Tag Archives: #family

Doing Good

12 Feb

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When the world seems to be falling apart, it is comforting to see the people you love trying to put it back together. One of those people is my son.

He’s a quiet kid. He’s shy and unassuming and once you are lucky enough to get to know him, he’s hilarious and kind and genuine. He still needs to work on the regular teenage stuff like being nicer to his brothers or answering me in a more patient tone. But all in all, he’s a truly fine human being and I am honored to have the privilege of being his mom.

In the fall, my son participated in a Midnight Run. Together with his friends and our synagogue he collected necessary every day items we might take for granted: soap, pillows, a warm jacket. On a cold November night, my son and husband drove into New York City and handed out jackets to the homeless. They helped people find the right size coat, the color they preferred, and ultimately the jacket that would keep them the warmest. They handed out jackets until there were no more jackets to hand out. But there were still people who were cold.

A few weeks later, I saw a segment on the news about a company in Michigan called The Empowerment Plan that was making jackets that converted to sleeping bags. The labor hired to sew these jackets is sourced exclusively from homeless shelters. These women are trained and given skills that will hopefully allow them to find full time employment. It was an incredible story to behold. I told my son about the jackets and he began an online fundraiser via Crowdrise to raise $5240 (the cost of 50 jackets plus shipping to NY), so he could continue to help keep our city’s homeless a little warmer.

With the help of many friends and family, more than $6000 was raised allowing for the purchase of nearly 60 coats. And on a cold January night, our family and my parents loaded the jackets into two trucks and drove to Hebrew Union College in The Village to distribute the coats to those patronizing their soup kitchen.

As we unloaded the coats onto a table and started demonstrating them for the people there, a small crowd began to gather. A very tall man was the first person to take a coat, explaining how happy he was because he has not been able to find a warm jacket that fits him in years.

We met a man named Matteo who sleeps in his van and was grateful to now have some semblance of a bed. He marveled at the utility of the jacket and how it was an item fashioned for those in need with respect for those in need in mind. He thanked my son and began to cry.

When a woman named Fatima saw the jacket, she broke into a wide smile and laughter, confiding that this was something she could really use. Her joy was palpable. She took a jacket and returned 15 minutes later just to talk to my son.

“You did this? How did you do this?”

My son explained his fundraiser. Fatima began to cry.

“I can’t believe you did this. You’re only 16. Do you know what you’ve done?”

And then she asked him for a hug. And they embraced.

When the shift was over only 5 jackets remained which we donated to the soup kitchen. Several hours later, after eating dinner at a local restaurant, we started walking back to our car. On the way, we passed Hebrew Union College. Outside was a man in a lawnchair, laughing with his friends, and wearing one of the jackets we gave him earlier that night.

Things have certainly come full circle. To have begun the Midnight Run program in our synagogue and to have ended this coat drive in the basement of a seminary was a beautiful living brush stroke of tikkun olam: repairing the world.

And the world is indeed in need of repair.While the country’s delicate seams have been mercilessly ripped apart, small acts of kindness, like this one, are the thread we all need to sew us back together. Because regardless of where we live or what we own, people are people are people. And yes, you do things for other people. You do it because it is the right thing to do. You do it because you can. You do it because you can make someone’s life better, even if it is just in the smallest way, like a giving a stranger a fresh bar of soap. But you also do it because it makes you feel better too. And it feels good to do good. It does.

My son may not always be the type who sits on my lap to hug me, or who holds my hand while I’m driving and rests his head on it, or who comes into my room to hug and kiss me as a study break. But I hope he is. I will never be too old to accept any of those expressions of love.

Soon my son will be going off to college. When he leaves the home in which he has grown up, I wonder if he is ready for what the world will throw at him. But mostly I want to know that he is a good person. That I am sending my best work, a really good human being, into the world. That he will love and be loved. That he will be kind. That he will help those who need it. And that he will be good. And he is.

My son is already repairing this world, doing great things, and giving back. He’s going to make his mark on this world. In fact, he already has.

Friendships That Are Gifts

19 Oct

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Every now and then you are lucky enough to come across someone who will be your true friend. Someone who will understand the same jokes. Someone who you can laugh with until your stomach hurts and tears roll down your cheeks. Someone who will get you. Nearly 13 years ago, I was lucky enough to come across my beautiful friend, Beth.

Not long after that, when she was only 37, she called me to her home on a warm spring night. We sat on the porch and sipped iced tea and she told me she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was the first step in a heartbreaking chapter of our friendship.

Beth, loved by innumerable people besides me, was strongly supported by our local community and her larger network of family and friends. I had never known a friend with cancer and I had no idea what to do for her first. I began by pouring my heart into cooking. Every Wednesday night, for as long as she was undergoing treatment (which, incidentally, was many months) I made dinner for Beth and her family. Throughout this time, I noticed her lose her hair, her eyebrows, her eyelashes. I listened to her talk of sores in her mouth as she sucked ice pops, and lament that she was forgetting things from all the chemotherapy. I saw her family rally around her. And I saw her rally around her family. And most important, I watched her fight each day, talk relentlessly about the future, and continue to live her life positively. She was simply incredible.

On her final week of treatment, and the last time I delivered dinner to her family, I brought her a bottle of wine. I worried that such an open display of revelry might superstitiously invite bad luck, but 5 years after Beth’s diagnosis, I was fortunate enough to bring her pink champagne to celebrate the important milestone she finally reached.

What once consumed Beth and her family (and a large part of my mind as well), has become merely a part of her past. She does not dwell on what happened to her. She looks forward. She is happy. She is loved. She continues to live her life positively. She is still simply incredible.

Several months ago, Beth asked me to join her on the Avon 2 day, 39 mile walk across New York City. Without even thinking about it, I said yes. First, I have a problem saying no, and second, I would do anything for Beth. And then I panicked. 39 miles is a major undertaking that required 12 weeks of training, 2 pairs of sneakers, 3 new apps, a minimum fundraising goal of $1800, a weekend away from my family, and countless blisters. What I received in return, however, cannot be itemized. Walking through the streets of the city in which I have grown up, in which my parents have grown up, in which my grandparents have grown up, was nothing short of momentous. I walked past the area where my great grandfather owned an antiques store on the Lower East Side, the theater where I saw my first James Taylor concert, the apartment building I lived in during law school, the library in which my husband and I met, the street where my mother and I picked out yarmulkes for my wedding, the hospital where I delivered my first baby, the spot we used to stroll him to for Sunday brunch, the courthouses in which I spent so much time litigating. I walked through my family history for the past four generations. I walked through my life.

And then I realized, maybe that’s the point. Maybe when you walk through your whole life, your whole life comes back to you. Washed amid a sea of pink, our team held hands and crossed the finish line. I took so many pictures throughout the two days but my favorite one, by far, was the one captured by my husband, solely because of the pure glee you can see in my friend Beth’s smile.

Beth’s whole life has returned to her. She is complete. At the end of the walk, I kissed her and said “your friendship is a gift.” Because it is. I should know. I have been treasuring it now for almost 13 years.

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More pictures from the walk:

lincolncenter brooklyn bridge lowermanhattan dumbo water randalls man chinatown baseball china radio horse flatiron  flatiron2esbfamteam3theend

The Night Before

10 Sep

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The Night Before it was beautiful.

It was September. It was the 10th. It was my brother’s birthday. We went to dinner at an Italian restaurant on Third Avenue. I ordered Penne Pomodoro after learning that the Spaghetti Bolognese I really wanted was made with veal and pork. We sat at a table for 9 people that included my parents, my husband, my cousin, my aunt, my uncle, my brother. My husband and I were only a family of 3 at the time and we toted our toddler son everywhere. It was a non-event. And yet, it was monumental because it was The Night Before the world changed.

We stood on the sidewalk of Third Avenue, looking up at the sky. It was painted with pinks and purples, and tones of burnt orange. It was still warm outside even though it was mid-September in New York. We all remarked on the perfection of the evening.

And then it was gone.

We remember the most meaningless details of time because they precede those that are the most horrific. That birthday dinner is etched in my mind, its details engrained, the seating chart and round table at the back right corner, still vivid. That small stretch of time we all looked up at the sky. We record moments of normalcy because they ground us, because we yearn to get them back, because we wish to just exist in a time when things are so routine we remember choosing Penne Pomodoro over Spaghetti Bolognese in what might otherwise be another tiny decision to forget over a lifetime of countless tiny decisions. And we want that night, that moment, that simplicity back.

The next day the sky was cloudless, clear, blue, until it turned thick and acrid from jet fuel, airplane debris, and the unthinkable spontaneous combustion of two buildings that graced New York City’s skyline for my entire life, their contents, and the lives of nearly 3000 people and their families. It went on like this for days, the smoke downtown visible from the park in the East 70s where I pushed my son on a swing. He had no idea how his life had changed slightly after 8 am just days before. He had no idea he was about to inherit a world I had never contemplated. His sky was still blue.

Perhaps our children are better for not knowing The Night Before, what they are missing, what simplicity might have graced their days. My sons sleep soundly in the world they inhabit, not aware of What Might Be and What Might Have Been. I wish it was different. But it is not. The best I can hope for are meaningless moments, simplicity, and a lifetime of clear, beautiful skies.

The Things We Almost Didn’t Say

18 Dec

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I had a fight with my husband.

We don’t argue often and when we do, it always seems to be about the same things. Sometimes you wait for people to change, but they don’t. Not really.

And sometimes you remember why you fell in love with them to begin with.

What we fought about is not important; the outcome is. For the first time, literally ever, my husband wrote me a love letter. It is, without question, and aside from my children, the most beautiful gift he has ever given me. I have read it and reread it over and over and over. It makes me feel like a teenager. It makes me feel like the luckiest woman in the world to be married to this man. It makes me so grateful to know that I have decades ahead to spend with him.

Arguments are not fun. But sometimes, they are necessary. Quiet conversations about disappointment don’t always pan out. And let’s be honest, I am not a really “quiet conversation” kind of girl anyway. I am passionate and loving and very much a woman. I am also stubborn and impatient and very much a woman. Incredibly, he loves all of that in me. I don’t but he does. That is love.

When you start your life with someone, you don’t really know how it will turn out. You don’t know what kind of father, husband, friend, supporter they will be when you decide to legally bind yourself to them until you die. People evolve, life happens. I am so grateful that, as our life happens, we are still evolving together.

Today is his birthday. He does not want to go out for a nice dinner. He wants to bring home take out food so he has more time to spend with his sons. He is quite a man.

I hope he continues to say the things he almost did not. I don’t want to miss a thing.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY BROTHER!

10 Sep

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I wanted a sister like nobody’s business but my parents, people that they were, wouldn’t let me choose.

My brother was born, premature and ailing, on September 10th, not that I recall anything about it, being a baby myself at the time.

My first memory in life was my birthday three months after he arrived. My mother gave me a big, wrapped box and inside I found a tiny piano. Each key, when pressed, played a familiar Disney song.

“This is a birthday present from your little brother, Jonathan.” He was still in the hospital at the time. We didn’t really know each other that well yet.

But, I remember–very clearly–saying and thinking “that’s so nice of him! He is so nice!”

Not much has changed since then. He thrived, physically, exceeding all of his doctors’ expectations, and eventually came home where I would torment him, and dress him up as that sister I never had, and call him Joan, and smother him. He grew up to lead a tiny Black Jack ring in our basement, ruin my car in a series of mishaps after I entrusted it to him freshman year of college, and learn all the words to every James Taylor song against his will because I was the first one with a driver’s license and he had no choice as my hostage I mean passenger. But he always remained the “nice” generous person I thought him to be when I was that little girl with the tiny piano. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that my birthday gift was never that piano. It was him.

Thirteen years ago, we went out to dinner to celebrate my brother’s birthday with our family at a restaurant on the Upper East Side. It was a gorgeous night in New York City. The sky was streaked salmon and orange and yellow. I can still see myself standing on the sidewalk on Third Avenue, staring up at that sky and admiring it.

The next day the world changed. Thankfully, my brother still hasn’t.

Happy birthday to my soulful, sweet, handsome, devoted, kind, hilarious and all around perfect baby brother. Thank goodness you came just as you are. Who needs a sister when I have you.

xo,

Lisa

Deductions

17 Apr

My brother and I took my mom out for lunch for her birthday. Somewhere between blowing out the candle and asking for the check, my brother excused himself to use the bathroom.  My mom whirled around, seizing the opportunity made available by his convenient need to empty his bladder:

“Lisa, we have to find him a wife. He’s getting KILLED on taxes. No dependents.”

I can’t tell you why he’s still single. He is downright adorable. He’s sweet, kind, charming. He’s hilarious too. We laugh at all the same things (some of which are terrible, leading to uncomfortable public situations). We still have that connection we did as children: we will zero in on the same thing and laugh uncontrollably — typically the kind that produces no sound but does cause endless tears, heaving shoulders, and sore abs. For a period of time after that, we can no longer look at each other without breaking into hysterics. Often this can last anywhere from 1 week to 3 decades.  We are ageless.

More important, I have finally forgiven him for not being a girl. I desperately wanted a sister. He seems to bear no scars for all the times I dressed him in a raincoat, put his hair in pigtails, and called him “Joan.”

“You’re threatening his masculinity!” My mother would shout. That didn’t stop me. If he wanted to play with me and my friends, he was going to be the little sister. Or the dog. That worked too.

He also doesn’t seem to hold against me the countless times I told him things tasted like watermelon because I knew he would eat them.

“Here! Try this chicken gizzard. It tastes just like watermelon! It’s delicious.” And then I would hold my breath and wait. He did not disappoint, reaction-wise, although the chicken gizzard was the last time he took that bait.

He was a great brother, still is. I don’t know many who could have survived having me for a sister. We hail from a colorful family of strong personalities and thankfully, he is one of them. If he was just some dopey wallflower, for instance, he never would have let my mom and me create the now defunct “pleasemarrymyson.com” in 2010. Although he was definitely mortified.

Perhaps he’s single because I was just too much to handle. Or perhaps he’s single because he’s looking for someone like his sister to laugh with until tears roll down his cheeks and his stomach aches. Who isn’t?

Regardless, my mom has entrusted me with this mission.

“So, Mom, you’re saying you want him to get married just so he can give less money to the government?”

“Yes. That’s what I’m saying.”

And then we laughed. ‘Til we cried. Because she’s pretty funny too.

**If you don’t hear from me within a week, call the cops because my brother killed me for publishing this post.