Wednesday, January 26, 2005


In order to create there must be a dynamic force, and what force is more potent than love? ~ Igor Stravinsky.

My sister and me, 1963.

My sister and me, 1963.

My brother, bow-unplugged, my sister.


Daniel left for the UK last Thursday, by which time, my entire household was on its way to being down with flu ranging in degrees of severity. It was impossible for me to string a sentence together because all I was doing was sneezing. I have never had such a head cold in my life. It eventually felt like I was screaming, not sneezing. On and on and then on some more, it just did not let up. Marti had a cough, the sounds of which could have scared the scariest of neighborhood dogs. She lay barking in her bedroom and found it difficult to lift her head off the pillow. Alex from her bedroom downstairs echoed these sounds. It seemed that when she would come up for air, she would cough until she ran out of it, would gasp for more and head back to her room.

We all did the best we could and everyone tried really hard not to get on anyone’s nerves … too much. There is nothing more difficult than being surrounded by sick people when you are sick!

Saturday afternoon, the snow started to fall. The snow fell and didn’t stop falling. I tried really hard to get into the poetic beauty of it all. I forced myself to enjoy the silence everyone loves when it snows, I found the snowplough up and down our street artistically inspiring, and the snow carried on falling! I went from window to window and tried my best to ooh and aah it at the wonder of it all with everyone. Give me a frigging break. What we needed was warmth, and sunshine and all the good things that generally contribute to health and vitality. Not zero visibility and the inability to go anywhere or have anyone come see you.

By Sunday afternoon the snow had stopped falling and it was time to start doing things. Ross and I decided to tackle his homework and work on his January book report. During this task, our friend and trusted fire chief made his rounds and came to check on us to see that we were all ok while my husband, his firefighter friend frolicked around Amsterdam having a fine time for the weekend. Normally I would be happy to see the local chief, but he was way too happy, cheerful and energetic for my liking on this particular day. I assured him we were all ok and he was soon on his merry way.

When I eventually sat down to watch Desperate Housewives, I was physically exhausted from the endless bouts of coughing fits I had to endure, and I felt like I just wanted to run away. I looked forward to the next day as my husband the firefighter was due back and I always feel better when he is around.

Of course it was no surprise that school had a delayed opening on Monday. You can imagine my joy when I discovered that there was no hot water and the heating wasn’t working. This is just what I needed to start my week off with.

I came down to my office and got on the phone with the oil company. The conversation went like this:

“Hi, this is Dawn someone from the oil company, how can I help you?”
“Oh, hi Dawn, this is also Dawn, of this address.”
“Mmmmm” said Dawn the Obliging.
“The light on my furnace has gone out for some reason and I have no heat. Please can you arrange for someone to come out and check what the problem is?”
“Ok” says Dawn the Obliging, “I’ll get somebody out there today.”
“Could you give me any idea of how long this is likely to take?” I ask, very politely.
“No, but it will be sometime today” promises Dawn the Obliging.

When I called her back an hour later and asked her if she could please narrow it down slightly as to when I could expect the guy to arrive, she was adamant that it would be “today!” In spite of my most polite efforts, I could not get Dawn the Obliging to understand why I found this response just a touch frustrating. I tried by illustrating to her that “today!” could mean anything between now and 7pm tonight. Perhaps it was the freezing cold feeling that was now starting to sink deep into my bones that prevented me from taking comfort in Dawn the Obliging’s promise that it “will be before 7pm”. Soon after hanging up from her, she called me back and asked if there was any way I could get someone to read the level on the oil tank. Fortunately I have a friend of my stepson’s living with us at the moment, and he was off work for the day. He trundled out in the snow around to the back of the house to discover that there was in fact no oil in the tank.

Suddenly, the problem was truly now one of service as opposed to a customer with a possibly faulty boiler. It was very satisfying listening to Dawn the Obliging become Dawn the Very Obliging. I was now assured that a manager would call me to explain why it was that I had been allowed to get to zero oil. An hour later I called back and found that Dawn the Very Obliging was out to lunch … literally! I did however get to speak with a manager who confirmed that he was a technical manager and I needed to speak to a service manager. He was not sure though if she was back from lunch. Soon enough however, the right manager had left me a voice mail to say that her guy would be there within 20 minutes and in addition to filling the oil tank, he would get the boiler going again.

This was done and by 2.15pm, the house started defrosting and we all starting coming out from under our blankets. I couldn’t help wondering why it is people who should really rather dig ditches than deal with the public, put themselves in the positions they do where they have to deal with the public all day long. When my toes are freezing off and I can’t turn my heat up, at the risk of sounding like a selfish, over-indulged spoilt brat, I get a tad pissed off when the company I pay on time, every month, puts a person with attitude on the line to take care of my needs.

Within an hour or two of the heat coming back on, Dan Dan the Fireman (nah, not Fielding) returned from his business trip. This time he had made use of the limo service the company uses. While driving from Newark to the house, it once again started snowing. It was a quick downfall and had stopped quite a while before he pulled up outside the door. He was welcomed to cheers and screeches of delight from Ross. When they had spoken on the phone on Saturday, Ross mentioned to him that he really needed to get home because we needed him to cook for us, as well as the fact that no-one in this entire house knows how to use spices like he does. This, from the person whose basic food group consists of cucumber and ketchup. Nevertheless, Dad was home and we were all thrilled. About ten minutes later, the doorbell goes and Marti goes to answer it. It is a known fact that most limo/cab drivers from both the New York and Jersey City areas are not very fluent in the lingo of the land. There stands the limo driver who mumbles something at Marti. She responds very politely and tells him that she is sorry but she didn’t understand what he wanted from her. He ironically responds with “what’s the matter, don’t you speak English?” To cut a long and unbelievable story short, said limo driver feels that as it was Daniel he brought home, it is now Daniel’s responsibility to come and shovel him out the snow where his car is stuck at the top of our road. Being civic minded, Daniel starts suiting up while I insist that at this stage I would have two words for the limo driver and they would not be “Bon Voyage”. The highlight of the limo driver story came after Daniel and stepson’s friend had now pushed the vehicle 80 ft up the road. Mr Limo Driver proceeded to tell Daniel that he should now give him the snow shovel incase he should get caught in more snow on his way back to Jersey City. The “Bon Voyage” theory was applied and Daniel returned home with our snow shovel.

There are many days when one says things like “you gotta love New Jersey”, this was not one of them!

Ross' friend braved the elements and came over to play.

View from my livingroom window in the Spring.

View from my livingroom window on Saturday.

Monday, January 17, 2005


Daniel is leaving on Thursday for a week away on business. He will be going to the UK and will be in Amsterdam for the weekend. It’s nearly two years since I was there.

Just this last week I was reminded of the magical Amsterdam summer in 1995 when we were living on a houseboat on the Prinsengracht (Prince’s Canal). My friend Brenda from South Africa came to spend time with us and have a reunion with her daughter Jacqui who had been traveling around Europe for 8 months. In an email I received this week from Brenda, she told me how her cousin Lynn had found a postcard we had written to her from Amsterdam and how hilarious it was. I replied to Brenda and told her that I do recall us writing it, but that the contents escape me.

I think one of the most bizarre experiences I had in Amsterdam took place in the bathroom, loo, w.c., or what ever word best describes the bog to you. For those people who might not have had the pleasure of visiting Amsterdam, it is really hard to adequately describe how limited space is in that city. In good weather, cafes set tables up on the sidewalks and it is a treat indeed to sit there and watch the world go by. One such summer day, Jacqui, my newfound friend, a female version of Crocodile Dundee, Carlia, from Australia and I, were sitting and enjoying the sunshine and drinking endless cups of delicious Dutch coffee. I got up and excused myself and headed for the bathroom. The whole café was not much bigger than a parking garage for one car. In the right back corner was the bathroom. If you had not been there before and asked to be directed to this room, you would be surprised as until it would be pointed out to you, you could safely have assumed those doors in fact opened onto a broom closet. Fortunately the volume of the music and conversation would drown out all and any bathroom symphonies.

A few seconds after I sat down, I felt the most excruciating sensation in my armpit or was it my right tit? I had no way of being sure immediately but all I knew was that I was in serious pain. I put my hand into my t-shirt and as my fingertips got to my right armpit, I felt it. The flutter and rrrrrrrr of wings. “Shit!” was all I could think to say and I now realized I had in fact been stung by something that felt larger than a bee. By no means do I consider myself a tall person. Under normal circumstances, sitting in a closet with my pants and underwear around my ankles and my knees touching the doors would not be challenging or uncomfortable. Suddenly, however, I felt the size of a giant and all I knew was that I needed to get my t-shirt off and this flapping, stinging monster out of there and away from my tit. I started lifting my t-shirt off but was really scared of the monster biting me on my face on its way out of my shirt. I had to pay close attention to my elbow movements because free thinking, smoke clouded Amsterdam or not, there was no way I was letting the doors burst open onto a full café with me topless, by this time braless, on the bog, with my pants round my ankles. No one in the café was stoned enough to survive this picture, believe me.

In what felt like an eternity, I freed myself of the t-shirt and as far as I could tell, the flapping monster. I finished up all remaining matters, put my bra and shirt back on, and if I say so myself, sauntered out the closet showing not the slightest sign of having been innocently attacked in possibly one of the most (or maybe second most) compromising positions you could ever find yourself in, in a room the size of a broom closet.

I approached the table, stood there in a well contained state of shock, and explained to my friends that I had just been stung on the tit and that I really needed to get home as a matter of urgency. Home was fortunately a very short distance from where we were. I felt a strong need to call Daniel at work and told him that I was not sure if I was still allergic to bees as I had been as a child. By this time, my tit was starting to feel like it might have been bitten by what could have been an alligator who hung out in the broom closet they had chosen to place the loo in. Let’s not forget people, this was downtown Amsterdam.

Daniel suggested that I get myself to a doctor as soon as possible. I knew there was one a short distance up the canal so Jacqui and I started making our way over there. We got to the house and followed the directions as written on the sign above the door to the basement entrance. There was no-one in the waiting room so we stood at the bar type counter and waited for someone to come out from the back office. A gentleman came through, greeted us and I launched right into it. I lifted my t-shirt, exposed my tit, and informed the gentleman that a bee had just stung me. I was shocked when I saw how my tit had swelled up and the flaming red skin tone lead me to believe there was indeed some kind of allergic reaction taking place. With a gentle smile and a slight frown on his brow, the man said quietly, “You must be looking for the doctor. He lives next door.’ “Oh, really?” I said, “Well, thank you and dowee.” I looked at Jacqui and recall saying something like “I don’t frigging believe that I just walked into some man’s house, assumed he was a doctor, and took my tit out in his living room!”

We eventually made our way over to the pharmacy and returned to the boat with a tube of cream of some sorts. Daniel came flying down the stairs a few minutes after us and was very relieved to find me alive and well. I had survived the loo monster and my tit made a full and speedy recovery.

Just to clarify, “dowee” is a Dutch greeting pronounced do-wee. It’s their answer to “see ya”.

The magic of Amsterdam at night

Sunday, January 16, 2005


He just keeps on doing it! OLD HABITS DIE HARD is a great song even thought I haven't yet seen the movie. I heart Mick even more.
I haven't seen RAY yet either, but *sob* any man who can *gulp* be that moved when talking about his departed grandmother, deserves acknowledgement *sniff*.
Thank you Robin Williams ~ I told Daniel I want a "Wifetime Achievement Award" ~ I am sure any wife would agree that this is a super cool idea.

Friday, January 14, 2005


Just before we left England, we had the good fortune of meeting a South African couple that was visiting mutual friends in London. Gavin and Sandra are from Canada and have been mentioned here before.

When we arrived in the USA we connected and while speaking on the phone one day, I invited them to come stay with us for a week while they participated in a trade show in NYC. Although this was almost like asking a blind date to spend the night, I somehow knew that things would work and it would not feel awkward in spite of the fact that we all really didn’t know each other.

The week passed and when they left, there was a natural knowing they would be back any time they wanted … the sooner the better. At the time they were exhibiting at three shows a year, two in NYC and one in Philadelphia. New Jersey was therefore the obvious place for them to stay.

During the time we spent together and got to know each other, Sandra shared the struggle her and Gavin had gone through over a 7-year period to get pregnant. Anyone who has been through a similar experience will know only too well the emotional roller coaster you have to endure when you are brave enough to embark on the road they chose.

After unsuccessful IVF Treatments, on July 10th, 2003, one of Sandra’s frozen embryos was transferred to their surrogate. A pregnancy test two weeks later showed the attempt had failed.

At the beginning of August 2004, Gavin and Sandra came to stay for a week while working at a show in NYC. One evening Sandra called me into the bathroom and held up a positive pregnancy test. When my brain and mouth managed to function coherently, I uttered the words “oh my God, Sandra … I don’t believe it, you’re pregnant!”

Unfortunately the joy was short lived. A week later, while attending their friends wedding on August 14th, the pregnancy miscarried. Gavin expressed how frustrated he had felt when they were at another function where there happened to be a number of pregnant women. He said how upsetting it was to feel that so many people get pregnant with such ease and certainly no struggle involved in their process. I really felt for him and could relate to those feelings of frustration as I had been through a similar experience in the years leading up to my own pregnancy having been told I would not be able to get pregnant.

Following Sandra’s miscarriage, they headed off to Mexico for a vacation. They were in need of rest, relaxation and both physical and emotional healing. On their return, the powers that be finally started smiling down on our deserving friends. Soon after hearing the news of their successful adoption application, they brought their newborn daughter Meira home. The highlight of our summer this year was visiting their beautiful home to celebrate Meira’s baby-naming ceremony.

The miracles continued unfolding and in January 2004, Sandra announced her pregnancy.

In more than just the vibe of being positive, we all had a deep sense of knowing that this pregnancy was an idea whose time had come. On September 2nd 2004, Talia arrived peacefully and safely, completing the now very content Silberman family unit.

Gavin & Sandra during baby-naming ceremony.


See label for details!


Sunday, January 09, 2005


I was thrilled that Ellen, Michael and Will & Grace won! The other good thing about the show was that it provided this opportunity. I should have stuck with my usual must see ‘abc’ Sunday night line-up. Yawn!

Saturday, January 08, 2005


After watching ‘SUPER SIZE ME’ in the summer, I made the decision that I would not eat Mc Donald’s or any other junk food again. I took the time to sit and talk with Ross about it. I explained why I had made this decision, and that other than the occasional ice cream or milk shakes we would no longer frequent the joint with any regularity. There are some days where schedules are well served by nuggets and fries from the drive through, but this would be on a ‘once in a blue moon’ basis only. As with everything, when I am totally clear on something, Ross just gets it, and he doesn’t ever ask to go there anymore.

Yesterday, I have to confess, turned out to be the first of those ‘once in a blue moon days’ I referred to. Perhaps it is because it is that time of the month for me where I carry a sign around that says “CAUTION – IF YOU STAND STILL FOR TOO LONG NEXT TO ME, I AM LIKELY TO EAT YOU TOO!”, but after getting Ross from school I wanted nothing more than a Mc Chicken sandwich. We took Alex to work and headed right back to where we had just come from (yes, that strong was the urge!) to draw cash from my next most favorite American invention after the diner, the drive-through bank. I inserted the card, went through the process, and the machine said “ha ha, no way!” I knew there was money in my account, so I repeated the process.

Given the number of cars behind me, I refrained from screaming obscenities at the machine. I have learnt that it only wastes the machine’s time and frustrates the screamer even more! Ross managed to accept the situation without any difficulty and suggested we “just go home”. After checking my account on line, and confirming that there was in fact more than enough money for me to have bought 300 Mc Chicken sandwiches had I so liked, my mood got even worse.
After about three hours I decided it was time to let it go! I had to admit to myself that I was behaving like a kid who had not been given her own way and it was time to revert back to being an adult. I also thought to myself that this is how Ross must feel when I dig my heels in on certain things and won’t even consider another possibility. It’s a horrible feeling and while all the decisions I make are always with his best interests at heart, it was a good reminder that at his age, he does not necessarily always understand that. I will definitely keep this in mind in the future.

Thursday, January 06, 2005


“Ross, why can’t you lie still? You don’t stop wriggling. You’re like this energy thing who can’t be still,” said Daniel.

“Daaad, I can’t help it. Sometimes my balls just stick to my legs!”

Tuesday, January 04, 2005


Darling Ross

This last week, you came to learn a new word – tsunami. As an adult you will look back in time and remember this event that took place when you were 7 years old. I found it so difficult to find a way to explain this to you, because I myself find it all so hard to comprehend.

In teaching you about the world around us, my child, or showing you what I feel is the compassionate and respectful way to conceptualize things, I too learn more about life, as much as you do. The truth of the matter is that this is not part of our reality. When these things happen, and we are spared the horrors that can take place, we must thank God and the powers that be that keep us safe. In the best way within our means, we must extend help. In this instance, besides keeping these people in our prayers, we must make a contribution towards getting aid to as many people as possible. We must say thank you over and over again for everything we have, every day.

All my love,
Mama xo