Tag Archives: Children

We Are Almost Out of Year!

31 Dec
Journal entry, December 30, 2014

My poor husband must submit to being the subject of truly terrible drawings of his unbelievably handsome countenance. Here is part of my penultimate journal entry of 2014.

So this is the sorry state of the latest journal of Ms. 135journals or so. Paint splatters from a painting on the other side of the paper. Not a very handsome likeness of Mr. 135journals. Conversation about drywall and counter mounted compost bins. An experiment with using gel medium as a transfer technique for a picture of a woodpecker that wasn’t entirely successful. But–despite the house construction, the health problems, the dented fender, the mess in my art room, I feel very lucky to have this year. I am so glad to have had time to learn about art, to read books, to talk to friends, to share a life with this beautiful creature whom I have loved since we were teens. I am proud of my wise children, and of the family I grew up with, and the one I married into. And of my family of friends.I I have had some grim times this year, but there hasn’t been a single day where I haven’t had a chance to learn something interesting and new in our great world of wonders. Even on the worst days, there is (are?) Kim Kardashian’s butt problems to amuse me. I haven’t lived up to all my hopes for myself. I haven’t been as good a friend as I wanted to be. I did not do enough to ease my friends’ sufferings, and I hope I do better next year.  I did not drop XX number of pounds. I didn’t finish writing my novel. But oh how lucky I am to have had this difficult, beautiful, year. It was a like my messy journal, full of experiments, boring little everyday details, splashes of color, wrinkles, and nostalgia. It surprises me, as I wrote (illegibly) in the entry above, that we are “almost out of year!” I hope that you readers–and thank you so much for reading this very scattered and eclectic blog!–found some good in this year, and that next year will unlock a new treasure chest of wonders for you as well.

Writing Prompt: What surprised you this past year?

Talking Schnauzers and Other Matters: A Conversation with Jacob

7 Mar


Jacob, blowing some much needed bubbles in NYC


Child Number 2 is going to be heading off for a big adventure in three weeks, after he graduates from cooking school. In fact, today he has to take a big test where he cuts potatoes into various sizes of cubes (a fine brunoise?) and juliennes so he’s in a state of terror. This morning he woke me up at something like minus zero o’clock to beg a ride from me for school because he missed his class. I loathed him so much at that hour that he was actually forced to make tea and dip into his deep well of charm and entertain me, as I slowly woke up while hurtling along the Jersey Turnpike at 70 mph. But as I came to consciousness, I realized how differently I talk to each of my sons. When Jacob was two or less, my bff Julie said, “He’s a baby absurdist!!” and she nailed it. So, here’s today’s conversation.

“MOM. Would you rather have somebody who was always a man or someone who stayed a baby forever?”

“A man, of course. Men are interesting. But can I ADOPT? I don’t want to give birth to someone larger than I am.”

“It would be magic. And he would already be wearing clothes”

“A fetching bathing suit is enough. We can go to Kohls. I have a coupon.”

“Are you sure?” he asked. “Babies are cute and they have those little fingers.”

“No, grown-ups are cuter,” I say. “Besides, diapers.”

“He’ll change his own diapers.”

“That seems a little wasteful, but okay.”

“Actually,” he says. “What I really want is a talking animal.”

“Bad news, honey. There WERE talking dogs. They had really big eyes, too. But they pooped on the rug too much. So they all killed.”

“All dogs do that!” he said.

“And they were all Schnauzers, too. Talking Schnauzers. To tell you the truth, I was the one who killed them all.”

“Oh man, Mom! And Schnauzers are the cutest.”

“Uncle Neil’s Schnauzer’s slippers were the cutest, weren’t they?” We take a minute to sigh at the cuteness of Uncle Neil in his slippers.

“But Mom. Why did you really kill all the talking Schnauzers.”

“Because my grandchildren are not going to be talking Schnauzers. I want REAL grandchildren. That’s why I had you. So you can fork over some REAL grandchildren.”
“Actually,” he said, “I think I want a cow. Just a little one. Or a pig.”

Man, I’m going to miss that kid.


Writing Prompt: capture a conversation—yours or someone else’s.



July is Journaling Month Part 4: Speech! Speech!

9 Jul


Oh yeah, just tell me Pat Nixon isn’t enjoying speaking at the Republican National Convention. Bonus points for awesome use of arms.  (Wikimedia Commons).

Unlike many people, who would rather be flensed, drawn and quartered and have their heads stuck on poles for the benefit of the peasants’ amusement, than give a speech, I am one of those loudmouths who can’t get enough of public speaking. I mention that because tomorrow I am giving a speech on a topic that means a lot to me, “How to Become Your Own Chronic Pain Hero,” at the Women’s Rights Information Center on 108 West Palisade Avenue, Englewood, NJ. It’s at 10:30 and it’s free and you’re all welcome!!

Anyway, I was inspired to write about speechmaking (and trust me, this will get to the prompty part in its good time) because of one of the responses I got to my first Prompt. Toby Stein wrote about how she was feeling—which was hot and tired about a speech she was giving at her temple. She wrote, “I think I’m game, or will be after tomorrow. Right now, am a dishrag, having JUST finished my July 4th Shabbat sermon. I am going to sit without the pages in my hands, and do nothing for a while. I see nothing, except me stuck up on the bimah tomorrow having forgotten to take up a cup of water. My body feels limp–maybe I’ll walk in the hallway instead of sitting until I come to again. Aside from limpness or limidity or limpy, my body feels ready to do this thing tomorrow. Shabbat shalom to the everyone, whatever religion they do or choose not to practice.” (Oh, and by the way, she has a Web site, too– http://nobodysgod.blogspot.com/) And she survived her speech!

When I first heard of the public speaking club Toastmasters, I thought, “That’s for me!” I was too busy at the time with my little ones. So, when the children turned teenish and mysteriously wanted to sleep more than they wanted to watch Saturday morning cartoons or play hideous games, I went to my first Toastmasters meeting. I wasn’t sure what to expect at 9:00 at the local public library. I mean, it kind of sounded like the Loyal Order of Water Buffalo. Did they have strange rituals? Was it going to be embarrassing? Was I going to be embarrassing? But to my surprise, the group—a highly diverse and international group with many accomplishments under their belts,  was not only extremely welcoming, but I loved it from the beginning just as much as I thought I would. I was introduced as an “honored guest” and asked my opinion at the end. I was hooked.

Toastmasters meetings have a welcome formality and structure. Different people take on different roles—timer, grammarian, general evaluator, speaker, Toastmaster (who leads the meeting), and Table Topics master. The table topics master comes up with a list of questions and everyone is on the hook for an answer of up to two minutes. You never know what question you’re going to get, so the idea is to walk slowly and try to frame a rounded answer when you get up to the podium. This is great practice for job interviews—sometimes if you really can’t answer the question, you can practice your politician skills, i.e.—“Well, John, I don’t really think America is interested in my relationship with that intern, I think we have bigger problems, like getting the economy going.” You realize that when you have the stage, get up there and OWN that sucker.

The second half of a Toastmasters meeting is devoted to 3 prepared speakers and their evaluators, and the evaluations of the timeliness, “ums and aws” and of the meeting in general. Most of the speeches are 5 to 7 minutes, though some run longer. Learning to shape your thoughts to fit into this short timeframe is challenging, and more challenges are always being added. Evaluations are based on specific projects that can include everything from “Using your hands” to “Storytelling” to “making a cold call.” I have had the chance to learn many different speech techniques from trying these different techniques and the careful evaluation of my peers, but I also have gained in another way. I have learned much about listening. I don’t think I’ve been to a single Toastmasters meeting where I haven’t heard something surprising, touching, inspiring, informational, or otherwise worthy. I’ve learned about growing up in India, Hungary, inner-city Newark, about science, about how people overcame obstacles, about the history of sugar making, about the life of the Incas. I have gained immeasurably from the attention, care, information, and personal touches that my fellow Toastmasters put into their work.

I, too, love to blab about whatever interests me at the time, or whatever I’m writing about for money—plate tectonics, the dilemma of what to do when your kid wants to go to an expensive college, Survival: Parent Edition; a tall tale about an amorous ocean scientist and the new cologne-wearing Doctor Chad who pilots her to the bottom of the ocean and gets entangled by a giant squid; about how to throw a cheap but fun party for kids; the Ancient Romans; gay marriage,–it feels as if the more speeches I give, the more subjects there are to talk about!

This last week was a big week for me because I got my Toastmasters Silver Advanced Speaking award. That means that I have given at least 42 targeted speeches (okay, I’ve given about 70 but I have a tendency to forget my manuals. . . ). I feel proud that I was organized enough to accomplish SOMETHING.

So, whether you’re the type who loves to speak up, or who cowers at the thought of it, I challenge you to think of something you feel passionate about, whether it’s the evil of flipflops (got this idea from Slate magazine); why the war of Northern Aggression is a travesty that shattered our fair land forever; Why children need regular beatings in case they decide to do anything bad; why cabbage isn’t just for peasants anymore;  anything you feel opinionated about in any way whatsoever.



Prompt #4: Okay, Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Write a speech you’d like to give—whether you’d have the nerve actually to deliver it or not. And it doesn’t have to be long–just ask Abe Lincoln.

Random Journal Posts: May 14-15, 1995, June 2, 1995

11 Oct

May 14, 1995

J. is so miserable. We drove home from Yaohan Plaza and he shrieked, gasped and choked  the whole way home. My nerves are completely rattled. I was really terrified. I’ve spent a lot of time feeling so scared that there’s a metallic taste in my mouth..

May 15, 1995

Packing boxes was a huge mess. By Sunday night, I felt completely lacking in energy. My limbs felt like Jell-O. I just couldn’t bear to pick up boxes I’d packed. I also ran out of energy for my little ones. We took M. miniature golfing with his friend Alex yesterday at Port Imperial Golf Course. M. played about 8 holes—crying because he wanted to skip some holes and play others about five times in a row-etc. Then we went to Yaohan plaza for lunch, where M. and Alex were completely wild and J. was shrieking because he was teething. After we got to the little shrieker home, I was supposed to carry M. in, who had fallen asleep in the car. But I fell asleep instead!

(Later)  M. talk (as J. climbs all over him.) “Mom, this is the VERY BABY I’m trying to get away from.”

June 2, 1995

Last night M. said, “Let’s draw a turtle. I want to draw a reptile. Will you help me with the shape?” But I was busy just then. Now I’m sad I never helped him. Now, when I give him a timeout, he insists he likes it. “This is nice,” he says. B. gave him a time out and M. kissed him  as he carried M. to a chair! He is so funny! He won’t give in “under torture.”

Writing Spark: Who has tired you out lately?

Random Journal Page: May 19, 1995

8 Oct

May 19, 1995

I am so tired—thanks, M., for waking me up at 5:15 this morning. He’s a very efficient waking up machine , I must say. He turns on the light and the radio and wakes up J.—mean!!!

I was really tired all day. But I did talk to M.

“Why did you wake me up when Daddy told you not to?”

“I thought the radio was already on.”

“No you didn’t. You turned on the light, you turned on the radio, and you woke up J. That was NOT nice, and it makes me sad.”

“Um, Mom, know what? I’m sad, too.”

“What? Why?”

“Because remember Paul, Kathy’s daddy? He died.”

“M., do not change the subject. That has nothing to do with you waking me up.”

“But Mom. . . “

“Don’t ‘but mom’ me. When you say ‘but mom’, all it makes me think is what you didn’t listen to what I said.

“But Mom .t .. “


He laughed. “My eyes aren’t seeing. I have to take out my eyes and put in new ones.”

I love that child! I was really sad when he left, because he wanted to take his toy dolphin to school, but he dawdled too much going up to get it. So I watched him being led by B., wearing his Mickey Mouse rain jacket, his head in his yellow hood bent down and sad. This image haunted me all day.

Writing Spark: What is it with little kids and waking up at the evil, evil crack of dawn?