Thursday, January 27, 2011


Today I interviewed an artist for our new camp.

She was home painting apples—you know what I mean. Major art school graduate. She had been in the Peace Corps. In Indonesia. Teaching art to kids. She once moved to California just because she felt like it. She had had a nice job in a public school but felt the administration was getting in the way of her artistic connection to the kids. She busks in the street—setting up her easel on a random corner in NYC—paints for a while, sells to passersby, and then hangs out, enjoying the view.

She does whatever she feels like, every day.

She is unencumbered.

There is no one I ever met in my whole life who is that fancy free.

Of course we hired her.


An old friend of mine once shocked me by not totally congratulating me on giving birth to my first son. She said, yeah—but now what do you do if you want to go to the movies?


When I was a little girl, I used to learn with my father on Shabbos mornings.

I made myself a thick slab of challah and peanut butter and a big glass of chocolate milk and Daddy got out the Pirkei Avos.

One of the best lines that stuck in my head like that Skippy to the roof of my mouth was: Marbeh nechasim, marbeh da’agah.

A phrase that will forever prevent me from buying a white sofa or (even if I could afford it) a Jaguar.

“The more you have, the more you have to worry about.”

You know, encumbered.

Oh, but I am encumbered in so many many other ways now—with 4 (and on good days, 5) kids and a husband-type who I actually work with all the time so there’s no fudging my hours, 2 honestly insane dogs, a 55 gallon fish tank, and a turtle. Plants. Cars.

A shack on the Jersey shore.

A new business.

Clients. Expectations.

And I went to the movies last week, so ha.

I am encumbered with worry about our future, about my musician son’s future, about my other son’s math tests, about the fact that I am an old mother with tiny twins.

I am encumbered with grief for what happened to my future stepdaughters.

I am encumbered with the rabid need for revenge.

I am encumbered with hope for my fellow artist friends that they will make it with enough to pay for rent and medical and dental.

I am encumbered with fear like we all are for the fate of freedom and for the planet

and, more often these days, with guilt for not doing anything much about it.

I am encumbered with about 40 extra pounds (STILL AFTER ALL THIS BLOGGING!) which frankly sucks and is frankly my own damn fault.

I asked that artist today if she loves her solitary life and her freedom.

Oh yes, she said. Mostly. Really looking forward to getting to know you.

Well my new friend—welcome to my encumbered life.

I am Lisa. Encumbered by love.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

No Thaw

It’s really cold outside, and the snow that I shoveled a million years ago is still there, a-blockin’ half my driveway and causing the babes still to clamor for “snow snacks!”
You can’t let innocent babies nosh on week-old snow, right?
And my beautiful-fairy-stepdaughter’s mother will still not let her visit us and just took away her phone for the umpteenth time.
It’s cold and all I wanna do is eat.
Had a great weekend visiting all the grandparents—you can’t believe (oh yes you can) how much nakhes they get from those babies.
It’s hard to get back to work today as the yucky icy rainy whatever that is that is falling from the dullest sky ever click click clicks down.
I’m not sure sometimes that this is really happening—this brilliant red-headed beauty is actually being kept prisoner.
Her mother knows how much pain she is in.
She’s run away a few times already out of desperation.
She cries all the time and has missed way too much school.
She is being threatened on a daily basis with “hospitalization.” The kind where they khop you in the middle of the night and keep you under sedation until you “come to your senses.”
By that time one’s chance for a normal entrance into say, NYU, is long over.
She will be 17 next week and nobody is helping her.
We tried but we have run out of money.
We secretly Skype—she looks cold and bundled up.
They say it’s going to be in the 20’s for many many days.
She told us, this beleaguered young lady that her mother is deliberately keeping
the house cold because it costs too much money to heat.
I guess the 700 thousand dollars, yes that’s right, that the mother spent on the courts
came right out of utilities.
She is an heiress with millions more and nobody can reason with her and her lawyers are making darned sure that no one does.
When we can’t sleep at night from sadness and anger and desperation and frustration and the sick unfairness of it, the cold makes our teeth gnash and our bodies curl up like scared puppies.
We try and tell her to be strong and we tell ourselves to be strong.
We try to send warmth through Skype.
Spring is a long way away.

Friday, January 7, 2011

6 foot 2, Cootchie Coo

At sixteen he is by far the tallest in the family with a shoe size that would make

you gasp if you knew it.

The only typical thing about him is his teenage bravado—that lovely (groan) chulent of uninformed independence, a habit of never calling home, and a you don’t need to tell me anything ‘tude and that sing-song two-note downward cadence--- “Mo-mmmmm…”

Over the years (we counted) we have ascribed to him 22 sobriquets from Scoopy to Kebab (!) to Vi to Little Person.

Poopoopoo he is quite an accomplished little person.

He has won awards for his piano playing and has performed at International Festivals as well as the Bronx Zoo, he is an actor (Yiddish theatre, a quick appearance on HBO, star of all past and current school plays) a writer and formidable raconteur (the entire school uses his name as a verb, a loverboy (he got asked out by a senior to the prom when he was only a freshie), and a black belt in TaeKwonDo.

He is a serious Nintendo Contender, no really, boys everywhere bow to him,

He is a three-time winner of the Usdan Chess Tournament.

He is on the cross-country team, in the philosophy club, the chorus, the swim club, and I’m not sure but I think on the debate team too.

He does not have time for all of these things, frankly.

He loves to hang out in the city with his truthfully very nice and heimish friends and stay at his Dad’s place which is much, much cooler than being in New Jersey.

But when he’s home here he relaxes and let’s me cuddle him for exactly 2.7 seconds and tells me he is grateful and that I take care of all his needs and I am the best mom.

He set up my new computer and carefully crafted a cheat sheet for all the commands.

Today a teacher tried to bully him and I wanted to smack her.

I worry that his Lucky jeans aren’t washed often enough, that his lips are too chapped, that he has styled himself “transportationally adventurous” which means he takes the subway everywhere.

Tomorrow night he is playing in a downtown bar— keyboard-- in his big brother’s pop/jazz band playin’ songs about things more grown-up than he has ever experienced.

I will buy him a Ginger Ale.

I am extremely nervous for him, because I think he is underrehearsed, but he will probably do great just like he did on his Permit test when I thought he hadn’t studied enough.

Every time I tsitter over him he gets annoyed, but in a polite way.

I go out of my way to delight him and it is not hard:

I always stop for a smoothie when we pass “Get Fruity.” I always keep one of those 25 cent gumballs in my pocket for him. I’m always up for a trip to DD. Not even counting the storytelling festival in Tennessee, a roadtrip to Colonial Willamsburg, the water park at Great Wolf, KlezKanada ever year, KlezKamp this year and countless movies and trips to the mall.

I lie and tell him the babytwins were just for him too, but he isn’t buying.

He is the most unknowable of all my children at this moment and I hope that I am doing right by him because he deserves it and I think he is special.

I am hoping that he accepts my help and my love and my advice on his assignments because I was an English Major Goddamit and a professional writer and he should listen to me if he really wants to get into Columbia Goddammit.

He is growing up too fast and I guess that’s why I had this crazy and dangerous urge to write about him.

I miss him.