Read this post for a quick From The Core update...Read More
When I see flashing lights through my rearview mirror, I panic. My heart beats faster and I feel scared. I know I’ve done nothing wrong, all my documentation is in order, but nonetheless, I feel frightened. Most often, the cop car passes, in pursuit of someone else...Read More
When I was in second grade, as recess was ending, a boy in my class, asked me to meet him near the pencil sharpener. The pencil sharpener was mounted on wood cubbies in the back of the classroom...Read More
Well, trying to do those things turns out to be equivalent to not doing them at all. It’s an excuse. Fortunately, as of four weeks ago, after attending a Tony Robbins workshop, I made a change.Read More
In the Syrian Jewish community, there is a word, shatra, which means to serve abundantly, willingly and beautifully. Traditionally, this has been the highest compliment you could give a Syrian woman.Read More
I’m the mother of three sons and I don’t usually get involved, or show much interest, when they discuss Fantasy Football; but when my son, Jack, revealed at dinner that he’d be waxing one of his legs, I got real curious...Read More
Outsider Art refers to art created outside the boundaries of official culture, outside the established art scene. I first heard the term Outsider Art about a month ago when I saw an interview on facebook.
The Outsider Art Fair is this week in New York City (January 21-24) at the Metropolitan Pavilion.
In a New York Times Magazine article, I learned about the Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland, California, where artists who have not had formal art education come to create. The work is considered more pure, raw, than mainstream art. Not always, but sometimes, the artists are physically or emotionally impaired.
In a Huffington Post article, Priscilla Frank discusses how a policeman learned to embrace his creative side.
I love this idea of self-taught art, art without academia.
Maybe it’s because in the eighties, I was accepted to the art program at NYU and things didn’t go well for me there.
In order to get in, I had to show a portfolio. I had to sit through a nerve-wracking interview. And when I got in, I was thrilled to be part of the New York City art community.
Until I wasn’t.
It didn’t go badly at first. In fact, during my first semester in the program, my drawing teacher appreciated and encouraged my style, which was heavily textured, strong contrast, little grey. And lots of white space. She didn’t judge the things I drew: a carrot peeler, an eggbeater, half a grapefruit.
You see I was 19, and newly married. That’s what I had in my apartment. That domesticity was my life.
My photography teacher showed black and white slides (with lots of grey) of a woman wearing a housecoat. This housewife was slumped on the couch, a broom near her side, a cigarette dangled from her lips. My teacher compared these photographs to my own, which told a different story of homemaking. In my photographs, my young son stood smiling and bottomless near a stacked dishwasher; and in a self-portrait, I proudly pushed out my pregnant belly.
The following semester, I had a male teacher. He was a prominent and respected figure in the school. He had a specific belief about art and artists. I didn’t fit into his schema. I was married with a child and I was economically well off, not a starving artist.
Soon enough I felt that I didn’t belong. I can’t tell you why he had such an influence over me but he did. And I learned years later, that he was fired because I wasn’t the only female student he’d bullied and shamed.
After I left the art program, I didn’t draw or paint for a long time. But years later, I made a few collages.
Last year in Israel, I shot an M16. Doing that was a big deal not only because shooting an assault rifle is a big deal, but because I was the kind of mom who wouldn’t buy my children a toy gun.
I was the kid who wore peace sign T-shirts and scribbled the word peace all over my notebooks.
I won’t kill an insect.
But I grew up during a time of relative peace, a time when hippies spewed love and John Lennon sang Imagine.
I didn’t understand until recently that conditions in the world could change, that the harmony I’d experienced my entire life, could vanish.
I believed there would never be another war.
How could there be? Weren’t people smarter? Hadn’t we seen enough destruction in World War II and in Vietnam?
My mother used to tell me stories about the air raid drills she had to participate in during the 50's when she was a young schoolgirl, and how she was instructed to hide under her desk when an alarm rang in order to shield herself from flying glass. She always emphasized the fear, the uncertainty, she felt. I thought those stories to be antiquated, a thing of the past.
I never had to do anything like that.
But my daughter does. At her school, they practice. Students are prepared for a terrorist attack.
It seems that every day now, in the newspaper and on the news, there is a new story involving guns and death.
For so long, I believed we had to get rid of guns.
But then one day recently, I think it was after the shooting in California, I woke up and decided I wanted to learn to shoot. I was done with my Pollyanna attitude. For the first time in my life, the world seemed like a dangerous place.
It’s not that I want to hurt anyone; but I do feel a pull, a calling, to protect my family and myself.
The day after I left Tel-Aviv, four days after I'd shot an M16, there was a shooting just a ten-minute walk from the hotel we stayed at. A gunman killed two innocent people and injured eight outside a bar in the middle of the day.
He got away.
I don’t know if I could ever really own a gun. But the fact that I, a self-proclaimed flower child, could even think about it is significant.
Times are changing.
People change too.
What do children know about their parents? I mean, really know about them.
The thought was sparked recently when I mentioned to my 24-year-old daughter that I couldn’t wait for the weekend so I could begin to read the stack of books on my desk.
“Really? You’re into it?” she asked.
“I saw a Post-it on top of the books. I thought you were miserable about it.”
This is what she saw...
I had written myself a note, a reminder, to buy Stephen King’s book, Misery.
How often do misunderstandings like this happen? How often do parents transmit a message that is not true?
Years ago, I wrote about my 8-year-old son asking, “Mommy, when did you turn Jewish?” in an essay with that same name. Throughout his life, he heard my husband and I debate how religion should be expressed and explored in our home, and as a result, my child did not understand where I stood. He did not understand based on what he'd heard that I’d always been Jewish, and that I had a strong sense of Judaism. And so on Purim, when we baked homemade hamentash, he was confused, and asked me that question.
Just as easily, he could’ve wondered to himself, not asked the question at all, and not given me the opportunity to explain.
Over and over again, parents are assured (or warned) that if we are ourselves, our children will know who we are, whether we want them to or not.
But what if they get conflicting messages?
What if they only know part of a story?
I spent a lot of time researching this topic because now that I have adult children, I want them to know me, the real me, not some fake version, a projected, fantasized view that keeps me stuck in a specific role. I want them to know me with all my flaws and strengths and everything else that makes me human.
But there was nothing. I mean nothing. I could not find one article about this topic. No matter what sequence of words I strung together, every article I found focused on parents knowing their children, and not the other way around.
I found articles titled:
What All Children Want Their Parents to Know, Relating to Adult Children and The Bill of Rights for Parents of Adults.
Of course, it’s important for parents to know their children or, at least, attempt to, especially if you are interested in an intimate relationship; but why is it so difficult, or undervalued or maybe even taboo for children to know their parents?
My kids think they know me — and to a large degree they do. But I think they, along with children around the globe, fill in the spaces with their own ideas, create their own narrative, project and assume.
I’d like to change that.
I think this blog post is my first step.
A friend, Vicky, and I walked in her neighborhood, near her house. A car pulled up and the driver called us over. He asked for directions. It took a few seconds before I noticed; he was exposed and stroking himself.
When the man drove away, Vicky and I ran and hid behind bushes. Peeking through the greenery, we watched as the man circled the block. He slowed, looking for us.
Petrified, we stayed out of sight. We waited for the man to drive away again before we ran back to Vicky’s house. Her mother called the police and when they showed up, they asked us questions.
Looking back, I think we were awfully lucky. Crouching behind those bushes, in essence, made us sitting ducks. At the time, I weighed less than 90 pounds and, in my memory, the man who exposed himself to us looms large. The scary truth is that story could've ended differently.
Some kids are not as lucky. That unpleasant experience occurred just a few years before Etan Patz disappeared and he, and other missing children, appeared on milk cartons.
Those disturbing memories were elicited with the release of the movie, Room, based on the novel written by Emma Donoghue.
(I read the book, Room, a few years back and recommend it.)
The story is about a mother and son held captive in a small room. The book is fiction but it is based on a true story.
Here’s the thing that many people don’t know: Slavery exists today.
And it exists in many countries, including the United States. Cases of human trafficking have been reported in all 50 states. Children are sometimes forced to work in brothels, in sweatshops, in houses as domestic servants, in wars as child soldiers, on farms and in strip clubs.
Putting a stop to all forms of child trafficking is critical to UNICEF's work around the world.
Stop Child Trafficking Now (also called SCTNow) is a nonprofit international organization that does advocacy work attempting to bring an end to child trafficking. SCTNow targets those who sexually abuse children and aims to prosecute and convict them.
Years ago, I read The Slave Next Door by Kevin Bals and Ron Soodalter. The Slave Next Door explores human trafficking and slavery that exists in the United States today.
The book is a call to action, letting us know what we can do to bring an end to these horrific crimes.
“I’m bi now,” Jasmine told Pam and me. Jasmine was a make-up artist at Barney’s. ( I did not "make-up" her fairytale name to serve this post.)
For fun, Pam and I went there before her first date in over 25 years. Her husband, Sandy, an Emmy Award-winning television writer, best dad and husband, all around great guy, had passed away a year before.
"I’m bi by choice,” Jasmine continued. “Women are more honest, more compassionate. Men are little boys. You," she said to Pam, as she dabbed her eyelids with cover-up, "have great energy."
And it’s true, Pam does have great energy. What she didn’t have was a How To manual for dating. The last time she dated, Boy George was a hit singing Karma Chameleon and Blockbuster Video was opening their first store.
A lot has changed since then.
Men don’t come to the door to pick up women anymore.
They don’t bring their date home.
They might, or might not, pay for the meal, or more likely drinks, because a meal, it turns out, is too big of a commitment.
“You’re going to be fine,” Jasmine said to Pam. “You’re an alpha-female.”
In this strange new world, Pam as a single woman, it was hard to discern if Jasmine was flirting.
That night, Pam’s date was lovely. As men of his generation did, he picked her up, and they went to a restaurant together. Once there, confident and comfortable in her own skin, Pam read the menu with her reading glasses on. Not the skinny bitch type, she wasn’t about to order a salad and a piece of grilled fish— dry. She wasn’t that kind of girl. No, she ordered eggplant parmesan just as an alpha-female should. Pam feeling relaxed, took her shoes off under the table.
The evening went well enough. Until it was time to go.
Maybe there was too much salt in the food or maybe it was because Pam had flown in from California that morning but when she attempted to put her shoes back on, she couldn’t. Her feet, mysteriously, blew up, and both her pinky toes refused to be crammed into her shoes.
Her date locked arms with her as she hobbled, her pinky toes dangling, to a taxi outside.
When my husband heard what happened, he laughed and said, “That’s reverse Cinderella!”
Dating can be tough but dating after 50 is a whole different story.
“You have to kiss a hundred frogs before you find a prince,” my friend Susan said.
Susan who got divorced after 20 years of marriage navigated the single world brilliantly. While she was single, we mused over how impossible it seemed to find someone to spend the rest of your life with, especially at such a late stage of the game. A needle in a haystack.
At 50, you know who you are. You can’t lie to yourself like you did when you were 20. At 20, often, the fantasy took over and you forgot to pay attention to his work ethic, his wandering eye, his fear of intimacy, his tendency to drink everyone under the table or that he was a Momma’s Boy. Maybe he was social and loved to entertain, and you liked a more quiet life, but you got married anyway and figured you’d work it out after.
You don’t do that at 50.
At 50, there are things you can’t ignore. And it seemed like an impossible feat to find a match. There were the big things to consider like chemistry, education, religion and lifestyle. But what about weird things like hygiene?
Susan and I would lament; it seemed like too much. Date after date, there were stories.
Once, a man told Susan, on their first date, about his ex-wife. His fury mounted. “Wait until I get my hands around her neck, I’ll fix her wagon. That bitch.”
But Susan took it all in stride. “Dating is like shopping online for shoes,” she said. “You keep clicking until you find the right pair.”
Susan did find her match.
And just the other day someone responded to the new profile picture Pam put up. He wrote,
“Good Morning, Snow White.”
My mother in law is well balanced. She has a chip on both shoulders.
Is there a family relationship more burdened?
Tempting fate, I went to the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) with my daughter-in-law, Margo, last week. We went to hear Elizabeth Gilbert speak about her new book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.
Margo is pragmatic. She is a nurse and scientifically minded. On our way to BAM, Margo rattled off a list of over 32 things she’d done that day, including errands in Brooklyn and New Jersey, tending to her children, helping with homework, meeting with a painter and just before leaving her house, giving an injection to a pregnant friend.
I, on the other hand, tinkered with a story idea for most of the day.
And to tell you the truth, I was feeling a bit down about that. It is hard to stay home, facing an empty screen and have what appears to be nothing accomplished at the end of the day. Of course, I know this is not really true but Elizabeth Gilbert’s message couldn’t have come at a better time. She assured the creative souls in her audience that we were doing exactly what we were supposed to be doing and she encouraged us to keep at it.
She talked about fairy dust and inspiration but she also talked about hard work and perseverance.
She talked about the voices in her head, how they take up space and how she lets them come alive: The Doubter, The Critic, Fear—and while that process didn’t sound so crazy to me, Margo diagnosed her with multiple personality disorder.
You’re probably wondering why my not necessarily artsy daughter-in-law wanted to hear Elizabeth Gilbert talk about creativity, especially considering she is one of the few people in the world who didn't even read Eat Pray Love. Or see the movie.
This is how it happened.
I was supposed to be going to the BAM with my husband but he forgot and bought tickets to the Giants game.
I invited my daughter but she opted out.
My son, Margo’s husband, was going to the football game with his dad and Margo didn't want to stay home. I promised her a drink after the reading and let’s just say it didn’t take a lot of arm-twisting.
My oldest daughter kept smirking, doubting the whole prospect.
But she was wrong; because while Margo and I are not exactly alike (I drink vodka, she drinks tequila) we both loved the event, and the hole-in-the-wall bar we found afterwards with live music. Granted, it was a bit awkward when two men started talking to us but we left soon after and found a great restaurant. I know I’m in the right place when there are vegan options on the menu.
It’s not always easy for us to find time to get together much less share intimacies. But that night, we learned new things about each other.
A mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law: loving each other, respecting each other, caring about each other.
Now that’s art.
That’s Big Magic.