Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Fly Fly Away

Hayley is fully ensconced in a new life, a new journey; one that she chose, regardless of the advice of her elders.  Regardless of the "order" of things.  She has embraced a life that is her own.  And though a piece of this anxious Jewish Mother wants her right back next to me, cradled in my arms, saying goodnight to the moon and the stars; I know that she is happy.

When she was just a baby I wrote a letter to her in her baby book. "Just be happy", I pleaded. That's all we can ever hope for our children, really.  Because, in the end, that's all that matters...that you were happy, that you were surrounded by love and you have given and received love generously, isn't it?   And so, to that level I am pleased as punch...jumping for joy.  Because my oldest girl, this old soul, who, as a baby cried more than any baby before or since;  fussed til her parents were collapsed in exhaustion, only started to become happy when she gained control of her world.  As she gained strength in her neck and could hold up her head, sit up independently, crawl, walk, and talk (and boy, could she talk!) it was only then that she became a happy child. When she was in control of herself.

I have been asked so many times by so many people how I FEEL about her move. If I'm being completely honest; I'm jumping for joy!   She is a butterfly, her spirit soars.  She has had adventures in her (almost) 22 years that I wouldn't even dare dream.  My fears, my anxieties and my lack of confidence strapped me in to a more traditional existence; but boy, just once in my life, I would have liked to have been someone like this beautiful creature who I brought into this world.

I know she adores her family.  I know we adore her.  This isn't a girl running to an exotic destination to run away from anything.  This is a girl who ran to an exotic destination to live rather than just exist.  And, hell, when you are young and unencumbered by adulthood, isn't this the perfect time to do just that?

I thank God for Indigo, her puppy, who found her by fate.  Because I know she and and Indigo will take care of each other.  Be unconditional best friends when life gets challenging.

I miss my girl.  So so much.  But I also know, that she is living her life.  Happy, loving , generous, independent and kind. 

She is not like me, but she is just like me.  The part of me inside myself.  The part of me that wants to fly into the wind and dance with the butterflies.  The part of me that wants to walk barefoot in the jungle and make friends with every character I meet.  The part of me that wants to spread a little magic wherever I go and to whomever I touch.

So, in answer to your question, the truth is, I couldn't be more proud.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Second Chances

In the cold, gray days of November,  I would watch my mother. The machine would help her breathe, I would hold her hand, comb her hair.  I would say goodnight, and wonder if she would still be with us in the morning.  In my mind I reflected on her life, our relationship, on all the things I'd never said.  In my mind I planned her shiva, shuddering at the thought of never again being held in her loving embrace.  Back in November, I thought this was the end.  The time in my life I dreaded so deeply, but I knew was inevitable.

These six months have been the hardest six months of her life.  No one should have to endure the pain, the trauma, the loss of dignity that she has had to endure.  There were days that I was wracked with guilt that maybe we prayed a little too hard for her to survive, for she seemed so unhappy to have woken up.

The road has been long.   Tiny victories along the way.  She never saw them as a big deal.  But even learning to comb her own hair, to swallow spoonful of applesauce, to dial the telephone...these were all milestones in her journey.

The road ahead is long as well.  But she has taken her first, slow, steady steps out of her wheelchair.  She is settling in a new home, making new friends, creating new memories.

And today, on Mother's Day, a day I was sure we would never get to celebrate together again, we sat on the patio together, soaking in the sun, holding hands.  And I realize that we are the lucky ones.   I get that second chance to show her how much I love her, to tell her how I feel....a second chance I once thought would never come....

Thank you, my Mommy for being my strong, intelligent, powerful role model.  For loving us so unconditionally, for placing us in the center of your world.  For being my safety net, for being my cheering section.  For believing in me, for looking at me every day (still) like I am still your little girl...for making me feel safe, for assuring me.  Thank you for being so funny, so able to laugh at nonsense, to always know how to make people smile.  Thank you for being so pragmatic, so logical, for always just knowing the right answer.   Thank you for forgiving me when I've been wrong, or disrespectful or just didn't know better.  Thank you for showing me what it means to be a GREAT mother...although I'm sure I will never possess the patience and selflessness that you showed me. 

And finally, on this Mother's Day, I thank you, my Mommy, for sticking around a little I could get the chance to share the sunshine with you once more...

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Notes from the ICU

When the doctor first told us that my mother was being transferred to Intensive Care, it was rather casual, a "precaution", nothing to be too upset about.  We hardly realized that the journey was just beginning, and we were about to spend weeks and weeks on a roller coaster ride for which we never realized we were in line.

I'd never been to a Critical Care Unit, and when I first entered, I tried to hold my head down - to give dignity to people whose dignity was probably left on the floor of the ambulance that brought them here.  But like a bad accident, it's hard not to peak.  And in the past three and one half weeks, I have seen a lot.

A lot of bodies breathing mechanically, each with the same items hanging from the IV rack: the light brown bag is the food that is fed through the nose.  The clear bags are the antibiotics and fluids.  The white bottle is Propofol - the sedative (and if you aren't familiar with it, just Google "Michael Jackson", and you'll get your answer).  Each body has a monitor next to it with numbers.  The top two are heart rate.  The middle one is oxygen intake.  The bottom is breaths per minute.  The final numbers are blood pressure.

I pass each one, day after day. I compare their numbers with my mother's.  I'm not sure why.

The machines beep, and blurp and hiss and sound more like circus clown horns than ventilator alarms.  Each noise makes me jump out of my skin just a little...but the nurses are calm, and don't react until the beeps start to repeat and get louder.

Once in a while, a young patient appears.  A woman in her twenties, freckle faced, curly red hair.  Her father spends every moment by her side.   A man in his fifties, sitting up in his bed, hands propped behind his head.  No blankets, feet crossed.  He watches football.  He looks like he's vacationing. A mom in her thirties, who has a large family rallying for her.  Everyone in her room must be cloaked in sterile robes and masks.

But most are old.  Grey.  Frail.  Small.  One, a lady who suffered a heart attack while being treated for lung cancer, had her machines disconnected.  Her monitor is blank, no flashing lights, no beeping.  She lays in the darkened room straining for each breath. Her daughters sit by her side, one is knitting an outfit for a baby.  I come in the next day, and the room is empty.

There is a waiting room.  Serene colors and comfortable furniture.  Sometimes it is a place to have quiet, to cry, to collect.  Other times, it feels like a party, with  friends and family gathered, catching up, laughing.  Sometimes, the hospital chaplain, Monica, stops by.  She is gentle, and kind, and wise.  She is happy to spend a half hour with us, catching up, listening to us, holding our hands.  She's become our friend, part of our inner circle.

Back in the unit, Mom's room sits right outside the nurse's station.  And over the weeks the faces are all familiar.  The young surgeon who is as skilled with a scalpel as he is with offering  words of comfort; the army of pulmonologists who change shifts every four days.  The unit secretary who sits at the computer - she's had only one or two days off since we've been here.  And the nurses.  Oh, the nurses.  They take care of my mom, and sometimes, they take care of us.  When my sister became overcome with emotion, it was the nurses who offered comfort with an embrace.   When we try to put our medical "two cents" in (AKA: reciting everything we learned from GOOGLE) They are respectful and compassionate.  Plus they do a lot of dirty work... I couldn't stomach what they do for a moment, yet they do it every day, with grace and professionalism.

The frail bodies lie there, but day after day, you start to notice changes.  The woman in 307, who was on a ventilator 2 days ago is breathing on her own today.  The frail lady down the hall is sitting up in the bedside chair, with a tray of food beside her.  The gentleman next door took a walk down the hall with the help of two therapists.  These are the moments I look to, and pray for when I look at my mom. She has come far.  She has a long way to go.

As I walk the halls of the ICU,  I see body after body, lying in each room.  Most are alone.  In darkened rooms with bare walls.  (How is it that you can leave your loved one alone when they are so seriously ill?)  But when you arrive at my mom's room, you see dozens of cards and pictures and mementos on the wall, a constant reminder of all she has to live for.  Messages on her dry-erase board from her granddaughters: "We love you!" "Be strong" "Nothing to fear but fear itself!" And she has her family.  We are a constant.  We are her advocates.  We are her cheering section.

She is blessed.  Beyond compare.

I hope that our roller coaster ride in the ICU ends uneventfully and ends soon.  But I'm humbled to have had the opportunity to have spent the past few weeks of my life witnessing life, death, healing and compassion.   I have gained insight and wisdom, and learned that I can withstand more than I knew I could.  My greatest wish is that Mom would have never gotten sick, and we'd never have to be here.  But since that is not to be, I am strangely grateful.

Thank you to all for the unending love and support.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

On Gratitude and Miracles

A few days late, but this year, our season of gratitude is coinciding with the season of miracles...and this year, with my mother's difficult health situation.

We celebrated our "Thanksgivukkah" at The Country Club Diner on Cottman Avenue in Philadelphia.  We congregated there, because it was the closest restaurant to the hospital, where my mother lays, in Intensive Care, sedated and hooked up to a ventilator.

The food was fine, the company was wonderful, but we were not home.  I missed out on my yearly tradition of waking up early to get the bird in the oven - sitting down now and then to watch the Broadway performances at the  Macy's Parade.   As the day continues I putter around, and the aroma of our upcoming feast begins to waft through the air. The girls make their way down, and we watch the Dog Show, and somebody sneaks a taste of pumpkin pie, or mashed potato, or my (fantastic) home-made cranberry sauce....and this will undoubtedly anger me...My dad is the resident turkey carver, and he is sure to make a terrible mess slicing the turkey, but no one else wants to take the job from him, because, it is our tradition.  I prepare for days, we eat in minutes, and then all that is left is to clean up and collapse with exhaustion.  It is on days like this, that my house feels more like a home, and I feel satisfaction, to be filled with so much abundance, and so much to be grateful for.

Our dinner at the diner this year was quiet, subdued, and although I ate turkey with all the trimmings, I didn't feel abundance and appreciation.  I just felt  exhausted, and sad, and helpless.

But this is a season of Gratitude.  And over the past week, I have realized how much I have to be grateful for.   Small things that surprised me, and big things that humble me...all of these things are now filling my head, unless I write them down, they will keep spinning in my head....

So, here goes:

I am grateful for the staff at Jeanes Hospital.  Doctors and Nurses who don't just look at my mommy as a laboratory specimen, but as the vibrant, intelligent, wonderful mom that we need in our lives for many more years.  They treat her with dignity and respect; and show equal concern for the well being of my father as he resolutely waits by her bedside praying for her recovery.

I am grateful for the Hebrew students at Congregation Beth Shalom.  They made menorahs out of craft foam and felt; so we could "light" the menorah in her hospital room.   We add a candle each day, and I pray my mommy will be awake and breathing independently before the last candle is lit.

I am grateful that my mom had the foresight to purchase extra toothbrushes at the dollar store.  Certainly came in handy when I unexpectedly found myself sleeping in my old bedroom back on Church Rd.  (Even if they are Power Ranger toothbrushes with an approximate two day life span).

I am also grateful for my new found knowledge, that you really only need two outfits...and a washing machine...and I have learned that the world will not end if I go a day or two without mascara and eyeliner...and I am equally grateful that the doctors and nurses don't appear to be judging me.

I am grateful for my sense of humor...for the flexibility of our souls to navigate from a moment filled with grief and fear  to uproarious laughter in the next.  I know it's good to get those tears out, but it is equally okay to giggle now and then, too.

I am grateful for my Dad's positive attitude.  If you ask him how he is, he responds, "I'm fine...I'm a tough son-of -a-bitch," and boy, he sure is.  When I'm with him, I feel like I'm eight years old again, and he is my perfect, strong hero...reassuring me that we will all be okay.

I am grateful for my big sister, the more mature one...because I learned that we both have different gifts to offer in this situation...she takes action, she plans, she organizes; ..none of these things are my strong suit...and I have learned our personalities are a perfect balance....and I am especially grateful that even when I lose my temper now and then, she is quick to forgive me...because she understands that we stand in this uncharted territory together.

I am grateful for the other man in my life, my incredible husband.  I left him and my girls to be closer to both my parents.  He has taken on additional responsibilities without hesitation, and remains unwavering in his support for whatever I have to do...

For my wonderful boss, who gets it when I say, "I can't be anywhere but by my parent's side...", even during the busiest time of year.   I hope she knows that if the situation were reversed, I would be there for her in a heartbeat.  I thank her for her kindness and humanity.

For my children, who braved the sights of the ICU to see their beloved grandmom, to hold her hand, and to comfort her ; and to sit with my dad and help him pass the time by listening to his funny stories and pontifications.  They continue to amaze me every day...

I am grateful for my iPhone, even though it died on me for a day.  For with my iPhone, I can Google a medical term, look up a surgeon's credentials, text a friend, look at an old picture of my mom and even play a game or two of Candy Crush to pass the time.

I am grateful for Facebook, for the love and support I have received from far and wide is astounding.  Just a note reminding me how special my mom is, or that prayers are being sent our way is of great comfort...even during the worst moments.

I am grateful for prayer - for that is where I go when the moments are quiet...and I find that I mostly pray for strength...

I am grateful for hope - it's what gets me through the night.

I am mostly grateful for my mom...for being an incredible role model, a caring friend, an activist, a businesswoman, a devoted wife, mother and obsessive grandmother.  She placed us in  the center of her world, and I hope she knows how much I appreciate her love, her energy and her strength.

So in this season of Gratitude and Miracles, even though my Thanksgivakkuh feast was less than perfect, there is much to appreciate...and I truly haven't forgotten  (well, maybe for just a moment)...

Next step?  Patiently waiting for our Miracle.  And I will wait for as long as it takes...

Friday, June 7, 2013


It just keeps going. Time, that is.   No stopping.  No frozen moments.  It just continues on, changing everything in its wake.   I used to be a young mom, juggling diapers, sippy cups and playdates.  Then, I was a soccer mom--lacing cleats, keeping score, planning celebratory pizza parties.  I was a camp mom...enduring the summer heat and less than favorable living conditions so I could share in the joy that is camp with my girls.  Then they got a little bigger, and when it was time to loosen the reins, just a little bit...overnight, it seemed, they slipped right out of my grasp.   They grew up.  

How did they change so much, when I still feel new at this?

My life before them, was really, just the time I would spend waiting for them. Longing to have a family of my own, to be "Mom".  I imagined I'd be perfect.   Always patient, kind, always ready with a band-aid, comforting words, homework help.  Dinner ready every night.   Laundry always washed and folded.  Patience never thin. I'd be a great role model, friend, yet firm disciplinarian.

On some days, I think I was pretty perfect.  On others...many others, I'm quite sure I fell short of perfection.  I gave in a little too much, lost patience a lot, and I'm not even going to mention the laundry.  It's just that I always thought there would be a tomorrow to try to get it right again.  But the tomorrow's are waning.  Hayley has already finished freshman year in college.  She has friends that I may never meet, a life I will never fully share, and a path that she needs to forge on her own.    And now Sydney is graduating high school.  And all over again, this weird mixture of pride, joy and dread at the inevitable chore of letting go, has taken hold.

In a little more than a week, both of my oldest girls will be headed to camp for the summer.  This time, as staff members.  And that's it.  They'll come home for a few days before they go off to college, but essentially our life with just one child at home starts in just a few days.  This is a brand new chapter.  

I hope I can give Addie the patience and perfection that often eluded me during her sisters' teenaged years.  I hope she will enjoy her next 6 years as an "only" child.  I pray my house is filled with love and joy and abundance.  That I remember to treasure every little milestone in her journey. That I won't forget that in the blink of an eye, this familiar dread will reappear and we will be waving goodbye to her as well.

In the meantime, I'll be holding back the tears for the next few weeks, as we watch Sydney reach this milestone.   It's bittersweet.  It's exciting.  And for me, it's the tomorrow I never realized would get here so quickly.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Today, I  am grateful.

I am newly employed!  So lucky to have a position with a company that allows me to make use of my creativity, gives me a flexible schedule, and if all goes well,  perhaps make a considerable contribution to my family.

I am balancing this new career with the needs of my family. School forms completed? Check!  School shoes purchased?  Check! Groceries? Check!  Dinner?  Already cooked, ready to go!  Bathrooms?  Well, maybe they could be cleaner...but...Check!

My work life in the recent past has been filled with positions that have been physically and (sometimes) mentally taxing.   So, upon my return home, there was very little left of me to share with my loved ones.  My current job, is certainly not physically difficult.  My worst complaint is that my index finger might get a little numb from over clicking the mouse, or my neck may get fatigued from sitting in one position, or at the very worst, I lose my voice from talking too much...(But then again, I always talk too much!)

I have more energy to share with those most important to me, and I am grateful.

Thanks to this newly discovered energy,  I am more aware of the abundance in my life, than I have been in years.  First of all, I'm writing again!  I didn't even realize how much I'd missed it.    And little things, like clean sheets, a refrigerator filled with food, a evening snuggle...I am beginning to recognize that these little moments need to be celebrated and appreciated, just as much as the big moments, like graduations and birthdays..

So today, on Yom Kippur, as we are think  about atonement and repentance, I am feeling reflective about  my past.

I am  guilty of spending to much time ruminating upon what I don't have instead  about what I do have.  If only I_________________. (had less wrinkles,  a bigger bank account, a smaller waistline, a more satisfying career, more closet space, less anxiety, more, well just ....fill in the blank). 

What a waste of  energy!.

Thankfully,  I am evolving.  I am putting into perspective what is really important. A  loving marriage.  Happy children.  Friends who care.  Family, whose arms are infinitely open and ready to catch us if we fall...Health, both mental and physical.  And, finally,  a sense of humor when one or more of  those things isn't going so well..  And boy...sometimes they really aren't!

But, I am blessed beyond measure.  I really am.  I know my husband knows that.  I pray my kids understand that.  And my hope for the coming year?  It is simply to remember these little blessings, the building blocks of my abundant life...and to appreciate them every single day...

Friday, August 31, 2012

Wished Away

Years ago, when the kids we're young I read a list, compiled by the wonderful Erma Bombeck, reflecting on all the things she might like to re-do, if she had the chance.

One in particular always stuck with me.

"Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I’d have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle."

It wasn't the God, or the Miracle part that got to me (to be completely honest, I had no recollection whatsoever about that part), but it was the idea of "wishing" something away.

And boy have I done a ton of that.

I wished those early days of colic would end. They were terrible.

I wished she could sleep through the night, eat solid food, sit up unassisted, crawl, walk....

I wished she would get potty trained more quickly, so we could stop spending so much money on diapers.

I wished she would grow up and get along with her buddies instead of biting them and leaving teeth marks on their arms as a souvenir.

I wished she wouldn't cry and carry on every time I dropped her at preschool.

I wished she would get along nicely with her sisters.

I wished she wouldn't argue with me about tucking in her shirt, or which socks she was going to wear. I wished she would just listen once in a while.

I wished she would grow up more quickly.

And then one day, she was a teenager.

And then I stopped wishing she would grow up more quickly, and started wishing that the growing up would slow down.

I wished she didn't want to have her eyebrows waxed, her hair highlighted, or her belly button pierced.

I wished I didn't have to ask her to "make wise choices" every time I dropped her at a party.

I wished I didn't have to pick her up at midnight. Or one. Or two. Then, I wished that she didn't have a drivers license so I wouldn't have to wait up and worry until she got home.

And, finally, I wished that this moment wouldn't get here so fast.

Tomorrow morning, my Hayley, my oldest, leaves for college. She's ready, more than ready. The car is packed, her courses are picked, and she's said her goodbyes to all of her friends.

And I'm proud of her, excited for her, confident in her ability to find success in all of her endeavors. She's smart and kind and loyal and beautiful. She's sensitive and funny and energetic and determined. She's my pride. My joy.

I have only one problem.

I just wish we didn't have to say goodbye so soon.