Sunday, November 30, 2008

Because Everything Tastes Better With Dirt

One of my great joys in life, as you may have already ascertained if you've read my blog in the past, is listening to my kids mangle the English language. I don't know why. If you were an adult, I'd want to launch an RPG at you for misusing our esteemed language, but if you're a kid--well, it's just adorable.

One of my son's newest malapropisms is getting some extended play in our household. You see, he is one of those kids with an extremely limited diet (yeah, yeah, lecture me all you want. . .I know). One of the few things he eats is soy bacon, otherwise known as fake bacon around here. And it probably would not surprise you to learn that he is very particular about how is fake bacon is prepared. It has to be chewy, oily and a bit underdone. Well, sometimes Mama and her microwave don't quite measure up to his standards.

Recently, when this happened, my son yelled: "Mama my bacon isn't SOILISH." I looked at him in askance and said, "What?." "Soilish, Mama, soilish, my bacon isn't soilish enough." "Soilish"? I replied. I'm thinkin': his bacon isn't dirty enough? What the hell is this child's problem? Finally, after a lot of digging, I was able to figure out what he truly wanted. He wanted his bacon oily and limp (sounds appealing, no?). Somehow, he must have gotten the words soy and oil all mixed up, and came up with "soilish." Once I was finally able to stop howling with laughter, I wiped the tears from my eyes and asked him if he knew what soil is. He shook his head, no, so I explained--and he thought that was pretty darn funny--but he still wanted me to re-cook his bacon to "soilish" perfection.

Plopping a new plate down in front of him, I said with a grin: "Because everything tastes better with dirt."

And from there a mantra was born...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Hey there...remember my friend Jerry? Well, I'm continuing to steal his words for my posts, as my well has temporarily (I hope only temporarily) run dry. I couldn't sum up the Thanksgiving holiday any better than he has. And let's all do as Jerry suggests...give thanks for what we have and remember to reach out to those we care about.

Thanksgiving Again!

Posted 10 hours ago

One of the first words that our girls learned was “again.” When Emma and Claire were very little, if they liked what you were doing and wanted you to repeat it – they would say “Again!”

If you have little kids – or spend any time with little kids -- you know what I mean: Playing peek-a-boo. “Again!” Tickling their sides. “Again!” Pushing them on a swing. “Again!”

Never has the word “Again!” been more powerfully on my mind than right now. As I think about what I am thankful for this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the ability to say and do “again” this year. To host Thanksgiving, to accompany the girls on Halloween and to the pumpkin patch, to celebrate the Jewish holidays this fall, to be at the girls’ bus stop when they get home from school, to cheer Emma at her soccer games, to walk the Billy Goat Trail, to play poker with the guys. I could list hundreds more activities. Pretty simple things. But things that I did not know I would be able to do this year, and I am grateful for the ability to have done them all again.

I am also grateful for lots of things that were “firsts” for me in 2008 – including Space Mountain, Bermuda, the GammaKnife and visiting the Golan Heights. This list is long as well, and I am hopeful that I will have the opportunity to say and do “Again!” for many of them in the months and years ahead. (More like Bermuda, less like the Gamma Knife. Although I am glad to know it is there if I need it again.)

I looked back at what I wrote last year on Thanksgiving. And I am still grateful for each of the things I outlined here last year. I am not sure I would say things much differently than I did last year. Perhaps I am just a little bit more grateful to be able to share last year’s posting with you -- “Again!”

Wishing you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving.



Posted Nov 20, 2007 10:11pm

On Shabbat, Lisa and I talk with our girls about what each of us is thankful for that week. But on Thanksgiving, we tend to focus more on drinking, overeating, football and, in more recent years, karaoke.

This year is, well, a little different. And I wanted to let you know some of the things that I am thankful for. This Thanksgiving I am particularly grateful for:

• Waking up each morning, the summer-like weather we had through the end of October, and the beauty of leaves changing colors.

• The fact that I am not spending my time angry or bitter. That I can concentrate on getting well and enjoying life. That I laugh every day and have not lost my sense of humor.

• My brother Norm and my friend Steve, who are both doctors. When I could not mentally or emotionally sort through my options for treatment this summer, they, along with Lisa, did it for me.

• Michael Nissenblatt, the oncologist who treated me the second time I had cancer in 1984. Mike taught me then and reminds me now to look hell in the eyes and to fight back. His ability to inspire is unmatched.

• Memories of my mother. Her perseverance for years in the face of illness provided invaluable life lessons. If I am pushing my body too hard now, if I am spending more time with people than resting, if I am crazy enough to host 22 people for Thanksgiving two days after chemo, it is because I saw my mother push herself long after others would have quit.

• My sister-in-law Barbara, who has guided Lisa and me in addressing perhaps the most difficult part of our situation -- our kids’ emotional well being. Thanks to Barbara, we know exactly what to say when the girls ask tough questions.

• My team at Johns Hopkins, in whose hands I feel both comfortable and confident. I am so fortunate that JH is only an hour away from Bethesda. It has helped us to live a normal life in the most abnormal of circumstances – while receiving the best medical care in the world.

• The results of my scan on October 25.

• The pharmaceutical industry, whose discoveries are keeping me alive.

• That my side effects have been tolerable. I am really grateful that I can eat virtually all the foods I like – and that they taste perfectly normal to me. (Today it is worth pointing out – turkey is not a food I like. Never liked it. Still don’t.)

• The Washington Wizards, for not going 0-82. I am glad to have something to cheer for this season.

• Casey Jones, who has assumed so many of my responsibilities at CEB. He is an outstanding leader, with a huge heart and great sense of humor.

• Rabbi Greg Harris. He is a friend and teacher as well as a spiritual leader and provides me with incredible comfort, strength and a greater sense of purpose.

• Our family and many friends. The Beth El, Bannockburn and CEB communities. The well of support is much deeper and wider than I could ever have imagined. Your good thoughts, prayers, great meals and non-random acts of kindness have sustained us. We will be forever grateful.

• Lisa, whose beauty, strength, intelligence, persistence and compassion sustain me and comfort me every day.

• Emma and Claire. They make me laugh, make me proud, make me cry and make me scream. And when I look at them, I am reminded that miracles can and do occur.

For these things, and so much more, I thank God every day.

This Thanksgiving, if your parents are still alive, thank them and tell them you love them. If you have children, thank God and tell your children you love them. And reach out to a friend – maybe one with whom you have not spoken in a while – and say hello.

Happy Thanksgiving. With love and a heart filled with gratitude – Jerry

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Great Obama--a Guest Post

I thought the following might be interesting for you to read. It was written by one of my best friends from law school, Jerry Sorkin. He has given me permission to post it here. Jerry is a tremendous and remarkable person--I wish I could be more like him: This was posted to his John Hopkins Care Pages website. For more than a year, he has been battling Stage IV lung cancer. He is doing amazingly well, and his optimism, humor, humanity and expansiveness are an inspiration. No one who has ever met him has failed to be impressed--or to have become a friend. He's just a lovely human being. So read on. . .and if you wish, keep Jerry and his family (wife Lisa and daughters Emma and Claire) in your thoughts and prayers:

The Great Obama

Twenty years ago, I was a first year law student. I can’t remember who came up with the nickname for our classmate, but there were a few of us who called him “The Great Obama.” I don’t think we ever called him “The Great Obama” to his face – it was a nickname that grew out of the kind of admiration and jealousy that you might expect from first-year Harvard Law students, who all had very high opinions of themselves as well.

From the beginning of law school, he stood out. Smart, articulate, a leader. Ironically, he stood out, in part, for having “real world experience.” Most of my classmates had come to law school straight from college. Barack was a few years older, and when he spoke he could talk about his experience outside of the classroom in a way that few others could.

Not surprisingly, Barack got a lot of airtime in class. And sometime during first year, I learned to do an impression of him that made friends laugh. I can’t do that impression anymore. Over the years his rhetorical skills have improved far more than my ability to impersonate. But every time I hear him interviewed, if he uses the phrase “my sense is…” or uses the word “folks” when he means “people”-- I laugh, remembering him talking in class during our first year of law school.

You could tell from the moment you met him that Barack would do great things; he had the charisma and leadership ability that just made him stand out. But no --- I certainly would not have predicted that he would run for and be elected president. I don’t know that any of our classmates can honestly say that they could have foreseen what has happened since.

When he decided to run for President I had my doubts – too inexperienced, too soon in his political career. But I supported him because of what I and my classmates had seen in him 20 years ago. He was smart, honest, hard-working, cool, and open-minded. Law school was a place with its ideologues on both sides, but Barack was willing to listen to and work with people regardless of their political beliefs. I didn’t think he could win (I had my doubts until Fox news called Ohio for him on Tuesday night), but I figured if he did it would be great. Barack has the characteristics that I wanted to see in my president.

Across the last two years, we have done our tiny part to support his campaign. We’ve had yards signs and bumper stickers for the first time. We’ve attended fundraisers, I’ve made phone calls, Emma and I have been canvassing in Virginia. We’ve even eaten Obamaburgers. And we got on the local TV news for doing so:

I spent the last few days of the campaign volunteering in Virginia, helping to get out the vote. On Monday, the final day of the campaign, we went as a family to canvass in Manassas, Virginia. We stayed that evening to attend the final rally of the campaign -- along with 80,000 other supporters --- at the Prince William County Fairgrounds.

It was very important to me to bring the girls – even though Claire fell asleep before Barack spoke at 10:30 p.m. I wanted them to be a part of history at the rally. To remember that they heard Barack Obama speak the night before he was elected president. But even more importantly, I wanted them to help – even a tiny bit -- on the campaign. I wanted to help drive home the lesson of the importance of working for causes you believe in. It is not enough to sit home and watch it on TV and to wish for something to come true – if you want something to happen, you need to work for it.

One thing that amazed me about the Obama campaign was how many people I know got involved. We had friends and relatives volunteering in Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana and Florida. And many of these were folks like me: People who had never been involved in a campaign before – and they were traveling to battleground states to try to make a difference. Yes, a few of them were law school classmates – but the vast majority was not. They were simply moved by this election to take action.

I believe that – whatever your political beliefs -- electing the first African-American president is both an historic moment and one that makes you proud to be an American. It has been so moving for me to speak to people who see Barack’s election as a validation of the American dream. To speak with immigrants and people of color who can now say to their children honestly, “In America, you can grow up to be anything you want, even President.”

I believe in Barack Obama, and despite the horrible state of current affairs, I believe he and his administration will be able to help right the ship of this country. I believe it because of the character of the man I met 20 years ago. I believe it because I think he will attract a new generation of the “best and the brightest” to come to work in government again. And I believe it because of his (and his campaign’s) ability to motivate millions. If he can run a government half as well as he ran a campaign – as a country, we will be in good shape.

I haven’t done much celebrating since Tuesday night. In part, I’ve been in shock. In part, I’ve just been exhausted. I put all my energy into those last few days of the campaign. But I did not want to wake up the day after the election and see that Barack had lost Virginia by a few votes and know that I might have been able to contribute. Even in some tiny way.

The election has held such a fascination for me, I am certain to go into withdrawal over the next few weeks. Luckily, we have the transition and the inauguration to look forward to.

Oh, and if someone can score tickets to the Inaugural Ball where Springsteen is going to play…let me know.



Oh, and (Karen here. . .), for those who want to know Jerry's background, his undergraduate degree is in economics from Yale and he has spent most of his working life in business-and finance-related fields...

Saturday, November 01, 2008

In Memoriam

Edith K. Lipson May 11, 1924-October 31, 2008

Loving and well-loved; beautiful inside and out. I'll miss you Aunt Edith.