Parent Diary: Worry & Pride

An airplane vanishes. A ferryboat capsizes. Families wait, worrying, unwilling to accept the inevitable. I imagine the anguish these families are experiencing and wish I could offer some solace. I share their worry.

I watch my son grate horseradish by hand, and tell him to watch his fingers.

“Mom, you worry about everything,” he admonishes.

True. I worry about my New York City- based daughter-in-law who takes long subway rides to get to work. I worry about my San Francisco -living daughter who works late nights at professional basketball games. I worry when the grandkids climb on playground structures; my son is much more relaxed. I worried when my sons wrestled in high school; I worried watching my daughter reach for long tennis shots.

When I call my parents, my father asks me how I am, ignoring my questions about how he is. He’s a worrier. If traveling, we have to be sure to call him when we arrive and return.  I remember his father, my grandfather Abie, responding in Yiddish when asked how he was feeling would say, “myt myyn hʻnt”- with my hands, dismissing our concern about his health.

I guess some of us are perpetual worriers.

Yet with worry, there’s pride.

Last night, I met my friend Yvonne to watch her son’s thesis performance for his MFA in Drama. Her pride bubbling like champagne; she told me she’s never missed any of his performances, his entire life. “It’s a mom thing,” she said.

I reminisced how we had gone to as many of our daughter’s tennis matches and college senior events we could last year and how I miss them now. She’s worried too. With graduation next month, her son needs a job. He’s entering a fickle, competitive industry; a lot depends on luck and timing.

Worry and pride, like a pair of mismatched gloves, seem the bane of parenting.

Are you a worrier? Or do you shun it and focus on being proud?

Posted in commentary, daughters, Family, Friendship, Grandchildren, parenting, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Mental Health Begins in Nursery School

When my son arrived home, he asked his two toddlers if they’d had  “a terrible, horrible, disgusting day that they didn’t want to talk about.” Through giggles, they answered they’d had each had a good day, and happily shared what they did in school and on the playground.

Watching my children parent their children continues to be rewarding and edifying as I wonder (and don’t remember) if I handled issues of sibling squabbles, extreme exhaustion, and general toddler tendencies with grace. For sure, I’ve observed, that there’s much more attention to feelings. I often hear one of the parents ask a child if he or she is “frustrated” by something, and by acknowledging this, and showing understanding, the behavior shifts and the situation eases. My 2½-year -old granddaughter knows words like “confident” and her 4½ year- old brother talks about having a “complicated” day. There’s a bit of “Tom Sawyer” reverse psychology used too get them to do things they might resist, like picking up toys or throwing something in the trash. I hear “I bet you can’t do this by yourself, “ or “I wonder if you can .. “ that usually brings about the desired result.

In my playwriting class this week, I noticed that Caitlin’s hand was bandaged. A college student, aspiring playwright and actor, who reads the stage directions for the workshop participants, she described how she got injured. While bar tending, she’d tried to remove a customer from the bar – we can only imagine this person’s behavior that required her to be escorted from the premises—the woman bit Caitlin in the hand, severed a tendon and gave her blood poisoning. As she talked, I’m thinking, “Ok, she is a drama student. This can’t be true.” However my doubt disappeared when she added that the perpetrator is a lawyer, that the bar has no intention of suing, and that her work colleagues, who witnessed the event, are staying mum to protect their own jobs. Wow. That’s a lot to take in.

We live in an ever -violent world—or perhaps we just know more about incidences that occur in schools, work places, and army bases thanks to our access to instant information. All the yoga classes in the world can’t seem to address the vast mental health issues plaguing people. Great literature creates plots and characters based on human drama. Real life provides enough to fill libraries and movie screens; often I wish it wasn’t so. Too bad the values taught in nursery school aren’t remembered.

Wearing their new Warriors jerseys. Basketball nets on order.

Wearing their new Warriors jerseys. Basketball nets on order.

Posted in commentary, Family, Grandchildren, parenting, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Happy 60th Anniversary, Mom & Dad

It’s my parents’ 60th anniversary today. I asked my mother what’s the secret to a long marriage. “A  good imagination and a bad memory.”

scanned-image-1 unnamed1 We’re gathering Sunday at their home of 50 years, that is now on the market.

Posted in celebrations, Family, Writing | Tagged , , , | 21 Comments

Fashion Passion: Scarves!

“I had 57 scarves, I got rid of 10,” My sister Madeline admitted, when we discussed the need to purge items from our wardrobes we weren’t wearing. While I haven’t counted, and don’t think I have nearly that many, I share my sisters’ and mother’s addiction to scarves. And even if spring is slowly starting to warm the days, I find myself reaching for a scarf every time I leave the house. It’s cold in the early morning, then warmer, and then cold again.

I remember when we toured the University of Chicago years ago with one of our sons and the tour guide advised that scarves provided essential protection against the Lake Michigan winds. My mother  has always insisted scarves bring attention away from the middle and toward the face. I like them in all sizes and colors: wool and cashmere in winter, and silk all the time.

When I taught, I wore a scarf every day to match my outfit, a habit my sister, who also teaches, follows. We sometimes pick the outfit to match the scarf. One can never obsess enough when it comes to scarves.

I lost a treasured one this winter. A cowl I knit from imported cashmere, must have slipped off my lap in a taxi and I didn’t notice- until it was too late. I was heartbroken. It wasn’t a simple pattern but one that involved loops and laces; why couldn’t it have been a store-bought generic one? Alas.

I remember tucking a bright “Jerry Garcia” scarf inside the neckline of my black wool dress I wore to my grandfather’s funeral. He’d have approved, I think , of my adding a bit of color to sad day. unnamed-3

After I published Tangerine Tango, my sister bought me this scarf.unnamed Great for book talks!

It’s Autism Awareness Day  and the color code is Blue. I have the perfect scarf!unnamed-4

What about you? Do you collect an item of clothing? Share your fashion passion!

Posted in Books, commentary, Family, Fashion, Knitting, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Singing “The Star Spangled Banner” Do you or not?

The musicians entered, taking their places, standing behind music stands. The conductor, long and lean Italian Gianandrea Noseda, strutted in, raised his baton and cued the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra, on tour in the US, to play the “Star Spangled Banner.” Unknown The audience rose to its feet and remained standing for the playing of the Israeli equivalent, “Hatikvah.

National Anthem performances are expected at the onsets of sports events or the awarding of medals at closing ceremonies. I certainly heard my share attending sports throughout high school, and as my sons took the field in their high school’s marching band or the mats before wrestling matches. At a classical concert, it’s less popular. Perhaps visiting orchestras, as ambassadors from their countries, play the two anthems as a sign of respect and good will.

Whatever the reason, I enjoyed it, and liked the chance to stand before sitting for the three-hour concert featuring French composers, and the opportunity to sing. I don’t know “Hativah” or any other countries’ anthems, and while I’m no competition for Renee Fleming at this year’s Super Bowl, I like singing the US National Anthem. I know the criticisms: it’s too hard and high; it celebrates war. I don’t care.

Looking around me, listening, though, I didn’t hear anyone join in. Why not?  At sports events, some do, some don’t. I haven’t been able to find any justification of whether its appropriate to sing along, or inappropriate not to; I think it’s personal preference.

It’s the start of baseball season and with that, lots of anthems ahead. I’d say: don’t be shy, sing out!

What’s your preference? To sing or not? Blogger friends from overseas—share your anthems!

Posted in commentary, Music, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Russia #2: Wandering The Hermitage & Mom’s Borscht

From Moscow, we took the high-speed train to St. Petersburg. It’s smaller and more European in style, with lots of canals and bridges throughout.  Cathedrals dot the landscape. We spent practically an entire day at The Hermitage; NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art could easily fit inside this palace showcasing millions of works collected by Russian royals. The football field-sized period rooms display gold gilded chandeliers and furniture not to be believed. I imagined being a child growing up here; it would be a fantastic place to play hide and seek.  We marveled how in so many rooms we were the only visitors and were able to get very close to paintings. CIMG2928CIMG2933

I ate as much borscht- the traditional beet-based soup-  as I could for lunch. Frankly, none were as good as my mother’s; a recipe I’ve made many times. Unknown

Mom’s Borscht

Beef Bones or 1 pound  chuck meat beef with bones
½ head medium sized cabbage (mix red and white)
one large potato, 1 medium parsnip, two medium sized beets, 1 large apple, two carrots, 2 onions, 4 stalks celery, 5-6 cloves of minced garlic, parsley, dill, thyme, lemon, honey, salt, pepper to taste
one large can tomato paste

Boil meat in water, skim off fat, cool for about an hour. Shred cabbage, slice vegetables, add to stock. Add water to fill six- quart pot, cook between two and three hours until meat and vegetables are soft. Remove meat from bones. Cut into small  chunks, return to soup, add seasoning.

Traditionally this soup is served with a dollop of sour cream. It doesn’t really need it and I  have never served it with the soup. I might make it vegetarian to please my vegan/kosher diet children.  Perfect for these in-between March days.

Posted in art, Family, food, Museums, galleries, Recipes, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Moscow in March

Mention Russia these days and everyone shudders, worrying what will be next. Does this mean another Cold War?

Trying to understand it becomes more complicated when actually on the ground, in the country as I am for a week. That Russians support Putin surprises us freethinking Westerners; yet several times in the course of our visit, it was reconfirmed that not everyone in the world admires the ideals of democracy and capitalism.

That said, however, it’s evident a free market is thriving. Moscow is vast, and construction is everywhere. Eyesore concrete buildings, remnants of the former Soviet Union, sit between reconstructed 18th century palaces and tiny, pastel churches. Shopping dominates culture like everywhere. Yet the infrastructure, created during Communism, trumps anything I’ve ever seen. The Moscow metro is fast and clean; chandeliers, paintings and sculptures adorn the walls and ceilings. The train to St. Petersburg is speedy and quiet. And the food, fantastic.

I joined my husband on a business trip mostly because my cousin Francesca lives in Moscow and she offered to be our tour guide. A lawyer with an American firm, she’s carved an expatriate life in a city she has loved since college. She led an inside tour that included parks and neighborhoods, cafes and bars, including one hidden beneath a Chinese take-out restaurant that isn’t named and the bouncer at the door decides who he lets in. We walked and walked and sampled as many types of ethnic Russian cuisines as she could fit in. I savored beet borscht for lunch every day.

Surely this is a nation on the cusp. If the powers that be would only let it alone, make tourism more welcome (it’s a lengthy, expensive process to obtain a visa), people would flock here as they do European cities. The cultural offerings are enormous; we took in a concert and ballet, the language isn’t that hard to figure out a few letters, and in the big cites, there’s signage and menus in English. Though we missed the snow, there’s a ski jump in the center of the city, ice skating and cross skiing everywhere in city parks.

I admit my images of Russia have been formed by “Fiddler on the Roof”- which was my grandfather’s story when he left the Motherland for the US, and by “Dr. Zhivago” and later a college Russian literature course. I’ve see movies made from Tolstoy novels and attended many performances of Chekov plays.  Francesca insisted that the nation isn’t nearly as homophobic as the West maintains, and urged we learn more about the real Russia. I sure hope to.

CIMG2916CIMG2899CIMG2890 CIMG2907 CIMG2908 CIMG2911

Posted in Family, food, Movies & TV, Museums, galleries, travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 31 Comments