Coffee Conversation & Camaraderie

Following my misty, foggy yet high-yielding sea glass walk on the beach this morning, I considered heading over to the local coffee establishment  where I knew that a group of wonderful women would be convening as they (we) do most weekday mornings.  On my personal agenda for the rest of the morning and afternoon is to continue my frustrating, overwhelming and exhausting job search and I knew full well that to try to do so without the benefit of caffeine  (and camaraderie) was sure to make it even more frustrating, overwhelming and exhausting.  Being forward thinking is one of my many skills (did you catch that, oh hiring one?) so I decided to stop by for just a few minutes.


Armed with my coffee (hot, one milk, one sugar) I settled in as the conversation commenced naturally and without pause.  Having arrived with another of the regulars (I’m not sure, but I think I might be one myself now) there were now three of us.  By the end of the morning, seven other women had joined in, coming and going according to their schedules for the day, some just stopping by to say their hellos, others pulling up a chair.

We are in our 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s.  Our children range in age from 18 months to deep into their 30s and everything in between.  We are married, divorced, widowed, working full-time, part-time, for ourselves and looking for the right opportunity (note: that last one is me).  The daily conversations cover a myriad of topics: children, spouses, victories and failures, concerns, worries, and yes, even politics.  While the majority of us are in support of one particular candidate, there is complete respect for others’ opinions.  (That being said, I, for one, will be happy when the election and constant barrage of angry banter and rhetoric from both sides just stops and we can all begin to try to pull ourselves together.) There is no dearth of support be it via chuckles, groans, nods or amens.  Perhaps most remarkable: not once have I heard anyone talk smack about any other member of the gang ever.  I hate to say it, but among groups of women, that, most definitely is not always the case.

Admittedly, some conversations are more lighthearted than others.  Most of us are sharers (guilty!) while others are more reserved, but highly engaged nonetheless.   Just today we spoke of our confidence levels, our comfort zones and our experience of loneliness.  I presented an informal and unscientific poll regarding their thoughts on an issue I am facing in my home.  (Not so aside: they all, not knowing on which side I stood regarding the issue, agreed with my concerns.  Not gonna lie…I love when that happens.)  We talked about honesty and sharing and judging and Dr. Ruth and hospitals and gyms and hair and Facebook and confidence and dogs and Rabbis and dresses and restaurants, too. Sidebar conversations emerged and blended back into group repartee and back again seamlessly.  It’s a spontaneous yet well choreographed dance of thoughts, feelings and words unfolding over coffee and (hollowed out) bagels.

As each gal took their leave to attend to out-of-town guests, or put the baby down for a nap or go to work or decide what to wear for the “What to Wear” class they were about to teach or walk the dog or get a flu shot or simply get on with their day, I remained in my seat, still nursing my now completely cold hot, one milk one sugar cup of coffee. Despite saying goodbye with well wishes for the weekend, I hadn’t entirely noticed that the women of our klatsch had all departed and the mid-morning-coffee-break painters, landscapers and retirees had moved in.

Now it was just me and one other woman; a fellow mom, neighbor, congregant, new friend who happens to have grown up in the same town I did but is way younger than I.  We sat, just the two of us, and spoke with one another in a raw, supportive, empathetic and generous exchange as though we had been put on this earth to bounce things off one another.  By the time we took a breath and looked up, it was 11 a.m. and coffee time was quickly morphing into lunch time.  I departed feeling lighter, safer and better understood than I have in a while.  I felt connected and welcome and part of a group…something I have been wanting, needing and hoping for, although I didn’t quite know it.

I thank these gals for welcoming me into their fold, for propping me up, allowing my insecurities and sharing theirs.  I am fortunate to have found the chutzpah to approach them one day not with the plan to ingratiate myself, but just to say hello. And even more fortunate that they are not only kind, smart and thoughtful but each has an abundant generosity of spirit.  It’s beginning to feel a little bit more like home these days…

Maybe This Year…

As Yom Kippur approaches, my Facebook feed is filled with my peeps offering messages like this:

If I have done anything to offend or hurt you in the year gone by, please forgive me.

While I totally appreciate and welcome the sentiment, it does give me pause.  One the one hand: it is great to send out a blanket apology for being a jerk or a pain in the neck, or a cause for frustration, or a nuisance, or a bitch, or overly hysterical or forgetful or even temporarily unkind. On the other hand: perhaps the request for forgiveness should be less general and more specific.


Like, for example, actually calling (oh, who am I kidding – texting is about as far as I can go) the woman who felt that what I considered to be well-meaning help was actually stepping on her toes?  I want to tell her that my heart was in the right place, but, upon reflection, I absolutely understand and respect her reaction.  I know that, me being me I will likely do it again, but not because my apology isn’t real, but because I am a flawed individual…just as we all are…some more than others.

Or I could reach out to another  woman who, during the early morning rush of school drop-off gave me a long and protracted death stare when I began to pull out of the circle (not slowly and carefully enough) and camethisclose to hitting her car.  I knew who it was, although we’d never met, and drew conclusions about her based on this extremely brief encounter.  I had made a mistake and, in my mind, at the moment, her reaction was wayyyy over the top.  I arrived home soon after to find a Facebook message from her apologizing for getting so upset – she felt lousy, the kids were late and she just wanted to be home with a warm cup of tea.  We quickly resolved the issue which was never an issue, but not before I had asked another friend about her, sharing her behavior in the parking lot.  Yeah, that was unnecessary and unkind.  I should apologize for that, too.

I feel remorse at thinking smack about a kid who messed with Jess.  She’s just another 14 year old trying to navigate life.  I know how hard it can feel at 51, shame on me for not remembering what it was like at 14.

I’ve quietly judged other parents’ behavior, knowing full well that mine could be judged harshly as well.

There’ve been times that I have “punished” my husband for something benign (he’s such a doll…most of the time) that I carry around from the first time I was married.   Sorry, babe.  I love you so.

Sometimes my back is up when it shouldn’t be, causing unnecessary aggravation and irritation in people I care about.  Totally my bad.

Once, years ago, I took the tenets of Yom Kippur to an epic level.  The wife of an old friend was never particularly friendly to me in the many many times we were in one another’s company.  Me, being me, took it personally and to heart.  It drove me crazy, in part because I couldn’t understand it.  (At the risk of sounding completely obnoxious, people generally like me.  At first, anyway.  I am definitely a little bit too out there, irreverent and filterless for some.) And then, one night, we bumped into this couple at a loud, crowded and likely overpriced kids’ restaurant, all of our kids surrounding us.  We said our hellos and I received the same chilly reception I had seen before.  It was right around the high holidays and I was feeling emboldened, repentant and open to change.  With genuine curiosity I looked her right in the eye and asked,

“Have I done something to offend you?”


She was completely taken aback.  With a kind smile and fervent warmth, she apologized  vigorously.  I had not, in fact, offended her and she is not unfriendly…she’s shy.  (In my slight defense: there has never, in the history of Levinsons, been a shy person, so my experience is limited at best.) Yeah, I get it…for a shy person, I am a lot to take in.  Fast forward twenty years later and that shy woman and I are still friends.

Sometimes we get off on the wrong foot.

Sometimes we have a bad day and act in a way that is neither pleasant nor a true reflection of who we are.

Sometimes we allow what we have heard about someone to cloud and form our own impressions.

On this Yom Kippur, I do hope that if I have wronged or hurt or insulted or infuriated or frustrated or angered you that you can forgive me.  And, because I am nothing if not honest, I further hope that you feel that you can let me know.  Text is fine.

I’m going to be a perfect mother, stepmother, wife, daughter, daughter in law, sister, aunt, cousin, friend and (hopefully) employee this year.  Yeah, that’s not really a thing….but I am going to try.

Wishing you a calm and meaningful holiday, an easy fast and a joyful, gratifying, healthy and prosperous new year. Oh, and if you were stupid like me and didn’t do a proper caffeine ramp-down, I wish you some extra luck.

How Do You Jew?

Growing up, my family and I attended synagogue twice a year.  Once for Rosh Hashanah[1] and once for Yom Kippur.[2]  We dressed up, drove across town to the temple, saw people we hadn’t seen since the previous year’s High Holidays, had a big meal and called it a day.

We did not celebrate two days for Rosh, nor did we (the kids, that is) go to Kol Nidre[3] services.  (I do recall my parents going periodically, but, if we are being honest, it was probably more to get away from us kids for a few hours than a true religious calling.)  In fact, I am kinda sure that it wasn’t until my first marriage – which my then mother-in-law not-so-lovingly referred to as a “mixed marriage” because I had grown up reform[4] and he conservative[5] – that I even knew that there was a second day of Rosh Hashanah.

My brothers and I all attended Hebrew school on Sunday morning as well as Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.  And, despite occasionally skipping class and, instead, hanging out at the IHOP which was conveniently located directly across the road (and, not for nothing, happened to have great french fries)  we all crushed it at our respective Bar/Bat Mitzvahs.

We did not keep a kosher[6] home.  Nor did we know anyone who did.

We did not eschew pork products, but actually enjoyed bacon on the somewhat regular.

We chanted our Haftorah[7] portions beautifully, but, in my case (and I am relatively certain at least one of my brothers…) it was mostly from memory having listened to the tape recorded lessons over and over and over and over and over again.

We, along with the Lewis family, consistently got the giggles during services resulting in my father’s shoulders shaking up and down in a vain attempt at suppressing his laughter. This inevitably led to my mother (repeatedly) nudging him to stop.  Note: more often than not, her pokes would backfire, resulting in peals of laughter from every Levinson and Lewis in attendance. Was it appropriate? No.  Was it our little tradition and now fond memory?  Yes.

None of us know how to daven[8], but we are great with humming along to all the familiar prayers, songs and melodies.  I’ve even managed to master the beginning and the end of the Kaddish[9].  Sort of.

All that being said, both of my brothers and I created our families with Jewish partners.  I even did it twice – the marry part, that is.   It never occurred to any of us to do otherwise. In fact, when my brother (yeah, the same one who memorized his Torah portion) forced me to try online dating I reluctantly agreed but would only go on JDate…and we all know how that worked out!

Our Jewish identity, in our iteration, is solid, strong and undeniable.

Now…Barry grew up wayyyyyyy more observant than I did.  He went to Jewish Day School (but only for four years – a distinction he asked that I include).  He can daven, and follow a service (hell, he could lead the service).  He bows and bounces on his toes at the right moment. He knows when to stand and when to sit.  Likewise, he dutifully wears and removes his Tallit[10] at the right moment, without having to look around the room to see what others are doing.  He follows the Torah portion – IN HEBREW – as opposed to vaguely following along in English.  And, while we do not keep a Kosher home…bacon is verboten.

I respect his level of observance.  I marvel at the depth of his knowledge and commitment.  I readily acknowledge that he is more learned and schooled than I.  And I am okay with that.  It is he that chafes at my lack of what he deems commitment to my religion.  So today, over a delicious meal of Greek yummies, we entered into a philosophical discussion about what it means to be Jewish.

(Below are photos from our post Rosh Hashanah services this year.  Following temple, we went home, changed into comfy clothes, grabbed iced lattes and enjoyed the beauty of the beach…)


Shabbat services (which, I should note for the record, we attend every other week during the school year) are, for me, a time to be quiet with my thoughts.  I take in the melodic rhythm of the Hebrew, the music, the whispers around us.  I try to embrace one of the main tenets of Shabbat and let go of the week that has passed and reflect on what was wonderful and try to push past the stuff that sucked.  I’m dressed a little nicer, my mind is a little quieter and my soul often feels just a little bit more whole.  That’s what works for me.

For Barry, services are much more of an audience participation event.  He follows the prayers, the Hebrew, the English, the traditions and the rules of what needs to be done.  He davens.  He chants.  He, in his own inimitable way, relaxes and reflects. That’s what works for him.

So, in our chat over pastitzio, lamb gyro and Greek salad, we discussed, here in the midst of the High Holydays that neither one of our ways was right.  Okay, so full disclosure, I, um,  started the conversation…feeling a bit defensive if you really want to know).

Me: This is how I “Jewish”.

Him: But don’t you want to learn to daven and read Torah and know the service?

Me: No.

At the end of the day, we each need to respect the other’s needs, experience and process.  We need to be kind: I won’t make bacon if you don’t give me shit about not knowing how to read Hebrew.  (But did I mention that I killed it at my Bat Mitzvah?  “Chanted beautifully”, they said.)

Yes, I do find joy in listening to Barry and his youngest son singing a night time (at least I think it is unique-to-nighttime) prayer as the little guy readies for bed.  I love hearing them share that moment.  It is nothing that ever happened in either my home growing up, nor while my children were kids in my own home…mostly because I didn’t know the prayer.  Or the tune.  Or, frankly, the meaning. But it doesn’t make me any less Jewish.

On this High Holiday season my wish is for happiness, health and good fortune for my family and friends.  I pray for this year to be better than the last, for the insanity of our world to become even a little less insane and for no one to feel alienated, fearful or alone in the world. I reflect on the mistakes and wrongs of last year and hope that I will be forgiven by those who I have wronged, upset or pissed off and, that if those I hurt cannot move from that, I will find a way to redeem myself.  I want my kids to be comfortable in their skin and with their path in life.  Bring it on 5777.

I will admit, however, that my prayers are in English and I’ve been known to do my reflecting while enjoying a good ol’ BLT.

 p.s. My email address that I have had forever is  That, just so ya know,  happens to be my hebrew name.  So there.




[1]  Jewish New Year.  This year is 5777. That explains the photo above.

[2]  Day of Atonement

[3] Evening service of Yom Kippur.  Think of it as the kick off to the fast the following day.

[4] One of the major movements of Judaism, believing that Jewish law was inspired by G-d and one can choose which laws to follow.  Pretty chill.

[5] One of the major movements of Judaism, accepting the binding nature of Jewish law but believing that the law can change.  In laymen’s terms: the stricter movement.  (No judgment)

[6] Describes food that is permissible to eat under Jewish dietary laws.

[7]  A reading from the Prophets, read along with the weekly Torah portion.

[8] Pray. Observant Jews daven three times a day, in addition to reciting blessings over many common activities

[9] prayer in Aramaic praising G-d, commonly associated with mourning practices

[10] Prayer shawl

Not Trying to Fix It

Most days, I  wake up , collect my iPhone from its perch on the nightstand and begin my morning ritual of  checking  the weather, any texts that may have come in while I slept (thanks to “do not disturb” I am no longer awakened by the trill of the alert), my email and, okay, I admit it, Facebook.  Normally I find relatively banal postings.  Beautiful sunsets, last night’s dinner, ISO book suggestions and links to recipes, many of which I download, some of which I have actually made.

One morning, in the middle of March, I was scrolling through my news feed and stopped in my tracks.  I gasped.  I re-read it three or four times, hoping, wishing that I misunderstood.  The air in the room stopped circulating.  The crush that a mother feels for another mother’s heartbreak nearly choked me.

There are so many of you that I share stupid banter with on a daily basis. You make me laugh, keep me in on your lives and give me a lot of joy. it is for this reason that I share this tragedy: my son, Xxxx, died on Friday night. He was at a concert in Xxxxx, he took the drug molly and died. He was the funniest, most brilliant and, pretty darn complicated person I have known. We are devastated, but I wanted you to know.

The person who wrote those words, simple, straightforward and with no room for interpretation, is a woman I refer to as “my dear friend that I have never met” because, she is dear to me and, well, we’ve never met.  When Jess began her transition, and I, in turn, began this blog, it made the rounds in my immediate area.  She and I, it turned out, have many friends in common…one of whom forwarded our story to her.  I understood why: she is a mom, a therapist and one of those overflowing-with-compassion kind of people.  She, like many other strangers, reached out to me.  But she was different.  With her sharp and quick wit and her mother bear warmth,  I knew we would be friends.

Our oldest children were the same age, both high school juniors.  As the school year picked up steam and the college application process was in full swing, we chatted, commiserated, compared notes and kept each other (relatively) sane and (somewhat) under control.  Yet we never met in person. (Germane to this lack of meeting: we live in different states.)

As I tried to absorb the brutal fact that her son, the one who was not only the same age as Harrison, but in the same fraternity (albeit at a different school)  had done one stupid thing at one stupid moment and was now gone forever, I couldn’t think of one thing I could possibly say to her that would make any difference or quell any pain or make it all go away.  Not one.  So, in response, I simply commented with a single, solitary❤ knowing that she would feel my heart aching with her.

That was six months ago.

This morning, I was doing my morning Facebook check and a message popped up:

Her: Hi

Me: Hello my friend

Her: Shit morning to you

Me: That good, huh?

Her: Yup

Me:  Anything in particular or just everything…

Her:  Exactly.

A little bit more back and forth, and then this:


Here’s what it says:

Me: I am so sorry.  I cannot even imagine and I know there is nothing I can say or do…which bites the big hairy ball.

Her: Which is why I pinged you, you’re not trying to fix it.


Every time we chat, I make sure to say something outrageous, irreverent or sassy knowing that she is going to guffaw which will, at least for a moment, allow her to be free.   If someone were to hack my computer and review our chats over the past several years they would either be horrified, outraged or deeply envious of the blast that these two 50-somethings have.   And, since we’ve never actually met, I know of her energy, facial expressions and raucous laughter only from photos on Facebook (and we all know how things on Facebook are always honest, true and real…)  Iam thrilled every time I see a shot of her looking joyful, if even for a moment.

No, dear friend, I am not trying to fix it.  I cannot.  No one can.  And that really fucking sucks.

We chatted a little bit more until she got a call from her sister.  My sign off:

Smooches, bitch!

Be kind. Be compassionate.

Jewish Geography & Smallpox

Recently, my dear friend Francine* was at a social gathering for her kids.  It was held in a facility several communities away from where either she or I have ever lived. She thought it was going to be a drop off, affording her the opportunity to explore a new Marshall’s, but upon arrival she noticed that all the other parents were hanging around.  Dammit.  Because she knew no one in the room and was not interested in staring at the wall or sitting by herself all evening while her kiddos ran around with their friends, she engaged in what we in the tribe refer to as Jewish geography.  Here’s how it works: With the knowledge that several (okay, most) of the other attendants are Jewish, you start a conversation with questions like, “What do you do? Oh, you’re a lawyer? Which firm? You must know my so and so“ or, “Where did you go to camp? College? Grad school?” and so on. It is only a matter of (usually very little) time before it is discovered not if, but who you know in common; think of it as the Jewish version of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” only substitute Kevin with Jews and six degrees with two.  It is a tried and true phenomenon and successfully breaks the ice every time.


Anyway, it was not long (like I said) before Francine came upon a shared connection with a few of the other women. (Without divulging more than necessary, suffice to say, and it is germane to the conversation, that there is an overlap between said person-in-common and me. I, however, haven’t a clue who any of these new-to-Francine peeps are.) Once the shared person was identified, friendly banter surrounding them and how they know one another, blah blah blah, ensued. And then, strangely enough, the new-to-Francine people made a link back to, um, me and, more precisely, Jess.

The particulars are not important, but the gist of it was that these new-to-Francine people somehow, although I cannot imagine how, knew “about” (that was their word) Jess.  With a tone of concern, a lowering of their voices and hangdog faces, they asked: “How are they doing?” (File under: It’s not what you say, but how you say it…)

Briefly considering if they knew something that she did not (but knowing otherwise), Francine responded with a not all together un-provocative, “They are “doing” just fine…why do you ask?” Oh, Francine (bless her perceptive and protective little heart) knew exactly what they were referring to: Jess and the (news so old it’s not even news) fact that she is transgender.  So, in a dear-friend-kind-of way, Francine proceeded to regale them with tales of Jess’s awesomeness.

When I shared the story with Jess, her matter-of-fact, wry smiled reaction did not, to her, warrant even looking up from the pile of Swedish Fish (Braces? What braces?) that she was enjoying.  It was so perfect and reminded me (as if I needed to be reminded) why she is so damn awesome:

“It’s not smallpox, people…”

It reminded me of a blog post from about a year and half ago in which I shared my reaction to someone who expressed their concern over their children having been “exposed” to Jess. Interestingly, and not all together surprisingly, the unnamed person whom I reference in that blog happens to be the common denominator in this story.  Imagine that.  Seriously. Time to get over yourself.

I have said it many times: I get it.  Unless you have had reason to be schooled on what it means to be or love someone who is transgender it is entirely reasonable for discomfort, confusion and judgment to be among your initial reactions.  And then you need to figure it out. It doesn’t even have to be a transgender issue, actually…the unknown, unusual and unfamiliar stuff in your life is also the scariest.  Doh. I’d never take that away from anyone.  I would, however, hope that years and years after the fact, you might consider getting over it as it actually affects you, um, not at all.

My personal experience has been that if you are under the age of 25 you quite literally give no shits about someone being transgender. Admittedly, that is a broad generalization, but, to my mind, an accurate one.  And, in fairness to the new-to-Francine people, they are far enough north of that demographic that they might give a shit, but not so far that they should remain uninformed.  I can say with nearly 100% certainty that, perhaps unbeknownst to them, it is safe to say that they, or, at the very least, their children, know someone who is transgender or questioning.  For example, did you know that there are a lot of kids out there whose preferred pronoun isn’t he or she, but they. Yep, that’s a (cool) thing. Get with the program, grandma and grandpa!

So, next time you struggle with being uncomfortable or anxious or fearful of someone else’s process or choices or appearance, just remind yourself of something:

“It’s not smallpox, people…”


p.s. We are doing just fine, thank you.  Jess, in fact, is kicking ass, embracing and being embraced into her new community, making friends who, in keeping with their generation’s thinking, couldn’t care less about her back story and has a way better perspective on life than most of us.  And, not for nothing, is still funny as hell.

*Not her real name.  Not even close to it.

Love Thy Ladies

I actually and legitimately don’t get it.  It confuses, annoys, angers and troubles me.  I’ve aggressively tried to get to the bottom of it with the hopes of hitting upon an “aha” moment, but repeatedly come up empty-handed.  With so much at stake, so many unending benefits and so many opportunities on the daily, why on earth would it not be embraced?  Why, for the love of G-d, is women being unkind to other women even a thing?

Aside from never being without a perfect manicure, I am not a girlie girl.  I swear like a sailor, burp like a teenage boy and have been known to make an off-color remark or two.  I am also, however, fiercely loyal, rabidly protective, ardently supportive and often an outspoken advocate for anyone in the sisterhood, even if I don’t know them.  I often randomly compliment women on the street (that sounds creepier than it is).  I see a gal wearing cool glasses and tell her that she is rockin’ them.  It always makes her smile.  The lady with the toddler losing their shit at her feet: “you got this, mama!” It always gets a sigh, a smile and a thank you.  It’s not hard.  I’m not special. It’s just the way it should be, am I right?!

My expectation is not that anyone go out on a limb for me.  Nor do I believe I am entitled to anything from anyone, vagina or not.  I guess all I really ask is that if you, as a woman, cannot find it in your cache of available human interactions to be supportive of one of your own, you should perhaps consider exploring why.

I happen to love guys and have been blessed with wonderful ones in my life.  My father was a prince among men.  I have two outstanding brothers, a tender-hearted son and a kind and benevolent husband, all of whom I cherish.  They have loved and supported me.  They’ve picked me up, held me when I cry and enlightened me on the way men think and why they do some of the shit they do.  These wonderful fellas are not, however, girls.

As kind, gentle and renaissance as the men in my life are, they are not, nor will they ever be: mothers, sisters, aunts, wives or daughters.  They will never give birth, feed a child from their breast, experience monthly periods (which, if we are being honest, is among the most obnoxious “privilege” of being female), endure a gynecological exam, be subjected to wage discrimination, awaken in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat as a reminder that they are getting way older and that their bodies are no longer set up to do what they used to.  No, those with penises will never know what it is like to have a mastectomy or hysterectomy or to be told they can never have a baby.  (To be clear, men have plenty of things to deal with that we don’t: erectile dysfunction comes to mind.)  My point?  Members of the sisterhood need to stick together.  We are a powerful bunch, but without one another, we are fighting the good fight all alone.  That ain’t right.


Just this afternoon, I had lunch with five wonderful women – that’s them in the picture above.  It was a perfect afternoon.  We covered: sex, parenting, former and current husbands, sex again, UTIs (see the sex conversations), a few women who have disappointed/appalled us in their unsisterhood-y behavior, breast cancer, the frequency with which we urinate and sleep…who needs sleep?  I can assure you, had there been six men, sitting at the very same table on the very same afternoon, the conversation would be decidedly different (expect maybe the sex part…)

Ladies: be kind to one another.  Support one another. Accept another woman’s offer of help, in whatever form it may be.  Trust me…it’s the way to go.




My Lifeguards of 9/11

Truth be told, when I first saw them walking in, all nine of them, my initial reaction was that we should hurry up and order so that we did not become victim to an overwhelmed, backed-up kitchen.  The tan, fit and, not for nothing, good-looking kids had, taking note of the enormous black cloud that hung above (reasonably) concluded that the beach would be empty, so instead of assuming the position on the lifeguard chair, they opted instead to go out for breakfast.  It is important to note that within seconds of their arrival, the sky opened up and drenched everything to within an inch of its life.  The wind was so ferocious that I half expected Dorothy and Toto to fly by the window of the diner.  My point: they were not being derelict in their life guarding duties by seeking refuge from the elements.  The fact that there happened to be hot coffee, corned beef hash and pancakes at their chosen shelter was just a bonus.

As they settled into their seats, each one of them, with no discussion, casually placed their phones in the middle of the table.  I knew what they were doing – ensuring that their breakfast would not be commandeered by the rings, dings and dongs of nine cell phones.  (Actually, when I counted them, I noted that there were only eight and tried to out the guard who was holding onto their phone with a death grip only to be told that his was in the car.  Oops, my bad.) The deal is this: the first person to Pavlovian-ly reach for their phone during the meal is met with not only the disgrace of lacking self control, but the (perhaps more painful) requirement to pay for the entire meal.  I knew of this practice, as Harrison and his buds do it as well, but what struck me was the utter lack of fuss or complaint or whining.  It was as natural to them as it used to be for men to pull out a woman’s chair for her to sit. (What ever happened to that?  I actually never liked it, but it seems to no longer be a thing…)


Once their phones were in the center of the table, they began to confer about how they were going to pay; would they put it on one person’s card and then reimburse their share or everyone throw cash in? I tried hard, and successfully, to keep my mouth shut and not suggest they use Venmo (which, up until about a week ago I had never heard of) but now, at Harrison’s suggestion, use on the regular.  I suspected they knew about it, but, in a rare moment of self-control, I stayed out of it and did not impose my opinion.  I am not even sure what the final decision was, but will note that they figured out fairly quickly.

It was right around that moment when Barry and I looked at one another and knew that we were going to pick up their tab.  It was September 11, on the fifteenth anniversary of a day that they were all too young to really remember.  Most of them were in kindergarten, first- or second-grade and, while they have no doubt heard about it, they would never know the abject horror of that day.   However, the fact that they are lifeguards on one of the busiest beaches in Maine speaks volumes about their character and willingness to run in while others are running out – a hallmark of the heroes of 9/11.


We finished up our meal, took care of both of the bills and got up to leave.  Stopping at their table, we told that their bill was taken care of and why:

  1. It was September 11 and anyone who was old enough to (try to) understand what was happening on that day in 2001 will, on each anniversary, find themselves reliving the powerlessness, fear and sadness as though it was just yesterday. These kids who put their lives at risk for others which, by my definition, anyway, puts them in the spectacular person category.
  2. They could be our kids and, their parents should be proud of these young adults that they have raised…the whole lot of them was charming and respectful.
  3. Not one of them, at any moment, went for their phones.

As we left, I told Man Bun Lifeguard who happened to be really cute (I say that in the least creepy way possible.  Really.) that I write a blog and planned to share this story.  He asked what the blog is about and, when I told him about Jess he said, without even a morsel of judgement or discomfort*, “Oh, cool” and asked me for the link.  I handed him my phone so he could put in his number and I sent him a text with the URL.  Then we both smiled as we heard one of the phones, still in the middle of the table, give out a little chirp.  And no one reached for it.

P.S. Less than an hour after we left I received a text back from Man Bun Lifeguard…


(cut off from photo…“life’s surprises”...)


*I love this generation – they are way cooler than most of us.



And Then There Were Four, er, Two

Tonight and through to Sunday, for only the second time since we have been married, my husband and I are going to be alone.  Totally, completely and utterly alone.  No children to drive, pick up, drop off or feed.  No little cherubs who need refereeing or coaching or redirection.  Not a single person under the legal drinking age requiring our attention, our money, our patience, our food or our ability to drive a car. No pleas for permission, forgiveness or second third, fourth and fifth chances. Not a one.



Just over a month ago, Barry and I each doubled the number of children we had personally either sired or birthed, bringing our parentage status to four, aged 9 to 21.  We have elementary school, middle school, high school and college, aka:  early hormonal, moderately hormonal, over-the -damn-top hormonal and evening-out hormonal.

I am exhausted just thinking about it.

We were going to go away for the entire weekend – as in, leave this afternoon and not come home until Sunday night.  Only.I.Just.Can’t.  I am too damned tired to even be a passenger in a car tonight.  I am too busy re-programming my brain to think about us: the couple as opposed to us: the big ol’ blended family.

While many of my friends are actual empty nesters (damn it, I was getting so close), I am a re-nester. Just when I thought I’d seen my last 4th and 6th graders, I have them living in my house, if only part of the time.  I love my step kids and their Legos, video games, school snacks, giggles when they hear the word balls, bedtime antics, farting noises and their still-almost-sweet-smelling B.O.  I’m way smarter with them than I was with my own at that age…something that is spectacularly awesome for me, less so for them.  They actually believe, know that they had best spill their guts about what really happened because we will most of the time if we are lucky always find out at least something close to the truth.  Bullshitting us about homework due, teeth brushing, hair washing, swearing, who started it and if their underwear has been changed is not even on the fringe of something that might happen, because they have learned bought it hook, line and sinker that lying to us is futile as we are too well seasoned to buy their shenanigans.  Again: spectacular for us, sucks for them.

Barry, on the other hand, has been thrown into the world of mid and late adolescence which, by all accounts, is not for the faint of heart.  Teenagers and young adults are an interesting lot: the second you think you have them figured out, they lose their shit up and change things on ya…and you never know what hit you.  Their problems are bigger, scarier and more complicated.  They are exercising the independence that we’ve so desperately taught them, yet still want to be sure that we are there to catch the debris when things go awry.  On the daily I have witnessed shifts from sweet to snarky to unrelenting to downright rude to utterly obnoxious to something akin to remorse to sweetness and back again at whiplash speeds on repeat.  Every. Damn. Day.

The difference here: I’ve already lived through (twice, but who’s counting) the depravity of young kids so am a little bit savvier about how to not kill handle them.  Poor Barry’s last intimate experience with teenagers was, um, when he WAS one.  You do the math.

But, for the next, let’s call it 50 hours we are free from any and all of it.  Aside from phone calls, texts, emails or smoke signals, we need not address, engage or be forced to deal with anyone other than one another.  I adore all four of our kids, but man oh man, am I looking forward to this weekend which will begin in earnest tomorrow morning.  Or late morning.  Or early afternoon.

(Not mentioned: Barry has a herniated disc in his back and a sinus infection, I have stenosis in my neck and a pissed off rotator cuff…but that is not going to stop us from enjoying every damn second of these next two days. We will manage just fine with crutches, braces, antibiotics and Ibuprofen.  Lots of Ibuprofen)

T Minus 3: The Yes, The But and The Yet

Here we are, T minus 3 (note: I had to change this from T minus 6…been that kind of week) until the wedding!  Wait, what??

I’ve received so many lovely and kind notes from friends near and far wishing us Mazel and telling me that Barry and my story “gives them hope” and ours is like a “fairy tale come to life”.  And, in countless ways they are right.  However…I have to keep things real.  It is not always easy.  It is not always fun.  And it is not always romantic.  What it is, though, is perfect for us. We have a rhythm that often moves at breakneck speed (anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting Barry in person will know what I mean…) and a brutal honesty between us. And we, like all couples, have a YES, and BUT and a YET for every occasion.

With the wedding just days away, I can tell you this:

YES: I am excited!  Who doesn’t love a party where there is dancing, good food, drink, company and, perhaps best of all, a staff of seasoned wedding planners at my disposal? BUT: Planning and throwing a wedding takes a lot of mental, physical and financial fortitude.* It can quickly become overwhelming and stressful and expensive and problematic. We have certainly had arguments, and I might have left the house, driven to the beach and had a few mini fits/breakdowns/freak outs once or twice.  Okay, it was three times.  YET: At the end of every day, we kiss, say, “I love you” and mean it.


YES: I am blessed. I adore my almost husband, I love all four of our kids, my new house and my new community.  I cherish being able to see and feel the ocean every day and have the summer off to establish my new life. BUT: There are times, particularly in the past few weeks, that I have wanted to slug Barry in the face, leave each and every one of the kids by the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, systematically (and by systematically, I mean secretly) remove works of “art” which are, shall we say, not my style and taken personally the fact that it is humid and sticky and hard to breathe. YET: At the end of every day, we kiss and say, “I love you”.


YES: Our blended family is blending well.  BUT: We have four kids who all saw their parents’ marriages dissolve, had to move from their childhood houses and now travel back and forth between their now divorced parents’ homes.  Harrison, at 21 and a rising college senior has a beautiful apartment at school, but doesn’t have any other place where he can go that has a dresser with his t-shirts and underwear, or the posters he grew up with on the walls, or even a familiar neighborhood.  It’s been hard on him.  It’s been hard of all of us.  It’s a tremendous adjustment that we’ve all had to make.  But most of all, it’s a process and processes can be long, arduous and sometimes painful.  YET: At the end of every day, we kiss, say, “I love you” and mean it.

YES: The second time around is exciting and joyful and energizing. Step-parenting two young kids is easier than with my own because I am older, wiser and have, through 21 years of parenting, picked up a thing or two about how their little minds work.  BUT: Getting married again is overwhelming and scary and a lot less romantic than the first time around.  Along with the joy and excitement comes the business side of marriage: life insurance, wills, estate plans, finances and other sexy stuff that is a necessary evil in the second marriage process.  And my vast knowledge of children and their trickery? Yeah, that’s fantastically effective about 60% of the time.  YET: At the end of every day, we kiss, say, “I love you” and mean it.


T minus 3 and I really believe (most of the time) (except when I am caught up in the BUT) (which always passes) that the only thing that really matters is the YET.

*Our original plan was to have just our family up at the lighthouse in town and then back to the house for a barbeque.  Yeah, that didn’t happen.