Life Lessons from Grams

April 18 was the Yahrzeit of my grandmother. For you non-Jews, April 18 is the anniversary of my grandmother’s death.. She was 93 when she passed. I miss her every day.  I know I am lucky that I had her in my life for as long as I did. But it does not stop the tears from flowing or the ache in my heart.

She was one of the most amazing women I have ever met. She did the New York Times Crossword daily, worked  out on a regular basis and had an active social life. I loved chatting with her about her life. Not only did I learn something new about her but I almost always got a good life lesson. The following is one of those amazing conversations. If you know me personally, you may have already heard this one. 

One day I decided to ask her about how she got engaged. I knew the story of how my grandparents had met in Minneapolis at a party right after my grandfather had left the airforce.  They told the same story. 

My grandfather had seen my grandmother from across the room, walked immediately up to her and said, “You look tired, you should go home.” 

Yep, you read that right. He insulted her and he married her soon after. I have always wondered how they went from that exchange to getting engaged. The story my Grandmother told me not only gave me a massive laugh but came with three life lessons that I am still trying to live by.

“Well, I was dating this fella,” my grandmother started the story.

“Not grandpa?” I asked.

“No, not grandpa. Anyway, I was dating this fella and no one liked him. So my family sent me to my Aunt and Uncle in Upstate New York where I met another fella and I got engaged.”

“Not grandpa?” I asked again. This is the first time I have heard about any other fella, let alone two or another engagement. 

“NO, NOT GRANDPA! Keep up with me Mara, you asked for this story. Anyway, I came back to Minneapolis to pack up myself and get ready to move to New York and get married. And while I was home, you know I went to that party and met your grandfather,” she responds.

“So then you broke up with the guy from New York,” I said.

“No, I went out on my first date with your grandfather,” she said. I think my jaw dropped. This was the Forties. I had always assumed folks were more conservative back in the day. 

“Were you wearing a ring?” I ask, still trying to understand.

“Yes,” she responded. As I sat dumbfounded by the fact that my grandmother was a bit of a floozy and obviously a badass even when she was young. She continued her story. 

“On our first date, your grandfather laid it out for me. He told me all about what he was going to do for a living, he showed me where he wanted to live. He told me how many children he wanted. When and where he wanted to retire,” she stated.

“Wow. Wasn’t that a bit heavy for a first date?” I ask. Although I was still having an issue wrapping my head around her dating my grandfather while promised to someone else, I was also surprised my grandfather said so much and on a FIRST date.

“Yes, it was but here is the problem with your generation,” she responded. 

And right about now she starts spouting her worldly wisdom. 

“You all don’t see potential. You think about right now. You need to be thinking about the future and where you want to be,” she said.

Now, you may think this is strange that she would say this during a story about her engagement. But this is NOT the first time she has shared this bit of wisdom. She had said this to me about dating on numerous occasions. She was not wrong. Think about the guys you “LIKED” in high school. Would you date them now? Nope, me neither. 

“Ok, so THEN you broke up with the fella from New York and started dating grandpa?” I asked.

“No, then I went out with your grandfather for a couple of weeks. And when the fella from New York came to pick me up, I told your grandfather to skedaddle,” she replied.

And for the second time during this story, she blew my mind. My grandfather was a fighter pilot, a real estate developer and the first entrepreneur I had ever met. He was also one of the most intimidating men ever created. The kind you never ever want to upset. He was the definition of an alpha male. I just didn’t see him skedaddling for anyone. Apparently, for her he skedaddled.

“Well, after the fella was here for a few days I realized I liked your grandfather more so I told him to skedaddle and I called your grandfather,” she continued.

“Ok, so then you dated for like a year? And then got engaged?” I asked.

“No. You sound like your grandfather now. That is what he said. That we would date for a year. Then get engaged. Then married. And I told him, we would be married in the next 6 months or I would find myself another fella,” she stated.

“Grams, you were not even 19 years old, why were you in such an all-fire hurry to get married?” I asked.

And here is the second piece of wisdom. Get ready for it.

“Well, I’ll tell you. By that time, I had tried working. Realized it wasn’t for me. And made alternative plans,” she replied. 

Yep, she had tried working and realized it wasn’t for her. It might be one of my favorite things I have ever heard anyone say. And really, wouldn’t we all like to make that statement?

I did ask what she had done for living that made her feel that way. She had worked for the phone company. She would have told you they were the best employers. And she had worked for Dayton Hudson, a retailer in Minneapolis. She had said they were very good as well. She just realized that it was not for her. She did not want to work for anyone else.

That’s not to say my grandmother did not work. She raised a family. Three successful kids and had a marriage that lasted almost 50 years and only ended with my grandfather’s death. All of that takes work.

After she finished telling me this story I asked her if she ever wanted to get married again after my grandfather’s death. He died a little over 20 years ago. She was emphatic in her answer as she was about most things in her life.

“No! Why would I? I was raised in a house of five women. We never needed a man, even if others thought we did. I loved your grandfather but I am just fine without another man. And I already took care of one sick man, at this age that would be what I am dealing with,” she answered. 

Can’t say that I blame her logic. I didn’t like the idea that she was alone. Then again she rarely was with all the family and friends who were around her. And she always seemed happy which is more than most folks can ask.

And per usual talking to my grandmother taught me three life lessons:

1.     Potential. Look for the possibilities, not just what is in front of you.

2.     If it’s not for you, DON’T DO IT! Find what is for you and then go for it.

3.     Stick to what makes you happy, not what others think you should do.

One last thing, as I get older I realize how absolutely blessed I was to have had my grandmother as long as I did. That I was able to ask the questions and receive answers. We spend so much time these days finding our answers through Google, Wikipedia and our phones that we forget to connect to the people around us. To the people we know and love. So I guess there is one last lesson – turn off the tech and turn to the person next to you. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. 


Change is hard. Actually now that I think about it  – FEAR is harder. Fear of Change. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the known. Fear of abandonment. Fear is debilitating for me. Fear makes me spin out of control and stops me in my tracks all at the same time. 

I have wanted to move out of my apartment for over 5 years. And yet, I have not moved. What is stopping me? Fear. I fear rejection. I fear there is nothing I can afford that I will like. I fear that I won’t get the house. I fear that I will pick the wrong neighborhood. I fear that I will pick the wrong building. I fear that I will get it and not be able to afford it. In the end that fear has kept me in an apartment I do not like and have outgrown.

I need a new car. Everyone has said now is not the time to buy. I should have bought during the pandemic. But the fear of not having a job stopped me. The fear of not being approved for the loan stopped me. The fear of choosing the wrong make, wrong car, wrong seller. In the end that fear has kept me using Uber and Lyft and watching my savings dwindle.

I don’t love my job. I am so thankful for it. It pays well. I work remotely. There are so many things to love about it. Unfortunately, I don’t like the actual job or my boss as a boss. But I fear losing it through something I did. Or something I did not do. I fear the company not being able to afford me. I fear being rejected. I fear being told I am too old, too fat, or too experienced to get the position I want. I fear not being able to find a job that pays me what I am already making and more.  In the end, I may stay too long at my current job and then be forced out instead of choosing to leave. This has happened before.

I want a community. My biggest fear is being alone. This is a fear that I find stranger than most as I didn’t have it until I became an adult. When I was a kid it was my monther’s biggest fear. So much so that she stayed in relationships that never should have started and she married men that she was not happy to be with.

As a kid I could not understand her fear of being alone. I wanted to have my own house. To live alone. To not have anyone care if I ate after 8 pm or slept until noon. As an adult, I wish there was someone who cared. Someone who wanted to know that I made it home ok. That I am eating correctly. Someone to talk to about the bad and the good days. Someone to celebrate and someone to grieve with me. Someone to encourage, challenge and love me. I fear that I will never find that someone and yet, am I really looking? 

I fear that fear is going to stop me from living the life I crave and deserve. It already has. The question now is, how do I stop fear?

Roller Coasters

It was my grandmother’s birthday on Monday. She died in April. It feels weird to “celebrate” her life when she is no longer alive. It feels stranger to not acknowledge it at all. I spent some of the day crying and some of the day laughing thinking about her. A friend asked what was the one thing I wished I could have that I didn’t have on her birthday besides her. I said, I wished I could send her flowers again this year. Last year she kept forgetting that she had already thanked me and called me three times. I want that back. I thought about posting the story of her engagement. It is my favorite story of the many she told me. But it needs to be edited and it was too painful for me to do on Monday. 

Wednesday I had a great business meeting. It gave me a huge high. It made me feel like she was watching from above and cheering me on. I felt like I could rule the world. I was ready to take on any new challenges. I felt her spirit and love of life surrounding me. 

Thursday I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t sleep until it was time to get up. I didn’t feel like getting dressed. I forced myself to make a cup of coffee. To make a list for what I wanted to get done. Then a list for what I needed to get done. I worked on creating connections. I did another business call that went ok. I cried. I didn’t laugh. 

Friday is my birthday. I have plans for dinner with my sister but I haven’t really talked about it with anyone else. A couple of friends have asked, I’ve responded but not with any real enthusiasm. I love other people’s birthdays. I think it is a day that everyone should be celebrated. I plan things for many of them. And yet on mine, I feel sort of blasé. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about the celebration of life. Not surprising with so much death in my life this year. Not surprising with my birthday coming up. I have come to the following conclusion. 

Life is like roller coasters. Big climbs. Jerks around many corners. And scary drops. But if your smart, you raise your hands in the air and scream and laugh through them all because it’s the best damn ride in the park. 

Call Squiggy…

DISCLAIMER: Let me just handle this now before we start this story. Yes, the below is a true story. Yes, it happened. No, I am not going to tell you the name of the band, unless you know me and I am comfortable enough to drink with you. And last, yes, I have stranger stories. Ok, with that out of the way….

In my early twenties I worked as a production assistant for live shows. The days were long but they always ended with live music or comedy. For me that made all the menial tasks worth it. Normally I ran around in a fifteen passenger van doing errands for the promoter, the band or a combination.  I was good at what I did. I was also liked. I could read a room. No when to talk and when to keep quiet. It was a few years in when I received a call from a promoter asking me not to run errands but instead to be a conduit between the band and the promoter. I was to run the other runners or PAs. 

I would be in a room with the promoter, take phone calls from the tour manager and get the band things after getting approval. There had apparently been friction between the promoter and the band but they were stuck with each other for the next 18 months. This happens a lot. This was however the first time I had been asked to straddle the line between the two. 

I would wait for the phone to ring and receive the band’s request. Most of the time I would get asked for something simple like five reams of paper. I would ask the promoter sitting behind me if it was approved and then send a “runner” out to get it. When the runner returned, I would bring the item to the band or tour manager.

For the most part I was asked for things that were necessary and easy. And by the second hour the promoter told me to use my discretion and just come to him if there was something I wasn’t comfortable approving.

The tour assistant was a lovely, soft spoken woman. She would call and say, “Hi Mara, this is Flo, we need….” And I would say it out loud in my little room and everyone would hear me. I would write the item down on the pad next to me as well as where I thought my “runner” should go to get it. I would tell Flo how long it would be or she would tell me when she needed the item. All worked well for about three hours and then THE call came.

“Hi Mara, this is Flo, we have a birthday for one of the back-up dancers today and we are going to need a few things.”

This is common when bands are on the road. They become a family and they find things to do as a family such as celebrating birthdays, playing softball, visiting the zoo, having a family dinner. You get the picture. 

“We would like everything by 2:30. Can we get a phallic cake, preferably black with white candles? Although candle color is not super important. As well as plates and napkins,” said Flo.

“One black phallic cake with white candles, no problem,” I reply.

Then write it down on my pad as well as the place I have purchased them in the past. You read that correctly. Where I have purchased them in the past. It really was not that unusual to be asked for phallic or breast cake. I knew the bakery that would have them in stock. Don’t be judgmental, you don’t have any privacy on a tour. You need a sense of humor. Most of the time a juvenile one.

“Great, thanks Mara. We also have a tradition for the dancers that we change up a little for each one. Today we are going to need 4 midget strippers, preferably female. Again if they could be here by 2:30.

“Four female strippers, wait did you say MIDGETS?” 

The room behind me, filled with men talking, instantly goes silent.  Everyone is staring at me. Nothing will stop a conversation quicker than strippers or midgets. It was like a bomb went off. If I wasn’t slightly anxious, I would have burst out laughing. As it was the only thing going through my mind was where was I going to find strippers that were midgets? And was that the politically correct term? Could you even ask for them?

“Yes, midgets, preferably female as it is a male dancer and by 2:30, please. Do you need anything else from me?” Flo asks.

Hmmm, now I get some strange requests. Have even been asked for strippers and ladies of the evening but this is a first. Midget Strippers. I am not even sure where to start, let alone in under 3 hours. Still, it is the job. 

“Nope, we are good. Let me see what I can do,” I respond.

The first call I make is to the nicest strip club in town. The one that not only do you know that your boyfriends have been to but that you may have actually gone with them or with a group of your girlfriends.

“Hi, is the manager in? I am working a concert over at the arena and we are looking for some entertainment.” I was still shaky on the whole midget strippers term and I didn’t want to offend anyone. This was my first call. By the time I was on my third I was more direct.

“Hi, I am looking to hire four midget strippers and I need them in 2 hours, do you have any?”

All that was going through my head at this point was that I have a college degree. Not one of my classes had prepared me for this job. Were there classes that would?

After my seventh call, I was feeling desperate. What if Minnesota didn’t have midget strippers? What would be the alternative to offer? I am a deep believer that even if you can’t get exactly what someone needs you can come close. I am not sure what to offer as an alternative or what would be considered coming close! But on the tenth call I finally received a promising lead.

“You have to call Squiggy, he handles all the specialty dancers.” 

See, I knew there was a better term.

So I call Squiggy, and I tell him what I need and that I now need it in an hour. He tells me it is not a problem; he only has one question. Wait for it.

“Do you want them with or without animals?” he asks.

My mind just blanked.  Animals? Is this a legit question? Do I call Flo? Ask the promoter? Can we bring animals into the arena? I’ve seen dogs. I guess we could. 

I make an executive decision, no animals.  Whenever I tell this story to friends or family everyone asks the one question I did not. WHAT TYPE OF ANIMALS? 

At 2:30, four very pretty, very short ladies show up with two very big bodyguards. I walk them down to the dressing room where we have decorated, set out the phallic cake (yes, we got a black one) and depart. I don’t want to stay. I don’t need to have my education enhanced.  I am almost back to my little room when over the radio sounds. 

“Mara, this is Flo, our guests need something to play their music on.” 

I almost fell over. The tour I was working on had 55 tour trucks, normal tours have 5! It had a truck that just carried Segways. No one had a portable speaker? And the ladies could come with animals but no way to play their music?

Luckily, I had one in my office. Always good to be prepared.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, this is not the strangest job story I have to tell you. On the other hand, this story is a perfect example of two great lessons learned. One, no matter the task, there is always a solution. And two, be prepared to make a lot of calls. 

Oh, and if you need a specialty dancer in Minnesota call Squiggy!

To Curse or Not to Curse

It’s ninety degrees outside and humid. Things are not going according to plan. I was supposed to leave at 9 am. I left at 10:15. I was supposed to be on a train by 11 am. Then by 12:15 pm. I left LA at 1:10 pm. All of the little things that went wrong are too trivial to even write down. If ever there was a time to curse a blue streak, this was it.

I never used to swear. Never understood the need for it. Then I moved to Los Angeles, got a job at a talent agency and realized it was essential. It was a release. I also realized that apart from my friends at the agency no one else shared this view. 

Last, I realized I now couldn’t have a full conversation without swearing. This realization came when I bought a roll of quarters and put a quarter in the jar every time I cursed. When I ran out of quarters in less than 30 minutes, I knew I had an issue. 

I also knew I needed to change. I began asking everyone I knew what word they use instead of cussing. Below are my 10 favorite:

  • What the H or WTF? – Why do we feel that by using initials we aren’t swearing?
  • Frick – I don’t know why but I use all the time. 
  • Judas Priest – this was a term an old high school football coach used. Whenever I use it makes me feel 15 again.
  • Mother Trucker – I know, it is close to the line but that’s what makes it so satisfying.
  • Fudge – yep, been using that one since The Tales of 4th Grade Nothing…..
  • Gosh Dang – I know, sounds a little bit like Mayberry but it works
  • Holy Moses – I love this, is it religious or sacrilegious? Either way, it works for me. 
  • “I cuss in another language” – I had friends who said they never cuss in English, so it doesn’t count. Ummmm, I think someone understands it.
  • Darn it – I never understood this one because I thought darning was fixing.
  • BALLS – which basically sums everything up! 

Have one I am missing? Want to add to the list? Or have a list you want to explore. Hit the button below and leave a comment or send to me to add later..

Alarm Clocks…

The alarm sounds. It’s 6:30 am. I don’t want to get out of bed. I hit snooze.

The alarm sounds. It’s 7 am. I need to go to the restroom. I head back to bed after and set the timer for 1 hour.

The alarm sounds. It’s 8 am. I should go to the gym. I check my email, texts and social media. I set the timer for 45 minutes.

The alarm sounds. It’s 9:30 am. I get up. I make my bed. I wash my face. I brush my teeth. I make a cup of coffee. I should go to the gym. I set the timer for 45 minutes. I watch the news.

The alarm sounds. It’s 11 am. I must have hit repeat by accident. I am starving. I am going to make lunch and then go to the gym. I set the alarm for 1 pm.

The alarm sounds. It’s 1 pm. I remember that that means everyone who works in an office will be at the gym. I will go at 3 pm. I set the alarm.

The alarm sounds. It’s 3:15 pm. It’s so hot outside I don’t want to walk any where. I will go right after dinner. I go back to work.

I have just made dinner and feel like there is something I said I was going to do. Oh that’s right, the gym. It’s 6:30, I will go at 8. I set the timer for 90 minutes.

The alarm sounds. It’s 8 pm. I just want to finish this episode and I will go to the gym. I set the timer for 30 minutes.

The alarm sounds. It’s 8:30 pm. It’s dark outside. I want to be able to sleep tonight. Maybe I should just wait and go first thing tomorrow morning. I set the alarm 6:30 am.

The alarm sounds….

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