Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pilgrims’ Progress

American essayist Charles Dudley Warner said, “There is no moment of delight in any pilgrimage like the beginning of it.”
I wonder….
Gary and I returned to Virginia from a “last hurrah of summer” family vacation on Block Island, Rhode Island earlier this week.
After a fashion, I think I went beyond my usual limits for this trip. To get “there” Gary and I endured a six-hour bus trip to NYC on Friday that ended with us stepping off into driving rain; a train ride to upstate NY – complete with change of train – on Saturday; and a three-hour car ride with my parents that began before 7 AM on Sunday followed by a 45-minute ferry ride with my entire family.
Phew! I’m exhausted just recounting it.
The vacation, itself, however, was delightful. It was a thrill to see my sister, brother-in-law, three nephews and niece; celebrate my mother’s birthday with her and get some R&R (and work on my tan) at the beach.
Of course, like most good things, it ended too soon.
Luckily (as I prepare for Hurricane Irene to “visit”) we had perfect conditions under which to travel home.
Our selected mode of travel? Amtrak. Which worried me….
The last time Gary and I returned from Block Island via Amtrak was about three weeks after we’d gotten married.
If that trip didn’t test us….
The train got stuck outside Trenton, NJ and we arrived in DC hours after we were due in. Indeed, it was after midnight, and we were hard pressed to find a way to get home. Ultimately, we ended up sharing a taxi with a total stranger. Reflecting on it now still gives me chills….
Traveling to Israel
This trip was infinitely easier. We’ve been married now for more than six years and all we had were two backpacks and copious numbers of snacks. We were ready.
So we’re sitting, relaxing, as the train pulls away from its first stop after ours and a couple, who are obviously Orthodox Jews, come walking through our car lugging two enormous suitcases.
The man takes in the do-rag on my head (used to keep my hair out of my face, not to cover it for religious reasons, but what does he know?) and says something to me about  having a long way to go or some such thing.
I say, innocently, “Where are you going?” expecting an answer along the lines of “Baltimore” or “Penn Station in New York.”
Looking me square in the eye, he replies, “Israel.”
I was a bit taken aback and could only offer this thought: “If you’re planning on getting there by Amtrak, you’re got a really long trip ahead of you!”

Written for The Writers’ Post weekly blog hop # 11. Theme: “Beyond the Limits”

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fact or Factoid? Curious or Criminal?

There wasn't just a single letter.

After graduating from college in 1991, I went to Israel and lived on a kibbutz for several months where I participated in an "Ulpan" – a Hebrew language and cultural education program. The students in the ulpan hailed from all over the world – France, England, New Zealand, South Africa and, of course, several from the US of A.

Now, keep in mind that those were the days before the Internet and email and instant messaging via Facebook. Those were also the days when unlimited long distance and international calling didn't exist and it was crazy expensive to make international calls. So we (gasp!) wrote letters.

At that time, which, truth be told, wasn't that long ago, air mail letters could be written on separate sheets of incredibly lightweight paper sometimes referred to as "onion skin" or they could be written on single sheets that were folded and sealed with tabs.

My Dad wrote to me ... gosh ... virtually every day, I'd say. A prolific writer and avid storyteller himself with unintelligible longhand, at some point Dad started writing on the outsides of the tabs, eager not to have me miss a single detail of what was going on "across the pond."

If memory serves, after watching some CNN newscasts, Dad started putting little "quizzes" in the space afforded by the tabs used to seal the letter closed. The brain-teasers, such as they were, all began with the same words, "Fact or Factoid?" I really enjoyed them.

Unbeknownst to me, other ulpan students were enjoying them too...

You see, in an effort to maintain as cohesive a group as possible, all the ulpan students lived together in two or three buildings. Because we all roomed with each other, our mail was bundled together, too. Typically, one person would pick it all up from the post box and then distribute it to the lucky recipients.

Now, in the US, there are all sorts of laws regarding opening someone else's mail. But from what I can gather it is not illegal to read someone else's open mail. Then again, I wasn't in the US, but old habits die hard...

So you can imagine how surprised I was when, one day, one of my classmates – a strapping guy from New Zealand – came up to me, cocked his head, gave me a look and said, "So Daphne, what's with this 'Fact or Factoid?'"

I didn't know whether to be vexed that he was reading my mail or impressed that he could decipher my Dad's writing.

This was written for the BFF Inspiration #117 - The Letter.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Darker Side of Daph

Have you ever noticed how automatic spell check or auto generated wording/phrasing options sometimes present you with an “unexpected” alternative?
As I've now mentioned a few times, I have been selected as a finalist in a national blogging contest for a website called Beliefnet. I knew a decision was imminent, but I wasn't sure quite how I’d find out who’d been selected.
I needn’t have worried.
In my email yesterday was one that said I had “new activity” on my Beliefnet profile. I checked my Beliefnet mailbox to find a one-word message. It merely said, “Congratulations!” I was pretty sure in that moment that I knew what I was being congratulated on/for, but I figured it was wise to double check.
The next Beliefnet FLOGGER
I assumed that the announcement would be right on Beliefnet’s home page as it is now, but I was a bit premature. Their web folks hadn’t yet put up the announcement. So I went searching….
I thought about how best to look and concluded that, at minimum, I needed to include the words “Beliefnet blogger.” Ultimately, I opted for the entire phrase “Be the next Beliefnet blogger.”
The search did return several possible links, but it also came back with another idea for what I might have been looking for …
Underneath the line that showed me how many results I had to choose from, in bright blue writing was written, “Did you mean be the belief net [sic] flogger?”
Now that’s a job I hadn't thought of.  I know though, that Beliefnet promotes itself as a “family friendly” website, so I don’t think they’d go for it.
I wonder if they'd reconsider though if I don't win the contest ....

Sunday, August 14, 2011

See Change, Sea Change

I'm having some serious separation anxiety right now, but not because my children are leaving home. I don't have kids, which makes it harder to worry about them.
No, I'm having separation anxiety ... about my hair. Tomorrow afternoon, I'm scheduled to get my hair styled. I haven't had a significant cut now for almost three years. Any time a scissor has come near my head in the last 32 months, it's been to manage split ends, even out the bottom and the like. 
Next weekend, my husband and I are going on vacation with the rest of my family -- my mom, dad, sister, brother-in-law and my four nephews and niece and I'm thinking it's time to "kick it up a notch."
 The $64,000 question is just how far am I willing to go?
I recently saw a picture of myself from high school, at which time, I all but had a buzz cut. Not so flattering on a young girl.... When it comes to my hair, I've been at both ends of the spectrum.
When I started high school, I had hair down to my waist. That didn't work out so well either. I grew up in New York City and can remember being on the subway and trying to get out of my seat, only to find that I was pinned down. Why? When I sat down, I'd casually flipped my hair over the seat behind me; now the person in that seat was leaning back and in so doing, anchoring me down by my hair.
It's awkward to say to someone, "Pardon me? Can you lean forward to free up my hair so I can get off the train?"
These days I travel by car....
My hair, baby!
The irony for me about having long hair is that I'm forever putting it in ponytails, buns or a do-rag to get it out of my face. So wouldn't it just be easier to lop it all off? Odds are ....
But like an old shoe or pair of sweats, I've "grown comfortable in" my hair. 
What to do, what to do? And then there are all those "what ifs." What if the stylist mangles my locks? What if I end up with a poodle on my noodle that I hate? What if he decides that he knows what's best for me against my own better judgment? Help!
God bless the Internet. The answer to my questions/dilemma arrived by email the other day. The inspirational message featured uplifting quotes on embracing change including this one from British iconoclast Hazel Henderson, "If we can recognize that change and uncertainty are basic principles, we can greet the future and the transformation we are undergoing with the understanding that we do not know enough to be pessimistic."
So true. 
So, now, when I look in the mirror, I see change -- sea change -- and I'm embracing it.

**This was written for the BFF prompt Mirror Mirror** 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Nice Body … of Water!

I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours.
What feats took place upon these shores?

These sandy banks hold great potential!
(Or so I’ve been told, in tones confidential.)

Perhaps pirates alighted here long ago.
(I’m guessing. I don’t really know.)

Maybe people gathered for good drinks and good eats?
There may not have been feats, but there surely were “feets.”

It’s possible, too, that children danced and played,
And oohed and aahed at the sand “art” they made.

I’ll say it again, I’m just not sure.
Keep in mind, these are just my “musings du jour.”

When I find out, however, I’ll not be complacent,
But instead share my treasure – my wisdom nascent.

Right now the answer seems just out of reach.
I’ll check more tomorrow. I’m off to the beach.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

You’re Italian, Kid? In Your Dreams!

Sad, but true.
Since I was a teenager, it's been a desire of mine to "be" Italian. It's not as easy as that, though. You don't become Italian like you become a blond or become younger, with a bit of dye here and a nip/tuck there. Indeed, if you’re like me – born in America to two American parents and married to an American living in America – you stand no chance of becoming Italian.
In accordance with Italian nationality law, with no connection to Italy via marriage or parents, I can never be granted Italian citizenship. It’s just one of those “things” I’ll have to live with.
But I can be Italian by association and that’s how I make it work for myself.
I participate in a "Meetup" group ( in DC for Italian language lovers. There are more than 2,000 group members. On average, about 40 to 50 of us meet regularly at a restaurant in DC where, for two to three hours we hang out, eat and chat – in Italian. It’s wonderful.
Inevitably, each time I attend, there are newcomers. So, some of the questions are the same from week to week: “Why do you choose to speak Italian?” “Do you study Italian somewhere in DC?” “Are you Italian?”
That last question always pains me. I want so much to say, "Yes," but I can't and I’ll never be able to.
So instead, I say I grew up in Brooklyn and I'm Italian in my heart.
Now, if only what came out of my mouth was Italian ….
Seriously, I jest. My language skills are pretty good, but compared to some of the Americans who attend the Meetup, I’m just a beginner.
Mama mia! I had no idea I spoke Italian so well!
Picture then, please, my absolute thrill and delight when, about a month ago, I reflected on the fact that the night before I’d been speaking fluent Italian. Bravissimo!
Alas, the feeling only lasted for a moment. I looked around, realized it was morning and I was in bed and that my superior language skills were, literally, a figment of my imagination.
Next time someone at Meetup asks if I’m Italian, I’m simply going to say, “In my dreams.”

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

It's a Wonder Full Life

Hey Y'all!
Okay, fine. I'm not Southern. I'm from Brooklyn. Can you cut a girl some slack though? 
Seriously though, I'm new to The Writer's Post and I'm trying my hand at this weekly blog hop thingumabob. 
Assuming I "get it," I'm supposed to blog about a particular topic. This week it's my personal seven wonders. 
I'm not sure I have seven, but I have a few, anyway ... . Since I don't care much for blogging unless I can generate a laugh,  I ask your forbearance if my wonders come off a bit "tongue-in-cheek." 
(1) Oh good. I hit the wrong key and mistakenly started with number 10 just now. That should give you some idea of what direction I'm headed in. I wonder why, at age 42, I still haven't learned that if I'm tired, I should go to sleep. 
I can hear just fine, but can you ask your question in MY language?  
(2) Nice. I just typed number one again. Fool me once ... . I wonder why if someone doesn't understand what I'm saying, I will repeat myself in a louder voice. The listener isn't hard of hearing ... . 
(3) Woohoo! I typed a three with no trouble at all! I wonder why people decide to go into service-oriented businesses, such as being a waiter or a retail clerk and then routinely cop an attitude with their customers. What's up with that? 
(4) On a serious note, I wonder why it is that the people who die young are always the really nice ones. Y'know, the ones you feel fortunate and blessed to know? 
(5) I've written a spoof on a country music song, inspired by a trip to Nashville, TN, earlier this year. I wonder, might it be my breakout hit --  the one that'll get me "discovered" and make me a million overnight? And do I dare post it on Youtube -- with me singing? 
(6) I wonder, is it cynical of me to not want to know exactly what my girlfriend who is getting married in two months is doing to prepare for her wedding right now? And now? And now?

Addressing invitations... .

(7) Why, I wonder, is it that the items that I pick off the rack marked "Clearance" are always full price?
Well how do you like that? I do have seven wonders ... . But wait! There's more!
(8) I wonder, if I really knew what people thought of me, would I be apt to change my ways? Just sayin'... .