That’s My (New) Name, Don’t Wear It Out

Mine was an afternoon wedding in New York City.

In accordance with Jewish tradition, my sister and her husband, who live in New Jersey and are Orthodox, were throwing us a Sheva Brachot party the next day, so we needed to stay in the area overnight. To make our first night as a married couple special, Gary arranged for us to stay at the world-renowned Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. 

A guy who is full of (good) surprises, Gary managed to make the evening even more amazing by treating me to an order of champagne and strawberries from room service. It was beautiful. 

At some point during our evening, we needed something in our room. So I picked up the phone and called down to the concierge. When the staff member on the other end picked up,  I said, “This is Mrs. Steinberg calling from Room … . My husband and I would like … . ” I have no idea what I asked for or really anything that came after those most significant words.

But I can picture myself on the phone, referring to myself for the very first time  as, “Mrs.” and saying something about, “my husband.” It was a moment — perhaps the moment — that I had been waiting for all my life.

Almost seven and half year later, I still remember those nanoseconds as if they were yesterday and hearing myself saying those words sounds just as awesome and amazing as it did then.

Do you remember, BlogFEST 2012 readers, the first time you used the word  “husband” or “wife”?

Is It a Hybrid or What?

I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily my favorite Halloween memory, but it’s certainly my most memorable one. 

I grew up in New York City in the 1970’s. Let’s just say that New York City in the 1970’s wasn’t the warm, fuzzy place that it now is, having been brought to you by the Disney, Mars and Hershey’s Corporations.

Back then, the concept of “the mean streets of New York” wasn’t entirely inaccurate. There were some mean, nasty, scary people out there.

So it wasn’t without reason then, that when Halloween rolled around, the general warning would circulate, “Whatever you do, don’t take apples from anyone. They might have razor blades in them.”

Lemme tell you: Odds are I wouldn’t have taken an apple in the first place. C’mon man, that’s way too healthy! But if the thought of taking an apple while trick or treating had ever crossed my mind, the idea of said fruit with a razor blade in it scared the bejeezus out of me, ensuring that no such taking would occur.

The thing is, young children are impressionable so, even now, every year on Halloween that pseudo-admonition reverberates in my head, “Don’t take apples… .”

Cut to 30-plus years later and I sit here, stupefied. If an apple had, in fact, had a razor blade in it, wouldn’t I or my hawk-eyed mother surely have seen it before I ate it? I’m at a loss to think how someone could insert a razor into an apple and leave no trace of its presence.
Not that I’m going to put the theory to the test, mind you… . Still as a passionate gourmet and a somewhat-more-than-casual gardener, it makes me stop and think.

This is my question, dear BlogFEST 2012 readers: Could you grow an apple with a razor blade in it? Would such an apple be a hybrid or what?

Monster Mash (?)

Hooray! Today I’m your host for BlogFEST 2012 and it’s my half birthday. Yes, at my age, I still celebrate half birthdays… .  So to celebrate turning 43 and a half, being the “foodie” that I am, I think I’ll have some cake and maybe some ice cream.

Alternatively, in “the spirit of the (Halloween) season,” these fruits (Yep, they really are a food!) are mighty tasty. Perhaps I’ll have one or two of them.

I also love sushi and enjoy having it to mark a festive occasion. This occasion is as good as any to have sushi. I’ve had the kind shown in the picture. It’s really good. LOL!

Seriously though, with Halloween around the corner — tomorrow, to be exact — there are all kinds of wacky recipes out there on the web for such delicacies as “brains” on lettuce, “heart” on a plate and “worms in dirt.”

Most of these spooky foods are delicious sweets and treats made to look frightening.

There are, however, those dishes that we eat regularly, that leave our friends and family scratching their heads in wonderment. I’m partial to a sandwich of mashed fresh avocado mixed with soy sauce and dried onion flakes (which become reconstituted by the soy sauce). Want some?

What? What’s that? You’ll pass, thank you very much?

Disappointed as I am, I kinda understand. It’s what I like, not what you like. I developed a taste for this hair-raising concoction when I was a kid and wouldn’t ingest healthy avocado any other way. Those days are past, now, but from time to time I still enjoy a good avocado, onion flake and soy sauce sandwich. Credit my mom. She’s creative!

So fellow bloggers, use this prompt to ‘fess up. We all know each of us has a dark secret concerning a weird food we just LOVE to eat. I “showed you mine.” Will you show me yours? Your topic is: What secret weird food/dish can’t you live without and how’d the predilection develop?

An “Engagement” in New York City

Ap·point·ment noun : an arrangement for a meeting. Synonym: Engagement.

The best day of my life. Oh my goodness, fellow BlogFEST 2012 readers. I’ve had so many wonderful days in my nearly 43 1/2 years that it’s hard to say that one is the best. But if I were to pick one day of my life that stands out in my mind, it would have to be the day I got engaged. Yeah, engaged. Not married.

Don’t get me wrong, my wedding was everything I’d ever hoped for. But … . My engagement was an unforgettable personal New York story.

We were all gathered at my folks’ house in Brooklyn. It was the first time “the parents” were meeting each other, so, of course, there was some nervousness. However, Gary and I had discussed that we would get engaged when we were all together, so I kind of knew it was coming. But no one could have prepared me for the drama that was the proposal and the moments surrounding it.

It was Saturday afternoon. My parents and I had gone to temple that morning while Gary and his mom (his dad is deceased) had knocked around “the city.” My folks had to make an appearance at a party in Manhattan, so that left me, Gary and Ellen (my then future mother-in-law) alone to do as we pleased for several hours.

We opted to take a walk on the Brooklyn Bridge — one of my favorite places in NYC. When we got to the middle of the bridge, Ellen walked off on her own and Gary dropped to one knee. I knew what was coming next … or so I thought.

Gary reached into his pocket. I fully expected him to pull out the box that held the ring I’d helped him pick out and had been eagerly waiting for and secretly taking peeks at and trying on for months.

From out of his pocket Gary produced .. a bar of really nice dark chocolate. You could have knocked me over with a feather. He said, “I looked all around for this just for you.” As I laughed and cried with joy over this unexpected romantic twist, he took the ring from his pocket and asked, “Will you marry me?”

Guess what? I said, “Yes.” And in that moment, I knew that I would no longer have to weather life’s storms on my own. What a great feeling to be loved…. Without question, one of the best moments in my life.

Shortly thereafter, Ellen reappeared and took some photos of us celebrating.
Then we walked the rest of the length of the bridge into Manhattan, stopped a while and took a few more pictures at City Hall Park and headed back.

Back on the Brooklyn side, we were stopped by a group of women who asked if we could take their photo. With pleasure, we said.

While they set up for the photo, Ellen asked they were doing in NYC.  They were six sisters, they told us, in from Minnesota with their mother to celebrate her milestone birthday.

Wonderful! “While you’re celebrating,” Ellen said, pointing at me and Gary who was behind the camera, “you should know that these two kids just got engaged a few minutes ago.”

Pandemonium broke out.

All of a sudden, six women from Minnesota, who we’d met perhaps 90 seconds earlier, were shrieking and throwing their arms in the air with joy. It was the first of many celebrations of our engagement and though I didn’t know these ladies from a hole in the wall, their expression of joy made our special announcement even more grand, special and important.

Only in New York….

Two Letters

Dear Future Me,

Did you know that the word “gullible” isn’t in the dictionary? Gotcha!

But seriously, that is just the lesson I want you to learn. Don’t. Be. So. Gullible. That is to say, don’t try to get your love at work. You know what “they” say: “It’s called work for a reason. If it was fun, they’d call it something else.” If you’ve learned anything from past disappointments, it’s that, ultimately, people at work should be just that — people at work.

It’s fine and well and good to be friendly with your colleagues. It certainly makes the work environment/atmosphere more palatable, but in the end, you’re there to work. So don’t be concerned if you don’t get on with everyone. It’s not a popularity contest. Just focus on getting your work done.

Think back to when you were a reporter. No matter how uninteresting the article was or irritating your sources were, you always got the story done. Because you were passionate about getting the story and beating the competition. You didn’t care so much about or for your fellow reporters. It was a bit lonely back then, because you were single. But those days are behind you now. You’re married with wonderful friend and family connections, so on some level, loneliness is a moot point.

At work, people are in it for themselves and the same should be true for you. There is no reason, especially if you are going to remain a volunteer, that you need to be in it for any larger purpose. Be passionate about what you do, enjoy what you do, learn as much as you can and let the chips fall where they may when it comes to making friends.

There will be other new and wonderful people to meet at new volunteer opportunities. The future is ripe with possibility. So just stay focused in the now on what matters, which is making a contribution and being fulfilled by your effort.

…………………………………………………….

Dear Past Self,

Thanks for the tip. You’ve been giving me that same advice for a long time now and you may have noticed that I have yet to actually take it. Still I appreciate the counsel.

To be fair, for Blogfest 2012, I have some advice of my own for you: Don’t. Count. On. It.

Change Your Lifestyle, Change Your Life

Imagine, you’re at the relative beginning of your adult life and you’re told, “You are a prime candidate for heart attack, diabetes, even death.”

Daphne in 2000. I wasn’t even at my heaviest here!

I was moved when I read what Stuart Fish had to say for BlogFEST 2012 on the subject of the continued trend of obesity in the Western World. By the way, I’m clock watching as I write this post because I’m attending my weekly Weight Watchers meeting this morning and I don’t want to be late.

That person who was told all those grim things — the person Stuart was talking about — was me at one time. At my very heaviest, in 2002, I weighed 205 pounds. Yikes! To be honest, as Stuart said, others around me were overweight, too, so I’m not sure I fully noticed what was going on with me. Which is curious, because I was a newspaper reporter and was trained to be observant. In the course of my work, I was assigned to write part of a series on obesity. My piece was obesity and exercise.  In retrospect, I don’t think it was mere coincidence that I was given that piece. As a reporter, I did a lot of sitting at the computer and when I got home after a long day, I would eat and crash.  (Are you sensing a gaping hole where exercise/activity should have been, but wasn’t?)

In researching my article, I went to several gyms to get the low-down on what activity could do for you. At one gym, the staff ran a diagnostic test on me, as though I were the client. That was when those shocking words were delivered to me. For all intents and purposes, I was slowly killing myself.

I’d like you to take a moment and let those words sink in … .

………………………………………………………………………………..

The one saving grace in my research was that I visited a gym that was within walking distance of where I then lived.  Fast forward to later in the year. My weight issues were impacting my social life which depressed me — and made me eat more! I was in a really bad emotional state and and my behavior on the job was a reflection of that and ultimately it wound up getting me fired.

So there I was, obese, unemployed and single in the godforsaken climate/landscape of upstate NY, which was definitely not a singles haven. It was really depressing. The day I was fired, I decided I needed to soothe my soul with a little retail therapy. I went to my favorite clothing store and tried on a wonderful dress in the largest size I could find — size 16, if memory serves — and I couldn’t fit into it.

That was the straw that broke the camel’s back… .

I had previously attended Weight Watchers (WW), but never stuck with it. Kind of ironic when you consider that one of the most-oft used WW slogans is, “It’s not a diet. It’s a lifestyle.” That notion, I think, is key in the war we are waging against obesity. Many people diet and when they’ve lost the weight they sought to lose, they pronounce themselves “cured” and go back to the habits that led them to put the weight on in the first place.

Believe, I’ve been there more than once. In fact, I’m kinda there right now. Sometimes “life gets in the way” of taking care of ourselves.

But we can’t let it. We have to make ourselves a priority. I’ve learned that lesson over and over again.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been lower in life than I was when I was stood in that clothing store, having just lost my job, only to be slapped in the face with the fact that I was too fat to fit into anything and it was my own fault.

As I looked for work, I attended WW diligently and, using some savings, even joined that gym near my house. When I started there, I was nervous because I was so heavy and out of shape. But the gym was affiliated with a rehab hospital and there were lots of patients there on treadmills and other machines. Some were even hooked up to oxygen tanks, so I knew I was in good company.

I say that joining WW changed my life. It absolutely did.

Daphne in 2003, after losing 65 pounds on WW!

Remember where I started out:  Single, unemployed and FAT.

After 10 months, I’d lost 65 pounds and gotten to my goal weight. The same week I got to goal, I was offered a job. I took the job and moved from NY to Maryland — a state I’d wanted to live in for years (That’s the subject of another blog post…). Within six months or so of moving, I met a wonderful guy and 18 months later we got married.

I made my health and well being my top priority and it paid dividends. WW really wasn’t and still isn’t a diet. It’s a lifestyle and making that lifestyle change changed my life for the better.

I’m pleased to talk about WW at any time with anyone who’d like to know more. Wishing you all good health.

If You Have It, Nothing Else Matters

Intrigued by this title, are you, dear reader? Wondering what “it” might be?  No doubt, you have some ideas of your own. “It” is what I value above anything else, with the exception, perhaps, of life itself.

I’m thinking you might be considering words such as “money” or “power” or even “love.” All valid words, I suppose, but none of them is the one that goes with the thought that immediately entered my mind this morning when I saw Emily’s prompt for BlogFEST 2012.
Like many of you, I grew up during a time when women weren’t exactly equal partners in, well, anything. It was commonplace for men to call women in the workplace “Honey” or “Darling” or other pet names. The notion that women could have intelligent thoughts of their own, was, frankly, pretty “out there.”

What women had that paramount when I was growing up were their bodies. The svelte, Caucasian (Yep. I went there.) model with flawless skin and straight, gleaming white teeth was the standard. Forget that, oh, I don’t know, 90% or more of the female population didn’t look like that and never would without major cosmetic surgery… . With so much attention going to their bodies, women were largely their husbands’ “accessories.” That notion was the impetus for, “…and His Lovely Wife,” by Pulitzer Prize winning  (Yep, you read that right!) reporter Connie Schultz.

So I used to tell my parents that when I grew up above all I wanted two things in life: A good body and … RESPECT.

We sure have come a long way since then, but even though we are living in the 21st century, there are still moments … .

About 10 years ago, I was the administrative assistant to the headmaster of a religious day school. To accommodate their jobs, he would meet with the senior members of the board — all of whom were men — in the early mornings. One morning, I arrived to work after they’d all gathered. I was getting myself squared away when the board president came out of the conference room and said to me, “You were supposed to get us coffee.”

Is that so? I must have missed that memo.

I got him coffee all right with “a little extra” in it, if you know what I mean … .

What’s noteworthy to me in recounting this true story is that shortly before I got the job, I’d lost a considerable amount of weight and my body truly looked fabulous.

When I’d talk to my parents as a kid, I’d actually say to them that I wanted “Respect and a good body.” It’s interesting to me that I always put respect first. I never knew why until that incident with the board president.

What I value more than anything else in the world, with the exception, perhaps, of life itself, is respect. With respect comes money, power and most of all, love. If you have respect, everything else follows and, consequently, nothing else matters.

From One Little Word To Great Satisfaction

Y’know that phrase, “if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life,”? I’ve come to realize that you can burn out on doing what you love, too.

For the past three years, I’ve been an at-home wife and volunteer. The thing about  volunteering is that it’s, well … voluntary. That means you come to it willingly and  in whatever you’re doing, you’re feeding a passion.

I love to write. (I know. You’re surprised, right?) I also love to learn. In January 2010, I began volunteering as a fundraising copywriter with a local non-profit. The development director — a personal friend of mine — was pleased to have me on board because by her own admission, she hated to write and what’s more, wasn’t very good at it.

I was given a reasonable amount of responsibility and it felt great. After all, I didn’t want to be one of those volunteers who pushed paper and licked envelopes. Nope, I needed intellectually challenging work. And it was.

I was asked to write direct-mail fundraising letters, articles for the charity’s newsletter, copy for the annual report, blog posts and more. I was writing and writing and writing … and checking my email for assignments, even when I wasn’t there and working on projects at home, even on weekends… . I found myself giving more to my volunteering than I ever did to my paid jobs. Crazy…

I knew I had to stop putting myself on the back burner while my “volunteer” work came first, the weekend I spent 10 hours creating a two-minute video. Yes, you read that right. Ten hours of work to produce a 120-second film. Yikes! (Now I understand why a two-hour movie can take a year or more to make…)

Some time afterwards, I was asked to take on a very big project — coordinating a silent auction for a gala fundraiser for 350 people. I thought about it and decided that if I did accept the challenge, exciting though it was, my life would not be my own for several months.

So I said, “No.”

No. Just two measly letters, yet invested with so much power! Who knew that from that one little word, I would derive so much satisfaction? With that in mind, when necessary, I find the word “no” much easier to say these days.

After all, when all is said and done, I’m a volunteer, so I’m not too worried about my performance review and attendant salary increase.

Do you, my fair BlogFEST 2012  readers have a hard time saying, “No?”

If you change the way you look at things…

This weekend, I’m attending my 25th high school reunion. The reunion has largely been put together by one person who really, really cares. This morning, I read a post on Facebook questioning/doubting an aspect of the reunion that made me quite angry. My gut reaction was to reply to the poster’s comment saying, “You’ve got some nerve saying that! After all, what have you done to make this reunion happen?”

Before I opened that Pandora’s Box, though, I stopped and considered the poster’s comment further. It occurred to me that I didn’t know what circumstances had led the person to make the remark that I deemed so rude and insensitive. It wasn’t for me to judge the poster based on one remark, I decided. I just didn’t have ample information.

………………………………………………………………………..

Recently, I’ve been on a Jodi Picoult “bender.” The truth is I don’t enjoy her books that much, but something keeps me coming back to them. I think it must be that I know that in each book as with “My Sister’s Keeper” or “Plain Truth,” there’s going to be an unforeseen twist at the end that will make me catch my breath. I’m hooked, but it sure as the devil isn’t because of her book covers. Honestly, if I were to judge her books solely by their covers, I would have left them all on the shelf.  Case in point: 

Do these covers make you want to run out and buy the books? I’d think not.

………………………………………………………………………..

The bottom line is that there are times when we should simply “Go with our guts,” but they are limited. I shudder to think what the outcome might have been had I stuck with my first inclination upon seeing “this guy” across the room at a party eight and a half years ago. I’d never seen him before, much less met him, but he was short, balding on top and all alone and my instinct said, “Steer clear!” You can imagine how mortified I was when a gal pal of mine started talking to him. Turned out he was really nice. Wasn’t I lucky?

This is a picture of “that guy.” 

And here’s another picture of him … with me … at our wedding:

Oh? Did I fail to mention, BlogFEST 2012 readers, that he’s my husband?

Faithfoolishness

Amen.

But there was a time when I swear I was on the fast track to being the first person ever to have “I wish I’d spent more time at work” carved on my headstone.

Back in the late 1990’s, I was a general assignment reporter for The Daily Gazette, in Schenectady, NY. My work week went from Tuesday to Saturday. I especially loved my Saturday work, because that was when I did most of my human interest stories.  When I started out at the paper, I rotated on the Saturday shift — alternately covering mornings, afternoons and nights. Due to scheduling and personality issues, I was eventually re-assigned as the permanent Saturday night reporter. I loved the shift, although I sometimes missed some of the daytime events I covered.

I never once gave any consideration to the fact that it was Saturday night, I was single and I was at work. I realize I’m not the first person to live this kind of life nor will I be the last, but I can’t help but wonder how many young, single people would voluntarily put themselves in this position. Not many, I’d guess….

As you see, I struggle with setting boundaries. Back then, work was my life, pure and simple. I was so dedicated to the paper that, if I got a lead on a Saturday that wasn’t in my coverage area, I’d leave it for the reporter whose coverage area it was in. I missed out on some kick-a** front page stories that way and I’m confident that if the same situation were reversed, my colleagues would gladly have stabbed me in the back and RUN with the leads. I just didn’t know how to “play the game.”

Now I might sound bitter, but I’m not. Am I disappointed that I was so naive? Yeah, probably. Do I wonder what might have happened if I’d been less of a team player?  Sometimes. I loved being a reporter and, honestly, every now and again, I get the urge to go back to it. But I never will — at least not in the way in which I was a reporter back then. Ultimately, for all my dedication and faithfulness, I got fired when a source lied about me to my boss.

The irony is that after I was fired, I reinvented myself. I lost a significant amount of weight, went back to school, moved to the part of the country I’d long wanted to live in and, eventually, met the guy who is now my husband.

Some synonyms for the word “Dedication” are commitment and faithfulness. These days, I cringe when I consider that I was committed to a job to the detriment of my own well-being. I should have been committed, if you know what I mean! A number of years later, I found myself having to decide between a job and my personal life. Can I tell you? IT WAS A NO-BRAINER.

Have you, my BlogFEST 2012 readers, ever noticed that the word “faithful” kinda has the word “fool” in it? ‘Nuff said.