The Seven Stages of Grief

“G-d is with me, through my helpers, therefore I can face my foes.”

1. Shock and Disbelief

October 25, 2015 I was sitting on the couch in the hubby’s man cave after talking to Kathy about Michael’s impending departure, weeping as I had five years prior upon hearing the news that my sister Maureen had died suddenly without warning on December 22, 2010 at the age of 51. Mom had just died eight months ago and dad two years before that…

September 16, 2018 – Two years ago today I began writing about my cycling adventures, inspired by the experience of witnessing my brother, Michael, perish after a 2 1/2 year battle with cancer. It seems like only yesterday I was riding Old Bessie and taking random photographs of the things I encountered and posted to his Facebook page in the hopes of cheering Michael up while he wasted away in the hospital.

On September 16, 2015, Bessie and I set off to a place we’d been multiple times before since moving to Cherry Hill six years prior. Following the back roads of Mount Laurel, New Jersey, we were in search of the small rickety bridge crossing Rancocas Creek and bringing us to Rancocas Village, a quaint little town dating back to the mid-18th century (May 29, 2018, Where there’s a will, there’s a way….). It was a Tuesday morning with temperatures in the 70s, low humidity and a beautiful clear blue-sky day, not a cloud in sight.

As I rounded the bend leading to the bridge off Centerton Road, I came across a blockade…I actually cried…

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Tuesday, September 16, 2015, 11:38 a.m.

Over the next two years, on September 16th I made the pilgrimage back to what I now know as Centerton Road Bridge, each year bringing the disappointing fact that I wasn’t getting across any time soon.

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Friday, September 16, 2016, 11:50 a.m.
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Friday, September 15, 2017, 12:26 a.m.

2. Denial

September 13, 2018Purge City! Before the kid left for Israel last month, I made a promise to myself to go through the house, room by room, the closets being my nemesis, bins full of memories I hoped to never forget – having lived with Alzheimer’s does that to a person. Coming across the kid’s Jewish version of Flat Stanley (a.k.a. Flat Shimeon) that she mailed to Michael and Liz in 2005, my brain reminded me that Michael wasn’t with us anymore…right?

September 16, 2018 – The bridge will be open today…

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Sunday, September 16, 2018, 10:50 a.m.

3. Pain

October 26, 2015Why didn’t I visit more often? What stopped me from just hopping on a plane to visit my one and only brother?!

September 16, 2018 – As Bessie and I sulked our way back home, my thighs screamed for mercy. I hadn’t ridden long distance since the cancer ride on June10th, and I was feeling it. That’s when the Doherty gene kicked in – ignore the pain…work through it…suck it up…

4. Anger

December 22, 2010, April 1, 2013, February 3, 2015, October 27, 2015WHY?!

September 16, 2018 – Why did I wear this pair of capris?! The chamois is way too big…man, does my ass hurt…and why the f**k ain’t that bridge fixed yet?!

http://www.burlingtoncountytimes.com/news/20180509/burlington-county-set-to-demolish-centerton-bridge

5. Bargaining

October 27, 2015If I had only known how sick he really was…

September 16, 2018 – Okay, G-d…just get me to the Exxon station so I can buy some water…

6. Depression

December 10, 2010 – September 15, 2018 I’m not going to make it…

September 16, 2018 – It dawned on me today that every year has given me that beautiful clear blue sky, the only change being the juxtaposition of the blockade and the vegetation being more overgrown than the year before. My angels provided the day…and life has gone on…

7. Acceptance and Hope

Today – No big deal. I knew what to expect when I got to the bridge. Only, there was that nagging prayer that the bridge would be repaired just in time for my return, as if the Burlington County Board of Freeholders knew how important this was to me. What can I say? I’m an idealist – I never give up hope. Eventually we will all see one another again…on the other side of the bridge…a nice pedestrian bridge would most certainly be acceptable to this pilgrim…

Not quite the conformist, I found myself disobeying the signs once again…

…and I made tashlich (“to cast,” referring to the intent to cast away our sins) at this place…

So tell the voice inside ya head to believe it
I talked to God about you, he said he sent you an angel
And look at all that he gave you

Only One – Kanye West

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

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9/11

September 11, 2001

8:50AM

It was a perfectly beautiful day. The sky was crystal blue with puffy white clouds, and the temperature barely reached 70 degrees Fahrenheit. I was working out to my favorite kickboxing/self-defense video in the living room of our 1,020 square foot two-bedroom rancher at the edge of a well-known wildlife refuge in Southern New Jersey, sweating my ass off in an attempt to lose those 55 pounds gained during pregnancy two and a half years prior.  As was the daily protocol, the kid attempted to thwart my every move by strategically moving her kiddie table and chairs, along with various other toys and stuffed animals, in an attempt to cease all exercise. The kid just didn’t like me to exercise…ever. No matter what I did, where or when I did it, the kid just wasn’t having any of it. Perhaps she thought of it as play time. Or maybe she just thought it was funny to watch mommy dancing around, punching and kicking like a beached whale desperate to roll off shore into the ocean where I would exist weightless from Earth’s gravity. Whatever the case may be, the only other thing I remember was the cordless phone with the caller ID announce voice informing me, “Call from Mom.” Desperately wishing to make it through one workout video without interruption as I flailed my way past miniature tables and chairs, teddy bears, mega blocks and crayons, I refused to answer the phone. Mom and I talked almost daily and had seen one another at least five times a week over the past summer, my parents’ pool being the end-all-of-be-all for the kid since she could hold her head up.

The answering machine picked up the call as I listened to my mother’s panic-stricken voice on the line, “They’re attacking us! Please pick up! We’re being attacked! Are you watching?!” Not quite understanding what the hell she was talking about, I picked up the phone, pissed off that my routine had been broken, no thanks to the kid’s daily shenanigans and my mother’s constant anxiety. But this time it wasn’t about psychological tension.

Immediately turning off the VCR, I clicked on the channel to CNN (my go-to news source at the time and the first station to utilize the scrolling news bar on 9/11) and watched as giant plumes of black and white smoke bellowed from One World Trade Center’s North Tower. My only thought of, “What the f**k is going on?” replayed in my brain as mom relayed the scenes she witnessed on the ABC, CBS and NBC news shows she and dad religiously watched every morning since retiring in 1988.

My brain refused to believe what my eyes were seeing. A commercial airliner had crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, a building that had been completed when I was five-years-old, its sister South Tower being completed at the age of seven.

9:03AM

Watching as the North Tower burned, I leapt up and screamed as I witnessed on my television a plane crashing into the South Tower. I trustingly informed my mother that I needed to hang up in order to contact the hubby and would respond to her as soon as I spoke to him about what was going on. The hubby was and still is my main source of informative news, his predictions always 100% spot on (excepting Trump, that is – sorry dude).

As I questioned the hubby, it dawned on me that he was completely clueless as to the morning’s events. How was that possible?! How could he not know anything?! Frantically updating him on mom’s phone call and the burning North Tower followed by the plane crashing into the South Tower, I begged him to come home. To my dismay, the hubby refused to leave work early. I do believe the amount of calls I made to him that day are the most he’s ever had from me since the day we met, January 21, 1989.

9:37AM

The Pentagon is on fire, apparently as a result of another plane. This isn’t happening…we’re being attacked?!

9:59AM

Collapsing to the floor as I watched the South Tower crumble in a matter of seconds, the kid finally stopped f***ing around and realized how serious the matter had become.

10:03AM

Another plane crashes somewhere in Pennsylvania. Coincidence or related? This is f**cked up!

10:28AM

The North Tower buckles in seconds flat. At this point I’m a disheveled mess on the floor of my living room as the kid attempts to cheer me up by bringing me more toys.

Glued to the television set the entire day, I watched as the west side of lower Manhattan collapsed piece by piece into the rush hour. All planes in the U.S. were grounded and/or ordered to land regardless of their route. Rescue teams began desperately searching for survivors as I crumpled into the couch still sobbing from the day’s events. Waking up the next day with CNN still blaring from the t.v., the scrolling news bar listing the names of each and every passenger aboard each plane, I lost my s**t when the names of two sisters, ages two and four, rolled swiftly across the screen, along with the names of their parents…

The next 48 hours were the quietest I’ve ever experienced in this life on the planet.

I watched CNN 24/7 for two months straight, hoping to find some sense in a day that had none. I watched to the point where I couldn’t function. I watched to the point where I couldn’t watch anymore…and then I just turned the television set off.

I haven’t watched or read any news since that day. I’m not kidding – I HAVE NOT WATCHED OR READ THE NEWS SINCE DECEMBER 2001. Hence the hubby still being my main source of informative news…

The following year I would watch the French documentary 9/11, followed by every and any other documentary available about that day, still trying to make sense of impossible nonsense…and then we found out about Osama Bin Laden…who would be killed ten long years after the fact…

Needless to say, whenever I worked out after that day, the kid was ever present, f**king around, bringing me stuff and trying to make me laugh…until we joined a gym together fourteen years later…and now I try to make her laugh…

First Day of School

“You know, it’s funny what a young man recollects. ‘Cause I don’t remember being born. I don’t recall what I got for my first Christmas, and I don’t know when I went on my first outdoor picnic. But I do remember the first time I heard the sweetest voice in the wide world.” – Young Forrest Gump

Do you remember your first day of school? For you younger folks, which includes my daughter, that might mean the first day you were put in daycare at the tender age of three months. However, back when I was a little girl, the first day of school meant kindergarten. In my world, mothers didn’t work or, at the very least, they didn’t work full time. Mom was there when you got up in the morning, ready to hand you that brown paper bag filled with the lunch she made while you were getting ready for school. However, in our house you were permitted to buy lunch from the cafeteria once a week, which for me was usually hamburger day on Fridays. Mom was also there when you got home from school, all ears and seemingly willing to hear about your experiences and question whatever homework was due the next day. No latchkey kid here. I actually hadn’t even thought about my first day of school for decades until Regina sent me this photo:

First Day

I vaguely remember my first day of kindergarten, little snippets of memory breaking through here and there over the years. My best friend, Kassie Moore, and I walked the four blocks to John Y. Dater School, our mothers in tow and Kassie’s baby sister Meredith in a stroller

First Day of Kindergarten 1970

As we approached the building we noted separate entrances, one for boys and one for girls, and questioned whether or not it was necessary to abide. Fortunately, my classroom was the first door on the left, accessed through the lower middle doors not marked by any gender requirements. I remember Susan P. sitting at the end of the table, sucking her thumb with an incurable case of the hiccups while several other kids cried for their mommies, not quite ready for the inevitable beginning of separation that would occur for the rest of their lives until launching properly as young adults from their parents’ household years later…hopefully. I recollect the teacher asking if we knew how to read, write and/or count, which I, being the youngest of six children, knew for at least two years.

My teacher was Mrs. Schoenlank, the best kindergarten teacher a kid could have. She was also probably the most sensitive teacher I’ve ever had in my entire life. She was made for kindergarten. She played piano for us every day, sometimes teaching us a new song to sing along with her accompaniment or leading us in a tremendous marching band circling the room, miniature drums and handheld cymbals, tambourines, triangles, wooden blocks, jingle bells, maracas and kazoos in mastered rows. Aside from the ever-present music, we occupied ourselves with sand and water tables, finger painting, board games and other toys always readily available. Mrs. Schoenlank also knew a local chicken farmer who provided our class with fertilized eggs kept inside an incubator for us to monitor until adorable little yellow chicks emerged, ultimately returning them to Farmer Fred. We also bred mealy worms…not sure why…perhaps to feed the chicks? Needless to say, I don’t remember doing any schoolwork whatsoever. It was just downright fun. I loved going to kindergarten every day…until the mid-year switcharoo…

Although some school districts still follow this pattern, back in the day kindergarten was only half day. For three months you went to morning session and for six months you attended the afternoon session or vice versa. How I got stuck doing afternoon longer than morning annoys me to this day. In the mornings you woke up, got dressed, brushed your teeth, ate breakfast, grabbed your paper-bag lunch and ran out the door. By the afternoon your day was almost over…and there were way too many distractions…like Bozo the Clown…

I was obsessed. After morning sessions, I would arrive home just in time for Bozo the Clown, who waited patiently for me in the television set every day at 12:00 noon sharp. But during the afternoon sessions I was expected to leave the house by noon in order to get to school on time. I often attempted to “hide” from my mother’s watchful eye by sitting in front of the t.v., quietly praying she would forget I existed and/or believed I had responsibly found my way out the door like a dutiful child. Not so lucky…The only other memory I have is of Dawn C., the girl who would become my best friend for many years after and who, thanks to the marvels of social media, I would find once again decades later.

Each new school year I looked forward to the first day of school, carefully planning what I would wear and anxiously wondering who would be in my class. But it never lasted beyond the first week. On the first day of first grade I was transferred to Mrs. Gebhardt, a brand, new baby teacher who was a total bitch and yelled at poor Jimmy G. who cried because he just wasn’t ready to leave kindergarten. In second grade I ended up in the hospital with some strange stomach virus, although Miss Marble made sure letters were written by my fellow students, claiming to miss me and wishing better health. Third grade was an exception, Mrs. Layton being one of my all-time favorite teachers who lived on a farm and invited students to her home on a regular basis to witness farming firsthand. For years after, Dawn C. and I would ride our bicycles to Mrs. Layton’s home where we would spend hours helping out and playing with her kids. Although I loved my fourth-grade homeroom teacher, Miss Hamilton, a lounge singer at night, she was the only teacher that year who didn’t treat me like an idiot. And my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Walker, was going through a divorce – need I say more? Middle school was horrendous. And don’t even get me started on high school. G-d bless Mrs. Schoenlank for her efforts. It all started out so nice. If anything, she was the motivating catapult that pushed my love of music and encouraged my learning how to play piano – an instrument that got me through many a challenge in life.

In the end, by the time I was in high school mom went back to work full time, and I became that latchkey kid, oftentimes forgetting my key and having to climb into the downstairs bathroom window and rummaging through the fridge for food after spending my lunch money on cigarettes. Kassie Moore moved the summer before first grade, and we never saw one another again. Steven R. , the kid known as “the retard,” now works for Merrill Lynch. When we were in middle school, Susan K.’s mother died from lung cancer after sucking the carcinogens of her father’s cigarette smoke for years, her father later becoming an ex-smoker, born-again Christian who married another Christian and moved the family away before high school. Susan G. and Kim W. now live happily in Florida, a place we all aspire to retire. Laura F. died from cancer a few years back. Lisa G. would be caught with cigarettes by her father, who would challenge her to chew an entire packet of tobacco thus allowing her to smoke openly. Susan P. stopped sucking her thumb and went on to be a head cheerleader in high school. Matthew C. is in software. Larry R., my secret crush, would ultimately move away, get married to his perfect match (not me) and raise two beautiful children (not mine).  Jimmy G. would be left back in first grade to kindergarten. I later befriended him in high school, but I don’t think he ever graduated. Dawn C. would move away before middle school, marry her high school sweetheart, divorce and lose a long-time love to cancer last year. Marc M. would later squeeze my boobs in the second grade and find himself deep in the throws of addiction and come out clean for years after. John Y. Dater School got a complete makeover a couple of years ago and looks nothing like when we were in attendance, and the granddaughter of John Y. Dater was killed on Pan Am Flight 103, which exploded over Lockerbie Scotland on December 21, 1988 thanks to a terrorist bomb planted on the plane in Germany. As for the rest of my class – Rosemary, the two Andrew W.’s and the other Andrew, Laurie S., Eileen O. and the other Eileen, Melody and Clifford B. – I pray that your lives have given you fulfillment. Accepted into the gifted program in first grade, I was smart but refused to excel – too much work and not enough fun – a decision I regret to this day. Discovering that Mrs. Schoenlank died from cancer years ago, I wept as if I’d lost my best friend and, at this writing tonight, I learned that Bozo the Clown (a.k.a Frank Avruch) died this year on March 22nd. And I suddenly wondered what happened to those cute, fuzzy little yellow chicks…

How was your first day of school?

I still prefer mornings over afternoons..

 It started out with butterflies
On a velvet afternoon
With flashing eyes and promises
Caught and held too soon

It Started Out So Nice – Rodriguez

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

Mommy Mikey Day

bound·a·ry /’bound(ə)rē/ noun: a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line.

June 27, 2018

This morning I remembered the box of Cream of Wheat in the pantry that I bought to use as a thickener for a vegan soup recipe. I haven’t had Cream of Wheat in ages and couldn’t get the thought out of my head that I really needed to eat it for breakfast. As the farina came to a slow boil, I reached for the Splenda and suddenly remembered that my mom always added butter. Okay, so Earth Balance Original is not exactly butter, but it still felt like a big ole hug from mommy. Now I was ready to rock and roll and start the day feeling good.

Tired of the same old gym routine and the threat of thunderstorms making a bike ride a bad decision, I resolved to go for a walk some place close to where my car would be parked just in case the weather decided to cooperate with the forecast. That’s when I thought about Boundary Creek Natural Resource Area, the park I ventured out to on a misty rain two days before Michael died (Christmas in October, September 23, 2016). Despite all forewarning, I defied the Weather Channel and chose to head out on another misty morning almost two years later. The park, itself, was not very large with the parking lot speedily accessible no matter what trail I would be walking along.

As I drove to the outskirts of Moorestown, it dawned on me that I had never been to Boundary Creek in the summer, having only gone in the autumn several times before. This time (weather permitting) I was going to take my time and really look around, determined to read every single signage…and I did!

Boundary Creek is located along Rancocas Creek, a waterway named after the “Rankokous,” the Native American Nation of the Powhatan Renape. Starting off the Delaware River and running a little further south of Vincentown, Rancocas Creek winds through a number of major hubs in Southern New Jersey. I discovered that the park was part of a 1050 acre peach plantation originally owned by John and Grace Hollinshead, immigrants from England in the mid-17th century. At the time the southwestern counties were being settled, there were no roads, thereby creating a “riverline highway” for steamboat transportation up and down the Rancocas. John Hollinshead also owned and operated one of the steamboats.

Three hundred years later, throughout the 1980s the County Board of Chosen Freeholders of Burlington County began acquiring land in order to preserve what are known as “green acres.” As of the early 2000s, Burlington County boasted over 3500 acres of open space and over 50,000 acres of preserved farmland, the Hollinshead property being one such acquisition in 2002. By 2004, the county began planning and designing the preservation of the natural habitat that was later named Boundary Creek Natural Resource Area. From open field grassland and succession to a vast forest area, the park has become home to hundreds of plant and animal species.

Milkweed wafting lilac scents, stately coneflower, wild raspberries beginning to ripen, bright red berries taunting the local wildlife, interesting fungus growing on a fallen tree and sweet-smelling honeysuckle.

With a multitude of mammals, herptiles, waterbirds, birds of prey, songbirds and woodpeckers, several pathways along the creek invite you to hide out and spy or just merely sit and ponder…

Finishing up the 1 1/2 miles of figure-eight trails and boardwalks, I decided to stop off at Johnson’s Corner Farm, one of mom’s favorite places to visit. The rain still holding, I thought it would be a good idea to go pick-my-own veggies and fruits – an activity with a very short window in any given year. You just can’t beat fresh organic produce grown locally and picked by your own hands. Driving out of the parking lot of Boundary Creek, I officially declared Boundary Creek to be Mikey Bro’s Farm from this day forward. I’ll be forwarding a memo to the County Board of Chosen Freeholders ASAP…

Stomach growling to remind me that I hadn’t eaten all day, I stopped at the local Wawa to purchase some hard boiled eggs, promising myself some ice cream at the farm but only after eating something healthy like a nice homegrown peach. On the way, I somehow convinced myself to go to the gym after the farm, despite my decision this morning to skip the old boring gym routine. Besides, if I was going to eat ice cream, I had to hit the gym to burn off the calories, right? Arriving at the farm, I entered the shop to purchase some produce not available for picking, particularly the peaches. I quickly scarfed down a peach to satisfy my insistence on eating something healthy before going for ice cream. As soon as I saw the list, I knew what I needed – blueberry pomegranate chocolate chip ice cream! And it was FABULOUS!

Sauntering inside to buy tickets for the hayride that would take me to the fields where I had predetermined picking my own blueberries, strawberries, snap peas and green beans, I was informed by the cashier that the tractor driving away as we speak was the last one until tomorrow. I just had to stop for that ice cream, didn’t I…argh!

F**k the gym! I didn’t need all that stuff anyway!

In the end, I found myself at the local grocery store to shop for Shabbat.

A box of Cream of Wheat started today’s journey. How funny that a simple red cardboard box filled with farina can expel a swarm of memories – our family home in Ramsey filled with fifteen years of childhood memories, my mother ever present for whatever was needed…at least most of the time for me. So where did my thoughts of Michael come in? That’s right – they both died in 2015 eight months apart…and they both died on a Tuesday…

I thank G-d that my mother didn’t have to suffer the loss of one more child…

Still seething over my inability to pick my own produce and not burning off those ice cream calories, unlike my defiance of the definite impending thunderstorms that never happened, I succumbed to G-d’s advice – sometimes you just need to not have a plan and just go with what I’ve given you…LIFE

Enough is enough…time to set that boundary…

And then a neighbor came over this afternoon to give me some strawberries in exchange for some old dishes…

“Living is easy with eyes closed
Misunderstanding all you see
It’s getting hard to be someone
But it all works out
It doesn’t matter much to me”

Strawberry Fields – The Beatles

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

Returning to the scene of the crime

Twenty-nine years ago this summer, the hubby and I went to the Berlin Farmers Market in West Berlin, New Jersey to buy our first dressers together as a couple. We met in January 1989, four months into his third year of law school as I was getting ready to work on my Master of Art in Anthropology at the New School for Social Research beginning that fall. Two weeks into the relationship I suggested we become roomies, a proposal the hubby probably would have ran from in a heartbeat if he hadn’t been so concerned about my feelings.

Needless to say, he took me up on my offer, and we spent the summer searching for an affordable apartment somewhere within the Five Boros, ultimately finding one in the Ditmars neighborhood of Astoria, Queens not far from the park along the East River. Now knowing how much room we had to fill, the rest of the summer was spent looking for some good, cheap furniture, hence our discovery of the Berlin Farmers Market. Procuring a 19th-century chest of drawers made with wooden joints and a 1940s highboy for a whopping total of $90.00, my father assisted us with the use of his pickup truck and some muscle and stored the dressers in his garage until the big move. My father also took it upon himself to refinish the older dresser, making it appear as if brand new. Boy, I miss his many talents…

As the beginning of the school year approached, the hubby and I packed up our meager belongings, shoved them into a rented U-Haul and made the three-hour trip north to what would be the first of seven homes we would create together over the next thirty years. Upon our arrival to the apartment building, the hubby and I eagerly slipped the entrance key into the keyhole and made our way up the flight of stairs to B3, our new digs on the second floor. That’s when we looked at one another and realized we would have to lug the entire contents of the moving truck parked half a block away out of the truck, up the street, up the stairs, through the lobby, up another flight of stairs and down the long hallway leading to the apartment…including the 19th-century chest of drawers made with wooden joints and a 1940s highboy dresser…that we later discovered were barely big enough to house all our clothing because there were only two closets, one of which was in the hallway and only a foot deep and the other the size of a small linen closet located in the living room.

Plugging in the recently purchased telephone that would be our first of many, we discovered that our service had not been hooked up as promised. Remember, this is 1989, what would be the end of the dark ages for telephone users in America. Cordless phones weren’t even a thing yet, let alone cellular, so the hubby spent the entire day going back and forth to the payphone on the corner at the end of the street calling the phone company questioning our lack of service. Remember when there was only one actual phone company…can you imagine?! Returning one final time, the hubby informed me that I had to pretend to be eight-months pregnant. Out of desperation, he had told the customer service rep that he absolutely, positively had to have phone service immediately because his wife was on the verge of giving birth. So the bed pillow went under my shirt and I laid in bed like the dutiful wife I am…and it worked – the phone guy showed up minutes later and service was restored.

Fast forwarding twenty-nine years, the 19th-century chest of drawers made with wooden joints and a 1940s highboy dresser long ago forgotten somewhere in New Jersey, I just so happened to come across an advertisement online about the Berlin Farmers Market and managed to convince the hubby to go with me last Sunday. It was pretty much the way we remembered and questioned whether or not we were permitted to be there based on our lack of the apparently required amount of tattoos. We joked about the sheitel (wig) store and the floppy alien standing guard. I took note of the bodhisattva proudly declaring her support of the MeToo Movement next to the holy family warding off any further solicitation of wise men. There was the creepy display reminding us of House on the Rock and the gun store where a young boy was buying his first weapon. I had to double-take the Perfect Jew(elry) Exit sign, as well as the locksmith who also just so happens to make keys, the rock-a-bye baby, my portrait of a sleeping husband and a tiny bath bowl.

Having had our fun, we mutually agreed it was time to move along, my purchase of a cute garden accessory in hand, marked down from $7.99 to $3.99 and sold to me for $2.00 because I paid cash. All in all, we were entertained for the afternoon, but no furniture was purchased on this trip – that can wait until our eighth and final home…

“Dallas, got a soft machine; Houston, too close to New Orleans,
New York’s got the ways and means; but just won’t let you be, oh no.”

Truckin’ – Grateful Dead

 

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

Stopping to smell the roses

“All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without benefit of experience.”

Henry Miller

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Today was the first time in a very long time that I spontaneously headed downstairs into the garage, hopped on Ole Bessie, walked out onto the driveway and had no idea where I was going –  no premeditated plan, no GPS, no Google Maps or MayMyRide…just a small bag of trail mix, my debit card and ID and two containers of water. Today I was going to stop and smell the roses…

Not wanting to climb any mountains, I knew which roads to start with to avoid any unnecessary exertion at the end of my ride – let’s go through Maple Shade…no brainer – down the hill on 537 and left on New Albany Road…one of the most dreadful overpass, steady long inclines in Burlington County coming the opposite direction.

First stop – chicken wire sculptures – how have I never noticed this before?!

It’s been a long time since I took New Albany Road to the end…and remembered why when I hit the dreaded Route 130…

Highway

Somehow managing to cross over the highway of hell, I continued on until reaching River Road – another road that fellow cyclists seem to enjoy yet produces significant anxiety for me deep within my soul.

IMG_0576 - Copy

With the fear of giant sneaker-clad ghosts out for a stroll on the highway along the Delaware River haunting me, I pedaled as quickly as possible through Cinnaminson until the “bike lane” allowed enough room for me to not fear imminent death.

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A turtle crossing sign made up of recycled roof singles – okay, if the turtles don’t have a chance in hell, what of me?!

Safely making it into Riverton, I checked out the shops promoting painting lessons, dining with yoga and old-time hardware. As I came to a red traffic light at the intersection of River Road and Main Street where I normally turn left, I decided to check Google Maps to see what would happen if I turned right.

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I stopped briefly at a beautiful 19th-century church where I met a little boy walking his bulldog named Ruby. The boy’s father then appeared on his bike after a nice morning ride and the three of us chatted for a few minutes – until someone slammed the church door shut…loudly…we got the hint.

Main Street ends at Bank Avenue, home to the Riverton Yacht Club, one of the oldest steamboat landings in America.

https://jerseydigs.com/riverton-new-jersey-on-delaware-river-easy-to-visit-by-train/

A mere seven blocks long, Bank Avenue is lined with gorgeous 19th-century mansions, one of which is the 1851 Riverbank Manor or the Caleb Clothier House, reportedly a stop on the Underground Railroad. By the way, it’s currently up for sale if anyone’s interested…

Coming to the end of Bank Avenue, I turned left toward River Road in order to get back onto Main Street and head home. This time I decided to stop at an old abandoned house I’ve ridden by a few times.

The sign says it’s the Cinnaminson Home established in 1880, but I can’t find any information whatsoever about this place. Oddly attached to this 19th-century farmhouse is a long brick building resembling a a school or apartment complex – curiouser and curiouser…

Ready to finish my ride, I was pleased to find that Hello Kitty lives a little over a mile from my house…

 

“Don’t need reason, don’t need rhyme
Ain’t nothing I would rather do”

Highway to Hell – AC/DC

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

Lockin’ it up

June 10, 2018 – Bridge to the Beach Bike-a-thon

Checking the forecast throughout the week, I was repeatedly forewarned on a daily basis that it was not only going to rain all day long, I should also expect severe thunderstorms…

Great…

Was this some kind of metaphor? For nearly three years I’ve been riding for and writing about my brother Michael and his battle with cancer. How apropo…

A year ago this week, I was bombarded by a nasty respiratory infection (no thanks to the hubby) that I, in turn, gave to the kid days before her high school graduation. I still can’t believe I managed to ride 54 miles that day, deathly ill with the possibility of an SVT attack in 90-degree weather. I also cannot believe that the kid is already a full year out of school and is now an Israeli citizen.

All in all, I allowed my OCD to take over this year, thereby ensuring I would not, under any circumstance, become ill in any way, shape or form…and it worked in my favor. Although the kid was battling a nasty respiratory infection over in Israel (just in time for college finals), the hubby and I were clean as whistles, which are not actually clean with all that spit, are they? It’s like “sweating like a pig” – FYI pigs don’t sweat…

I also took Ole Bessie to the shop for a pre-ride check up last month and had to wait almost two weeks to get her back thanks to cycling being in season and everyone and anyone deciding to bring in their bikes the same week. Needless to say, despite paying for an intense cleaning and requesting small quirks be eliminated as much as possible, Bessie was not fixed properly and I had to return her three days before the ride. Admitting their error, I waited for Bessie while chatting with my buddy Jeremy who told me about a couple of very cool miniature golf courses in the area and gave me the name of a guy who just might take those 78s we inherited from my father-in-law and have been piled in the garage for over a year. All in all it was a productive visit – bike fixed for the cancer ride, mini-golf addiction fed for the summer and possibly gaining three extra feet of storage space in my garage for the year…

Before I knew it, the day was here. Although I had done it last year, I still found myself nervous, struggling to catch my breath as I swung my right leg over Bessie’s saddle. Maybe it was because I decided to challenge myself a bit more this year and rode from my house to the first rest stop for cyclists leaving from Philadelphia – a mere six extra miles. Or maybe it was the impending thunderstorms the Weather Channel adamantly insisted would happen today. Or maybe it was the change in directions to the second rest stop that were unfamiliar to me, despite printing the directions out again and remembering how I missed a turn last year, almost missing the whole ride.

But I was prepared – I was wearing my new pair of Shebeest capris with the cushiony chamoise that had proven effective. I  had my new iPhone 7 (see below), fully charged portable charger and fully charged new micro bluetooth speaker to play my fully charged iPod, two containers of water, a bike kit, two extra inner tubes, a bike pump, ID, debit card, cash, snacks, lip balm, hand sanitizer, wipes, eye drops and reading glasses – yet, I was still scared…

Last year the temperatures were into the 90s by 6:00AM, but this year I actually needed a light jacket as I rolled out of the driveway at 5:45AM.

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The first six miles were a piece of cake…

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Eagerly lingering at the rest stop and trying to be a law-abiding adult as the volunteer with the megaphone updated us on how many minutes we had left, declaring we had three minutes left two minutes after telling us we had two minutes left, I took off five minutes before the starting time…I think…and I wasn’t taking my phone out again for fear of dropping it after shattering the screen when it fell from the new phone holder five times on my last ride before the cancer ride that cost me $150 plus to fix so I would have a GPS and a cry for help safety net for the 61 miles I planned on riding. (BTW, Target graciously allowed me to return said holder sans packaging but with receipt in hand…and I had to explain to the customer service rep how to complete this transaction – my Target addiction is a whole other blog…)

Asking what time it was from the gentleman behind me riding for Lockheed Martin who was also complaining about megaphone woman’s issues with math, I pretty much started the same time as last year – 6:40AM. Although this year it was only in the 60s, I stripped off the jacket after sweating buckets thanks to my relentless menopausal hot flashes that never seem to take a break…

Not missing any turns this time, finding the new path actually more direct and easier than last year, I quickly arrived at my first rest stop.

Parking Ole Bessie under an old faded sign allowing me to “park anytime,” I battled with my anxiety over whether or not I should lock her up as I watched absolutely no one with bicycles much more expensive than mine not locking up theirs. I managed to escape long enough to stock up on the traditional carbs and salt while checking on Bessie to squelch my ridiculous fears of thievery. Allowing The Bully to take over and forcing me to move my bike closer to where I was hanging out, I made friends with a very friendly local police officer who was biding his time by using his radar gun on incoming cyclists and telling them their speed.

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As the Philadelphia crowd arrived at the rest stop, I remembered Jeremy-at-the-bike-shop’s words last year, “Don’t stop at the first rest stop – too many people stop there and wear out their welcome.” Apologies to my Philly friends…

As I made my way to the third rest stop, I thought about why I allowed The Bully to take over my thoughts about having my bike stolen. It wasn’t about the price of it – I could always buy a new one, right? I’ve invested a lot of time and money into Bessie to make us fit just right and have ridden many miles with her. To me she is a priceless creation. After complaining about my saddle being torn from use, bike shop Jeremy advised me to suck it up and buy some duct tape, “Once your ass and your saddle fit, you don’t wanna f**k with that symmetry.” Well, that about sums it up…

Reaching the second rest stop, I defied The Bully and leaned Ole Bessie against a tree next to the bike repair tent set up 20 feet away (at least someone would be keeping an eye out, or so I believed enough to abandon my bike) – so that I could make a B-line to the port-o-potties. Actually, my bladder pretty much wins against any bully, human or imagined.

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Stuffing my belly to the gills with watermelon and a snack bar wondering why I was eating so much despite not actually being hungry, I proceeded to the third rest stop and set Ole Bessie under a shady tree sure that she would be safe – f**k you Bully!

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Pretty much sensing my average MPH at this point, I texted the hubby as predetermined, knowing it would take me 1 1/2 hours to ride the remaining 18 miles to Atlantic City – the estimated time it would take him to drive the entire 61 miles. Long stretches of pine barrens later, I approached the fourth rest stop, grateful that the township had finally repaired their majorly potholed roads that nearly killed us last year. Now all I wanted was fluids with only seven more miles to go…

IMG_0435Thinking about all the losses my family has suffered over the past eight years, I felt the tears welling up here and there along the way, but as I rounded the bend off Franklin Boulevard onto the ramp leading to the Atlantic City Expressway, I felt the giddiness of a little school girl. It’s like having the red carpet rolled out before you – royalty for the whole world to stand by and applaud – and they always do. Passengers in vehicles rolling down their windows cheering us on, telling us, “You are awesome! You can do it! You got this! We’re so proud of you! Keep going, you’re almost there!” Although it was 20 degrees cooler than last year, that ass-kicking sea breeze off the Atlantic Ocean coupled with 57 miles of riding in the saddle made this the most difficult stretch of the ride.

And then it hit me…something I’d noticed last year but didn’t quite register – when you round that bend, everyone suddenly breaks off and rides the last 4 miles alone, even the teams. That’s what it’s all about – we have our cliques, our groups, our teams, our peeps, our families, our whatevers…but in the end, we are all alone…

Texting back and forth, the hubby and I managed to find each other in front of Boardwalk Hall amidst thousands of tourists, volunteers, onlookers, cyclists and local weirdos. Walking Ole Bessie into the garage to park her while I collected my participant tee shirt on the boardwalk, I made sure to lock her up this time, in spite of the posted signs throughout stating you needed to check with security (who didn’t exist) before you could leave with your bike (which anyone could’ve done) – it is Atlantic City after all…and absolutely no one with bicycles much more expensive than mine locked up theirs – that’s not The Bully, that’s just common sense.

I’d show you the pictures I took while riding the ACE and at the finish line, but I accidentally deleted them from my phone and Facebook…I’m a serial purger, what can I say…but that’s a whole other blog…

“When I want something,
I don’t want to pay for it
I walk right through the door”

Been Caught Stealing – Jane’s Addiction

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

 

The Bully

“So many people prefer to live in drama because it’s comfortable. It’s like someone staying in a bad marriage or relationship – it’s actually easier to stay because they know what to expect every day, versus leaving and not knowing what to expect.”  

Ellen DeGeneres

Once upon a time I was a staff member at a Jewish summer camp – for seven years to be exact. The first summer was by far the most difficult. After a long five-hour drive over and beyond the Pocono mountains, far far away from any civilization I’d been accustomed to, I found myself in a remote place surrounded by forests filled with black bear and hundreds of much younger adult and teenage employees desperate for questions answered. I was briskly greeted by a co-worker who spoke very fast and handed me a packet filled with important papers, including the camp schedule…which was completely in Hebrew. Did I mention I didn’t know a lick of Hebrew at the time?

As culture shock sunk in, I squelched my way through the inches-thick mud in an attempt to locate the room assigned to me and the kid (five weeks for me and four for the kid – the hubby would be bringing her up the following week). Although this particular camp was very “rustic” at the time, I knew what I was getting into because a friend had invited me, the hubby and the kid for a Shabbat visit the previous summer after I mentioned a possible interest in working there. The good thing was that my friend requested we be bunk mates; that is, we would share a three-room building together with another individual tenant – an Israeli shaliach (messenger or emissary) named Avi. Unfortunately, my friend had sickly children at home and wouldn’t be joining me for several days.

Suddenly realizing I was one of the few staff members over the age of 21 for the next 48 hours, I frantically searched for a phone to call the hubby. Yes, I had a flip phone, but there was absolutely, positively no reception on the mountain whatsoever. So, finding the “staff lounge” with several payphones and a few desktop computers that rarely worked due to the lack of satellite reception, I called home collect. Bawling my brains out to the hubby about regretting my choice to work at the camp and how it had been a terrible, horrible decision, the hubby simply said, “Suck it up…”

And that’s what I needed to hear – the decision had been made and the choice to quit would mean no second chances…ever. So, over the next 48 hours, I managed to find an oleh (an American who makes aliyah [moves] to Israel) who lived in the next bunkhouse over and was fluent in English and Hebrew. She taught me how to read the schedule and simply advised me to grab a broom from the supply room, sweep away all the cobwebs from my room and make it my own. Not only did I suck it up, I also got over it and quickly embraced the camp lifestyle, falling in love over the next seven years.

Now over the hump, my position as a parent liaison presented me with the second hurdle – my supervisor and psychologist of the camp would not be coming to camp for an unspecified period of time due to his daughter having been in a car accident. Granted, I was empathetic to his situation, but I completely freaked out over the idea of flying solo. Although the Assistant Director took me under her wing, she simply did not have the time to spend with someone as OCD and anxious as myself…and who hadn’t worked in three years.

I don’t know why I was so anxious about being my own boss. Up until that year, I had been a social work case manager for five years working with very challenging families made up of incompetent parents whose children displayed severe behavioral issues, most members suffering from mental illness and/or substance abuse. I also managed to get through those five years working alone, occasionally with a partner, but rarely with the support of an adequate supervisor. The following five years would be spent with the MICA population who were mostly schizophrenic. So, I asked myself, “Why should a few snotty-nosed Jewish kids and their helicopter parents make me feel so unsure of myself?” I put on my social worker boots, sucked it up and managed to have a fairly successful summer unsupervised.

The following year would be drastically different. This time the psychologist would be available 24/7 via telephone, spending every Shabbat at camp as well as two week-long “vacations,” one during each session. Needless to say, we didn’t hit it off too well that summer. Having spent the previous summer left to my own devices, it wasn’t easy to completely overhaul the methods of madness I had acquired from my experiences. In an attempt to find a happy medium, we met one-on-one and slowly tried to figure each other out.

One of the conversations we had that summer involved the topic of bullying, which ultimately turned into an argument. I made the mistake of expressing the opinion that bullying makes you stronger. I know, I know…not terribly PC of me, but it’s something I knew from life experiences – both from my own as well as the kid’s.

My entire childhood was spent with other children telling me how fat I was, my sixth-grade math teacher even calling me “Fatso” to my face in front of other students still present in the room. Needless to say, that’s when the lifelong grapefruit, cabbage, yeast and other various detox diets began. In elementary school, I was also known as “doggerty” and/or “dogdirty” because of the giant brown birthmark on my neck, along with the surname of Doherty. Day after day I was confronted with the question, “Did a dog poop on your neck?” to the roar of laughter from whatever audience surrounded my humiliation. And then there was my “Scut Farkus…” the school bully two years my elder whose daily goal was to find some unsuspecting victim to physically torture. I was frightened of this rageful monster and made a point of staying as far away from him as possible, especially on the playground. Some­how he managed to find me often enough to cause tremendous anxiety prior to lunch and recess, one time sneaking up behind me with a handful of worms and smashing them into my face. The teen years didn’t get much better with incidents such as a complete stranger publicly telling me I was “skank” in front of my friends and another young man pretending he was going to kiss me and then asked me about my “unibrow.”

Graduating high school was one of the greatest days of my life. Granted there have been some people along the way I would have considered a bully if we were kids. But as an adult, the choice to walk away has been much easier. I am not referring to abusive situations here. I am talking about “grownups” who never actually grow up and feel the need to continue smashing worms in your face.

Having been bullied the first 18 years of my life, I prayed the kid would never experience the pain and suffering of being a target, but you know how that goes…

At the age of two, the kid suddenly displayed extreme separation anxiety that lasted two very long years. To this day we still can’t pinpoint exactly what happened because it literally just happened one day out of the blue. However, it would be the onset of a crippling social anxiety and the beginning of her victimization due to the inability to navigate social waters. I can definitely tell you that the source of the problem transpired directly from other people’s lack of empathy and inclination to understand anxiety and how it effects the brain of a child.

The very first incidence of bullying on the kid that came to my attention occurred when she was in second grade. Having been absent from school for a week due to illness, a “friend” named “Carrie” called to tell the kid that other classmates were talking about her during recess and saying mean things. “Carrie” also made a point of letting the kid know that the main perpetrator was her best friend, “Jason.” Spending that entire Shabbat dwelling on what would happen the following Monday, we couldn’t wrap our heads around the idea of a friend she had known since the age of two saying anything behind the kids’ back. Upon her return to school, after asking fellow students and confronting “Jason” about the alleged playground conversations, the kid discovered that he had said nothing about her while away. Enter “Carrie,” the kid’s first bully – a bully who, at the tender age of eight and we come to find, was jealous of the kid’s relationship with “Jason” and decided to terminate their friendship with extreme prejudice…

It was just downhill from there. By the end of second grade the kid developed a condition known as trichotillomania:

Trichotillomania (trick-o-till-o-may-nee-uh) (TTM or “trich”), also known as Hair Pulling Disorder, is characterized by the repetitive pulling out of one’s hair. Trichotillomania is one of a group of behaviors known as Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs), self-grooming behaviors in which individuals pull, pick, scrape, or bite their hair, skin, or nails, resulting in damage to the body. – The TLC Foundation

Thanks to my keen social work case management skills, I found one of three institutions in the United States providing therapy for people with trichotillomania at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia – a mere 1 1/2 hour drive from our home at the time. (By the way, the other two are in New York City and California.)

By third grade, the kid had few if any friends, oftentimes eating her lunch alone and sitting by herself during recess. For fourth grade we decided it was time to change schools, but it didn’t get much better. In fact, it got worse. The girls in her class at the new school were very mean. They purposely alienated the kid mostly because she didn’t have the social know-how to be part of a clique, let alone a mean girl clique. By sixth grade, every single boy in the class had left the school – that’s how bad these girls were. They were so mean, even the boys couldn’t stand them!

In middle school, these girls would have “class” get togethers or parties and willfully excluded the kid and one other classmate who had similar social issues. How many Mondays came and went where we had to console our daughter after spending the day hearing about the “best party ever” and she wasn’t there? Once and for all confronting the principal about the school’s “No Bullying Policy,” the situation was handled in the most inappropriate way. The principal called the latest party girl to the office to discuss the so-called “problem” with the kid…and then made the kid sit with this girl in the office to receive her “apology.” Oh, and the principal also called the girl’s parents to discuss what happened…using the kid’s name and verifying the specific incident. What do you think happened next? Do you think things got better?! If you do, you’re a fool. Thanks to technological advances, by seventh grade the bullying became more “discreet” via the usage of social media. In one instance, the kid’s best friend, “Shoshana,” had her phone snatched on the school bus by one of the mean girls who then used the phone to text the kid and pretended to be “Shoshana” in an attempt to make the kid say something inappropriate about her. The kid, despite her social awkwardness at the time, was aware enough to recognize her best friend’s use of language and knew it wasn’t her friend. The kid would later learn from “Shoshana” what had happened on the bus that day. In another instance, one of the mean girls, who tended to be somewhat friendlier toward the kid, Face Timed her and, again, attempted to get the kid to say something bad about one of the other mean girls who just so happened to be off camera listening. Being used to the punishment, the kid knew better and called them both out on it.

So, we changed schools again in the middle of seventh grade…the worst year of school in every child’s life…and, of course, it didn’t get any better. In usual fashion, the kid’s class being made up only of girls, the boys having been run out of town for the same reasons as the last school, ganged up on the kid and went out of their way to isolate her. This time it only lasted two months and after the “guidance counselor” suggested the kid walked around with a giant V on her back…seriously?!

Luckily we managed to find yet another school, but this time the administration took their ”No Bullying Policy” very seriously, and the kid had two years of success with no significant bullying. By high school, academics was the focus of the students, and the bullying pretty much stopped altogether.

I expect “kids to be kids,” but I also expect adults to correct wrongful behavior and protect and support children who are wrongfully treated. I was appalled by the ignorance of teachers who remained clueless as to the severity of the bullying and the parents who simply did not care about my daughter’s feelings. In the end, the hubby and I advocated for our daughter every step of the way and helped her “suck it up.” Mind you, sucking it up doesn’t mean ignoring the situation – it’s about being the bigger human being and not letting the bully drag you down.

In the end, she developed a number of supportive relationships with peers and adults alike, blazing trails in high school like no other. My daughter drew strength from the challenges presented to her because she had the supportive environment necessary for overcoming the horrendous acts taking place over an entire lifetime.

When I was a child, “bullying” wasn’t even a word. Sure, there were bullies, but we were told to just suck it up and move on – kids will be kids ya know. For me, strength was drawn from within and it wasn’t easy. Spending a lifetime convinced I was a fat disgusting body, the diets continue to this day, despite meeting and marrying the love of my life who believes I’m the most beautiful woman on the planet. But the good news is that my birthmark is pretty much nonexistent, surgery to remove a tumor between my eyes ceased the growth of facial hair and I’m no longer afraid of worms…

And that’s why I had every right to tell that camp psychologist that bullying makes you stronger…

Over the past 19 years the hubby and I have told the kid to never give up and she hasn’t. My bullied daughter found the most amazing strength to pack her bags and move halfway around the world where she has successfully made a life for herself. Each challenge has been met with the same stamina she managed to muster up during every horrible situation she came across throughout her childhood. And, after a brief six-week visit to the U.S. this summer, my kid will be back in Israel drafting into the IDF (Israel Defense Force)…fighting some of the biggest bullies known to man…you go girl!

“Let ’em live while they can
Let ’em spin, let ’em scatter in the wind
I have been to the movies, I’ve seen how it ends…
and the joke’s on them”

The Joke – Brandi Carlile

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5r6A2NexF88

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

 

Parting is such sweet sorrow…

“Parting is such sweet sorrow that I shall say goodnight till it be morrow.”

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

March 4, 2018

It was time to say goodbye to the kid…again…crush…but we would be seeing her tomorrow in Tel Aviv to celebrate her 19th birthday a few days before our departure. This time I didn’t take any photos – I think I’m getting a little better at this separation anxiety thing…

Having heard so much about Tel Aviv, I desperately wanted to spend some time there and see what everyone was talking about. It took months to convince him, but the hubby reluctantly agreed to two nights…probably just to shut me up…

Me: “Look, it’s minutes away from the airport. Remember last time?

The hubby: (wincing with that if-I-don’t-say-yes-I’m-doomed-forever-face pause) “Fine…”

Last time was in November 2017 (Israel: Parts VII and VIII – So long, farewell)…nuff said…

https://youtu.be/uhguwCSnIZc

 He really had no argument…

Hiring a private sherut from our hotel in Jerusalem to our hotel in Tel Aviv, the hubby was plastered to his iPhone while I commented on the beautiful scenery he was most definitely missing along the way, “Dude…we’re in Israel…remember?!”

Upon our arrival, we were cordially welcomed by the hotel staff who paid attention to every detail of comfort. We were greeted at our vehicle by the concierge, who opened the door and led us to the hotel lobby, reassuring us that he would gather our luggage and stow it until our room was confirmed. Meanwhile, the front desk receptionist offered us free champagne while she checked us into the hotel. Notifying us that we would be on the 7th floor of the hotel with a view of the Mediterranean – thanks to a friend and neighbor, Jacob, who insisted that I request an upgrade and/or a room above a certain level in order to get a good view – I got the feeling that the hubby might be slightly impressed.

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However, the view also overlooked Atarim Square with a perfect view of a strip club called Pussycat, a circular structure that sits on the overpass of a highway below…

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https://www.haaretz.com/.premium-tel-aviv-s-historic-night-scene-1.5354243

And now there’s graffiti…

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Having researched kosher restaurants in Tel Aviv, I informed the hubby that we would be checking out as many eateries as possible and suggested we try Pankina, a kosher dairy restaurant not far from the hotel.

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Owned and run by Italian olim, we dined on homemade Italian delights for a mere pittance with exceptional service. As we ate our food, I remembered the kid mentioning a similar restaurant in Tel Aviv that she frequented. Texting her the restaurant sign and a copy of the menu, the kid responded with an affirmative – it was indeed the restaurant she was talking about and now we understood why – the kid is a complete and utter pasta snob.

One thing I love about Israel is that it feeds my ADHD nature. There’s always something going on to entertain yourself. So, while the hubby pooped out on me again, I walked the promenade alone, taking photos of scenes along the way.

I got a chuckle out of this one:

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The sign says “Swimming Prohibited.” These signs are located every so many feet along the promenade, accompanied by loud speakers reiterating to everyone in seven different languages that swimming is prohibited. Meanwhile, hundreds of people were swimming all day every day…

I also passed by Mike’s Place but didn’t dare enter…

The best part of the day was finding a restaurant our tour guide had brought us to in 2016 called Maganda, a family owned Yemenite kosher meat place. They are best known for going out to IDF soldiers while in the field and feeding them home cooked meals.

http://www.maganda.co.il/articles.html

Hmm…cappers?

Exhausted and our bellies full of love, the hubby and I landed back at the hotel. From our balcony we watched the people below, walking, running, skateboarding, cycling, windsurfing, boating, playing volleyball, frisbee, catch, paddle ball or just hanging out on the beach until the wee hours of the night. If I was an alien from another planet who just so happened to land in Tel Aviv, I would hypothesize that humans never work and have superhuman powers. It’s like one continuous Mountain Dew commercial…and they made me feel bad about myself…

March 5, 2018

This morning I briefed the hubby on today’s adventure – we were going to rent electric bikes and ride the promenade from Tel Aviv to Jaffo Port. Although I had never ridden an electric bike, I was obviously confident in my ability to manage one based on years of cycling. The hubby, on the other hand, kept reminding me that he hadn’t ridden a bike in over 45 years, his last ride being at the age of 10 when he flew top speed down a steep hill, lost control of his bike and landed face down in the road, breaking his front tooth. Advising the hubby to just suck it up (and not apprising him of the fact that Tel Avivians hate cyclists), we walked the half mile to Pole Position on Ben Yehuda Street.

http://www.polepositiontlv.com/en/

Receiving a crash course on how to operate an electric bike, the hubby and I opted for the more expensive bike that didn’t require the removal of its battery in order to prevent theft of said battery; however, we were also instructed on how to remove the bicycle seat and lock it up with the bike. Apparently, despite locking up your bike, people will steal your seat…interesting…I was assured that these seats are a hot commodity on the electric bike black market. We were also advised not to ride on the sidewalk – it’s illegal in Tel Aviv. We’ll just have to see if that one gets enforced…

Two blocks later, after crossing several intersections of insane traffic (it’s true…Tel Avivians hate bicycles of any kind), the hubby stopped on the promenade and announced that he was taking the bike back to the shop and was refusing to go any further. Like a scolding mother, I informed the hubby that he, in any way, shape or form, was not going to give up…and he begrudgingly followed along. Such a trooper…

Carefully navigating the 3.5 miles to Jaffa Port, I allowed the hubby periodic breaks while I snapped some photos.

In the end, I was the one who fell off the bike after getting the Velcro of my sandal caught on a fishing net and was pulled off the bike as I attempted to drive away while the hubby rode without issue the entire trip. Good job Woobie…

On the way back to Tel Aviv, we came across a building we had noticed before but didn’t know it’s origins – the Dolphinarium.

IMG_3118Dolphin Disco

Originally a dolphin aquarium likened to that of Sea World in Florida, the Dolphinarium lost its investors and closed its doors in 1985 until becoming the Dolphinarium Discotheque/Night Club…

http://mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFA-Archive/2001/Pages/Tel-Aviv%20suicide%20bombing%20at%20the%20Dolphin%20disco%20-%201-.aspx

Getting myself together enough to move on and,  being the pushy broad that I am, I informed the hubby that we would be riding to the Tel Aviv Port past our drop-off point…and promised him a milkshake…

Stopping at Café Café, we struggled to remove our bike seats, becoming frustrated with our attempts to lock them up with the bike. A waiter on break agreed to help us out, introducing himself as Shai and asked us where we rented the bikes. After a brief conversation, Shai informed us that the owner of the bike shop was his girlfriend’s brother and requested we say, “Hi” upon our return. Small world…

Although he couldn’t figure it out either, we managed to remove the seats and kept them safe at our sides as we sat down to order.

Finishing up our milkshakes, we quickly made our way back to the bike shop so that we could meet up with the kid at the hotel. This afternoon’s kid choice – Palmach Museum.

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http://www.palmach.org.il/Web/English/TheMuseum/Default.aspx

Closing down the museum, we headed to dinner at Pankina for the kid’s pre-birthday celebration where we were plied with free shots and wine with the traditional Doherty tradition of singing Happy Birthday off key. I think the Italian olim thought I was out of my mind, but I did get a standing ovation. Nowhere else have I sat in an Italian bistro where the chef is smoking while cooking my food and the bartender did shots with a man on roller skates carrying a flag with a picture of the Rebbe on it. How can you not love this place?!

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Not wanting to say goodbye to the kid until next time, the hubby and I headed back to the hotel. I would later find out, once in the states, that the kid’s U.S. friends in Israel would stand her up on her birthday motzei Shabbat, but her program friends would book Pankina just for her to make up for it…heart swell

Back at the hotel, our last night in Israel, we sat in the lobby and listened to the pianist croon English-speaking songs…and then I found myself singing along to a familiar tune that seemed out of place…

“Ex’s and the oh, oh, oh’s they haunt me
Like ghosts they want me to make ’em all
They won’t let go
Ex’s and oh’s”

Ex’s & Oh’s – Elle King

March 6, 2018

For our last day in Israel I let the hubby know that we were taking the train to Haifa to tour the Bahai Gardens, one of the most famous sites in Israel.

https://www.touristisrael.com/bahai-gardens-in-haifa/2293/

Arriving in Haifa less than an hour after leaving Tel Aviv, we took a taxi to the Bahai Gardens with a view of Haifa that can’t be beat.
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Missing the English-speaking noon tour by five minutes, we were advised to walk to each of the three garden levels on our own ”just around the bend a couple of kilometers.

Finally finding the second level, we took a much-needed break from walking the steep decline to the magnificent gardens that can only be experienced in person to appreciate.

The third level was a much longer walk with steep hills and no signs pointing the way – somehow we managed to find it though…

Completely famished, the hubby and I strolled down the main avenue in search of a kosher restaurant. Checking in with Mr. Google, we finally found the Jewish neighborhood in Haifa and discovered a GREAT little hole in the wall called chicho.

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With Google Maps telling us the walk was a solid 45 minutes, we contacted the restaurant via Facebook before starting the trek to make sure they were kosher. Getting an immediate response with a follow-up photo of their teudah (certificate of being kosher), we quickly found ourselves in front of the restaurant – boy, Google Maps you disappoint this time. While preparing us an assortment of Moroccan meats with various sauces on homemade bread and sided with the daily salad, the Ethiopian cook told us about his summer escapade to Atlantic City years before.

Next stop was the hubby’s choice – Elijah’s Cave.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g293982-d320551-Reviews-Cave_of_Elijah-Haifa_Haifa_District.html

Afterwards, we walked across the street (not exactly that simple) to the Haifa Cable Cars to take in the breathtaking view of Haifa on the Mediterranean.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g293982-d320533-Reviews-Aerial_Cable_Car-Haifa_Haifa_District.html

As the sun quickly set, we took a taxi to the train station and headed back to Tel Aviv where we ate dinner at the hotel and waited for our taxi to the airport while I obsessed about the weather back home. Oh…did I mention the Nor’easter heading for New Jersey…the third one since we left…the one that was supposed to hit landfall upon our arrival at Newark Airport? Yeah…

The one thing I’ve been told numerous times by acquaintances when traveling to Israel is that with each visit you don’t want to leave. This being my fourth visit, I finally got what they meant – I truly did not want to go home. Needless to say, it was time to leave. Our taxi driver was a very friendly man with a great sense of humor, pointing out the pomelo groves along the road leading to the airport.

On the plane ride back, I was seated next to an older gentleman with dementia whose daughter sat behind us next to a young couple with a two-month-old baby. In hindsight I realized that I should’ve given my seat up to the daughter, having dealt with a demented father myself. If it had been me, I would’ve wished for me to exchange seats, but my head just wasn’t in that place at the time, the daughter repeatedly assuring me that all was okay. Throughout the flight, I comforted that old man like he was my father until he finally fell into a calm sleep that lasted the night. And I, as usual, schmoozed with the crew and obsessed with them on the impending storm that lay ahead.

As a people watcher, I noticed an older woman talking to a young yeshiva man in the galley, the social arena of any given El Al flight. It dawned on me that it was the woman whose belongings I had guarded in Newark Airport to protect her from the wrath of Manic Mutt (Israel – Part Deux: Returning to the originally-planned-before-the-kid -decided-to-make-Aliyah-last-year trip, Wednesday, February 21, 2018) and suddenly she was on the floor. Later discovering that she was dehydrated and exhausted from traveling, another middle-aged woman having a heart attack was brought to the same galley and attended to by the crew and two different doctors on board. Meanwhile, the rest of the passengers went about their business like nothing was going on…geez Louise people!

Landing in Newark with no Nor’easter in sight, two different flight attendants assisted us in removing our Israeli SIM cards, one with the post of her earing and the other removing the wire from the opening of a puke bag, and we reluctantly made our way through customs.

On the way home, we stopped off at the local Shop Rite where I found a bin full of pomelos and promptly placed one in the shopping cart. Pulling into the driveway of our home as the snow began to fall, I immediately looked up a video on YouTube explaining how to eat a pomelo…and it was the yummiest piece of fruit I’ve had in a long time…

“Oh, the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we’ve no place to go
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow”

Let it Snow – Dean Martin

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

 

Shushan Purim Shabbat

Friday and Saturday, March 2-3, 2018

Today was a little more complicated than usual. Sure, preparing for Shabbat is a time-consuming event unto itself, but having to fulfill the mitvah of the Purim seudah (meal) by noon in order to bring in Shabbat threw a curve ball harder than one Sandy Koufax ever pitched. Watching the costumed revelers crawling to synagogue to hear Megillat Esther (the story of Esther) after a night consumed by merry making, I set up the food the hubby and I had bought the other day so we could have an intimate seudah on the marpeset (balcony/porch) of our hotel room upon his arrival after hearing the Megillah himself.

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As we gorged on homemade salads with hummus, pickled veggies, fresh-baked bread and (chocolate!) hamantaschen, I informed the hubby that we were going to take a walk around town to see what Shushan Purim looks like in Jerusalem, an opportunity that could possibly never happen again in our lifetimes. Making our way to the Old City, we were entertained by characters roaming the Mamilla Mall who pleasantly posed for the camera, along with a group of Bnei Akiva (a religious Zionist youth movement) students singing and dancing for Purim tzedekah (charity).

However, entering the Old City, we found a mood 180 degrees from the night before. Children still dressed in their Purim costumes handed out Shalach Manot (Purim baskets) to the homeless and panhandlers. Vendors offered free food to destitute parents who asked for tzedakah (charity). Various men read the Megillat Esther aloud for everyone to hear at the Kotel.

Looking for a little more excitement that was saner and more wholesome than Erev Shushan Purim, I suggested to the hubby that we head to a place called Safra Square, a place I had read about online where all kinds of Purim fun was promised for old and young alike. Not realizing it was an area we had walked by two days prior on our Yafo Street excursion…

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…we came across a completely different atmosphere. Safra Square is the space located in front of City Hall – and there was lots of colorful, wholesome family fun going on.

Deciding it was time to start heading back to the hotel to meet the kid who was visiting again for Shabbat, I proposed passing through Ben Yehuda Street to see how different Shushan Purim is from Purim.

Having had his fill of crowds, the hubby opted to go back to the hotel as the mini gay pride parade parked itself in the center of Ben Yehuda, becoming enveloped by hundreds of onlookers who joined in the dancing.

Finally experiencing the Purim fun I was looking for and not wanting to leave, I texted the kid and told her to meet me for pizza on Ben Yehuda instead of going straight to the hotel.

Getting our fill of Big Apple Pizza and bottled beer, I told the kid about our escapades over the past several days and we headed back to the hotel to get ready for Shabbat. Along the way we stopped to watch the random rave taking place in the park up the street, along with the usual pre-Shabbat pro-Israel ladies versus the pro-Palestinian demonstrators in front of the hotel and a father-daughter piano/clarinet duet in the lobby.

However, the best part of the day was yet to come – the kid informed us that she had officially received her Israeli passport, solidifying a lifelong dream and months of hard work. The hubby and I couldn’t have been prouder than that moment. Our little girl was not only a legit Israel, she was officially an adult – we had succeeded as parents…the kid was properly launched and ready to make a new life for herself.

After a quiet Shabbat, we headed for a late-night snack on Ben Yehuda and met up with a group of the kid’s friends from her program. Not wanting to stay out too late due to leaving for Tel Aviv the next day, we started back to the hotel, but not without running into last week’s motzei Shabbat (after Shabbat) haggler. This time he didn’t approach us and looked somewhat clean and sober…or, at least, I’d like to tell myself that…

Tel Aviv, here we come!

“Good morning, son
Twenty years from now
Maybe we’ll both sit down
And have a few beers
And I can tell
You ’bout today”

Still Fighting It – Ben Folds 

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump