The Holiday Season is here again and there is excitement in the air. Lots of parties, Burl Ives singing “Frosty the Snowman,” and the morning temperatures in Phoenix hovering in the fifties. For those experiencing snow and ice, that doesn’t sound too bad. But for those of us who have managed through months of triple digits, fifty degrees is awfully cold. We’ve pulled out our sweaters with the full knowledge that it’s now or never.
Growing up in New York City, I really don’t recall a big buzz about Hanukah. It always seemed to be the poor step-sister to Christmas. The gorgeous tree in Rockefeller Center. The Radio City Music Hall Rockettes high-kicking in their Santa suits—but of course Santa wears pants, not tights. There was no big hoop-de-doo around spinning the dreidel—though everyone loved potato pancakes and the Hanukah gelt—those chocolate shaped coins covered in gold foil.
Yes, Christmas is for Everyone
No matter your religion, cultural affiliation, or whether you even believe in God, Christmas is just a magical time. Heck, if Ebeneezer Scrooge can find the true meaning of Christmas, there’s hope for us all. So to everyone reading this today, I wish you the best of the Holiday Season. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Sleigh bells ringing. The Hallejuah Chorus. And to my Jewish friends and family, remember that Irving Berlin wrote “White Christmas.” Hey, that holiday spirit is just contagious.
Years ago, my mother rebuffed the news of my coming out by explaining that she couldn’t deal with it. Her exact words. “I’m too old to change.”
But you’re only fifty-five?
It rarely happens in life when you have extreme clarity. But at that particular moment, it was like a lightning bolt out of the blue. I made a vow to open my mind to the possibilities of life. I’d do my best to never be, too old to change.
Change is hard
And it has been a challenge. Over the years, we’ve moved from city to city, from job to job. My career in healthcare has had its ups and downs. Mostly ups, until the last move to Phoenix. But even then, I realized early on that I’d landed in the wrong organization. The thing about change is that sometimes we need to be careful about what we wish for. And to recognize when it makes sense to say no thank you, and move on.
Career as a Writer
I’m grateful for many things in my life, but none more than that one insight from my mom. She suffered a lot of emotional pain with that too old to change. And though it’s a wonderful thing to hear affirmations from those we love, sometimes, it’s the judgments that force us to envision whom we choose to be. My mother offered that gift, and to her, I’ll be forever grateful. By learning to change, my life has turned out to be a lot better than I ever expected.
There is something going on in our house. Something inexplicable. The volume on the television is too loud. Until it isn’t. And then, you struggle to understand the words being spoken by the actors.
Yes – I know
If you’ve read my blog, and by the way, thank you for doing so, you know I am deaf in my left ear. 100% deaf since I was two-years-old. A case of pneumonia killed the nerve. Nonetheless, I’m keenly aware of the volume on the television. And if in doubt, I live with someone who can hear perfectly.
Commerce in Action
I realize that when commercials are playing, the volume is always louder. That’s so you can hear the commercial whether you’re in the bathroom or standing in front of an open refrigerator (my two favorite spots during commercial interruptions). Okay, I get it. But what about when you’re streaming Amazon or Netflix? There are no commercials. And still, the music to “Mr. Selfridge” is blaring. If I lower the volume, I can barely make out what anyone is saying. Are they mumbling? Is it their British accent? Or have the actors attended the Marlon Brando School of Mumbling? Continue reading . . .
The other day, I needed heartburn medication and so I went to our kitchen drawer. Food generates heartburn. There’s no sense walking to the master bath for a simple roll of Tums. The kitchen seemed a logical location.
Why is the drawer full?
At first, I couldn’t find the Tums. That’s because the drawer was loaded with over-the-counter medications. From Gas-X to Tagamet to Advil. From Tylenol to Aleve to Mucinex. Alka Seltzer Cold and Flu, Gaviscon, Nexium and chewable Vitamin C. The drawer was brimming with health remedies. It made me wonder. Are we really this ill?
We don’t have a medicine cabinet in our house. Instead, we have drawers in the bathroom that provide ample space for everything we might need. Upon recent inspection, we seem to need a lot. How many first-aid creams are required to heal a cut? Does Airborne protect you when you fly? Does magnesium really support a healthy immune system? We live in a pill-popping society. Perhaps with a healthier diet, we could skip the Pepto-Bismol and Dulcolax.
Once a year, I think about going through all the meds to check expiration dates. But I don’t. It just seems too overwhelming. Instead, I commit to checking before using any of the products. Frankly, I think it’s a waste of time to do that with cough syrup. Robitussin is so disgusting—going bad can only improve the taste.Continue reading . . .
I hate to admit it, but I spend a lot of time looking down. Is this a matter of safety, not wanting to trip, or a reflection of my innate personality? Am I making too much of this? Perhaps. It wouldn’t be the first time.
It isn’t that I’m afraid of falling. My balance is okay. Of course, there are nights when I stumble along in the dark to you know where. When I first step out of bed, my feet are stiff—curled tightly—like claws. Eventually, the muscles relax. I must look like a parrot walking along on the tile, shifting left to right. But no one else is up to see me. Except for the dog. Move, and he’s awake.
It’s not about shoes
I’m not looking down because I’m fascinated with shoes. I could care less. Though in Phoenix, flip-flops almost pass for formal wear. And then there’s the occasional lady in high, spiky heels. It’s amazing to watch her balance on stilts. It’s like watching a circus act without a net.
New York City kid
I think the real reason I look down is based on where I was raised. In New York City, you don’t make eye contact with strangers. Not unless you need something. Otherwise, you’re just asking for trouble. No one wants to be on the end of a hey man, what are you looking at? Best to keep your gaze downward—avoiding the dangerous elements populating your world. Little boys have been beaten up for much less.Continue reading . . .
Growing up in New York City in the 1960s, a poodle lived in our bathroom. Pink, with black eyes and a white bow permanently sewn to its head, it sat atop the back of the toilet tank, beady eyes watching our family during the most intimate of moments. By now you’ve probably guessed that the crocheted body with four tiny legs and a bouncy tail, concealed the extra roll of toilet tissue.
Is this for the company?
When you live in a one bath apartment, there is a decorating dilemma. That single bathroom serves both family and guests. And so along with the poodle cozy, there were decorative hand towels that we didn’t touch. And now that I think about it, I never did see that poodle lying atop the tank disemboweled. That stuffed poodle was a permanent fixture. The order of the day: reach under the sink if you needed to refill the roll.
Years later, the lessons learned in my childhood are hard to shake. And though we don’t have a poodle cozy for the extra roll of toilet tissue, I remain unwilling to use the decorative hand towels. Why should I have this reaction in my own home? It must be the result of my early toilet training.Continue reading . . .
A few weeks ago, I was in New Orleans to celebrate a friend’s birthday. The city seemed to be full of funereal fun. Seriously. The tourist shops were stocked with voodoo dolls, death masks, and skeletons. Everywhere you turned there were signs of decadent decay. Above ground mausoleums—crumbling and creepy. And all the ghost tours. It seemed as if some poor soul had died a violent death on every corner. I guess that’s what happens when a city is situated below sea level. People are macabre.
But it wasn’t until I separated from my traveling companions that I began to remember. New Orleans was where I’d vacationed with Richard, my first partner, some 30 years earlier. He was a 2nd-year ophthalmology resident at Henry Ford Hospital at the time. A year later, after graduating from his residency, obtaining board-certification and landing his first job, he became ill. He died of AIDS in July of 1989. He was only 33 years old.
Startled by the recall
As I walked around the gift shops, I slowly remembered. The pink and purple masks we’d bought that hung on the wall of our first apartment. Our breakfast at Brennan’s when Richard introduced me to Bananas Foster. His delight in Cafe Du Monde and the deep-fried beignets covered in confectionary sugar. We were together again as I examined the handicrafts and listened to the live music in Jackson Square.Continue reading . . .