Wednesday, March 24, 2010


12:30 a.m. March 15th. Phone rings. I answer.
          “This is a recorded message from PSE&G. Due to the recent storm there are power outages in your area. Power will be restored by Thursday. If you have an emergency, call 9-1-1.”
          “Hmmm,” I thought. “That’s funny; if my power was out I wouldn’t have gotten that message. Thank God the storm is over!” Then, as if on cue, my power went out. My husband, whom the family calls “Henry Kissinger” because he is a man of peace and rationality, thought this was a bizarre and uncanny coincidence. Not I. No, I was sure this was a vast conspiracy! The timing was just a little too contrived for my taste.
As Jim stumbled through the pitch-black hallway, tripping over the dog while groping for the flashlight that never gets returned to the closet where it belongs, he laughed our situation off by saying that we lost the powerball lottery. I, however, harbored more sinister visions. I imagined some hairless Dr. Evil-like character clothed in a white lab-coat huddled in the PSE&G plant in Ridgefield with his hand hovering over the “Light Bright” grid of my neighborhood’s electrical pattern laughing sadistically while shouting through the post-storm-of-the-century midnight air from his laboratory deep in the bowels of the basement, “Take that you nasty northwest section of Leonia! Oh, and take part of Englewood with you too!”  
          Ordinarily, a little break from the plugged-in world would be a welcomed relief, and I embraced the silence until my neighbor’s rented generator truck pulled into their driveway. I don’t know what’s worse, the loud incessant pulse of the generator exhaling, “We have power, we have power, we have power;” or watching my neighbors (through the window in the cave I once called my kitchen) eating ice cream from their freezer while watching American Idol. I will admit, they generously opened their house to everyone, but I was too busy opining to be open-minded.
          So I spent the daylight hours sharing stories with other power-less people in town. One woman, whose elderly mother was staying with her through the storm, said that when she heard the hiss of her mother’s inflatable bed deflating like a carnival balloon at 3:30 in the morning, she knew her house had lost power. Grandma handled it pretty well, but the family became concerned when she kept insisting that she watch Channel 2 News. Finally, they sat Grandma down into a chair, pointed her towards the wall, and told her Channel 2 News was on. Grandma sat and watched the wall until dinner.
          After 18 hours of huffing generators, and no heat in our house, we headed to my mom’s. I was understandably nervous because my mother’s house is pristine. I consider my house to be very clean, but by my mother’s standards the Board of Health should have condemned my house years ago. So here we come – me, Jim, the kids, the dog—with all of our clothes and toiletries shoved into Shop Rite plastic bags. All that was missing was our trailer.
My mother greeted us cheerfully, and like any good Italian mother, she had loads of food prepared and waiting for us on her kitchen table. However, I was consumed with the overwhelming need to levitate. I was afraid we were leaving trails of ourselves wherever we walked. Growing up, my mother hated clutter and never allowed it. Now, here I was, back in her house, except now my clutter came with legs, a leash, and lots of non-eco-friendly Shop Rite plastic bags. I couldn’t sleep. Was the dog drooling on her carpet? Would the kids accidentally take the perfectly folded bedspread from the upholstered slipper-chair and use it as a blanket? Would Jim’s 6’5” frame break the petite frame of her ladies rocker-recliner he was now sleeping in? I tossed and turned.
           Finally, after 43 hours, our power returned, the generator truck departed, and the entire content of my refrigerator was emptied into garbage cans. All things considered, we faired the storm with no real damage, and I’m so thankful for that. Still, I firmly believe that deep within the bowels of PSE&G sits Dr. Evil like the “Great and Powerful Oz” anxiously awaiting the next storm.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


There is no such thing as a mediocre coach. There are great coaches and there are horrible coaches. A woman recently told me that her nine-year old son’s coach quit the team mid-practice by storming off the court while hurling horrible insults at them, and screaming that they were essentially a worthless group of misfits not worth his time. THEY’RE NINE-YEAR OLD’S!!!???!!!
           My seven-year old son plays basketball for St. John’s in Leonia. His team is led by Coach Tom Muir. Coach Muir’s mission is to teach these first and second grade boys the sport of basketball. It’s also his mission to develop these young boys, many of whom have the talents and reputations of older brothers to contend with, into a solid unbreakable team, allowing no individual ego to control the ball or the game.
Supported by the coaches of opposing teams, and referees, Coach Muir has organized games where the refs will interrupt the game to explain where players should be positioned, why a move was called a foul, what it means to play defense, and what it means to play offense. I wish I could have captured the faces of these boys who were soaking up the information of learning how to play the game. It’s one thing to shoot baskets with your child; it’s an entirely other thing to actually teach them the sport while playing the game.
Then there was last Saturday, the final game of the season. In a non-descript school gym in River Edge, I saw the best basketball game of my life. Coach Muir wanted every boy on his team to score at least one basket during the season, and all of them had, except for Nicky, one of the youngest players. During the last seconds of the game Coach Muir instructed his team to pass the ball to Nicky, and then kept calling to Nicky to shoot. Coach Muir halted the game to tell the ref that he wanted Nicky to at least have the opportunity to shoot.
Suddenly, every member of both teams, along with their parents, understood what was going on, and everyone started cheering “Shoot, Nicky, Shoot!” every time the ball landed in his hands. However, Nicky kept passing it off to one of his older teammates like he was playing a game of hot potato. Finally, the ref called a foul. With less than 10 seconds left Nicky went to the line for two shots.
Everyone held their breath. Silence fell upon the court. With the widest smile on his face, he took his first shot. The ball landed perfectly in the basket. The crowd went absolutely wild. His teammates went crazy. Nicky soaked in the moment and the sound of people cheering his name. Silence again fell as the ref handed the ball back to Nicky. Coach Muir knelt on the sidelines smiling, his eyes never once moving from Nicky. Nicky bounced the ball once, lined up his shot, and tossed the ball. The only sound in the gym was this, “Swish.” It went in.
I will never, ever, in my life forget the look on Nicky’s father’s face. It was, simply put, priceless. Needless to say, among mothers and fathers from both teams, there wasn’t a dry eye in the gym. We understood the weight of meaning contained in this moment. Nicky’s teammates ran out to him, surrounded him, high-fived him to death. When Nicky’s older brother (and teammate) ran up to him and hugged him, I thought I’d drop a lung from crying. But when Coach Muir went up to him, the look of pride on this little boy’s face said what I will never be able to put into words.
That was a moment. A moment that little boy will take with him for the rest of his life; a moment that a father will always cherish. And all because of one coach. All because one coach never wavered in his conviction that every member of his team is a vital member. To Coach Tom Muir, and to all the Coach Muir’s out there, who selflessly give their time and their talent to our children; who know instinctively that within each child lives a nail-biting two-point moment like the one Nicky had -- I salute you.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I caught my husband “clicking off” the other night. He didn’t think I saw him, but I did. I was walking through the dining room, the room where we both have our laptops, and use as an office until the kids get rid of the stuff they’ve been storing in their rooms and finally move out, only 12 years and counting! Anyway, as I was walking through from the kitchen I caught Jim’s elongated pointer-finger nervously clicking-off as soon as he heard the sound of the martini glasses shaking in the china closet as I walked passed it. I’m sure I’m not the first wife to catch her husband clicking-off, and I won’t be the last. However, it got me to thinking, “What are people clicking-off to?”
          Some men (and women) click-off to porn. My husband’s porn is Google Earth. Every time I catch him clicking-off I see the globe of the earth fade to black on his computer screen. It’s true, he likes to float across the universe and see the earth from the moon; he’s also been known to trip on the Milky Way more times than most men his age with young children should, but his real obsession with Google Earth is the flight simulator that they have. You have a choice of flying two models: a Cirrus SR-22 Propeller Plane or an F-16 Jet Fighter. You know he’s in the cockpit of that jet fighter, goggles and air mask on, looking for the Taliban’s version of the Red Barron. I always feel that whenever I startle him and he clicks-off mid-flight, somewhere in cyberspace his mustached-avatar is bailing out of the cock-pit, free-falling through some virtual universe, waiting for Ground Control to rescue Major Tom.   
          I decided one night to confront him about this. I told Buzz Aldrin that he didn’t have to hide these things from me; he was old enough to discipline himself. If he wanted to be a fighter pilot on Google Earth, who was I to ground him? I explained that everyone clicks-off to something, and it was nothing to be ashamed of. He seemed embarrassed, but relieved that finally, his secret was out in the open.
          I have virtual ADD—I click-off to everything. Whereas I walk through the dining room, Jim continually walks in and out, so I’m rapidly clicking-off Facebook, eBay, the NY Post, TMZ, Amazon, and any site with shoes. Some nights, I Google and click-off so much that my hand hurts the next morning.   
          I decided to tread dangerous waters and ask some of my girlfriends if they ever caught their husband clicking-off. Most of them seemed relieved that their husband’s weren’t the only ones. There was one woman who swore that her husband never clicks-off; he loves her too much and goes to mass every Sunday. My guess is that he clicks-off more than anyone; she just turns a blind eye, or saves it for the confessional.
          One friend’s husband clicks-off to Fantasy Baseball. He used to do it openly until he became so agitated at Disney last year because the hotel’s wireless wasn’t working (it was Fantasy Baseball draft weekend) that she forever forbid him from Fantasy Baseball. She said that he now clicks-off all the time because he doesn’t want her to catch him at it.
          My other friend’s husband is an old-gadget collector; he’s always surfing eBay for old computer boards, orphaned electronic parts, old stereos, you name it. She said he doesn’t do anything with these antiquated purchases, he just piles them in the basement until he has time to rebuild them into something. She said the basement is so cluttered that she warned him if the UPS man left another box she was going to smash it. Now she hears him clicking-off whenever she comes into the room, and she suspects he has a P.O. Box on the side.
          The virtual world has turned most of us into virtual insomniacs; we stay up into the early hours of the morning pursuing different identities—fighter pilot, major league baseball manager, inventor. Yet, we keep clicking-off to keep secret our hidden selves and protect the passions we’re not ready for the world to see.
“Ground Control to Major Tom: Come to bed now!”

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


“I think I have kidney stones,” my husband hyperventilated into the phone when I called see if he had any problems picking the kids up from school and chauffeuring them to their various and sundry afternoon activities.
          “Hon, the pain you’re feeling is just the stress I feel every day,” I replied. When I realized I may have hurt his feelings I tried to ease the tension by saying, “Maybe you’re just ovulating.” At that point our phones must have had a bad connection because the line went dead.  
          But it made me think; if one afternoon of getting the kids turns his kidneys into Jiffy-Pop, I must be Wonder Woman. Through the years I’ve witnessed mothers on crutches masterfully maneuver themselves while marshaling their kids to and from school; in fact, one mom with a plaster cast on her foot had two backpacks wrapped around her crutches while her pedicured big toe pushed the behind of her youngest to get him to walk faster. I’ve seen mothers pushing double strollers with one hand while dragging their screaming Kindergartner with the other in the middle of a torrential rain storm, and still get the Kindergartner through the door before the late bell. Clearly, what my husband was experiencing was his body rejecting the interruption to his normally static daily routine; the stress of conforming to the kids’ schedule had barnacled itself to his lower intestines.
          If only he knew that I was planning something spectacular for him, perhaps he would have been more cheerful. For his 30th birthday I took him to Ireland, where we got engaged. For his 40th birthday I took him to Italy, where our plane almost crashed, but we ate the most delicious food. I wanted to keep the tradition going for his next impending milestone birthday, but now we have kids, no money, and expired passports. However, unbeknownst to him I had signed him up for “AARP” and the laminated large-print beauty had just arrived in the mail.
When I initially showed Jim the AARP brochure that came addressed to him, he dismissed it as junk. I, however, salivated at all the hotel discounts. So, I took the application, engraved his pertinent information with a Sharpie pen (social security number, credit card number, chances of survival…) and proudly forged his signature.
          With AARP card in hand, I made reservations for the most exotic place on earth I could afford--the Ramada Inn on Route 46 in Wayne. Hey, at least there isn’t any bullet-proof glass protecting the front desk; at least I hope there isn’t. All that matters is that with the AARP discount I can get a non-smoking King for $29.99. Who wouldn’t want a piece of that?
I’m admittedly nervous because while we’ve never had a problem with long-distance travel, short trips have been a complete disaster. Years ago when we had just gotten married and our apartment had no heat, we spent the weekend at the Glenpointe Hotel in Teaneck until the furnace was replaced. I packed champagne, strawberries, Victoria’s Secret…When we got into our room, Jim jumped into the shower. As I uncorked the champagne I heard him scream like Janet Leigh in the shower scene from “Psycho.” I ran in to find blood trickling from his forehead; I looked around expecting to find Norman Bates, but instead I found the shower head nozzle lying guilty on the floor. Apparently it came flying off mid-shower and cracked Jim in the forehead.
After Jim’s frantic phone call, the front desk cordially re-assigned us to another room. Jim, dazed, confused and dripping wet, holding a hotel towel securely around his middle, and I carrying the luggage and an open bottle of champagne, followed the concierge two floors up to our new room.
As I unpacked, Janet Leigh screamed from the shower again! Can you believe the shower head flew off again and cracked Jim in the exact same spot? And that’s when his kidney stones kicked in.
The rest of the weekend was spent in the Emergency Room, Jim sedated on morphine, me licking the inside of an empty champagne bottle and eating strawberries with fungus beards. (Victoria’s Secret: she never came out of the suitcase all weekend.)