300-shmuel my uncle“So,” says Uncle Shmuel, who having appeared out of nowhere is now sitting at the table enjoying a nice piece cake. Miraculously  he speaks excellent vernacular American English — albeit with a heavy Yiddish accent,

“Nice place you got here. I see you keep your animals in your house. That one there sounds like a pig but looks like a dog.”

“They are our pets, Uncle Shmuel. The oinker is Nan. She just makes that sound. She’s kind of old. I think that’s the dog equivalent of ‘oy’.”

“Pets, shmets. Animals. In the house. What’s next? Toilets? Never mind, your life, your choice. Oy.”

“Can I give you something to eat? Tea? Coffee? Cake? If we don’t have it, I can go out and buy some.”

“Are you Kosher?”

“Uh, no. Not Kosher,” and I shiver, remembering the many pork chops that have passed across our dishes. “Oh, wait, here’s my husband. Uncle Shmuel, I’d like you to meet my husband Garry.”

Shmuel looks shrewdly at Garry, then at me. “He doesn’t look Jewish.”

Garry’s eyes twinkle. “But really I am,” he says and deftly pulls a yarmulke out of his pocket. It say “Joel’s Bar Mitzvah” across the back in big white letters. Fortunately, Shmuel doesn’t notice.

“So,” Shmuel continues after a pregnant pause, “You have problems with the Cossacks?”

“No Cossacks, but lots of politicians,” I reply.

“Cossacks, politicians, there’s a difference?”

“Not so much,” I admit.

“And for a living you do what?”

“We’re retired. But before that, I was a writer. Garry was a reporter. On television.”

“What’s a television?”

I look at Shmuel, realize we are about to embark on an extended conversation, so all I say is: “Oy vay is mir!” Which seems to sum it up.

Oy. Can someone set the table?




Imagine. Week 50! Two weeks to the end of the year. Where did the other weeks go? They just blew through here, leaving dust and dog hair in their wake.

What is an Oddball?

Noun –
1. A person or thing that is atypical, bizarre, eccentric, or nonconforming, especially one having beliefs that are unusual but harmless.
Adjective –
2. Whimsically free-spirited; eccentric; atypical: an oddball scheme.

Taking pictures on the streets of Boston is entirely different than shooting in Uxbridge.


I had fun with these … seeking a certain “mood” … hoping for a cinematic sensibility. All taken in downtown Boston in and around Symphony Hall.


A bit film noir?



Hello everyone! I am the 35 year-old “success story,” David, that my mother Ellin wrote about in this blog entry. I put success story in quotes because, like all of us, I am still a work in progress. Frankly, have not entirely let go of the demons of growing up — and living with ADHD.

I have a few thoughts to share, especially with those still battling these demons, parents with ADD and ADHD children, as well other family members who face these challenges.


It’s easier as an adult to see the strengths of having ADHD (hyper focus, for example), than to see it as a child. However, it doesn’t have to be that way, at least completely.

Everyone can benefit from what I was taught in college and learned on my own about dealing with learning disabilities. ADHD or LD is not a prerequisite to benefiting from being embraced and embracing yourself as an individual. I have seven non-verbal learning disabilities as well as ADHD. There was and is a lot of stuff going on.

Focus on your strengths. Use them combat your weaknesses.

No one is good at everything. Some of us are square pegs and will never fit in typically round holes. Concentrate on things you are good at. Build your career of things you do well and about which you are passionate.

Of course you need to get through school first, but even there, by focusing on what makes you special and unique, you can push through, in college more so than high school.

In college, the answer is more important than how you reach the conclusion. That’s where I struggled in high school. I would say, “I can get the answer, but not your way.” That never seemed good enough. In college, and even more in the professional world, answers are critical. Unique perspectives can prove good, as well as profitable.

Be organized! Find a way to do it comfortably and effectively. Organization helps everyone.

Never forget that everyone is an individual and unique. Encouraging all youngsters to do what they are good at and rewarding them for it would help everyone. Further, instead of telling everyone they are a “winner,” which, even to children seems disingenuous, reward them for what they do well. Help them develop a sense of purpose and pride in their individuality.

Bottom Line

Everyone should be taught to embrace what they do well and not forced to focus on what they do poorly. Especially not at the same time.

Everyone needs to learn math even if writing is their specialty, but if you focus on figuring out what makes someone good at writing, it will help them with math and other studies.

This would be a big improvement educationally for every child, ADHD or not.


How Donating a Kidney to My Son Brought the Family Together

For decades we’ve been trying to find out whether
There’s a sure-fire way to bring families together;
To get them to give love, compassion, and support
And shun negativity of every sort.
Inadvertently I found a magic wand
That instantly creates a tighter family bond.
When someone gets sick (my son), just do a good deed
And offer the organ (kidney) that he will soon need!

Once you say you’ll donate an organ, it’s no surprise,
Your status goes way up in everybody’s eyes!
(Particularly the loving family members who,
Now no longer feel guilty for not offering too).
I’m told I’m being so brave and noble, so nice!

But for a Mom, not giving is the true sacrifice.
So, now I am protector of the family’s jewel;
The life-saving kidney, so now, as a rule,
All I do is questioned and I have to endure
Well-meaning advice on how best to ensure
That I stay in good shape to keep donor approval
(Yes, a board can vote for donor status removal).

Tree of life

As the journey continues for donor and donee
We forge our, now conjoined, medical history.
We wait for my approval as a donor – and wait,
And wait, as well, for a kidney transplant date;
Which won’t come till kidney function is so low
That the recipient’s other organs start to go.

We give blood and urine and have lots of EKG’s
As they test me for every documented disease.
A social worker must deem me “mentally sound”
To do what I need to, to keep my son around.
We analyze each blood test with close attention
Like brokers with stocks at a financial convention.

Through years of uncertainty the family gamely tries
To deal with the lows as gracefully as the highs.
We all make sure that we stay in closer touch,
Emails and calls don’t go unanswered as much,
Everyone keeps up with all the lab reports,
We follow transplant stories as avidly as sports.

As my son’s kidney function steadily declines
And he confronts a series of medical land mines,
The whole clan goes into support overdrive,
Like cheerleaders, willing the kidney to survive.
But as transplant day inevitably draws near
Our loved ones are overcome with devotion and fear
As it sinks in – this is not a TV drama
But an impending multiple body trauma.

After surgery, everyone rallies around;
Texts and emails are flying, good feelings abound.
Feuds are forgotten as we share each update;
Relief and joy let old hostilities abate.
Relatives can express their love and gratitude
Even those not known for a caring attitude.
Our recovery is bumpy and way too long
But family togetherness and spirit stay strong.

Now, I don’t recommend this for treating family woes
On a regular basis, though everyone knows
The prospect of losing someone you love dearly
Quickly makes you see life’s priorities more clearly.
For us, a kidney transplant turned out to be
The ultimate in extreme family therapy.
I know there are definitely better ways
To get closer, that don’t involve hospital stays.

But donate, cause it’s an amazing thing to do,
And don’t be surprised if some benefits accrue;
Like reducing petty family tension and strife
And deepening connections, all while saving a life!
Donate to a stranger – keep another family whole
While filling your heart and inspiring your soul!
Who knew, when you give up a part of yourself, that you’re
Going to end up more fulfilled and “complete” than before!

NOTE: My son, David, was the recipient of the kidney I donated. In case you didn’t guess.