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Each week in 2019 I’m going to be writing in response to a story prompt, courtesy of an awesome Storyworth subscription from our daughter Sarah for my birthday.  This week’s prompt:

Question: What were your grandparents like?

 

500px wideBessie and David Rudnick Sop

1950 (approx.) –My four grandparents—Bessie Rudnick, David Rudnick, Sophie Eisenberg and Meyer Eisenberg.  The location looks like Atlantic City, easily reached from their Philadelphia homes.

My father’s parents were Meyer and Sophie. Sophie was hard of hearing, and had a microphone that was attached to her hearing aid. I realize now she must have tucked it into the center of her bra as a holder, but all I knew at the time was my father said to me prior to walking up the steps into their one bedroom apt, “Talk into Grandmom’s chest.”

She had been a secretary who took notes in shorthand and he had been a proofreader for the Philadelphia Inquirer. My father said that Sophie would kid Meyer if she found any typos when reading the paper. As I child I thought of her primarily as the grandmother who made thin and buttery chocolate chip cookies. They had one toy for me, it was something plastic that hooked together, I don’t remember how I played with it, but I remember being grateful that there was something there just for me. People didn’t live as long back then, so children often didn’t know their grandparents in high school or adulthood like they do now.  They both passed away when I was in elementary school; I don’t think I went to the funeral.

My father Morton remembered his mother Sophie with quite a bit of fondness. He always spoke very proudly of how spry she was, and how accomplished she was in her job.

But he was not so pleased with Meyer, because Meyer didn’t support Morton’s desire to go to college, and education loomed large in my father’s world, looking back on his life as a father and grandfather.  He’d say, “No one can take your education away.”

My father’s story about going to college was so different from mine and people I knew. It was happenstance. A young man he knew was taking a class at night, and asked my father to join him. My father liked the young man, liked the electrical engineering subject, so said yes. That class turned into night school, which turned into a college degree, as he worked at RCA to send himself to Drexel College in Philadelphia.and graduate with a degree in Electrical Engineering. Mort worked at RCA for 45 years, retiring when he was 65.

 

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1958: Gary Eisenberg, Debbie Eisenberg, Meyer Eisenberg and Sophie Eisenberg on the porch of the house where I grew up: 1224 McKinley St., Phila, Pa.

When I saw this photo, I was surprised at the chicken wire near the railing. My parents must have put it there to keep us safe as children, over the railing was a 10 foot drop onto the driveway.That was a smart move because I was an active child, you can see that from the scuffed toes on my shoes. I was always getting scrapes from running around, falling down steps.

My mother’s mother was named Bessie, but I just called her Grandmom. I was crazy about her and visa versa, perhaps because he husband David died in 1955 while my mother was pregnant with me. I’m named after him—Debbie, Davida is my Hebrew name. When I was born, I was a distraction from Bessie’s sorrow that was still so present that my mother told me that Bessie wouldn’t visit her in the hospital; her husband had died in the same hospital months earlier (Albert Einstein Hosp in Phila.) and Bessie couldn’t bear to relive that sad event. Compartmentalizing was not her strong point, neither was dealing with loss.

500px-David Rudnick in Florida 1942

1942—This is my grandfather David, who I never met. Although I have many pictures of him with my grandmother in sartorial splendor as a stylish tailor, this photo always tickles me because of the old-fashioned bathing suit and because it allows me to see where I have inherited some of my bodily characteristics from. It was taken in Miami.

Grandmom Bessie loved fully, and deeply. She sold the tailor shop she had shared with my grandfather, the family business that gave them a home (they lived over the shop) and a livelihood—enough to send my mother to college at the University of Pennsylvania and my Uncle Herman to medical school. She then moved about two miles away from us, on Tyson Ave near Algon in an apartment called Tyson Arms. There she lived on the 3rd floor, in a corner apt. called C4, and avoided walking out the front, past the gauntlet of chatty “yentas” as she called them. In the picture of my four grandparents, I feel her quiet countenance, an almost regal pride, which I knew to be balanced by intense shyness and a quiet intellect.

My mother was devoted to her mother. Grandmom Bessie was always around, babysitting me, having dinner with us, special events, some vacations.My mother would sometimes buy groceries for her, and even as I child I was amused that mom would show grandmom the receipt, because she insisted on paying back mom to the penny. Sometimes the two of them argued in Yiddish in the kitchen with the door closed, but that was rare. Grandmom was there to light shabbas candles, to meticulously sew my name tags into all of my clothes and underwear when I went to camp. My mom bought her skeins of colorful acrylic wool, and she was a crocheting machine, making blanket after blanket, and some adult slippers that I still keep as mementoes of her. I played rummy with her, watched her crochet, ate her vanilla cookies, slept over her apartment and ate corn flakes with a lot of sugar for breakfast.

Here are some moments that I remember about my grandmother:

· My Uncle Herman would pick her up from synagogue on Yom Kippur at the end of the day, give her a cup of tea before break the fast. I remember marveling how she walked to synagogue even in her elderly years, and stayed in synagogue, fasting, all day.

· She drove a 1955 Chevy, and I remember sitting in the front seat and helping her pull the steering wheel to park it; this was before the invention of power steering.

· As a child, I was a very picky eater, but I did like my grandmother’s apple sauce,which she make lump-free for me by squeezing it through an old-fashioned ricer.

· Talking with her on the phone, and our conversations always ending on a long blessing from her in her Yiddish accent: “You should live a long life, be happy my dahling, be safe and always remember I love you.”

· Going out to eat with her, she always ordered fish or a cheese sandwich, both Kosher options.

· When I slept over her apartment, I slept in her double bed on her insistence, and she slept on the sofa. Sometimes she’d ask me to help her put her stockings on, and I thought how soft her skin was.

· When I was in high school, her eyes had gotten bad from macular degeneration, she couldn’t sew anymore, but she could still read large letters. I used to get a handful of catchy novels in large print from the library for her each week, and she surprised me by reading them all, once I asked her about what she had read, and she told me details, and I never doubted her ability to read so quickly in her adopted language of English again.

· Surprising her with a final visit before Bob and I moved to England, her tears, she was getting frail and we both felt that I likely wouldn’t see her again. We had a loving spiritual connection;, I remember telling her before I left that she could pass away in her sleep if she wanted to, and how she told me that she knew God would listen to her. She passed away in her sleep on Sept 13, 1982, a few months after we moved to England.

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1966 Gary Eisenberg, Bessie Rudnick, Debbie Eisenberg at Gary’s Bar Mitzvah at Temple Beth Torah in Phila.

 

500px-DEM Gary Helen Bessie June 1969June, 1969 Bessie Rudnick, Helen Eisenberg, Gary Eisenberg, Debbie Eisenberg. Not sure what party this was, but my mom looked like she was having fun, she loved parties!

 

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Aug 24, 1975—Our engagement party at Temple Beth Torah in Phila. Left to right: Margie Merion, Milt Merion, Bob Merion, Debbie Eisenberg (Merion), Helen Eisenberg, Mort Eisenberg, Bessie Rudnick.

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Sept 12, 1976 Bessie Rudnick and Helen Eisenberg. I love this picture, they both look so soft and pretty and happy. I don’t remember ever seeing my grandmother wear a scarf like that! I’m not sure what this party was for and don’t think I was there, because it said on the back, Bessie Rudnick cocktail party and my grandmother didn’t drink. But that is exactly the way I remember my grandmother Bessie. I’ve written an essay about her, published by Crazy Wisdom, called “My Grandmother’s Spirit is Showing Me Her Pearls.” It’s on debbiemerion.com [http://debbiemerion.com], and on the Crazy Wisdom site in Ann Arbor.

Each week this year I’m going to be writing in response to a story prompt, courtesy of an awesome Storyworth subscription from our daughter Sarah for my birthday.  This week’s prompt:

Question: What were your favorite toys as a child?

Before plastic moved into our homes and screens became ubiquitous, we had toys in the 1960s that were sometimes simple, sometimes with batteries. My favorite toys made noise, allowed me to be active and outside, or were technical. Now as I am about to become a grandmother, it’s so much fun to remember these moments of focus and freedom.

The earliest toy that I can remember, and one then I had a lot of fun with, I played on the basement floor, in a room in the back of our little semi-detached house at 1224 McKinley St. in Northeast Phila. That room was a combination of my father‘s work room and my mother’s laundry room. How my two parents shared a tiny room with such opposite purposes was a testament to their loving relationship, my father‘s workroom with the dust and metal filings from his drill saw, and my mother’s laundry room with freshly washed underwear.

But that room seemed to be a safe haven for me, and I would sit on the plain cement floor with this silly little toy that looked like a horizontal piece of wood with chubby pegs going through it, maybe red, green, and blue. It had four legs that extended up in the air in such a way so that you could turn the toy over and it would pretty much look the same. The idea was to take the hammer attached by a rope and BANG BANG BANG on each peg until it came through underneath on the bottom of the horizontal piece of wood, still attached though. Then I’d turn the toy over and do it again. And again. Ad NOISEium.

Clearly I was enjoying imitating my father, who used tools in his fix-it hobby like an artist uses his brushes. But how my mother stood that banging, I’ll never know. Wait, actually I think I have an insight to it now. That’s why I needed to play with it in the basement in the work room, probably with the door closed, far away from anyone else who could hear me banging! But it felt so satisfying. Whatever anger and angst was going through my three-year-old head came through those little wooden pegs.

Wait, I found they still sell this toy! It’s called pound-a-peg.
pound a pegOther play happened down the basement too. We had a toy chest with the blackboard above it, my mother was a teacher before my brother was born, and I’m pretty sure that she “borrowed” the chalk and the eraser, (I remember they said School System of Philadelphia on the chalk box), such was the perks of a low-paying job of being a teacher, the occasional crayons and pencils found their way home so that when we played school we really played school.

Here’s a box of crayons that my mother kept for years. Maybe she thought of it as part of her pension. Ha!

mom crayon tin cropped

Also down the basement (it was finished, with nice wooden paneling on the walls) we would play board games sometimes, especially during a party. We had Candyland, Monopoly, and one of my favorites was called Operation, where you had to take the tweezers and take a piece out of a body of a plastic man, without touching the side, which made a little buzzer go crazy. Another loud toy I loved!

candyland

Little did I know of course that I would actually be marrying a guy who became a surgeon years later. He told me that learning how to do surgery was very similar to playing that game.Yeah. Right.

operation_game

One of my favorite ways of playing was to be outside, when I got a bit older, and I would take my brother’s baseball mitt (no one bought ME one, and I never thought to ask for one, pre-title 9 sports) and throw a soft white squishy ball against the side of the house, incessantly, over and over again.

At the end of our street was a playground called Tarken playground, which is still there, and sometimes I did the same thing with tennis balls and a tennis racket when I was nine or 10, hitting the balls against the wall as practice. They had tennis courts there, but I don’t remember playing tennis with anyone there as a child, I don’t know if I knew anybody that actually played tennis other than when I was away at overnight camp.

When I was a little bit older, maybe 11 or 12, they built an ice-skating rink in Tarken and that was a lot of fun. I had ice skates, and we would walk to the end of the street, and then for a big treat we would get hot chocolate and then continue skating. I think that’s always why I enjoyed skating with our kids so much on the creek in back of our house.

I used to ride my bike in back of my elementary school, Carnell Elementary. The back of it was just a big area of cement, nearly one block by one block wide, it never occurred to anyone to actually have children play in a grassy area, but we did have lines painted on the cement for hopscotch and there was an area with a couple of basketball hoops.That was the beginning to a fabulous hobby that I still love today.

I used to ride my bike there with my dad, sometimes with my brother. I remember when I got my first bike with two wheels, it wasn’t new, it was a hand-me-down from his friend Harold Fox’s daughter, Linda, who was probably 10 years older than me. Boy did I love that bike. I could only ride in the playground though, I don’t think I really rode on the street very much. Here is a picture of me with my dad around 1964 in back of my school, and another one riding a tandem bike in the 80s in Philly.

bike combo

I didn’t like to play the games that most girls liked to play. I didn’t like dolls very much. I remember having my bureaus filled with dolls, one special life-sized doll my grandmother got for me in Atlantic City was Pollyanna, but I still didn’t play with that one either. I don’t know if I just didn’t have an older sister to role model playing with dolls or what, but I remember I didn’t like playing with Barbie dolls either, even though I had them and I remember I had some nice Barbie doll outfits too.

I remember even when I went to kindergarten and they had four or five different play areas that you could choose, I never chose the kitchen area. I just didn’t see that as being fun except when I went to my cousin Carol‘s house, she had a life-size refrigerator made out of cardboard and for some reason it seemed a lot more fun there. What was really fun at Carol’s house though was that her brother had play guns that you could put a roll caps into that looked like this:

cap guns

When you clicked the trigger, it made the sound of a bang and a tiny tiny puff of smoke came out and we once made a movie with Uncle Bill Eisenberg, Grandpop Mort’s brother, where we played Cowboys and Indians. He was a photographer and loved to take movies and photos like my dad. I think my cousin Rob might still have that 2 minute silent movie, it was so exciting to make!

One of my favorite toys that I can remember is when I was ten, my parents gave me my own record player. It played 45s, I was so surprised and I remember I had it on the bottom shelf in my bedroom and I just loved it. I bought some Beatles records, like this one.

the-beatles-do-you-want-to-know-a-secret-1964-35-s

When I was a little bit younger I had a transistor radio. It was yellow plastic and I could hear whatever radio station was closest and loudest, maybe KYW. I had to clip a little alligator clip onto something close by that was metal to help the antenna get the sound, but it seemed very exciting to me at the time as well.

As I got a little bit older, I enjoyed puzzles. I remember I became proficient at the nine-piece sliding square puzzle, to this day I can still solve it quickly.

smiley face puzzle

I remember I had a little camera that took film called a brownie camera, and I loved that camera. My dad and I would develop and print some of the pictures in the dark room in the basement. It all seems so old fashioned now.

My brother would collect baseball cards, and somehow he would give me his doubles and then when we were at school at recess we would play a game, where we flicked the card to see how close it could get to the stairs and then the winner would take all for that hand. I remember getting a lot of baseball cards, I was really good at that game, I really didn’t care about the baseball players but it was just fun to play and of course really fun to win. And speaking of winning,

I used to play cards with my grandmother Bessie, we would play rummy. She was very good at it and whenever she had the card that I needed she always seem to know that and she would hand it to me with a flourish and say, “Here’s the five you need, right?” with her lovely Yiddish accent. I rarely ever could beat my grandmother at cards. Here is a picture of her and me and my mom, and I’m wearing the Brownie camera.

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Sarah:  Thanks for asking about my toys, so much fun to write! All others:  Thanks for reading!  Next week, the writing prompt is about my grandparents.

When I ask friends to try the “JoJo Bebbie Writes Home” Sandwich  at Zingerman’s this month, they wonder why.  “For starters,” I say, “it’s a fundraiser for young writers at 826Michigan, an awesome non-profit.”

Sometimes they ask, “What’s a Jo Jo Bebbie?”

It’s roasted turkey with honey mustard, over-roasted tomato spread, and lettuce on warm Zingerman’s rye bread. Some recent reviews…

“Brilliant pairing of sun dried tomato sauce, mustard and rye.   Bright, unexpected tastes jump to the tongue with each bite. Wonderful textures.  Turkey is somehow the perfect medium for this special treat.  I intended to take the second half home in a bag, but more satisfyingly carried it away in my tummy.”–Alan Leichman

“Sweet, savory, and so, so good! The JoJo Bebbie Writes Home is an inspired combination of flavors and textures that delights the senses and makes a hungry belly coo with delight.”–Bob Merion

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deb and bob2018-Margot-Jojo2018-Jojo Nancy2018-Ilene-JojoIMG-0156

 

 

 

 

2018-jojo-Al and jojoIMG-0513IMG-0518Here is the story behind the sandwich…

 

“You won!”  my friend Sandra Berman to me. I had just bit into a piece of cantaloupe at Grillin’ in June of 2017.

I scanned her face. No shifty eyes. No evidence of pursed lips about to crack up into an “I got ya!” smile. “Really, Deb, I heard them call your name! You won the “Zingerman’s Name a Sandwich Raffle!”

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For the next hour, Sandra and I sat at a picnic table at the Washtenaw County Fairgrounds event with our husbands, Bob and Joe, pondering a name for a new Zingerman’s sandwich. Everyone needed to be included. After all, we had been their guests at the event. Joe is a volunteer cook for the homeless. I had bought the raffle tickets to honor his generosity, and help Zingerman’s.

Joe became Jo Jo (Sandra’s cute pet name for Joe)

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Bob + Debbie became Bebbie.

The Jo-Jo Bebbie.

IMG-5461But what about Sandra? Where’s her name? We tried, but couldn’t integrate Sandra’s name in a catchy way.  So Sandra is there but she’s not there. Which is very Zen, just like Sandra (who teaches meditation.)

The next day I realized the name needed a dash of something, like chicken soup needs salt. It needed a noun and a verb, like the famous “Who’s Greenberg, Anyway?” ( corned beef with chopped liver, lettuce & our Russian dressing on rye). I’ll add something about writing, I thought. Then “writes home” popped into my head like a honey bee pops into a rose.

Everyone needs to write home, right? It used to take longer too, like the postcards I wrote as a 12 year old at Camp Kweebec. “Dear Mom and Dad, I made a friend named Cathy. Send some Salt Water Taffy, please! Did the robin’s eggs hatch yet?” I hoped this Zingerman’s sandwich would be something to write home about.

I arranged a date with Lauren Wonch, the amazing Zingerman’s sandwich chef, to create the sandwich. She had sent me a list of the Zingerman’s ingredients in advance, that looked like this…

 

Sandwich Menu Ingredient List_2016

We met at the Deli, and Laura brought out a smorgasbord of my favorite breads and sandwich ingredients. Designing a sandwich is kind of like sandwich makingwriting a blog…it’s creative…it’s fun… except every time you add another sentence you get a little bit more full. Fortunately, I came hungry.

The Jo-Jo Bebbie Writes Home Is:

Roasted turkey with honey mustard, over-roasted tomato spread, and lettuce on warm Zingerman’s rye bread.

The best sandwich I ever had at Zingerman’s.–Annie Wolock

I’m starting to realize why Annie said this!. The honey mustard is made from a secret recipe. So is the tomato spread. That’s why it tastes like nothing I’ve ever had before.

Winning this sandwich seemed like a great opportunity to help people. So Bob and I decided to match a portion of sales of the sandwich as a donation to 826Michigan.

And on May 29 Zingerman’s is going to match these donations too!

So won’t you try the Jo-Jo Bebbie Writes Home on May 29? Your mouth will say thank you. It might also say “WoW!” (Spoiler alert: The mustard has a big boot kick to it!”

2018-jojo-today only

This year we are going back to Grillin’. I hope you do too. It’s a great cause! And I asked Ari if there is a chance the Jo-Jo become a permanent sandwich.  “There’s always a chance!” he said.

Join the JoJo Bebbie Crowd!

 

 

Peggy Armstrong and I started out as neighbors in the 90’s. I lived on Morehead, she lived on Delaware.   Our daughters Sarah and Meghan were the same age.

I remember the first time I saw her, and I was struck by how well put together she was. Her lipstick was  fresh, her hair neatly combed, not like my wild hair with a mind of its own.

Deb and Peg

Neighbors and happy moms Debbie Merion and Peggy Armstrong at Sarah Merion’s High School graduation in 2006

We were young moms, and often in groups together, and we both liked our differences. Whatevah! We had a lot in common too. We volunteered. We got stuff done. We loved being moms.

We Became AWARE

There was AWARE—where we learned how to trade stocks. That’s where we met Marcy Vandertuig, I still remember when she came up with the idea to buy Whole Foods—Hey Marcy—great idea! It’s a shame we didn’t hang onto that stock!

AWARE (Ann Arbor Women Always Ready to Earn) had as its members Carol Adams, Peggy Armstrong, Denise Barton, Paula Bergloff, Bonnie Brickett , Karen Cross, Ruth Haldeman, Lois Kane, Debbie Merion, Sherri Ralston, Karen Soskin, and Marcy VanderTuig.

I just pulled up our minutes from our AWARE meeting of 4-15-1999, where I wrote, “Peggy will look at Monsanto, Berringer.” Whatevah is needed! Peggy would always volunteer. She was also the money person, careful in that way you needed to be, and wrote the final checks when the group disbanded in 2006. I loved that she handled that—not my forte. Again, our differences worked.

Then the FAB4

So what made us decide to do the Avon Walk in 2002? It seemed like fun, and useful. Somehow we became the FAB4, which I had forgotten was an acronym until I found that too in my files; Females Against Breast Cancer. Our dear friend Carol Adams was fighting that disease then.

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Abbey Road album cover comes to Ann Arbor in 2002 with the NEW FAB 4!

We trained for the 3-Day, 60 mile walk in an organized way—Peggy was always organized! We walked together every Friday morning, from one end of Ann Arbor to the other, with our baggy nylon shorts and fanny bags. Our goal was to be able to walk 20 miles a day. For our final training, we walked to Manchester, and had dinner there.

For the walk we picked out matching clothes, and had a logo of us on the zebra crossing, and gave out stickers as we walked.

And we worked so hard to raise money, with sales, parties, soliciting friends and family alike. We only needed to raise $2,500 a piece to do the 60 mile, 3-Day walk, but together the four of us raised ten times that amount!

Faceshot edited

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Raising $25,000 For Breast Cancer Research

Raising $25,000 for breast cancer research was one of my finest moments, and I did it with Peggy Armstrong, Marcy Vandertuig, and Sue McLinden: the FAB 4.

(Below is the newsletter we sent out to our generous donors in 2006. )

Newsletter3

But dear God, I so wish that some of that research could have kept Peggy Armstrong with us on this earth. Cancer isn’t fair.

Change Emerged From the Avon Walk and Each Other

The Avon Walk changed us all. When Peggy decided she wanted to make a big transition in 2007 and apply to University of Michigan School of Information, I helped her with her essay through my nascent Essay Coaching. I loved her essay, it was so heartfelt.  It began like this…

During the past year, I began to examine my life, to figure out where I had been, where I wanted to go, what I wanted to do with my future, what I was interested in, and how could I use these interests to contribute to society. I bought a book called Zen and the Art of Making a Living, by Laurence Boldt and began the task of discovering myself. What I discovered was an interest that has been with me my whole life. I began to think about books, reading to my children, reading with kids at school, the passion I feel about books and the comfort of libraries and I began to realize I could live these passions, these interests, every day.

This essay started Peggy on her new life of being a librarian. Oh how I loved hearing about those days reading to the kids! But Peggy’s own daughters always owned her heart. She loved them so.

The Fab4 celebrated big on our 50th birthdays, and took trips together—to Peggy’s cottage on the lake, Sue’s OakaPiney, and Marcy’s Onekoma farm. We danced to 45s, there was skinny-dipping at midnight.

We had more than our share of good times. Since 2002, every year the FAB 4 partnership gave us a reason to celebrate life and our friendship. There was the annual night before Art Fair dinner, with wine, walking, and wine. We visited the berry bowl lady, walked up and down and peered into booths getting set up, had a night cap, and sometimes bought treasures…like the night I bought my stained glass fake-but-pretty “Tiffany” lamp. Most recently we recreated the best part of dinner in a conference call—checking up and giggling together on the phone.

 

Fab 4 dinner

FAB 4 Pre-Art Fair Dinner 2006 (above) and 2016 (below)

 fab 4

I learned so much from Peggy. When she started to battle cancer, her blog “Courage” showed me how brave a woman can be. From Peggy I learned how to get things done without handwringing or drama. Even now we are starting to say, when not sure how to handle something, “What Would Peggy Do? ”  WWPD?

The FAB 4 not only walked, talked, and had dinners together, but we shared a sense of spirituality that transcended religion. We took a class together from a local psychic, Diane Evans. We understood the comfort and strength one can get from faith. And we believed in each other, and in family. We had our “cone of silence.”  We had trust, and faith.

A Tearful Thank You

The last time the FAB 4 was together was at Peggy’s “Thank You” party, a brilliant and beautiful event, and sad. So much love was in the room!

There we were, once again, getting educated about breast cancer. Elizabeth spoke eloquently. Research into fighting metastatic breast cancer is sorely needed. (See donation suggestions from the family, below.)

 

Last fab 4 togetherFab 4 at Thank you party

The FAB 4 at Peggy’s “Thank You” Party in June, 2017.

We will miss our 4th always, and we have decided to always remain the FAB 4.

Peggy, we send you blessings as you transition to being our guardian angel. How ironic that the FAB 4 met through working to end breast cancer, and you passed from what we worked so hard to end, and during the week of our annual FAB 4 Pre-Art Fair dinner. How lucky we all were to know an amazing woman like you.   You will be missed forever.

FINISH-LINE

60 miles, 61 years. Peggy, we will miss you dearly.

P.S.

If you’d like to honor Peggy’s memory, here are some options–from the obituary here

Peggy’s family would like to thank the doctors and staff at Michigan Medicine and Dr. Lu’s Nourishing Life for the support and care they provided to Peggy as she lived with Metastatic Breast Cancer. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Peggy’s name to the Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor (http://www.cancersupportannarbor.org/) or METAvivor (http://www.metavivor.org/).

Also, Kris Maly wrote a beautiful poem about Peggy that she read at Peggy’s funeral. I asked if I could include it here, because it helps me to remember how amazing Peggy was:

Peggy loved words and books.

A book of Peggy’s life could begin

with some of the following words:

 

Peggy. Margaret. Peg. Mom. Peggy A.

Mother. Daughter. Sister. Aunt. Friend.

Irish. Catholic. True-Believer.

 

Beautiful. Smart. Witty.

Generous. Thoughtful. Giving.

Caring. Kind. Gentle.

 

Traveler. Explorer. Adventurer.

Walker. 60-Miler. Hiker.

Boater. Waterskier. Sun Follower.

 

Initiator. Investigator. Mentor.

Charming. Inspiring. Smiling.

Loving. Loyal. Organizer. Doer.

 

Auditor. Bookkeeper. Basket Maker.

Volunteer. Student. Teacher.

Quilter. Gardner. Reader.

Game Player. Marble Counter. Crossword Puzzler.

 

Outdoor Enthusiast. Animal Admirer. Dog Lover.

Tea. Bugles. Good & Plenty. Delish.

Hoosier. Wolverine. Fan.

 

Listener. Discusser. Sharer.

Family. Friends. Gatherer.

The Lake. The Lawton Hood. The Huron Hood. THE HOOD.

 

Smile. Sparkling. Eyes. Bright.

Sweet. Positive. Special.

Fighter. Brave. Courageous.

 

Lived. Well. Laughed. Loud. Loved. Deep.

Hearts. Strong. Hearts. Full. Hearts. Connected.

 

Legacy. Blessed.

Meghan. Elizabeth. Martin. Jack.

 

Peggy’s life could fill several books.

These words are just the beginning.

What are your words?

 

Peggy. Margaret. Peg. Mom. Peggy A.

Mother. Daughter. Sister. Aunt. Friend.

 

Always in our thoughts.

Forever in our hearts.

 

 

 

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Last month, I sat still in a big chair and thought how very grateful I was to be having the horrible experience I was currently having. A man I had just met was sawing on my jawbone with a glorified nail file, while I tried to get deaf. And tough. Fortunately, I was clutching my iPhone in my moist hand.

My white headphone buds were  in my ear, my fingers were on the volume buttons on the side of the phone, and Stevie Wonder was comforting me by singing “they can feel it all over, people.” When I saw the dentist’s lips move, I muted the music. When he had a drill in his hand, I cranked my iphone up until my ears were almost screaming in pain from Stevie belting in my ear and I tried to focus on every syllable, like a guided meditation BY SOMEONE WHO WAS YELLING AT ME.

Headphones for distraction

Headphones for distraction

I know some people have favorite parts of themselves, though I bet you don’t think that way. But if you were asked the question, what would you say? Your eye crinkles? Your hair wave? Would you focus on your relatively large size in a particular area of your body (boobs, butt, or….) or your small size in a particular place (nose, feet, hips)?

I’ve always liked the way my toes seem to have a perfect slope upward on the left, downward on the right, like a good or bad day at NASDAQ. But for the last few months or so, I have to say that my favorite part of my body is my Number 30 tooth. We’ve become so well acquainted now that I know it by number, which I know for people is a distancing technique (prisoners…and high school students are often identified by numbers), but for teeth it’s as intimate as I’ve ever been. I also sometimes call this tooth “the one on the bottom on the right that is second from the back” but that’s like calling my husband “the one who listens to all of my bad jokes and has since he was 15” or “the one who kisses me in the morning before I have brushed my teeth” rather than “Bob.”

Bob and Number 30 have met, although mostly because Number 30 is demanding attention as I defend his life. (How did Number 30 become a guy when I am a woman? I’m not sure.) I have been fighting for Number30 like Trump has been fighting to be President of the U.S.—doggedly, and with an open mouth. Like Trump, my mouth is simultaneously my biggest ally and challenge. I can use my mouth to teach workshops, tell loved ones how I feel, and even sing a version of “Happy Birthday” that does not humiliate my kids. But these dental bills are killing me. My mouth is not performing up to the level of most of my other body parts.

One of my dentists said, “you have a good attitude.” I try to look at the bright side. At least I don’t have a full set of dentures, like my grandmother did. Although I do admit that I have implants in my mouth. Yes, a few of my teeth have hired body doubles made out of metal, and they have big white porcelain hats on.

My crown is like a tall white hat worn by Justin

My crown is like a tall white hat worn by Justin or Pharrell

The embarrassing thing is that I have enjoyed interacting with the six dentists, endodontists and periodontists in Michigan and Florida who have been involved in Number 30’s care, especially the one who refused to pull Number 30, and said “This tooth can be saved.”

I jump to dentist number six in Florida, who came, sawed, and conquered, and who did an excellent job, but had some interesting quirks. He gave me sunglasses when I lay down in the chair, with a little makeover commentary: “I think you’ll look good in “The Elvis.” He noted with a “tsk” that I had some sticky dough in my teeth. Which seemed a little odd, since he kept me waiting 30 minutes with a tray of donut holes in a lobby.

donut holes before seeing the dentist--a perfect snack

donut holes before seeing the dentist–a perfect snack

When I think of being tough, I think of what Rose Kennedy said to her grandchildren: “If you are going to cry, we are going to send you back to where you came from.” I call this “stoic Christian tough.” But it really doesn’t feel like me. Although I have actually given birth to an entire baby without medication (“Really mom?” said our daughter Sarah, “Why?”), when it comes to teeth I am not “stoic Christian tough.” I am more like Woody Allen or Jerry Seinfeld or Joan Rivers.

I am whining Jewish pseudo-tough.

I’m happy to say that Number 30 is still in my mouth. Sometimes I just call him by my nickname for him. Num. Which is what I’ve been a lot these days. Just numb.

Humorous blog

floss!

Lifespan of a Wave

lifespan of a waveLike children, waves start out from nothing, looking clean and harmless. Before your eyes they grow taller.  The smooth wave crests.

Like a teenager denied, a  foaming waterfall erupts. It hits the surface–strong, turbulent and angry.

But sooner than you think, the ripples of the wave spread.   Now it looks like short white fountains: young adulthood, spouting out.

Bubbling fountains shrink, and the surface of the wave flattens. A white boarder of foam is all that remains. The wave climbs bravely onto the sand as far as it can, but the body of the wave that follows can hold on no more. As gentle and slow as a lullaby, the wave retreats slightly, then disappears as it sinks down into the sand.

But wait, what’s happening?

Here comes a new wave:  brief, salty, and filled with life.

Atlantic ocean wave

alienAre you creative, interested in extraterrestrials and would like to win one million dollars? Read on.  Now that Yuri Milner, Russian Billionaire, has pledged $100,000,000 in “Breakthrough Listen” to increase our telescope time in the the hunt for extraterriestials, I’m hoping we will find some little green men or some big pink women.  This new grant was announced by Stephen Hawking, who said in his TED talk that the biggest hope for our planet is to find another planet to inhabit.

There are two other interesting aspects to the story, one very exciting, and one not so much.

Some people may think that the idea of finding life on other planets is a little creepy, and that is certainly a part of this story, but in a way that may surprise many.  Geoff Marcy,  a former Professor of Astronomy at University of California,Berkeley was initially the Principal Investigator of “Breakthrough Listen,” until he was required to step down October 14, 2015 due to sexual harassment accusations.  Buzzfeed broke the story on October 9.  Four women came forward with allegations starting in 2010, and according to the newsletter for women astrologists, it was a known fact in the field that he is not a mentor that a female astrologist should have.

No news yet on the new PI for Breakthrough Listen, who reported only one line on their site,  “On October 12, 2015 Geoff Marcy resigned as Principal Investigator of the Breakthrough Listen project. His resignation has been accepted.” There has been no news either on the effect all this has had on Marcy’s marriage.

The exciting news about Breakthrough Listen is that they are now looking for people to create the  messages that could be read by an advanced civilization. The message must be in digital format, and should be representative of humanity and planet Earth.  The competition rules have yet to be announced, but what has been announced is that the prize for this is approximately $1,000,000.

You may remember the plaque designed for extraterrestrials from 1972, shown here.  What will the new message be?  I’m just hoping whatever it is, the message will be to respect women.  And hopefully the response won’t be like that old Twilight Zone episode about the extraterrestrial book found called “How to Serve Man.”  That turned out to be a cookbook.

 

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November 9, 2015.  Before I saw Arlo Guthrie on stage for his 50th Anniversary Alice’s Restaurant Tour at Ann Arbor’s Michigan Theater, I had a fantasy. I imagined that someone on stage introducing the concert might say, “Debbie Merion, will you stand up and wave?” I’d sheepishly smile and wave to 1400 folks sitting behind us as I thought “dreams really do come true.”

My dream to bring Arlo Guthrie (famous for singing “You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant”) to Ann Arbor started when I was in Florida in January. I saw an ad that Arlo was going to be performing at the 500 seat Lyric Theater in Stewart, Florida, but when I called the Lyric to get seats, Arlo was sold out.

When the Lyric called me weeks later to offer me two seats in row B off the waiting list, that’s when I said one of the dumbest things I’ve ever said. “I’ll call you right back.  I’m going to see if I can find a friend to go with me.” I didn’t have a date because Bob wasn’t in Florida.

When I called back ten minutes later, it didn’t matter that I hadn’t found a friend to go with me. Only one ticket was left.I considered myself lucky.

When Arlo took the stage the next night, he was wearing all black, highlighting his shoulder-length white hair that curled on its ends like a whisp of smoke. But there was no smokiness in his voice– it sounded nearly the same as in his 1969 recording that I listen to often as I jog.

2015-11-09 Arlo

Maybe he had forgotten some things (“I think you need to forget things  to open up more room in your mind for the new stuff”) or maybe that was just his self-effacing humor. He seems to have no end to stories. There was a long story about helicoptering into Woodstock (“I only remember getting there”) before he broke into “Coming in from London from over the pole, flying in a big air liner…” And he talked about his father, Woody Guthrie, before leading a sing-a-long with his most famous song, “This land is your land.”

Behind the band (including Arlo’s son on keyboard) was mounted a huge movie screen where we saw a pickle on a motorcycle fly through the air as he sang “I don’t want a pickle. ” The Alice’s Restaurant song opened the second act. How poignant to watch the 19 year old Arlo on the screen from the movie, as 69 year old Arlo sang. “If I knew this song was going to be such as hit, I’d have made it shorter,” he said.

2015-11-09 young arlo 2015-11-09 Alice lyrics

I liked the show so much that I emailed my friend Lee Berry at the Michigan Theater in January to see if he could book Arlo Guthrie in Ann Arbor. (After all, Arlo only sing’s Alice’s Restaurant in public during these once a decade tours). Lee said he’d have to ask the 400 seat Ark for permission, because they usually host Arlo here. The Ark said “OK,” and with months more of a wait there was finally a date on the calendar! Nov. 9!

My dream came true. “Absolutely the best evening I’ve had in a long time,” said one of my friends after the show last night. Although no one motioned to me from stage, I relished my open secret (that I shared with everyone I talked to!) Arlo’s daughter Sarah Lee Guthrie opened the show this time, and it was easy to fall in love with her. Her lithe body swayed in a shimmering dress, and her clever stories and pure voice showed she was her father’s daughter. Maybe I hadn’t gotten a friend to go with me in Stewart, but last night I had my husband Bob, and friends Susan, Nan, Steve, Bob W, Cathy and Annie with me, in the audience of 1400 Ann Arborites. Thank you, Lee Berry, The Ark, The Michigan Theater, and Arlo Guthrie and band for making last night so amazing. Congrats to both The Ark and Arlo Guthrie for celebrating “50 folkin’ years!”  What follows are some more photos from the event.

2015-11-09 Arlo band

2015-11-09 my peace

Arlo poster

Read the USA Today story about Alice’s Restaurant Here

Do You Want a Date?

date“Do you want a date?” That was the question I asked everyone when I walked into my Toastmasters meeting last night. In my hand I had a plastic container filled with soft and sticky pitted Deglet dates that I had just purchased from the co-op. I was going to use them to make my famous ginger tea, which I spike with dates to give a little bit of sweetness.  As it turned out no one around me actually wanted a date– everyone declined.   But  simply bringing these dates and asking that question generated conversation and stories for the entire meeting.
When Annie heard the question, she said “Yes, Chop House?” And then went on busying herself with getting ready for the meeting. I started chatting with Megan next to me, saying that I do like to go to the Ann Arbor Chop House for happy hour, especially because I love their lamb chops appetizer. “Have you ever gone to the Chop House for happy hour?” I asked Megan and as Megan was saying, “no,” then Liz walked by, handing out the 3 x 5” papers on which we scribble our evaluation for a speech. Liz said,”Happy hour at the Chop House? I love it there. I also really like to go to Chris Ruth Chris happy hour too. “

The meeting started, and although no one had eaten a date, the dates were not forgotten. When it came time for table topics, Liz didn’t like the prompt that she was given, so she decided to instead tell us a story involving –you guessed it–dates. It was a wonderful story, but of course any story would be that begins with, “When I was in Egypt working with a battalion that was clearing the fields of buried mines…” She had told our Toastmaster’s club that she had graduated from West Point and served, but stories like this still tend to amaze me. She told the entire story in the two minute limit that we have for table topics speeches.

It went like this: they were so tired and hot after five hours of mine sweeping with the Egyptians in the desert that the Egyptians invited the American soldiers to come and have dinner with them. Egyptians are very generous with food she said, but there were items on the table that were totally unknown to the soldiers. Liz said that they started eating the foods they know: “OK, I see an apple, I’ll have some apple slices. And those olives look good. “ But she said there was something soft and brown in the center of the table and she didn’t know what it was, so she “pulled rank” and told another soldier to try it. The brown soft stuff turned out to be dates, and that was pretty much the end of the story, except for Rena’s comment after Liz sat down.

Rena said, “Now, I have a date story to tell too!” She decided to not use her table topics time to tell her story, but told us briefly after the meeting. Her story went like this, and also took place in the Middle East, but in Israel, not Egypt. Rena said she worked in a kibbutz after college, and her favorite job was to prune the date trees. To do that, she had to get up very early in the morning before it got hot, and she would need to climb the trees like a ladder and snip them here and there. She said it was just a beautiful way to be outside and to interact with trees and dates, and that was her association with dates.

Why mention all of this? Here is what I take away from the stories:
One. Bring snacks to meetings whenever you can because they seem to make people happy and evoke stories to tell.

Two. It turned out the dates were a particularly good snack to bring since one could make a joke about the word “date,” which has two meanings, both of which fit well into the sentence: “Would you like a date?”  This doesn’t work as well if, for example, if you bring cookies. Because the joke associated with “would you like a cookie?” usually will engender something along the lines of “No thanks, I have my Internet browser set to not accept cookies.” Ha, anemic ha.

Three.  Food and any and all sensory products  (anything that evokes our sense of taste, smell, hearing, feeling, or seeing) are likely to prompt stories. This is because we perceive the world through our senses, so the more pungent, crisp, salty, or loud the story prompt is, the more likely we are to come up with an immediate or past experience to talk about in response to that.

Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to have a cup of homemade ginger tea. (Recipe–Take a spoon and remove the brown outside from half a hand of ginger.  Cut up into small slices, and put into a boiling pot of water with some dates. Boil for an hour or two.  Add lemon as needed.  Strain and drink! Save the rest in your fridge in a pitcher for later. Yum. Drink it hot or cold.)

Have you ever blown bubbles as an adult (on purpose)?  With no children around. And no other adults.  Which is advisable, because then there is no one to witness you looking what Julia Cameron would call “An Artist.”  ( Full disclosure–I did this  in order to fulfill my week’s requirement for an Artist Date, as dictated by The Artist Way by Julia Cameron.)

“An artist date is a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist. In its most primary form, the artist date is an excursion, a play date that you preplan and defend against all interlopers.”–Julia Cameron in The Artist Way

Part 1 of Artist Date. Buy bubbles. Off to Toys R Us, which I haven’t been to for at least 10 years, I’m sorry to say, because it is an awesome place. The good news is you can still buy bubbles for $1. The bad news is that they now sell dozens of bubble-blowing products that require batteries.

I am taking a stand. I for one am not too lazy to blow my own bubbles.   These two bubble products that don’t require batteries:

IMG_5913

Part 2 of Artist Date. Blow Bubbles

Jar one: Sponge Bob bubbles—The same formula and bottle type used by cavemen.  About 5 or 6 little bubbles when you blow into the little wand you remember from being a kid.

IMG_5929

Jar two—Fubbles Squeeze and Blow = Pop-Up Bubbles.  You squeeze the bottle and the little wand pops up.  Theoretically you don’t get bubble slime all over your manicured digits. Blow and learn. Fubbles works really well! Dozens of bubbles. Watch them float onto your tan house, your pink flowers, your brown deck, your blue jeans, all bubbles are in technicolor.   I love this poup innovation! It was totally worth the extra dollar.

Fubbles blew me away!  Have you taken an artist date lately? What did you do?

 

 

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