Hugs: No Longer Free

In the country where there’s a market for anything, hugs can now be bought. Not prostitution—that’s been around forever— but cuddles by a professional, at an hourly rate.

 The NJ Star Ledger  wrote about how the industry has taken off in the state, earning pro-huggers $80 an hour. Evan Carp started Snuggle Buddies just over two years ago as a way to cope with his own depression following a debilitating illness.

Part of me is saying, “what next?”

And another is saying, “how sad.”

What a commentary about society today that people are so lonely and alone they need to pay for a snuggle to lift their spirits. Perhaps it’s another example of how we’re so plugged into our gadgets, we’re ignoring basic human interaction.

Remember the Free Hugs campaign started by Juan Mann at a Sydney, Australia shopping mall? The movement spread worldwide (this was before the going viral phenomenon), allowing complete strangers to hug in public. Perhaps there needs to be more of these.

The benefits of hugging aren’t new. Relationship counselors have advised 20-second bear hugs twice a day as a way to relieve stress and allow oxytocin to be released, helping us feel better.

We are all trying to make sense of the horrific news this past week that Germanwings pilot Andreas Lubitz suffered from depression which may have caused him to crash into the French Alps and kill all 150 people on board. The issue of mental stability and illness surfaces once again in the wake of this tragedy.

A hug might not have prevented this event; but more awareness—and yes, more human interaction—may have.

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Hello, May I Speak to…?

“You answered the phone.” I can still hear my Grandma Mae, calling me at my first post-college job. I couldn’t tell if she was impressed that I was important enough to have a phone to answer or dismayed that whatever my job, I had to answer the phone. (The latter is correct.)

She called often, inviting me to dinner at their home in Flushing, Queens. I’d take a long subway ride from Manhattan and my grandfather would meet me at the station for the short drive to their house. We’d set a date and an approximate time. She’d caution me not to “look too pretty” on the subway. Miraculously, my grandfather always arrived on time, despite our lack of communication after the initial conversation.

The phone call apparently is dying. According to a survey cited by A.A. Gill in the April 2015 Vanity Fair, “Goodbye to Hello,” speaking into a phone is the “sixth thing” people use phones for.

As a teenager, I lived on the phone. I’d tie up the house line (the only line) for hours after school. No matter that I’d spent the entire day with my friends. From about 4 to 6, there was so much more to discuss, not least of which was what we planned to wear the next day. After dinner and piano practicing, the calls might resume, to compare homework answers, gossip and to confirm clothing plans. One couldn’t be too careful.

With cell phones, teen life changed a lot. When we moved to another town during my daughter’s high school years, I hardly got to know other parents. In a cell phone culture, kids make their own plans; there are no calling house lines, asking a parent if you could speak to your friend. Drop-offs and pick- ups at friends’ houses were curbside, no need to meet the adults.

Though I have a “smart” phone; I’m not that smart about using it. I don’t text and I don’t use too many apps. I use it to make calls (!) check email, and take photos occasionally.  What’s difficult about the reliance on these apparatus is we assume that if someone is texting or emailing, it means they are present enough to engage in a conversation. We had an experience this weekend with a lawyer and a realtor handling a transaction. Both seemed to have time to send emails; yet neither answered phone calls that would have saved time and prevented several emails crossing resulting in ambiguities and frustration. I guess I’m just not a good multi-tasker.

Customer service for the most part has been relegated to computers as we select what department we need from a menu of choices. Talking to a human is nearly impossible and often not much more helpful. The lack of human interaction pervades all industries.

I hopped over to London last week to see some cousins and friends. I stayed with an American friend, whose husband is British. Her three children have dual passports, making it easier to enter each country when flying back and forth. We chatted about how when she and children enter the US, they go through the faster lines at customs than her husband. She said she loves that when they come to the US, the custom official stamping their passports says “Welcome Home.” I shared that I have Global Entry, a status that allows me to scan my passport at a kiosk and walk through without waiting in any lines, no need to talk with anyone. Technology may make life more efficient but certainly not more social.




Posted in commentary, daughters, Family, Friendship, parenting, Technology, travel, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Oh My Aching Feet

Oh My Aching Feet.

My post on Friend for the Ride.

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New Studies: Peanuts, Eggs & Sex

Three latest scientific studies caught my attention:

First, peanuts for kids. Growing up, no one was allergic to anything. We ate what we were given and peanut butter was a lunchbox staple. And not crunchy, salt-free, organic but big brands like Jif and Skippy — smooth, salty, and sticky.

Peanut butter  remains a go to snack, especially when biking and it’s the best way to cure hiccups—take a teaspoon or two.

My grandkids’ schools are nut-free zones. No PB & J sandwiches. No peanut butter stuffed celery; no PB & Fluff. This is particularly tough for one grandson who eats little else, though at 5, his taste buds are beginning to get more adventurous.

A favorite snack for all of them is Bamba, an Israeli confection found in kosher markets and elsewhere. Every outing includes a few packs to alleviate between meal hunger pains. Thankfully, none have any nut allergies, perhaps in part to an early introduction to peanuts.  images

And that’s what this study suggests.

Then there are eggs. As a poultry farmer’s daughter, I grew up hearing the controversies about eating eggs. “Nature’s complete protein,” my mother said.

We ate eggs frequently; for breakfast in every form, for lunch in salad, and Sunday night supper was baked beans, scrambled eggs with slices of fried Hebrew National salami. When my family visited others, a couple dozen eggs provided the perfect hostess present.

When the cholesterol scare arrived, my family literally scrambled to assure people eggs were healthy. “Everything in moderation,” my mother said. Still, sales dropped as studies claimed consumption of high-cholesterol foods, like eggs and red meat, increased the risk of heart disease. Now this study,, says eggs aren’t so bad and don’t affect cholesterol. Other breakfast foods are far worse, contributing to obesity.

Now for those us pondering Fifty Shades of Grey, yet another study, maintains that married couples that make it to their 50th wedding anniversary have great sex upon reaching that milestone. I’m 33 years into the institution; will have to report back in 17 years.


Posted in commentary, Education, Family, food, Grandchildren, health, parenting, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Celebrating “Boyhood”

Childhood, as everyone who’s been through it knows, isn’t always fun. Growing up is hard to do and parents can be real jerks some times. Then we become parents ourselves and realize our parents did their best, as we hope we’re doing. And so on. Growing up boy has been a prevalent theme in entertainment, showing up in movies and also live theater.

I was initially dubious about the movie Boyhood, thinking the filming of the same cast over 12 years contrived and projecting that the movie would be dull. There’s no plot; just a boy and his sister and two parents and a bunch of others, celebrating rites of passage and milestones. Another coming of age story, ho hum. I was wrong. The characters age in real time, over 2 ½ hours, like time lapse photography and it’s compelling and poignant.

Whiplash tells the story of a young drummer enrolled in a competitive music school who has to face the inherent challenges that environment creates, including a sadistic teacher. Some of our musician friends commented that the film depicts life in the arts before people worried about self-esteem.

On Broadway, we saw The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-Time, based on the 2003 best-selling book by Mark Haddon. It’s a National Theatre production brought over from the UK, and among the best plays I’ve ever seen. When fifteen-year-old Christopher John Francis Boone is suspected of killing the neighbor’s dog, he’s determined to solve the mystery and find the murderer. Christopher attends a special school; he displays non-specified developmental symptoms associated with Asperger’s or Savant Syndrome—he’s a mathematical prodigy yet socially awkward. It’s a family story: parents coping with a son who’s different, a son finding his way. Come to New York City and book a ticket.

Then there’s John & JenIn this two-character musical, there’s John, first a brother, then a son; and Jen, first a sister, then a mother over a time period from the 1950’s to the 1990’s. Politics and family tensions, and guilt and love. Lyrics by Tim Greenwald and music by Andrew Lippa. Add it to your NYC list.  Unknown

Closer to home, I took two of the grands to a local university production of Peter Pan, a musical, like its main character, that never grows old. Watching the flying through five- and three- year- old eyes added to the magic.

And speaking of growing up, the eldest grandson has started to read on his own. Now that is truly magic. I just hope I won’t be retired too soon from reading books to him.

Posted in art, Books, commentary, Family, Grandchildren, Movies & TV, New York City, parenting, reviews, Theater, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Purim: Plays & Hamentaschen!

My friend Marla invited me over for lunch. “Come for blintzes,” adding she had some pitted jarred cherries from the Russian store and sour cream.   I happily ate the blintzes, a cheese-filled crepe popular in Jewish cooking.

Knowing Marla’s busy life, I doubted hers would be homemade, though she is an excellent cook and might have taken the challenge.

Out of a box, fried in a pan, served with a dollop of sour cream and the cherries, they were yummy. I told her how my mother used to make them from scratch, making a thin dough of eggs, flour and milk, and gently frying the pancake, filling it with a mixture of dry cottage and farmer cheeses, folding up the blintzes, wrapping the edges like a small present, then refrying the entire thing lightly.

Like so many of traditional Jewish dishes, homemade blintzes are considered in Yiddish a “potchka,” a bit of a mess, and also a big production. I often wonder how my grandmothers made all the dishes that require hours and hours of attention, all without the assistance of a food processor.

I was facing an afternoon in the kitchen myself so was happy to have a lunch invitation.

Next week is Purim; the holiday that celebrates a time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination. King Achasverosh announces a contest to find a new bride and summons all the eligible women to the palace. He selects Esther, who lives with her Uncle Mordecai. Esther doesn’t tell the king that she’s Jewish. Meanwhile, Haman, the king’s evil advisor, convinces the king to annihilate the Jews because they don’t follow all the laws of the kingdom. He’s particularly mad at Mordecai who refused to bow down to him in public.  When Esther hears of Haman’s plan, she appeals to the king on behalf of the Jewish people, putting her own life at risk.  Achasverosh listens and orders Haman hanged.

The holiday includes plays and costumes, and food, particularly Hamentaschen, a triangular filled cookie that represents Haman’s three-cornered hat. I fill mine mostly with poppy seed; however anything from apple butter to chocolate can be used. I’ll freeze them until next week when I’ll bring them to friends and family.

Hamentaschen made (strawberry for the non-poppy eaters), I now have to find a costume and might try my hand at writing the Purim spiel—a retelling of the story in play form where everyone gets a part.


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Finished Projects: Winter Knitting

I’ve been knitting up a storm the past several months. I made matching sweaters for the 4 grandsons in royal blue, navy, and green and light blue.  DSC_0625The eldest grand-daughter got a jumper with a cabled top. DSC_0627

Of course, I couldn’t neglect our grand-dog, whose sweater came out too short so I’ll lengthen it so it’s not a “crop top.” It’s my first dog sweater and they’re a bit tricky to do.

IMG_2921 IMG_3089-1 I made a vest for my sister Madeline from Noro yarn someone had given her. A hitchhiker scarf for Prita, image a bobbles scarf and hat for Esti, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA and a ruffled scarf for Claudia as a thank you present for attending my memoir writing workshop. photo-90 I hope it keeps her warm and inspires her writing!

Yet another local yarn store closed. The owners retired to Costa Rica and plan to offer knitting retreats. I will miss them. They could take a ready made sweater or a picture from a magazine and create a pattern. I did stock up during their sale and am now working on a cuff- to -cuff pullover for myself. Plenty of snow day projects!



Posted in Fashion, Knitting, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments