Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Transitions are frenzied and draining. It always happens when school ends or school starts- the adjustment to a different lifestyle is taxing. This week has been no different.

My calendar has a million scratch outs and each date is filled up with writing that is barely legible. Everyone's schedule is changing daily, I make doctor appointments that need to be canceled because my kid's plans have changed. I set up college visits only to change them three or four times. I try to arrange fun family time at the beach or a friends house, but our family is never all available on the same day.

My kids have their stuff to do- workout etc. but then comes down time when I'd like them to be helping around the house or reading a book but they rather not. And I become the annoying mom who can't relax! What do they think I was doing when they were gone at their workouts?

The laundry is constant, the cooking is constant, the cleaning is constant.

The college search must happen and essays must be written, but when? The garage must be cleaned out, basement too, but when? The weeds need pulling, but when? . If I leave it up to the kids, nothing will get done and I certainly don't want to do it myself.

The details are too much. Long phone calls to Verizon for TV issues. Lines at the Genius Bar for a slow apple. Motor Vehicle renewals. Medical forms needed for college that are hard to get. A less than adequate job being done on the deck with a guy who wants more money every day. Issues, issues, issues.

It is all too overwhelming, unsettling, and plain annoying! Well, on the bright side, my children are all home, healthy and happy. Really, what more can I ask for?

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Chosen, Chaim Potok

"When I was young, my father, may he rest in peace, began to wake me in the middle of the night, just so I would cry. I was a child, but he would wake me and tell me stories of the destruction of the Jerusalem and the suffering of the people of Israel, and I would cry. For years he did this. Once he took me to visit a hospital- ah, what an experience that was!- and often he took me to visit the poor, the beggars, to listen to them talk. My father himself never talked to me, except when we studied together. He taught me with silence. He taught me to look into myself, to find my own strength, to walk around inside myself in company with my soul. When his people would ask him why he was so silent with his son, he would say to them that he did not like to talk, words are cruel, words play tricks, they distort what is in the heart, they conceal the heart, the heart speaks through silence. One learns of the pain of others by suffering one's own pain, he would say, by turning inside oneself, by finding one's own soul. And it is important to know of pain, he said. It destroys our self-pride, our arrogance, our indifference towards others. It makes us aware of how frail and tiny we are and of how much we depend upon the Master of the Universe. Only slowly, very slowly, did I begin to understand what he was saying. For years his silence bewildered and frightened me, though I always trusted him, I never hated him. And when I was old enough to understand, he told me that of all people a tzaddik especially must know of pain. A tzaddik must know how to suffer for his people, he said. He must take their pain from them and carry it on his shoulders. He must carry it always. He must grow old before his years. He must cry, in his heart he must always cry. Even when he dances and sings, he must cry for the suffering of his people."

This is one of the most poignant writings I have ever read. It comes at the end of Chaim Potok's acclaimed book, The Chosen.

The father speaking is a tzaddik like his father before him and also has raised his son without talking to him except for during Torah study.

In this passage, he is speaking to his son's friend with his son present, and explaining to them why he needed to raise his son in this way.

His son is a brilliant student, he has a photographic memory and a penchant for reading and learning. The father is fearful that without the sadness, his son would not develop compassion and a soul worthy of a true tzaddik.

He tells a story about when his son was very young and he realized just how brilliant he was he said,"...I cried inside my heart. I went away and cried to the Master of the Universe, "What have you done to me? A mind like this I need for a son? A heart I need for a son, a soul I need for a son, compassion I want for my son, righteousness, mercy, strength to suffer and carry pain, that I want for my son, not a mind without a soul!"

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to a wonderful dad!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Buddy's, Annapolis, MD

Great birthday gift tonight.

Reid and I, along with my cousin Nina and her son Grant went to Buddy's in Annapolis for crabs. We were both in Annapolis for our son's lacrosse tournaments and met up for dinner and a night on the town.

We had a really great time and the crabs were delicious, but for me, the best part of the evening was when the waitress came to bring us our check and told me that she had asked several of her coworkers to guess how old I was turning on my birthday.( I had previously told her I was having a special birthday in July.)

To my surprise she said that no one had guessed over 41. Most thinking 40 or under.
My family thinks she was just after a big tip. Ya Think?
As far as I'm concerned, I just gained 10 years and feel great about it! Happy Birthday to me!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Loved This Story


Associated Press Writer


A man who saves even one life its as if he has saved the entire world.

updated 12:07 p.m. ET, Sun., June 13, 2010

SYDNEY - In those bleak moments when the lost souls stood atop the cliff, wondering whether to jump, the sound of the wind and the waves was broken by a soft voice. "Why don't you come and have a cup of tea?" the stranger would ask. And when they turned to him, his smile was often their salvation.

For almost 50 years, Don Ritchie has lived across the street from Australia's most notorious suicide spot, a rocky cliff at the entrance to Sydney Harbour called The Gap. And in that time, the man widely regarded as a guardian angel has shepherded countless people away from the edge.

What some consider grim, Ritchie considers a gift. How wonderful, the former life insurance salesman says, to save so many. How wonderful to sell them life."You can't just sit there and watch them," says Ritchie, now 84, perched on his beloved green leather chair, from which he keeps a watchful eye on the cliff outside. "You gotta try and save them. It's pretty simple."

Since the 1800s, Australians have flocked to The Gap to end their lives, with little more than a 3-foot (1 meter) fence separating them from the edge. Local officials say about one person a week commits suicide there, and in January, the Woollahra Council applied for 2.1 million Australian dollars ($1.7 million) in federal funding to build a higher fence and overhaul security.

In the meantime, Ritchie keeps up his voluntary watch. The council recently named Ritchie and Moya, his wife of 58 years, 2010's Citizens of the Year.

He's saved 160 people, according to the official tally, but that's only an estimate. Ritchie doesn't keep count. He just knows he's watched far more walk away from the edge than go over it.

Dianne Gaddin likes to believe Ritchie was at her daughter's side before she jumped in 2005. Though he can't remember now, she is comforted by the idea that Tracy felt his warmth in her final moments.

"He's an angel," she says. "Most people would be too afraid to do anything and would probably sooner turn away and run away. But he had the courage and the charisma and the care and the magnetism to reach people who were coming to the end of their tether."

Something about Ritchie exudes a feeling of calm. His voice has a soothing raspiness to it, and his pale blue eyes are gentle. Though he stands tall at just over 6'2 (an inch shorter, he notes with a grin, than he used to be), he hardly seems imposing.

Each morning, he climbs out of bed, pads over to the bedroom window of his modest, two-story home, and scans the cliff. If he spots anyone standing alone too close to the precipice, he hurries to their side.

Some he speaks with are fighting medical problems, others suffering mental illness. Sometimes, the ones who jump leave behind reminders of themselves on the edge — notes, wallets, shoes. Ritchie once rushed over to help a man on crutches. By the time he arrived, the crutches were all that remained.

In his younger years, he would occasionally climb the fence to hold people back while Moya called the police. He would help rescue crews haul up the bodies of those who couldn't be saved. And he would invite the rescuers back to his house afterward for a comforting drink.

It all nearly cost him his life once. A chilling picture captured decades ago by a local news photographer shows Ritchie struggling with a woman, inches from the edge. The woman is seen trying to launch herself over the side — with Ritchie the only thing between her and the abyss. Had she been successful, he would have gone over, too.

These days, he keeps a safer distance. The council installed security cameras this year and the invention of mobile phones means someone often calls for help before he crosses the street.

But he remains available to lend an ear, though he never tries to counsel, advise or pry. He just gives them a warm smile, asks if they'd like to talk and invites them back to his house for tea. Sometimes, they join him.

"I'm offering them an alternative, really," Ritchie says. "I always act in a friendly manner. I smile."

A smile cannot, of course, save everyone; the motivations behind suicide are too varied. But simple kindness can be surprisingly effective. Mental health professionals tell the story of a note left behind by a man who jumped off San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way to the bridge, the man wrote, I will not jump.

By offering compassion, Ritchie helps those who are suicidal think beyond the terrible current moment, says psychiatrist Gordon Parker, executive director of the Black Dog Institute, a mood disorder research center that has supported the council's efforts to improve safety at The Gap.

"They often don't want to die, it's more that they want the pain to go away," Parker says. "So anyone that offers kindness or hope has the capacity to help a number of people."

Kevin Hines wishes someone like Ritchie was there the day he jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge in 2000. For 40 agonizing minutes, the then-19-year-old paced the bridge, weeping, and hoping someone would ask him what was wrong. One tourist finally approached — but simply asked him to take her picture. Moments later, he jumped.

Hines, who suffers from bipolar disorder, was severely injured, but eventually recovered. Today he says if one person had shown they were not blind to his pain, he probably would never have jumped.

"A smile can go a long way — caring can go even further. And the fact that he offers them tea and he just listens, he's really all they wanted," Hines says. "He's all a lot of suicidal people want."

In 2006, the government recognized Ritchie's efforts with a Medal of the Order of Australia, among the nation's highest civilian honors. It hangs on his living room wall above a painting of a sunshine someone left in his mailbox. On it is a message calling Ritchie "an angel that walks amongst us."

He smiles bashfully. "It makes you — oh, I don't know," he says, looking away. "I feel happy about it."

But he speaks readily and fondly of one woman he saved, who came back to thank him. He spotted her sitting alone one day, her purse already beyond the fence. He invited her to his house to meet Moya and have tea. The couple listened to her problems and shared breakfast with her. Eventually, her mood improved and she drove home.

A couple of months later, she returned with a bottle of champagne. And about once a year, she visits or writes, assuring them she is happy and well.

There have been a few, though, that he could not save. One teenager ignored his coaxings and suddenly jumped. A wind blew the boy's hat into Ritchie's outstretched hand.

He later found out the teen had lived next door, years earlier. His mother brought Ritchie flowers and thanked him for trying. If you couldn't have talked him out of it, she told him, no one could.

Despite all he has seen, he says he is not haunted by the ones who were lost. He cannot remember the first suicide he witnessed, and none have plagued his nightmares. He says he does his best with each person, and if he loses one, he accepts that there was nothing more he could have done.

Nor have he and Moya ever felt burdened by the location of their home.

"I think, 'Isn't it wonderful that we live here and we can help people?'" Moya says, her husband nodding in agreement.

Their life has been a good one, they say. They raised three beautiful daughters and now have three grandchildren to adore. They have traveled the world, and their home is decorated with statues and masks from their journeys. Ritchie proudly points out a dried, shellacked piranha — a souvenir from their vacation to the Amazon, where he insisted on swimming with the creatures (to Moya's dismay).

Until about a year ago, the former Navy seaman enjoyed a busy social life, regularly lunching with friends. But battles with cancer and his advancing years have taken their toll, and now he spends most days at home with Moya, buried in a good book. His current read: the Dalai Lama's "The Art of Happiness."

Every now and then, he looks up from his books to scan the horizon for anyone who might need him. He'll keep doing so, he says, for as long as he's here.

And when he's not?

He chuckles softly.

"I imagine somebody else will come along and do what I've been doing."

He gazes through the glass door to the cliff outside. And his face is lit with a smile.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Letter to Dr. Laura Schlesinger

Couldn't resist posting this email sent to me by a friend.
Please advise !
In her radio show, Dr Laura Schlesinger said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance.
The following response is an open letter to Dr. Laura, penned by a US resident, which was posted on the Internet. It's funny, as well as informative:
Dear Dr. Laura:
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination ... End of debate.
I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to follow them.
1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of Menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination, Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, inc! luding the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I'm confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Your adoring fan.
James M. Kauffman, Ed.D.
Professor Emeritus, Dept. Of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education
University of Virginia
(It would be a damn shame if we couldn't own a Canadian :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

When looking for a photo to post to my "Bed People" blog, I stumbled upon this cartoon. Had to laugh. Could easily be me!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bed People

"We are bed people."

My friend Donna told me that this is what her aunt said when describing her family, and I could totally relate to what she meant.

I am a bed person and I come from a family of bed people. We just like to do stuff in bed. It is where we like to hang out and where we are most comfortable.

It is now Sunday at 6pm and I am in bed typing this blog. I often lay on my bed to read or watch the news.

I remember my parents being bed people as well.

It was in their room, with them lying in bed and we children at the foot of their bed or on a nearby chair that we had our family time. Dad might be paying bills, mom reading a magazine. Sometimes we just talked, other times my dad would rub Ben Gay on a sore muscle I got from horseback riding. Once in a while I tried on a new outfit that mom and I had bought to see if my dad liked it.

Whatever it was, bed was a comfortable place then and it still is today.

I am glad Donna's aunt made the reference to "bed people". I never realized we had a title, but I suppose we do, and I like it!

First Impressions

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

That was the lesson I imparted to my boys this morning when they ridiculed me for running around the house frantically cleaning for my son John's girlfriend's first visit.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Woman of Valor

Woman of Valor is from Proverbs. It is also the words used in the Judaica art work that my dear friends Amy, Amy, Pam, Edana, Nancy and Cantor Shana gave me for my 50th birthday.
It will hang prominently in my home and it will serve as a reminder to me of the great love and admiration I have for the women in my life.

Birthday Surprise

I think the most accurate description of the way I feel about yesterday is Speechless, however, as my friends know, all too well, I am really never Speechless, and so, I will tell you my true feelings about yesterday!

Emotionally overwhelmed! Yes, that is how I felt when I was surrounded by my friends who surprised me for my 50th birthday.

A month early... now that's a good trick! Leave it to Kathy, Kathy and Charlotte to organize a most gorgeous luncheon and to keep it a surprise to boot!!!!

Luncheon, seems like a stuffy word, used to describe a just as stuffy event. However, this luncheon was anything but stuffy.

Just as with any proper luncheon, the atmosphere was stunning. A beautiful sunny day on my friend Kathy's deck, elegantly clothed and set tables, lavish floral arrangements with my favorite, hydrangeas- made by my friend Holly, and a buffet lunch prepared and displayed, by my friends, to perfection.

But, the added touch; what separated this lunch from your ordinary luncheon was the people.

Surrounded by friends so dear to me made me feel like the most fortunate 50 year old in the world. And the word that comes to mind when describing this lunch is not stuffy, but love.

Yes, there are those in my life who were not there and I will have time to celebrate with them as well. But these were my Bernardsville friends. These were a group of 20 women with whom I share so many minutes of my life and I want to give a shout out to each and every one of them.

Thank you for creating this special celebration for me. Thank you for being my friend. Thank you for adding so much joy to my life. Thank you for your wisdom. Thank you for helping me be the best person I can be. Thank you for sharing "my"days with me, and for sharing "your" days with me.

Thank you to Kathy for opening her home. Thank you to Kathy,Kathy and Charlotte for thinking of me and planning, organizing and creating such a special day. Thank you to Leslie for her very kind and heartfelt words. Thank you to all my dear friends for the very meaningful gifts and the the especially lovely notes.

You have given me a most special 50th birthday gift and a memory of a lifetime. I love you all!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

SOG Weekend

, What you ask is an SOG?
South Orange Girl, of course!

Three years ago a few friends, some who attended elementary school together, others who met up in junior high, got together for a reunion at our friend Donna's house in Brooklyn.

Now, on our third year, second at Long Beach Island, we all reunited to reminisce and reacquaint.

Kayaking for some, runs for others, long walks on the beach, sun, fun, cooking, eating, drinking and mostly TALKING!!!!

Sharing so many old stories, faces, places, memories, laughs and yes, some cries.

As our friend Christie put it, we know each others past, upbringings, where we came from, what we are.

We know the essence of one another and consequently there is no judgement, no learning curve. We start were we left off... k,1st,2nd,3rd,4th,5th,6th,7th,8th,9th,10th,11th or 12th grade.

We are from different places and varied lifestyles. We come from Colorado, Florida, Maine, Cape Cod (we missed you Rachel), Vermont and Maryland (we missed you Jamie and Jodi), NYC, Brooklyn, and New Jersey. We are city people, suburbanites and country folk. Some of us married, some single; some with kids others without, some are gainfully employed full-time, others part-time, some own their own business, some volunteer their time, others work at home. Some dance, some run, some exercise, some, like me, try to do these things.

We are all unique individuals who share a love of our past and a zest for living in our present!

For all of us SOGs, 2010 is our 50th year. Together we toasted to our good fortune and future happiness.

Short as the weekend was for me, spending time with these dear friends was a most significant and meaningful birthday gift. Happy 50th to all of you!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Love, Loss and What I Wore

Today I received my first official 50th birthday present.

My dearest friend Lesley took me to see an off broadway show called Love, Loss and What I Wore!

Before the show we had a wonderful lunch and a few drinks to liven the day!

It is always a treat to go to NYC but to go to NYC, enjoy lunch, see a show, and spend time with a great friend is more than just a treat; it is an absolute pleasure!

Lesley, thanks for the birthday gift!!!


My baby, oops, I mean my eldest son John, graduated from Deerfield Academy this past weekend.

A wonderful milestone in his life which is presently only serving to make me feel old ...I mean older.

I love you John! Congratulations!

My Name is Asher Lev

My eldest son John graduated high school this past weekend and after a whirlwind of ceremonies and fiestas, we returned home to a restful memorial monday.

Tired as I was, I used my time wisely; rereading one of my all time favorite books, My Name is Ahser Lev, written by Chaim Potok.

I had read the book as a teen and didn't remember much about it, but I now know why, way back when, I liked it so much.

On the surface it is the struggle between father and son, but it is also the stuggle between man's need to be true to himself by following his heart and pursuing his personal desires, and his obligation to "do the right thing" or to follow the laws and expectations set forth by his faith, his culture, his family and his community.

Being the person who I am, I believe Ahser Lev made the wrong decision is pursuing his personal goals at the expense of others, but I am certain that there are many who would disagree and it would make for a healthy and lively debate.

Every book I read, ( because they are so carefully chosen), adds to my understanding of human nature and to a deeper understanding of self.

And, I will count each book I read this year as a fiftieth birthday gift.