tweet tweet tweet: my exciting life

 6:45  restless night.  never again watch “the shining” after dark. 

 6:50  bring in the washington post. 

 6:51  finish reading it. 

 7:15  strawberries are mushy. bleck. 

 7:21  brush and floss teeth. 

 7:30  in oral distress.

  7:40  floss stuck between canine and premolar. gum inflamed & bleeding. 

 8:11  note: next time, disinfect masonry nail before digging out floss. 

 8:38   put second load in the washer.

 9:00  mary ann’s line is busy. 

 9:03  line still busy. 

 9:09  e-mail mary ann: get off the fone. 

 9:10  staring at screen. 

 9:11  must sweep cobwebs. later.

  9:16  can’t get motivated. 

 9:18  ant is crawling across the monitor. 

 9:22  frigging neighbor’s dogs are barking. 

10:07 finger jammed from deleting spam. 

10:50 have a paragraph (begun last week) I can live with. tired. 

11:14 deadly duo: writer’s block and constipation. 

11:58 stomach growling.

12:01 hungry. resist!  be strong! u can do it. 

12:03 really hungry. 

12:07 really really hungry. 

12:18 teeth marks in forearm. 

1:02  sleepy.  no more fudge sundaes after 4-egg omelette.

2:05  page one done.  at this rate, will finish novel by 2024.

2:06  exhausted. maybe a brief lie down … 

3:20  cat napped.  hungry. 

3:30  find 14 PB cookies, marked “leftovers,” in freezer. a dozen are history. 

3:32  walk to the mailbox. more estate planning workshops. what estate? 

3:34  exhausted.

3:50  finish cookies. 

4:07  watching oprah. she needs to lose dr. phil on her next diet. 

5:00  cocktail time. olives or lemon peel? 

5:20  call mac to pick up reese’s.  all out. withdrawal setting in. 

6:00  laundry.  50+ years later, still can’t fold contour sheets. 

6:20  thinking about dinner. 

6:40  make enough pasta and pesto sauce for 2 meals. eat both.

7:10  sleepy. 

7:30  run up and down stairs before dessert. 

8:30  catch up on phone calls. 

9:05  dust pollen from furniture. 

9:20  discard dead flowers. 

9:30  can’t stand the excitement. 

10:05  exfoliate, shower, shave, cleanse, lubricate, pluck, brush, floss (ouch!), rinse. 

10:30  read the new yorker in bed. 

11:00  turn off radio. 

11:05  goodnight moon.



A friend, invited to speak at a conference on how to organize, asked for helpful tips on how I manage my office. 

If she’d ever glimpsed my workspace, she would have deleted my name from her e-mail blast before hitting SEND. 

For in the loft office, 6 steps up from my tidy bedroom, works a derelict.  

I may be the most disorganized working person in the universe. It’s almost laughable, since I relish taking charge in other aspects of my life, striving for order and efficiency.

This is a woman who empties wastebaskets, wipes countertops and runs vinegar through the coffeemaker with disturbing regularity.

Yet in my office, I’m a slob.

How slobby am I?

Let me count the ways …

 Not a square inch of white desktop is visible.

To the left of my monitor, a crystal paperweight anchors a stack of to-do notes, some from 1998.

Horizontal files cover the floor: one for materials related to the memoir I’m writing, another for my Frommer’s guidebook, a third for travel pieces I’m working on, a fourth for unclassifiable flotsam. 

The utility table I bought several years ago for deck barbecues and dinner parties I never host, groans under piles of periodicals, newspaper clippings (yes, I still clip newspapers) and assorted stuff I need to go through when I have nothing better to do.  

Under the table you’ll find milk cartons full of maps and travel-related memorabilia and  tax info (just in case Uncle Sam pays a call to find out why I work so many hours and earn less than a 16-year-old hamburger-flipper).  

Despite the disarray, I  can usually find what I need within a week. 

I understand why my M.O. shouts dysfunctional to anyone considered sane. And it works for me.

I’ve never won awards for linear thinking. But somehow, I get the job done.  

And twice a year—three, if I’m really bored—I shift into ruthless mode and fill several Santa-size sacks with recyclable paper.

Yet my pleasure at having achieved order is short-lived. And I am compelled to restore chaos. The sooner the better.

In between these search-and-destroy missions, I live in fear that someone–my agent, editor or, worse yet, my mother–will arrive unannounced and discover my dirty little secret.


Three Cheers for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D- Florida) gets my vote this National Women’s History month.


A model for multitasking, she juggles the roles of Congresswoman, wife and mother, commuting regularly between Capitol Hill, where she represents Florida’s 20th District, and her home in the Sunshine State.


In her five years in Congress, she has garnered widespread attention, support and respect for her quick thinking, passion on the issues and perseverance. With aplomb, she takes on the tough issues and colleagues on both sides of the aisle.


If you’ve caught her on the tube, you know she’s a force majeure. She may look as though a stiff breeze would knock her down, but this lady is a stately palm, bending in the wind.


And now she steps into the center stage spotlight to assume a new role, perhaps the greatest of her life—that of spokesperson for early breast cancer detection among women 40 and under.


No dilettante, she recently disclosed that in 2008, while serving her constituency and stumping for Hillary and Barack, she underwent seven surgeries for breast cancer, including a bilateral mastectomy and removal of both ovaries.


This she did during recesses, missing only slightly more than 3 percent of congressional floor votes. (I can’t help wondering how her colleagues records stack up for the same period.)


Except for telling a few family members, close friends and associates, she kept the lid on her illness until she had recovered and could reassure her children that mom was okay.


For many women, undergoing breast cancer treatment is labor enough, sapping their physical and emotional strength. Keeping it under wraps? Next to impossible.


While exuding fortitude and resilience, Rep.Wasserman Schultz is not unique. Or alone. Today approximately 240,000 women in this country have breast cancer.


Membership in this sorority carries a certain gravitas. That she is in a position to help others has become her latest challenge.


By introducing the Early Act, a bill to raise awareness among women in their 20s and 30s about the importance of early detection, she hopes to lower the age for a baseline mammogram (currently set at 40 years), especially among high risk women. 


I applaud her Early Act efforts and wish her well on all battlefields.


Beth Rubin is writing a memoir, Breast Cancer Diary: A Mother’s Journey Through Her Daughter’s Illness.


Pay to Pee


It was only a matter of time.


Pay toilets on planes?  This takes the cake, er, toilet tissue.


In addition to a fee for bags and a bill for beverages (payable by credit card only), travelers now face the (sur)real probability that they’ll have to pay to pee in airline toilets.


Thank you, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary for adding to the list of affronts guaranteed to further piss-off flyers.


What next, armrest coin slots for seat adjustments? A tax to perambulate the spacious aisle to your seat? A surcharge for sitting in the Exit row? A tariff for turning on the reading light? A fee for farting? (Actually, that one might fly!)


How long before a distressed male wets the floor—or a fellow passenger? Would you penalize someone for bad aim? Or defective equipment?


Houston, we have liftoff.


And what about the women who left their coin purses at home? Recycle empty apple juice cans?


I foresee an addendum to flight attendants’ contracts: “It is further stipulated that you will blot and deodorize all emissions from overfull kidneys or face immediate dismissal without pay.”  


I’d like the concession for toss-away catheters and bags. I could retire last month. These could be sold at airport fast-food stands. “Would you like a drink with your burger? Fries? A piss bag?”


To date, no one has mentioned the next piece: Charging double for pooping. Illogic tells me it’s just a matter of time.


I sniff a grassroots movement in the works.


Belly Up to a Bar (Mitzvah)—on the Beach

Into the distressed (and distressing) landscape of wars, layoffs, bankruptcies, bailouts, foreclosures, rising unemployment, falling Dow, maxed shelters, and a goniff on every street corner, comes destination Bar Mitzvahs.

             Jeez, aren’t destination weddings bad enough?

            While families are losing their homes, jobs, health coverage, retirement funds, cold hard cash and, sometimes, minds, overindulged 13-year-olds are chanting between sips of virgin daiquiris. 

            Bypassing the neighborhood synagogue—the traditional site for marking a Bar or Bat Mitzvah—well-heeled families can now make a quasi-religious pilgrimage with their nearest and dearest to the Caribbean.

            Catering to this affluent niche group are Web-based event planners who would lust to set up your Bar in Margaritaville!

            What next? Dovening in Disney World?  Shabbat in Sheboygan—with treif brats and beer? Brises in Bermuda? Slice the schmekel on Pink Beach at noon followed by barbecued brisket (first cut, of course).   

            Only in America.

            Maybe you’re the recipient of a coveted invitation, and you need a little help planning.

            First, destination Bars take place in all-inclusive waterfront resorts. For a few shekels shy of the economic stimulus package, you’ll get the whole megillah: custom-fit wetsuits, lox and bagels on demand, massages under a chuppa and sunset dovening on the dock.   

            Packing for a destination Bar Mitzvah is a breeze. No need to break out tasteful knits and pearls, or the navy pinstripe and Italian leather loafers.

            For this coming-of-age party, leave your bowtie and cummerbund on the doorstep. Just toss shorts and flip-flops into a bag. Add snorkel gear, sunscreen and fishing flies along with your tefillin, prayer book and Star of David.

            And don’t forget the Lomotil.

            Some consider it a great privilege, forking over gelt and schlepping to the tropics to hear a pimply youth screech Hebrew against the ocean’s roar.

           Let them eat challah. I think I’ll pass. Maybe someone will send me the DVD for Hannukah.


A Cool Rainbow Yule


My name is Beth. I’m a closet Christian.

I come out every December with the lights, garlands and rusty ornament hangers.

Immune to disdain from observant friends and relatives on both sides of the aisle, I plead nolo contendere.

While others are still picking at turkey carcasses, I’m aging 80-proof eggnog worthy of a Hallelujah Chorus. Candy-cane earrings in place, yule log crackling in the woodstove, I am among the first to fa-la-la-la-la.

My seasonal aberration surfaced early. As my cousins lighted menorahs and hoarded foil-covered gelt, I hung tinsel — one strand at a time. My Jewish friends sang, “Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel.” But I had trouble carrying that tune. I found comfort and joy caroling with my Christian friends on the street corners of our town. Today I wail, “Fall on your knees,” as I pick mistletoe berries from the oriental rug.

Each December my dad, brother and I would make the rounds in search of the perfect spruce. No spindly Charlie Brown tree for us. No sirree! We had strict standards and spent hours judging trees from every angle, even the side earmarked for the corner. I lived for those annual pilgrimages, my breath a contrail in the frosty air, thick smoke curling from oil-drum fires.

Every year my mother would greet us with hot cocoa and kvetch that we had spent too much money on a sap-dripping, needle-shedding symbol not our own.

On Christmas Eve during my teen years the house became a haven for friends who, after choking on overdone roast beef and dogma, would stop by to fress our holiday nosh of corned beef and rugelach, listen to Sinatra croon, “I’ll be home for Christmas” and play with my younger brother’s toys.

Several Christmases later my groom, raised in a more catholic Jewish household, was unamused when he tripped over the eight-foot spruce blocking the TV in our shoebox apartment. To maintain peace at home as well as on Earth, I purchased a menorah and bloodied my knuckles grating potatoes for latkes.

As a young mother I overcompensated for my wayward youth. I ix-nayed the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, clove-studded oranges and twinkling lights and, every 25th day of Kislev, immersed myself in Hanukkah.

A minor holiday on the Judaic calendar, Hanukkah is to Christmas what grape juice is to Veuve Cliquot. But I persevered. We would gather on the first night over brisket and, in the true spirit of the holiday, exchange small, meaningful gifts such as bath salts and shoelaces. These tokens reflected the miracle of the oil as T.M.X. Elmo does the birth of Jesus.

As the children grew we compromised, lighting candles at Hanukkah and exchanging presents on Dec. 25. I filled vases with evergreen boughs so the house would at least smell like Christmas.

Now, decades later, we gather for brunch on Christmas morning and exchange gifts over bagels and buche de Noel.

I gaze lovingly at my rainbow family: My daughter and son who, despite their meshuga upbringing, emerged as responsible adults; my West Indian son-in-law who celebrated the holiday with a dozen siblings and a pig roasting in the yard; my daughter-in-law whose family exchanged gifts before midnight Mass so they could sleep until noon on the 25th; and my four heathen, ecumenically correct grandchildren, who are the greatest joys of any season.

I watch them take turns spinning the dreidel between mouthfuls of homemade Christmas cookies. And I can’t help thinking, isn’t this the true spirit of Christmas?

(Reprinted from The Washington Post 12/25/06)


     I’m getting whiplash from keeping up with McCain’s changing messages.  I can’t tell if I’m watching the evening news, an unreality show or Saturday Night Live. Will the real Sarah Palin please stand up?


     With the Dow sliding into oblivion, Congress—on both sides of the aisle—scurrying to cover their collective asses, and my so-called retirement swirling down the toilet, I can’t stand idly by.  I know it’s a little late in the game. Call me a late bloomer. But I’ve decided to throw my baseball cap into the ring. I looked into my own soul and know this is the right thing to do.


     Stop laughing. And don’t call the men in the white coats. Not yet.


     With your support, on November 4 I will run as a write-in—for President and Vice President. Before writing me off, please take a moment to assess my bona fides.


Here are my qualifications:


            I was the youngest in my kindergarten class and had the longest hair.


            In 5th grade I washed my teacher’s buttermilk glass daily.


            In junior high I got an A on a typing test.


            In high school my cigarette breaks went undetected.


            Freshman year at Syracuse University I took part in a panty raid.


            Without a single gaffe, I spoke my wedding vows (in Hebrew yet).


            I cared for one husband, two children and assorted pets while having a real job.


            I edited my kids’ high school newsletter.


            I served on the board of a local ballet school that went under.


            My brownies are the best.


            My grandchildren laugh at my jokes.


            Ah, but what about my experience in foreign affairs?


        I’m glad you asked! From my roof, I can glimpse the Chesapeake Bay which connects with the Atlantic Ocean, across which lies Europe, Mesopotamia, and, a few kilometers (or is it kilos?) further, the Orient and South Pacific (great show!). Within this six-block area resides every axis of evil you can possibly conjure. I will blot out anyone and anything that impedes my march to Washington or threatens the best interests of this wonderful country even though I was born in Newark, New Jersey, wore my cousin’s hand-me-downs, did not go to Cannes as a graduation gift and don’t know a drachma from a shekel.


     My platform is simple: I will grant you every wish your heart desires. And you don’t need to click your heels three times. Just tell me what you want and I’ll get back to ya’.


      Isn’t it time for some experienced Loose Change? Vote for me. Nana Beth.


Grinds in Their Coffee

The headline was music to my eyes: Starbucks is closing 600 of its 7,100 stores.  All I can say is, there is some justice in this world!


Sure, I feel sorry for the employees losing their jobs. But that’s where my sympathy begins and ends.


I’ve never understood the Starbucks appeal. I’d rather brew a tasty cuppa in my kitchen then drink Starbucks bitter house blend. Does anyone honestly think their coffee tastes good?

And I’m loathe to hand over five or six bucks for a fancy-ass beverage with zero alcohol whose name I can’t even pronounce. The company boasts “up to 87,000 different drink combinations.” Who needs ’em? How about one decent cup of coffee?

In the occasional spare moment, I’ve pondered the rationale to having these coffee shop clones on every corner. Is this the 21st century’s take on “a chicken in every pot?” A Starbucks on every street. As in the housing market, this balloon had to burst.


In downtown Annapolis, the all-too-familiar green-and-white logo is a boil on the backside of the Maryland Inn. Is nothing sacred?  In 1783-84, the red-brick inn on Church Circle hosted 11 congressional delegates who came to town to hear George Washington resign as commander-in-chief and ratify the Treaty of Paris.  


Perhaps we owe gratitude to the economic downturn that the Seattle-based company hasn’t yet desecrated the U.S. Capitol. Who knows, maybe it’s in the works.


This Luddite doesn’t get it. The coffee tastes like socks after a week-long hike through mud. The look-alike stores are devoid of character. Maybe that’s the appeal to acolytes: I can go somewhere and blend in.   


When I want a good cup of java in my town, I head for Hard Bean Coffee & Booksellers. It’s Cheers for the hooked-on-caffeine set. (And almost everyone knows your name.) The coffee is delicious—flavorful and full-bodied and reasonable. The staff is courteous and sincere. None of that automaton–“Have a nice day. Next in line.”–baloney.  


Gary Amoth, the owner, greets customers personally. He’s a master kibitzer who displays art by up-and-comers and hosts signings by local authors. And he doesn’t need prior approval from any corporate office.  


At Hard Bean I can linger all morning if I want, browse the books, crank up my laptop, or check e-mail on one of two computers—for free.


Are you listening, Starbucks?


Have a nice day.



As Father’s Day approaches, and the three-year anniversary of my father’s death, I’m thinking about my dad more than usual. Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I see his broad shoulders, muscular legs and thinning hair.


The physical resemblance aside,  I find myself thinking his thoughts, repeating some of his keen (and not always popular or kind) observations—about man- and womankind, politicians, kids, the weather, high prices, incompetence, opera, lousy drivers, funny-looking people, hot food that arrives cold ….


Well, you get my drift.


Pronouncements that used to seem outrageous and exaggerated are making sense. (More and more sense all the time.) Uh-oh.


Several years ago he arrived from Arizona for a visit. We’d barely removed his bags from the carousel when I saw him eyeing a huge woman. She was dressed in a Spandex  number with horizontal stripes. I knew what to expect. He looked at me, rolled his eyes and tsked. I smiled. Nothing wrong with his eyesight, I mused. Her hips could have supported the refectory table at Hearst Castle.


Dad shook his head and, in a raspy voice loud enough for Marlee Matlin to hear, said: “Don’t people ever look in the mirror. What could she have been thinking when she got dressed this morning?” I watched his face turn crimson. His breathing became labored. “It’s so disgusting, I could just spit on her. ” Always his best audience, I cracked up while leading him from the terminal.


Now, I’m not endorsing his view of obese women. (He was a bit more generous regarding men, but not much.) While I hate to admit it, I have had similar thoughts when I see someone 100 or more pounds overweight clutching a Big Mac in each fist, or licking a triple-scoop cone. Or ordering an extra-large Slurpee.


You may think my dad was an unkind person. Irreverent and curmudgeonly, yes; mean, no. He just called ‘em like he saw them. And let the devil take the hindmost.


Among the many things I recall on this annual fête to fathers—


He taught me to fish with bologna because he was too squeamish to bait a hook with anything else.


At a time when I lived on PB&J, he introduced me to kippered salmon which I love to this day.


He once tossed a clogged salt shaker onto the garage roof to drive home the message that it did not work.


He taught me important life lessons: “Take responsibility for your actions.” “Don’t say what you can’t take back.” And, my favorite: “Always use the right pan.”


He took me to the Mayflower Doughnut shop on Sunday morning, when I could barely see over the counter, and made me memorize the inscription on the wall: As you ramble on through life, brother/Whatever be your goal/Keep your eye upon the donut/And not upon the hole.


For those experiences, for passing on his love of food and of nature and appreciating the little things, and for making me laugh—usually at another’s expense—I am eternally grateful.


Tell your dad that you care. Now.


Happy Father’s Day!



Let’s Let Kids be Kids

I’ve often heard, “Let bygones be bygones.” I’d like to amend that. “Let kids be kids.”


Overheard yesterday in line at Rita’s where I am a regular (small chocolate custard in a waffle cone):


Mother: “I got you a hair appointment with Manuel for the night before your graduation. Do you want to get it straightened?”

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