18 November 2018


Oh well. So much for NaBloPoMo.

Today I am attempting to clean up my desk and my house and the OMG piles of paper everywhere.

And, because sometimes I roll that way, I'm listing weird shite on eBay, like a petticoat from Laura Ashley that I wore in high school. It was meant to be worn peeking out from under one of those Victorian-meets-prairie cotton flannel dresses.

And it has now been kicking around my house, unworn, for far too long.

Last year, I fell into a headline trap and bought a pair of those Rothy's shoes. I so liked the idea of them, but I just didn't like the way they fit me.

Them? They're going on eBay too.

How about you? Are you a throw it away person, a give it to Goodwill person, a hold onto it until someone needs it person, or a let's put it on eBay person?

16 November 2018

Because, Science

November isn’t just NaBloPoMo, it’s also Lung Cancer Awareness Month; as a result, my sister has been posting about lung cancer on Facebook every day.

Here’s what she wrote there on Tuesday:

LCAM, Day 13.

I am an atheist. Some would call me a nonbeliever, but that’s incorrect. I believe in a lot of things, just not in a god. You know what I really, really believe in? Science. 
I have spent the past month, leading up to the past three days, immersed in the science of medical research. It has humbled me beyond all comprehension - the funding applications I was charged with reviewing contained the densest, hardest reading I have ever done. Truth be told, I did not understand most of the science. But the scientists and researchers do - and I am in awe of their work.
I am alive today - my awesome cancer friends are alive today - not because of prayers or divine intervention or miracles. Because of science.

Science spelled out with DNA, a magnet, a test tube, a shell, nitrogen, the crescent moon, and leaves.

[What she's been participating in is the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, as a consumer reviewer. She's awesome and I'm proud of her.]

15 November 2018

Scent Memory

Odors are powerful. One whiff and your brain whirs, oh yes, I remember that.

I grew up on Long Island, and, as a result, I have traveled through Penn Station often. We would take the train in and out of Manhattan, on visits to museums or expeditions to Broadway shows. Later, I’d change trains at Penn for Amtrak, to get back and forth to college. Summers, I commuted - a daily passenger.
Penn Station then and now always smells to me like donuts. Sweet, oily, distinct. Stale beer and indifferent popcorn, occasional piss, late night vomit - they layer grace notes into the donut aroma. But a whiff of that particular donut small will always jolt me back to hours spent waiting at or traversing through Penn.

For years now, I’ve commuted daily through Grand Central Terminal. It’s a palace, a wonder, a temple, especially as compared to Penn Station. Penn is low-ceilinged, subterranean, warren-like; GCT soars, replete with daylight in the main upstairs hall. GCT has never smelled specific to me. Yes, it's briny in the Oyster Bar and smells of solvents near the shoeshine and there are pockets of coffee, onion bagels, diesel fuel, flowers. But there’s no one smell that says “I am in Grand Central”.

The powers that be are building a whole new station under GCT - the Long Island Rail Road will one day stop there, 14 stories underground, providing “East Side Access” (because Penn Station is so far away). It’s supposed to be open and running four years from now.

Recently, one of the stands in the lower level food hall changed hands. I can’t remember what was there before, but now it’s a fancy-pants donut shop. The result, for me, is that now, willy-nilly, GCT smells like Penn Station. It's like the Doughnut Plant is a harbinger of the arrival of the Long Island Rail Road.

14 November 2018

Be Prepared

I, curmudgeon, am usually exasperated by tourists and strollers and tourists with strollers at rush hour? OMG.

This morning, the downtown express was unusually uncrowded, and the family of four tourists plus two strollers wasn't in the way.

And the father? He caught my eye, because attached to his baseball cap he had two hair elastics and one barrette.

It warmed the cockles of my cold black heart to see how well prepared he was for the inevitable hair emergency that was going to befall his three-year-old daughter.

Kudos, stranger!

[I did find myself singing Be Prepared to myself. Because, curmudgeon.]

13 November 2018

Words from the girl, and other matters of importance

"This womanhood stuff is disgusting!" (pause) "But maybe my tits will get bigger."

Wielding a bowl and a pair of chopsticks: "This is the best way to eat hot Cheetos, because you don't get red dust on your hands."

"Japan is attacking!" Me, blank look. "You know, white underpants, red blood...?"

* * * * * * *

I don't know about your house, but in ours, there are two female people and one male person. This results in rather too many conversations at the dinner table about matters of the uterus, many attempts to make Daddy squeamish, and long groans at how awful it all is. The final straw - for my husband, anyway - might have been the Diva cup discussion over breakfast.

We have also had conversations about how lucky we are here in these United States, where most of us have easy access to sanitary pads and tampons, and where menstrual cups and period underpants exist, and where we have high tech apps that predict just when to expect to have the painters in.

That said, there are plenty of women and girls in the US who have have trouble getting menstrual supplies. Schools do not always recognize that teen-aged girls may need pads or tampons, because their cycles may be erratic and their period arrives when they're unprepared, or because they haven't the money to buy the goods. Prisons and jails often fail to supply adequate quantities of pads. Shelters may not have supplies available.

Happily, New York City passed a landmark law "to ensure access to menstrual products in public schools, shelters and corrections facilities." And Free the Tampons "believes that every bathroom outside the home should provide freely accessible items that people who menstruate need for their periods. We think menstruators shouldn't have to worry about an unexpected physical need becoming an overwhelming emotional ordeal." And just last week, Nevada became the tenth state to lift the "tampon tax" - meaning that there's no state sales tax on tampons and sanitary pads.

Women and girls are not so lucky in other parts of the world.

In Kenya though, ZanaAfrica supplies pads to girls who need them.

And in India, Arunachalam Muruganantham, the Indian sanitary pad revolutionary invented a simple machine that enables village women to produce their own pads for sale.

What is important about our dinner table conversations is that we are having them. There is no shame in a bodily function like menstruation; and failure to discuss only leads to misinformation and stigma, and - in fact - is a human rights concern for girls and women.

Remember: human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights.

12 November 2018

The Birds And The Bees

The astute reader may have surmised that I am cleaning out my drafts folder. What better project than #NaBloPoMo?!

If you have children, and are in need of literature with which to guide them vis-à-vis the birds and the bees, I would like to heartily recommend the following three books by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley.

Ages 4-8
It's Not the Stork!: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends

Ages 7-10
It's So Amazing!: A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families

Age 10+
It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health

They are funny, dispassionate, and inclusive.

11 November 2018

On the Inanity of Plastic Bags

I am amused by the shite I have found in my drafts folder.

How about this?

The plastic bag songs

Katy Perry
Do you ever feel like a plastic bag
Drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?
Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin
Like a house of cards, one blow from caving in?

"Drive By"
Oh I swear to you
I'll be there for you
This is not a drive by
Just a shy guy looking for a two-ply
Hefty bag to hold my love

Right. Apparently I was briefly obsessed with pop songs referencing plastic bags. There are a lot of them! Why do I care? Because it's inane? Because it is inane!

I do like that the internet is like one enormous concordance. You want songs about "plastic bags"? We got 'em. Prefer "hefty bags"? We got them too.

Honestly, though, do you ever feel like a plastic bag, looking for a hefty bag to hold your love?


10 November 2018

My Favorite Baby

It’s the girl’s 15th birthday. She's lovely. She rides, she sings, she's got a 4.0 grade in trig so far this year.

A couple of weeks ago, she told me she wished she’d been born a year earlier, so she could start learning to drive. “My friend N. is getting her learner’s permit next week, and D’s getting hers at the end of the month. I wish I was turning sixteen.”

I gently pointed out that if she’d been born a year earlier she’d have been a different person.

It’s a funny thing to think about. If you hadn’t been made of that egg and that sperm, who would you be?

And then, somehow, because it seemed related, I told her that I’d had a miscarriage, before she was born. She took it all in stride, as she does most things, and went back to SnapChatting while controlling the car's music. (I liked it when she sat in the back seat and I had total music control. At least I don't hate everything she puts on.)

Yesterday, I was again reminded that miscarriage is one of those taboo subjects - so many people have had one, but until you raise your hand and say "here too", you don't know. Because, it turns out that Michelle Obama had a miscarriage, and went on to use IVF to conceive the two Obama children.

"Reflecting on it now, Mrs. Obama says she wished she knew other women had experienced miscarriages as well — a lesson that would have helped lift the shame she associated with it."

Let's remember to talk about the hard things. It's better when you don't feel alone.

Oh, and wish me luck. She's having 10 girls over for a slumber party tonight.

09 November 2018

In Which I Demonstrate That I Am Going To Hell

Once upon a time, back when the girl was a baby, I used to lurk on the Urban Baby message boards. It was like front row seats to a train wreck, a delicious mix of schadenfreude and wickedness. I weaned myself of that bad bad habit, but now there's Facebook, specifically the local "moms" page. It's almost as entertaining as Urban Baby used to be, and it's not anonymous.

I used to copy my favorites into a draft post, titled "Best of [   ] Moms". Then I felt bad and stopped doing that. In fact, I stopped lurking because it generally just infuriated me. But I never did delete the draft.

Typos, inanity, excessive punctuation, and a constant searching for honest and reasonable tradespeople: life in the suburbs.

  • Would love a recommendation for an eyebrow specialist for my 12 year old for her Bat Mitzvah. Thanks. (No 12 year old needs her eyebrows done.)
  • HOSE OR NO HOSE...Black or Nude
  • Need some pet insurance advice, please..Our dog came from a good breeder so hoping there are no hidden genetical surprises and am thinking of higher deductible but have no idea. Sorry for inane question on a Sunday morning. (Genetical?)
  • Does anyone know a good and cheap handyman that can fix a leaky faucet to a closet door? (Since when do closet doors have faucets?)
  • (About middle school kids) These are their formidable years, when bonds and relationships are created. (Formidable!)
  • Is anyone interested in buying a pair of brand new UGGs. Long story, but my 12 year old bought them on eBay and ended up with two pairs. She bought them for $90. Let me know if your interested. (Um, why is your 12 year old shopping on eBay?)
  • Help mom's : Who to call to get my auto vacuum in the house fixed???? (Car vacuum or central vacuum?)
  • I am looking for great closet stretching companies. Any recommendations? (How do you stretch a closet?)
  • Can anyone recommend a reasonably priced built-in guy? (I think we all want a built-in guy.)
  • Looking for a reliable and honest cleaning lady. Any recommendations would we helpful. Thanks !
  • What are people giving for a cash gift at a black tie wedding? It's pretty fancy at the Mandarin Oriental and I'm not sure what the appropriate amount would be. (Sputter...the wedding venue does not the gift determine.)
  • Hi. Can anyone recommend a reliable local psychic that does NOT use tea leaves (I am allergic) or a crystal ball (long story). Thanks in advance.
  • Has anyone sprayed their lawn for tics? If so has it been effective and which company did you use? (Let's hope the lawn doesn't have Tourette's.)
  • i need an excellent creative local accpontant to do my complicared tax return thanks
  • Looking to get wood floors refinished. Has anyone hired someone great for this? Thank yo

08 November 2018

On Bra Shopping and Nomenclature

Of all the things that I can think of that are not at all fun, bra shopping is right up there on the list. Over and over, though, people say that Nordstrom is a great place to buy a bra. And I am here to say that they do indeed have excellent customer service. I took the child there a couple of years ago, prepared for a horrendous experience, and I got the nicest down-to-earth woman who took one look at her and said "wait here". A couple of minutes later she turned up with the perfect bra in the right size. I was kind of dumbfounded.

Since then, I have been back to Nordstrom on my own account several times. Every time, though, there's the struggle between my desire for a bra without an underwire, and the fact that nearly all of the bras for sale have underwires. I have given in a couple of times, and ended up with underwire bras that aren't terrible. And once I got a bra with vertical side stays that I ended up removing with an X-Acto knife (because they dug into me something awful). But the holy grail is out there, I know it.

The last time I went, I went because I'd lost weight and the two "best" bras that used to fit no longer fit - the molded cups had sad little air pockets within. So, I hauled myself down to the mall, where you have to pay $3 or $4 to park the car, which always just seems to me to be an abomination, I mean, don't they want you to stay and shop and buy and not feel nickel and dimed by paying for parking? It's a suburban mall, not a parking garage on 44th Street in the theater district! I digress.

The nice and knowledgeable saleswoman at Nordstrom found me a couple of bras that fit. Underwire. Boring. And then I found myself saying to her, plaintively, do you have anything more fun? With that, she disappeared, returning with an armload of this that and the other thing, including some things without wires. It turns out that if you want a wireless bra, you need to ask for a bralette. And if you ask for a bralette, you will have your pick of ridiculous and delightful fluff. I walked out of there with a sober beige bra with side stays (as yet unremoved), a sober black underwire bra, a lacy silver grey bralette, and a lacy royal purple bralette. I mean, I never learned how to be a real girl, but as long as I'm going to have to wear a bra, it might as well amuse me, right?

And reader?

It's all because of nomenclature.

07 November 2018

Askew, or Why To Avoid Fast Fashion

I bought a shirt at Target over the summer. I almost never buy clothes there for myself, but it was a cute black and white striped sleeveless shirt, made in a linen knit, with a faux placket detail at the neck and little vee-slits where the side seams meet the hem.

I shouldn’t have bought it. It was cut off square, and every time I wash it, it gets more askew, trying to spiral around me. The side seams twist clockwise, the left to the front, the right to the back. The center back seam veers off center. The front placket skews to the right. No amount of pulling or shaping or blocking will fix it, because the fabric was cut badly.

Every time I wear it, and I do because I’ve found the right cardigan buttoned just so hides the most egregious flaws and lets a bit of the black and white stripes show, I think of my mother. She’d have held it up in the store, noticed that the grain of the fabric was off kilter, declared it flawed, and she wouldn’t have bought it - as cute and as cheap as it was.

Because she sewed, she knew that "the fabric of a garment should be cut either straight along the grain, or in the case of a bias cut, on a clear angle, usually 45 degrees, which allows for the fabric to stretch. If it isn’t cut properly, the garment can pull out of shape with wear." And she taught me enough to know what to look for.

In this case, cute won over prudence. I should have known better.

06 November 2018


I know. Broken record.

In NY the polls are open from 6 in the morning, to 9 in in the evening. Go. Our country depends on you.

Your vote is your voice. And voting is a right, a privilege and a duty. Do it.


05 November 2018


Tomorrow (Tuesday November 6th) is Election Day, if you're in one of the many places that doesn't yet have early voting. Please, for the health of our country, vote for the Democrats.


04 November 2018


Sunday morning, and we are driving to Long Island to visit the newest baby in the family - my brother’s child, my daughter’s cousin.

My daughter is doing French homework in the back seat and I failed to bring a book of my own, so I’ve plunged straight into the book she’s reading in English class: The Things They Carried.

“What’s it about?” asks my husband. “The things they carried” chime Mir and I. They carried guns and photos and gravity and dope and flak jackets and bandages and pebbles.

I progress past her bookmark at page 19 and finish the first story. And make the mistake of mentioning the letters he burned. “I hadn’t gotten that far!” she wails from the back seat.

What do I carry? Lip balm and bandannas and a hair brush even though I nearly never brush my hair except before I leave the house in the morning and before I go to bed. A letter from a friend who died last year and a list of Broadway shows I’d like to see and a tiny micro tool, because you never know.

Last week, the girl rummaged around in the downstairs coat closet and found my old black suede Gap bomber jacket which I bought in the late 80s and haven’t worn in forever. It has a dark green satin lining with paisleys and a small zippered pocket on the left breast. “Check the pocket, there’s a baby inside.” She unzips the pocket, with its sharp toothy brass zipper that feels dangerous as you slip your hand past, and bingo. Tiny plastic baby.

It is a comfort to me that tiny plastic baby is still in the pocket and ever will be, even though I can’t remember where tiny plastic baby came from. But every time I wore that coat, or moved it to a new closet, I checked for tiny plastic baby, “ah yes, there she is”. Carried.

03 November 2018

Not Walking the Walk

The Lungevity walk-a-thon was supposed to be last Saturday - but anticipated bad weather forced them to postpone the event a week. So it's today. And again, the weather is yucky. And alas, my sister had plans to be out of town this weekend, and I have stuff to do, and so neither of us are actually going to walk in the actual walk-a-thon.


I personally have raised nearly $2,000, and my sister's team has raised nearly $16,000, and overall, the event has raised almost $134,000. And that's really good. Because - as you know, anyone can get lung cancer - not just smokers.

The facts:

To me, one of the most shocking of those facts is that "lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death, yet only 6% of federal research dollars spent on cancer research are spent on lung cancer".

If you can and would like to contribute, we'd be deeply appreciative. If you're a research-the-charity-before-you-give person, Lungevity has a four star rating from Charity Navigator.

Thank you.

02 November 2018

What They Don't Tell You About Teenagers

You know that small children will smear ketchup everywhere and wreak havoc on the knees of their clothes.

What you don't know is that you will one day have teenagers, who use over-the-counter acne medication, and wash their hands inadequately, and RUIN YOUR TOWELS.

And because we only have one bathroom, I have to look at this every day.

Benzoyl peroxide is of the devil.

01 November 2018

Pa Rum-Pum Pum Pum

It's the first of November.

I sit down on the train, next to a woman doing a crossword puzzle, but not the same one I will be doing after I've finished reading the hard news. I think to myself "crosswords unite" and settle in.

Muffled deep in her bag, her cell phone rings - but not the usual default ringtone. No, it's...and she pulls it out of her bag, thus unmuffling it, her cell ring tone is “Little Drummer Boy”.

I have lost the “Little Drummer Boy” challenge before it’s begun.

I did, however, lean over to her and tell her that her ring tone had made my day.

Because honestly? I love me some Christmas music - even if it is only November 1st.