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Obit for a fish

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It is with sadness that we announce the passing of Clyde Carp the 18th, descendant of the famed gangster, Fish Bowl Charlie, and his consort, starlet of the great reflective pool, Goldie Carp.

Clyde led a colorful life as a student in the local fish tank hopping from school to school. His final gig was in a Jewish house of worship where he met Bonnie Cyprinidae Hadassah who was performing as Queen Esther at the Purim carnival. They settled down together in the home of Aaron Newirth, a student at the synagogue Hebrew school.

Mr. Carp died peacefully in the middle of the night nestled between the large colorful marbles in the spacious fish bowl that Bonnie & Clyde had moved into just the day before his untimely passing.

When questioned by authorities the two cats who reside in Aaron’s home, Calypso & Zephyr, were found to be innocent. “I had nothing against my fine finned friend,” Calypso was overheard saying “in my humble opinion he really added to the enjoyment of my day.”

Clyde is survived by Bonnie Hadassah.

Condolences may be posted in the comments section to Aaron Thomas Newirth who was truly distraught this morning at having found the dearly departed.

A private burial will take place for immediate family at sundown.

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How My Teenage Son Grounded Me. It’s Not What You Think.

Just as my mother inculcated in me a love of literary fantasy so have my husband and I ignited an intellectual spark in the soul of our teenage son, Max. Mythological beasts, rings of power and tales of brave journeymen have rung in his ears since he was small. In fact I read The Hobbit to him just as my mom did for me (without the fireplace, I might add) and from the very book in which Mother’s fingers lingered on the corner of every page as she cradled the spine in the palm of her left hand.

My eldest son came of age in the era of Harry Potter, basking in the warm glow of anticipation with each subsequent publication of JK Rowling’s definitive works. And then, of course, it was Peter Jackson’s directors cut of the Lord of the Rings trilogy that sealed the deal for Max. I watch, now, as a complex, fascinating and self-assured young man steps out the door to take himself to places where I once was mandated to shepherd him. Our roles are changing and to my surprise his wisdom often overrules my own.

Such was the case when I shared over dinner about my new interest with opera and Richard Wagner’s Ring cycle. Max took to it immediately. His trip to Germany with my mother, the summer before, assured his interest in the language and the fact that JRR Tolkien drew inspiration from Wagner’s epic only sweetened the deal[1]. After we cleaned up from our home-cooked family meal we were on the computer pulling up suggestions for the authoritative recording of Das Rheingold, first of the four operas.

There were too many recommendations to pick from so my husband jokingly suggested we look up the recording that Francis Ford Coppola used in Apocalypse Now. “If it was good enough for Coppola it has be good enough for you guys.” Then he took a beat; “Of course, it may also be the cheapest version he could find so who knows if it really is any good or not.” My husband sure knows how to put things into perspective. So we found the Wiener Philharmoniker

(remember now, Germans pronounce their W’s like our V’s so it should sound like Vee-eh-ner. Ok, stop sniggering…if you can’t control yourself then just call it The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Oy!)

So we downloaded Das Rheingold[2] onto iTunes and suddenly I am walking around listening to opera on my iPod.

Whoa! Stop the press!

(I wish there was a social media equivalent for this power statement. “Delete this entry!” simply does not have the gravitas I’m going for here.)

What the hell is going on?! (cue Talking Heads if you are interested in listening to the sound track in my head as I write.) I am forty-six years old. I’ve been married for nearly twenty years. There are teenagers and tweeners in my home AND I’M WALKING AROUND LISTENING TO HARD CORE OPERA!

Talking HeadsYou may ask yourself, how do I work this?
You may ask yourself, where is that large automobile?
You may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful house
You may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful wife
Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
Into the blue again, after the money’s gone
Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground
same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it…[3]

One could call this a mid-life crisis. I amused and horrified myself each time I plugged in and allowed the sound of warbling operatic singers to wash over my once rebellious and opinionated ears. I joked about myself to my son and tried to make light of the veneer of shame I felt at the desire to buy tickets to the opera. I shook my head in disbelief that I had come to this point in my life and wondered aloud if it was all worth it.

Max stopped and looked me in the eye. “This is an adventure. You are discovering something new, something you didn’t know before. Stop worrying so much and have fun with it.” All pretense of being a wise and omnipotent parent ceased and I stood before a person whom I love and respect. “Ok, you’re right. Thank you.”

The morass that had been swirling about me for weeks calmed. I looked in the mirror later that night and saw a middle aged woman looking back at me. I smiled and saw her smile. I laughed and heard her laugh. Then a sigh of relief rose up deep within and I took a profoundly satisfying breath of air.

It was kind of thrilling to like opera.


[1] Another factor leading to Max’s immediate interest in the opera was that he had been treated to a back stage tour of the Met with his high school film & media class earlier that year. It was a real eye opener for him seeing the massive sets, the cavernous stage and the high tech HD broadcast set up. The sheer magnitude and opulence of the place blew his mind.

[2] It is important to note that the widely known and clichéd “Ride of the Valkure” which Coppola used in Apocalypse Now is from the second opera Die Walkure. Wiener Philharmoniker recorded Das Rheingold as well.

[3] Once in a Lifetime Songwriters: Brian Eno, Jerry Harrison, David Byrne, Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz © EG MUSIC INC;WB MUSIC CORP.;INDEX MUSIC

A Quick Note to my Sons on their Future

Max & Aaron

Today we are looking at your future. It has become clear that the job we thought we were doing well needs an overhaul. I am just one person and for too long I have used that justification to not get involved, or comment on the sidelines as a spectator. The truth is I’m afraid. I’m afraid I’ll say or do the wrong thing and then I’ll have to be accountable for that. Well, that’s what being an adult is…being responsible for what I do (or don’t do) and for what I say.

Today I take a stand: I am accountable for your future. What I do belongs to you, your friends and your future. This is not to say I won’t benefit from what I do for I believe you want happy, healthy parents. I promise to think of you first before I make any decisions. Before I buy that dress, I’ll think of you; before I throw out that glass bottle in the garbage can, I’ll think of you. I’ll think of you and ask myself – is there some better decision I could be making right now? It is only by paying attention to the meta moments in life that I have any hope of impacting the massive world out in front of me so that you both have a world you’ll want to raise your grandchildren in.

I love you both more than you will ever be able to imagine, until you have children of your own. I will do what I can to make sure you get that chance.

Here’s to the future – here’s to your future.

Love Mom

Snickerdoodles for the Masses

Some of you who’ve been following me on Twitter or Facebook may have noticed a fair amount of recent commentary on my postings surrounding a certain signature cookie that has come to define my greater moments as a mother. Yes I am a mom who’s identity as such is partially linked to the making and sharing of Snickerdoodle cookies. Just to show I’m a generous person who likes to pay it forward when she can, I am posting my own personal recipe here for you wonderful people to make, eat and share this holiday season.  I composed this for a PTA cookbook some years back when my first born was in elementary school.

Peace!

CARRIE’S SNICKERDOODLES

A favorite childhood memory of mine was baking Snickerdoodles with Carrie, a wonderful woman who helped take care of my family when I was a little girl. I loved to mix everything together and roll the dough balls in cinnamon sugar. Carrie always cleaned up after me, God bless her soul. Now my sons, Max & Aaron, love to help mix everything together and roll the dough balls in cinnamon sugar just as I did. It is my turn to do the clean up and I think of Carrie every time I do. Her memory is certainly a blessing to me. Oh, and the cookies are by far the best around. Each one is crisp on the edges and soft on the inside with a perfect balance of flavors that leave an indelible mark of deliciousness on the taste buds.

Note: I always find that cookies come out best when mixed from scratch by hand. All that work manufactures a secret ingredient you can’t buy in any store – love.

~

INGREDIENTS

1 Cup (two sticks) of sweet, unsalted butter – room temperature

1 ½ Cups Sugar

2 Eggs – also room temperature

2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract

2 ¾ Cups All-purpose Flour

3 Tablespoons Double-acting Baking Powder

¼ Teaspoon Salt

2 Extra Tablespoons of Sugar Mixed with 2 Teaspoons of Cinnamon – set aside for later

MATERIALS

Two kitchen bowls

Two stirring spoons

The requisite measuring devises

Two standard baking pans

One three-pronged fork

Two or three ramekin bowls

At least one enthusiastic helper for you to clean up for afterwards

~

DIRECTIONS

Preheat your oven to 400° F.

Put the eggs in a bowl of warm water if they are cold to bring them to room temp.

Cream together the butter and 1 ½ Cups of sugar until they are light and fluffy.

Add the eggs and vanilla to the butter/sugar fluff (I always allow the vanilla to overflow a bit as I’m pouring – yum) stir well but don’t overdo it.

In a separate bowl combine the flour with the double-acting baking powder and salt. Be sure there are no clumps of baking powder, it can tend to stick together.

Incorporate the dry ingredients with the wet. You will quickly end up having to kneed the cookie dough with the back of your spoon as it gets rather stiff but don’t worry, it doesn’t take too much to get it mixed together well.

In a small bowl or ramekin, combine the additional sugar and cinnamon. Prepare two or even three ramekins so your enthusiastic onlookers can join in on the fun. (note: be sure all help wash their hands thoroughly before the next step.)

Pull a small amount of dough and quickly roll it into a ball. Drop it into one of the ramekins and swirl the ball around until it is well coated with the cinnamon sugar. Place the prepared dough ball on an ungreased baking tray and repeat until the tray is full of little round Snickerdoodle dough balls, generally four across.

With a fork (I like to use the three pronged fork my mother gave me for my 35th birthday) gently push the dough balls down into a 1” disk.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes and remove immediately from the baking tray as you don’t want them over cooked.

Tell your kitchen help to wait an excruciating five minutes before sampling.

Enjoy and share with your neighbors, co workers, PTA volunteers and local grocery clerks; they’re people too.

Marianna Mott Newirth

New York City 2004

Editor’s note: this recipe is culled from a wide array of suggestions posted on line, jotted down in old note books and pulled from childhood memory. Like the great chocolate chip cookie fiasco on line a few years ago I cite this information as Public Domain and available for all to use and enjoy.

MMN

I am an Obama Mama!

I just have this to say:

I am a 44 year old white woman with two children and a husband. I hold down a job because a) I have to and b) I want to. I live in New York City and I do not – NOT – make a six figure salary. Yes, it’s possible to live in Manhattan and not be filthy rich. You have to have a little luck, a willingness to cook dinner at home every night and be content to watch blockbuster movies – later – on Netflix…well, among a host of other little acts of frugality like walking to work and brown bagging it for lunch.

I am tired of hearing about undecided white, female voters. Give it up ladies and make a decision. Join the new demographic – Obama Mamas! Give voice to what you are committed to. Make a stand – right or wrong you are going to make a choice very soon (as long as you get out there and vote) so do your research and get off the fence.

I want a person leading this country who thinks before talking, has a pragmatic approach to problem solving and confronts terror (domestic and international) with a steady hand. Times call for a BORING and STEADY president. No more Captain James T. Kirk

Captain Kirk

Captain Kirk

– I want Captain Benjamin Lafayette Sisko

Captain Sisko

Captain Sisko

Loved Deep Space Nine and the Classic Trek series. Next Gen was OK too – Capt. Jean-Luc Picard

Captain Picard

Captain Picard

& OK, OK, you too, Capt. Kathryn Janeway,

Captain Janeway

Captain Janeway

though Voyager kind of never really DID it for me; but I digress!

No wait! Just have one last thing to say, here. Captain Janeway is Warp 10X more prepared than Sarah Palin ever will be to lead ANYTHING. Kate Mulgrew, all due respect goes to your performance.

Best to stop here for now.

Thanks for reading. I’m happy to hear your thoughts on the matter. Who is your favorite Star Trek captain and how does that translate into today’s election?

MMN

On Furniture and Children

I arrived as a full-fledged grown up the day I bought my first sectional sofa. Being married four years, crossing the threshold into my 30’s and accomplishing a host of interesting things in the big city was child’s play, it was the sofa that truly ushered me into adulthood…well that and a baby but let’s not get ahead of things here.

Our new sofa was awesome. It had three sections that curved around in a comforting, intimate way. The left section was open ended to give a promise of breathing room while the rest of the divan inhabited our freshly renovated living room in a warm, reassuring embrace. I loved the concept of owning it as much, if not more, than the thing itself. I was eight months pregnant with my first child when we went sofa shopping. That was a story in itself involving a rented car, a long, confusing trip to Long Island, and an architect who designed better than he drove.

The baby arrived and two days later so did the sofa; it was all down hill from there! As this was a show room floor special (hey, we were cutting corners where we could) it arrived with a few minor problems. Two of the sections wouldn’t connect due to a faulty mechanism and I couldn’t help but notice little strands of upholstery sticking out of place in a sophistic version of “naaa, naaa, boo boo!” A couple snips with the kitchen scissors and the offending textiles were gone. Plus why should I care if the couch was a bit – how shall I put this – eased in? I had a baby to think about!

Family BedMy mother dubbed our sofa the family bed and we all lounged together in a loving stupor, drunk on life and baby bliss. Never was my existence more sweet and carefree. Never would the couch look as good as it did then.

Family Bed 2

 

The baby became a toddler and the toddler had his first birthday party with seven of his closest baby buddies. The couch was inextricably altered from the primary attack; a giant pee stain from a soggy diaper. Some one forgot to change their charge before playing “bouncy bouncy” on the “couchy couchy.” But why should I care? It was just a couch. There were bigger things to get upset over. The Edward Morrow Jr. building had just been blown up, babies had been murdered! I told myself to get over it, to clean up and move on.

Primary Assault

 

Allow me to backtrack for a moment. Long before we had babies we had felines and their part is couched in this not-so-tall of tales.

Once I made it clear that the baby was strictly off limits, the cats shifted their focus on bigger things. The old scratching post had its day and the quadrupeds were on to new material. Despite the use of sprays and a constant trimming of nails (we do not abide by de-clawing practices,) the couch was a target. The cats would stalk it at night while weslept and stalk it in the afternoon while I nursed. If you were among the millions who watched Planet Earth Feline Superiority 2on the Discovery Channel you may remember the scenario when the pride of lions brought down an elephant in the African bush. Well, it’s something like that. Our couch is really nothing more than a giant, dead elephant to our cats; a shrine to their feline superiority.Feline Superiority

Back to children, who’s loving use have left the most significant of marks upon all our furniture. The baby grew to a kid and he and his friends would gleefully jump, roll, and tumble on top of, over and around every inch of the upholstery. Their favorite game was to push the sections apart and make little hide-a-ways between the pieces. Pillow fights, sleep-over’s and birthday parties came wave upon wave and the couch withstood it all. Standing stalwartly and with pride, it endured our adoring assaults. One day the kid became a brother and the new kid quickly learned the ropes; breathe, suck, roll over, sit, stand, walk, run, drink from a cup and wipe your mouth on the couch. No one taught him this, of course; Aaron figured it out all by himself! Despite my rants and raves our codesign-033.jpguch soon added “giant snot rag” to its dossier. Oh the indignity.

We truly love our couch. It is our symbol of family heart, our huddle, our refuge, our hang out. And yet my thrill at having it as part of my home has slowly turned to loathing which I regularly take out on my family. As the rips began to appear in the upholstery and the seats started to sag I headed down the hellish road of CouchGate. Blankets, sheets, towels, extra pillows, whatever I can get my hands on to cover up the stains and rips and sags, I try it. My dear husband, Scott, even endured my co-opting a backdrop – he’s a photographer – one night in a desperate attempt to drape our sofa before company arrived. The backdrop worked well so I never gave it back. On many an occasion I can be heard lecturing my family on the virtues of furniture etiquette as I fix the covers on the couch for the hundredth time that week.

One day I got so frustrated that I upended a section and cut away the protective bottom covering the inner structure of the seat. My goal was to poke around and try to improve the exterior look of my furniture by pushing and pulling the padding into place. This was the ultimate mistake (aside from buying the dam thing in the first place) for now I regularly dig into the under side of my couch to push the damn thing back into place while trying to reinforce it with whatever I have on hand; a practice not too dissimilar to a rectal examination. I have considered stuffing one of our cats up in there to help fill out the sorry sag that traps your butt when you sit down but I know that would be just plain wrong and inefficient to boot. (I imagine you are shifting uncomfortably in your chair right about now.)

You may be asking yourself, dear reader; “why doesn’t she just go out and buy a new couch?” Well, that’s not a simple answer. A major part of it is economic. Every time we discuss buying a new couch something comes up; a video production summer camp for our burgeoning film-maker son ($,) a new Treo to keep me mobile ($$,) a faulty washing machine that requires replacing yet again ($$$!) Another part of it is practical. With a five-year-old in the house why would I tempt infanticide and plunge several thousand dollars into a new sofa just to watch it get trashed all over again? I’d rather enjoy my children than blame them for my ruined life…I mean couch.Aaron and Basket and Couch

The real truth is something I am coming to terms with. That couch is me. I can see my therapist of many years past nodding her head (right now she’s probably laughing.)

Today is my birthday. I am well beyond the time when May 25th is an eagerly anticipated day, neither is it to be avoided because it can’t. It just is.

Like my couch I have been peed on, jumped on, slept on, covered with crazy fabrics and – yes – stalked by Thumper, the cat.

I slouch a bit in certain places, in other ways I’m torn, and my internal plumbing needs more attention than it did twelve years ago.

I hold family and friends with a similar grace, warmth, dignity and love that my couch holds me. Like my couch, I hold people close when I can and I try to give them enough room to breathe when it’s called for.

I get pushed around and rearranged – like my couch.

I’m always there – like my couch.

Like my couch, at times, I hate myself (but not nearly as much as I used to) and at other times I am appalled by my inevitable aging process (but not nearly as much as advertising tells me I should be.)

I know I am finite – just like my couch.

The day will come when Scott and I buy a new sofa and we’ll bid a fond fair-thee-well to the one we have now. But when it goes…when it goes it will take with it the echos of our laughter, the evidence of hours of power lounging, the memories of tears we have shed and anger we have expressed at an unjust world. It will take with it our rich moments of personal glory, our silly moments of youthful exuberance. A part of us is woven into that couch and we have lived a little better just because it’s there.

I love my couch as I love myself.M Mott Newirth in Repose with Couch

MMN