Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Reason for Thanks

As a child I wanted to be an actress or a police officer… at some point I think I wanted to be a wild cowgirl riding horses for a living. What I remember wanting the most was to be a child forever in the loving and protective arms of my parents and always tagging along with my big sister.

I was just six-years-old when my paternal grandfather died and I saw my father cry. I crawled onto his lap and cried on his shoulder telling him I never wanted to grow up if it meant losing people you loved. (Daddy called it The Peter Pan Complex) He hugged me so tight and told me that he had no regrets about growing up because it meant that he met my mom, married her, and they had my sister and me. He said that growing up was a good thing even though sometimes you might have reason to cry because I would have so many more wonderful things come my way. He told me to enjoy everything that life brought to me and to treasure every memory that came before.

Truthfully I had a fantastic childhood. We never had a lot of money, but I always felt that I had everything I could want. I remember having a terrific dollhouse and furniture — the dollhouse was a big cardboard box, the furniture was plastic throwaways from the manufacturing company where my dad worked, the window curtains were remnants of cloth left over from the school clothes my mom handmade for us, and while the dolls that “lived” there didn’t really fit, it didn’t matter, I loved it. My sister was my best friend and she let me tag along with her friends and I always had fun because everyone treated me so nicely, I was everyone's "little sister". Our parents always made time for us whether it was watching TV (in costume!) with my dad or baking cookies with my mom, and so many more things.

Both of my parents passed away shortly after I was married, so did my husband’s folks, and I cried. But I remembered my dad’s words to me and I looked forward to what the future would bring. We struggled to have children, a couple of miscarriages and then our daughter, and another miscarriage and then our son was born. As is our custom to name after the deceased, our daughter is named for my mom, and our son for my dad and my mother-in-law (a niece is named for my father-in-law). Watching our children grow to be adults has been a joy and seeing them happy with their own spouses is so fulfilling. Daddy was so right, I have so many memories to treasure and so many wonderful things that came into my life.

My mom used to make a huge Thanksgiving feast for the family, including aunts and uncles and cousins, each year and I swear I can still remember the savory smells from her tiny apartment kitchen (I marvel at how much food she was always able to cook for so many!). Life is different, the family schedules are tighter and distances are greater (and two of my four children work on Thanksgiving), so we don’t always have the same gatherings, but the sentiment is still there. This year my husband and I (we’ll be married 44-years next month) went to a grand Thanksgiving feast at our community association — our first since we moved here last December — and we enjoyed ourselves immensely.

Thanksgiving is a time of appreciation and gratitude, and I have so very much to be thankful for. I am thankful for the love of my life, the man who is a hero in every way (and yes, the man who influences my concept of every romantic hero I write about), I am so grateful for our children and their mates, and my pussycats and grand-fur-babies. I am so happy to still have my sister (who is still one of my best friends), her husband (who is more like a brother to me), and their sons and families. I am also blessed with great sister-in-laws and brother-in-laws, and nephews and nieces and their families. I'm grateful for my readers and their support.

And most of all what I am thankful are my dad’s wise words to me, to look forward to life and all the joys it can bring my way.

My wishes for all of you — have a truly wonderful and meaningful Thanksgiving.
Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019


Peppe was a cat and he taught us many wonderful lessons about love in the all too short time he lived with us. We affectionately called him "Peppe Le Pew" because he wasn't very well groomed when we first met him.

First of all, I “stole” him…

Mark and I lived in a condominium with our two cats, Pumpkin and Dusty. We had a ground floor apartment with a covered patio which we used as our main entrance since parking was so close.

The first fall that we lived there, this mangy, but still beautiful, white and dark-grey long hair cat started hanging around. He started greeting us at our car when we came home — I had no idea who he belonged to, he looked well fed even if not well groomed. Since we already had two cats (one of which adopted us shortly after we moved to the condo) we really weren’t looking to take in a third; we still let this stray take refuge on our patio in inclement weather.

After about two weeks a young blond haired little boy came bounding on to our patio screaming “TJ, I found you!” and started hugging the cat. Of course I came out to meet him and he tearfully told me how TJ had gotten out of the house a few times, but this was the longest it took for him to find his cat. He told me that he lived on the other side of the condo complex and that this was the second cat they had that kept getting out. After a little while he bundled this big cat into his arms and took him home.

The next day TJ was back! And a little while later, so was the little boy. There were several repeats of this scenario, it worried me because the weather was beginning to turn frosty. Finally one day my next door neighbor, whose patio was next to mine, knocked on my front door to complain, she had an unbearable fear of cats (which I didn’t know about) and asked me to stop hosting this cat so close to where she had to walk (she also used her patio entrance primarily). It was clear that she regretted having to ask me but I also understood her fear.

When the little boy showed up again, like clockwork, I asked him for his home phone number and last name. While he played with TJ on the patio I went inside and called his mother. The phone call did NOT go as I expected.
·       The mom: No, he’s not getting out. I don’t want him anymore. (She then told me that she was upset that her son kept bringing him home) Besides, I’m planning on getting another kitten, I like kittens, not full grown cats.
·       Me: Look your son keeps coming here to find him. My neighbor is scared of cats…
·       The mom: (angrily) So just shoo him away! Eventually he’ll disappear. I know, this isn’t the first time I’ve had to do this.
·       Me: (my blood was boiling) Look you know that there are laws about letting animals run free and the association has rules about that as well.
·       The mom: (expletive deleted) Alright, I’ll be right over to get him to take him to the shelter to have him euthanized.
·       Me: Wait a minute! You don’t want this cat even though your son does? Tell you what, he is not yours anymore, he’s mine.
·       The mom: Hell no. You want him? You can’t steal him like that. He’s purebred Angora, I have his papers!
·       Me: Screw his papers. You’re going to come over to get your son and tell him you gave me the cat. And I better not ever hear that you went out and got another kitten. (I cut off her protest) You have five minutes to get here or I am calling the police, the humane society and then the association.
And that was how Peppe came to live with us… INDOORS.

Mark and I were still not convinced we wanted a third cat, but there was no way we would abandon him. BTW, as long as the woman lived there, I never heard of her getting any other pets.

My recently widowed mother had suffered a stroke after my dad’s death. She was in a facility receiving therapy and we had hopes she would one day be able to live in a nearby handicap-accessible accessible apartment. I remembered how much she enjoyed playing with my other cats so I asked her if she wanted one; she was excited at the idea. I brought Peppe to visit her one day and it was instant mutual love. Unfortunately my mom passed away before being able to leave the facility. Mark and I promised her that we would always love and take care of “her cat”. It wasn’t just my imagination, even the cat seemed to know she had passed.

Peppe guarding Jenni
I always referred to Peppe as my mom’s cat although we loved him just as much as our other two. We moved into a house with the three felines and started our family. Our first child, Jenni, was named for my mother, and I think Peppe knew that because, as far as he was concerned, she was his. He watched over her at night and played with her during the day. As toddlers often do, she got away with doing anything to that cat and I learned when I heard insane giggling he probably needed rescue, but he seemed to never mind. By the time our second child was born Peppe, along with his two feline brothers, watched over both kids.

Peppe soon developed severe kidney problems and required medication and eventually fluids (under the skin) which we were able to administer at home. An acquaintance commented that we should get rid of the cat, he was costing too much money, but Peppe was a family member (and I did ask the vet if he was suffering). We managed for a few years like that until Peppe seized and coded late one night — he had been a part of our lives for about a dozen years. We buried him in the backyard. My children stayed home from school that day and we lit a Sabbath candle (that burned for about an hour) and sat Shiva* for that hour to give each of us time to mourn Peppe’s passing; we’ve done the same routine for each subsequent loss.

Through the years we’ve had the joy of living with several more pussycats, each of them with very individual personalities. The strange thing, and very beautiful, is each of my cats have often conversed (meowing) with “someone(s)” unseen. It’s a comfort to know that they are each with us to this day. When we moved a year ago we took a handful of dirt from above each of their graves and buried it in our new backyard and I am sure that all of them have come with us. We will never forget any of our beautiful felines, they’ve been more than “cats”, they have truly been family.

*Shiva — A structured period of Jewish mourning

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Moving On

As we grow older we experience many changes in our lives, we move on from jobs, lifestyles, and losses. When we reach retirement we often find ourselves moving on to new residences, new surroundings. It’s a wonderful new beginning!

The problem is as we move on to new places we wind up leaving a lot behind. We can take our memories with us, but we leave behind attachments… and friends. Often we’re not the only ones leaving a place behind, our friends have chosen to move on as well. Nowadays our best friends are scattered from L.A. to North Carolina and back to lower Manhattan, all people we once shared neighborhoods with. It’s hard and rare to see each other in person, gone are the last minute impromptu dinners and the touch of a friend’s arm across the shoulders to help work out some problem.

With the miracle of technology we don’t have to say goodbye at least, we can call on the phone, email, or even see each other on a screen as we video chat and all in real time — still it’s not the same. Being pen-pals isn't enough, the letters take their time getting to your friend's door. The benefit of social media allows us to stay in touch without much effort and in the company of thousands, kind of loses the intimacy of that special bond that friends can form. It’s what we have.

We can always make new friends without letting go (completely) of the older friends (not in age but in longevity). The problem with new friends is that you don’t share history, it’s harder for new friends to just “get you”. How much of your own personal history are you willing to share, how much do you need to share before your new friends really KNOW you? And do you rewrite your history to fit in with your new crowd?

This is life in 2019. It’s a rare individual that is born, grows up in and dies in the same small town for all of their life. We make moves and follow jobs and passions. Is what we are leaving behind too great a loss?

It’s not our fault we made the move, sometimes we weren’t even the first to leave the old neighborhood. I guess that part of growing up is knowing how to keep your friendships even across the miles… it’s not always easy, but definitely worth it.


Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Second Chances

We hear about people getting second chances all the time — marriages reconnect, employees are rehired, friendships rekindle… But sometimes that “second chance” is really a new beginning.
A woman gets burnt by a selfish and abusive husband and gets the gumption to leave him and build a new life. And so the newly divorced woman finds a new love, someone who treats her as an equal with all the respect and courtesy she deserves. Sounds like a romance novel, right?
Or how about the employee who made a mistake and is blamed for costing the company a fortune, he gets fired on the spot. After a few tears, and maybe even a few drinks (not too many I hope), he decides to pick himself up and get out there again. So he pounds the pavement for a while and finally lands himself an incredible job and in the ideal world he gets to stay there a long time moving up the ladder. Another Hollywood movie of inspiration?
How about the young teenager who struggles with homework and freezes with every class quiz. Then a special teacher offers her extra help and she manages to pass the class and graduate with the rest of her peers. Maybe this is only a fairy tale we tell our kids to make them work harder?
These are all second chances, a do-over to hopefully get it right this time. Sometimes the changes we face in life may seem insurmountable, sometimes we really aren’t interested in moving on, maybe we feel too defeated or things happen that leave us totally scarred and afraid. Sometimes we can’t get past that feeling of failure, or maybe we are just too scared to try again.
But everyone deserves a second chance. Everyone deserves to feel happiness. None of us are infallible, that’s actually part of the beauty of being human.
If you have suffered a disappointment and are finding it hard to try again, or maybe even just go on, then please know that YOU deserve GOOD, you deserve to forgive yourself or others. The world would be far worse off without you in it. Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends, counselors, your faith, or your own heart. We need you.
Don’t be afraid to grab that second chance — as many times as it takes.

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline