from me to you

June 28, 2009


my teenage daughter goes to the same summer camp that i attended some 39 years ago.  i still wonder at the continuity of it all.  espcially since i have always tried to set a different path than i think i was expected to have.  but this amazing place has now been a girls’ camp for over 80 years and it remains a special and unusual place even in a large field of other people’s summer camp memories. 

i was sent to 8 weeks of camp (at age 12.5) – really to be gone for the summer.  i left on my parents anniversary every year (i used to joke that was my gift to them) and for 8 weeks i was the person i knew i was in my heart of hearts.  while there were every type of girl around me – sporty, girly, hip, awkward, high-drama, low-drama – we were all a 180 girl family.  no-one cared that i wasn’t the hippest kid around – my silliness and goofy smile and enthusiasm was my offering.  i just remember feeling so much freedom that i thought my heart would soar out over lake champlain in vermont.  were there hard times there?  oh yes.  when i came back, many years later for my first alumnae camp, i remember saying that my last year there was the best summer of my life and the worst summer of my life.  i remember crying so hard i thought i would never be the same.  all that teenage angst and trying to find a path to be oneself but also have any kind of society around you that both wants you and you want it.  but there was no better place to be while needing to laugh, cry and be.   i was safe there.  safe to be myself  – whoever *i* thought myself should be. 

i have taken my daughter to alumnae camps since she was a year old (it occurs every other year and so i have gone to a few – though not all and not in a few years since i was diagnosed with breast cancer – tho i have been back during the course of her summers there.)  so when she decided to go, i sat her down and told her that it was ok if this wasn’t ‘her’ place…she didn’t need to go for me.  what i thought (and think) is special could be very different from what she needs.  and, frankly, i was very sad to see her go.  my parents were happy to see the back side of my head for 8 weeks and my husband and i both miss our daughter with an ache every day.  she loved it.   that’s an understatement.  she understood it at it’s most essential basic level – this place was hers.  it loved her.  she loved it.  she dreams of going back all year long and – according to friends who work there and who have been kind enough to let me know how she’s doing – makes dreams while she’s there. 

it may seem a silly thing but i am so proud that i had something to ‘hand down’ to her.  something that she found to treasure that meant so much to me also.  it will serve her well.



catching my breath

June 22, 2009


not a moment has there been to write.  we’ve been, like so many end-of-the-school-year parents in a whirlwind of activities.  and when teenage daughter caught the nasty bug that was going around every single jam-packed pre-camp activity fell away.  we squished in a dinner for some family friends celebrating their birthdays (but never actually got around to celebrating husband’s birthday or our 18th wedding anniversary) on the night before she left (a day delayed and a whole new airline ticket bought – it was cheaper than changing the original one) and went for an hour to the strand bookstore in manhattan – one of her all-time favorite haunts.  she walked in there years ago and yelled: ‘i’m going to work here one day’!  wait until she finds out that working there doesn’t entail curling up in a corner and sucking down obscure manga and sci-fi.  (yes, i have that kid!)

we packed her off early friday morning but the whirlwind did not stop for us and, frankly, won’t for another day.  musician husband has nonstop gigs through tonite (yes, i’m always grateful) and i worked the whole weeked – well, when i wasn’t dodging buckets of rain.  i did grab dinner and a long gabfest with a long-lost friend in manhattan – sushi is the best indulgent meal because it has so much silky taste but isn’t so bad for you!   for father’s day, my husband – sadly sans his own dad who passed away last year and sans teenage daughter who is at camp – and i both stumbled out of the house for a late local dinner because he just didn’t want those yummy chicken burgers i was planning!   reminding me never to dine out on a hallmark holiday.  i kid you not that we waited an hour for our appetizers only to be told that the one he ordered was never in stock in the first place.  and then we wolfed down what was essentially a greasy mess of pasta but we were starving by then. 

this morning i looked down at ye old scale and realized it’s time to stop being as indulgent as i’ve been for a week or so and today it was back to basics – what i hope to do every day – 30-40 min. on my elliptical; off to work for the afternoon into early evening and then dinner with whomever wants to do dinner.  and clean our house.  talk about whirlwinds.

knee jerk reactions

June 14, 2009

i have changed a whole lot of things in my life over the past few years.  i have changed my diet – well, at the very least, i work on changing it every single day.  i have changed my exercise – again, i re-convince myself to work on it even tho the last week has been a miserable failure in that regard.  i have been working on putting the year of cancer behind me – or at the very least, climbing back out of the emotional crater that i found myself laying in over the past 3 and a half years.  i have been smiling more and felt that i really feel happier.  i feel deeply that one of the lessons of all of this is to embrace the now – to understand what is truely important and what is backburner stuff.  to enjoy more and worry a little less.  i have felt that putting a lot of these things in motion would and have moved my life forward. 

and then my teenage daughter comes home sick with a fever 3 days before leaving for camp and with 3 days of nonstop planned events happening – all of which i have twisted my schedule around to be sure to be able to accomodate and participate in.  and i have a complete knee-jerk reaction – fury at the girl who, i know, came to graduation sick (even tho i realize and acknowledge that i would have probably allowed my daughter to go also given that it was an event not to be repeated), lashing out at a colleague for some little thing – and all of it just making me feel so unbalanced.  so much like i was falling over the edge.  everything undone.  or un-doing.  of course, it wasn’t.  yes, all our plans are changing and we won’t go on our day-trip tomorrow.  but we ate dinner tonite and watched 3 episodes of ”monk’ from the living room sofa together. 

i understand that this is all about the day i was diagnosed.  to be perfectly well and then be told that you are perfectly sick and to feel perfectly well but then spend a year being made to feel supremely sick is to never trust how you feel again.  not deep down.  i find myself constantly looking over my emotional shoulder.  don’t get too comfortable.  at any moment, the rug can get yanked out from under.  i have no comfort.  no solice.  no solution. 

what can YOU do?

June 12, 2009

i was watching a segment of the ‘today show’ the other morning and it was about what to do for people who have been diagnosed with cancer.  sometimes they really gloss over topics – a 2 minute segment before the next commercial – but this time they gave some ample time.  they also had a number of people speak about what meant the most to them.  it was absolutely what you would expect: the small things.  a neighbor doing the dishes; accompanying them to an appointment; bringing dinner; playing a board game; just listening.  and they were all absolutely right.  some of the best memories – if one can have a best memory of the worst time of one’s life – were going for my pet scan with a friend/colleague who kept me talking and chattering and, sometimes, laughing while i slogged down a very large athletic bottle of some slimey viscous citrus goo with an iv in my arm and having 2 friends come over for a game of scrabble – even tho i could barely spell my name at that point, it was a take-no-prisoners game and there was laughter and i felt so fucking happy to be laughing.  one other friend would go out shopping with me – like we did before and we still do now.  i must have looked a mess.  it made me feel more normal.

a lot of people drop off dinner or chocolate (i kid you not…i got a mountain of chocolate in the first 4  weeks – and i don’t care too much about chocolate – however, i ended up bringing in beautiful uneaten boxes of chocolate to the chemo nurses and they were ecstatic!).  some were doing their good deeds never to be heard from again.  and you know what?  that was perfectly fine.  i don’t mind one bit.  i wasn’t eating anyway and there’s only the 3 of us so it was a bit much! 

however, there were so many days that i was just alone.  very alone.  my husband was being amazing – juggling being with me, keeping his career somewhat alive, and, mostly, making sure that new-to-middle-school daughter kept on an even keel.  he was everything everyday. 

i have a suggestion to add to the wonderful little things above.  when you have a friend or colleague who is diagnosed with cancer, do visit or bring a plate of cookies or a nice phone call.  but at the same time, go to your date book.  go two months or three months or four months ahead and mark your calendar to absolutely do something at that time too.  everyone forgets how long cancer takes.  diagnosis; rounds and rounds of tests and second opinions; surgery; chemotherapy and then radiation.  from diagnosis in october to finishing my radiation in mid-june.  about 7 months.  for many people longer.  someone actually said to me in march: are you still having treatment?  yes.  there is no fairy wand to make the time go faster.  and during those 7 months there are acres of time that each person is alone.  acres.  mark your calendar.  be one of those best memories for someone.  even if it’s one of those best memories of a worst time.  nothing is more appreciated. 

i really do.

June 9, 2009

18 years ago today, minus a few hours, i was married.  in the living room of our little ‘archie bunker’ semi-detached midwood brooklyn house.  it was so completely different than what i had imagined my wedding would be like.  the place of the ceremony.  the party after in manhattan was just up my alley.  i was a little ‘older’ when i got married – 33 seemed ancient to me.  husband and i were savvy show business professionals and we were very much aware that we were not interested in having the ‘bride and groom in their 15 minutes of fame’ kind of wedding.  i was headlining my own cabaret/jazz act and husband was always on stage also as an instrumentalist and we felt that we had enough of the spotlight.  we were also mostly paying for our own wedding – thank the heavens my soon-to-be husband was as steady about finances then as he is now.  i certainly wasn’t.  in those days, my idea of a budget was to buy a top designer dress on 50% sale at saks on my credit card and worry about it later.  (ok, a few dresses with the same delayed worry.)

our families couldn’t be more different.  pretty well evidenced by the fact that the in-laws met once at the wedding and never again.  but the biggest issue for me was compromising on where we actually had the ceremony.  i was already a reluctant resident in our (still current) house in midwood.  our neighborhood had changed so much and was now mostly very observant orthodox jews – as i got more secular they seemed to get more observant.  so tribal.  i have always been greeted with a very cautious politeness – and, by the children, often with outright hostility.  however, i agreed and the day before our wedding, we all worked on emptying out every bit of furniture from the living room and dining room and set up 30-some chairs and went with the flow.  i thought my parents would faint at this non-showy down-to-earth wedding.  we hired a universalist minister (can’t get a justice of the peace to a private house and no rabbi that we could find would perform a non-religious ceremony for us) and instructed him to absolutely not mention religion and not to offer up that he was a minister for fear that he would be personally responsible for my great-aunt’s heart attack. 

i walked down the staircase – the same one i use every day – dressed in my sweet beaded to-the-knee cap-sleeved dress (procured off the rack from saks – not on sale but, ironically, the most reasonable dress i ever purchased from there!) looking to the world like the hip city daytime bride i was striving to be – and my soon-to-be father-in-law played the most beautiful piano as i walked to meet the man i would marry. 

before i was married, i thought i wanted more – ‘more’ in my wedding.  18 years later, i am eternally grateful to understand that i had more than i could have hoped for.  the people i loved and the people who were to become family to me all together in a setting that was the exact opposite of high theater.  and on top of that, husband is more handsome now than the day i married him.  but also, my willing partner.  18 years and i got the best end of the deal.

just say yes. or maybe.

June 4, 2009


i was excited to see a comment (more please!!!)  – and one that asked me a question.  robin asks me to talk about how i changed my emotional relationship with food.  little does she know that this is the stuff of epic books and, perhaps, some serious and expensive therapy!  but here’s, at the least, a beginning.

i have not changed my emotional relationship with food.  what i have done is to become more obsessive and there are days when i think that half of my time is spent thinking about the next meal or snack.  i have bowed down to my food demons and finally acknowledged them.  whatever them they are.  instead of shutting the door, i’ve welcomed in my need to want food and to want to stock food in my house and my need to think about food and my need to eat food while pretending i don’t know the consequences.  i think it has made all the difference.  i came through a pissy battle with breast cancer and stuffed myself even more silly with food and then realized that i was going to be the queen of irony: dying of a heart attack having survived cancer. 

i think that it helps that i like simple food.  i like a steak.  a plate of scrambled eggs.  i like a great roast chicken and a baked potato.  as long as there is food in front of me, i’m generally happy.  i like the basic glowing jewel and i don’t gravitate toward fusion-y fussy food except upon special occasions.   i have never loved fried foods or overly buttered foods.  i do love pizza.  sausage pizza.  sausage and mushroom pizza.  cheese and i have a careful detente going on. 

so i promise myself food.  i am like my father: i can eat the same breakfast every day of the week.  i can eat the same lunch every day.  as long as i like it , i’m perfectly happy.  i plan ahead.  there is now always food in my house that i consider acceptable.  lots of salad.  organic turkey.  cheese.  cottage cheese and eggs.  fage yogurt and lots of fruit.  almonds.  i thrive on protein and make sure to have plenty of that at every meal.  i save my big carbs (bread, pasta or rice) for dinner.   i plan lunch because i find that the most dangerous meal of the day.  i tend to be at my desk in my office or out with appointments and it’s often hard to find a lunch that i consider acceptable.  i plan dinner by making sure to take out a main fillets or chicken or turkey burgers.  i don’t measure anything.  if you tell me i can have 4 ounces of something i automatically want 8.  so i don’t measure.  and now, a year later, i’m much better about a natural portion size.  when i first started trying to get control over my insane eating habits, i considered it a good week when i said yes to myself to go get chinese food and then talked myself into eating a bowl of turkey chili instead.  a year later i still tell myself that i can absolutely go have ‘xxx’ and might get all the way to the store and find myself changing my mind to buy ‘zzz’ instead. 

i force myself to have a snack in the afternoon.  either a small frozen yogurt or 1/2 of a nut bar.  i try not to be hungry but try to do that by eating smaller meals more along the day.  i try not to eat processed foods but made an exception in my healthy choice fudge bars – of which i have one every evening about 1/2 hour after dinner so that i always have a treat in the evening. 

basically, i just said yes to myself – even tho yes often means no. 


affirmative action

June 1, 2009



last friday was an anniversary of sorts. one year ago, bertha entered my life and my house.  i wrote about bertha earlier.     i’ve been thinking a lot about the thought process that went into deciding to get so mirrors my life.  i take a long time.  i don’t even acknowledge that i’m thinking about something important but i instinctively know that the gears are back there turning.  i mull.  a lot.  and then i know.  i just know.  the university term paper get succinctly written.  the paperwork gets done.  i decide to sing at a friend’s wedding.  i buy the elliptical and know that my life has changed forever. 

my manager at work has long since stopped asking me those traditional questions about my goals.  she hates my answer.  when she interviewed me, she brightly looked at me with hope and enthusiasm and said:  what are your sales goals?  man oh man am i not cut out for a traditional life.  i wouldn’t know a traditional reply if it was written on a card in my pocket.  ‘one deal a month.’  i thought she would pass out.  somehow i  got hired.  but that was one of my most honest answers publicly ever.  i knew that if i got one deal a month, i would strive for the 2nd and the 3rd.  but i wasn’t going to put it on a billboard only to fall flat on my face.  and last year i exceeded it with over 28 deals.  this year…good thing that’s my goal!  i might achieve it. 

getting off the topic tho.  i had to decide – in my very private heart of hearts – how to handle this expensive decision i had made.  was i just buying the sporting paraphernalia but then would leave it all behind?  i did take it day by day.  every single day agreeing to one more day of this.  i think that my decision to ‘never go on a diet again’ has been one of the most helpful things i have done.  i decided that there were a few things i could give up:  mayonnaise (i had a serious and cumbersome egg salad jones for the past few years); ice cream (substituted non-fat frozen yogurt or fudge bars) and a decision to try to eat ‘one major visible carb a day’.  those three things changed everything.  i eat.  i really eat.  and i love yogurt and fruit and almonds for breakfast – and allow myself to buy the stupidly expensive but truly wonderful fage 0% thick greek yogurt.  i tend to save my big carb for dinner – a baked potato or rice or pasta.  in fact, i almost never skip that big carb- it makes me feel normal.  i still have to convince myself to go walking – tho these days it’s more power-walking and flat out running – but i do well with a regular schedule and if i can do it in the morning, i feel so right these days.  (it’s wreaked a little havoc with my morning work schedule but …)

1 year.  23.5 pounds shed.  slowly.  bit by bit.  For me, the biggest milestone was finally finally finally creeping under the 180 mark while still being able to go to my favorite french restaurant once every few weeks for pan-roasted chicken and sauteed spinach and a glass of sauvignon blanc. actually, if i’m being honest here, the biggest milestone is that i am still ok with my goals – as private as they may be.   hooray.

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