishjournal.com.

Motherhood, Surgery, Reflection & Faith

I’m having surgery on my neck tomorrow, and look forward to finally feeling better. It has been a long road to get here and even with all the challenges and difficulties I have faced, this is the first time I feel scared and nervous. I kicked cancer’s ass, but screws in my spine is daunting and has thrown me into a place of deep reflection, mostly about my job as a mother.

Motherhood is a remarkable thing. I remember the moment I was told I was pregnant. I made all these promises to myself about the kind of mother I wanted to be. I had so many plans and dreams for my son before he was even born. I wanted to be a mom from the time I was a little girl and always thought I would have a lot of kids. Life can change dreams.

I have one remarkable son who is a truly wonderful human being. Both because of me, and in spite of me. I am proud of him and it has been my greatest honor to watch him grow up and become a good man. He is 22 years old and has a very bright future. He is a smart kid, but I worry he’ll never fully understand how much I love him. Perhaps he won’t get it until he is a dad.

The anticipation of my surgery has me thinking, and no good can come of that. I remember every time I was unkind or impatient. Every mean thing I ever said about his dad. The times he took care of me because I was sick. The times he watched me cry because my heart was broken. The times I couldn’t afford to get him what he wanted. All of it is vivid and feels heavy.

He will drive me to the hospital and be there when I get out of surgery, which makes me feel both grateful and sad. It is my job to take care of him, but over the past few years he has been taking care of me, and that is hard for a parent to come to terms with. I don’t ever want to be a burden on my child. I want him to be free to live his life and follow his dreams.

I want to hold him tight and tell him a million things, but that seems somewhat morbid. I’m not dying, I’m just having surgery. It is a procedure my surgeon has done hundreds of times with great success. There is nothing to worry about, and tomorrow when my neck is repaired and I feel amazing, I will have forgotten about how scared I was and focus on my blessings.

I will check in with you over the weekend when I am home, and appreciate your prayers and good wishes. I asked the hospital if I could have a rabbi come say a prayer with me before the procedure and they were surprised. Apparently they are not allowed to offer a clergy visit because it is an invasion of privacy, which is a shame. I pray and welcome the visit for a prayer.

The hospital said they would make the request. I let them know if a rabbi wasn’t available any member of the clergy, regardless of their religion would do. I just want a person of faith to pray with me. We all pray to the same God and I asked for an act of faith not religion. How different would our world be if people were able to have faith without religious judgement?

If I can get through the day without crying it will be a miracle. I feel emotional and happy, yet at the same time feel sick to my stomach and am unhappy. To be expected, but not at all a comfortable feeling.  I am going to count my blessings, believe everything will be fine, trust my brilliant son knows how much I love him, and hope he knows he is the reason I am keeping the faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dating 101: Three Strikes

In the never ending madness that is my dating life, I’ve been asked out by three men this week, and it is only Thursday. It would be fair to assume the odds are in my favor for at least one of them to be worthy of meeting for a cocktail, but when you remember it is MY dating life we are talking about, you must know that each man was stranger than the one before him, and I struck out three times.

Man #1 is 54 years old, Jewish, divorced, and estranged from his three grown children. He is coming out of a long term relationship with a woman who has a young child. When I asked how long it had been since they broke up, he said he was actually in the process of moving out of the home they shared. He was at their house when we spoke, taking out her garbage. Dear Lord, I simply can’t.

He assured me that even though they technically still lived together, he was moving out and their relationship was long over. I quickly realized he mentioned her a lot, so I started to count. For the next three minutes he referred to his not-really-ex-girlfriend by name 26 times. He then explained that in the interest of full disclosure, he wanted me to know he voted for Trump, and would do it again.

His living situation was no longer the grossest thing about him. This man is a personal mess and a political nightmare. No good can ever come from dating that combination. We ended our conversation and that was the end of that, which brings me to man #2. This man let me know he had been divorced for three years, but was still living with his ex-wife. They have four kids, one of them still at home.

Rather than disrupt her life, they agreed to live together until she went to college, which would be this fall. He assured me I didn’t need to worry about dating him, because they had a system in place. She slept in one room, he slept in another, and they took turns dating on weekends. To clarify, they alternated weekends at the house so they could both pursue fulfilling sex lives with other people.

On his weekend at the house, his ex-wife and daughter sleep at her parent’s home. Then when it is her weekend, he goes to his mother’s house with his daughter. Really? How can this be a thing? I think this is going to screw up that kid in worse ways than a divorce would. I don’t want to judge, and everyone should do what works for their family, but I’m going to have to say no on this one. No.

Man #3 is 58 years old, not Jewish, educated, handsome, and the father of five kids. Important to note he has never been married and his five kids have four different mothers. Interesting fact, two of the kids were born sixteen days apart. Yup. His kids range in age from 8 to 36, and he would really like to have more. Fun fact: he has two grandchildren who are older than his youngest children.

I don’t have any women in my life who would find his story attractive, but bless him for sharing it so proudly. Ugh. I have struck out without ever having even made it to bat. All I can do is laugh because at the end of the day it is funny. There is someone for everyone though, so I’m sure all three of these men will find love. I’ve got 20 bucks that says they will all find it before I do, which is hilarious.

I find my dating life to be very entertaining, which is a good thing or I may want to impale myself. One day my prince will come and the only things I am certain of, are that he won’t live with his ex-wife, have multiple kids from multiple women, or think Donald Trump is anything other than garbage. So until my bashert finds me, I will continue to be entertained and remain hopeful, while keeping the faith.

TGIF

Three years, seven weeks, and five days after I was first told I had cancer, I am cancer free. I feel happy and relieved, but will forever feel nervous every time I don’t feel good, that it is cancer. That said, at the end of the day I am a rock star, and cancer is my bitch. My son came home to celebrate last night, and having him stay the night and sleep in his old room filled my heart with joy. Less than a month after cancer stole a dear friend, I feel blessed and am counting my blessings.

As I waited for test results, while marking the anniversary of the passing of my beloved dad who died from cancer, I thought about my life and my place in the world. I watched the painful news out of Florida and cried as I watched a mother beg for the government to keep our kids safe. It left me with a need to say a few things, about a few things. This may piss people off, and that is okay. God Bless America that I am able to not only have an opinion, but share it freely.

  • The murders in Florida this week must not be blamed on mental illness, but rather blamed on the fact that a teenager can legally buy an AR-15 firearm in America. The President of the United States is a moron and anyone who thinks prayer is the answer to this problem, is mentally deficient. I am a woman of faith and I believe in prayer, but I have had enough. The NRA can shove all the prayers up their asses and fire them into space. We need to get a hold of the guns and stop making senseless murders so easy.
  • Aziz Ansari is a pig, he is not however a sexual deviant who needs to lose his career, just because he was a loser on a date. Dear Lord. The woman “Grace”, who wrote about her date with Mr. Ansari did more harm than good to a movement that is trying so hard to do good. There is a witch hunt mentality happening, which I suppose is to be expected under the circumstances, but as women we have a responsibility to each other to be honest and fair so that appropriate action can be taken against those who deserve it.
  • I have written that the last two men I dated were lovely and it simply did not work out. Here’s the thing though, they were not lovely, I was lovely. They are assholes and I am tired of taking the high road when it comes to my dating life. I am far too nice, and the truth is that I was kind to both of these people, and they were dicks. At the end of the day I am a great girl who is worthy of a great man, and if you voted for Trump or are 53 and never married, you’ve got too many problems for me to take you on.
  • I cried when I read that Amy Schumer got married. I don’t know her, but I like her and respect how she uses the platform fame has given her, so I found myself inexplicably happy for her. She was a beautiful bride and I hope she has a loving and wonderful marriage. I’m not really the fangirl type, except for Celine Dion of course, but there is something about Ms. Schumer that puts me squarely on her side. She makes me laugh and has the gift of bringing light to darkness. Mazel Tov Amy. Thank you for you. #totalfangirl.
  • It turns out that I was correct when I shared with you all long ago that I am the only person who knows how to drive in Los Angeles. I was rear ended this week by a young man with no car insurance. He was texting on his phone and I saw him getting closer, but had nowhere to go so I just waited for the hit. We were not going fast and the damage was only cosmetic, but it pissed me off. I felt bad for the kid for about 30 seconds. He could have cared less about what he did and texted the entire time we were talking. Whatever.

I am very happy it is Friday. I am welcoming in Shabbat with an open heart and a tired mind. It has been a stressful, yet joyous week and I am going to have a couple Cosmos tonight. I know they will be delicious because I’m going to make them myself. I plan to order in Chinese food, put on my fluffiest pajamas, and enjoy the Olympics. I will undoubtedly go back and forth between the excitement of Korea and the news, struggling to make sense of things that will never make sense. I feel stuck. I am unsure what to think or feel when I am so happy, and so sad.

To the families in Florida who are experiencing unimaginable pain, you are on my mind and I send you love. May your loved ones rest in peace, and may you know I will join my voice to yours until somebody listens and gets the guns. I am sorry for your losses. Shabbat Shalom. Be safe out there everyone. We live in a scary place and the only way we will ever survive is if we start to take care of each other. Be kind to one another, use your vote for good, and scream as loud as you can that you want change. Be brave, be hopeful, and remember to keep the faith.

 

 

Miss You Dad

February 13th is the day my father passed away. It is a day of sadness and reflection, but also joyous memories of a man I loved very much. My dad was a wonderful human being and I miss him. He was my go to person for everything, and it is impossible to understand he has been gone for 17 years. I wonder what he would be like if he were alive today, and turning 80 this year.

This is always a strange day. I started with a few tears, lit a candle, said some prayers, and headed to work. On the way in I received an email from a man online. I decided to reply since he wrote on this day, and perhaps my dad had a hand in it. We exchanged numbers and by the end of the afternoon we spoke on the phone. He didn’t seem like a match, but I tried to find common ground.

He is Jewish, divorced, 53, and felt compelled to tell me he does not like blow jobs, so I can date him with the comfort of knowing I don’t have to worry about that. As I listened to this truly tragic man spend five minutes explaining his sexual do and don’ts, and how they would make my life better, I started to laugh. Not a chuckle, but hysterical laughing that made my stomach hurt. Perfect.

My dad totally had a hand in that. I ended the conversation with the man and thanked my dad for the laugh on a sad day. By ended the conversation of course I mean I hung up on him when he got to his thoughts on anal sex. Oy vey. My dad sent a true idiot my way, to make me laugh on a truly sad day. I am now having a Cosmo, sitting on the couch with the cat, thankful for many things.

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and I will have dinner with the love of my life, my son. We will raise a glass to my dad and hold the memories of him close on a day that shines a light on love. I will look across the table and see my father in the eyes of my son, and count my blessings. Thank you for the laugh today Dad. We all love you and know you are watching over us. You are missed and we are all keeping the faith.

Love Is All

In this wondrous world
of wedded opposites,
of paradox after paradox
I wonder what it is
that pardons so much polarity?
If all is One how can there be so many Twos —
inhale, exhale, in, out, my body, yours?

What holds these twos together?
Is it not the same force which pulls
lover to lover, one to one to make two,
ultimately to make one once more?
Did the unity of nothingness not promise
the timely return from somethingness?
The singular to the many back to the singular?
Is this not our destiny? Set in the stars,
in big bangs and big crunches.

Love is all. It is this unshakable urge,
this urge which makes saints lie with sinners
and city dwellers with rambling fields of gold;
It is this Love of Loves which pulls together
apparently disparate parts —
helping to re-member forgotten limbs;
it is this Love of Loves which has made joy
so very taken by tears that it will do all it can
to return into one’s heart space for even a mere glimpse
of that enchanting, silvery goddess,
as honest and true as the sky is blue;
that lonely goddess, ever calling out for her beloved,
that lovely goddess known as sadness, ever worthy,
ever bound by Love of Love.
It is true, joy itself is a love song to sadness,
as sadness is the same for joy.

Even our decision to turn from our nature,
to refuse to accept that opposites were meant to dance
in harmony and not in anarchy,
(even now, I, too, am refusing in my own preference for harmony over anarchy)
even our bewildered dissent from the truth
that we are all just crazy in Love with Love;
that our inhales and exhales, keeper of all dualities,
from birth to death, are inextricably bound to one another —
one another as one as one as one;
even this apparent turn from truth,
is the wedding dance of the fool and the sage.

Dating 101: What is a relationship?

I woke up this morning feeling like a loser. Not a loser in life, because I’m a rock star at life, but a loser in dating. I can’t seem to get it together when it comes to sharing my life with a man. I historically date good men who are simply not the right men for me. There has been an occasional asshole of course, but that is how love works sometimes. I’m good at counting my blessings and finding silver linings, which is why I look at past relationships without regret. There is some anger, and certainly some bitterness, but not regret.

I don’t think things happen for a reason, but I can pinpoint the reasons some things happen. Does that make sense to anyone other than me? I woke up this morning thinking about my life and wondered why I am alone. I’m not alone alone of course, but I am not sharing my life with a partner, and that is sad to me. I don’t need a man, but I would like to have one. More importantly, I want a man to want to be with me, not need to be with me. I also don’t want anyone to settle for me or talk themselves into me.

I have been “dating” a man for a few months and yesterday I asked him if we were friends or dating, and he said he wasn’t sure. We talked about our relationship for a quick minute, but when I got home I cried. Not sure why exactly, but it made me sad that after so many months he was unsure what we were. It would have been easy to say we were dating, if we were, but he viewed us differently I guess. His answer was fine because it was his truth, but in the end it just wasn’t enough. I told him I didn’t want to see him anymore.

It is sad because he is great. I don’t think he thinks he is great, but I am a genius and I know for a fact that he is great. Here’s the thing though, if I spend four months dating a man and he is unable to say whether we are dating or not, he is confused because that is dating. Furthermore, if this conversation had happened between a girlfriend of mine and a man she was dating, I would tell her to walk away. If we don’t see our worth, then the men we are dating certainly won’t. It is not about how he sees me as much as how I see myself, and I am quite fantastic.

I will miss this man. We have settled into a comfortable relationship, even though it appears he is not sure we even had a relationship. He makes me laugh every time we speak on the phone or are together. He is educated and witty, clever and sensitive. He is also completely unaware of how lucky he would be, were I to love him, and that is the goal when dating isn’t it? I don’t think it is hard to get laid, or have a man buy me a drink or dinner. It is hard however to find love, but that is why I date. I am shamelessly looking for love.

I spoke to my “friend” last night before I went to bed, and again this morning. Ugh. That will be hard to stop. He is the person I go to for things, my date for events, my sounding board, and in the end a really good friend. He is not however looking for a relationship where he can give and receive love. I think he is worthy, but I am not a therapist or a mind reader, and I don’t know what he wants. I do know me though, and I want more. Want it, need it, deserve it, and certain I will find it. The search continues so I am keeping the faith.

Sadness to Happiness

I have a friend who is feeling sad. They’re not exactly sure why, but there is real sadness. I’m not sure how to help, so all I can do is tell them I love them, and things will be okay. Sadness is tricky because it can easily turn to depression. I embrace sadness when it comes my way, knowing it will pass. That knowledge took me a long time to learn, but I know it will pass, and that gives me the strength to ride it out. My heart is heavy for those who seek the same kind of strength.

I am blessed sadness leads me to gratitude. I imagine it is exhausting when sadness leads you to darkness. I don’t want my friend to be in the dark. I want them to hold onto my hand and allow me to lead them to the light. It may be a long walk, but we will get there. There is nothing wrong with sadness. I have been dealing with sadness since a dear and close friend passed away. I miss her in ways I wasn’t expecting and find exhausting.

When my friend passed away I was sad and lost. I hung onto my son a little tighter and he led me away from sadness. He was my sunshine on a cloudy day, and I hope I can be the sunshine on my friend’s sad day. Life is good and we are blessed. Carl Jung said “The word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.” I hope my friend can appreciate the importance of sadness in one’s happiness. They’re going to be fine and this too shall pass. I know it.

I know this person well. I know their family, job, joys, and sorrows. I know they are a wonderful human being and destined for greatness. These are things I know, and while I appreciate sadness plays an important role in our lives, it is not in charge. To my darling friend, I love you. Know it. You are going to be fine. Know it. This too shall pass. Know it. You have been my sunshine, and I will be yours. Know it. It will make it easier to keep the faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rest in Peace Cookie

Last week my remarkable friend Alli passed away. She was a mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend, Hollywood superstar, and wonderful human being. I loved her very much and haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of how much I am going to miss her. We knew each other for almost a decade and there is no aspect of my life she did not touch and make better. She was an inspiration to all who were blessed to know her.

Alli taught me patience. She bided her time and waited things to be as she wanted, rather than accept something that was less than she deserved. She taught me forgiveness. She forgave me for things I may not have been able to forgive her for, because she knew it would bring peace. She taught me self-kindness. She would not allow me to punish myself when things out of my control went wrong.

She was an entertainment powerhouse who left her mark on Hollywood. Every person reading this blog loved at least one of her movies. From American Pie to The Bourne Identity, The Hunger Games to Cinderella, Rogue One and the upcoming Han Solo, Alli loved the movies and it was an absolute privilege to have a front row seat to watch her work her magic. She was a truly brilliant producer.

Allison Shearmur was a lot of different things to me. She was my boss, friend, confidant, therapist, life coach, mentor, sister, mother, and sparring partner. We laughed and cried, got along and butted heads. She was my go-to person for absolutely everything. She knew every single thing about me. We kept each other’s secrets and never judged our choices. She was my family.

I worked for Alli for many years, and when I decided to move on to a new job, she said she would not accept my letter of resignation because there was a typo in it, and so it did not count. When I told her I was looking for a husband, she told not to find a husband, but to find an Ed, who was her beloved. When I questioned myself as a mother, she assured me I was doing great and my son proved that daily.

She taught me the importance of spending money on good bedding and pillows. She made me buy something just for me once a month. She valued honesty, kindness, and faith. We shared a Jewish worldview and spent the high holidays together. She respected and encouraged the role Judaism played in my life, and we often talked about our religion. We spoke of wanting to pass our faith onto our children in ways that would inspire them to embrace it.

Alli loved her children, husband, family, home, and career. Allison Shearmur also loved me, which makes me a very lucky girl. I will spend the rest of my life looking forward to seeing her again. I will talk to her often and have her in my prayers always. Our last words to each other were I love you, and she will continue to guide me. I love you Alli, and until we see each other again, I will be keeping the faith.

Happy Birthday Son

Today is my son’s 22nd birthday. I don’t really remember what my life was like before he was born, and every single day I have been blessed to be his mother, has brought me joy. I have not always done a great job, but he has always been a great son. He is a true blessing to not only me, but to everyone who is lucky enough to know and love him. In honor of this special day, I would like to share 22 things I love about this wonderful human being. In no particular:

  1. He makes me laugh daily.
  2. He is a fantastic chef.
  3. He is compassionate.
  4. He is talented.
  5. He is funny.
  6. He reminds me of my dad.
  7. He is socially aware.
  8. He works hard.
  9. He appreciates me.
  10. He follows his dreams.
  11. He is going to change the world.
  12. He respects women.
  13. He is a Dr. Doolittle.
  14. He is fearless.
  15. He respects the planet.
  16. He is brave.
  17. He makes good choices.
  18. He is a great friend.
  19. He is my sunshine.
  20. He lets me take a lot of pictures of him.
  21. He forgives me when I misstep.
  22. He is a feminist.

Happy Birthday Son! I love you very much and am proud of you. I hope this year brings you all you wish for yourself, plus more. Having a front seat to your life is my greatest blessing and I can’t wait to watch your dreams come true. Thank you for everything. I wish you health, happiness, and peace. Mahashooshoo. Always remember that life is better when you are keeping the faith.