Happy Father’s Day

PhotoCredit:NewYorkerMagazine

PhotoCredit:NewYorkerMagazine

Not only is this a repost, but it’s friggin’ late.

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When I was a little Dani, about four or five years old, my father invented a character called, the Tickle Monster, long before Josie Bissett’s, Tickle Monster Laughter Kit, which included cuddly tickling mitts. I’m not sure why you would need a kit to tickle someone, but whatever. My dad was the original.

My brother and I used to share a bedroom in a cozy two bedroom apartment in Yonkers, New York. When my parents were home, and not behaving like the 25 year-old’s that they were; that is, partying with the downstairs neighbors, and nursing Sunday morning hangovers, my dad would don a random piece of clothing to mask his true identity, and he’d become, the Tickle Monster.

We’d hear growling, monster-like noises outside of our bedroom, and as the sounds grew louder, we knew that the monster was getting close. My body would tense in anticipation of the monster’s entrance.

Our bedroom door would fly open and my dad would come barreling in, often tripping over a Tonka truck or a Dr. Seuss book, that my brother or I left in the middle of the room. With his arms flailing, and his back hunched over, he pretended to look for us, even though we were right in front of him, jumping up and down on our beds, screaming, “No, no, go away,” as we laughed. He took his time, relishing the sound of our little kid squeals.

The Tickle Monster went to my brother first because he was an easy target. The kid would freak out, at the mere suggestion of being tickled. He screamed so loud that he’d gasp for air. Watching my brother squirm and shriek like a little girl, always made me giggle.

I was never ticklish. Seeing his two kids laughing together in the same room, instead of beating the crap out of each other, was pure joy for my father. Even at the tender age of four, I was like the character Morales in, A Chorus Line, “I felt nothing.” My dad loved playing the part, so I smiled and pretended to. (best acting job to date)

This particular brand of play was out of my father’s comfort zone. He was the reading and writing type; the parent that supervised homework, exposed me to Miles Davis, quoted Rolling Stones lyrics, and read Crime and Punishment to me at bedtime. He wasn’t so much into kid games, or child-like make-believe, but he put his heart and soul into the Tickle Monster and I couldn’t bing myself to tell him that I felt nothing.

From the time that I was twelve or thirteen, my dad knew exactly who I was, and thirty years later, little has changed. I recently reread a letter that he wrote to me when I graduated from high school. At the time, I passed it off as a father being a fearful parent, but how wise that Tickle Monster was.

“Firstly, you seem to be an anxious young bird who has learned how to fly, and now is trying to examine every tree in the forest. I can assure you that you will do that but racing to them will defeat your purpose and you will not maximize your enjoyment of them. Like constructing a building with blocks, a foundation must be laid before the spire can be placed on top.

Unless you have certain experiences to call upon, you may miss out on some wonderful fun. You know that I have never stopped you from exploring some very dark places; yet I am fearful of you missing something because of a lack of patience. Sometimes it is better to sit by the ocean and look at the sea, sense it and slowly feel it come over you, slowly and with all of its feeling, comfort and awe. Oh, yes, it is great fun to dive in, but how many people who do that could tell you the color of the sea and how beautiful it smells. Most times the short term is not as fulfilling.

And yes, each day is a challenge to your moral sense. Each day you will have to make up your own mind as to what to do- (unless you want to call us). You know how much I love you as my daughter, but now as you begin to leave the nest and start to fly, I relish in the fact of how much I like you. And remember our telephone number is 238…. Love, Dad.”

Then when I graduated college, my father wrote me a poem. I returned the favor, by turning it into a song, for Father’s Day years (and years) later, mainly because I couldn’t bear to buy him one more art book, or golf shirt.

LISTEN TO IT HERE: Love Daddy

A Letter To My College Graduate

A letter

PhotoCredit: Onlyfreewallpaper.com

A letter to my Girlfriend Mom daughter, in celebration of graduating college—

It’s hackneyed and cliche but, where did the time go? Where is that seemingly surefooted, 13-year old dark haired girl, who sat in the passenger seat of her mother’s car in the driveway, craning her neck to catch a glimpse of her father’s new girlfriend?

I am so glad that I was that girlfriend because you have changed my life. You’ve enriched it, and my heart has expanded, in a way that I never knew possible. Watching you grow, and evolve, into a funny, smart, stunning, and curious, young woman, has been a crazy cool ride.

My dear graduate, this is an exciting time, with all that is in front of you; endless possibilities, and just as many opportunities, waiting for you to grab hold. It can be scary— uncertainty, confusion, and choruses of, “What do I do now?” will surely ring in your ears from time to time. What I can tell you is this; just do— simple, not always easy.

In case you hit a pothole and have trouble doing, perhaps these gems will comfort you and get you moving on your life’s journey.

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Learn the art of listening.

Only when we do things that hurt a little, or make us a little uncomfortable, do we receive the good juju.

Keep moving your body.

Know when being selfish is healthy.

Fiber is your friend.

You will not learn by taking the easy way out— of anything.

Be tolerant.

Be kind to yourself and kill the naysayers with kindness.

Never stop learning.

Your words have meaning, choose them wisely.

A sexy mind is a sexy woman.

Unplug, unwind and quiet the chatter.

Think outside of the box. On second thought, don’t put yourself in a box in the first place.

No tanning beds.

Exfoliate.

Forgive because you won’t ever forget.

Remember the old folks; respect them, for you too, my beauty, will be old one day.

Be compassionate.

Nobody can tell you what is right for you. That burden, and yes, at times it will feel like a  burden, lies within you alone. Suggestions will be made, opinions offered, but it will always be up to you.

Ask for help. People will show up, as will the universe. Pretending doesn’t make you smarter.

Don’t accept explanations as whole truths from people just because they have a business card. Question everything and do your own vetting.

Explore, and travel. These will be the experiences that mold you, influence you and identify you. “Traveling reminds us who we forgot to be.” —Anonymous, on a bathroom wall in Berlin, Germany.

Indulge in any idea, peoples, culture, gadget, or philosophy, that even remotely interests you. It will broaden you in ways that you cannot imagine.

Take chances and risks. Have certainty that there will be someone, (it just might be you) or something, to catch you. I’ll always be on call.

Don’t ignore the quiet voice that emanates from your gut. It holds great power and it will never let you down. It’s your intuition and instinct. It may not be what you want to hear, but be courageous and listen to what it is saying.

Don’t let fear paralyze you. Bravery is acting in the face of fear, making friends with it and moving past it.

Share yourself, and your talents, with others. Give back and give often.

Don’t spend too much time worrying, or contemplating your navel. It goes by too fast.

It’s okay to change your mind. Walk a road that you hadn’t envisioned, and then, when you are ready, make a sharp left, and take that road.

Keep your heart and mind open. You will find it, although it may not look like what you had pictured in your mind. You may find that there’s more than one it.

The quicker you can distinguish between what you can control, and what you cannot, the happier and lighter you will feel.

Surround yourself with positive people and let the others gently fall away. Don’t count people out. Sometimes they will surprise you. Gather those around you that will assist you on your path; those that support and encourage need only apply.

Life is messy, complicated, unfair, and it owes you nothing. You will falter, fail and flail. You’ll make questionable choices. Your mettle will be tested. It’s what you do afterwards that matters. Remember, it’s only a test and it can’t hurt you.

Never excuse rudeness, disrespect, or bad behavior.

Don’t save things for a rainy day, or the perfect time. They don’t exist. Wear the new dress, tell someone that you love them, answer the email. I love you.

You have to look at yourself in the mirror every day. Be sure that you can smile at the person looking back at you.

People are doing the best that they can (most of them anyway), be patient with those that aren’t as capable as you are.

It will always be more challenging, the closer you are to your goal; to your light, to your truth. The universe wants to be sure you are ready. I have no doubt that you will be.

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And if you still can’t do, I’ve carried these quotes with me for most of my adult life. They’ve always brought me a certain peace. My desire is that they do the same for you.

We must be willing to get rid of the life we planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. —Joseph Campbell

Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get. —Dale Carnegie

I am safe; it’s only change. I cross all bridges with joy and ease. The ‘old’ unfolds into wonderful new experiences. My life gets better all the time.  — Louise Hays

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. — Hilary Cooper

Neglect nothing that can make you great. (Eugene Delacroix)

Nobody is going to save you, that’s your job. Save yourself. If you don’t like where you are, get out of there. The object is not for them to like you, the object is for them to listen to you. Nobody knows what you want expect you and nobody will be as sorry as you if you don’t get it. Wanting some other way to live is proof enough of deserving it. Having it is hard work, but not having it is sheer hell. —Lillian Hellman (partial)

A relationship is an expression of the soul’s yearning to unify forces to push us forward in our spiritual understanding and mutual assistance in paying the debts of our tikune. (correction)—Kabbalah

When you travel, you experience, in a very practical way, the act of rebirth. You confront completely new situations, the day passes more slowly, and on most journeys you don’t even understand the language the people speak. So you are like a child just out of the womb. You begin to attach much more importance to the things around you because your survival depends upon them. You begin to be more accessible to others because they may be able to hep you in difficult situations. And you accept any small favor from the gods with great delight, as if it were an episode you would remember for the rest of your life.— The Pilgrimage, Paulo Coehlo

T- is it TRUE

H- is it HELPFUL

I- is it INSPIRING

N- is it NECESSARY

K- is it KIND

—Unknown original source

My adorable beauty, I only wish that I could spare you the heartache, tears, and bad juju, that intrinsically comes with this thing called life. But alas I cannot. It is the only way for you to become a self realized and authentic individual.

Don’t ever lose your silliness, vulnerability or innocence. They can co-exist happily alongside your strength, resilience and maturity.

Have wondrous adventures with the knowledge that you are so very loved.

Always, Your GM xoxxo

Anne Frank Made Me Throw Up

Anne Frank Made me throw upORIGINALLY EXPERIENCED AND PUBLISHED IN 2005… 

I looked forward to Amsterdam; meeting up with my friend Laura, and attending to unfinished business.

We met at Schiphol Airport, or shit pool, as she called it. It was a relief to see Laura. The last five weeks of traveling, had been a challenging, and I longed for familiarity, and people who spoke English.

Before I left for Amsterdam, I got an email from my mother. “Dani, have fun and don’t smoke too much dope.” Where do I begin with that?

I first visited Amsterdam when I spent a semester abroad studying in Paris, when I was in college. School was a breeze, and it didn’t require a great deal of studying, so I was able to travel every weekend. For six months I took full advantage of my time in Europe. One weekend I decided to go to Amsterdam.

I arrived at the architecturally impressive train station in the city of legal drugs, legal prostitution and cheese. I stayed at Bob’s Youth Hostel, which at the time was a popular backpacker hangout. By coincidence, I ran into a couple of girls from my program back in Paris. They invited me to hang out with them, or I invited myself, I can’t remember. They were partiers. I was not. They wanted to lounge in coffee shops, and smoke dope. I did not. I wanted to go to the Van Gogh Museum and to The Anne Frank House—they did not.

Actually, I didn’t either but my father sent me off to Europe with a list of recommended places to see, and I didn’t want to disappoint  him, so I made sure that I ticked each and every one the list before I returned home. Taking the list literally dispels any mystery as to why I spent a good part of my entire adult life in therapy.

I went out to dinner with the girls, and ate a space cake. The details are foggy at best, but suffice it to say that the girls continued on to other coffee shops, and I went back to Bob’s to throw up. I hurled all through the night, which must have been a real treat for the forty other fellow travelers sharing the room with me.

I felt better in the morning so I went to the Van Gogh museum. When one acts  for the sole purpose of checking off a list, chances are, one is not going to remember much, as it was in my case. I have zero recollection of what was in the museum; I assume some Van Gogh pieces.

I was still feeling okay, so I walked over to the Anne Frank house. I waited in line, bought my ticket and went inside. Just as I was midway up the attic staircase, a sudden wave of nausea washed over me. Please, no. Any place but the attic! I quickly did an about face, and bolted down the one-way staircase the wrong way. It was too late. There wasn’t time to find the actual exit.

I sprinted outside, ran across the street, and heaved the last few remnants of that evil space cake into the canal. Moments later I found my way back to Shit Pool Airport, and caught the next flight to Paris.

Eighteen years later, I was back at the Anne Frank house with Laura. I wanted to make it up to the attic. And I did. Anne’s story was indeed an incredible example of a triumphant spirit. I only wish that I didn’t see two young guys running through the house laughing and carrying on as if they were at a keg party.

The other part of Amsterdam that I missed all those years ago, due to my drug induced state, was the Red Light District, which inappropriately enough was also on my father’s list. Laura and I walked the streets. It was both sad and fascinating. Women were on display like ducks hanging in a Chinatown food stall. They peered out of their tiny windows at throngs of passerby’s. There was a fine line between giving an innocent look and staring. I didn’t want to be impolite and not look, but I didn’t want them to think that I was in the market, and get their hopes up.

The rows of windows looked like dioramas that I used to make in grade school. I think I expected the girls to be naked. They weren’t. Most of them looked despondent, hot and bothered. I expected them to be a bit more proactive. They could’ve tap danced or juggled, something to get the people’s attention. I’m sure it was a competitive business.

I saw one man writing a woman a check. Huh? Most grocery stores don’t take personal checks. One woman was watching television; that would’ve been me. Two girls sat in one window. I think one was visiting because she was fully clothed and holding the local Multiplex schedule under her arm.

Laura and I entertained the idea of knocking on one adorable Asian girl’s window so we could have a chat. I had a lot of questions, and as hard as she tried, Laura just didn’t have the answers. Do you have to pay for your window space? How come you’re not naked? Do you take Traveler’s Checks and credit cards too? Do you ride a bike to work? Is there central air and heat in the room?

As we were leaving, I saw a man walking into one of the dioramas with a smile on his face and dream in his heart. I ticked both The Anne Frank House and the Red Light District off of my list.

Kids Make Me Feel Stupid

KidsMakeMeFeelStudpiOriginally posted July 16, 2013

Kids make me feel stupid and the worst time for me is during the school year. That’s a long time to feel stupid.

As smart as I think I am, which as it turns out, is not very smart, the kids manage to reduce me to stuttering my answers to questions that I have only a vague understanding of, as I google on my phone, or in the car, searching for what revolves around what in the solar system. It often leaves me feeling like a ten year old ignoramus.

Growing up, my parents thought I knew more that I actually did, and was therefore constantly playing catch up, dancing as fast as I could, trying to keep up with their expectations, and subsequently mine.

Fear drove me to get good grades. Fear that my folks, and pretty much everyone else around me, would find out that I was a fraud and in fact just an average student. This was the story that I wrote in my head.

What is smart anyway? I had street smarts. Once, I talked my way out of a knife fight when I was eight years old. Not every eight year old would have been able to do that. Word.

Now being the Girlfriend Mom, it’s friggin’ ridiculous as to how much the kids make me see all that I don’t know, and frankly all that I never knew. They catch me in my deceit left and right and it’s annoying.

I was going through some comments on a post that I wrote the other day, about letting your child have a sleepover with his /or her boyfriend or girlfriend in your house. I read one out loud to the GMD.

“Tell me where in the Bible does it say that sex before marriage is ok?” Now while this wasn’t my reason for not allowing it under my roof, I thought about the idea of using the Bible as my moral compass and taking it literally.

The point in mentioning this has to do with the GMD’s response. She said, “Yeah, if you took the Bible literally, then you wouldn’t exist.” I smiled because, if I understood her correctly, she was saying that Jews (of which I am one) don’t believe in the Bible (?) Or don’t exist in the bible? I thought that I might blackout.

Was this an Old Testament versus New Testament question? Is the Old and New capitalized?

Either way, I was ashamed, and just a bit more than embarrassed, to say that I didn’t have a response. Was she right? Why didn’t I have a response but instead just a silly look plastered on my face that screamed, “I’m a dumb-ass.”

PhotoCredit:bcm.bc.edu

PhotoCredit:bcm.bc.edu

At this stage in my life, I should know the relationship between Jews, the Bible, old, new, Torah, Moses and the whole lot. And that guy, Lot, as well. But I don’t! And that sucks… for me.

Instead of delving further into her comment, as to ascertain what she actually meant, I said nothing and saying nothing made me feel complicit in the potential inaccuracy, thus validating my ignorance, as if my ignorance needed validation.

My head throbbed. I have gone my whole life not knowing things and smiling my way through it, or asking obvious questions, or embarrassing myself in public. However, there is something about exposing my ignorance in front of the kids that is more mortifying and harrowing.

I should go back to school so I can keep up with the kids. They unconsciously remind me that I never learned the proper way to study or how to think. I was great at memorizing, but as it turns out, no one is interested in hearing monologues from the musical, Runaways, as disappointing as that is

Why can’t they ever ask me questions about show business? Shit, at least give me a fighting a chance. Thank god it’s summertime.

College Graduation

graduationIt was bound to happen. I knew that when my relationship ended with my ex, that there would be events in the kids’s lives that I  would miss out on.

And so it is with the GM Daughter, who graduated from college (with a 4.0. GPA, I might brag) last week. Another chapter has been written, and I will not have the pleasure of attending the festivities taking place this weekend in her honor.

Although I take new pictures of our lives, as they are now, beautiful pictures, I suppose some of the old one’s still rattle around in my head. Milestones, and markers, like a graduation, makes turning the page just a little more challenging.

I have so much with the GMD. I don’t need to be with her this weekend but I also feel that I should be there. It should be me celebrating her accomplishments and achievements, with food, wine and the balloons, that I would’ve most certainly have filled the room with. Balloons make everything special.

There will be other faces instead, new faces, in the pictures with her now, and I will have to accept that- just not yet.

She and I will have our own celebration, and balloons. But for now, I feel like the outsider, like I had all those years ago, when I was new on the scene.

The feeling will surely pass, as it always does, just not yet.