Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Where There Is a Kim There Is a Way

Although we are not able to socialize with our friends in person these days, I feel lucky to live right near a few good friends that I see from a distance when we are out walking the dog each day. One of which, is actually making this whole quarantine thing fun each day. For those of you who have never met Kim Wilson, I feel a bit sad for you. This human brings joy to everyone she meets, just with her bubbly energy alone. To add to that, she is always up for something fun. She is positive, enthusiastic, creative and driven. I met her at our children's elementary school when "we" first started there. She is one of those moms who is always involved, but it never looks trying to her.

Over the last few years, Kim and I have collaborated on countless events, projects and fundraisers. She is one of my favorite people to team up with because no matter how concerned or overwhelmed I get with it all coming together, she is always confident and calm that it will be fine. So far she has never been wrong on this. Even if we run into bumps in the road, Kim is resourceful enough to get any train back on the track. She is one of the only people I know that is clearly an adult, but has this wonderful ability to be youthful and silly. I love the ideas she has and I love joining her in making those ideas happen.

Over the first few weeks when we were stuck at home I made a scavenger hunt for my kids and once they found everything, they left it all in place for Kim's kids to find too. The next day, she and her kids painted rocks for my kids to find. Not long after, more and more neighbors from the complex joined in to leave painted rocks for people to admire. Each day, when I am out walking, if I see Kim's patio door is open, I call up and say "Hello Kim" and if she can hear me she comes out to say hello. From a story above me, she has become my Juliet, saving me from these strange times. We talk about gardening projects, sourdough bread, sewing masks for neighbors who need them, obstacle courses to draw the kids, homeschooling, and what we are making for dinner.

There is a lot we have in common. In normal times we would go for walks together, spend summer days hanging out by our pool. We shared a passion for plant-based recipes, health and wellness. We helped our daughters create their popsicle business "Popcycle" by making homemade popsicles with them so they could sell them from their bicycles the last two summers. Our daughters both grew their hair long so they could cut and donate their hair at the same time.

To say we come from different backgrounds is an understatement. Kim is a practicing Mormon, who grew up on a farm in Utah. I am a not-so-religious Jewish girl from Flushing, Queens. She once realized that by the time she turns 45 she will be an empty nester, and I responded that at 45, I would be standing right here talking to her. Despite these differences, we are very close. I enjoy our friendship daily and I am so grateful for her. Just when I get down about being stuck at home, Kim is there on her terrace reminding me that we can do this.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Time Traveling

For a sentimental, change-averse sap like myself, all of the cliches about childhood passing too quickly hold true. At this moment in time, everything has slowed down. My kids are the same age they were when this lockdown all started but it feels like they have been quarantined for a year already. I have said so many times in the past  that I wished I could freeze time, slow down the clock and keep them little just a little bit longer. Well, my wish seems to have been granted. The aspect of my mothering that doesn't like to let go is getting a chance to thrive here.

There is no need for anyone to chime in with "be careful what you wish for." Savoring every moment with your family isn't always a picnic. We are all having a good day here if we each only cry once a day, myself included. Little quirks in my family members are magnified too largely to ignore. The small stuff is starting to cause me a lot more than just sweat. Clutter in my house seems impossible for me to walk by. No matter how much I clean the house, I can't seem to finish cleaning it. My husband and I used to argue playfully about who had to take the dog out and now we beg to be the one who gets to walk her. I don't have enough silence, personal space or alone time. I am annoyed, frustrated, angry, tired, upset and yet I still know I am lucky. I am home, I am safe, I am healthy.

This was the time that as a family we were going to be traveling for a few months. We had planned to do it this year because the second half of sixth and second grade were mostly review that we could do while traveling. We knew after these two grades, work academically would begin to get more challenging. We planned on this age because we knew they were both young enough, and old enough to enjoy travel. We also hoped that being on a traveling adventure would bond us even tighter as a family. As news of Covid-19 began to unravel every idea of traveling, one by one like stitches in a loose seam, I began to grieve.

This time has provided us with some of the elements of what I wanted out of a big international trip. I wasn't thrilled with middle school for my daughter. I am honestly relieved she doesn't have to finish out sixth grade at school. We are bonding together closely as a family, through thick and think. My kids are each other's best friends now, and it shows. When my kids were afraid of something unknown ahead of them, I used to tell them that the flip side of being afraid is being excited. I go between those two feelings often now and am learning to stay positive as much as possible. I am not hiding my rainbow of emotions from my children right now. I am hoping that showing them that it is okay to feel feelings right now and that we are all in this weird thing together. Its okay to acknowledge it's hard and to let them know they are doing so well dealing with it all. As hard as this all is, I think all of us will look back at this time with fondness for the time we've been able to spend together. We may not have gone very far from home at all, but we are definitely on a long journey away from our normal life. Our scrap book will look very different than I thought, but there will still be a lot of amazing memories from this time.

Photo Credit: Orit Harpaz

Tuesday, April 14, 2020


My parents are in town visiting. They come every few months and sometimes they stay with us and sometimes they don't. They usually come for at least a few weeks at a time since they are making the trip all the way here. When they stay with us for an extended period it can be challenging having all of us under one roof. When they were planning this trip, they weren't sure if they were going to rent a place and I was starting to complain to my husband about them staying with us for a long time. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I wished I could take them back. Having just lost his father, and his mother the year before, I realized how privileged I was to even have both my parents to spend time with. He was thinking the same thing as me, and let me know. I acknowledged that I understood and I stopped complaining.

Turns out my folks rented a place this time, and it makes a difference having some space. We have been spending time together each day since they arrived a few weeks ago. I am enjoying having them around. My husband's words really sunk in. At 92 and 81, I should savor the time I have with them. We did a jigsaw puzzle yesterday together and I can't remember the last time I sat still and focused that long. We talk and I learn about my family history and I remind them of stories of when I grew up that they have forgotten. We talk about politics, history and art. Together, they seem to know more than Google, and I am learning a lot.

I love watching my children have time with their grandparents. Living three thousand miles apart means when we do spend time together, it is pretty concentrated. My kids love playing cards with my parents and there are always some sort of music lesson that develops whenever my mom hears my daughter practicing piano. I love looking over and seeing the two of them sitting on the piano bench together, playing a duet. Now that my son has been taking lessons as well, he has also been spotted with Grandma next to him on the bench.

It isn't always easy having them around. They are set in their ways, and it is hard for the kids to figure out the difference between my parent's loud complaining volumes, and being yelled at. I can't really explain why old people get so grumpy sometimes, but despite those challenging moments, they have a bond. The other night, my kids asked if they could go out to dinner with Grandma and Grandpa without us. They wanted a Grandma and Grandpa date, so my parents picked them up, and my husband and I went and got our own dinner. Everyone was happy. We were going to all go out for ice cream last night, but it got late and we were all tired. We are putting it on our list for the week though. Finding activities that work for people ages 7 to 92 isn't always easy, but getting ice cream always works. You scream, I scream we all scream for ice cream.

Addendum- My parents have been here since February. They can't get back home because it is too risky to fly and NY isn't a great place to get stuck either right now. We are no longer having ice cream together, but we get to have short distanced visits when we drop off groceries for them every few days. This is not an ideal way to spend time with them and  even though I don't get to give them hugs, I feel better knowing they aren't far away.

Friday, April 10, 2020


It took me many years to recognize the difference between not being a smart person and not being a well-educated person. Deep down, I felt insecure about my intelligence. I felt like I was a good imposter sounding knowledgable when keeping up with conversations socially. When I helped my kids with their math homework, my basic understanding of mathematical concepts was limited. In an improv class I took recently, we were asked to improvise a few important American historical events. I got the Louisiana Purchase, and the Alamo, and didn't really remember what either were. I know at some point I memorized the periodic table, but I can't remember more than a handful now. Over time, through watching my own children's experiences at school, I realized what went wrong for me: I had a more than a couple of teachers that did nothing to build my confidence.

I was in the resource room for the latter years of elementary school, and then all the way through high school. Today when a child has special needs at school, they are treated kindly and given support. When I went to school, going to the resource room was almost like all the kids in your class pointing at you and calling you stupid. Very few kids went, and everyone knew who you were if you did go. I entered public elementary school at a disadvantage. I had started in a private day school learning Hebrew and English. I could not read or write english as well as Hebrew and when my parents saw me struggling, they moved me to public school. I had a great teacher for one year, and then it went south.

For third grade I had a mean, old teacher. She yelled, she was strict and she was anything but gentle. Mrs. Hawkins was her name, and I went to school afraid of her. One day, she did a macrame project with us. She provided the rope and instructed everyone how to tie the knots into a planter. No matter how many times I tried to follow her instructions, my ropes didn't tie in the way I wanted them too. Discouraged and frustrated, I asked her for help. Instead of patiently trying to break it down for me, she got annoyed and said that maybe I wasn't smart enough for third grade. She even said that maybe I belonged in the LD (learning disabled) classes. I remember walking away from her desk crying and giving up on my macrame planter. When a teacher tells a young child that they aren't bright, that child will believe them. For many years, it will take that child a long time to believe in themselves again. It took me a long time to believe that I was smart. Fortunately, when a teacher builds their students up, the children will learn to believe in themselves as well.

Later when I had a few wonderful teachers, I became especially grateful for the few that were patient and kind. I went on to get my college degree in theatre and education. I never became a classroom teacher, but taught many classes with the NY Board of Ed, LAUSD as well as in a bunch of private schools. I watched and learned that the most important thing a teacher could do was to find something to love about each child. It is not easy, but it really does beat the alternative. I never made a macrame planter to bring home. From time to time, when I see anything made out of macrame, I would remember giving up on it.

All of this time at home now has made me want to try again. I was patient and kind with myself and after a few tries I did it. Take that, Mrs. Hawkins!