I’m Sorry and Thank You – 5778

On this, the eve of Yom Kippur, allow me to apologize:

To my mother for feeling, and sometimes acting, like a 10 year old when she decided to and then actually did, move across the country.  I’ve never lived so far from you, and the distance, if we are being honest, still freaks me out a little.  Thank you for taking up residence near the ocean and being bad-ass all the time.

To my son for my inability to right certain wrongs, much as I would love to.  Thank you for making me so proud and for being a kind, responsible and independent man.

To my daughter for upending your life and moving you away from all that you knew.  Thank you for being along on the ride with me and for making me laugh every damn day.

To my stepsons for my getting frustrated with your 10- and 12-year old selves.  Thank you for telling me you love me every day. I love you back.

To my brothers for my not always being able to re-pay you, in every sense of the word,  for all your wonderfulness.  Thank you for always being the brothers that every girl wants to have.

To my husband for (almost always) understanding what a big deal my move was to me and my kids.  Thank you for providing us a beautiful home and a beautiful new life.

To my in-laws for allowing me the occasional freak-out and bouts of neediness.  Thank you for being the best in-laws ever.

To my ex-husband for taking what I am going to thank you for in the spirit in which it is intended.  Thank you for being a better ex-husband than you were a husband.

To my husband’s ex-wife for my having barged on the scene, your scene.  Thank you for allowing us to get to the place that we are with one another.  It takes a village.

To my old friends for understanding my need to make a life in my new town, often not making enough time for you.  Thank you for the love and support you have always shared with me.

To my new friends for allowing me to shake things up a little…but in a good way.  Thank you for embracing, including and loving me.

May this be a year of new adventures, growth, happiness and good health.

Wishing you all a meaningful Yom Kippur and an easy fast.


How To Parent

I just finished watching a video making the rounds on Facebook in which a father has recorded his daughter’s first day of school every year from first grade through high school.  Each snippet was short and sweet, ending with “I love yous” exchanged between father and child.  After watching it, I commented, “File under: shit I wish I’d done” …and, at the time, I really meant it.  “Man, I am a failure for not having done that for my kids” regret settled in.  Knowing that I can hardly remember to return all the paperwork needed to make my kid legit in school, I certainly wasn’t equipped to pull out the video camera the first day of school every year…mostly because I was too busy doing the happy dance.


But it did get me thinking about other things I wish I had done as a parent but didn’t:

  1. Have family portraits done every year. To be more precise, I wish we’d not only taken annual photos, but that we’d all worn white shirts and jeans and sat in the same position in the same place. Love me some comparison shots.
  2. Taken family vacations every year. Yes, we did, in correspondence to an annual conference, go to Disney World several years running. It was the perfect destination for two wild kids born seven years apart.  Something for everyone!
  3. Saved, as my father did, every single school report card. In fairness, I do have most of them, but cop to misplacing a few.  My own personal experience is twofold: they serve as the greatest reminder of why we should choose our battles with our kids (“talks to much in class”, anyone?) and settles the score among adult siblings as to which one really is the smartest. (Hint: I fared better than I had expected…)
  4. Served as room parent. Okay, if we are being honest, I would rather open a vein with a ballpoint pen than be responsible for staffing and pulling off every party or celebration or event or send-off or picture day or project or concert, but my kids probably would have, if nothing else, gotten a kick out of me pulling that shit off.
  5. Been more creative in the Halloween costume department. I was often, okay, always, that mom who would run to Party City on the 30th (never waited all the way til the 31st because that would be irresponsible) and hope to find something left that didn’t look creepy or make me nauseous. That being said, I did, in 5th grade, give into pressure and allow Harrison to wear a grim reaper mask that, upon the push of a button, bled.  In my defense, he was one of about seven boys wearing it, so there.
  6. Made a “Baby Box”for Jess…like, um, the one I made for Harrison. And what a box it was! Aside from the box itself – shown below – the contents are many: sonogram pictures, pregnancy test, cards, notes, first diaper (unused, duh), newspaper headlines, hospital bracelet.  You name it, I put it in there.  I know, I know…first babies get everything. And, while I had every single possible intention of doing the same for Jess, yeah, it just didn’t happen.  File under: something (else) for her to talk about in therapy.
  7. Spent less on toys, more on experiences. If I had a nickel, even a penny, for every Lego brick I bought, I’d be way, way, way richer than POTUS claims to be. If I had a dime for every DVD that I bought – and, ultimately gave away – I would be rolling in dough.  In fairness, though, there was nothing better than sitting down for our umpteenth viewing of “George of the Jungle”, “Inspector Gadget” or, um, “Austin Powers”, “Happy Gilmore” or the entire “Gilligan’s Island” series.
  8. Not given my children so many choices. I’m not sure if it was an attempt to be inclusive, a desire to please or an inability to make a decision, but I did too much asking and not enough telling.  You’d have thought I might have learned that asking two kids where they want to have lunch is seldom (and by seldom I mean ever) going to result in a consensus.  The same for what movie to watch, which dinner to make, who to have babysit, when to play outside and when to sit on their asses watching aforementioned movies.  I like to think that too many choices results in unnecessary anxiety.  For my kids.  Yeah, my kids.
  9. Had, and enforced, just a few more rules. Ask my progeny and they will tell you: I had very few rules but the rules that I did have were (for the most part…unless I was really tired or overwrought or angry or defeated) non-negotiable.  It is the way I grew up, so, naturally, I did the same.  As a child of 60s, 70s and 80s, here were the rules: no one could start dinner until my mother was at the table, no answering the phone during dinner (This one was nothing short of torture; I’d hear the “kids’ line” ringing upstairs and would have to assume a death grip on my chair to keep myself from running up to see who it was.  This, dear readers, was in a time before answering machines.  It was hell.) And, perhaps the most important of all the rules was to never forget the Levinson mantra, “Don’t embarrass us and we won’t embarrass you.”  Despite being fairly far-reaching, it was a hard and fast rule which was taken very seriously.  My children knew that the rules on the shoulders of my youth were now on theirs and that they would be better served to fess up to anything they did because I would definitely find out about it on my own and then I would be realllly pissed.  No curfews, once they hit puberty: no set bedtime and the responsibility of doing their own damn laundry.  It is truly remarkable how much more thoughtful one is about throwing a perfectly clean shirt in the laundry when they are the ones who have to wash it.  You are welcome future spouses.

And one thing I did do:

  1. “I don’t care if you are a boy, a girl, a dog or a Martian…you just cannot be an asshole. I consider it the updated version of my parents’ directive of not embarrassing them.  Generally, my children have fallen into line and obeyed the rule, but certainly have had their moments (which have sometimes morphed into weeks on end), but I think they will be able to successfully navigate the world.


As a collective, I would assert that most parents have experienced the whiplash of feeling as though you are either the best or worst parent ever at least once a day, if not more.  A part of you feels like shit for not videotaping your kid on the first day of school every damn year, but then you remember the things that you did do (Clean up barf? Stay up all night? Drive to ten stores in search of a “Tickle Me Elmo” doll? Teach them to have a sense of humor…particularly when things are at their suckiest? Tell them when they are the bomb and when they might have made a better choice?) Yeah, we all have our own flavor of good parenting.

So, despite the fact – or maybe because of it – that I don’t have annual photos or lots of vacations or every report card or room parent experience or killer Halloween costumes or a baby box for Jess, I still feel as good as any parent allows themselves to feel about that which I have (or, have not as the case may be) for my kids.

You should, too…really



Facebook Fight

I love me a good Facebook fight.


I’m not proud, but will admit to engaging in a few here and there, usually in a quest to educate people who are quick to spout off regarding subjects about which they know nothing other than their gut instinct but, as it happens, I do happen to know a thing or two.  I had one rather epic Facebook fight about a year ago which began on the page of someone who I had gone to high school with and have not laid eyes on since.  I vividly recall her being obnoxious and annoying in her teens, but, given the passage of 35 years, gave her the benefit of the doubt and assumed she’d outgrown her pubescent ways.  I couldn’t have been more mistaken.  In fact, she had not only amped up her same game, but managed to surround herself with like-minded people who made the very serious mistake of getting into a debate with me over any- and everything transgender related.  By the end of a thread, which, FYI, would go on (and on) for an entire afternoon and into the evening, I knew that the only thing I had truly accomplished was getting myself all worked up.  So I did what any self-respecting middle-aged woman would do: I got in the car, bought a new pair of shoes and thoroughly enjoyed an ice cream cone the size of my head.


More recently, in the interest of keeping my blood pressure within normal range (and with the notable exception of this blog) I have steered clear of discussing politics, 45, or anything else controversial, choosing, instead, to be an actively passive observer of folks who are so worked up and upset about everything that they are not only willing to engage, but are vigorously gunning for a good fight.  And, not for nothing, they are having no trouble finding one.

Just this morning I scrolled through my Facebook news feed and was greeted by the smiling faces of kids off to school, heartbreaking stories and horrifying photos of what is left of Texas, several  birthday reminders and, perhaps most interesting: a steady stream of commentary regarding Melania T’s choice of shoes – Manolo Blahnik BB pumps, with 4” heels, which you, too, can have for  $595 –and the arguments in either direction were fierce.


There were posts describing her and her choice as “disgusting”.  There were posts describing her and her choice as “ridiculous”.  There were posts describing her and her choice as “insensitive”, “impractical” and “inappropriate”.  And, on the flip side, there were there an equal number of posts admonishing all those aforementioned original posts in which the original posters were told that their opinion about and disdain for FLOTUS was” bullying”, “body shaming” and “ridiculous”.

And so was born a Facebook fight.


Being an actively passive observer, I can tell you that every one of those posts was followed by long threads of steadily more aggressive responses and replies to responses and emoticons and GIFs and tangents and generalized antagonism which, in my opinion, may or may not have had anything to do with the shoes in question.  In fact, just for sport I could make strong arguments in support or defense of MT’s MB’s.…but it’s not about the shoes.  It is, however, about what life has become for many of us.

While I can only speak for myself, I am fairly confident that many would agree that they, too, are feeling anxious, overwhelmed, exhausted, overwrought, uncomfortable, out of control, pessimistic and uncertain…none of which are any fun.  I’d further contend that it is far easier to relieve some of these feelings by engaging in a Facebook fight about something as banal and truly unimportant as someone’s (I don’t care who it is, frankly) shoes.  Now, before you get all up in my face about her role, public perception, her sugar daddy husband, the circumstances blah blah blah, please hear this: I am not judging anyone for getting into it.  In fact, on a different day or hour I, too, might shoot off a few barbs myself, but today I just wasn’t feeling it.

Our country and our lives are all in turmoil.  Mother Nature is as pissed off as she’s ever been.  Our leadership appears to be jerry-built and, with each day, it crumbles a little bit.  The cost of living is ridiculous.  Colleges are charging upwards of $50,000 per year in tuition, room and board.  If you are a woman who made the choice to take time off of work to be with her kids, you are screwed when you try to find a job at the tender age of 52.  And that health insurance that we all need? …yeah, the promise of its availability is tenuous at best.  The changes to so much of what we thought we knew have been fast and furious, leaving so many feeling vulnerable and defenseless.  With such a loss of emotional power – real or perceived – It’s no wonder we glom onto opining, condemning and assailing something as insipid and inconsequential as a pair of shoes.

And maybe, just maybe, Mrs. T. chose her footwear for the same reason I have a different pair of Birkies for every day of the week: because it made her feel just a little bit better…


So, yeah, I love me a good Facebook fight, just not this one.


Yesterday, I posted a link on my Facebook page to a video that chronicled, in horrifying detail, the incivility and depravity that took place in Charlottesville over the weekend.  The message of the film -which if you have not already, I strongly encourage you watch  – left little room for interpretation, spelling out the mission of the angry white men in the plainest language possible: “Jews will not replace us.”  It was not much further into the film that the blacks, gays and anyone else who was not a carbon copy of these were similarly vilified.

There is even a chilling moment when these animals gaily chanted “Heil, Cantwell”, complete with the raised arm,  not only in deference but also great admiration of the head barbarian of this dangerous and heavily armed white supremacist group who, by their own admission, were hoping for violence.  These “men”, who, despite the “President’s” comments that some are “very fine people” are actually, to a person, the very definition of horrible people.

And they all have mothers who I pray are as horrified as I am.

As I watched with my 15 year-old daughter who happens to be both transgender and Jewish the terror of what is happening in our world began to sink in. I felt physically ill.  This is not the world I want for my children.


We all worry that we are mis-parenting, doing too much or too little for our kids, and making decisions that might negatively impact them for whatever reason.  We work to the best of our ability to guide them in such a way that they are able to become the best versions of themselves.  We hope that they are better, stronger, braver, more confident and more successful than we are.  And we work every day to achieve that goal. So how did we, as a community of diverse people, elect a man to the presidency who not only shares these feelings of supremacy but encourages them?

And now we are all broken.

The followers of neo-Nazism, the KKK and anyone with even a shred of white supremacist thinking are so broken that they seek to yield their power in the most frightening and dangerous way possible.  But the rest of us are broken in that we are dispirited, and fearful, and appalled and terrified and, perhaps worst of all, growing hopeless.

Even more astounding, the “President” not only encourages and refuses to condemn this behavior, but I believe he actually gets off on it.  He has sanctioned it not only by his own conduct – grabbed any pussy lately, sir? – but also by his bombastic, irreverent, misogynistic and boorish manifesto which, for reasons I simply cannot fathom, did not preclude him from being elected to the highest office in the land.  As Jimmy Kimmel put it in this video – which would be funnier if it weren’t so damn accurate – he just wants to be a King.


When my little boy first began to the transition to become the awesome daughter I now have, she engaged in some degree of hysteria and more than a little button pushing.  At the same time, her big brother did some of his own muscle flexing, trying to find his place.  A mantra quickly fell into place:

I don’t care if you are a boy, a girl, a dog or a Martian…but you cannot be an asshole.

Clearly, no one ever used this refrain with any of these “men” (our “President” included) as they seem to care very much if you are a boy, a girl, a dog, a Martian, a Jew, a gay, a Black, a Muslim, an animated character or anything that is not them.

Yes, we are broken, but like the twice shattered glass of the Boston Holocaust Memorial, we will be put back together.

Be kind.  Be accepting.  Be generous of spirit.  Hold doors for people, no matter their color, gender or religion.  Protect one another.  And try to stay strong…

Braver. Stronger. Tougher

Under exactly no circumstances does my child have any intention or desire to join the military.  It fact, up until today, the good people of the military wouldn’t have taken her for a whole slew of reasons:

  1. She is not particularly good at following orders.
  2. You’ve never met a bigger slob.
  3. Upon merely hearing of the rigors of basic training, I am confident she would run (well, walk fast) for the hills.
  4. She would be horrified by the dress code.
  5. It’s totally not her thing.

Now, however, none of those things would be what precluded her from serving and protecting our country. Rather, the leader of the free fucking world has banned her from service. In fact, even if she was the most kick-ass military type person (because that is all she is…a person) on the freakin’ planet, they would deny her the opportunity to serve and protect all of us, just because she happens to be a female with male parts. Last I checked, the manner in which someone dresses, walks, talks and pees is no one else’s damn business, will have exactly no bearing on their ability to fulfill the obligations of their branch of the military and, oh yeah, is no reason to ban them from anything ever.

Let’s think about this, shall we?

Who is braver than the person who, knowing full well how difficult it will be, has the courage to transition in any direction away from the gender on their birth certificate?

Who is stronger than the kid who walks, head held high, into school on a random Wednesday wearing clothes one would expect of the opposite gender?

Who is tougher than the person who, despite having a strong circle of protective, kind and loving friends and family, is subjected to pointing, whispering and chatter every.damn.day just for being themselves?

Who would you rather have on your side: the person strong enough to make the leap or the asshole person who cares one whit about someone else’s walk, talk and how.they.pee?

These are people willing and more than able to protect YOU.

They are someone’s child.

They are people you know.

They are no different from you or me.

They are as capable (probably more), strong (definitely more) and accepting (way, way more) than any one who has not walked in their shoes.

They are people I would like to know are on my side, keeping me safe, protecting me from evil.

So instead of not giving a shit how someone else defines their gender, the truly evil, misinformed and way too powerful have flexed their flaccid muscles, shown their fear and created a divide in our country that I fear no military can repair.



It’s More Than Just a Bikini

Most people do it after a big weight loss.  Others use it as encouragement in the hopes of using it someday as the “before” shot.  I have neither lost weight nor have any realistic expectations that I will in the foreseeable future.  Rather, I am, at 52, throwing caution to the wind and heeding the advice of my friend Becky who, on the (millionth) occasion of my commenting that a woman on the beach who was about my age (and, more to the point, my size) was not only sporting a bikini, but kinda rockin’ it, she told me that I should wear one, too.  After actually laughing.out.loud, I told her she was out of her effin’ mind…those days were long gone.  The mere idea of it kind of horrified me on about 1127 different levels.

“Who cares?”

That’s all she said.  Others have said it before, but for some reason, this time it struck a chord.  At that moment, I decided that this was going to be the summer that I would own my imperfect body and just accept the fact that the tiny waist of my 20s was never coming back, that my butt (which seems to end somewhere between where it should and the back of my knees) would no longer (completely) define me and, more to the point, dictate my bathing suit choices.

I was growing tired of my collection of tankinis, anyway.

With full admission that I was being ridiculous, I told not a soul of my bikini plan. Hoping to happen upon one organically – walk into a store, find the perfect suit, buy it, wear it – proved to be (way) harder than I anticipated.  Just as it took me some time to determine the perfect tankini, so, too, have I learned that all bikinis are not created equal.

In the hopes of finding something inexpensive, trendy and cheap, I began my hunt at Target.  Not enough of a glutton for punishment to try them on in the store, I snatched up nearly a dozen tops and bottoms (in a range of sizes) and bought them all with a plan to try each combination on in the privacy of my own home (when no one was around).  I further decided that my initial reaction to how I looked and felt would serve as my final decision.  Every top and bottom was returned that same afternoon.

Perhaps, I thought to my losing-courage-quickly self, I would be better off going to a slightly more upscale store. As it turned out, that wouldn’t make any difference.  Macy’s, Lord and Taylor, Athleta, Lands End, Marshall’s, Nordstrom.  Fail, fail, fail, fail, fail and fail.  It was a message from G-d, I decided, that this was a big mistake.  So I stopped looking.

Then, one day I found myself at Old Navy and, wouldn’t ya know it, all the bathing suits were 40% off plus, if I used my store credit card they’d knock another 25% off and, because it was a Tuesday in June and I have curly hair, they’d give it to me for free.*  I rifled through the mess of tops and bottoms, immediately dismissing some (having learned that certain tops were out.of.the.question) and purchased one suit in two sizes.  Discouraged from my earlier foray into the bikini world, I left the bag in the trunk of my car and waited (more than) a few days before trying it on.  When I finally found the courage time to bring it in the house, I was pleasantly surprised….this might just work.  With an absurd trepidation, I emerged from my room bikini-clad for the first time in nearly 25 years.  Jess saw me first.  A smile spread across her face.  Barry, ever the sweetheart, gave me a warm smile (and I am pretty sure his eye twinkled) and, with the caveat that he is “the wrong person to ask because I think you are fabulous no matter what you wear,” his approval.  (Yeah, he’s a keeper.)

Yesterday, Becky by my side, I planted myself at the beach in my bikini and, am proud to announce, lived to tell the tale.

I was not the thinnest person on the beach.

I was not the fittest person on the beach.

I was not donning the best-fitting, -looking or -made bathing suit on the beach. And, at something like $14, certainly not the most expensive.

If I was being judged or ridiculed or a topic of other’s conversation, I was blissfully unaware.

I was surprisingly comfortable.

And, not for nothing, the perfect weather and company notwithstanding, it was perhaps one of my best days ever on the beach.

But wait….there’s more.

It wasn’t enough for me to wear a bikini…I needed to memorialize it.  Twenty-seven selfies later, I was, once again, feeling defeated.  With just a modicum of disgust, Becky wrestled the phone from my hand and proceeded to snap away.  “Stand up” she said.  “It’ll make you look better”.  So I did.  Then, upon checking the photo she’d just taken, I was instructed to sit back down.  And, because I have turned a corner on one of my (many) insecurities, we cracked up. (Aside: she was 100% right.)

When I returned home nicely bronzed from the day, I approached Jess with what I deemed to be the most acceptable of the dozen or so snaps on my phone (Becky is a lousy photographer, I’ve learned) and, I am ashamed to admit, asked her to make it “look a little better.”  Reason number 1211 I love that kid: she refused. With assurances that I am “beautiful”, she reminded me that posting a photo that has been enhanced kinda defeats the entire purpose.  And she is right.

Am I ready to throw away all my other bathing suits?  No.  Might I buy another bikini? Maybe. Do I feel a little bit freer? Yep.  So here I am: unfiltered, unretouched, unedited and amazingly unencumbered.

(Not shown: the big, deep breath I took before posting this…)


*Okay, that didn’t happen…but at the register they did seem to toss in discount after discount after discount.

Two Russians, Two Dominicans, Two Greeks, Two Jews and A Ski Poled Woman Meet at the Beach

On Saturday Barry and I took our first real walk since Memorial Day 2016 when he blew out his L5S1 while reaching for a receipt on his dresser.  I keep telling him he needs to come up with a better story…like he was fending off a tiger or something.  He’s sticking to the truth.

We logged 2.5 miles.  And, in true Julie/Barry fashion, we made some friends along the way.

Boris and Dora.[1] From Russia.  Married 63 years.  Boris is 89.  Dora, according to Boris, is 49.  Wink wink.  They’ve lived here for 27 years which was made even more remarkable by the fact that they spoke extremely limited and broken English.  They never stopped holding hands.


Luis and Rosa.[2] From the Dominican Republic.  Married 45 minutes.  Spoke no English.  That’s me and her, and Barry with the best man.  And, yeah, I don’t know why she was on her knees, but she certainly didn’t seem unhappy about it.  They never stopped smiling and laughing.

bride praying to groombride on her kneesbride and me

bestman and barry

Irma.[3] Nationality unknown.  Had to be either deep into her 70s or, more likely, early to mid 80s.  Navigated the rocks and icy cold water with her ski poles with impressive agility.  She never saw me snapping her picture.

lady and ski poles

Manny and Nicholas.[4]  47 years and 16 months old respectively.  Manny was born here, sent back to Greece when he was six, returned at 18 when, despite having graduated from high school, enrolled for a second senior year to improve his English.  He is now a Social Worker.  Nicholas made Manny a first time dad at 46.  They never stopped smiling at one another.

barry manny and nicholas

I’d missed walking with my husband on the beach.  Here’s hoping there will be many more walks and many more awesome people along the way…

[1] Okay, Boris and Dora were the names of my great grandparents.  But they were from Russia, too.

[2] Also not their names.  I know a woman from the DR named Rosa and I Googledcommon men’s names in the Dominican Republic”…

[3] Yeah yeah, made it up.

[4] Those are their real names!  Honest!