October 7, 2013

embrace the crazy fan girl

As part of my quest for more balance and presence, I am coming out of a closet. My name is Nina and I'm a crazy fan girl disguised as a suburban mom attending parent teacher conferences, cross country meets and little league baseball games.

A sometimes CFG and myself at the Journey concert.
My addiction began like many of the millions of fan girls peeking out behind their venti lattes and premium denim. I was nine when I sang my heart out to 'Hey Deenie," a la Sean Cassidy. I wrote him a letter professing my unwavering love and devotion. At 12, I ripped out my first of many pages from  TigerBeat magazine. A picture of Steve Perry, front man of Journey sporting long hair and his large nose captivated me like no other and he gazed at me from the walls of my tiny bedroom singing to me about open arms...

It continued on and on with Michael Jackson, Prince,  Jordan Catalano (fictional but not to me,) Eddie Vedder and Justin Timberlake. Young girls are fickle, you know. Somewhere along the line, as age crept in and I traded "wisdom for lines around my eyes," I had to snuff out my open musings of the object(s) of my affection.  It didn't suit my blossoming professional image, not to mention my many (ha!) suitors, to drool over images of Eddie Vedder's long hair, flannel shirts and stage thrashing. This was before the days of smart phones and internet - everything was in print and I ran the risk of being discovered at Walgreens buying the latest issue of Rolling Stone, People or Us Weekly for fear of looking like the crazy star struck girl that I was (am.)

October 2, 2013

and.....she's off!

babygirl age four

I am the mother of a high school student. I am the mother of a high school student. I am the mother of a high school student?  Are you kidding me with this? In my mind, I AM the high school student. How is it possible this day has come? Better question: How is it possible I've accepted all the signs? Let's start with my wrinkles (you know I LOVE to speak of my wrinkles!), the fact that I finally started to color my hair and the best post 40 wake up call: it takes so long to lose weight and even longer to take it off and it takes Herculean discipline to stay fit - but one Oreo? ONE EFFIN Oreo? Right to my thighs. May as well rub those little cookies all over my backside because that's exactly where they land.

All the signs are present as I (kind of) gracefully pass through time, laughing at said signs and living the days go by. But the tangibility of my first born entering High School is sobering. Exciting. Terrifying. I feel like this is the start of something big, massive and lightning quick. Like a canon is ready to be shot and in four short years, my babygirl will be ready to leave me. She will leave me. She will leave me.

As a rational gal, I know I am raising her to do just that. To leave me and successfully live on her own. Making her own mistakes, her own successes independent of her Mama (sorry, I'm watching a lot of Friday Night Lights and I'm stuck with some Texan twang.)  I know this, I pray for it and somedays I long for the solitude of an empty nest. 

It's the beginnings and the endings that throw me. The ending of a life, the beginning of a career, the ending of a friendship. It seems like the doing, the living, with all it's ups and downs and laughs and grumbles goes on moment for moment. These transitions though always give me pause to reflect. 

September 24, 2013

365...Part II

365 days. All I can think about is my father's death. He died just more than a year ago. And what a year it has been. I'm not missing him any more than I normally do nor I am I feeling overly sentimental. But something has been quite wrong. I've felt tightly wound, desperately running away from an overall feeling of....'yuck.' A feeling so odd, so foreign and disturbing I type and delete the words I long to use to describe it. All I can say is yuck. Discomfort. Death is yucky. It's final. It's disturbing. My father appeared uncomfortable during his last days. His body labored. It was horrible to witness. That's where my mind keeps leading me...

A year ago, after my Dad passed away, I was able to grieve and miss him and smile for him and cry for him. I wrote a eulogy that poured from my heart to the paper. I shared my love, my funny and my memories of my father with the wonderful, generous and loving friends and family that came to his funeral. I was in a spiritual place that kept me calm, grateful and present. This allowed me a quiet, cleansing, authentic grieving period. I felt the loss deeply, it sluiced through me and I felt closer to my dad during those first months after his death than I had previously during  his illness when he was alive.  I felt as if I could feel him with me, see him clearly smiling and laughing and driving me crazy with his obnoxious antics. I breathed him in.

365 days later. I have grown distant from authenticity, from presence, from calm. I lost my balance. My life rolled out of control collecting stress after stress. My husband's business had set backs, which caused our family some setbacks. My mother moved in with us and not long after her move in, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. My zen like spirituality wasn't strong enough to hold up to the new shit storm brewing around me. As I wrote this post, a few edits from publishing it, I stumbled upon this quote:

September 17, 2013


365 days ago, my dear father passed away. I am posting the eulogy I wrote and read to share a little bit of my dad with you all. He was my biggest fan. I know this would make him smile. He loved being the center of attention after all.  Thanks for reading. It's a long read, so get comfy, and thanks as always, for reading...

Say not in grief 'he is no more', but live in thankfulness that he was.
~  Hebrew proverb
It doesn’t matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was. 
I remember my father, Leo Kushner, as a story teller. His story began on July 13th, 1927 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He loved living in Argentina, he loved saying “Argentina,” often talking of the busy city and the quiet countryside where he lived with my grandparents and my uncle. He loved to talk in detail about the colors of tucan birds and butterflies, while drifting into stories about his mother smacking him with a broom when got out of line. Which was often. 
My dad could tell a story like no one else. Whether he narrated in a loud booming voice or his quiet whisper, his hand gestures, animated facial expressions and uniquely hilarious observations made every story compelling. Sometimes he would break into song mid-story, just to make sure you were listening. I wish I could do it now, but he always told me I couldn’t carry a tune and would say, ‘Nina, a singer, you’ll never be.” He was right.
At 14, He moved with his family to Chicago. Can you imagine not only moving at 14, leaving your friends, your family, your cousins, your school, but moving to another country where you didn’t know the language, the customs, the dress? While my father understood some yiddish, he did not speak it, as in Argentina, his family spoke Spanish. So even though they moved to a Jewish neighborhood on the West side of Chicago, my father was quite nervous at first. He told me during the first week he was here, his mother sent him to store. He was so nervous he might get lost on the way home, like the mover and shaker he was, he decided to memorize the street lights since he couldn’t read the English street signs. So he saw yellow light, green light, yellow light, red, and on and on. Simple, right? They didn’t have street lights in Argentina, so he assumed they would stay the same. He goes to the store, gets what his mother told him, and he sets out for home thinking yellow, green, yellow red.... To his horror, on the way back, what he’d memorized was ALL wrong, and he wandered for hours trying to find his way home. When he finally and God only knows how he made it back home, his mother smacked him with a broom. Now  I didn’t do that story half the justice it should have gotten, because when he told it, he filled it with fake tears, and a frightened face and a terrified grimace when talking about his angry mom.