Feed on

Back in 2003, Angela Lee Duckworth had not yet declared that grit is more important than intelligence. I had to discover that on my own. My friend Karen Soskin was visiting, and we were in my home office using my printer. She looked up at my wall and saw a very funny-looking wood plaque. Even though it was professionally made, it looked amateurish and awkward, using four fonts on six lines of text. Karen didn’t hesitate to look at me puzzled, her head tilted in disbelief.

“Is that real?” she asked.

I laughed and laughed.

I had to tell her the whole story about the plaque.

In the last year, I had read a column in Parade Magazine by a woman named Marilyn vos Savant. Marilyn had the highest recorded intelligence quotient (IQ) in the Guinness Book of Records. An actress had written to her for advice, and asked her how she could join Mensa – the high IQ society. In the column I read, the actress was writing back to thank Marilyn, excited to say “I got into Mensa!”

I was inspired. “Mensa member” felt like a certification on my resume that I suddenly wanted to add to my bachelor and master’s degrees.

But first, I had to take a three-hour test. It turned out I knew the person who was the testing official with the local Mensa club. I sat at her kitchen table and sweated away while I filled in bubbles with a number two pencil. The one type of question I remember was a diagram of a flat cardboard box, and I had to identify what it would look like when it was folded into its 3D shape.

Two months later, my results came in the mail. Now I know how my students feel when they get their SAT score. My score was too low to get me into Mensa. Mensa didn’t want me. Oy.

How else could I get to be a member of Mensa, I wondered? Knowing a testing official didn’t help. I researched. I dug. I made phone calls. Turns out you could send in your test scores from school. I learned that Philadelphia, Pennsylvania keeps their IQ test scores for a long time. A long, long time. I ordered a copy of mine from kindergarten, before my brain had gotten stale. Or crowded with facts.

Mensa accepts a number of different types of IQ tests: You need a 132 on the Stanford-Binet, a 131 on the Otis-Gamma Test, or a 130 on the Stanford Binet 5, which is exactly what I had. I made it in without an IQ point to spare. Eureka! I had no shame. I was feeling pretty good about sneaking into Mensa with my kindergarten IQ test.

I ordered their $40 wooden plaque that said I was a member and hung it on my wall in my home office, despite its goofy look. Especially the Mensa logo. And don’t ask me why “member” has an initial capital but “Mensa” doesn’t.


Soon I realized that the Mensa plaque was perfect for Mensa because it was a little awkward, like everything that Mensa did. Their newsletter had lukewarm articles and no graphic design.  They met at an unappetizing restaurant—Old Country Buffet—which had buckets of overcooked, preservative-laden food from a can. Their parties lacked a certain something. I think it was “fun.”

So, as I stood there in my office with Karen, I explained how she had made me laugh, not hesitating to ask if the plaque was real. The next time Karen and I were with her son Eric, I had to tell him my plaque story too.

He said to me, “I can’t believe you are in Mensa!”

“What do you mean?” I asked, with a wink. “Don’t you think I’m smart enough?”

“Of course, I do, but Mensa, why join that?”

Touché. Eric was right. Why Mensa, indeed? I soon realized there was nothing in it for me, other than an awkward looking plaque. I stopped paying membership after a year.

The plaque does remind me of one thing I learned from my parents: the power of perseverance. My parents didn’t give up easily. If they did, I wouldn’t be writing this, because they didn’t conceive easily either.

Maybe this is why Angela Lee Duckworth values grit over IQ. She says that high IQ was not always one of the characteristics of her most successful students, in her TED talk and her best seller: GRIT – The Power of Passion and Perseverance.

I admire the perseverance I see in my friends and family immensely. Keep on keeping on!

P.S.  Mini IQ test: Do you recognize the font for the funny-looking Mensa logo? It’s very similar to Comic Sans font, the font with its own meme!


Thank you, mom, for teaching me perseverance!

In 2019 I’m writing stories in response to weekly prompts from Storyworth, a gift from our daughter Sarah. All of these stories will be made into a book in January 2020. We all have stories, I hope these will help you remember yours.












In 2019 I’m writing stories in response to weekly prompts from Storyworth, a gift from our daughter Sarah. All of these stories will be made into a book in January 2020. We all have stories, I hope these will help you remember yours. This week’s prompt was:

What was your first job?

Encouraged by my parents’ post-depression work ethic and my small weekly allowance, I had a number of jobs before I graduated high school. I was inside, I was outside, I was climbing the stairs, I was carrying dishes, typing, talking. I liked new challenges. Here are eight different jobs I had in high school and college.

My first “real” job–where I got dressed up and worked in an office–was also one of my hardest.  When I was 16, I got dressed up, and took the 59 bus North on Castor Ave., then switched with a paper transfer when I got to Bells Corner to the 59B bus, which I took north on Bustleton Ave.

I arrived at the answering service company, which was in a relatively new medical services building, and went in for the interview.  I had applied for this job all on my own, maybe a friend worked there too, I don’t remember why I decided to try this job, but I was excited to try something new. Did the switchboard seem like a big toy to me?  Lite-Brite hadn’t been invented yet…


But I remember the look of the room down in the basement, windowless, covered with, not toys, but real telephone operator switchboards. Yes, I was about to become like Lily Tomlin on Rowan and Martin.   I was about to become Debbie the telephone operator… “one ringy-dingy…two ringy-dingy…”

I was only 16, and this was a job that required poise, quickness, and attention. Maybe it was good that I had started with some easier jobs in younger teen years.

When I was 15, I was a counselor in training (CIT) at Camp Cherokee in Philadelphia where I had also gone to camp, and was paid about $25 for the summer for that.

Although the camp is no longer there, having sadly closed, I can see it so clearly in my mind: the small pool with its cement deck where the pictures below were taken, the baseball diamond, the swings, the boat dock where we crawled into rowboats and watched brave boys jump off the rocks and splash loudly into the water, the ponies that walked obediently in a circle in a small coral.

Here you can see what counselors looked like at Cherokee in 1962 and 1963, and can see me as a 6 and 7 year old camper.

I’m the one with the Band-Aid on her chest (I bumped into something while biking or running probably) and with the untucked t-shirt. No pictures of myself as a CIT there at Camp Cherokee.

At 15, I remember laying in the sun wearing my dad’s old white button-down work shirts over my bikini, but I’m sure I ran around and chased kids a lot.

As a teen, I babysat occasionally, though I can’t remember for who. This was, for me, mainly an opportunity to eat junk food that my mom didn’t buy, like chips in Charles Chips cans.

I can remember that I was paid 50 cents an hour, a sum so low that it’s even difficult to find the symbol for cents on a standard apple keyboard.

After high school I took a test, passed, and was awarded with a job that gave me some of the money that my dad and mom paid in taxes. I worked for the federal government, at the Phila Navy Yard.

In college at the University of Delaware I worked in the school library, shelving books and getting returns from people at the counter. I loved that job.

During the summer I was a camp counselor at an overnight camp.

To make a little more money, I delivered newspapers in our high rise dorm at the University of Delaware. My employer was a high school boy who had advertised for someone to take the Sunday route…was he going to church or just wanted a day off? My task was to load up my shoulder bag with the papers he dropped off for me, then to the elevator up to the 14th floor, and walk down, dropping off papers as I went. I prayed with newspaper smudged hands that I would have the correct number left (zero papers) when I got to the last door on my list. Otherwise, that meant I missed a door.

And thus began my love affair with the New York Times.

One summer during college I worked as a waitress at Gingham House in Phila on Castor Ave., where I was fired soon after I was hired for not cutting lemons correctly. It didn’t sour me on waitress jobs though, I had two of those after I was married and had an MSW, at more upscale restaurants in Ann Arbor.

We also had winters off during the month of January at the University of Delaware, so once I landed one-month job in a factory in Philadelphia. It was a film factory on Roosevelt Blvd., and my job was to take the rolls of film out of one envelope and put them in a bin to get developed. I stood on my feet for hours, trying to stay interested in doing the same thing over and over. That was very motivating for getting an education.

Although that job was difficult, it wasn’t as difficult as my first “real” job—where I wasn’t wearing a bathing suit to work— where I worked for an answering service running a switchboard.

My job was to take a message, write it down on a slip of paper, and put it in a pile that someone else would sort and distribute. This was a really hard job, because when a light lit up, you had to pull the peg, stick it in the hole to connect, say hello and ask them to hold on, and then remember where you were (which peg) and flip a switch to go back to that one, complete that message with a calm, pleasant voice and nice neat handwriting, and then go on to the second one.

I’m not sure how long I lasted. One week? A month? I was only 16. Have you seen the women in the telephone pool in Mad Men? It looked just like that!

This was a REALLY hard job. I worked for the answering service that my Uncle Herman Rudnick and also a top boxer used— Joe Frazier. When Frazier called in to get his messages, the whole room was abuzz!

I’m not sure how long I lasted. But you may not be surprised, and neither was I, when I was fired from that job after about a month. I think I was relieved. Did I mention, it was REALLY HARD!

Don’t be afraid to try new things!  By 21 years old I had worked (with varying degrees of success) as a:

  • Babysitter
  • Camp Counselor
  • Newspaper Delivery girl
  • Waitress
  • Library clerk
  • Office clerk
  • Factory Worker
  • Switchboard operator

What were your early jobs?





Each week in 2019 I’m writing stories in response to a story prompt, courtesy of an awesome Storyworth subscription from our daughter Sarah for my birthday. At the end of the year, all of these stories will be made into a book. We all have stories, I hope these will help you remember yours.  This week the prompt is:

“Are you still friends with any of your friends from high school? How have they changed since then?”

I’ve always been a fan of those stories that start with, “Whatever happened to?”…and then you read about a child actor or someone well-known years ago. That’s why it’s so much fun to reconnect and to stay connected with old friends. Plus, I’ve found we still have so much in common.

Forty-eight years have passed since I have entered Northeast High School in Northeast Philadelphia in 1970.

I’m proud of my time at Northeast, and not just because Frederick Wiseman  made  a famous documentary movie there (“High School“) in 1968.

Tony Danza created a TV show there (“Teach“) in 2010.

I was there in between those two media events, I graduated in 1973.

I was active, especially in a club called SPARC, which stood for SPace And Research Club –where I met a nice boy named Bob Merion–I’m standing just to the left of him, the only girl in the picture, and one of a few girls in the group.

From left to right–people I’m still in touch with from Sparc 1973–On the right is a piece of tape with computer dots in it, that’s what Jeff and the other computer geeks fed into the computing aspect of the club.  You can see we are sitting at a monitoring station with computer screens, much like in the NASA shows.  The club had a real space capsule, that moved, and a contract for research with NASA.

  • Richard Carson (Bob’s first cousin)
  • Neil Harris, who lives near DC and Bob gets to see him frequently.
  • Me!
  • Jeff Selzer (sitting beneath me)–We’ve stayed in sporadic contact with Jeff Seltzer since 8/8/88
  • Bob Merion—we went to the senior prom in 1973 married July 25, 1976

Debbie Eisenberg and Bob Merion on their wedding day July 25, 1976

Debbie Merion and Bob Merion with their grandaughter, Jordyn Grey Arena, Feb 12, 2019



More SPARC kids from 1973–from left to right– people I’m still in touch with:

  • Not sure of left-most guy
  • Richard Freeman wearing the sunglasses, who we’ve lost touch with after a divorce from our friend Ellen
  • Gail Rothberg Eisenberg–we were best friends in elementary school and still have managed to see each other a few times since high school and stay close with letters and email. Gail became an Eisenberg about the time that I lost the name to become a Merion, when she married Fred Eisenberg, who sat near my brother Gary at Northeast. She teaches marketing at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, which my brother attended.  Gail and I were very close in elementary, I was taller, and more athletic and interested in writing, she was the math wiz with 2 sisters and a brother who helped me understand the drama of a bigger household. I also learned from her (and her sister) the beauty of making a lasagna for a family meal that lasts.

Deb Eisenberg Merion and Gail Rothberg Eisenberg in Florida in 2017

  • Fred Wittenstein, who lives in Orlando and we see almost every year with his lovely wife Laurie Levin when we’re down in Florida.
  • Marc Servetnick, who came and stayed with us in Florida this year for a fun night!

Fred Wittenstein and Marc Servetnick in Florida in 2019

Marc Servetnick, Bob and Deb Merion in Florida 2019

I stay in touch with some other friends from high school on Facebook.  There was Lynne Edelstein, whose locker was next to mine since they were alphabetic by last name (Edelstein–Eisenberg) and Marcy Cohen Lidman, who was the editor of the school paper that I wrote for too, and who had the party where I met Bob. We were also friends with Sheryl Rudie, who I also stay in touch with on Facebook, and who once visited us in England with her wonderful late husband Hank.

And there is Lisa Litman, who found me on Facebook a few years ago when she said, “Is that a picture of the Jupiter lighthouse?”Are you in Jupiter? I am too!  Then we became reunited and have been fast friends ever since, visiting in Phila and Florida. And since her daughter had a baby a few months before, we are now both bubbies! Here’s a picture of me and Lisa!

Deb Merion and Lisa Litman 2018–Now both bubbes!

From these friends I’ve observed dedicated husbands and fathers, wives and mothers, who have used their intelligence and creativity to help their communities and families.  I’m proud to know them all.

And even though my husband Bob Merion has grey hair now, I still think he looked like Ryan Phillipe in “54”.

Bob Merion and Ryan Phillippe–brothers from another mother?

Hail Northeast!





Each week in 2019 I’m writing stories in response to a story prompt, courtesy of an awesome Storyworth subscription from our daughter Sarah for my birthday. At the end of the year, all of these stories will be made into a book. We all have stories, I hope these will help you remember yours.

This week the prompt was,

What was your Dad like when you were a child?

Helen, Debbie, Gary and Morton Eisenberg, March 1956

I think these pictures were both taken on the same day in 1964, one inside, in the living room, drapes closed, and then outside on our front walk. Everyone looks happier outside! I wonder if they took that first.

At first glance, my dad Morton Eisenberg may have looked very straight-laced and unexciting. He was an electrical engineer, who drove twelve miles every day in a carpool over a narrow drawbridge to RCA in Camden NJ, from our home in Northeast Philadelphia. He wore white shirts laundered and pressed at the local laundry, which came back stiffened with a piece of cardboard that he always saved for my art projects. At his neck there was always a clip-on bowtie. In his white pocket he wore a pocket protector, and in that he placed some pens, a red RCA pencil, and sometimes a miniature slide rule. He wore dark pants over brown orthopedic shoes and drove a Chevy.

But he was anything but unexciting to me. To me, being with dad was magical. When he was home and relaxing, he traded in the white work shirt for a pale yellow or blue banlon shirt with two buttons. I think he wore old pants on the weekends, or maybe some tan “work” pants that were free for him to splash paint or grease on as tinkered around the house on ham radio or home-improvement or car maintenance or appliance repair projects down in the basement or in the garage.

That was the outfit he donned also, on occasion, when he was at our synagogue, Temple Beth Torah, helping the facility as he walked around with his small wooden tool box with the curved metal handle. I remember the story he liked to tell where someone stopped him to tell him about a problem. “Are you the Temple maintenance man?” They asked. “No, I’m the Temple President,” he admitted.

Magical moments happened when we did some projects together, especially in elementary school. I helped him send out reminders for his next ham radio club meeting, carefully writing addresses on the postcards and licking the stamps. We printed photos from my little Brownie camera down in his basement darkroom, and then put them in a photo album on black pages, and labeled them with a white pencil. He read my poems, corrected them with a gentle penciled checkmark in the margin, and helped me type them on Smith-Cornona typewriter. In the winter, we donned our rubber golashes and went sledding at Burholme Park on our flexible flyer sleds. In the summer, we wrote bikes in back of Carnell Elementary school. He had a record player in the lving room, and my mom and dad loved to cha-cha, and I remember my dad even teaching me that easy 1-2-3 dance.

I know my dad was proud of me, even though his face may have not shown it in pictures, like this one when I was the 6th grade valedictorian at our Carnell Elementary graduation. I won an award for an essay I wrote called, “Why I am Proud to Be an American.”

My dad disappeared for one weekend every year to “Field Day” with his ham radio buddies, including his best friend Harold Fox, who we called “Uncle Harold.” It was a competition that they found exhilarating, trying to talk to as many people as possible over the weekend.

Dad’s ham radio equipment was down in the basement, in his own room that seemed like a peaceful haven but exciting to me, with those machines with dials and knobs, and the walls covered with “QRL” postcards he had received from people around the world he had spoken with. His code letters were W3DYL—or darling young ladies as he liked to say to make it clear, and then later he got a shortened one—K3DG.

When I interviewed dad and mom in the early 2000’s about their lives, here’s what dad said about how he got started in ham radio: “As a kid in eighth and ninth grade, I became very interested in electricity. I thought it was the greatest thing in the world. I started playing around with radio in high school, and thought we were very fortunate to have a amateur radio club and the non-licensed teacher that sponsored that club built a short-wave receiver from magazine instructions. That was the nucleus of our radio club’s equipment. Later we got a transmitter and were on the air from the high school and we did pretty good. There was a better ham radio club, however, at Germantown High School nearby in Philly. They had a great radio station. They used to communicate with foreign stations. We never got more than a couple of hundred miles from Simon Gratz High School but we used to visit them and were amazed to see their QSL (confirmation of radio contact) cards. Germantown talked to people across the ocean and wild stories like that. I guess that radio was the big thing of the 1930’s. ”

On the roof was his ham radio antenna, another important part of the hobby, and another part I shared with him. He let me climb up the aluminum ladder onto the roof with him. I was always a little scared climbing over the 6 inch high lip around the room at the top of the ladder, but I did it because of the view. At that time, there was a law that no building in Philadelphia could be taller than the hat on the William Penn statue at the top of City Hall, so even though we were at least 10 miles from downtown, we could see “Billy Penn” as we called him on a clear day.

My mom learned to accept dad going up on the roof, and she was even OK with me climbing up there, but she liked to tell the story about how my grandmother Bessie wasn’t so comfortable with it. Once she had driven over the house, the story went, and found the ladder next to the house but didn’t see any one. She started calling. Hello? And my dad leaned over the roof and called down calmly, “Hi Mom!” Apparently grandmom get super excited and worried, “Get down from there, right now!” and being a good son-in-law, dad did, but just made sure Grandmom wasn’t due to come over the next time he needed to go fix his antenna on the roof.

Mom and dad loved to go to the movies for fun, dad would read the reviews in Time magazine and write the movie reviewed on the cover. Mom was quite proud of the fact that they took us often on vacations—driving to Atlantic City or Washington DC, and once to Williamburg, Virginia. Because my dad was a history buff, and mom was a teacher, the DC vacations always seemed more intellectual that fun to me, but as I got older I could listen to my dad talk about history for hours. Also, as we got older they took us to more fun places. The best was our Bermuda vacation was I was 15 and my brother was 18, and we rode motor bikes around the island and went hard hat diving on a tour.

Dad on a motorbike in Bermuda, 1971.

One of my favorite pictures with my dad is this one, on my wedding day, July 25, 1976.

My dad had many favorite sayings.  Maybe your dad did too?

He never said a curse word.  But he had many funny ways to get around it, and some other amusing catch phrases.  Here’s some of his “dadisms”

  • Well, cheese and crackers!
  • You’re full of soup!
  • Well, I’ll be a dirty bird. (i.e. dirty word)
  • I’m had you’re glappy.
  • It just shows to go you.
  • I’m actually bug-eyed.
  • I feel like a million bucks—all green and wrinkled.
  • This jello is great—no bones!
  • My cup runnith over… and drippith on the floor.
  • And when presented with anything that he liked…That’s the best thing since the uplift brassiere!

Interested in getting notified each time a new story comes out? Please let me know. Thanks for reading!

–Deb Merion March, 2019




Jordyn Haiku

Jordyn Haiku


My granddaughter sleeps

I look at her placid face

Yes, born yesterday











Pink and blue knit cap

Above a peachy soft face

Lips red as roses













Mommy sleeps: not me

I hold the baby wondering

Who will Jordyn be?


Her face scrunches up

Then it relaxes again.

What is she thinking?


Her body so small

She will grow bigger each day

Now she has come out.





Eyes closed, on her side

Jordyn lays soft on my chest,

Squirming. Delightful!












Please keep her awake!

We want her to sleep at night.

Soft tickles to wake.














Her fingers- chilly

Her belly – warm, soft yet firm

Eyebrows up! A yawn!


Her head in my palm

Fits perfectly: 6 days old.

I wish she could talk.













Snuffy, fast breathing

Eyes closed, she squeaks, 6 AM

Warm lap baby sleeps


I thank God today

Science and love got us here

And Delta helped too


Ten fingers, ten toes

Two toes webbed on each small foot

Champion swimmer?












Babies can teach us

How to get what we need, want

Focus, don’t stop. Milk!


Born 2/12/19

Seven pounds, nineteen inches

Blue eyes and brown hair














Lake Forest, Cali

Forever your “place of birth”

Cool way: “The O. C.”











Adam is your dad

Alison is your mommy,

“Please mom, call me Al!”

Al, Adam and J












Debbie is my name

I like “Deb”. To you: Bubbie

Call grandpop Zayde.


Teddy is your dog.

He’s a Wheaton Terrier.

His job: protect you.














Teddy sniffs your toes

Sometimes he licks them a bit

You are his first babe.


“Sit, Teddy,” we say

When he gets too close to you

You’ll play with him soon.


You don’t need a phone.

You don’t need to text, call, surf.

Love is all you need.


I don’t need a phone.

I don’t need to text, call, surf.

You are all I need.


Ok, I admit

I thumb haiku in my phone

While you lay on me.

Manicured IMG_3138






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.


500px-Gary Debbie Meyer Sophie Eisenbe

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.

500px-Gary Eisenberg Bessie Rudnick an

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!


500px-Margy Merion Milton Merion Bob M

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.

500px-Bessie Rudnick Helen Eisenberg a

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 [https://www.debbiemerion.com], and on the Crazy Wisdom site in Ann Arbor.

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



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!”


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)


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.

walking_Fab_Four copy 2

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


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. )


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.


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


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.



































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.

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


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

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