Thursday, May 9, 2013
From time to time I read the obituaries. Like just in case someone I know has actually passed away and I didn't know, or because I'm a writer and I read between the lines - looking at the birth and death dates, the life histories, the old people whose obituaries are accompanied by their picture from World War II. And sometimes I read them because we just need to pay attention. They're there and they memorialize someone's life and I can give them my time.
So I was really surprised when pricing obituaries yesterday, how much it costs to run one. Two hundred dollars for one day and fifteen lines. More for extra days and lines, and even more for a photograph. Somewhere in my naive little mind I thought these ran as community announcements, as community service. Not as ads.
If you read this blog back in 2009 and 2010 you may remember the madcap adventures of the elderly in my life - my Holocaust Survivor Jewish mother and my Ohio Farmer Methodist Stepfather. Her yelling and his deafness, which actually made an ideal combination; his constant puttering, gluing and winching, involved in dozens of mystifying projects around the house, like gluing together ice cube trays and winching broken laundry baskets, because nothing ever needed to be replaced, yet the house was still falling down around their heads. And my mother sat in her place on the couch in the family room, phones and remote controls in front of her - her command center - the living switchboard of our seven daughter family. Who knew those were the good old days?
But then there was decline and a decision that our mother needed to live with one of us due to her need for twenty-four hour a day care. Stepfather did not want to make the same move. He continued puttering about the empty house, still busy with projects, with ham radio, with driving his truck fifteen miles an hour down the road seeking garage sale finds. I saw him often, brought soup. But still I thought, he's 87. He can't live there alone forever.
There were a lot of options available to him, one of which was to move to be close to one of his daughters. And I swear he was alive and well this past January as he shuffled off with his kids, the yard sale items with which the house had been filled compressed finally into six suitcases and a mobile mini.
Who knows what it is that keeps a person in one piece, that keeps a person going? Who knows what strange collection of circumstances and location and relationships - and maybe glue and winches - keep a person going? Because by the end of March, and his 88th birthday, Stepfather was hospitalized, and on May 6th he passed away.
And on May 9th I was on a website trying to figure out how to condense the life of one man into fifteen lines and one day and found that it is impossible.
Rest in peace, Bob Milburn.
Friday, May 3, 2013
The Top Ten Reasons Why I Haven't Been Blogging
10. The last year has seen me become the mother of two teenagers. Should I stop here?
9. Daughter has grown about 12 inches and gained 42 pounds in the last three years. Can you even imagine how much food has gone into that child to sustain that kind of growth? As far as her height, every time I look away, I look back and it's like a time-elapsed video. Suddenly she's looking me in the eye. And just in case anyone is worried - because who would want to gain 42 pounds in three years? - she now weighs 101 and stands 5'5. Still a Skinny Stick.
8. My book. I'm not going to say much about this because God forbid I promote myself, but the book takes a lot of time. It lived inside my head for so many years, and then it lived inside my computer for several more, so having it out in the world has been amazing, but it's kind of like having an extra child who doesn't live at home. I worry about it. Turns out worrying is also a full-time job.
7. I started doing yoga last year in addition to my regular exercise. Trust me, this whole over-exercising thing takes up a lot of time. Also, not being the most bendy gal on the planet, yoga has been very interesting. Interesting in that I still can't touch my toes and, just when I'm supposed to be all spiritual and concentrating on my breathing, I'm always somehow adjusting my clothing. In summary, I've found that after a year I'm very good at one thing in yoga: corpse pose.
6. My book won an award (yea) and there have been various things associated with that, including the Writer's Digest Conference - East, and some interviews. Whenever I used to read in Writer's Digest about people who had won the award I won, I always assumed they were famous and about to get a gazillion dollar deal for their books. Just FYI, I'm still not rich and famous.
5. Both and over achiever and under achiever, procrastinator and perfectionist, I keep taking classes to satisfy my zillions of ambitions. In just the last three months this has included an intro to Improv class, Mothers Who Write and Playwriting. Of course, I want to do everything and am fighting the knowledge that I'm just going to have to lock myself in the house to produce my second book.
4. Meanwhile, back at my desk, I'm writing that second book, a sequel to Looking Up. Its working, and somewhat facetious, title is Jewish Girls Gone Wild. Yes, it's about my teen years.
3. I was blindsided by the elderly parents getting increasingly elderly, and, having written so many posts about their foibles, found it difficult to write once their decline became apparent. Who knew that one day I'd be looking nostalgically back to when they were their spry 79 and 84-year-old selves? Yet, that is true. It was increasingly hard to be humorous.
2. Did I mention the teenagers?
And the number one reason I haven't been blogging is...
1. Bat Mitzvahzilla. It's taken me six months to recover, but Daughter had her Bat Mitzvah this past October. During it she wanted me to change the name of the blog to Bat Mitzvahzilla, to which I said no; she wanted to have the kids tables set up to form an "R" for her first name, to which I said no; and wanted to have giant cut-outs of herself for people to pose with at the photo booth, to which I said... well, see for yourself.
Husband, me and our two cut-out Bat Mitzvahzillas
Anything keeping you from doing what you want to be doing? Any high-maintenance children in your life? Aging parents? Forty-two pound weight gains?
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
It's a typical Monday evening. Daughter and I drop off Bar Mitzvahzilla at his tutoring and then, since we're stuck in North Scottsdale for an hour, I drive over to a shopping center that has a rare treat: a Nordstrom Rack.
But first I have to convince the twelve-year-old. Somehow I've raised a non-shopper. She doesn't want to go clothes shopping, she declares. She'd rather go to Michael's and buy more craft project items that we'll never use and end up stuffing in a closet somewhere.
I drag her in there and get ready to do some power shopping, or at least power looking. By then we only have about half an hour before we have to get back to pick up Bar Mitzvahzilla so map out my shopping expedition well. I decide I can only handle a foray through the shoe department.
Well, lucky me. Daughter and I are the same shoe size suddenly. Both 7s.
Then something happens. While I'm looking, and eliminating, and eventually buying nothing at all, Daughter has a tweeny/teeny moment. She has a moment in which she suddenly bursts from being a gangly, wild, child thing into being a woman.
Basically, she commandeers the cart, careens through the shoe department and picks out about twenty pairs of shoes.
I nod my head knowingly. I knew the shoe gene - not to mention the shopaholic gene - had to be passed down somewhere. She might have been pretending all these years with her resistance to shopping but look what happened when I got her in that forest of shoe racks! Though, of course, I can't buy her twenty pairs of shoes. Turns out that right at that moment that she's turning into me I turn into my own father. I say, "What do you think - I'm made out of money?" Neither of us has ever heard me say this before. She has to eliminate all but one pair.
The next week, I tell her we should go to Old Navy for our break during tutoring. She gives me a thunderous look. She doesn't want to go. She can't stand to go. Why does she have --
She walks in, sniffs the air, and immediately starts stacking clothes in my hand. The next thing I know she's in the dressing room.
Born of a shopaholic and a cheapskate, she'll never know a moment's peace. And neither will I.
Are you a shopper or frugal? Have you ever noticed that you've passed those traits on to your children? Are you turning into your own parents?
Thanks for reading,
Linda Pressman, Author of Looking Up: A Memoir of Sisters, Survivors and Skokie
Sunday, December 11, 2011
My mother was sick recently. Like really sick. Hospitalized sick.
First there was my mom at 80 - spry, the mall walking, seniorcizing ball of energy. Then there was her auto accident a little over a year ago and things changed. Suddenly there was my mom, her couch, her TV remote and her phones lined up in front of her. A smaller life and an older mom where suddenly taking a walk meant walking to the kitchen.
So she got sick like that, just sitting on the couch with not even a breeze blowing by and it was the usual mayhem in the hospital - seven sisters showing up here and there, and grandchildren and husbands and the nurses wondering exactly how many offspring one woman could have anyway?
I knew I had to leave for Chicago right before she was getting out since I was appearing at a Jewish United Fund event for my book but how was I supposed to leave her that way?
I was pondering that, sitting in the hospital room, the oxygen machine hissing away, watching the IV drip, when I suddenly heard my mom's voice from the bed.
"What are you wearing for the presentation? You bought something new?"
Like swimming out of the murky depths of old age, my mother suddenly reappeared before me, as evidenced by her lifelong obsession with the buying of clothes. I breathed a sigh of relief. Nothing could convince me my mother was on the mend more than her quizzing me about clothes.
(that's me in the center at JUF event)
She looks at me askance. She's unhappy, but not exactly with my outfit. She's unhappy that I've taken care of it already and out of my own closet without going shopping. Going shopping in my closet doesn't count. With my mother every event must be shopped for anew even if you have the clothes already. Then she moves on to a different event.
"What about for Joan Rivers?" Somehow, she can't remember how to boil an egg but she remembers my itinerary in Chicago with a mind like a steel trap.
"Gray dress, black jacket, black boots and tights."
She nods but I can tell that she's a little let down. She really wanted to plot out a shopping trip, a meandering path of me traipsing from store to store to store searching for the perfect outfit. Or, based on her history as a lifelong seamstress, her sewing it for me.
When I see that she's about to question me about all the other clothes I'll be wearing and, more importantly, whether I'll be dressed warm enough, I take over and I become the mother again.
When I return from Chicago, she's out of the hospital but back on the couch, the oxygen hissing next to her. But there's still part of her there. I visit her the morning after we return, sit down next to her on that couch. She says, "How'd the outfit go?"
Is there any one topic that your parent(s) love talking about or that you know when they bring it up that they're on the mend? Any aging parent issues?
Author of Looking Up: A Memoir of Sisters, Survivors and Skokie
Sunday, December 4, 2011
But it also means this: her clothes doesn't fit anymore or they're too babyish, or not cool enough, or any of a thousand other reasons she can no longer wear them. She stomps into my bathroom while I'm getting ready each morning, says she needs to go shopping, and then goes shopping. Right then. In my closet.
On the one hand I know I should be pretty grateful she wants to go in there. I am 39 years older than her, after all. Also, I'm glad that we actually fit in some of the same clothes especially since I don't weigh anywhere near 89 pounds. But what's the chance of me having anything hip enough for her?
Turns out that the clothes that are now too young for me are just the right age for her. The clothes I monitor carefully, aware that there's a thin line between dressing well and looking like I'm longing for the 1970s and my own teen years. The stuff that doesn't make the cut gets trotted out for the tween.
This wasn't something I could do when I was a kid in Skokie. First of all, even if our mother's clothes had been attractive to us, I had five older sisters who would have gotten there first. Second, her clothes were never going to appeal to us. I was 12 in 1972, for goodness sakes. I wanted - needed - hippyish clothes, maybe a leather bandanna for my forehead, a halter top, bell bottom baggy jeans, maybe a fringed vest.
My mother's closet was not the place to find these items. The most noticeable thing upon opening its door was the smell of mothballs. Then there were the brocade dresses, the handmade suits, the torturous pumps, the foundation garments. My mother's clothes could actually stand up and walk around by themselves, they were that stiff, they didn't need a human body in them. For a free-wheeling 12-year-old who didn't want to dress like Jackie Onassis, that wasn't the look I was going for.
But here in Scottsdale, in 2011, with a mom who writes at home and has her professional clothes gathered neatly in one side of the closet, it's a windfall for the kid. She looks around at the clothes I think would be perfect for her, rejects them all, steals my favorite top off its hanger and sneaks off before I completely notice what she's doing.
As I'm exiting the bathroom I notice another thing: Bar Mitzvahzilla coming in half-dressed, insisting he also has no clothes to wear. The last thing I see is him heading off to his own shopping spree - in Husband's closet.
Did you ever "shop" in your mom's or sister's closets? Can you? Does your daughter "shop" in yours?
Thanks for reading!
Linda Pressman, author of Looking Up: A Memoir of Sisters, Survivors and Skokie
Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, Indiebound, in many local libraries, and at Changing Hands in Tempe.
(The "Faceshuk" in the title and this code: 3daa678fe7c57f042a0645dfc6668578 are intended to establish my blog ownership on the Faceshuk site. Check it out!)
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
I'm sitting at my desk, working diligently, when two furry animals suddenly decide to stand on top of my work area, blocking out my screen.
Oh yeah. They're my cats. Our bright idea of about six months ago: adopting sister kittens.
We thought that our kids should have pets before they completely grew up; that it would help them stop being self-centered and care about something smaller than themselves. In that we were right. What I didn't expect was that with their silent, mysterious presence and their baleful glares when their food bowl is empty, how much I have to stand around staring at the cats, trying to read their minds, asking them to lead me to whatever is wrong, like Rin Tin Tin or Lassie.
I finally realize what this all reminds me of. It reminds me of the worst days of being single; in particle, of what it was like being in a relationship with the very Bad Boyfriend I once had.
Like him, the cats don't talk much. I have to sit around trying to guess what they want, what mood they're in, try to read their minds. I never know if they like me so I wait for a little bit of parcelled out affection but end up wounded each time they run from me. They use me for food and shelter. As a matter of fact, I don't remember them ever paying for anything. And sometimes they spend the night cuddled with me and sometimes I just don't know where they are.
Basically, they're using me.
One big difference? Unlike the Bad Boyfriend, who I had delusions of marrying, I actually am married to these cats.
Ever notice human traits in your animal friends? Even bad ones? Cat lover or dog lover?
I've had difficulties commenting on my own blog and other blogspot blogs for months, as well as other technical difficulties. Bear with me; it appears to be better now!
Linda Pressman author of Looking Up: A Memoir of Sisters, Survivors and Skokie
Top Rated on Amazon and available there, on bn.com, local libraries and other retailers. See the tab above to read an excerpt!
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
But then, when mulling over vacation spots, I somehow convinced Husband to run wild and free and farther than he'd ever gone before. We suddenly booked four flights to Israel. With two weeks notice.
I could still have written a blog post, but then again, we only had flights booked. We had no place to stay. Can I even try to count how many nights I sat in my office instead of working, with one web browser up with a Google map of Tel Aviv, another of Jerusalem and yet another with Vacation Rentals in Israel?
There were the flights: seventeen hours there and eighteen hours back. There was the jet lag, a day on the way there and a week long after we got back. There was the crazy, mixed-up, beautiful insanity of being in Israel, of going on tours with our guide driving around hairpin turns with a Jewish Bible in one hand and the steering wheel in the other. There was my broken hair straightener, which led to me being assumed for Israeli everywhere we went, with my gigantic head of something almost resembling hair. There was the moment the four of us were crammed into a minuscule grocery store, frantically trying to buy food for the Sabbath, and staring at the all Hebrew packaging around us. We had no idea what anything was. There was standing at the Western Wall, with women all scrambling for a spot to talk to God, standing there crying, one next to another.
Monday, July 4, 2011
As I run out I say to Daughter, "No TV or computer until you do your three chores!" There's no reply, which, in retrospect, seems ominous. But I do hear a final click of her hands on the keyboard.
I finish my exercise class, get in my car and call home. Daughter answers. I ask, "What chores did you do?" I'm genuinely curious. I'm optimistic, upbeat, expecting a list in response. Maybe a list of the easiest stuff she could do, but a list nonetheless.
She says, "I didn't watch TV or go on the computer."
"So I didn't do any chores."
I take a deep breath, not wanting to scare anyone in the parking lot I'm in by yelling loudly. I ask her to put Bar Mitzvahzilla on the phone. Although by now I'm expecting the worst, I ask him the same question, "What chores did you do?"
"Stainless steel, toilets and vacuuming. Can I go? I'm watching TV?"
Ah, the differnce between boys and girls. Part I.
Ever had this sneaky over-interpretation of your instructions happen with your kids? Ever wish you had just a little more time to lay out exactly what you want them to do ahead of time, with all the possible caveats so that there are no loopholes?
Author of Looking Up: A Memoir of Sisters, Survivors and Skokie, now on Amazon, Barnes and Noble.com, Books-a-Million, Powells, at Changing Hands, on Kindle and in libraries.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Suddenly the pile of paper moves. It breathes. It coughs. A voice can be heard from inside the pile of papers - my voice - exclaiming at the volume of paper, the quantity of paper, the sheer duplicative quantity of paper.
Of course - it's the camp paperwork and I've gotten buried beneath it.
My kids have gone to the same summer day camp almost every summer for the last six or seven years. The first year the amount of paperwork was a terrible surprise. I paid the camp fees, filled out a nice little two-sided sheet with our family information and a credit card number and, with a smile on my face, prepared to walk away. Suddenly I was handed a brick of paperwork and told to complete the forms contained in it for each child and then registration would be complete.
There's the normal stuff in there, like the contact sheet with phone numbers, and then there's stuff like the "Get to know your camper" sheet where I have to tell them about my children's psychological foibles to maybe smooth their way through their weeks there. Husband and I have had no small amount of fun over the years imagining what we'd really like to write under "Child's Three Favorite Activities" as opposed to what we actually write there. Not to mention the "Three characteristics that best describe your child." There's the challah order form, the lunch order form, the aftercare form - which needs to be filled out whether we use aftercare or not - and the friend request form. Then there's the one form I have to fill out twice: the medical/immunization form.
I've come to realize this form is created only to torture me since I must obtain my children's immunization records and then transpose those records onto the form. Each year I peer quizzically at the immunization form from the doctor's office, where they've abbreviated certain shots under one name, and tried to match them up to the form, where they've abbreviated them another.
As the years have gone by, my dread of doing this paperwork has sometimes become a deciding factor in whether my kids will go to camp, kind of like the "Sponge-worthy" Seinfeld episode. Is it paperwork-worthy? Is one week of camp worth it to fill out the paperwork? A resounding no. Two weeks? Three?
I jump back in the pile, pick up my pen with my claw-like hand, and finish the task.
Are your kids in summer camp? How voluminous are the enrollment forms? Every get overwhelmed and discouraged by paperwork?
Monday, June 13, 2011
It didn't occur to me quite away because, frankly it wasn't needed. It occurred to me when Bar Mitzvahzilla went from being a smooth-faced twelve-year-old several years ago, into a raging, hormonal thirteen-year-old. And then the pimples came.
It was a normal night. The kids were up too late. The husband causing a ruckus in the house because those same kids had managed to mess up the house in the most minute ways; ways that seemed intended to drive us to the brink of insanity. I was hiding in my office, trying to get some writing done and wondering - lamenting - why my office didn't have a door. Oh yeah, I know. Because it's the living room.
Then Bar Mitzvahzilla marched in for a goodnight kiss. No knocking because, of course, there was no door. He presented a face full of pimples for me to kiss. And I, of course, kissed the pimples.
It's not like I spent my life purposely kissing pimples. The common wisdom when I was heading into high school was that you could catch these things if you made out with a boy who had them. Since I already had enough of them to send makeup counter ladies running in horror from their stations in the mall, I wasn't going to purposely rub faces with someone who had worse pimples than me. There was also all the other stuff we believed about our skin right then: chocolate causes pimples. Rubbing alcohol will cure pimples (topically, not as a drink...). Use a blackhead popper on your pimples (hello, scarring!). We even believed that one day soon we'd grow out of them.
And, just like my nascent belief, as a teenager, in the fact that a ten-pound weight loss could change my life, I also believed that if I strategized just right, I could declare war on the pimples, and fix my social life.
I don't think Bar Mitzvahzilla was philosophizing quite as much as I had, as an adolescent girl. But he did march into my office for a kiss. So here's my motto, reiterated in case you missed it, used in the fullness of loving parenthood: Kiss the Pimples. And then get that kid to a dermatologist.
Any horrible acne stories from your youth? Archaic beliefs or practices? Any experience with this situation? Anyone else spend a lot of time in the dermatologist's office and not for Botox and Juvederm?
Linda Pressman, Author of Looking Up: A Memoir of Sisters, Survivors and Skokie
available on Amazon, Kindle, Barnes and Noble.com, libraries and other retailers