Growing into My Name

Daphne ... A Way of LifeAt this point, I’ve been a part of The Writer’s Post group here on Facebook for over a year, so many of you know me and, I can only assume, are comfortable with my name. You probably wonder why I’m making note of this.

Lemme tell you, going through life with such an unusual name hasn’t been easy. Growing up in the 1970′s and 80′s,  girls around me were named Amy, Lisa and Jennifer; Sarah, Mary and Julie.

New Yorker popular names cartoon

Daphne of Scooby DooAnd then there was this girl named Daphne. I don’t suppose I need to tell you that Daphne is unlikely to ever be in the top 10 girls’ names for a given year or, for that matter, even the top hundred. It just isn’t very popular. But that’s okay. After nearly 44 years of living with it, I’ve just about “grown into” my name.

“What exactly does she mean by that?” you’re probably asking yourself at this moment.

Some of you more “colorfully” named writers here on the post can probably relate to the following reactions that have occurred when I’ve answered the age-old question, “What’s your name?”: “I’m sorry, what’s your name? How do you spell that?” or “Oh! So nice to meet you Stephanie!” or “Was that Delfine (pronounce Dehl-feen)?”

Yeah, whatever. :?

In my travels, I have been called just about every name in the book. Debbie, Dabby (Seriously? Who names their kid Dabby?), Delfine, Daphen (pronounced Day-fin) and, most frequently, Stephanie.  I’m especially fond of Daphen and Delfine. The latter always leaves me scratching my head in wonderment about where exactly the “L” is in D-a-p-h-n-e.

Yeah, whatever. :?

And as if it weren’t enough that I have this name that’s way out of the mainstream, as a child, the only Daphne references people knew of were Daffy Duck and Daphne of “Scooby Doo” fame. Throughout elementary school, I would get asked in shrill tones, “Daphne! Where’s Scooby?!” I was also called Daffy Duck for longer than I can remember… .
Daffy Duck

Take heed, would-be parents, Daphne is not the greatest moniker with which to ensure that your young daughter (or son, if you’re really progressive) is surrounded by friends.

Unless, you live in Israel, which I did for a year and a half. There, the name Dafna (pronounced Dahf-nah) is almost as commonplace/popular as Mary is here. So one more Daphne or Dafna, just blends in.

To my great surprise, after standing apart from the crowd for so long, I found that I didn’t like just being one of the masses.

When I returned to the US from Israel, I began to strive to live up to my namesake by being unique, wherever possible. It was a thrill for me to be told by a teacher when I worked at a private school that a student had referred to me in conversation as,  “that cool lady who works for the Headmaster.”

Being named Daphne really does put me “a full degree below normal,” I think. And, by me, that’s great. I rest pretty well assured these days, that no matter where I go, there won’t be another Daphne there.

I can’t help but wonder though, if that will be the case when I travel to Alabama later this week. Here’s a map of where I’m going:
Daphne, AL map

Walking the Talk

Blog the blog“I challenge you to make your life a masterpiece. I challenge you to join the ranks of those people who live what they teach, who walk their talk.” ~ Tony Robbins (Self-help author and motivational speaker)

More than 20 years ago, a colleague told me I was “the most negative person” she knew.

Two phrases come to mind when I think of that moment:  (1) “The truth hurts,” and (2) “That which does not kill me makes me stronger.” That biting, semi-truthful remark just about killed me then. It didn’t though, and today I try to use it to make me stronger.

For the last umpteen years on New Year’s Eve, I’ve said to myself, “The year that starts tomorrow is going to be the year of more and less.” Under the heading of  “More,” I place to love, learn and laugh.  And under the heading of “Less,” I file to worry, complain and be snarky.  Unfortunately, for the last umpteen years on New Year’s Eve, I’ve reviewed my performance over the course of the year that’s about to end and I’ve been disappointed. More and less

Last year, I had a rude awakening. My perspective on life changed dramatically when my Dad was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer early in the year. My grandfather — my dad’s dad — died at age 77 shortly before my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. My Dad was 77 and my parents’ 50th anniversary would take place in December … if my Dad made it. The terrifying similarity of the situation had me living day to day asking, “Will Dad survive?” I think I went through four of the five stages of grief in about 20 minutes. :lol: I’m not sure I ever got to the final stage — acceptance.

Throughout the year I went back and forth to NY, where my folks live, to help out my Dad and “spell” my Mom. Initially, I was reluctant to do it. I didn’t like being separated from Gary or the idea of leaving him alone to fend for himself; I didn’t like having to “look after” my Dad as if he were a child and I didn’t like being taken out of my comfort zone and disrupting my routine. Gary, whose father died very suddenly when Gary was 12, turned out to be the voice of reason. He said, “You don’t know how much time you’re going to get with your parents, Daph, so go.” And go, I did. What happened over the course of those months and the days I spent in NY was that I realized how very, very wonderful it is to be of service to those who matter to you and how very, very happy you can make those who you serve.

With that in mind, about three weeks ago, on December 31st, I swore nine ways to Sunday that 2013 was going to be the year in which I made my life a masterpiece as Tony Robbins defines it.

I’ve never wanted to be a nasty, snippy person, but it seems that it comes more easily to me. (Are ya with me here?)  It’s Day 23 of the New Year now and I concede I haven’t been entirely successful in making my life a masterpiece. Then again, Rome wasn’t built in a day. But, no excuses… .

Smile! It Makes People Wonder ...

I also know, though, that on several occasions on which I’ve felt the urge to be sarcastic, I have taken the high road and kept my thoughts to myself. And, I’ve been more mindful of my lapses and consequently, my fits of snarkiness are less frequent and don’t last as long as they once did.  I’ll be damned if I’m not going to prove my former colleague wrong about me.

But it takes a lot of energy.

Last week, in a phone call with my Mom, I commented that I was feeling overwhelmed from continually fighting my gut instinct to be negative. Reflecting on my words, I have to laugh. “Mom,” I said, “This ‘being nice’ thing is exhausting!” :D

Foolery, Tom Foolery

paparazziThe other night, I saw the 2010 movie, “The King’s Speech.” For those unfamiliar, the film, which won the Oscar for Best Picture, essentially tells the story of Prince Albert’s work and relationship with the speech therapist who helped him get a stammering problem under control so he could speak publicly as the King of England. (As an aside, it’s a brilliant movie, well worth seeing, if you haven’t already.) It comes back to me powerfully in the context of the topic “FAME” chosen by Michelle Liew for The Writer’s Post Blog Hop #63.

Why? Because here was a man who, as much as he hoped to stay out of the limelight, was thrust into it, “warts and all,” so to speak.  Admittedly, many people who are famous, milk it for all it’s worth and love it, despite claims to the contrary, but plenty of celebrities really just want to be left alone.

And then there are the rest of us. The “Other 98%,” I suppose you could call us, who live our lives unnoticed. I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing. A guy I know has said to me on more than one occasion, “I just want to be famous.” When I consider the lengths to which some people will go to become famous, all I can do is shake my head.

It makes me think of this joke:

Mr. Jones, 75, and a widower, is having a lonely time in Miami Beach. But he regularly sees a man about his age who’s never alone, people always surrounding him and extending invitations.

So he works up the courage and one day asks, “Mister, how do I make friends like you have?” The guy smiles and says: “Get a camel and ride up and down Collins Avenue every day. Before you know it, everyone in Miami will be asking who you are. You’ll have to hire someone to handle all the invites you’ll be getting.”

So Jones gets a paper and looks through the ads where he read of a circus, stranded in Miami, in need of capital. Jones phones the circus owner and within an hour he has a camel.

The next morning, Jones, wearing khaki shorts and a pith helmet, sets forth on his camel to Collins Avenue. Everywhere folks stop and look in wonderment. Daily, for a week, he rides in this way.

One morning, as he’s getting ready to ride, the phone rings. It’s the parking lot attendant calling to say his camel’s been stolen.

Jones calls the police and Sgt. Riley answers.

“What…you say someone stole your camel?” Riley asks. Western Man on Camel

“That’s right,” says Jones.

“I’ll have to fill out a form.” Riley says. “How tall is the animal?”

“From the sidewalk to where I sit, a good six feet,” Jones replies.

“What color is it?”

“Camel color.”

“Is it male or female?” Riley continues.

“What?”

“Is it male or female?”

“How am I supposed to know that? Wait! Wait a minute…. It’s male. Yes, male.”

“You’re sure?”

“Absolutely,” Jones says.

“But a minute ago you weren’t sure,” Sgt. Riley says, hesitating…

“Trust me, officer. I’m positive,” Jones says. “You see, I just remembered that every time I rode on Collins Avenue, people would say, ‘Hey, look at the shmuck on that camel!’”

Inspired by Michelle’s villanelle, I thought it would be interesting to take a more “poetic” approach to speculating on what someone might do to achieve fame. I offer you this look…

A strapping young Irishman named Seamus

Male athlete wearing laurel wreath posing in studio showing six-pack and strong arms

Was dubbed Limerick’s chief ignoramus

After donning naught but a crown

He paraded downtown

It’s okay with him though, ’cause now he’s famous.

And this one…

A fellow who we will call “Amos”

from a passionate desire to become famous,

did something he’d never

ever, ever, ever, ever

do unless compelled by a writ of mandamus.

What say you, readers? Better to be famous or fly under the radar? 

Hard Reboot?

A hard reboot is when power [to a computer] is abruptly turned off and then turned back on. A hard reboot may be caused … deliberately as a last resort to reset a critical error. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reboot_(computing))

Earlier today while emptying the dishwasher, I dropped a mug, shattering its handle.

Broken mugTruth be told, the mug was pretty lackluster in appearance. When I turned it around in my hand, all I could see was a grayish white cylinder. My husband explained why.

The mug, he said, dated back to when he began working at the government agency he’s with, more than 20 years ago. Any printing that had been on the mug had long since worn off, as a result of heaven only knows how many trips through the dishwasher.

Still, I felt really bad that I’d broken it. My distress was compounded by the fact that in early December, I broke a substantial household item for the first time in our marriage. Once again, the dishwasher was involved.

That time, I was pushing the top rack of the dishwasher back into place, after unloading it. For some unknown reason, I had a Pyrex pot in my hand. When I pushed the rack all the way back on its track, I managed to smash the pot against the counter, putting a large crack in it and rendering it unusable.

Don’t get me wrong, dear reader. I’m not crying over spilled milk. I recognize that these things are only “things” and are replaceable (although in light of how many other mugs we own, I’m quite certain we won’t be getting another one….)

What bothers me is the uncertainty of why these accidents occurred. Could they have been avoided? My gut says “yes.”   Perhaps if I’d just put the pot on the counter and not tried to multi-task… Perhaps if I hadn’t slathered my hands with lotion just before handling wet dishes…

But what’s done is done. I can’t hard reboot, undo my actions and wipe the slate clean. I can, however, think of countless other occasions on which I’ve been left kicking myself upon reflecting on what I did or didn’t say/do/etc.

Reset buttonWhich is why, I wish my life had a reset button. Boy, would that come in handy!

While I wait for technology to develop a means to turn back the clock, I suppose the best course of action would be to try to learn from my mistakes. That and maybe consider hiring someone to do my dishes. :-D

 

Looking Forward, Thinking Back

Rodin Le PenseurEarlier this month, I had a unexpected falling out with a gal pal that left me very puzzled. “What a great fantasy blog post topic,” I thought. “I’ll use it as a launch when I host the blog hop at the end of this month.” I even went so far as to begin in my mind to write a tongue-in-cheek post (which I may yet do at another time, since the situation was so totally “whack”).

Then, simultaneously,  a national tragedy took place and I attended, back-to-back, two of the most joyous events of my entire life. And I made a decision… I could do better. Being snarky and poking fun could wait.  As the host of The Writers’ Post’s final blog hop for 2012, I was tasked with a unique opportunity – setting the tone for the new year.

With an eye on 2013, I can’t help but reflect on the year that’s winding down and realize how very much I have to be thankful for. I feel the need to pay tribute to everything and everyone that’s shaped me this year. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all started 2013 in a loving, appreciative frame of mind?  That said, for The Writers’ Post Blog Hop #61 I invite you, fellow bloggers, to, whether in rhyme, song, poetry, prose or by some other means, complete this phrase: “I am grateful for….”

Personally, I am grateful for:

  • (My) Husband — First and foremost and above everything else. He is always there for me and and always, always has my back, but he outdid himself this year, making me fall even more  in love with him….

    Gary at anniv. party

    My wonderful hubby!
    Photo by Gabriel Solomon, LifeCapture Images LTD

  • (Fresh) Air — Getting out into it and breathing deep can make such a world of difference.
  • (The) People in my life — Friends, family, colleagues, even strangers. Every interaction has made my life richer and increased my understanding.
  • (The) Parties I’ve attended — They have been breeding grounds for new and/or improved relationships, renewed connections and repeated chances to share love, joy, laughter and good times.
  • (The) Younger generation — I’m so proud of and in love with all my nephews and niece. They are amazing. Being with them after the CT incident reminded me of just how remarkable and loving they are.
  • Naomi, my older sister and only sibling — It hasn’t always  been smooth sailing for us, but she gave new meaning to “Family First” this year and restored my faith and love.
  • Photo by Gabriel Solomon, LifeCapture Images LTD

    Aunt Ellen and Uncle Michael!
    Photo by Gabriel Solomon, LifeCapture Images LTD

    Ellen, both my mother-in-law and my aunt (and Michael, my uncle!)– Their hugs, kind words, enthusiasm for my work and never-ending support got me through/over some very rough patches.

  • Work, both of the volunteer and house varieties — The myriad opportunities I had to exercise my brain and my body resulted in growth and accomplishments I never thought possible. 
  • You — You who read my posts, you who leave comments, you who message me, you who share your lives with me.
  • Everyone and everything — That pretty much speaks for itself, I think. 
  • All the world around me — That, by the grace of God, I get to be a part of and witness to daily and hourly. 
  • Ron (and Marion!), my wonderful parents — They made this amazing, magical, magnificent life of mine possible. There would be no me, without them so, naturally, I had to save the best for last. :-D
Mom and Dad kissing!

Mom and Dad at their 50th anniversary party. Aren’t they cute?
Photo by Gabriel Solomon, LifeCapture Images LTD

I hope you’ll share your gratitude list on the hop! Happy New Year!

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What’s a Nice Jewish Girl Like Me Doing For Christmas?

Chinese food on ChristmasTwo Martians run into each other in New York City. Surprised and delighted to see another of their kind on Earth, they promptly introduce themselves.
“Hi,” the first one says, “I’m 854375.”
“Nice to meet you. I’m 758689,” replies the other one.
To which, the first one says, “Funny, you don’t look Jewish.”  
 

I was disappointed when I read the first part of Corrine’s post for Blog Hop #60 because, almost down to the last detail, there is hardly a thing this nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn doesn’t love, love, love about Christmas. It made me sad to think some people might not enjoy it as much as I do.

There is one exception to my unconditional love. I don’t “go for” the way stores like Target have taken such divine, moving Christmas songs as the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah (my favorite!) and re-written them for their commercial purposes. To me, that’s just ridiculous.

But the resplendent trees, the festively dressed church-goers, the mouth-wateringly scrumptious looking meals people prepare and the generous sentiments that people express all give me chills.  Can you honestly say that this picture is not spectacular? White Christmas Tree

And then there’s the music. Oh! The music! There is a reason that this Youtube flash mob video has gotten more than 40.5 MILLION views. (Incidentally, I’d say about 10 million of them are mine… LOL!)

I wish you all could have seen me earlier this week wildly waving my arms and gesticulating madly as I walked into the dry cleaner’s to drop off my husband’s suits. I looked liked I was having a seizure. In fact, I was conducting an invisible orchestra and chorus in a round of “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” much like I’d just heard on the local classical music station during my drive from home. Is it weird that I know the words to the song almost by heart … in Latin?

What can I say? I’m so touched by the holiday. I just think it’s magnificent and breathtaking and joyous and … . The list of descriptors goes on and on.  Even Gary gets caught up in it — checking his computer to track Santa’s position via NORAD.

Why do I love this holiday so much? For all the reasons I’ve mentioned already, but there’s one more reason and it’s a biggie. I so enjoy it because I don’t celebrate it and so, I can stand back and take it all in without having to think about doing any of it.

That’s how a nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn, like me, celebrates Christmas. Merry Christmas!!!! :-D

 

Sabbath a la Timothy Leary

LFlashing police lightsast Friday, I was in New Jersey preparing for my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah when I got word about the horror that had taken place in Connecticut earlier that day.

I don’t know why this is the case, but I think Americans have a twisted interest in and fascination with death. We are a nation of rubber-neckers. When we see flashing lights on the side of the road, suggesting a wreck or an arrest, we don’t avert our eyes. Rather, we slow down and try to get a better look.

For nearly ten years as a newspaper reporter I got paid to go after the bad stuff. I’m sure some of you are familiar with the industry phrase, “If it bleeds, it leads.” I took that very seriously and I couldn’t understand why my family – especially my sister, who has four kids, was always so horrified by the stories of my reporting exploits.

I’ve been out of the reporting business for about 10 years now and I’ve begun more and more to “get” that that sort of news really doesn’t inspire or uplift anyone. In fact, I’m confident that we’d all be better off with less of it.

When I first heard about the massacre, I followed my instinct and turned on the TV. But I had somewhere to be and time was short, so I had to turn it off. Little did I realize at the time what a good decision that would turn out to be.

Shabbat - Just do it

The next morning, before heading to synagogue for the main event, I turned on the tube–again. I wasn’t depressed and anxious enough already? This time what I saw was so much worse. While Gary washed up, I watched an interview with a man who lives near Sandy Hook Elementary School who simply by happenstance ended up sheltering several children in his house. As he answered questions, it was clear that he was fighting to keep the tears back. I didn’t fare as well. Gary came out of the bathroom to find me on the bed, red-eyed from weeping. He immediately switched the telly off and directed me to the bathroom to get cleaned up, saying I couldn’t go out in the condition I was in.

While I was literally washing away my tears, I thought about where we were headed and realized that we would be with people for whom devotion to God results in them, once a week, taking a break from the events of the world. What had happened in Newtown wouldn’t go away quickly, I reasoned, so I wouldn’t miss much if I followed their example and took a day off from the news cycle.

So, for the next 12 hours, giSabbath Rest Signve or take, I imposed upon myself a complete ban on all news, turning my attention instead to the thrilling, once-in-a-lifetime celebration that I’d been invited to partake in. It ended up being a magical weekend full of joy with plenty of time afterwards to catch up on current events.

When I think back on my actions, I can’t help but smile. I’m a child of the 60′s (if barely) and what I ended up doing that weekend was to “tune in, turn on and drop out.” It was truly a Sabbath a la Timothy Leary. 

Oh Daphne Girl, The Pipe Dream’s Calling….

Dolly!Prompted by a photo for a prior blog hop, I commented that I’d love to write a country music song. It probably would have been more accurate if I’d written, “I’d love to publish a country music song and have it produced,” because as life would have it, at the time, I had a song “in the can.”
Mom and Dad side by side

In late October, I got together with my aunt, Ellen Mandel, and uncle, Michael Lydon, and we sang the song with music and all. It was more fun than I expected and it prompted me to write another one for my parents’ 50th anniversary which was this past Sunday, December 16th.

This is the refrain of the song entitled, “Oh My Darlin’ Steins.”  Not bad, eh?

Which brings me to my dream for 2013. I would just flip to see my country song picked up by one of the major country artists. Given the lyrics — it’s really more a parody of a country song than an actual country song — I think the best artist for it is Dolly Parton. I’m not sure if she’d do it, but I suppose it never hurts to ask.

This may well be a case of, “Oh Daphne girl! The pipe, the pipe dream’s calling,” if you know what I mean….

If she won’t do it, I suppose I could always sing it. Stay tuned readers … or should I say “listeners”?

Some Vacation Experience

Vermont State Fair at nightCiao peeps!

I’ve been busy, busy, busy lately writing a song and a poem about my parents to be shared at a party in honor of their 50th wedding anniversary later this month. And I spent much of last month cheering on a gal pal who I met here on The Writer’s Post in her quest to complete NaNoWriMo (which I’m thrilled to say she did). You might say I’m in an artistic “zone.”

Which has made me think about how nothing fictional is truly fiction. Everything we writers write derives in part or whole from life and our experiences. As your host for Blog Hop # 58, that brings me to our topic.

I invite you to consider the following: “It is said that ‘Life often imitates art.’ If you could step into a book or a piece of art, which one would it be and why?”

Late this summer Gary and I took a trip to Vermont, which culminated in a day spent at the Vermont State Fair in Rutland. Up until then, I’d never been to a state fair. What awaited me was the stuff of legend.

We got there during the daylight hours so I could see all around me. The fairgrounds site was enormous — stretching as far as the eye could see. But with all the rides and concession stands jammed into the space, to say nothing of the people, one couldn’t see far. :-D

As we walked along the midway, I took it all in. The outlandish rides with their vibrant, seductive signs and the game booths with their kaleidoscopic array of prizes. The concession stands proclaiming all kinds of greasy or icy or staggeringly sweet treats and the aromas that wafted from them. The din of the music from — well — everywhere. The scene was like nothing I’ve ever experienced in my life.

Charlotte's WebIn that moment, I felt as though I’d fallen straight into the world famous classic, “Charlotte’s Web.” And what a fabulous feeling it was.

I tell you, I half expected to walk into the animal barns and see the stall of a smiling swine over which was a spider web with “Some Pig” woven into it. ;-)

When day gave way to nighttime, the absurd idea that people would actually retire to their homes/hotel rooms and go to bed was put to rest, so to speak. To the contrary, that was when the entire place lit up and sprang to life. It was overwhelming, magical and completely unforgettable.

As Gary and I continued to walk, hand in hand, I found myself thinking of young love and Fern Arable and Henry Fussy. And when Gary and I finally left, although the fair was still going strong, I couldn’t help but wonder if hidden away in one of the many barns, a rat, named Templeton or otherwise, was making plans like this:

“I’m going to make a night of it. The goose was right. This fair is a rat’s paradise. What eating! And what drinking! Everywhere is good hiding and good hunting … This will be a night to remember in a rat’s life.”

Some PigI’ve read countless numbers of books and been to dozens of museums where I’ve seen more works of art than I can remember, so if I’d been asked the question, “What oeuvre would you step into?” I’m not sure I necessarily would have chosen, “Charlotte’s Web.” So I’m absolutely thrilled that it chose me.

I can’t wait to see your pick! Hope you’ll share it on the hop!

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McFly and I

It had to have been destiny because it couldn’t have been anything else, so if I didn’t believe in destiny before, I do now.

What the heck am I talking about?!

This past week I was on vacation in Florida and with weather in the sunny 70′s in the end of November there was no way I was staying indoors. Hence, there was no way I was going to be spending time on my computer. But, for a lark on Thursday, I decided to check The Writer’s Post for the topic of Blog Hop Week #57.

Hmmm… . Share your thoughts about destiny … . Yikes! That was a tall order because, to be perfectly honest, when I first considered it, little came to mind.  And then it was time to leave Florida.

We had a late flight out of Orlando on Friday, November 30th — that is, the day after I saw the blog prompt — so Gary and I spent the day in Winter Park, FL. Our first stop was the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Garden where we learned about the famed Czech sculptor and saw dozens of his works in marble, bronze and other media. At the entrance to the property were a few sculptures of naked or half naked men. Needless to say, they got my attention!

My beautiful picture

The one pictured above in particular caught my eye, because it seemed so “alive.” I all but fell over when I saw what it was called.

My beautiful picture

Clearly I was destined to be here… .

Later in the day, we were kicking around on Park Avenue — Winter Park’s main drag for shopping, dining, etc. — and we found ourselves among hundreds of people all in attendance for the annual Christmas tree lighting.

It goes without saying that when you have that many people gathered in one place, there are sure to be some “characters” in the crowd.

I only saw him for an instant, but as we walked, a guy wearing a very eye-catching shirt passed me. Why was he so singular among the scores of men, women and children in attendance? Because, I kid you not, his shirt said:

I'm Your Density

For those who delight over that wonderful movie moment, have one more chuckle on me with this little clip.

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