Water Pumps, Saxons and Tubing

They say you can survive without food, but not without water. We have now survived just about 18 hours without water at our lake house and all is well (or is it water well). The water for the lake house is pumped from a well and the motorized pumping sound is sort of like an air conditioner hum – you know it’s working well – until it’s not. Around midnight Monday, the pump kept cycling through with the “contractions” getting closer and closer until I knew something was wrong. You see, at that hour, no one was using water, so WHY would the water pump be operating? Turns out there was a crack in the housing and water sprayed all over the basement creating a 1/4 inch deep pond. Our attentive house owner was contacted and he arrived around breakfast time to begin cleanup and let us know the plumber was on the way.

The day was not lost. Even without a shower (we showered before the pump had broken), we managed to brush our teeth with bottled water, ate breakfast at a nearby diner, then packed up the boat for Doug’s treat for the Camp Robin Hood Saxons- a jaunt in the boat and tubing. I had decided to treat the Saxons to pizza so the day became a lunch-time, afternoon event.

The Saxons at the Friedman's camp on Lake Ossipee

After picking up $125 worth of pizza, I drove to the home of Jack & Jane Friedman and their son, Myles and wife Virginia. Jack is a cousin of my mother-in-law. Jane’s family has owned the Lake Ossipee property for well over a century. I arrived with the pizza just as the Saxons arrived at the dock. They were hungry and grateful and dug right in. I spent nearly two hours talking with the Friedmans about family history and listened to stories from the past.

The weather was hot, with a light breeze. The Saxons swam and tubed for a while, then collapsed in the beach area outside. I ventured back to our cottage to check out water pump progress. The owner was continuing to wet-vac the basement and dry out belongings that were soaked. Rich, the plumber from Federal Piping in Freedom was just about finished by 3:30 p.m. We had water and a new pump once again.

Doug was exhausted from the Saxon jaunt. I prepared a simple grilled chicken and vegetable dinner with a salad. I watched the Phillies get clobbered by the Dodgers (though they tried to claw their way back), and it was lights out by 11 p.m. Another day at the lake with an adventure in water pumps.

16 Years Ago…

Someone asked me today if being in labor was painful. I suppose if labor were so painful, women would give up having babies. So, no, I don’t remember labor being so painful.

Hard to believe he's 16!

Our son is 16. In just the past few weeks, his social life has exploded (in a good way). He’s leaving the nest. He’ll be at camp as a CIT this summer and undoubtedly will rarely – if ever write to us. Now he has his phone, so we suspect he’ll call. In our moments with him, he’ll  talk about things that are happening in school, with his friends, with the group at church. But, in a matter of a few months, he’ll be driving. (Oy!) Having just one child, you go through every  phase just once. We have tried to savor each moment or cheer that the phase has passed. There aren’t too many more phases we’ll be going through really. Now, it’s countdown to choosing a college and he’ll be off in just a matter of two years or so.

I said to my husband when we were planning a family, that my fear of having a child was that things would never be the same. I was so right. That has been a painful realization in some ways. Your relationship with your partner shifts to one that involves decisions based on the children; what’s best for them and setting aside your own needs and desires. Part of me wonders what things would be like without a child, but there is really no time to think that way. There is very little “child” left in our boy. He’s evolving into a young man with his own thoughts, dreams, hopes and fears that he will have to tackle day by day. Our role evolves into adviser and hopefully, friend. Yes, he’ll always be our son and we’ll love him forever. Now, the baby is long gone.

I do remember that pressure of child-birth – all 20 hours of pressure. Looking through the years, we have aged – gracefully, I hope – and look toward the newest phase: our life together as a 50-something couple and getting closer to being empty nesters. Oh my.

It’s Time for Mom

So many people call Mother’s Day a “Hallmark holiday.” It’s not a holiday in the true sense of the word, but it is a great time to take a moment to remember what that woman did who brought us into this world. (I seem to remember the expression,”I brought you into this world; I can take you out.”) OK, maybe THOSE moments are not the one’s we’re remembering. This is surely a tough time for people who have lost their mom. Maybe to many of them, it’s just another Sunday on the calendar.

My mom has always  said what she values most is time spent with my brother and I. Now, as a mom myself, I whole-heartedly agree. Weather-permitting, we’ll be on the Delaware River Sunday taking my mom and dad for a cruise on the water. Mom wants to pack lunch and dad just wants to spend time on my husband’s new treasure. I can already see my mom smiling with the wind blowing back her silver hair and my dad laughing and making jokes about jumping in the river. (They already made sure we have enough life vests on the vessel – we do).

While I enjoy my parents this Mother’s Day, I think about some people in my life who span the emotional realm of “motherdom.” My one friend is a new mom. Their lovely new baby has had quite a battle and is growing so unbelievably stronger every day. She and her husband have incredible support from their bosses and co-workers and a wonderful family. Her husband is a prime example of the sandwich generation and has worries about his mom and dad and their health. For the moment, it appears they are OK. Her mom is a treasure who has been living with them for some time and I know she is grateful every day. Mother’s Day will be so special in their home.

I think of  another girlfriend. She’s a wonderful friend who I have known for years. During that long span of time, she has never had a relationship with her mother. I only know pieces of the story, but it makes me sad that her mom is around and there is a void that will probably never be filled by that person who brought her into the world. She accepted the situation a long time ago, but now that she and her brothers and sisters are older, the void has worsened in my estimation. She talks about how she doesn’t feel as close to her siblings; they are married; she is not and without the connection to their mom, the void is deeper.

Another friend of mine lost her mom to cancer a few years ago. They had a strained relationship in her final years for many reasons. I would listen to the hassles she had with her mom and the struggles made worse with her brothers after her mother died. But now, my friend says she has let go of all the bad things that have happened and the things that were said. She wishes every day that her mother were back for just a moment.

I think of the friends I know whose mothers and fathers are struggling with dementia and Alzheimer’s. What a strange time it must be to honor mom and think back to the times before this terrible disease enveloped their mind.

In this journey over the past couple of years, I have tried to take a moment to remember the good things in life. Yes, it’s a cliché, but you have to stop

My boys - Ocean City, June 2007

and smell the roses. Our children grow so very quickly. Looking at my friend’s baby and smelling that incredible baby smell made me remember what it was like to be a new mother, never having changed a diaper before and dealing with the monthly changes as our son grew so very quickly. Now, he is nearly 16; the baby is long gone, but to quote from my favorite children’s book, “Love You Forever-” I’ll love you forever, I like you for always. As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.

Happy Mother’s Day – every day.

One of 8 Nights

Every holiday season brings ups and downs. It seems the time between Thanksgiving and New Year gets shorter all the time. We start with Thanksgiving, my mom’s favorite holiday because no gifts are required, she always says. Sometimes as soon as Thanksgiving night according to the Jewish calendar, Hanukkah arrives. Celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas in our home means more of a rush. We now have to choose our

Our perfect Christmas tree from Culbertson's

Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving. The shrinking number of tree farms offering evergreens for sale has shrunk as open space seems to gobble up those farms. This year, Hanukkah began Friday, December 11. Fortunately, the three of us were all in the same place at the same time so we could light the candles. Saturday, we drove to New York for a Hanukkah dinner with Doug’s brother, sister-in-law and other family. What a joy!
Our two nephews, aged 9 and 6 had their performances all ready. Nick played the violin and Noah read a

Noah's winter poem

poem he had written about winter. Larisa was too shy to share her talent, but her “blondness” is just so cute, just smiling was “show” enough. I brought along a book written by a distant relative, Jane Breskin Zalben, “Pearl’s Eight Days of Chanukah.” It was simply a joy to have the children and others gathered around listening to the story of Pearl whose cousins were visiting during the Festival of Lights. It was made more special since the author, from Long Island, was somehow related. I have since emailed her to tell her of sharing her story with the New York Breskins. I hope to hear back from her.
Meantime, as a winter cold settles in, we are a week from Christmas. We have two more nights of lighting the Hanukkah candles (if we’re all at home at the same time). The Joretts will spend Christmas dinner with us, so the decorations are going up. I figure by President’s Day I’ll be finished. The house always looks so festive and warm. I can never bake enough cookies for the holiday and before I know it, it’s New Years and time to think about taking everything down.

Reading "pearl's 8 Nights of Chanukah"

The holidays mean less for those who have lost someone. At the gym this morning a woman came in to tell the folks at the gym her husband, who’d been a faithful exerciser, had died of a sudden heart attack this week. Our friend, Agnes lost her husband several years ago. She says she’ll spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at a friend’s, but she doesn’t much like the holidays anymore.

Doug and the nephews light the lights

My son hasn’t mentioned it yet, but for years, he and I have gone into Philadelphia to enjoy the light display at Macy’s, which of course, used to be John Wanamaker’s. We’ve added the Comcast display and walking through City Hall courtyard to see the official city holiday tree. Lunch is always at Reading Terminal Market, Adam’s favorite. Tradition!
Here’s hoping we find quiet moments to be thankful for the time we have with our family and friends and be sure to mark off some special moments to share and remember. Happy Holidays!

Why does time fly?

Adam at the Phillies Wall of Fame Oct. 09

Adam at the Phillies Wall of Fame Oct. 09

Remember when you were in school, it seemed as though a day was about a month long? Goodness, I’d like those days back. My son is taking driver’s ed in school. While they are not getting behind the wheel, they are studying the rules of the road, learning about car parts and DUI’s and preparing for the state written driving test in January. Wasn’t I just changing my shirt because my son spit up on me for the 500th time? I swear it was just yesterday. He was this little boy totally enamoured with life, his parents, his trucks, cars and toys. Now, the toy closet in the family room goes untouched; I’m pondering tossing many of those boy things, but I can’t get myself to even open the cabinet. Now, in the car, Adam asks me about which car he might get when he saves money; how he doesn’t agree with the NJ laws establishing the different levels of drivers licenses (I say, thank goodness for the different levels). Every once in ta while, Adam will talk about how he hopes my husband and I stay in our house so he’ll have holidays here when he comes home from college or beyond. (Wasn’t I just dating my husband?Now we’re talking about just a few years from now?)

We recently got a home energy audit which included a rundown on what the energy improvements would cost and how long it would take for the improvements to pay off. One improvement listed indicated it would pay off in eight years. My husband asked, “Do you think we’ll BE in this house in eight years?” (Didn’t we just buy this house?)

I’m starting to get emails from friends who mention so-and-so died and even a Facebook message about someone from our high school class dying. OK, now I’m just going down the wrong path. The reality of MY life is: I have NEVER felt better. I think I’m in better shape than I was 10 years ago. I certainly weigh less and despite the biological age I’m experiencing now and how rapidly my son is growing up and away from us, he is our one and only child. He’ll always be my boy and he’ll always know how we care about what’s happening to him every step of the way. I just hope for his safety, happiness and well-being, always. He took his PSAT’s last weekend; weren’t we just singing the “ABC” song with him yesterday?

Vacation is..forgetting what day of the week it is.

I often wonder what stratosphere vacation falls in. You can go through every work day knowing exactly what time it is, what task is underway, what comes next, what is on the next day’s “to-do” list. Start your vacation and everything revolves around trying to make the day last longer.

This vacation day wasn’t particularly notable or unique, but I had to keep thinking, “Is today Thursday or Friday?” Doug and I walked out into the morning dew with a light fog hovering over the fields. Our morning exercise took us about two miles from the house. We noticed the homes for sale; discovered that pianist George Shearing lives in one of the houses I’ve been walking past for years. I looked deep into the meadows to the left and right hoping to see the family of deer that once bolted across Devon Road mere yards in front of me, creating a vision that will always be in my mind’s eye. On this day, it was a great conversation with Doug about life, home, relationships and more. It’s amazing what you can get done in an hour.

Sweet Larissa before dinner

Sweet Larissa before dinner

Later in the day while Doug worked on his mom’s “honey-do” list around her house, Adam finally

Sketch by Carol Kardon of First Congregational Church of Lee, MA

Sketch by Carol Kardon of First Congregational Church of Lee, MA

got up. We went into town to pick up a few things. He finally was hungry for lunch. So I had a lovely conversation and some food while sitting on the restaurant porch. We looked across the street where the historic First Congregational Church of Lee has stood in several different forms since the 1700’s. The church has one of the tallest steeples in New England and looks just like the one that sits in the middle of the wide shot of the opening of the 1960’s night time soap opera Peyton Place. We noticed the paint literally falling off the church and worse yet, the top of the steeple is rotted away. Adam said we should cross the street after lunch to take a closer look after lunch. As we walked in the shade of the old trees lining the sidewalk leading to the church which sits just behind town hall, Adam said that he really liked the feel of the small town. We read the sign that has been posted in front of the church indicating that it has qualified for an emergency grant to restore the facility. There’s no indication work will start any time soon. In fact, it appears they have an interim pastor whose name isn’t even posted on the sign outside the church. The tall windows gracing the sides of the church are cracked and crying for attention. Every inch of the outside seems to be peeling away inch by inch. Church members of the sexton have made every effort to make the place welcoming to all by putting big, potted plants outside. But the facility is just so sad looking. The restoration will take many hundreds of thousands of dollars. I hope the next time I visit, we see scaffolding and work crew who will skillfully bring back the First CongregationalChurch of Lee back to its glory. The building was twice destroyed by fire; now it is being destroyed by time. Adam noted, “At least the clock on the church still works.”  http://www.ucc-lee.org/history.asp

Family time today brought more family to my mother-in-law’s. First the afternoon was filled with puttering around the house and conversation about family; who did what to who and expectations of things to come. Dinner was a zoo!  Burgers and dogs on the grill may sound simple enough, but when you factor in three young cousins, a teenager and seven adults. It gets very loud. The New England mosquitoes decided to kick into overdrive, so plans for dinner on the patio evolved into  finding a place at the table. There’s nothing like watching our son totally entertain his three young cousins. They couldn’t get enough of him. Dessert was followed by quick good-byes. The little ones needed to go to sleep at their nearby hotel with their mom and dad.NHLeeMA_20090814_08

Sleep on vacation is nothing like day-to-day. Dreams are more pleasant; sleep is more sound and waking up brings that, “What’s next” feeling. Tomorrow is…Saturday; What’s next?

What’s Next?

Aaron Sorkin’s successful series “The West Wing,” featured Martin Sheen as President Josiah Bartlet. The show’s rapid-fire dialogue, constant deadlines and behind-the-scenes look at the fictional Bartlet administration, enthralled viewers who enjoy politics, drama and news. President Bartlet handled problem after problem with the line, “What’s next?” after each situation was addressed.
For some time, my pace has been rapid-fire; deadlines every ten minutes, as I faced an unforgiving broadcast clock that drove me to be at the ready even if power was out or every drop of blood had theoretically drained from my body. It was always fascinating to see people’s faces when I explained to them I only had a production assistant; no team of writers or producers or any real help in compiling, writing, editing and producing the news of the day. The pressure was certainly nothing like a White House administration, but I knew doing morning drive news in a major market, all eyes and ears were watching and listening. When problems arose, I addressed the situations, fixed what needed to be fixed and often, out loud, said, “What’s next?”
Out of that history, I now begin What’s Next Productions, LCC. As with any business, the process is anything but rapid-fire; there’s research, education, planning, questions and more questions. My business plan outline is a work-in-progress. Being a one-person operation for now, I’m reaching out to the many resources available to firm up my ideas. My 30-second elevator speech is this:
What’s Next Productions offers public relations, media training and crisis management services to mid-sized and small businesses as well as non-profit organizations. Another service I’d like to offer is recording business or family histories that could be used to document a company’s progress over time. Family histories would be recorded for future generations.
So, the process is underway with the business entity formed and online “paperwork” processed. Now, looking into a web site, content and rounding up those clients will take time. My mind touches the wise words of my friend who said, “Find something that really makes you happy.” The prospect of working on my own or with a partner or two, setting a schedule that makes sense without the pressure and stress that enveloped me for so long, sounds attractive. Will this make me “happy” professionally? Time, of course, will tell.
I continue to volunteer with the Community Foundation of South Jersey, which is launching in the coming weeks, the public relations committee at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Cherry Hill, Sustainable Cherry Hill and just beginning work with the marketing committee of the Burlington County YMCA. The transition continues with the change now being to look forward at What’s Next, not at what is past.