How Are you Doing???

I’m a pretty hands on parent. I have always known what was going on in my daughter’s life. I’m OK with that, as it’s exactly how I wanted to parent. So inevitably, when I run into someone I haven’t seen since DO (drop off) they can’t help but ask:

“How are YOU??? How Are you handling her being away? Do you miss her? Are you bored without her.”

Some of those asking are my friends also became empty nesters this year. When they ask, it’s more like checking in: they have done the drop off, they face the same empty room every day. They are in the same boat and are eager to share their thoughts on all things empty nest.

Some that are asking are my friends who will become empties within the next few years: they know what kind of parent I’ve been, and are generally curious about how the experience is, and how they should be prepping for it.

And some of the people…..

Some of the people are the one’s that are kind of secretly hoping I’m failing at the parent sans child thing. Some of these people were present last night at a holiday dinner. And here’s my answer to the questions:

I’m fine. No, I’m actually never bored, there are lots of things I like to do. I’m handling it all fine. Of course I miss her, she’s my angel, but you know, I’m actually OK with her being away.


And I repeat: actually, the house is now always neat. I do a third less laundry. I don’t need to buy as much food. I’m not on call 24/7.


Yes- she’s my daughter and I love her, but I can love her with the distance. If I miss her I text her, or call her. That hasn’t stopped.


At this point I shake my head and try to change the subject. Because there are just some people who want me to be miserable. They want to see my crumple into a little ball and sob every day because apparently my life is over because my daughter moved away.

Why are some people rooting for you to fail?

I chose my own way to parent, and I received a lot of grief about it from certain quarters. I feel like they were looking for ways to see that I sucked at parenting, that some of my “new fangled” ways would not work. I was told that my daughter would fail at school because I didn’t send her to Pre k at three years old. She didn’t. I was told that I was starving her because I fed her small portions of food. She didn’t. I was told that she would be left behind by being educated in NYC public schools. She didn’t. I was told she wouldn’t be a leader because I allowed her to be shy. That turned out to be false as well.

And they still want me to fail. But this time as an empty nester. If you pull back the veneer, they also want my daughter to fail at college. They keep pressing that surely she’ll be homesick the whole time she’s at college because I was too hands on. That she won’t adapt and it will be all my fault.

So I ask again, why do we actively want people to fail? Why do we have this incessant need to want to be right more than we want things to work for others. Why do people keep the words “I told you so” so readily available in their arsenal?

Can’t we choose to cheer one another on?


How Do You Look at It

When I began writing about giving up, or not giving up, I was unaware of just how many ways there were to look at and approach this topic. When I wrote a hypothetical story on Wednesday, I had a clear vision of the message I wanted to impart….yet….

When I wrote my tale of giving up, the message in my mind was that the person involved was too used to getting everything they wanted when it came to cooking, and got pissed off. Spoiled and gave up when things didn’t go her way. Too entitled.

But then, a few people wrote that maybe the cooker just didn’t like cooking anymore- they didn’t give up, they had just decided there were other ways in which they would rather spend their time. Which is a fair point- when the whole coloring book craze took hold I was all in- then it got routine and I stopped doing it. Ok- that’s a fair way to look at it.

Yesterday, I had the realization that some people do things because of the expectations of others, most often parents. Your Dad wants you to be the next Derek Jeeter, so you keep playing baseball whether you like it or not. Then, you get to a point where your parent is not looking over your shoulder and you quit. Another reasonable way to look at it.

But- the point that is buried in here somewhere is that everyone has a reason as to why something is the right or wrong choice. And each person has a unique perspective and motivation. And that’s the key as to whether or not you should quit something: what is YOUR particular reason , and how does quitting or not affect other plans in your life? (thanks to Ally for this succinct line of reasoning)

Ask yourself why are you quitting. Self analysis is hard for all of us: we don’t like to examine our motivations for doing things, yet sometimes you need to take stock. Are you scared of success or failure? Is it getting too hard and you don’t think you can keep up? Is there a person involved that you don’t like or is making it difficult for you to continue? Do you simply not enjoy it anymore? You need to look at why you want to quit, to see if it’s actually a “good” reason.

You also have to look at quitting as a pattern. This is why I have the parental no quit rule. I’ve seen kids try something, not become an expert at it after a lesson and then want to quit. I held firm because I wanted my daughter to know that you needed to work at things in order to learn things. She was not going to be Venus Williams after one lesson. You don’t pick up a racket and hit a winner. You hit shot after shot after shot until you have a reasonable forehand. You still won’t be Venus, but you can play tennis.

As parents, we have to make sure we don’t put undue pressure on kids to do things that we want them to do. Just ask me about my Mother making me take dance lessons when I was little and I hated dancing (still do) with a passion. Sometimes a kid just hates something. My Mother also had so many expectations of me, and it took a lot of years to get over trying to please my Mother. Her expectations, and my reaction to it shaped much of the worst parts of my life, accounted directly for mistakes and miscues that I made along my journey through life.

So basically, I’m saying that parents have to be really careful about imparting the right lessons to their offspring regarding resilience, persistence, knowing when to quit for the proper reason, and knowing when to keep plugging on.

What you do, or don’t do is an individual choice. Just think about why…..

Modern Parenting

Modern Family has always been one of my favorite shows. My daughter is sort of a cross between the characters of Haley and Alex (which is bizarre in ways I won’t mention here) and it is a show we watched together as a family.

I watched the show last night, without my daughter, and I was struck at a certain similarity: the theme of last nights episode was loosely about giving up. Spoiler alert- I will be talking about the plot line, so if you care about what happened, stop now. If you’re thinking OMG it’s a sit com, then read on….

The Alex character is on an expedition to the South Pole to do some research. She clearly hates the experience. But her Grandfather told her she should experience things when she’s young and doesn’t want to disappoint him. But when she thinks he’s OK with her throwing in the towel, she exits fast.

Haley has just had twins, and has been reading parenting books. Of course, all parenting books tell us that everything our parents did was wrong…(which, lets face it- a lot of it was…) She’s afraid she doesn’t have parental instinct. Her parents are trying to get to to give up her “new” parenting advice and go with their ways. She sort of waffles….and my guess is when next weeks episode comes around, the parenting books will be in the recycle pile…

Manny is in dogged pursuit of his ex girlfriend. His Mother sort of redirects his focus and attention away from his goal, and he ends up giving up on his dream of getting back together.

So, as sit coms often do, it made me think of life in general…

Maybe each of these situations presented a valid reason to give up.

Or maybe we give up, or don’t give up in order to avoid disappointing someone.

I was married before, and it was not a great marriage. But part of me stayed because I didn’t want to disappoint my parents by getting divorced. Let’s put it this way- when a few years later my sister got divorced, the first thing my Mother said was “Now I have two divorced daughters…sigh…..” So the disappointment part was real.

In the hypothetical case I laid out yesterday, I never considered that maybe my person gave up cooking in college because it was something a parent forced them into in high school, and once freed of daily parental oversight, they chose a different path.


I had to think about the lessons I imparted to my daughter. My rule was if you joined something, you fulfilled the commitment. If you joined a team, you showed up at every practice and every game, on time and prepared. If the season ran from Septemeber 1 to November 30, you did everything possible to be a full on member of a team. But one time she joined girl scouts. Technically, scouting started in September, and her initial intention was to see it through middle school. Well, these leaders were just…just…just…. Nothing was really accomplished, ever. One out of four meetings actually had a point. When nothing got done, the two women would say “Well, you know we’re just volunteers…”

How many times can you hear the words “We’re only volunteers” before you lose it? If you take on a role, any role, you do it to the best of your ability. No excuses.

So my daughter quit.

Her experience with girl scouts taught her all sorts of things, but not the things that she thought she would learn. In her mind, she was going to learn camaraderie, team work, how to build a campfire, how to sew on a button (I still have my girl scout sash complete with lots of patches) Instead, she learned that even adults can make excuses as to why things don’t get done. She learned that if you take on a leadership position it is your responsibility to organize and figure out what the ultimate goal is. She also learned that sometimes you need to cut your losses when your not getting anything out of something.

I also tell my daughter that I am proud of her, and I say it often, whether she has won, or lost, or done nothing particularly special. I joked that yesterday was apparently National Daughters Day, but I sort of feel that every day is daughters day…

I guess we all need to model our behavior on when it’s ok to throw in the towel, and when you need to suck it up. And to not make our kids feel that they have to do things for us. The reason to quit or not quit should never be based on expectations of anyone other than yourself.

I Tried and Then I Didn’t

Let’s give a hypothetical.

You love cooking. When you get to college there are five different cooking clubs, all requiring a try out. You love to cook and bake in all its forms, though you have a slight preference to French cooking. You think you’re a really good cook, and you’ve even won a few cooking contests, and were asked to bake things in High School. You can’t imagine you will have any problem getting into the French cooking club at college.

So you try out for the French cooking club, and you don’t even make it to the second round.

You cry and throw a fit and are inconsolable.

You are upset and can’t believe that you didn’t make the club.

You decide that you are definitely going to try out for the club again.

But you don’t try out for any of the other four cooking clubs. You become obsessed with making the French cooking club.

You try in the spring: you don’t get in. You try the following fall. Don’t get in. Spring: denied.

You still say you love cooking, but somehow you have not tried out for any of the other four clubs. Truth be told, you haven’t really practiced that much either, which is fine, because you only cook for fun.

As the next fall rolls around, you decide not to try out for the French cooking club, or any cooking club. You say all the people in the French cooking club are bitchy and mean and jealous. They don’t like you because you are good but different than them.

You stop cooking.

So here are my questions:

Do we become so focused on one particular outcome that we forget about everything else?

Do we have trouble accepting when things don’t go exactly our way?

Do we make excuses about outcomes because we don’t like to face the reality that we are just not good enough?

Ally mentioned yesterday that before she gives up on something, she thinks about why she wants to, and how her life will change because of it. If you don’t like cooking anymore, if it no longer brings you joy, by all means give it up. Leisure activity should bring you some sort of peace or excitement or a good feeling- it shouldn’t be something that you dread.

But, are you actually going to miss cooking? Do you miss cooking? If so, ask yourself why you can’t try out for one of the other clubs. Are you afraid you aren’t going to make it? Are you afraid to find out that in your small high school you were the king of the world, but in the actual world you’re just another pawn? Are you giving up because you’re “Not good enough”? Is it easier to blame others for your failures? Do you not want to take personal responsibility?

In this scenario- why are you giving up?






I Give

Yesterday I talked about if giving up is a positive or a negative. TJ made the point that perhaps we put too much stock in the thought that we should persevere no matter what.  Does it really matter if we give up? Is dogged determination worth it?

To start, let’s look at what good old Merriam Webster has to say about “give up”:

  1. “to yield control or possession of”
  2. “to desist from”
  3. “to declare incurable or insoluble”
  4. “to abandon (oneself) to a particular feeling, influence or activity”

When you read the first definition, you can automatically understand why I am anti giving up: essentially it means giving up control, and we all know I like to be in control of everything….. There are things that I don’t give up on because I like to put the universe in order- if I give up I let something/one else win. There’s that competitive spirit in there again…. If I really want something, I just give it my all and go for it.

There are times that tenacity pays off. Electricity, telephones, computers, automobiles….Do you think these inventions were done on the first try? There’s a movie coming out soon about Westinghouse, Edison and Tesla- three men trying to light up the skies. How many failures did they each endure? If they gave up, would we be speaking to one another today, at spots across the globe, over invisible connections? We blog because a whole bunch of people did not give up no matter how many failures they endured. Score one for not giving up.

What about sports? Eli Manning beat the Patriots a few years ago with little time left on the clock. He didn’t look at the clock and say, oh there’s a few minutes left, let’s just pack it in. The team, I think, drove about 80 yards to score with about a minute left in the game. Super Bowl Champs. If they gave up, Tom Brady would have a lot more hardware….

So there are times when clearly, tenacity pays off.

But what about other instances? Instances that occur in the lives of normal people?

Books. Should you stop reading a book that you don’t like? If it’s for pleasure, I say stop reading it. It’s not pleasure if you’re torturing yourself. But if it’s a book for school, or work or book club, read the book. And yes, even for book club you should read the book. If no one ever finishes the books, what’s the point of having a book club? And we all know, it’s a MUCH better discussion when we all hate a book.

Activities. Say you sign up for lessons. Should you quit after one or two? You all know I’m going to say “No”. If you liked something enough to sign up for it, you continue. This is especially true for kids. If you sign up for Little League, you go. Period. It’s not all about you: if you are playing on a team, you go to the practices and the games. End. Of. Story. I don’t care if you are the worst one at something. I. Don’t. Care. No one is good at something from the beginning. It’s a rare person that excels the moment they start something. Prodigies are the outliers. The normal person struggles. If you try something new and you don’t get it right away, you are just like everyone else. Deal with it. Life is not easy. Get used to it.

College. My friend has a child who is a Freshman. A classmate of her child dropped out of school less than three weeks into the semester. What? How? I’m sorry, I don’t know the circumstances, but other than a serious illness, I don’t think you should withdraw from college before you’ve even had a quiz. You’ve already paid: finish out the semester. How did you even give it a chance?

Jobs. How long do you wait it out before you quit a job? Do you quit because you don’t like your boss? Do you quit because you’re not making enough money? Do you quit because you want to be promoted faster than they want you to? When is quitting the sound choice, and when is it unrealistic expectations? Is it reasonable to expect a raise within six months of employment? A promotion within a year? You need to really ask yourself  why you want to jump ship.

Relationships. When do you pull the plug on a relationship? Obviously, some relationships are toxic, abusive and/or unhealthy. But what about relationships that don’t fall under those parameters? What about those unions where you’re just not feeling it anymore? We’ve all seen couples that appear golden, and then one day, you find out they split. Do you ever wonder if those couples gave it a chance (again, assuming there is nothing egregious) If your husband leaves the toilet seat up, or your wife nags about the garbage, are those the reasons to divorce? Do we walk away from relationships too quickly?

What are instances where you should never give up, and which are the ones where the towel should be tossed down?



Accepting, Moving On or Quitting

I have a “go down swinging” philosophy. As of last night, the Mets have a less than 1% chance at getting an NL wild card spot, yet I’m still firmly in the believer camp. I think if there’s a shot, you stay with it.

If you’ve been reading me for awhile, you know I have passed to tradition on to my daughter. You try, if you fail you pick yourself back up and try again. Last December she got deferred from her first choice college (which was Harvard, I’ll state that now) she wrote a letter restating her interest and including all the things she had done since her application had been submitted. And them she applied to a whole bunch of other schools. She still wanted to go there, but she knew it wouldn’t be the end of the world if she didn’t get in.

Which it wasn’t. She got into two of her top five choices, spent a month in decision hell, and ended up choosing a school that quite honestly, was and is the absolute best choice for her.

But I digress slightly.

My daughter is and has always been a joiner. Ever since she donned her first Little League uniform at age five, she has been all about clubs. lessons and teams. Her college has a plethora of activities, but since it is a university full of joiners, you need to apply to many of them. And when I say apply, I mean APPLY. She had applications with three or four short answer questions and needed to include a resume. If they approved your application, there was then an interview. My daughter has spent much of September writing and interviewing.

As of this moment in time (and the past ten years) my daughter has dreamed of being a lawyer. She actually loves the law- loves how different people interpret things, the loopholes, etc. So naturally she is looking into clubs where she can nurture this love, and her college has a few. A few of them have no application process, so she just signed on the dotted line. The higher profile clubs have applications, because they have a maximum number of participants that can join. My daughter applied to two of them and got into one of them which is awesome. I relayed this info to one of my friends, but I added the caveat: She really wanted Club X, but didn’t get it. But she’s more than OK with club Y.

And my friend said “Well, she can always apply to Club X next year.”

This is an entirely true statement. My daughter can always apply to this club again next year. But a spot of Club Y is a pretty amazing accomplishment. And I stated this to my friend, to which she responded:

“So she’s giving up?”

Here’s my question: Is it giving up to not apply again? Is it acceptance of what’s in front of you? Is it rationalizing? Or is it just realizing that both clubs are great experience, and still give her a chance to explore something that she loves?

When is something quitting?

Is giving up always a bad thing?

Is it giving up to decide to go a different route because it’s just as good?

Am I rationalizing because it’s my daughter and I think she’s perfect?



Petty, Petty, Petty

I used to have an afternoon ritual. I would make a pot of tea- Kusmi, loose-leaf Darjeeling- the good stuff. I would light a seasonal scented soy base candle. And I would read a chapter of a book or a magazine.

This was a highlight of my day. I would make sure my dog was walked, and I would time it so that I knew my daughter nor husband would be home. I would not look at my phone or social media.

This was my version of meditation.

Then one day I got a letter from my next door neighbor- she asked me to stop burning the candles because she was sensitive to it. Our building does not have a “no candle” policy/ Technically, my apartment could be totally full of candles of various heights and smells, and there is nothing she can do about it. Technically, I could continue doing as I pleased, with no hint of trouble.

After considering the letter, I decided to stop the candle part of my ritual. Though the scent helped me relax, I thought it would be the neighborly thing to do.

We all know that my cat was sick a few weeks ago. After I had bundled her into the carrier, I was walking down the hall to the elevator to take her to the vet. I saw my anti candle neighbor, who has a cat BTW, and I said that my cat wasn’t feeling well. Actually, I probably cry hiccupped as I was saying this because I was a tad emotional at this moment.

You know what my neighbor said?


That wasn’t an extra blank space. That was the answer. She said nothing. She zipped past me as if me and my cat carrier did not exist.

Not. One. Word.

So yesterday, I bought a nice new soy based candle. (Magnolia collection at Target- HGTV should be paying me for the plugs…) and I sat down at my table, picked up my ereader, and lit of sweater weather…..

I know I’m petty. But really, wouldn’t it have been easier to just say “I hope everything is all right.”

Being a good neighbor goes two ways.

A Very Brady Remembrance

1969 was a very important year for me. I began kindergarten. The Mets won the world series. The Brady Bunch appeared on ABC.

8pm. Friday nights. Reruns or not, I was glued to the TV. The Brady Bunch was the show of my youth. I wanted to be Marcia. I wanted a big brother like Greg. I wanted to sit around the kitchen table and have Alice bring me pork chops and applesauce….

Last year, HGTV (another favorite of mine) bought the “Brady” house, the house that was used for the exterior shots during the filming of the TV series. Their plan was to restore the house to its Brady glory. I was excited at the very thought of this. Apparently. I was not the only one excited for this renovation. The premier of “A Very Brady Renovation” was the highest rated premier in HGTV history.

What is it about the Brady’s that gets the hearts of middle aged people pumping? Makes us sing along to the words to the theme song even though 50 years have passed?

Does it remind us of the innocence of our youth? To a time when breaking Mom’s favorite vase was the worst tragedy that could befall us? Does it just remind us of how young we once were?

The Brady kids have aged- the men are all grey now, no longer the dark brown of their youth. The middle row of the tic tac toe board have all passed. The youngest one doesn’t have any curls. But I watch them renovating the house, and once again I am five years old, sitting in the basement of my parents starter house, my stuffed cat Bootsie in my lap. I see “Greg” walk into the room that has been replicated to match his “Dad’s” den, and a tear comes to his eye: something preserved on film has been recreated to the smallest detail, and how can you not become flooded with memories? How can we all not remember all the promise of out youth? The good and the bad of a life lived?

As for the actual renovation of the house…if you’re an HGTV geek you must watch it. The show was filmed on a set, and the inside of the house was nothing like the TV Brady house. To see how the HGTV stars have rebuilt the house, found or created the décor…’s truly extraordinary. They have created wallpaper, crowd sourced accessories…it’s mind blowing to watch how it all happened and  what they have done.

So here’s the story….I get to take a little trip down nostalgia lane for a little while this fall, and it has been a blast. If only the Mets could win the world series…..

Who is Responsible

Yesterday I spoke of my neighbor who is falling deeper into the throes of dementia. I mentioned that her children have been contacted, but have not gotten involved as her mental health declines. Many bloggers felt that morally the children should be helping out the parent. But one blogger simply stated that they are under no obligation to assist.


Are children responsible for their parents?

Is there legal responsibility to care for a parent? I don’t think there is. I don’t think you are bound to assist.

But is it a moral responsibility to take care of your parents? Aging or otherwise?

My Father in law is the type of man who thinks that children should support their parents as they age. I’m really not a fan of this line of thought, especially as he is the type of man who makes money disappear at the drop of a hat or sign of an OTB (off track betting) Should my husband and his sister be forced to support him financially?

If your parent has a substance abuse problem, do you help them through it? Or do you walk away to save your own sanity?

Now let’s switch to the aging process. If a parent is declining in health, should you take them in, or should you get them a caregiver, or put them in a facility? Or should you just let them figure it out? Who makes the decision as to where someone spends their final years? I often say to my Mother “Watch what you say to me because I’m the one making the decision where you spend your final days.” I say it as a joke when she gets a little too intrusive, but really, how much of it is my call?

I remember a conversation I had with a friend. His wife was pregnant with their second child and he said the main on reason to have kids was to have someone to take care of you when you got older. I sort of blanched at him- I mean- this was the early 2000’s. I don’t think that’s the reason you have kids, but he was clear. Kids take care of their aging parents. If they don’t, who will?

What sort of expectation should a parent have of how much support their children will give?

Now let’s segue just a little. As we age, should there be provisions in our living will as to how we want the remaining years of our lives to play out? Should I just give power of attorney to my daughter if I reach 80? Should there be some sort of clause that if my mental capacities diminish to the extent that I am walking around my apartment building knocking on doors saying my son was kidnapped, I must be put into a facility for those with diminishing faculties? Legally, are there things that we should have in place? We all know about DNR’s, but that’s specifically for end of life. What about when there is life still left?

As we deal with a rather large aging population, what should we do?


The Worrisome Neighbor

I’ve spoken of my neighbor K before. K is probably in her early 70’s and used to belong to our building book club. She had a wonderful career and after her retirement she started clicking things off her bucket list, and up until two years ago she led a vibrant active life. Two years. What a difference two years makes.

At first you almost didn’t notice the slips, the odd things that she would say or do. It was east to write it off as senioritis, one of those silly slips that unfortunately accompany age. But the odd behavior escalated, the things that she said and did became worse over time. Her dementia growing each passing day.

Her children got her an aide. And they have since upped it to full time care, a series of aides. This is not always helpful as she likes certain aides more than others. Sometimes, she doesn’t let the aides in the apartment, so they sit in the lobby of our building, waiting and hoping they will be able to do their job. Sometimes she forcibly ejects them from her apartment. And sometimes she calls the police on them. Yes, there have been multiple occasions where you enter our apartment lobby to see a few police officers standing in the lobby. In some cases it’s a very good thing that she called the police: last month after she kicked out her aide and called the police, the police realized that she had left the gas on in her oven….

Her behavior and things she says to others has become increasingly bizarre. I will say hello to her and ask how she is when I see her. A few months ago she would go in and out of lucid behavior so there was a 50/50 chance that she would recognize me and greet me. Last week I said “Hi” to her as I entered the elevator. As I pushed my floor button she looked at me and said “Three. Only evil people live on three. You must be evil. Why are you evil?” Her aide just looked at me and made the face of someone who has no idea what to do. I just smiled and said something non committal and luckily got off quickly. I’m an adult and I get that she’s not all there any more. But what if a kid had been in the elevator?

So we have a situation where she doesn’t let her helpers in, leaves the gas on, and 95% of the time she has absolutely no idea what is going on. As neighbors in an apartment building, what do we do?

Management has tried reaching out to her children, of which she has three. Messages have been left, but no calls have been returned. We clearly have a situation that could become dangerous, but are adult children supposed to be responsible for their parents? They’ve hired help, but what happens when that help is not enough?

I have considered calling social services, yet I feel slightly bad about that. I don’t know why exactly, but I guess it’s sort of “one day that could be me” scenario. Is this a case to reach out to authorities? Would authorities even care? Where would crazy senior women fall on their over burdened list of priorities?

What is one to do when faced with a neighbor clearly falling victim to dementia?