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Graduation Honors

The Merton Benzinger Prize is awarded to the graduating senior who most exemplifies the indomitable spirit of Merton Benzinger, an exemplary scholar-athlete.   During his four years on the track and field team, Merton broke records in five different events, three of which (the Cookie Toss, the Swing Jump, and the Troll Vault) he had invented himself. Merton was not only a stellar athlete, he was also a straight-A student and more importantly, a straight-A human being.  Merton’s friends used to joke that he was so generous, he’d give his right arm for a buddy.   In his senior year Merton proved them right, when he insisted on becoming an arm donor to help a fellow javelin-thrower who had been sidelined by tendonitis.   Tragically, Merton never regained consciousness after the amputation.    In honor of his memory, we present the Benzinger prize to the student who, in the judgement of our faculty, best captures Merton’s brilliance, athleticism, and profligate generosity with his body parts.

L.A. Yoga

Last week I was away for a full seven days, most of it in downtown Los Angeles.   The trip, alas, threatened to wreak havoc with my yoga practice.

I have been doing a ton of yoga for the past couple of years.  When I'm home, I go to class three, four, occasionally five times a week.   For Women of a Certain Demographic, yoga is the prescribed way to navigate one’s way through a host of life stresses and transitions.   It’s a great alternative to meditation for those of us who are congenitally unable to sit still.  Plus, my back hurts way less than it used to.   And I'm stretching parts of my person that I didn't even know were capable of bending.

But yoga is not about getting into shape!  Or relieving pain!   Or any of that crap!   Yoga is About the Journey.  It is Not About the Destination.

Thing is, it is way easier to keep your attention on the Journey when you are surrounded by other yogis of a similar demographic.  This is my absolute favorite pose -- I could do it all day:

This, too, is a favorite:

Rejection Season

It is college admissions season, and I am the parent of a high school senior.   So we are deeply enmeshed in the daily drama of emails from colleges and Facebook proclamations from friends.   So far, things are going OK in our part of the world – returns are not yet fully in, but thus far our senior has been accepted at two wonderful schools that were at the very top of her list.

Of course, it is not all wine – ahem; grape juice – and roses; along with the acceptances have come a certain number of waitlists and we’re-sorry-to-inform-you’s.   And it is clear that even with plenty of love coming from her favorite places, those rejections still sting.

As a parent, I try to model balanced reactions to the situation.   I remind my daughter that she can only go to one school, after all, and that she has fabulous options; that she should be glad that she is not taking an admissions slot from some other kid at a school she is not likely to select; and that she needs to find her sense of self-worth from within, and not from a tally of schools that do or do not admit her. 

Nah, maturity is overrated.  Here is my typical response to a text from my daughter about a school’s (clearly misguided) decision to turn her down:

A New Dawn

I have been traveling like a crazy person:   just got back from my sixth trip in five weeks, and I leave tomorrow for the seventh.   I've had tons of work, and in between some busted plumbing, a terribly sad memorial service, a colonoscopy...Really, it's been nonstop, and I haven't had a minute to myself.

Until last night, when I was finally alone for the evening.   I went to a lovely yoga class, made myself a late dinner, and settled in with a cup of tea, with time, at last, to sit and contemplate the important things in life.

So naturally, my thoughts turned to Tony Orlando and Dawn.


Dad's onion

This is my dad's onion.

My mom bought this onion shortly before my father died.   And about a year later, it is still here.

Whether my dad actually died a year ago depends on who you ask.   He passed away on March 3, 2015.   According to the Hebrew calendar, though, the one year anniversary is tomorrow, which means that it officially starts at sundown tonight, February 21.   Because the Jews, apparently, are not very good at math.


Toaster Child

Last week it was my birthday.    So I decided to treat myself to a new toaster.

The old toaster was really a dud.  

Ringtones in the Mourning

Two nights ago I went to a shivah minyan.  In case you don't know, a shivah minyan is an observance at the home of  Jew who has lost an immediate family member, a chance for friends and community members to offer comfort, support, and coffee cake.   This minyan was at the home of a not-particularly-intimate friend from my synagogue, after the passing of his 90-year-old mother.

After our household's end-of-the-day rush I was a bit late to arrive at this gathering, and the prayer service was already underway.  The living room was mobbed with a tight circle of family and friends.  The rabbi encouraged us latecomers to make our way to the few empty chairs at the back of the crowd on the other side of the room -- a journey that involved climbing over a couch-full of the bereaved and stepping over a dozen or so laps and sets of legs..  Looking at the obstacle course and then at my huge purse, I thought the better of it and left my bag in the vestibule, under my coat, before wading my way across to a discreet spot in the rear.

So we sing some songs (“life is like a very narrow bridge, and the important thing is to cross without fear”), and we have some sensitive Marge Piercy readings; and I am musing about mortality, and about the loss of my own father last winter, and about how precious is it for a community to come together to support each other in times of sadness.

And then I remember that my phone is on.  What is worse, I turned the ringer up to full volume while cooking dinner earlier in the evening so that if anyone called, I'd hear it over the noise of frying onions.

In case you’re wondering why I was worried, here’s my current ringtone:

Be it Resolved

It is January, and naturally I am fussing over my New Year's resolutions.   Specifically, I am fussing because I don't have any.   Quite a few years ago I resolved to eat more vegetables and to exercise regularly.  And then I started doing those things.  So with the iconic New Year's resolutions lapsing into personal irrelevance, I find myself at a loss.

Well, that's not entirely true.   I did make one resolution the other day, boldly, in front of my children.  "This year," I announced, "I am going to make more of an effort to work the expression 'polishing the turd' into conversation."

It's a fine expression, and a good resolution.   2016 will surely improve with more references to polished turds.  But there are only so many turds one can polish in a year's utterances.  It still seems to me I'm leaving something on the table, New Year's Resolution-wise. 

Really, though, while there are undoubtedly a lot of things I personally could do to make 2016 truly fabulous, there are so many more things the rest of the population could do to improve my quality of life.   In a truly communitarian spirit, then, I have decided that this year, I am going to make my New Year's Resolutions for other people.

So here goes:

The Music Biz and Me

The past month has been deeply heartening for singer-songwriters everywhere.   Three weeks ago, British superstar singer-songwriter Adele released her new album, “25.”  This is her third album, following her first, “19,” recorded when she was (you guessed it) nineteen years old, and her second album, “21,” recorded when she was 22½. 

Yesterday I read in The Guardian (a highly-respected British paper that I read whenever I look up facts about Adele) that "25" has sold 5 million copies in its first three weeks of release.   This, at a time when musicians everywhere despair of making a decent living by selling their original recorded music!    Adele has shown to the world, over 5 million times, that people will indeed still fork $$ over to listen to new songs from beloved recording artists.  You go, girl!

As a singer-songwriter, I have found Adele’s success to be enormously inspiring.   I am a bit behind Adele, as it happens, with only two albums of original music to date:  “Songs of Domestic Bliss,” released when I was 45, and “Don’t Check the Box!,” released earlier this year, a few months after my 50th birthday.   Like Adele’s, my fans have been flocking in droves to purchase my new release!   Sales to date, five months after the album's release:

Keeping it clean

Today I am going to write about personal hygiene.

I am writing this, in fact, right out of the shower, after a somewhat sweaty yoga class.  I feel clean and fresh and overall pretty great.   Clean is pretty much my favorite way to be.  Of course I am a gardener, so at the right time of year I like nothing better than getting covered in dirt from head to toe.  But part of the delight is the shower afterwards, the chance to start grimy and end sparkling (except for that bit of dirt that gets ground into my fingers in April and never really scrubs off until October).  

I am a daily bather, as were my parents before me, and I raised my children to be daily bathers, as well.  Alas, the younger generation no longer believes in bathing.  My older daughter was in college for about 20 minutes when she apparently learned from her peers that it is not actually necessary to bathe every day.  Less than a year later my younger daughter learned the same "fact" at music camp (music camp!  So much for the notion of the arts as a high-minded pursuit!)

So how much should I be worried about the younger generation's more relaxed standards of personal hygiene?   For answers, I turned to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, figuring that I could rely on them to give me cause for alarm.

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