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Saturday, January 24, 2015

A Word From the Weiss

I died and went to heaven.jpg        Sorry that I failed to post a single word last week, but I have a very good excuse.
        I couldn’t because I died and went to heaven.
        No doubt that begs a whole lot of questions, but before you even ask, let me head you off at the pass. No, I cannot tell you if there is actually a Got in himmel (Yiddish for “God in heaven”).
        What I can tell you is that there's no blogging in heaven. Hence, I could not write.
         And God only knows I couldn’t phone.
        I also can tell you that my personal tour of paradise did not start on such a heavenly note.
        It started, rather, with a major milestone in my life – a dreaded one, to be honest – and a need to do something to celebrate it even though I acutely dreaded it (to be perfectly honest).60 is the new 58 at best.jpg
My inability to get into a festive mood was not just a matter of vanity. Sure, turning 60 felt anything but sexy. Far from. Thanks to a sense of impending doom, decline, and eventual decrepitude, the occasion was hitting me harder than entering any other decade had before.
        It didn’t help much that my older brother kept phoning to inform me that despite popular claims that “60 is the new 40,” let’s face it – it was really only “the new 58 at best.”
But a confluence of other unfortunate factors was conspiring to really get me down.We went to New Orleans for my 50th.jpg
I’m not someone who truly relishes parties or being the center of attention. So when I turned 50, a decade ago, I elected to mark the occasion with a family trip to New Orleans, somewhere that I had never been before and had always wanted to go.
It proved to be such a welcome and uplifting distraction that this time around I decided to rely on the same basic formula. So I planned a family trip to Florida’s South Beach, somewhere that I have been countless times before, but have never failed to enjoy.South Beach at night.jpg
As the time approached, though, I began to feel wistful and melancholic thinking about my own mom, who joined us for our original jazz- and jambalaya-filled trek in 2005, but had since departed this earth nearly six years ago.
The real problem, however, was that my daughter had moved to Hong Kong last summer and was still there now. Allegra had just visited home in the fall, and there was no realistic way that she could join us once again.Allegra is still in Hong Kong.JPG
I felt unbearably sad to exclude her, and she felt unbearably sad to be excluded, which only made me feel even more melancholic, not to mention – being a nice Jewish mom – racked with guilt.
I considered postponing the trip until she returned. The problem was that we had no idea when she might be back. Besides, my mid-January birthday coincided perfectly with school break for my son Aidan and his girlfriend Kaitlin, who are both pursuing their Ph. D’s in NYC. But had we waited any longer, they would have been unavailable too.Aidan needed a break.jpg
        Besides, in the preceding few weeks, Aidan had finished writing a book, completed four final papers for school, and covered the NYC Winter Jazzfest for JazzTimes magazine. He needed a vacation, and he needed one now.
What’s a mother to do?
I’ll tell you what I did. I decided to go ahead with plan A and assured Allegra that I would be 60 for a whole year and that we’d have our own private celebration whenever we could be together.
This did little to lift my spirits, however. Or hers. It also did little to discourage her from coming up with wild schemes to try to be there, if only in spirit, in any way that she could.Our hotel, the SBH South Beach Hotel.jpg
We flew down very late on a Sunday night, and she FaceTimed me the moment that we arrived at our lodgings, the SBH South Beach Hotel. I told her how surprised I’d been to walk in and discover that the management had sent up a bottle of champagne for me, along with a mini hazelnut mousse cake encircled by chocolate-covered strawberries.Allegra sent me champagne and strawberries.JPG
        The real surprise, though, was to learn that the management had done no such thing. It was all a gift from Allegra and her wonderful boyfriend JP.
As grateful as I was, I chided her a bit for going to such ridiculous extravagance (even if I had made a similar gesture only a month earlier, sending her flowers and champagne for her 25th birthday, which I had been in absolute agony to miss myself).
Allegra automatically waved off my objections, though, delighting in having managed to arrange this special delivery from halfway around the globe.
        She also divulged that there was something even more extravagant on the way.
        More extravagant? Oy, Got in himmel!Harlan by Riviera pool.jpg
I tried my best over the next few days to cheer up as we engaged in the many pleasures that Miami Beach and its temperate environs have to offer.
lounged beside the nearby pool to which our hotel gave us access (although I was sorely disappointed to discover that it was a small, unheated one and much too cold to swim in).Rick and Harlan after tennis 2015.jpg
My husband and I played tennis almost daily at a small slice of heaven called Flamingo Park with our old friend Rick, who lives down there year-round.
 And each night, we went out to dinner with Aidan, Kaitlin, and their various friends who also live down there.
But when it came to the actual (but still dreaded) birthday, I wanted to keep the event as just a family affair. But not necessarily low-key.Sabrina, Harlan, Pattie, Aidan and Kaitlin.jpg
I figured that we still had to go somewhere worthy of marking a milestone. Somewhere not just very special, but over-the-top. And searching online, I found it.
Barton G., a South Beach restaurant run by renowned Miami caterer Barton G. Weiss, is not just over the top, but truly out of this world.
Everything that we ate there was exceptional, but what made it truly extraordinary was the way that the food was presented, which ranged from whimsical to outright whacky.Barton G cocktail with dry ice.JPG
Most cocktails there include a dry ice popsicle, which envelopes them in a magical cloud of vapor.Barton G Aidan and popcorn shrimp.jpg
Aidan’s appetizer of popcorn shrimp was served in a big, old-fashioned popcorn machine full of freshly popped corn… and succulently breaded trayf.
        My husband's so-called "Samurai Tuna" came with an actual full-sized Samurai sword, and t
he scrumptious surf and turf entrée that Aidan and I shared arrived on a wooden platter embellished with a mammoth knife and fork projecting two feet or so up in the air.Barton G surf and turf.jpg
And the dessert we ordered for the table, called Pot Pie Garden, consisted of five flower pots filled with assorted pies served on a tray of crumbled chocolate cake “soil” complete with a trowel and garden glove (and two blazing sparklers in lieu of candles).Barton G Pot Pie Garden.jpg
After the sparklers had blazed their last, there were some lovely gifts, including a fabulously funky necklace from Aidan and Kaitlin made by a Jewish designer from Paris; a fragrant Magic Muscles massage bar from Lush given by Kaitlin’s friend Sabrina, who joined us; and two pairs of gorgeous earrings from my husband (which I must admit I had picked out myself).Necklace from Aidan and Kaitlin.jpg
As for Allegra’s promised gift, I learned that she had not been joking. “Extravagant” didn’t begin to cover it.
She had bought me a gift certificate for the spa at the ritzy Fontainebleau hotel, perhaps the oldest, grandest, and most immense hotel in all of Miami Beach. This entitled me to a choice of a facial, a manicure and pedicure, or a Swedish massage, as well as a two-course lunch and use of the hotel pool and other spa facilities for the day.
And according to the email announcing the gift, it had set her back a whopping $215.At Barton G with my presents.jpg
I would like to tell you that I was thrilled to receive it, but that is not entirely true.
Of course I appreciated that Allegra felt moved to go to such expense on my behalf. But I was also horrified to have her go to such expense on my behalf.
In fact, I was horrified that anyone would go to such expense on anyone’s behalf.
For in case you haven’t noticed by now, I consider myself to be frugal by nature.
Sure, I like to shop as much as the next woman (especially to shop for my kids). And my husband would probably say that I shop too much (especially for our kids).
But I don’t go in for what I deem to be unnecessary luxuries. I get my nails done once in a blue moon. I go to extraordinary lengths to track down sales and bargains on everything from clothing to restaurants and hotels. And I have only had a professional massage twice in my life – once as a gift, and again last fall when Allegra and I had massages and mani-pedis in Thailand (for which we paid a mere $15 apiece).Massage in Thailand.jpg
I’m not saying that I dreaded going to the spa the way that I dreaded the birthday. Certainly not. It’s just that I’m a nice Jewish mom, so I have this nagging voice inside my head that says, “I don’t need to be pampered, nor do I deserve it. Please give me the broken cookie or smooshed piece of pie. Save the perfect one for someone else.”My mother returned all of my gifts.jpg
Yet Allegra had gone to such trouble to find something that I would enjoy that I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. Nor did I want to seem ungrateful. And I especially did not want to be like my own mother, for whom I always had shopped ardently for birthday gifts, only to have her break my heart by instantly returning almost each and every one.
So I thanked her profusely and tried not to feel so distressed about how wasteful it was to spend good money on something frivolous that I clearly could have lived without.Pattie and Harlan at Orange Blossom 2.JPG
Meanwhile, our week in the sun whizzed by as fast as the tide could wash sand from the beach.
We savored wonderful, leisurely breakfasts each morning at a stylish café around the corner from our hotel called Orange Blossom.La Sandwicherie.jpg
We ate many a lunch at our favorite place in Florida, or perhaps on all the earth, La Sandwicherie, which has the best sandwiches anywhere, heaped with fresh veggies and served with a drizzle of their in-house secret sauce, a tangy and very French mustard vinaigrette.Pina coladas in Miami Beach.jpg
And I stumbled upon the best bargain on the beach, a burger joint on Washington and 14th called Deco that offered delicious frozen pina coladas, margaritas and other tropical drinks during happy hour for a mere $6.75 for two. (How’s that for being frugal?)Birthday dinner with Rick and Lynn.jpg
We also were treated by Rick and his lovely wife Lynn to a lavish birthday dinner, complete with assorted fine wines, elegant French food, and a key lime birthday pie.Sari Pattie and key lime pie.jpg
We had incredible takeout food (and yet another key lime pie!) from world-renowned Joe’s Stone Crabs while visiting our dear friends Arthur and Sari.
And I got to spend an unforgettable afternoon once again visiting my mother’s best friend Nada, sharing many a memory of their years together and of times gone by.My mother's best friend Nada 2015.jpg
But all the while, Allegra’s big splurge on the spa day loomed ahead.
I had decided to save it for our very last day in Miami for several reasons.With Aidand and Kaitlin at Puerta Sagua.jpg
I wanted to spend as much time as possible with Aidan and Kaitlin, who were leaving only a day or two before us to visit her family, who live elsewhere in Florida.
It gave us something to do after we checked out of our hotel on our final morning, since we weren’t flying out until 9 that night.
And of course I wanted to save the best for last and finish the trip with a bang.
That “bang” came a bit earlier than I had expected, and not in a good way.
After checking out at around noon, we had a quick errand to run before going to the spa. We agreed that I would drop my husband off to do it while I drove over to La Sandwicherie to buy one last sandwich to share for dinner on the plane that night.16th Street South Beach.jpg
Then I doubled back to retrieve him. He said that he was waiting on the corner of 16th Street and Collins. But when I arrived, he wasn’t there. I called him. He insisted he was. An argument ensued.
Then he realized that he’d given me the wrong cross street after all. He said he was on 16th Street and Lincoln. It took a while to go through several lights to get there. But when I finally arrived, he wasn’t there either. I called him. He explained his actual location, which was blocks away. Another argument ensued.
By the time I finally found him, 10 minutes later, he was furious and let me know it. This upset me no end.
I hollered back that poor Allegra had spent $215 to give me a restful, relaxing afternoon at a spa, and that this was now impossible because he had already ruined it for me. Ruined my day. We continued screaming at each other all the way to the hotel.Miami museum of contemporary art.jpg
His plan was to go to an art museum while I enjoyed my 50-minute Swedish massage (the option that I’d chosen over the facial and mani-pedi). And I had phoned the hotel in advance to arrange for him to be able to join me by the pool afterwards. But now I didn’t want him on the same planet, let alone anywhere near me. I just wanted to be alone.
        Fontainebleau lobby.jpgAs I made my way through the hotel’s opulent lobby hung with massive crystal chandeliers, I tried to calm down and get ready to submit to luxury, like it or not.
I needn’t have tried so hard. Or worried so much. After a long trek through the hotel’s lengthy corridors, I arrived at the serene and supremely elegant Lapis Spa. What was not to like?
When I’d called to make the appointment, the young woman who booked it had asked whether I preferred to have the massage performed by a man or a woman. Having so little experience with this, I'd asked which one she recommended, and she had replied without hesitation.
        “A man!”
        Then she had said that she was going to give me Lucas.Fontainebleau spa silent room.jpg
Upon arrival, I was given a soft terrycloth robe and flip-flops to put on, a private locker in which to store my belongings, and a quick tour of the lavish facilities, including a quiet waiting room in which I was able to take a quick nap on a chaise longue under a luxurious, furry white throw.I got a robe, slippers, and a nap.JPG
Then I was ushered into another waiting room stocked with fresh fruit, urns filled with vitamin-enriched water, healthy snacks, and herbal tea.
Lucas turned out to be a gorgeous, muscular young man with soap opera good looks and an alluring European accent. He escorted me into a compact, dimly lit room outfitted with a narrow cot and then left briefly so I could disrobe and slip under the sheets.Lucas at the Fontainebleau spa.jpg
         I have always been extremely ticklish, and when he first touched my bare neck and shoulders with chilly hands I tensed up and giggled awkwardly.
         "Sorry, I'm a little nervous," I apologized.
        "Are you nervous because I am a man?" he countered.Fontainebleau massage room.jpg
        This only made me giggle more.
        "Wait -- you're a man!?!" I wanted to reply. But I restrained myself and assured him I was fine.
Then, while ethereal music played softly, he proceeded to firmly rub and knead the skin and muscles of my toes, feet, legs, hands, and back, and almost every other inch of my body.
I sighed. I swooned. I melted into a pool of human Jell-o. Every cell of sorrow I felt dissolved. Any failure or frustration I had ever endured evaporated into the stratosphere.
Not to be trite – and no offense to my husband, wherever the heck he was – but this wasn't just dying and going to heaven. It was better than sex. 
The only disappointing aspect of the entire experience was that it eventually came to an end too soon. (Then again, any time that it came to an end would’ve been too soon!)Fontainebleau hot tub.jpg
No matter. I was now entitled to Fontainebleau spa iced cucumbers.jpgdrown any new sorrows I felt by exploring the rest of the exquisite facilities, including the Lapis Ritual Water Journeys – a circuit of mineral-enriched water therapies from mist to rain and steam.
I basked in the gigantic hot tub while applying iced cucumber slices to my eyelids.
I floated in a palm-tree-lined mineral water pool rimmed with gentle aqua jets.Feeling cool as a cucumber.jpg
Then I repaired to a novel “rain room,” in which warm torrents of heated raindrops cascaded down on my skin.Fontainebleau spa iindoor pool.jpg
By the time I was done, I was ready and even eager to rejoin my husband by the hotel’s immense outdoor pool, where I found him relaxing contentedly under a cabana.Cabana man.jpg

Then I took a leisurely swim, marking languorous laps through the gentle water, which was heated to the perfect temperature (just shy of bath water, yet still refreshing). Although I’d been in Miami for over a week, this was the first time that I’d actually relaxed and completely let go.I finally took the plunge.jpg
The two-course late "lunch" I was then served in Vida, one of many restaurants on the premises, was more than ample enough to be a sumptuous dinner for two (and even too much for us to finish).Fontainebleau salad.jpg
By the time we left for the airport, I was completely sated, incomparably rested, and feeling so upbeat and rejuvenated that I could have sworn I was several years younger.
OK, 60 might not be the new 40, but it was turning out to be the new 52 or so.
I had thought my daughter’s gift was a crazy extravagance. Turns out I had been wrong.The new 60?.jpg
It was, rather, a sane extravagance. I’d found it to be such a complete and unprecedented pleasure that I realized that sometimes excess is anything but wretched. And maybe sometimes I did deserve the perfect piece of pie… or 50 minutes with a hot young guy.
Why, it had been so nice that I almost found myself looking forward to the next milestone birthday, if only so that I might deserve a day at the spa all over again.
Then again, I still have another celebration in store when Allegra finally returns. Maybe this was one rare moment of self-indulgence that deserved a replay.
        Sure, it was pricey, but it was worth it, and so, perhaps, am I. And at the rate that I’m going in reverse, I could end up back at 40, after all.
6:15 pm 

Friday, January 9, 2015

A Word From the Weiss
In with the nu?.jpg
        Out with the old, as they say around this time of year. In with the… nu?
I aim to be as optimistic as anyone when making New Year’s resolutions, but I’m not delusional. A good friend recently declared “No more guilt – especially at our age!” I readily agreed and even sealed it with a toast. But let’s get real. That’s not in the same category as the usual vows to eat less and exercise more. I mean, all that self-improvement mumbo-jumbo is admirable, however improbable. But banning guilt? For a Jew?
        Not within the realm.life is too short to sweat the small stuff.jpg
Instead, I’ve decided to stick with another goal that might help lighten my psychic load (if not the one I measure on my bathroom scale each morning): Don’t sweat the small stuff. That may sound trite, but for me, “Let it go…” is a brand new mantra. I mean, if there were a company called Worry Inc., I’d be its undisputed CEO.The bathroom scale I step on each morning.jpg
But we all have days, like I did last week, when all the small stuff starts to go wrong. And you begin to worry that this is just a harbinger of bigger bad stuff to come. And nobody actually says, “Don’t sweat the big stuff.”
Do they?
Seriously. You might as well tell a nice Jewish mom to hold the guilt.
My small stuff issues actually began in mid-December, when my husband and I learned that our insurance deductible was going up again next year. And when I say “up,” I really mean UP. Up to $10,000, that is. Which really got me down.
It also got me to schedule every medical procedure known to man, or at least every one for which I was due, and pronto. Because we already had met last year’s deductible, so if I had all of those procedures done by December 31st, they would be free.Doctor with stethoscope.jpg
        That meant
instead of sitting around getting a jump start on my New Year’s resolutions (and/or delusions), I found myself submitting to a colonoscopy, two ultrasounds, a mammogram, and blood work.
As nasty as the pre-gaming segment of a colonoscopy may be, let me assure you, if you’ve never had one yourself, that the actual procedure is quick and utterly painless. (Try it. You may not like it, but it’s not that bad!)
The bad thing for me, for many reasons, is my annual mammogram.
hat procedure, although admittedly uncomfortable, is not really so bad either. The bad part for me is the dread about the results.
I’m in what they call a high risk category, you see. It’s not just that I’m an Ashkenazi Jew, meaning that I have a higher probability of developing breast cancer than the general population.Aunt Gloria and my mom Bunnie.jpg
My mother and her only sister both died of breast cancer.
What is most disturbing to me is that the disease was first detected in each of them at around age 60 (although my mother continued to live – in staunch denial – until she was 81).
Never mind that I underwent genetic testing after my mother died and learned, to my infinite relief, that I don’t carry either the dreaded BRCA 1 or 2 genes. I have continued to get my yearly exam right at the end of the year. And every year, as I’ve grown closer to age 60, I have suffered increased trepidation about what it might show.
That reached a pretty decisive and dramatic climax last week, because – as much as I hate to mention it or admit it – I am about to turn 60 next week.About to turn the dreaded 6-0.jpg
Something else I generally hesitate to mention is the, er, shape of my anatomy. To put it delicately, I was a bit of a late bloomer. But ever since I hit puberty, part of me has managed to arrive wherever I go a good minute before the rest.Pattie in gold sequined tunic.jpg
This may sound like a good or even enviable thing, but in many ways it’s really not. It’s not when you are trying to find clothes that actually fit. It’s not when you’re doing vigorous exercise (something that I vow to do more of in the coming year – really, I do!).
And it’s not when you are having tests to check if you have cancer in your breasts.
Regardless of their size, mine are what are classified as “dense” breasts, which makes it harder for possible abnormalities to be detected by a mere mammogram. So my gynecologist recommends that each year I have an ultrasound as well.
Some women elect to space these procedures out by having them six months apart. Given the level of anxiety they cause me, as the CEO of Worry, Inc., I prefer to get them over with in one fell swoop. That swoop this year was scheduled for the day before New Year’s Eve.
To combat my burgeoning anxiety, I planned to get a good night’s sleep the night before. But face it. You can’t will yourself to get a good night’s sleep any more than you can will yourself to lose weight or fall in love. The harder I tried, the worse it went.
I tossed.
I turned.
I watched the red LCD numbers on the clock through the (nearly sleepless) night.I tossed. I turned. I watched the clock.jpg
And I awoke feeling not just far from rested, but nowhere near the top of my game.
Rather, from the moment I got up, everything seemed to be going wrong.
Long before I had scheduled the mammogram for early that afternoon, I had made a hair appointment for that morning so that I would look my best on New Year’s Eve. (So even if I got bad news at the procedure, I would at least still look good. Huh?)Christmas present I wrapped.jpg
Given that it was the holidays, I had wrapped small gifts the night before to give to Luis, my stylist, and the receptionist at the salon along with their holiday tips.
But after a mostly restless night I woke up late with a terrible headache and found it hard to get out of bed. So of course I arrived for my hair appointment 10 minutes late.
And of course while running into the salon from my car, I dropped all of the gifts, and the bows and candy canes that I had carefully taped onto the packages fell off.Luis at United Artists.JPG
This is embarrassing to admit, but along with no longer being the natural redhead I once was, I am allergic to hair dye. So before Luis “touches up” my color every five weeks, I have to pop a Benedryl. I walked into the salon carrying that little pink pill along with all of the packages, but while putting them all back together I misplaced it.
So after arriving 10 minutes late, I had to spend another five minutes finding it.earring in newspaper.jpg
After he was done with my hair, I went to put on the earrings I had removed before he’d started and discovered that one was missing. I took everything out of my purse TWICE before finally finding it wrapped up in the newspaper that I had been reading.
Then I looked for my checkbook because the salon doesn’t take credit cards, and I couldn’t find that either. So I took everything out of my purse all over again – TWICE! – and finally discovered that it had fallen beneath the chair when I had taken everything out the first time (or maybe the second, third or fourth time – who the heck KNOWS?).
On the way home, I stopped at the gas station near the salon and filled up. Then I looked at my watch and realized that I had just enough time to drive home and walk the dog before going to my mammogram. But the gas station I was at has really good coffee -- freshly brewed coffee for ONLY A DOLLAR -- and it was a cold day, and I really wanted a nice hot cup.I really wanted a cup of coffee.jpg
Normally, I’m scrupulous about moving the car to the side of the station before going inside. But I was just pressed enough for time that I decided to leave it for once. So I locked the door with my purse still inside and had this sudden sinking feeling.My keys were locked inside the car.jpg
Then I saw that my keys were sitting on the front seat, and my heart really sank.
My appointment was in less than an hour and miles away. What the heck was I going to do now?
My first impulse was to call AAA (the Automobile Association of America, to which we belong, not Alcoholics Anonymous; I hadn’t been drinking, I can just be absent-minded when I’m overtired or overwhelmed, and in this case I was both).  
The problem was that I was really pressed for time, and they can take awhile to get there. Also, a car can be damaged in the process of trying to open it without the keys. Wouldn’t it make more sense to get home somehow and retrieve a spare set?
So I went right to plan B, which was to call my husband. This being a weekday, he was presumably at work, a good 25 minutes away. But perhaps he could help anyway.My husband is a newspaper reporter.jpg
With luck – my first and possibly only stroke of it that day – my husband, who is a newspaper reporter, said that he had just left a meeting that he had covered and was on his way home to write the story about it there instead of doing it at his office.
He readily agreed to go there, locate my spare keys, and come to rescue me.
        That might sound like my problem was solved, but I was far from convinced. For one thing, he often gets caught in heavy traffic on the way home. For another, finding stuff is, well, not exactly his forte. He is more adept at the losing part of the equation, and I had little confidence that he would be able to find my spare keys.
So while I was waiting, I phoned my cousin, who lives near the gas station. Unfortunately, she was also about 25 minutes away. She offered to come get me, but there was no way she would arrive before he did.
So I waited… and waited… and drank my coffee… and then I waited some more.He brought all the spare keys.jpg
And suddenly my husband pulled up dangling a whole handful of car keys.
The first three sets I tried didn’t do a thing. But when I pressed the clicker on the fourth set, my lights flashed and the door popped open. I was saved in the nick of time.
In fact, I arrived for my appointment 10 minutes early. Could my luck be changing?
I didn’t even dare hope.mammogram image.jpg
I don’t believe that everyone is given their mammogram results right on the spot. In fact, I seriously doubt it. But I am not everyone. I think they take one look at my medical history and choose to have mercy on me. Or maybe I’ve been going there for enough years that it is well known I’m a basket case. At least when it comes to mammograms.
Once again, the procedure was a little uncomfortable, but not unbearably painful. The painful part came after I was ushered back to the cubicle in which I had removed my clothes and was told I would have to wait for my results until a radiologist read them.People magazine with Brooke Shields story.jpgMammogram office waiting room.JPG
Anticipating this, I’d pinched an outdated copy of People magazine from the waiting room. I did my best to distract myself reading about Brooke Shields – her men, her mom, and her crazy life.
        Of course, I was all ears (or at least eyes) about the former Pretty Baby's "shocking new memoir." At least under normal circumstances I would have been.
But under these circumstances all I could think about was my own crazy life and how much longer it might continue.The waiting is the hardest part of mammograms.jpg
After quite awhile, the technician who had done my procedure came back in and told me that the radiologist on duty had just begun performing a biopsy on another patient, so it might be quite a while longer before I heard anything, but I was still welcome to wait.
I told her I would wait for as long as it took and even longer if necessary.
Then I tried to distract myself reading about the Dallas nurse who had survived Ebola. But of course all I could really think about was whether I would survive... whatever I might have.Dallas nurse Amber Vinson survived Ebola.jpg
Finally, after about 20 minutes, the technician returned and told me in a hushed voice and with what looked to me like an ashen face that she needed to do some further testing because there was an “area” that the radiologist really needed to see better.
She also told me apologetically that there would be no more pussyfooting around with the apparatus. The doctor had ordered her to bear down as tightly as possible in order for him to get a better look at this dubious "area."
“I’m going to have to squeeze you in there as much as you can stand it,” she said.
But what she actually did was squeeze me even more than I could stand it. Imagine pie crust being rolled out as thin as a pancake. Only this time the pancake was me.
She squeezed. I screamed. Then I held my breath until she had gotten the picture.Kate Middleton and her royal baby bump.jpg
After that, I went back into the little cubicle down the hall and read about Princess Kate Middleton showing off her royal baby bump. But all I could think about was how much more time I would get to spend with my babies if they found a not-so-royal lump.
Then after what seemed like another eternity, the technician returned and peered at me through the curtain. Her voice was still hushed. But her face was no longer ashen.
“You’re fine,” she said. “All clear!”
Just like that.
This might have been cause for celebration. Or at least cause for me to give a deep sigh of relief. But I’d already scheduled the ultrasound to be performed right after.
So as promising as this seemed, all it really meant was that I’d get to do it all over again.
Sure, there was a moment when I regretted that one fell swoop business. I could’ve used another six months to recover from the stress I already had endured. But I was already there and dressed in a cotton gown open in the front. Why not get it over with?ultrasound of a breast.jpg
Soon a different technician appeared to usher me into another exam room. I had to lie down this time and raise first one arm above my head and then the other. I tried to stay calm as she squirted a thick goop all over my chest. At least the goop was warm.ultrasound of someone's breast.jpg
Perhaps the other woman had told her about the delay that I had endured already. Or maybe the radiologist was no longer otherwise engaged. But this time there was only minimal waiting while she scooted down the hall before returning with my films.
And a broad smile.
This was a more sensitive test than the mammogram. And it, too, was all clear.
       I was halfway to the elevator before I realized that I was still clutching that People magazine to my chest. And although I barely had digested a word of it, I went back and returned it to the waiting room. I had my own people and life to worry about.
       A life that would continue for at least a little bit longer.
       All clear for a happy new year.JPGAs I drove out of the garage, I realized that I’d misplaced the parking ticket I’d had stamped, and I had to empty my purse – YET AGAIN! Then a pushy lady in another car barged in front of me seconds before my allotted time was up and I would have to pay.
        No matter. I was clear. All clear!
       It would be a happy new year indeed.
       Besides, although I might still be racked with guilt, I was no longer sweating the small stuff. And even if I might still sweat the big stuff, there was none of it to sweat – yet.
        I was clear. All clear! At least for another year.
11:59 pm 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Word From the Weiss

        Happy New Year and, yes, happy Jew Year from NiceJewishMom.com!New Year's Eve 2014 from Pattie and Harlan.jpg
Every year at around this time, they (whomever “they” may be) come up with the word of the year. You know. The one that everyone used. Or maybe even overused.
Like “like.”
In 2013, the year before last, that word was “selfie,” something that we all did, said, and certainly saw way too much… yet continued to do, see, and say even more in 2014.
The new word, according to the folks at Chambers Dictionary, whatever that is: “overshare.”
Wait. That’s a word? Who knew? Certainly not me. I’m a blogger. I share, therefore I am. Do I share too much? Really? I only wish I had more to share. And if I did, I would.
Isn’t the point of social media to share? Share and share alike and also, like, “like?”I share therefore I am.jpg
Whatever (also an overused word, if I ever heard or used one).
In the interests of not “oversharing,” for once, I will not treat you to – or bore you with – any juicy or possibly Jewy details of my very lovely New Year’s Eve... including what we ate or what we drank (for to tell you how much we over-imbibed would truly be oversharing).New Year's Eve 2014 toast.jpg
Suffice it to say that it was a pleasure and an honor as always to ring in the new with old friends.
But seriously.
        Has another year really come and gone?
        Where the heck was I?
Don’t answer that. Rhetorical question. I've been here, and I’ve been there. In fact, this year has been a far far farther-away thing, geographically, than any year I’ve ever known before. I went to Asia and back and lived to tell about it… and then write about it.Baby monkey in Bangkok with Harlan and Pattie.JPG
Come to think of it, I never did finish writing about it here. Maybe I will next week. For now, I just want to let this year go out with a bang. And also an unusually short blog. No whimpering (or whining) from me.
After all, all things considered, it's been a pretty good one. Yes, there has been some serious chaos in the world at large, and some profound losses closer to home.Uncle Gerard and me.JPG
But when I sat down to make my annual holiday photo montage this week, I pored over all the pix I had taken in the past 12 months and was stunned to see how many there were. And how many of them showed good times spent with my kids.
There’s nothing better than that. Aidan, Kaitlin, Allegra and Pattie after Purim 2014.jpg
It was overwhelming to choose from among the many wonderful things we’d done.
It was also gratifying to realize that this was perhaps the most productive year ever – for my kids, anyway. As you will see on the holiday card pictured below.Allegra and Aidan at Black-Eyed Sally's.jpg
        Among the highlights (although it is not shown on the holiday card), was the recent night that Allegra sang songs from her new CD while Aidan played along on his bari saxophone. Two doses of naches for the price of one! I tried to keep my maternal pride and picture-snapping down to a dull roar. (Never mind the ecstasy on her face. Believe me, the pleasure was mostly mine.)Nice Jewish Mom Spiel of approval.jpg
        Speaking of pleasure, I can once again say without reservation that it would not have been nearly as good a year for me without all of you, my readers. There are more of you than ever now (over 2,300 just last month). You help give me a sense of purpose. You give me another reason to live, if only so I can then write about it here.
        I blog – and share (OK, so maybe I even overshare) – therefore I am.
        When I began filling this space, over four years ago, I feared that there might come a dry week now and then, when I would have nothing much to say for myself. But once again, it turned out that I needn't have worried. Whether they’re reasons to kvetch or better yet kvell, when you're a nice Jewish mom, as Gilda woulda said, there's always something.New Year's Eve 2014 Latke and friends.jpg
        I hope that the coming months will bring more of the former than the latter for you. As it says on the card below, I'm all ready for better days ahead and to start with a clean slate. Aren't you?
        Until then, let me wish you a happy and a healthy from my nice Jewish dog Latke, me, and NiceJewishMom.com!
Happy New Year 2014.jpg
10:03 pm 

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That's me. The redhead on the right. But that is NOT my baby.

     No, sir, that's not my baby. How could any mother smile beatifically while her own child wailed? Never mind that neither of my offspring ever cried so plaintively, as far as I recall (not while I was there to nurture them through their every perceptible need... although my son still complains that I often dressed him in garish and girlish color schemes, scarring him FOR LIFE).
     Besides, I'm distinctly beyond prime delivery age ("Kitchen's closed!" as my mother might say), and my kids had departed the diaper stage by the dawn of the Clinton Administration. Now in their 20s, both are currently living on their own, in not-too-distant cities, although each manages to phone me daily. In fact, to be exact, several times a day, then sometimes text me, too. (That may sound excessive, and emotionally regressive, but I subscribe to the Jewish mother's creed when it comes to conversing with kinder: Too much is never enough.)
     Two demanding decades spent raising two kids who are kind, highly productive and multi-talented, who generally wear clean underwear (as far as I can tell), and who by all visible signs don't detest me are my main credentials for daring to dole out advice in the motherhood department.
     Presenting myself as an authority on all matters Jewish may be trickier to justify.
     Yes, I was raised Jewish and am biologically an unadulterated, undisputable, purebred Yiddisheh mama. I'm known for making a melt-in-your-mouth brisket, not to mention the world's airiest matzah balls this side of Brooklyn. My longtime avocation is writing lyrics for Purim shpiels based on popular Broadway productions, from "South Pers-cific" to "The Zion Queen." Then again, I'm no rabbi or Talmudic scholar. I can't even sing "Hatikvah" or recite the Birkat Hamazon. Raised resoundingly Reform, I don't keep kosher, can barely curse in Yiddish, and haven't set foot in Israel since I was a zaftig teen.
     Even so, as a longtime writer and ever-active mother, I think I have something to say about being Jewish and a mom in these manic and maternally challenging times. I hope something I say means something to you. Welcome to my nice Jewish world!   
In coming weeks, I will continue posting more personal observations, rants, and even recipes (Jewish and otherwise). So keep reading, come back often, and please tell all of your friends, Facebook buddies, and everyone else you know that NiceJewishMom.com is THE BOMB!
The family that eats together (and maybe even Tweets together): That's my son Aidan, me, my daughter Allegra, and Harlan, my husband for more than 26 years, all out for Sunday brunch on a nice summer weekend in New York.

Comments? Questions? Just want to kvetch? Please go to GUESTBOOK/COMMENTS.