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I have tried, oh have I tried, to understand football.

If football passion is contagious, I should have contracted a rabid case long ago. My father, husband and son live and breathe it. For as long as I can remember, weekends during football season have revolved around our teams’ schedules. And today, Super Sunday? My husband calls it “the holiest day of the year.”

I just don’t get it.

Now,  football culture, that I like. Crisp fall Saturdays dappled with sunshine, the marching band, the cheers and the aroma of hot dogs, and thermoses of hot chocolate. I’m down with that.

But the men in my family long ago lost patience with my inability to understand the game. How many times have they repeated the ABCs of football at the most basic level? And each time, their hopeless student failed miserably. Football terminology is as elusive as Mandarin Chinese to me. (Secondary? Hail Mary? Split End?) After a few minutes my eyes glaze over and my brain says no way, Jose.

say what?

In my dogged pursuit to enjoy this silly game, I force myself to watch, pretending to be interested and trying hard to disguise my cluelessness. It usually goes like this. Until Something Big happens I can stare at the screen and simultaneously plan my weekly grocery list. No one is the wiser. All of a sudden there is excitement. Something BIG has happened. The crowd goes wild and there’s a whoop from my husband.  “All rightttt!” he claps loudly. Duncan wags his tail in canine appreciation. “What happened?” I ask my husband tentatively. His eyes are glued on the set. “Um, what happened?” I repeat. His smile fades. He sighs with thinly veiled exasperation and starts to explain, his eyes not leaving the screen. His voice trails off, and I let it go. it doesn’t matter. Whatever he tells me, I won’t understand, anyway.

So tonight I will sit through this snooze fest whose only redeeming quality is the punctuation of amusing commercials. And I’ll get to work on my grocery list.

Retirement U

Assuming our good health continues, my husband and I will continue living in our home in the leafy suburbs where we’ve raised our children. We considered relinquishing the flora and fauna for a cute pied-à-terre as some of our empty nester friends have quite happily done, but we are too attached to our home and the neighborhood. We’re staying.

We’ve taken good care of ourselves. We eat healthy most of the time (if you don’t count the occasional movie popcorn for dinner and a few other other bad habits involving chocolate) and we exercise. Well, he exercises. I don workout gear and imagine myself running and lunging, burning calories, feeling that adrenaline rush. Then I sit down and pick up a book.

Someday, we could face the decision that confronts many seniors: the need to move to assisted living. Obviously, I hope this will be a long ways off, but it’s not too soon to start thinking about it.

“Our next home has to feel like home,” I told my husband. “I want us to feel good about it. No regrets.”

As boomers, our numbers will translate into a huge demand for these facilities. I started to imagine the ideal accommodations for us and our friends. What features would inspire us to sell the old homestead, not with sorrow but with anticipation for the move? What would it take to make us feel positive about making this lifestyle change? What would feel like a home away from home?

A tall order, I know. But then it hit me. You know how they say the college years are the best years of your life? Remember how fast those fabulous years flew by?

What if moving to a retirement facility was like returning to college?

memory lane, sign

Picture this: a place just for nostalgic 60s and 70s flower children. How much fun would it be to walk down memory lane on the grounds of a facility that simulates the quintessential college campus of our heyday? Direct out of central casting, you’ve got your ivy-covered halls, your grassy lawn for frisbee throwing, your meal plan in the dining hall. Dorm rooms are furnished with lumpy beds or a waterbed or simply a mattress on the floor covered with an Indian blanket.

Taped to the cinderblock walls are posters of favorite musicians (Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull and the Moody Blues) and movies (Love Story, American Graffiti, The Godfather) and sports (Dorothy Hamill, Muhammad Ali, Nadia Comenici, Seattle Slew).

Classes may be taken but they are all pass/pass. You get credit for just showing up on time. Forgot to drop/add? Not a problem; the professors are understanding. Out on the quad there are benches with sensible backs for mid-afternoon bull sessions, with rock and roll music wafting through the air on a sound system turned up extra loud. Former SDS members might stage a sit-in in front of the administration building with demands for greater representation. Assistants are on hand to help them stand up.

How about late night “rap sessions” at 8 p.m. before the R.A. tells us it’s time to turn in? Instead of pondering the meaning of life, which we pretty much get by now, we would play “Name that Alma Mater Tune” and give the old brain cells a workout.

My fantasy is all in fun and I mean no disrespect. But when I think back to a time when life was ripe with promise and dreams were yours to follow, I like to think that it could happen again.

Today the women of GenFab are doing a bloghop on “Fashion Disasters” from our past.

This topic gave me pause. Fashion disasters? I knew there were many. But I needed some inspiration, so I pulled several old photo albums off the shelf and started paging through.

I revisited some scary fashion moments: saddle shoes … hot pants … white go-go boots … halter tops … clunky clogs … the list goes on.

But with the turn of each yellowing page, I came to realize that no fashion faux pas, not one, could surpass the extreme fashion dysfunction of my hair.

I was born with naturally curly hair, a gift from my dad’s gene pool. If you need to know the humidity level outside, just check out the curl index on our heads.

As a kid, I didn’t know from hairdos and don’ts. It honestly never crossed my radar. All I cared about was horseback riding and playing outside and reading books.


My high school graduation. Was I barefoot?

With adolescence, well, everything changed. I spent less time with riding lessons and more time dreaming about boys. It was the late 60s/early 70s, the era to let it all hang out. I grew my hair long like everyone else. The curls changed into frizz but that was OK. Long frizzy hair was au courant, and I liked to think that my hair resembled Carole King’s on the cover of Tapestry.

But then, my world turned upside down. Frizzy hair was OUT. Straight hair was IN.

And the battle commenced.

I wanted straight hair. I craved straight hair. I would do anything to have straight hair.

I tried giant curlers and orange juice cans, wrapping my wet hair around them and securing them with bobby pins or clips. I slept on all those curlers. In the morning my hair would be straight with bobby pin ridges near the scalp.

frizzy hair

This was my very short, very frizzy do,. The party hats adds a touch of je ne sais quoi.

The iron came next. Not the flat iron we know today. A real pressing-the-clothes iron. I spread my frizzy locks on the ironing board and got to work. The ends were flattened but the rest was as frizzy as ever. A disaster.

I wrapped my wet hair around my head and taped it, a self-contained turban. In the morning my hair was straight but stuck straight out. Not a good look.

Remember the hair straightening products, like U.N.C.U.R.L. and Curl Free? I thought that this would be the answer to my prayers. The first try didn’t work. So I tried it again. This time, the chemical warfare resulted in straight listless hair for about two days. A week later, I tried another application. My beleaguered locks waved a white flag of surrender and, section by section, broke off and slid disconsolately to the floor. frizzy hair, curly hair

I ended up with very short hair for a while.

At long last, blow dryers were invented. Finally, something that worked, as long as it was a day with low humidity and I didn’t perspire and didn’t get my hair wet, any of which would cause all the hair blowing effort to have been for naught.

A few summers ago we were without power for about three days. I shampooed my hair at home, covered it with a hat and sneaked into the ladies room as soon as I got to work to blow it dry. One day I was detained and arrived with my hair a curly mop. As I slunk to my office, more than one person greeted me with “You got a perm!”

Nope. Just another bad hair day.

There’s more! Read what other GenFab women have to say about their fashion foibles below.

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My cheerfulness sounds forced to me as I chatter incessantly on the way to the airport. There is little traffic, and for once I wish for a delay, just a short delay so I can sit beside my son a little longer. I pull up to the terminal and get out to say goodbye, wrapping my arms around him and wishing him a safe flight. Don’t forget to text me when you land, I call out. I watch as he lugs his bag over the curb and makes his way to the entrance. He turns to wave, then disappears into the crowd of holiday travelers. adult son, airport, Philadelphia, luggage, travel, international, airplane, leaving

And with that, the last of my three children has left the family nest for a home many miles away.

I come back to a house that is much too quiet, devoid of the shrieks of laughter, good-natured ribbing and late night comings and goings that marked my children’s stay over the holiday season. My husband is already going from room to room, picking up a stray sock or an empty soda can, getting our house back in order. Tomorrow I will return to my normal routine, but tonight I will wallow in a bit of sadness.

My son and two daughters have grown up to be delightful young adults, funny, thoughtful, affectionate. We have great times together.

Problem is, we just don’t see each other all that often.

For the past six years my son Evan has lived in England, a whopping 3,500 miles from our home outside Philadelphia.

Last June my daughter Emily moved to Montana, just a hop, skip and a 2,200 mile jump from home.

And Laurie, my youngest, lives the closest, just 100 miles away. But it wouldn’t surprise us one bit if her next move takes her just as far away as her siblings.

Where our children get this wanderlust, don’t ask me. I’m pretty much a homebody who thinks the best part of a trip is coming home, and my husband feels the same.

I’m reminded of the lyrics sung by Carole King: “So far away, why doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?” Families used to stay together, sometimes out of necessity but other times just because … well, because that was home. For some, multi-generational households made sense, financially and otherwise. Growing up, most of my relatives lived nearby.

My husband and I raised our family just an hour from my hometown where my parents still reside. In my mind, that’s the way things should be. An hour away is about right.

Not so with my children.

My husband is sympathetic, to a point. He misses them, too, but is adjusting quite easily to being an empty nester. I have mixed feelings.

In a way, I would prefer my little chickens to repopulate the coop. But I know that’s not the way it should be.

Because as much as I miss them, I am proud of them for being self-confident, ambitious and adventurous. I admire their sense of independence. I love that they are savoring new experiences and learning about different parts of the world. Knowing that they are healthy and happy and living life to the fullest is truly the best feeling a parent can have.

And in their absence, new technologies have given us many unexpected ways to stay in touch. If we can’t reach out and hug each other, Skype, Facebook, texting and Instagram are the next best things.

I don’t know when we will be together again, but we’ve got their rooms ready. Just in case.

bus, school bus, children, school childrenLike the rest of the world, I’ve been grieving for the loss of life in Newtown. Like the rest of the world, I’m sad, angry and frustrated beyond words. I have shed tears for the sweet children and heroic adults who were exterminated in a brief barrage of a semi-automatic weapon: a weapon that should never, ever be available to any citizen.

Seven year-old children and the teachers who nurtured them were obliterated. It doesn’t seem possible, this horrifying nightmare. It happened in Newtown. It could have happened anywhere.

The untold anguish of the parents, families and members of the Newtown community is impossible for me to fully know. If my sorrow is so deep, how excruciating is their pain? What gives them the courage to go on?  I think about them and their lives which have been irrevocably and horribly savaged. And what about children everywhere, even beyond Newtown, whose innocence is shattered and whose fears may not easily be quelled?

Glued to CNN, I am flabbergasted by the facts and statistics I have learned.

I mourned the tragedies at Columbine, Aurora, Virginia Tech, and others. I bemoaned our violent society, worried about copycat shootings in the aftermath, shared outrage with my family and friends. In the end, however, we resigned ourselves to the fact that nothing would change. The NRA was way too powerful and politicians were way too meek.

Like most of the rest of the world, I did little outside of talking about it. Yes, I hugged my children tighter. That made me feel better, but did nothing to address the larger issue of gun violence, which is something that affects us all.

This time, things are different.

Some are saying that the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School has turned the tide of public opinion. I vow that it has awakened something in me. No longer will I passively sit by and accept this impenetrable culture of gun worship. I no longer feel impotent and unnoticed.

With public outrage at its zenith, with strength in numbers, now is the time to make our voices heard. My fellow blogger, Sharon Hodor Greenthal, has provided ways you can help in this post.

I am making phone calls and writing letters to my legislators and imploring them to support new legislation on gun control. I will add my voice to the growing chorus of mothers, fathers and families who will not stand for this anymore.

When evil shadows good, it is our responsibility to make our world right again. It must happen now.

Will you please join me?

More reading on this topic from bloggers:

On a wintry January day almost 31 years ago, Destiny opened the door, beckoned, and twirled me onto the dance floor with the man of my dreams.

I was clearing my desk at the end of the work day when the crackle of a radio broadcast caught my attention. I walked outside my office and saw our secretary, Mary, listening closely. This was before  the Internet, mind you, when we didn’t know what was happening every minute.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

Mary, the clucking grandmother type, looked worried. “It’s bad out there,” she said. “Already eight inches of snow, and everything is covered with ice. Accidents everywhere. You didn’t drive, did you?”

Why I didn’t take the train that day, I don’t remember. My car was in a lot several blocks away, and I had a long ride home.

The rush of cold air made me gasp as I exited the building, and I paused under the overhanging eave to assess the conditions. About a dozen pedestrians huddled together seeking protection from the pelting snow and ice.

“I heard they closed the expressway in both directions,” said one.

“Traffic is supposedly at a standstill,” said another.

“The roads are a sheet of ice,” chimed in a third. “I almost killed myself trying to cross the street.”

I half listened, half tried to work out my escape plan. A little voice was telling me something. But that little voice was deeper than mine. I turned to find a total stranger trying to get my attention.

“Do you have far to go?” he asked.

I told him about my car being a few blocks away, and my typical 40 minute drive out to the suburbs. I asked about him.

“I live in West Philly, but when I saw it was snowing I thought I’d take the subway down to Third Street Jazz to check out some new music.”

Is he crazy? I wondered. Who would do that in this kind of weather?

I would soon find out that yes, Pete would do that. And that’s who it was. Pete. My future husband.

With the snow falling all around us, we continued talking. I started to like this funny and good looking guy.  When he asked if I wanted to grab a cup of coffee at the Chock Full o’ Nuts across the street, I agreed, and we spent the next hour sharing stories of our lives while the storm raged outside. Turns out we were the same age. We both loved books and sports and worked in the city. I recently got my MBA; he was applying to law school.

We looked out the window. The street wasn’t as crowded, but the storm raged on. For a moment we sat in silence. Is it going to end this way? I wondered. Will I see him again?

He glanced at his watch.  “There’s a great restaurant a couple of blocks from here, Warsaw Cafe. Can you stay?”

I hesitated. What are you thinking?? I silently admonished myself. Are you kidding? He’s a perfect stranger! How do you know he isn’t a smooth talking serial killer? I am horrified at your lack of common sense. Tell him no. Right now.

“I’d love to,” I said.

The restaurant was warm and intimate. Over candlelight I told him about a book I had read that he might enjoy, The White Hotel. He asked if I liked Big Five basketball at the Palestra. We compared notes on our favorite players.

As we left the restaurant, the snow was falling softly. He walked me to my car and waited while I unlocked the door.

The snow swirled and danced around us. I fleetingly thought of reaching up to  brush away the snowflakes on his hair. I wanted to. But I didn’t.

We exchanged phone numbers and said our goodbyes, and he disappeared around the corner.  As I slowly made my way home, I relived every moment of this magical evening. He could be my soul mate, I thought. Will I ever see him again?

wedding. marriage, toast, champagne, bridal gown, flowers


Want to read how other women met their significant others? Take a look at the posts my GenFab blogger friends contributed to this blogroll here.

Words Escape Me

Holiday season is upon us. Ah yes, the family get togethers, the office parties, the presents. Lots of merriment, twinkling lights and auld lang syne. And of course, the festive meals.

Thanksgiving, holiday, turkey, sweet potatoes, jello, stuffing, plate, dinner

our Thanksgiving dinner

Lest it go unnoticed in the hubbub, however, may I point out that the 2012 “Word of the Year” has been announced?

The Oxford English Dictionary has named omnishambles, meaning a “situation which is shambolic from every possible angle,” the winner this year.

According to BBC News, the shortlist also included Eurogeddon, “the threatened financial collapse in the eurozone,” and mummy porn, a “genre inspired by the 50 Shades books.

I eat this stuff up like handfuls of popcorn at the movies.

And so, as is tradition in this blog (well, OK, this is the second year) I offer you the official holiday edition of:

Books is Wonderful 2012 Words of the Year

BindersFullofWomen’sRecipes: a collection of yellowed scraps of paper including Aunt Rose’s foolproof mashed potatoes

CrispChristie: the New Jersey governor tartly deflecting a Twinkie defense

Fatulence: embarrassing stomach sounds as one’s pants get tighter

HomecookedLand: Carrie takes a day off to uncover the secrets of her kitchen

MiddleYeastConflict: a tense situation sparked by differing opinions on how to bake bread

NobelPeacePie: making the same dessert year after year to avoid arguments

SevenNaturalWonderBread: a miracle that this miasma of chemicals was considered food

Stuffington Post: endless topics of conversation due to the inability to leave the table

The Food Hangover: Misadventures of three zany guys who OD’ed on the desserts

WarrenBuffet: a wealth of culinary riches on the holiday table

related: SageLeavesofOmaha

Wolf Blintz-er: CNN reporting live from the delicatessen

WontonAbbey: Lady Mary ordering takeout on Cook’s night off

… and when planning your holiday parties, don’t forget to invite these celebrities: Paris Stilton, Susan SaranWrap, Beans Affleck, Robert Poulet, CranJerry Seinfeld, Salad Field, Potatum O’Neal, Cake Gyllenhaal, BrusselSproutCrowe, and Carrots Fisher!

You can read Books is Wonderful’s 2011 Words here.

Do you have a Thanksgiving recipe that is sacrosanct, one that your family will not let you waver from, or — perish the thought — omit from the menu? In my family it’s a festive jello mold that is the heralded star of the show.

Jello mold? you ask with a raised eyebrow. That ghastly relic of which surely no one on the Food Network would dare speak? A hideous affront to gourmands of all persuasions? The slut of 50s cuisine, if you will — indiscriminate, always available, and dolled up with mini marshmallows, canned peaches or Maraschino cherries, whispering, ‘take me, I’m easy’.

But wait. Our Thanksgiving favorite deserves some respect. Made with cherry jello and studded with fresh cranberries, chopped walnuts and celery, it can be made wayyyy in advance and forgotten about until the turkey is being carved. With just the right balance of sweet, tart, and crunchy, it is a perfect accompaniment to the meal. I usually double the recipe to serve 12-14.

Jell-o, Thanksgiving, side dish, turkey, festive, dinner, crunchy, jello mold

I don’t know what age I was when my mother first made this dish. But I can totally imagine my gastronomical rapture upon tasting the first forkful. Henceforth known as Leenzil’s Thanksgiving Salad, it has been on my family’s table ever since.

Thanksgiving, menu, holiday, jello, eating, gastronomy

My mother submitted Leenzil’s Thanksgiving Salad to our synagogue’s cookbook under my name years ago. This is a photo of that page.

Oh, and the Leenzil part? That was my dad’s nickname for me.

Happy Thanksgiving, and bon appetit!

As an adolescent I was grateful for my mother’s critical eye in the dressing room. Mom never pulled any punches. Contrary to the obsequious store attendants who burbled that everything, even the dress with the awful horizontal stripes, looked fabulous on me, my mother would shut that down before you could say Villager and Ladybug. Her discerning eye picked up the slightest issue, the most microscopic of bulges, and with a simple “Do you see how that’s gathering?” I knew that garment was toast. mod clothes, 1960s, fashion, women's clothes, mini skirts

As I tried on item after item our eyes would meet in the three-way mirror. No words were necessary. A cheerful smile indicated that something fit nicely and won her seal of approval. A sorrowful shake of the head translated into “It just doesn’t flatter you.”

She was unerringly right, my mom. I went through an awkward stage for, oh, ten years? I wasn’t built like most of the other girls. I matured early and was bigger and taller, with curves. Fitting those curves into fashionable clothes was no easy task.

I seldom challenged her opinions, trusting her fashion instincts way more than mine. And even though our system generally yielded around a 25% purchase rate, I felt confident that the items tucked in our shopping bag were meant to be mine.

I am reminded of this experience more often that not these days as I venture into a dressing room. My ever-evolving boomer body presents a whole new set of challenges. I stare at myself in the mirror, suck in my gut and turn this way and that, looking for the imperfection that will scream “WRONG FOR YOU!” Is it too “form fitting” (Mom’s words for tight), too revealing, too young, too old, too bright? Not black?

I should know by this point, right? But too often I get home, try on the new purchase, and scold myself. “What were you thinking?”

How about you? Do you need a buddy in the dressing room?

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