Do I really want to live without a nose?

What if you’re just going with the flow, living your life in an ordinary (yet comfortable) fashion and something suddenly makes you stop in your tracks?

Okay, maybe it doesn’t happen so suddenly. Perhaps that something has been lurking around the corner, waiting for you to be ready to experience it, and then shows up in a way that completely messes up the natural order of things.

You investigate this “something” because you’re like, “Hey! What is this thing doing here in my life? Did I ask for it? Is it supposed to be here? Am I meant to learn anything from this?”

As soon as you stop to acknowledge it, it kind of hijacks you, takes you hostage. You’re forced to confront it non-stop until you can figure out why it’s there.

Eventually, you begin to understand its reason for being.

And then you’re like, “Oh shit.”

This thing is change. It’s growth. It wants to shake things up and possibly throw debris into your nice, neat comfort zone.

So, then you have to decide: How crucial is this change in the scheme of things? If I pass up this opportunity for growth is that a little like dying? Is there perhaps another way to grow without ruining what’s good right now in my life?

(Warning: Idiom ahead) Do I cut off my nose to spite my face?

The answers to these questions certainly aren’t going to come easily. How do I get to the place where I know I’m on the right path?

The only thing I know for sure is that there’s gonna be a lot more mess, and a helluva lot more debris.

Maybe I don’t have to spite my face, and all that’s required is the courage to see a different reflection.

In the mean time, I’m putting on my flak jacket and heading out into the danger.

Wish me well.

For Realz

I guess this is my way of bringing my “About” page to life, or to simply expand upon it.

My name is Nancy. I am 46, married, and have 6-1/2-year-old twin boys.

This is what I look like as of a couple of days ago:

Here is the avatar I used on Twitter and currently use on Tumblr:

Does it matter what I look like? Maybe not. But the fact I’m showing you lets you know that I’m not afraid to present the real me.

Of course, in the age of photo-editing software it’s commonly known that we do a little tweaking here and there. Change the lighting a bit, enhance the color saturation, or maybe delete a blemish or some dark circles.

But, essentially, it’s still me. The real me.

I’ve made an effort to be as authentic as possible. And that means sharing things my family might not think is appropriate for a middle-aged woman to divulge. I don’t care what people think. I need to expose what’s real in order to get truth back in return.

Not surprisingly, some people are not as truthful.

They’ll use a cartoon character as their avatar on social media networks. Or maybe it’s the photo of someone famous. In this case, everyone knows that’s not who they really are.

But what if you put up a photo of a stranger – someone not recognizable. Perhaps you’ve found this stranger on a stock photo website. You notice there are several photos of this stranger, so you post more. You create a “new” life out of the images of this stranger.

And people respond. They respond positively, with words of adulation. “You’re so gorgeous”, they say, and “You are truly a beautiful person, inside and out.”

Maybe you did this because you are trying to hide from something or someone. Maybe you are in some kind of physical danger. Or, then again, maybe you’re just not so happy with who you are and what you look like. “What’s the harm?” you say. “I’m not hurting anybody.”

I’ll say it. I think you are hurting people, yourself included.

Because the lie can’t continue indefinitely.

Eventually, the people who have grown closer to you will discover the falsities. They’ll feel betrayed. They’ll feel used.

And you? You’re not doing a service to yourself if you can’t present your real self – flaws and all.

You’ll never be able to love who you are if you can’t look at your own image and say, “That’s me.”

I’ve seen this kind of thing happen, in the movies – a documentary called Catfish – and even in my own (relatively large) social media circle.

Come clean. Expose the beautiful person who you are.

You’ll never be happy if you can’t accept your own reality.

Spaces

That’s my childhood home in Skokie

It didn’t feel very homey. I guess it’s best just to call it a house.

It was a relatively small dwelling on a street that seemed to end just as it was beginning. A typical suburban bi-level house, there was a short flight of stairs up to the second floor and a short flight of stairs down to a room which doesn’t really qualify as a basement (but flooded nonetheless).

These were some tight quarters. But it didn’t feel crowded. We were all in a separate spaces.

Mom, dad, sister and me.

Four silos in a bi-level box.

I imagine there was a time when “togetherness” existed. I look at the many slides my father took with his fancy camera, and I try to piece together the sense of a family. Images of vacations, trips to the zoo and the park. Birthday parties, friends in the backyard playing on the swing set.

I see my mother – a woman whom I admired for her beauty and her artistic talent. There’s my rocket-scientist father – oh, how proud I was of his intelligence, his achievements. I tried so hard to please them, to make them proud. I excelled in school and in musical performance. I felt their pride when I brought home a good report card or played a piece on the piano after having looked at the score only one time.

My sister and I fought like all siblings do. It seemed natural. Normal.

But at some point I began to sense the loneliness. Was it junior high? High school?

If asked to describe a typical family scene during my pre-teen and full-teen years, it would go something like this:

  • Dad is at the computer in the “basement” after a long day of work at an electrical engineering firm on the South Side. He doesn’t communicate with the kids much, and when he does it’s scary. He’s a quiet man with a low tolerance for frustration and a yell so powerfully frightening that he never needs to spank or hit. I rely on him to help me with my math homework (although, when he does, he often raises that scary voice in frustration).
  • Mom is in the kitchen. Preparing food? Maybe. What’s going through her mind? Who knows. My mother became a career woman around the time I turned nine. She completed her English B.A. while we were still young and eventually took a job as an editor. I didn’t see her around the house much, except for in the evenings.  She had a temper, as well. Although it typically manifested as crazed episodes in which she would have a rant and then go to her room and shut the door.
  • Kid sister. Can’t place her in any specific room, but I tried to avoid her. At around age 11 or 12, she developed nervous tics which we would later discover was Tourette’s. Then she started pulling out her own hair. I didn’t know how to relate to her, and I was afraid to ask her about it. I believe I thought I could “catch” what she had.
  • I was probably in my bedroom with the incredibly loud floral wallpaper, trying to write pages of what I suppose was my first attempt at a journal. Purple-lined paper with rounded edges, and I’m going on and on about the painful experience of losing my first boyfriend. He called it quits because I wasn’t able to admit how much I deeply cared for him.

Our family tried to get together once to address the issue of my sister’s tics. All four of us sat together in a family counseling session. I don’t think any of us were there willingly. The meeting ended disastrously, and then we went back home and retreated to our separate spaces.

I don’t believe we ever talked about it again.

What if we had been a family who chose to communicate with each other? Despite our fears and the awkward discomfort of admitting blame and imperfection, what if we had decided to just put it all out there?

Wondering doesn’t change anything, of course.

The best I can do is try to live my present-day life in an honest and open way. To tell people how I’m feeling, even if it makes me vulnerable, even if it’s scary as shit.

I have to do this.

It’s time to break free of the silo.

Skokie, Illinois

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Downtown Skokie circa 1975

You may have heard of this town.

It was made famous in 1978 when the Nazi Party wanted to hold a march there.

They wanted to march in Skokie because Skokie used to be populated by a lot of Jews.

It isn’t anymore, and the march didn’t happen.

But that’s not the point.

Skokie is where I was born and raised. I am a Jew. I should have felt at home there. But no one gave me permission to be proud of my heritage.

My parents are also Jewish and were raised with the traditions. But aside from visiting the grandparents or great aunts and uncles during Passover, or lighting candles on Hanukkah, or breaking the “fast” (not that anyone actually fasted) after Yom Kippur (the Day of Guilt), we never really talked about being Jewish.

My dad is a scientist and identified as an atheist. He didn’t want anything to do with the synagogue. Didn’t want to send his kids to Hebrew School, to get confirmed, have a bat mitzvah. My mom? She didn’t want to force her children to do the same stuff her parents made her do. (More on that in another post.)

My best friend was a Lutheran, and her mother was very involved in the church, played the organ there. I used to accompany my friend to her church on Wednesday afternoons because my mom was working and I needed a place to go after school.

I so wanted to be a Christian. I didn’t know what that actually meant, but I could feel the sense of community and belonging my friend felt when she was in that building. (I also wanted a Christmas tree, but what kid doesn’t?).

I used to imagine I was a little blond child with blue eyes. A Christian child. Her name was Suzanne. She was based on a real actress – an adorable, precocious, freckle-faced strawberry blond who appeared in TV movies and in the Sears Catalog.

 

Suzanne Davidson: Child Actress of the 80.

I even went so far as to deny my religion. I remember that a boy in my third grade class called me a kike. I wasn’t outraged at his remark. I didn’t express anger or call him out on his disgusting remark.

I simply insisted, “I’m not Jewish!”

I knew I was Jewish. But I didn’t know what that meant or if that was a good or a bad thing. It didn’t sound like a good thing to me. In my circle, it made me feel different…like an outsider.

I wasn’t made to feel proud. I wasn’t told about the history of the religion. The only history I got was the story of Anne Frank. That story made me want to be a Jew even less.

I tell this tale not because I believe that religion itself is important in a child’s upbringing. It could be. But it’s also true that many lives are ruined in the name and practice of religion.

However, being a Jew is, culturally, a crucial part of my identity. If you’re brought up a Catholic, and you decide later on you want to renounce Catholicism…that’s okay. You do so based on knowing what the religion is all about, a cumulative understanding of how you did or did not identify with it, and then deciding – based on what you know about the religion and about yourself – that it just doesn’t suit you.

Being a Jew, in and of itself, doesn’t define everything about me. Of course not. But it is a part of me  – a part, apparently, which wasn’t important enough to be discussed in my house, like so many other topics which weren’t discussed. (Once again, a story for another post).

I’m 46 years old, and I still don’t know exactly who I am.  Part of the reason I don’t is that I never really knew who I “was”.  Nobody took the time to introduce me to myself all those years ago.

First Rule of Movie Theater Club is:

Ha ha! There’s no Movie Theater Club!

Well, there probably are movie clubs, in the sense that there are clubs for everything these days. Just look on meetup.com and you’ll find a club to satisfy every interest of yours. Even the bizarre ones.

So, Movie Theater Club doesn’t sound so unusual, but it’s clear that I wouldn’t qualify as a member since I haven’t been to the movie theater in ages! I just don’t seem to have the time – or the patience – to sit for that long. Even if it’s a movie I’ve been looking forward to seeing, I’m already checking my watch after about the first half-hour.

But there was a time when I made an effort to see many movies. I was a bit of a movie snob, only interested in the foreign, documentary, avant-garde, Academy-Award-nominated types of films. That’s when I was single and living in a large city. Avant-garde is certainly more accessible in urban areas.

When I first moved out to the suburbs, I became quite familiar with the land masses known as “movieplexes”. Although it took me a while to get past my citified-snobbery, once I did I grew to appreciate the sheer quantity of options available to me. I could choose from a number of ‘plexes and totally pick and choose just what I wanted from my movie-going experience. And I’m not just talking about movie titles. I mean the actual “crafting” of the movie experience.

So, with that, I present my rules of Movie Theater Club:

  1. First rule: There’s more than one rule of Movie Theater Club; there are several.
  2. Timing is everything. Okay, not everything, but a lot. If you can, go during the week. Even better, go during the week and during the daytime hours. It’s much less crowded at these times which ensures optimal seat selection. Of course, this rule works best for the unemployed. Plus it’s usually cheaper during the day!
  3. Skip the previews. This is kind of like a Timing rule because it requires going against every grain of your punctual being, but who wants to sit through 20 minutes of commercials. Of course, showing up late may post a problem when it comes to the next rule…
  4. You must identify many possible seat locations to guard against: 1) Talkers; 2) Seat-Kickers; 3) Last-minute arrivals who, according to the law of Murphy, sit directly in front of you, talk, and block your view with their large heads; and 4)Inaccessibility to the aisle for sudden bladder emergencies (see Refreshments)
  5. Refreshments. An area where it gets a little tricky. My rule: Walk confidently and carry a big bag. In your big bag, carry your own snacks. Movie theater fare is expensive and unhealthy. Until they can bring down the prices and offer some good trans-fat & HGCS-free options, I say it’s your right to do what’s best for your body and wallet. (Note: please don’t mention my name when you get caught.) But  you may want to buy a large drink so as not to call too much attention to the fact that you’re not carrying a popcorn bag or a tray of nachos. Just remember that large drinks may make easy access to the aisle a priority when choosing seats.
  6. Finally, don’t leave before the end of the credits. Sometimes the director includes some awesome bonus footage there. Plus, it makes you look cool if you stay…like you know someone involved with the film’s production or something.

If you can’t abide by any or all of these rules? Well, I wish you luck. It’s your money. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

And one more thing: NOBODY TALKS ABOUT MOVIE THEATER CLUB! Mainly because I just made it up. But let’s hope they don’t catch on. You don’t want them cashing in on your inside information, do you?

Nearly 46 Years Ago…

Look how frightened my dad was, holding his very tiny first child (that would be me).

He was so young. Still in graduate school.

Living with my mom in a tiny apartment that just SCREAMS 60s!

Bet he was thinking, “Shit. What am I supposed to do with this baby girl? What does it mean to be a father?”

It took several more years and a divorce before he finally let his guard down, and learned to just be himself, instead of some distant man who didn’t know how to relate to his family. Who would sit in front of his computer (yeah, he was one of the early adopters) for hours doing God knows what.

Heh. I can really relate to that.

But he made up for all this, and I don’t hold any grudges.

I see him often, and will visit once again this weekend. Now I can really feel the love he has for me, for my husband, and for his precious grandchildren.

He did the best he could. We all do.

Grocery Store Confessions

Not quite the same as Taxi Cab Confessions. Nobody’s driving this vehicle but me, and (as far as I know) there’s no hidden camera.

Plus, I should add, my admissions are not really racy enough to be called “confessions”.  But – let’s face it – I’m here to talk about myself, and you seem to be good listeners. Am I right?

Good. Here goes…

  1. I “sample” grapes to see if they’re worthy. Nothing more aggravating than coming home with sour grapes. (Yes. I know that was a bad pun. Have I lost you already, or shall I go on?)
  2. I unscrew the caps of scented lotions, shampoos, cleaning products, etc. and let my nose be the judge before I make the decision to buy. The manufacturers should really include scratch-n-sniff patches on their products’ labels. I’ve come home with body washes that were supposed to smell like apricots, yet emitted the rather unfortunate “scent” of b.o.
  3. If I need one of those plastic bags for produce, and there is no condensation on the fruit or vegetable, I lick my finger to help get the bag open. It happens, people. Don’t think it doesn’t.
  4. If an actual food sample display is provided, I may or may not use a toothpick to grab the item. It kind of depends on whether or not I think I can pick it up without touching the others. Sometimes I misjudge and accidentally touch one of the pieces left behind (which usually happens just after I’ve licked my finger to open the plastic produce bag).
  5. I let one of my kids (the bigger one) ride on the back of the cart. The store probably frowns upon this practice, but, c’mon… he’s almost six. If he falls off, it’s not going to do any real damage.
  6. Even at my ripe old age, I’m still embarrassed to buy condoms or lubes. I’ll do that online (or make my husband buy them).
  7. I almost never ask for more than 2 things at the deli counter. I am nothing if not considerate to the other people waiting for the one, bored, in-hate-with-her-job deli worker to very l e i s u r e l y walk over to the slicer. Oh, and I don’t get all hissy about whether the meat or cheese is sliced too thick or thin.
  8. Finally, I wouldn’t even think of parking my cart at an express lane with more than the number of items posted on the sign. It’s just the right thing to do.

There are probably a few more, but right now I have to spit out the grapes that I failed to sample because someone was watching. Blechhh!

I hope I didn’t ruin the shopping experience for you.