PNW Problems

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When my kids were younger and we were living under the sunny skies of Scottsdale, AZ, I would tease them about the difference between real problems and “Scottsdale” problems. For example, a desperate cry from a naked boy awaiting a soak in our jacuzzi tub that sounded like this: “MOM, HELP! WE ARE OUT OF LAVENDER BATH SALTS,” was clearly relegated to the “Scottsdale problem” list. A tearful lament that  a sibling wouldn’t share any of his gluten free banana pecan scone, was also quickly shifted into the “Scottsdale” category. My favorite was the “There is nothing to eat. Someone finished my salmon skin sushi roll!”

I tried to kindly explain that these minor inconveniences were not really problems for most people in the world. Real problems had to do with homelessness, poverty, world hunger and the deteriorating ozone layer which is leading the planet towards its fiery destruction.

Now we live in Seattle and I have finally realized that each and every geographic region has it’s own set of hideous problems facing todays children and young adults. No, it is not the epidemic of youth suicides, the plethora of school shooting massacres, or even the long term harmfulness of rampant opioid addiction. I have found the PNW problem that is ruining our children, destroying their sense of self and contributing to the powerlessness and depression overwhelming young people today. Composting.

We dutifully have separate garbage cans for garbage, recyclables and compost. My children are avid supporters of composting and have also insisted that there are undercover refuse police who go through our garbage cans in search of an errant unwashed yogurt container or a bags of pungent pet poop, (which surprisingly is not compostable). While I have researched extensively regarding the hefty fines imposed by these “refuse regulators,” I have found inconclusive and confusing reports of fines ranging from public shaming to $1 per oversight.

Since the thought of actively allowing food scraps to accumulate on my counter or under my sink was more than a little unsettling to this city girl, I embarked on a research project to find the most convenient, sanitary and bug-free method of composting I could find. I settled on a YukChuk under the sink and a small (dishwasher safe) mini bin for the freezer. I got compostable bags and explained the system to my kids.

The key to successful composting is simple. EMPTY THE BINS OFTEN. I’d love to say this lesson wasn’t extremely disgusting, stench-filled and painful to learn, but that would be untrue. Once we got the proper system set up and running, I found myself being the sole compost remover of the clan. This bothered me quite a bit.

“Take out the compost,” I urged multiple times a day. Sometimes I would even remove the bags and set them outside the back door for easier disposal. But my children merely saw that as a stumbling obstacle and stepped over the bags in order to avoid touching their disgusting contents of gross, moldy, food remains.

One night I emptied the compost trash and as an experiment decided not to fill the bins with the compostable green bags beside them. The next morning I awoke to find the unbagged bins filled with food waste. I snapped. “That is it,” I announced to myself since I’m obviously the only one who pays any attention to me. Then I washed out the bins, dried them and hid them deep in the garage.

My younger son was dismayed about this. But I calmly explained that I was not willing to be the sole composter in the family and had unilaterally decided to revoke all internal composting privileges. He took that in and then acknowledged that he understood and believed I had made a sensible choice.

But when my 17 year old son discovered the missing bins, the fireworks began. “How can you do something like this to me?” He raved. “You are literally ruining my life!” “How can you be this cruel and unfeeling? I’m literally horrified.” (Literally seems to be the word of the week in my house).

While I totally acknowledge that feelings are real and emotions are nothing to laugh at, this reaction struck me as a bit over the top. “Are you serious?” I asked. “You’re melting down over compost?”

He left in a huff.

When he returned from school, he was still ruminating on my sick, twisted effort to destroy the planet. “Look mom, this is extremely important to me,” he stated with clear, calm coherence. “I’d like to make you an offer.”

Since I am unable walk away from this type of intriguing proposition, I say, “I’m listening.”

“I will pay you for the privilege of indoor composting,” He reasons.

“Hmmm,” I say with an open, inviting lilt. “How much?”

“I’ll give you a dollar,” he proffers.

I laugh heartily and recommend he come back when he has a serious offer to submit.

“Okay,” he acknowledges. “I’ll give you five.”

I walk away with an expression of disappointment at this lame attempt to negotiate a settlement.

“Ten?” he suggests.

Still I say nothing.

“Okay, I’ll give you twenty bucks for the tiny little freezer bin,” he pleads.

Since I could actually use the extra twenty, I offer my hand and we shake in agreement. “But,” I add, “Failure to empty the freezer bin will result in permanent loss of internal composting privileges.”

He nods in resigned assent.

“And,” I insist, “This twenty is non-refundable.”

It’s been several months since the compost accord, and I’m pleased to report that the Gettleman household is actively composting, recycling and garbaging according to all State and local government regulations and statutes of political correctness.

 

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Baby on board

 

maxresdefaultAs a young 20 something back in LA, there was a story on the news about a woman leaving her beloved Schnauzer in a hot car in the middle of July, only to return and find the poor creature no longer alive. I remember brainstorming with an artist pal about how we wanted to make a social statement about this kind of horrific act. So we came up with this live art installation concept. We were going to call it “Baby on Board” and we were going to glue an infant car seat on the roof of his Volkswagen Jetta, stick a life like baby doll in it, start driving, and observe the reactions from everyone on the road.  We roared as we imagined panicked motorists with rolled down windows screaming and pointing at us as we sped along the PCH.

As a responsible human being and a mother of two boys who are my life, I am horrified to think that I even momentarily thought this was a clever idea. I remember back in the Arizona summers when you would hear tragic reports about busy, stressed out parents who actually left their babies in the back seat while they frantically went into an office or lunch appointment.

I lived in fear of making an unforgivable mistake like this due to sleep deprivation, “mom brain,” or just some momentary lapse of attentiveness.

I often became paralyzed with grief over stories like these. Friends of mine were concerned and would ask about my overwhelming depression at those times. I would tell them that I understood how a parent could accidentally do something like leave their beloved child trapped in a hot car and only realize it hours later. For me, I lived in deep gratitude every day that I didn’t make some kind of disastrous mistake like that. As a working, stressed out mom, it seemed all too easy to suddenly lose focus and watch as one by one each of my proverbial spinning plates crashed to the ground.

Once in a while another mom might nod in agreement and tell me that “she got it.” But for the most part, anyone I confided in about this told me that I was crazy and that they knew I would never do something  unspeakable like that. But some other parent somewhere, had done just this and had to try to live with themselves for the rest of their miserable life. It was a staggering thing to ponder. (Full disclosure, I am also the woman who recognizes how thin the line is between my happy little suburban life and a few bad financial decisions that land you in Tent City. )

I learned to not share this particular insecurity with other parents. It tended to dramatically reduce the number of mom groups to which I was invited. But I realized that I was right. Tragedy can befall any of us. And yet, most people were so afraid of accepting that reality, they simply dismissed the possibility that anything as careless and shameful as forgetting to take your kid out of the car could actually happen to them.

I tell you this story because Wednesdays are early release days here in Seattle. We’ve just moved into a new house to be in the right high school district (no open enrollment out here). Unfortunately, we are no longer on a bus route for my 8th grader to get to and from his middle school. So I’m back with full time driving duties and frankly, I’m seriously out of practice.

Today over lunch with a friend,I lamented my new chauffeur duties  and checked my watch repeatedly, telling her I had to have enough time to get to the bank, the dry cleaner and pick up my son at 3pm. We departed around 1:30 and I popped into the bank to make a deposit.

As I left the bank, I saw I had received several texts from my son inquiring about my whereabouts. Then a few minutes later, another text came in asking who was en route to pick him up. Then finally, a text that just read, “Um…hello???”

Suddenly the reality that it was Wednesday flooded into my consciousness. I became frantic and texted him back that I was on my way. “Are you okay?” I texted. “I’m an idiot.” “I forgot it was Wednesday.” But nothing I could say could quell my horror.

I got to school at 1:47. He was casually hanging out under a tree reading a book. He had been there for exactly 22 minutes. But to me, it felt like 22 hours. I wrapped him into my arms and apologized over and over again. He put on a brave front. “It’s okay, mom. I figured eventually someone would notice I was gone.”

I took him to Baskin Robbins for ice cream and bought him a giant Hulkbuster Funco Pop. If he had asked for the moon, I would’ve found a way to get it for him. He played it up with his big blue eyes and sad pouty face. He was having fun with me.

I told him that this was definitely the moment that would drive him into therapy someday and to please understand and explain to the therapist that this hideous event had nothing to do with my love and devotion for him. Instead it was an illustration of my inability to do anything right as a parent and that he should never think I didn’t cherish him in every imaginable way.

“You do a lot right, mom,” he said, “And I love you. But it is kind of fun to have my own chocolate muffin moment.” He was referring to a vacation where I woke up starving in the middle of the night and scarfed down his older brother’s chocolate muffin. I’ve never been able to live that down. “I guess everyone has a chocolate muffin moment,” he sighed.

I felt parental shame wash over me anew. But then I realized something huge. “Well, most people have those muffin moments when they’re too little to fully comprehend them,” I pronounced. “Luckily for you, I waited till you were 14 and had the smarts and sophistication to handle it, before I traumatized you.”

It really is all in how you look at things, isn’t it?

Nerf gun violence

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“Mom, he’s got a gun!” I hear my 17-year-old son, Levi, scream from the den where he’s doing his homework. I race to him faster than a cheetah pursuing a wildebeest. When I get to the den, Levi’s sitting on the couch, his computer open on his lap, the television blasting. My 14-year-old son, Joe, (not his real name because he refuses to allow me to mention him in anything I write), is calmly sauntering past, his hand in the pocket of his basketball shorts.

“What are you talking about?” I scream at Levi for practically causing my untimely demise. “Why would you yell something like that?”

“Because it’s true, mother,” he insists in the condescending tone that only a snarky teenager possesses. “It’s in his pocket.”

I look at Joe as he pulls a 4-inch neon orange Nerf gun out of his pocket. “What, this?” Joe innocently inquires.

“Levi, that is a Nerf gun. Did he shoot you with it?” I ask trying to find some hint of reasonable concern.

“Well, no,” Levi conceded. “But that’s beside the point. It is still a gun, mother. And we do not play with guns in this house.”

“Um, last I checked,” I say with my own intimation of snottiness, “I was the parent, and I make the rules. But thanks so much for your input.” I begin to walk away in a huff.

“Mom,” Levi yells, “This is a really serious issue. Please do not walk away.”

I immediately turn back and sit down on the couch next to him. “Levi,” I ask, “What is the serious issue?”

“Gun violence!” He asserts aggressively. “Teenagers are shooting up schools because they don’t understand the distinction between play guns and real guns. How do you know Joe isn’t stockpiling weapons under his bed?”

“Well, first of all, he sleeps in a loft. Secondly, I’m 100% certain Joe knows the difference between a Nerf gun and an AK-47.” I turn to Joe who is staring at his brother in complete incredulity. “Joe,” I ask, “What is the difference between the Nerf gun in your pocket and a real gun?”

“This is idiotic,” Joe too has the air of an annoyed adolescent. “Um…one is a toy, and the other is a weapon that can actually kill people.”

“My work here is done,” I quip and turn on my heels.

“No!” Levi insists. “I am uncomfortable with him having a gun in this house. I do not feel safe here.”

“You don’t feel safe here?” I ask.

“No, I do not,” Levi insists. “You and he are part of the problem in this country. You are perpetuating the cycle of gun violence by treating this issue so flippantly. I cannot live in a house where gun violence is condoned.”

Now I’m seriously irked. “OK,” I counter, “First of all, no one in this house condones gun violence. We do not own guns. We are not plotting to form a militia and take over the government. We don’t hunt. But I’m totally comfortable with your brother having a Nerf gun, Foam Blaster, or even a Super Soaker. And even though I always prohibited you both from playing with toy guns as toddlers, you both used wooden blocks, LEGOs, and even plastic bananas as pretend guns from time to time.”

I applaud the sincere commitment these young people have made to fix what is clearly broken in our society. Their passionate voices need to be heard. But I worry that blurring the line between reasonable judgment, and hyperbolic rhetoric will undermine the critical message they are trying to send.

I told Joe that he could use his Nerf gun in the privacy of his own room, but that he needed to keep it out of any common areas since his brother was so uncomfortable with it. My compromise infuriated both boys for its perceived insufficiency and unfairness. But that’s my job as a mom, to always be the most unpopular person in the room. And just so you know, I do my job well.

31 flavors. But only 2 matter!

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I am the opposite of a creature of habit. I never buy the same laundry detergent twice. I switch breakfast cereals each time I replenish my supply.  I have never repeated the same nail polish color within a two month time span.

But there is one thing in this world about which I am completely consistent: Baskin Robbins ice cream. I have ordered the same two flavors of Baskin Robbins ice cream since I was seven years old; Mint Chocolate Chip and Pralines ’n Cream. These two flavors are not only the finest ice cream flavors on the planet, but they are also the flavors that bring me back to everything beautiful from my childhood. (And there wasn’t a lot of beauty back in Lincolnwood, Illinois.)

We used to go to the Baskin Robbins store on Touhy Avenue that was owned by a sweet older man named Mr. Marmelstein. I remember the first time I tasted the icy delight, the first time my top scoop plummeted off the apex of my sugar cone, the first time I experienced an authentic brain freeze. Baskin Robbins was the one place in the world where things were constant and you always got exactly what you wanted.

I do remember one frightful visit where peer pressure persuaded me to order Pink Bubblegum instead of one of my trusted favorites. I regretted it instantly. Once I discovered the first nugget of bubble gum and started chewing, I had a horrible realization. How could I chew and lick at the same time? It was a conundrum of epic proportion. The more gumlets I uncovered the less pleasurable my ice cream lapping became. It wasn’t until recently that my husband, Mark, schooled me in how to eat Pink Bubble gum ice cream. “You pull out the pieces of gum and spit them into a cup,” he said with a condescending tone.“Then when you finish the ice cream you chew the gum.”

I don’t think it would have mattered one iota had I known the proper Pink Bubble Gum protocol. It was still a betrayal of my Mint Chocolate Chip and Pralines ’n Cream faves that I would have to live with for the rest of my life. Since then I have never strayed from my tried and true ice cream BFFs.

Cut to today. My eldest son, Levi, got all four wisdom teeth out. It was a traumatic experience for my 17 year old son who has never met a medical procedure that didn’t totally freak him out. On the way home from the oral surgeon I asked Levi if he wanted me to stop for a BnR milkshake. “Reary mom?” he asked, his mouth full of gauze, “Dat ould ee great.” I assumed he’d want a mixture of Chocolate Fudge and Gold Medal Ribbon, his obvious favorites. But when I asked him just to double check, he seemed uncertain.

I was stunned. I figured it had to be on account of the anesthesia. Clearly it was messing with his brain. But he explained in his mealy mouthed stupor that he could never pick favorites of Baskin Robbins ice cream because there were so many delicious flavors and that BnR was always introducing more. I couldn’t believe it. He didn’t have favorites? How was this young man related to me?

He ended up ordering a Chocolate Fudge/Gold Medal Ribbon milk shake because the choices were too overwhelming. I wondered if that was the reason I’d never tried the other 29 flavors.

Maybe I had always buckled under the weight of such a pivotal decision, and had mistakenly judged my risk-averse behavior as unwavering loyalty. I suddenly didn’t recognize myself.

“Aren’t ou gonna get some?” Levi asked as I readied to pay for his shake. “Of course,” I assured him. “I just need to decide what to order.” I sampled Pistachio Almond, Mississippi Mud and York Peppermint Patty. They were all delicious. A line was forming behind me and I started to feel pressured to make a quick decision. “I’ll have a…a… double scoop of…um…well…um…Mint Chocolate Chip and Pralines ’n Cream,” I blurted out feeling half ashamed and half proud of my steadfast allegiance.

Levi looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and a knowing grin, “Ood choice, om,” he snickered as we walked back to the car.

Saltscapades

When your life has been a sitcom since you were 15 years old, it’s hard to discern the dumbest thing you’ve ever done. But alas, I think I can safely say that today, I have definitely mastered the art of the idiocy.

Black Friday. Ha! That’s funnier than you’d think. Just wait. I decided to brave the crowds and hit the discount store, Ross that is. That’s my discount store of choice. I bought a bunch of thrilling Chanukah presents for my family; colored boxer briefs, v-neck undershirts, socks, and a special something for my own sweet self. Exotic charcoal  bath salts from South Africa. They were only $5.99. I thought about buying all five of the packages so that when I absolutely loved them, I wouldn’t have to run to every Ross around looking to replenish my stash.  But then something resembling reason seized me and encouraged me to try one and then come back tomorrow for the remainder should they be as purifying, detoxifying and energizing as the package asserted they would be.

Now I am a woman who loves my bath time. I loved to soak back in Arizona no matter what the weather outside. But here in Seattle, I am cold…all the time. I spend at least 20 minutes a day in my tub. As a mom of two teenage boys, It is often the only peaceful, healing, alone time I have. So I was flying high imagining my charcoal immersion. I followed the directions carefully, slowly scattering several handfuls of the precious black nuggets under the running water. The water turned ominously black. “What fun!” I thought. I turned on my mini heater, plumped up a dry towel and stepped into the dark sea.

It didn’t feel at all unusual. It actually didn’t feel special in any way. It was just dark and maybe a bit oily. I soaked for a good 20 minutes until my heat quota was filled. The water had greyed a bit and I noticed a thick black ring all around the tub. As I emptied the water, I realized that the ring was a consistent layer of smokey residue from the top of the tub to the bottom. It had seeped into the whirlpool jets and around the drain and faucet. I started to panic imagining how I would ever get the tub clean.

I grabbed a container of clorox wipes and started scrubbing as I sat in the draining water. It wouldn’t come off. Then I noticed that I too was covered in black charcoal. Black, gooey charcoal that didn’t wipe off. It was then that I realized, “Oh, Lucy, you’ve done it again!”

It took an hour in the shower to get most of the dirt off my body. The tub was even worse. I scrubbed, soaked it in bleach and finally bribed my 17 year old son, Levi, to take his turn at scouring. Two days later, the tub is fairly clean. But I don’t think it will ever be the same.

I reread the package claiming every health benefit imaginable. Then I saw a tiny disclaimer that was barely discernible at the back bottom of the box. It read, “Charcoal may leave a slight residue that is easily wiped away.” “Easily wiped away?” I muttered. “Yeah, if you’re sexy P&G icon, Mr. Clean!”

As I rethink this episode of my personal maternal sitcom, I wonder what would actually possess someone to buy a package of black carbon, ash and traces of volatile chemicals, convince themselves that it would be healthfully cleansing, soak in it and then wonder why they were covered in a thick, semi-permanent layer of residue. Haven’t come up with an answer yet. But maybe we’ll unveil that in the follow up episode next week.

Lucky Latkes

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Things are definitely different here in Washington state. If you follow the news, you will consistently read about Seattle as one of the strongest and fastest growing Jewish communities in the country. I have little reason to doubt this fact. Except that unless I’m at our wonderful new temple in North Seattle, I could swing dozens of dead cats and never hit a single member of our tribe.

We currently live about 20 minutes North of the city in a suburb at the tip of Lake Washington known as Kenmore. My kids have no Jewish friends at school, I haven’t seen a single home with a Mezuzah on the doorpost in our neighborhood, and I can’t find a decent challah within 20 miles of my front door.

I’m not exactly complaining. But it’s awfully weird for this North Shore Chicago girl who spent the last two decades in Los Angeles and Scottsdale surrounded by plenty of Jewish brethren to be living amongst all of these lovely people, most of whom have never even met a Jew. My oldest son, Levi, who is deeply entrenched in Judaism, torah and spirituality has mentioned to me several times that he feels kind of weird even telling kids at school about his Judaism because he’s always met with strange looks and  perplexed stares whenever he mentions his religious heritage.

Please understand that we have in no way met with unkindness or religious intolerance in any way.  Our neighbors are civil and have spoken to us on at least one or two occasions. But they’re not busting down our door with plates of great Aunt Sofie’s mandelbread or a sample of Grandma Sarah’s famous rugelach.

That being said, Levi loves his new High School. In part, this is due to the outstanding culinary arts program that he managed to earn a spot in as the only sophomore ever admitted. His culinary arts teacher is an amazing chef, teacher and yes, Iron Chef America winner. We’ve even talked about having her and the students cater my younger son, Eli’s, upcoming Oneg Shabbat Bar Mitzvah luncheon at the temple this March.

But the other day, Levi came home in a state of utter delight and could barely contain his excitement long enough to tell us why he was so elated. He explained that there was a new class competition in culinary. Each student would get to choose one kitchen appliance for the upcoming challenge and would have to prepare a specified dish with their appliance. Levi immediately began gunning for the food processor. But after picking numbers from a chef hat, he ended up being the last student to choose his appliance. “I knew there was no way I was going to get the food processor,” He told us sadly.

The other appliances included a blender, a Kitchen Aide, a waffle iron, a deli slicer and several other typical kitchen helpers. “But somehow,” Levi offered, “No one picked the food processor. I was absolutely last and I got it! Can you believe that?”

“No one picked the food processor?” I asked incredulously. “That’s really bizarre. That doesn’t make any sense. I would’ve thought the food processor would’ve been the first to be snatched up.” “I know,” he said with a huge smile plastered across his face. “I never knew I was this lucky. And guess what else? You will never believe what recipe I got with it.”

“What?” My husband, Mark, asked with intense curiosity. Levi cheerfully replied, “Dad, it’s our favorite thing to make in the food processor! You’ll never believe it. Guess! You have to guess.”

“Our favorite thing to make in the food processor?” repeated Mark. “Um…potato pancakes?”

“Not just potato pancakes,” chirped Levi, “But latkes! Actual latkes! That’s what the recipe said. Isn’t that amazing!”

Now comes the moment  where I regret lacking any internal editing programs to stop my mouth from speaking exactly what my brain thinks up. “Well, obviously you got the food processor because no one else even knew what a latke was.”

Both Levi and Mark looked at me in horror. “Mom,” Levi said, “That’s ridiculous. Who doesn’t know what a latke is?” Mark was smiling a knowing smile, “Yeah hon, who doesn’t know what a latke is?”

“Um…you’re right, Leves,” I stammered. “Forget I said that. You just got…lucky, incredibly lucky!

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I’ve been saved!

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Look, I’m Jewish. I have no identity problems. I’m not self-loathing (at least not for my religious preferences). I was raised Conservative with one set of Orthodox grandparents. We keep kosher, fervently observe all Jewish holidays and celebrate Shabbat every week.

But I have to confess something. I find tremendous comfort in Christian rock music. Whenever I say that out load, my Jewish friends, family and colleagues are shocked and dismayed. “You’re kidding, right?” is the most frequent response I encounter. But it’s the truth and I’m not afraid to say it.

Sure there are plenty of songs to which I don’t relate. I check out at the explicit Jesus references and any talk about “our father who died for our sins.” But most of it is completely aligned with our own Jewish spiritual philosophy. Songs about “hanging on,” “believing,” “never giving up,” I can’t see those as heretical or anti-Jewish in any way.

My affinity for Christian music bothers by family — a lot. I try to play it in the car sometimes when I’m shuffling the kids to and from clubs, appointments and Hebrew school. I think the positive, uplifting messages will seep into their unconsciousness and improve long term coping skills as they inevitably meet with obstacles and disappointments in life. That’s all well and good until an unsuspected reference to our savior and king surfaces. Then the jig is up. “Mom, will you stop with the Christian music. It’s just weird, OK?”

Then they inevitably remind me of my 2007 trip to Sedona when they were 7 and almost four. It was New Year’s Eve and I was driving with the boys to meet some friends for the holiday. It was cold and snowy but I had plenty of daylight and I knew it was a relatively short trip. Of course once it started to get dark, I realized I’d been driving for over three hours and that I might have made a bum turn or taken a wrong exit. 

When I finally found a safe spot to pull over, I was slightly hysterical and began sobbing into the steering wheel. As we sat there in the cold car somewhere on the side of a road, me weeping and the boys growing ever more anxious, there was a sudden tapping on my window. I looked up and saw the kindly countenance of a woman motioning to me to roll down the window. I did so and she asked me if I was okay. I admitted between whimpers that I was not. “I’m trying to get to Sedona,” I sniffled. “But we’re lost, and I have no idea where we are.”

She took my hands into hers and said, “May I pray to Jesus with you?” My boys watched with wide eyes as I emphatically said, “Yes!” Then she offered up a prayer to the big guy asking for him to help us find our way and to protect us on our journey. She pointed me towards a neighboring town which I later learned was Strawberry, AZ and with renewed hope and vitality I set out to find our path to salvation.

I was able to get us turned around and back on the road and managed to successfully make it to our cabin in the woods just slightly late for dinner. But the more people to whom I related my redemption tale, the more I was met with uncertain stares and stifled laughter. “What?” I said to friends and family whom I could tell were holding themselves back from full throttled chortling at my experience. “I got where I needed to go. That’s all I’m sayin’.”

As we move ever closer to the holiday season this year, I encourage all to count blessings, believe in miracles, and stay open to inspiration, from wherever it may come.

The inconvenient tinkle truth

One more reason to put down the friggin' seat!

One more reason to put down the friggin’ seat!

I love Target. I doubt they could do anything offensive enough to make me close my purse and boycott their establishment. So the ongoing hoopla over their gender neutral bathrooms seems more than a little silly to me. Plus, given the state of our current economic woes, the idea of a campaign targeting an institution that carries merchandise from high-end manufacturers like Dyson and Cuisinart, while also offering a plethora of products like Bud Lite, Alpo and Suave, seems wrong to me on so many levels.

Frankly, I don’t really care which bathroom anyone uses or with which gender people identify. I am enthusiastically in favor of allowing everyone to use whatever public bathroom they need when they need to use it. I mean, just think of the mess we will have to endure if any one group feels unwelcome and resorts to urinating on the sidewalk or, Heaven forbid, defecating along the side of the road.

But at a certain point, I must draw the line. If you eliminate while standing, put the friggin’ toilet seat down when you’re done! It is disgusting to have to handle a urine-stained toilet seat from a woman’s perspective. (I know it’s very politically incorrect to suggest that I speak for an entire gender. But I think it’s nasty, and I’ve never met a woman who relished the opportunity to touch, hoist or handle a slovenly seat previously sprayed by a sloppy stranger.

As an actor, I am used to sharing facilities with all types of folk. But several times I have had to bring up the annoying seat lowering negligence to male cast mates or careless crew members. I have discovered, however, that the majority of both men and women consider it uncouth and ill-mannered to leave the seat up. This is an issue all genders find rather revolting.

Again, I realize it is high risk these days to speak honestly about such a delicate topic. But I feel I owe it to society to address this despicable elephant in our public bathrooms.

Look, I’m a wife and a mom. I live with three Y chromosome individuals. But I taught them from the very beginning that if they intend to live in the same house as I do, they’d better put down the seat down after each and every turn in the toilet. It’s really not that difficult to train the males in your life on proper potty protocol.

And while I’m at it, I hate to sound critical. But as more and more restrooms are converted to co-ed, I’m a little appalled by the splashes of yolk colored puddles that seem to sit at the base of every public toilet I visit. I’m not pointing a finger, but we women don’t miss the bowl. That’s all I’m saying.

Come on, America. We have the first woman ever running for president. It’s an exciting time for our sex, even if we do only take home .77 cents to every dollar earned by our male counterparts. But we have power in numbers. We must insist on equal rights for all public bathroom users. Congress passed the 19th amendment, giving women the right to vote, in 1919. Women were officially welcomed into every position for which they were qualified in our military just this past January of 2016. Our strides continue to be bold, courageous, and powerful. But it is deplorable that the issue of seat lowering has not been championed and brought to the forefront.

I for one am ready to lead the charge. I am not afraid to speak loud and proud for all of us who relieve ourselves on our derriéres. We are not second class citizens. We demand respect in the bathroom and will not rest until each and every penis wielding person uses common sense values, compassion, and consideration when in the presence of a public toilet. So put the damn seats down!

Now who’s with me?

What’s wrong with a win-win-win?

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I never moved as a kid. I never had to leave my house, lose my friends, and start all over. I did as an adult. I moved from Chicago to Los Angeles and then again to Arizona, the latter being the most challenging experience of my lifetime. But here I am, arguably in the second half of my life, getting ready to do it again. Most days I function alright understanding the magnitude of this upcoming geographic shift. But that’s only because I’m in complete denial. I haven’t packed a thing. I refuse to say goodbye to anyone. I’m just going about my busy life as I always do and trying not to focus on the fact that my family is being uprooted in one weeks time.

My kids are excited for the most part, except when they’re not. Like me, they toggle between hopeful enthusiasm and debilitating fear. On my good days, I think I will make friends, build a strong community, and find professional satisfaction. Other days I think I’ll end up a puddle in the corner of a room unable to pull myself together to even venture outside of our lovely, generic rental home that I wont be able to customize and color as if it were my next great art project.

Each day I find myself facing some very concrete challenge that threatens the foundation upon which I’m cautiously treading. Yesterday I waited all day for a charity to come pick up a load of furniture which included an 8 foot granite mosaic dining room table I had built and a 700 bottle stainless steel wine refrigerator that required no less than 6 movers to haul into my home. Of course after 8 hours of waiting they didn’t show up. When I tried to reschedule, they asked me to please move the items to the curb and assured me they would be in the neighborhood sometime next Tuesday between the hours of 8am and 4pm. Well,” I thought to myself, “That’s just not going to work.”

I spent a few hours completely panicked, knowing that the house needed to be cleared and in move-in condition for our new tenants by the weekend. Then I started snapping photos of everything in my house that was too big or too old or too fragile to move. I listed everything for FREE on Craig’s List. Literally within 30 seconds of posting the items, my phone started ringing and dinging off the hook. HUNDREDS of people wanted my items, and they were eager and aggressive.

The texts became increasingly frantic and dramatic. “My parent’s house burnt down,” “This is the most beautiful table I have ever seen,” “I’m a single mother and I cannot live without this love seat.” Each and every voicemail and text indicated that the interested party was en route to my house with a truck and a cadre of muscular movers. I was completely overwhelmed.

I texted my address to the first respondent who arrived within minutes at my door. I admit I was surprised to see a petite woman, her 14 year old daughter and an SUV parked at the curb. “Um…I don’t think you’re going to be able to take anything in that,” I said. She surveyed the house and politely asked if she could have everything. She promised to return within two hours with the manpower, equipment and space needed to gently remove all of my collosal items.

I was reluctant to promise the pieces to her. What if she didn’t come back? What if I lost all of the other leads because I trusted a stranger? It seemed like a bad bet to place. But she looked honest and sincere. So I agreed.

I ignored the bombardment of calls and texts that continued non-stop until her return at 8pm. She and her peeps took everything gently and carefully and graciously thanked me for all of it.

Within 20 minutes my house had been cleaned out and a stranger’s family had received enough furniture to outfit their own empty abode. I felt good about it, like maybe I had contributed to someone else’s happiness.

A friend shook her head at me when I relayed the story to her. “You do know they’re just going to sell your stuff and make a whole lot of money don’t you?” By her tone I knew I was supposed to feel bad about that. But instead I was thrilled and felt proud of these strangers entrepreneurial assertiveness. “More power to them,” I insisted. “They saw an opportunity and acted on it. Forgive me, but isn’t that part of what built our country and made it great?”

She looked at me as if I had morphed into a female version of Donald Trump. Using the words “country” and any form of “make it great” in the same sentence these days is a risky enterprise. I actually felt embarrassed, like I had confessed to some kind of sick, sinful, capitalistic tendency.

But the truth is, I did admire the moxie of this young family. I appreciated their willingness to come over on a moment’s notice. I was grateful to have my moving load lightened exponentially.

People today worry so much about getting their due. There’s a pervasive belief in society that one person’s financial gain only comes at a deficit to someone else. I see it differently. I no longer needed some stuff. What I did need was someone to empty my house and haul away my belongings. The young family who came to my aid needed furniture or money to help them live better lives. If they keep and enjoy my stuff, that’s a “win-win.” If they sell it to someone else and make money, that creates an even longer chain of benefit, or a “win-win-win” situation. In my book, the more “wins” the better, for all of us.

Matzah, Marvel and Maternal Remorse

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“Where are you going with those?” I ask Eli, my twelve year old son, as he suspiciously tries to slink out of the house for school carrying three unopened boxes of leftover Passover matzah. “Um…nowhere,” he answers. “Bye mom. Have a great day.”

“Wait just a minute, Eli,” I’m not ready to let this go. “Why are you taking three boxes of matzah to school after Passover?”

“I thought they were leftover.” He chirps.

“Yeah… So what?” I challenge.

“Alright mom,” he confides. “But if I tell you you can’t get involved. Promise?”

These are always my favorite intros to any conversation with my kids. Promising not to get involved isn’t something I’m apt to do easily.

“I promise nothing,” I say. “Now what’s with the matzah? And if you miss the bus you’re walking to school. So start talking.”

“I’m selling them to a friend.” he sheepishly confesses.

“Selling them? For how much?” I inquire.

“Fifteen dollars,” he tells me.

This is the part where I go berzerk. “Fifteen dollars? Who would buy matzah for fifteen dollars? That’s insane.” I grab the matzah and insist that it is not being sold to anyone. “If you want to give your friend the matzah that is perfectly alright. But you are not selling it to him for any amount of money.”

“But mom, we made a deal. And you always say ‘a deal is a deal.’ He wagered with me willingly. I’m just fulfilling my side of the bargain”

As I delve into this, I learn that Eli has been making money on the side selling a variety of useless items to his pals who only want Eli to play more advanced PS4 video games with them. Eli has a limited number of players, and since his mother is a meanie and wont splurge endlessly on Disney Infinity and Marvel superhero characters for the PS4, Eli has had to turn to his own ingenuity to raise the funds to support his virtual reality video habit.

“Joey begged me, mom,” Eli pleaded. “He just really wants me to be able to play with him and I don’t have the Star Wars Battlefront Seasons Pass. Can I please go now?”

Then I pulled out my ace. I was sure I had this one in the bag. “Well Eli,” I say, “If you feel that selling something like matzah, that you didn’t even pay for, to Joey, or any other friend, for way more money than it’s worth, is the right thing to do, then you go right ahead. Just make sure you feel good about yourself and what you’re choosing to do.” Ha. This was a page from any good Jewish mother’s parenting book. I felt the guilt dripping off each word as it slowly and purposely rolled off my tongue. No way Eli would collect the cash and exploit a pal with this jolt of maternal consciousness infecting his psyche.

But alas, even sure things sometimes go awry. When Eli came home from school he laid down the fifteen dollars from Joey along with all of his Chanukah and birthday money  and asked if he could use my amazon account to purchase his Star Wars Battlefront Seasons Pass. “Mom, I tried to tell Joey I didn’t want the money,” He explained. “I swear I offered to just give him the matzah for free. But he wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. He insisted, mom. Really.”

I reluctantly gave permission for Eli to buy the Season’s Pass and have been pondering this decision ever since. I’m plagued with guilt over taking another child’s money to pay for a game I wasn’t willing to buy for my son myself. I am deeply perplexed about where Joey so easily scored $15. Did his parents know he was subsidizing Eli’s PS4 practice? Would they think we were shameful people, taking money from their 12 year old son? Maybe they did know about it and were under the impression that we were from some sort of underserved North Scottsdale barrio. Maybe they believed their son was merely giving back to his community as they had undoubtedly modeled through their own charitable endeavors.

The more I mulled this over, the more awful I felt. But I had set this up for Eli to make his own decision and I fiercely believe in allowing your children to make choices and live with the consequences of those choices. I told him to follow his conscience and he had. Only his conscience didn’t lead him to the conclusion I had hoped it would. Now what?

“Is there anything Joey wants that his parents wont give him?” I asked after a few hours of hopeless deliberation. “Maybe we can get him something, you know like a toy or a PS4 game?”

“Mom,” Eli chastised, “Joey has everything. There’s nothing we could get him that he doesn’t already have.”

“But maybe there’s something he’d like that he might not buy for himself?” I pushed. “It doesn’t have to be a big thing. Just something to let him know we appreciate him and his friendship.”

“Well,” I could see the wheels turning in Eli’s head, “He really loves his gecko, Emily. Maybe we could get him something for her.”

“OK, that’s a good idea,” I said, “What do you think she might like?”

“Hmmm…” he looked at me coyly for an extremely long moment. “I know. How ‘bout a PS4 controller? They don’t use joysticks anymore so Emily could play with us. I know they would both love that.”

In the Disney Marvel Battleground Universe, I think I’m being set up for a gigantic Hulk smash.