The "Whiz-ard" That Is Dr. Oz

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A Sign From Above

Mom Blog

Sorry for the language!!!!!!!

When you lose someone that you love, you wait for a sign that they are still somehow connected to you.  On the day of my mother’s funeral, March 5th, it was beautiful and  sunny with just a little coolness in the air.  When we got to the cemetery, early in the afternoon and they lowered her into the ground, all of a sudden, it got so warm and the sun started shining even more brightly.  You can think I’m crazy if you want, but I knew that it was a sign from our mother that she was at peace and happy with her roadside spot in her final resting place.  Seriously, I couldn’t have picked a better spot for her – she was always a nosy parker, and now, she can watch the world go by, see who will join her next at Mount Sinai Memorial Park and even have a clear view of the planes flying overhead (she always had to point out whenever a plane flew past her condo or over her car, or just anytime she saw one.  I called her “the air-traffic controller”).

The second sign came once shiva (7 days of mourning in Judaism) was over.  We had lit a candle that was supposed to last for 7 days.  No, we didn’t get a lame miracle where it lasted for 14 days.  The interesting thing was that one the seventh day, it went out when my oldest sister left the room, and I was alone.  Why is this interesting you ask?  When my mother died, my oldest sister left the room, I was holding my mother’s hand, and within 30 seconds of her leaving the room, my mother passed away.  I don’t think that this was a sign that I was her favourite, really her actions demonstrated this, or at least I like to think so.   It was, I believe,  because she did not want my sister, who is also suffering from breast cancer, to be more upset than she needed to be.  I think that she knew that I needed to be there at that moment, but she also knew that it wasn’t the best thing for either of my sisters.  When the shiva candle went out when I was alone in the room, I think it was just reinforcing the message.

After that, there was really nothing.  I was really upset and giving up hope that I’d ever hear from my mother again.  Day after day would pass, and nothing.  As much as I miss her, I thought maybe I’d have to live with those two tiny messages.  Then today, something amazing happened.  I called my oldest sister crying because it’s our Mom’s birthday on April 15, and now is the time that I’d start looking for cards for her.  It made no sense, but it really bothered me today. My sister told me that I could still get her a card, but that only made me cry harder because I couldn’t give it to her.  I mean, where am I supposed to send it?  Judy Schneiderman, C/O Heaven, #1 Divine Drive, Cloud 13, 90210?

Anyway, I decided to torture myself and look at birthday cards for her.  Maybe I would buy one, just for old time’s sake, and leave it at the cemetery for her.  As I was leaving the store, Papyrus to be exact, I spotted a table of gift books.  They had some cute ones, Advice from Coco Chanel, The Newlywed Cookbook, among others.  Then, I spotted the very book that you see up there in the photo, “You Drive Like An A$$h&le”.  Why is this so special?  My mother used to have the worst road rage, and that was one of her rants!  She would scream something to this effect, shake her tiny fist at the offending driver, then flip them the bird.  She said other things, but I’m a lady, and would never type them here.  I would then make fun of her, and she’d smile her million dollar smile, after telling me that she wasn’t wrong. This was the sign that I was looking for.  What are the odds that I would walk into a card store looking for a birthday greeting for my deceased road-raged mother, and spot this book, which I’ve never seen before?  I think it was my mother’s way of giving me a little reminder of her, and making me laugh, when all I wanted to do was cry.

You can think I’m making things up, or reading into things.  You may have your own tale of seeing a butterfly, a dragonfly, a ladybug, a mysterious phone call or even feel someone flick your hair.  That’s great for you, as for me, I’ll take this sign from my little Mommy any day of the week.

 

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A Eulogy And More

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One day, I was rolling my eyes at my mother as she said something completely inappropriate.  I told her that just because she is older doesn’t mean that she can say everything that she thinks.  She corrected me immediately, and said, “Oh Jill, that’s where you are wrong.  I don’t just say everything I think, I say everything that I feel, and I feel a lot.”  At the time, I laughed, because in true Mummy fashion, it was a pretty funny statement, and she had a little evil gleam in her eye – the one that she got when she thought that she was getting away with something.  Well, Mummy, I feel a lot too.  I feel happy that you were my mother, but so sad that you aren’t here with me right now.  Not quite two weeks ago, on March 3, my mother died.  I’m lucky to have so many memories, but as some of you know, losing a loved one is hard.  Over the next little bit, you are going to be hearing more about her, and the process of putting it all back together again. I thought I’d start with my Eulogy for her:

Karl Geurs and Carter Crocker once wrote: “If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together…there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart…I’ll always be with you.” That tomorrow came sooner than we all hoped but this quote described to me everything that I’ve ever needed to know about our wonderful mother, sister, grandmother, aunt, cousin and friend, Judy.

Mummy – you are the bravest person in the world.  Forgive me, I can’t use the past tense just yet.  It’s too soon to think of a world without you.  You re-started your life, moving to Toronto, making an entirely new network of friends through bridge and pottery.  You tried new things, you were open to living a new life and you kept your old friends in the process.  You did things on your own and never complained.  You faced the deaths of so many people that you loved, including your parents, our beloved grandparents, Nathan and Sara Zelikovitz, your aunts and uncles and cousins that you were so close to.  You continued to fight throughout your illnesses surprising even the doctors with your determination and moxie.  You constantly surprised everyone else, including me with your chutzpah and hilarity.  You are the only person that I know that could be bribed by fudge and jelly beans.

At under 5 feet tall, you never looked like you could take on the world, but you are definitely the strongest person that I’ve ever met.  You suffered more than you ever should have with the pain and fatigue from cancer – especially near the end.  You bounced back after not just one, but two heart attacks.  Your other issues could fill a medical journal, yet you so rarely complained.  We used to joke around with each other about your illnesses – either calling you a disease of the week movie or telling you that I never knew which charity walk to do for you, Heart and Stroke, Breast Cancer, Diabetes or Gout.  You would always say – do the walk for gout – no one ever does that one because it hurts so damn much that no one can walk.    You are such a survivor that I called you a cockroach, saying that you, and only you could survive a nuclear war.  I asked you once “Mummy, how do you do it?” and you said “How do I do what?” and I said “Survive” and I’ll never forget your answer.  “Because, I want to live”.  And live you did.

You lived a big life.  You had many friends; a close family and so many of us loved and admired you.  You had a curious nature, a wicked sense of humour, a bratty disposition, but you were the most caring person.  You worried about everyone when the weather was poor.  A drop of rain on the ground was the only thing, aside from mice that you ever seemed to fear.  Not for yourself, but for your children.  I always got a frantic call from you warning me of the rain or snow.  I had to reassure you that I had a coat and umbrella with me but unless I was at home, you were still fearful that sweet little me would melt.  You were modern in thought and always told us that women could do anything that men could do (except maybe open a jar and kill a spider).   You cared for and sacrificed for us and we won’t forget that.

I hope that we can all be as brave as you are Mummy.  When you lose your mother, you feel so alone in the world.  That person, the only person in some cases, that knows your history is lost to you forever.  I know that you’d want us to go on, and live and stay strong, and we will, but it’s going to be so hard without your love and guidance which brings me to the fact that you are smarter than you think.  You are brilliant Mummy – although you have the worst sense of direction.  You were forever lost, turning the wrong way; never understanding east, west north and south.  You always wanted us to tell you right and left, and then you’d just turn in whatever direction you felt like going, which was always the wrong one.  You were gifted in every other way though.

You weren’t just quick-witted; you were smart in a way that many of us just are not.  You read people and situations.  You predicted outcomes.  You were world-wise, but not world-weary. You were an artist – yes I admit it.  Your pottery wasn’t flawed, maybe just a little tilted in some cases, but it really is art.  You made jewelry, needlepointed and were an amazing cook.  You weren’t just a giver of advice (whether I wanted it or not), you were my financial advisor, my doctor, my home economics teacher, my lawyer and my everything.  We all don’t know what we are going to do without your wisdom.  I’m guessing that we’ll pick up the phone to ask you a question and realize that thanks to you, we may already know the answer after our heart breaks a little knowing that you won’t be at the other end of the call.

Mummy – you will be missed by all of us more than you will ever know.  I hope that you knew how much you are loved, admired and respected.  You are without a doubt, the person that I look up to the most in the world.  We were all so lucky to have you in our lives.  Your doctors once said to you that the goal for you was to live the best life that you can, for as long as you can, and that you did.  I’d like to say that cancer didn’t beat you – you beat cancer.  Cancer never robbed you of who you are as a person.  You were always, thankfully still your brave, strong, smart self.  You were the brat that made us all laugh and the loving person that is making all of your friends and family cry right now.

To close, a quote by AA Milne that perfectly sums up how I’m feeling today – “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”  How lucky indeed, Mummy.  I love you, good-bye for now.

XOXO


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The Bravery Bell

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“Promise me you’ll remember, you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.” – A. A. Milne, Christopher Robin.

In many hospitals that have chemotherapy wards, you’ll find a Bravery Bell.  The idea is that any cancer patient that finishes their last chemo session gets to ring it, much like the bells that end a round of boxing.  I’ve had the opportunity on several occasions to hear the bell ring, and each time, it brings a smile to my face and wish that I could join the systemic care team in applauding the latest patient that completed their treatment.  The last time that I heard it ring though, it also made me think about so many things.

Many patients with cancer face a different type of battle – their chemo never ends.  Are they any less brave than the ones who get to complete their treatment?  Shouldn’t they get to ring the bell too?  Others are treated with radiation – when their treatments end, they don’t have a bell to ring.  How about the family members that accompany the patients to their treatments, trying not to show any outward signs of fear, even though inside they are terrified of what their loved one will go through.  Trying every day to lift their spirits, trying to feel hope even when there may not be any.  Aren’t they brave too?

How about the wonderful nurses that provide such diligent care to each and every patient in the Chemotherapy Centres.  The nurses that quietly make sure that each and every patient is comfortable and warm and that their families are clear on what will happen.  The nurses who care about patients when they are at their sickest and most vulnerable.  If I could, I’d ring the Bravery Bell for them.  How about the doctors, no matter what the discipline, that contact patients and family members to reassure them and answer each and every one of their questions.  They too should get to ring that bell.

Cancer is the great equalizer.  Whether you are rich or poor, black or white, straight or gay, male, female or transgender, it doesn’t discriminate – anyone can get it.  It is unique in that the cure or the life prolonger often makes you sicker than the disease.  It makes patients, families, health care providers and care givers braver than they ever thought possible.

To learn more about the Bravery Bell and the nurse who brought it to Princess Margaret Hospital, click here https://www.thestar.com/life/health_wellness/2015/09/19/for-donna-the-bravery-bell-tolls.html


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Happy Birthday to You…

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(Photo courtesy of Michele’s birthday in 2015)

…Mummy!  I know that it may be awhile before you read this, but the sentiment will keep.  If I ever had any doubt about the type of person that you are (which I never have), the outpouring of love and affection from your family, friends, doctors (who else can charm the uncharmable into loading them up with pastries) and even the people who work in your building are a lesson to me on how to live a good life.  Whenever people talk about you to me, it’s always about how wonderful you are, what an inspiration you are, how sweet, and how you never complain.  It’s all true (except you, sweet?  Please.).

I’ve seen first hand your triumphs and your challenges.  Your triumphs are usually winning a bet with me like our Super Bowl bet.  In my defence, I know nothing about football, but at least I never welch when it’s time to pay up like some people that I know.   Nothing makes you happier than beating me – luckily for me, I don’t lose often.  Although you may lose the odd bet, you are one of the sharpest people that I know.  You are also quite a little socialite.  Your phone never stops ringing – another testament to how much you are loved by your family and friends.

I admire you for so many reasons, too numerous to count really, but watching you face adversity this last while has really shown me what you are made of.  You never quit, you never give up, and I’ve never been prouder of you.  Whenever I was sick as a child, you would come into my room as I lay in bed, checking on me, taking my temperature, or just trying to comfort me.  You looked down at me, and I looked up at you, reassured that I would feel better soon because you were there to take care of me.  I know that it’s frustrating to now be in a position where the roles are reversed, but I still look up to you.  That won’t change.

You are still the strongest, smartest, funniest woman that I know.  You have a curiosity and interest in so many different things.  You have the best sense of humour.  I’m glad that we still have moments where we can laugh.  I’m grateful to be your daughter, and I’m so grateful to get to celebrate another birthday with you.

 


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Happy Birthday AK

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If any of you are regular readers of my blog, then you know that I have “Frousins” who are my cousins but also among my closest of friends.  The term Frousin was coined by the brilliant and handsome AK.  It perfectly describes our relationship – we are related, there is no doubt about that if you saw our mothers when they are afraid of being late, but we also laugh together, travel together and just enjoy hanging out, much like a good friend.  I’ve stopped doing birthday blogs, mostly because, I felt like as nice as they were, if you didn’t know the people, it was a great big in-joke that you, my readers couldn’t be part of. I decided to make an exception for AK since it’s a special birthday and he is so special to me.  In honour of your big celebration and inspired by this photo, here are 40 things that I love about AK:

  1. You have a lovely sister (GK) who we are so happy to have in Toronto.  If you are our brother from another mother, she is our sister from another mister
  2. Your parents are fabulous!  And I love how they spoil you
  3. You introduced us to AB who not only has great taste in balloons, but is one of the nicest people that I’ve ever met
  4. You are named after my wonderful grandfather – that makes you the “King” in our family
  5. OK-OK, I know – it’s all about you!
  6. When I saw how your students reacted to you, and how much they loved you, it warmed my little heart.  You care about people and it’s such a rarity these days
  7. You also know how to say it like it is, and that always cracks me up
  8. Speaking of cracking up – the expression that you get when you are surprised by something always makes me laugh
  9. You play along with my annoying rating games and “would you rather” scenarios
  10. You know a good bottle of wine when you see it – hooray Oyster Bay
  11. You know how to shop and are a deal finder
  12. You are a snazzy dresser who know how to mix high and low
  13. You won best dressed teacher – and campaigned for it
  14. You take care of yourself (pedicures anyone?)
  15. You are smart!  Who else would know what and where Azerbaijan is!
  16. You do the same laugh until you cry thing that I do so I feel less alone in the world
  17. You are a bit klutzy which also helps me feel less alone in the world – because I’m a lot klutzy
  18. You are patient.  Who else could teach me to shoot a bow and arrow?
  19. You are logical – your best tip for teaching me how to shoot the bow and arrow?  “Um…you have to actually aim it at the target”.  I got so much better after that!
  20. You understand that camping now if staying at the Holiday Inn
  21. You love your sister’s bird and animals in general.  You’ve even started taking care of him!
  22. You discover new places and share them
  23. You are a great travel mate!
  24. Even more important, you like to travel – that can sometimes be two different things.  If you like to travel, it means that you have a curiosity about the world
  25. You were brave enough to move to a foreign country for school
  26. You own up to getting hangry
  27. It’s always so funny to see how calm Starbucks makes you
  28. You always try to do the right thing
  29. You like to do cheesy things and make them fun
  30. You also like to do very civilized things like go to a VIP Cinema
  31. You understand how fabulous the “Golden Girls” are
  32. You like a good concert – in fact, you have great taste in music
  33. You have no issue taking one for the team
  34. You like being treated in a first class manner but you do not have a first class attitude
  35. You get through what life throws at you with a sense of humour
  36. You don’t expect anything – in fact, you should ask for help more
  37. You know how to brighten someone’s day
  38. You let people have their moments and enjoy it when they do
  39. You are generous to a fault
  40. When people are going through a difficult time, you are there.  2015 wasn’t kind to my family.  You didn’t ask what you could do – you just showed up and I’ll never forget that!

Have a wonderful birthday and a happy, healthy year.  I can’t wait to celebrate with you!

 

 


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One For My Sisters

Sorry, to my precious readers, but I’m afraid that this entry is not really intended for you.  It’s for Maichie and Eyesore, my two older sisters.  We’ve had a difficult month and I thought we could all use a dose of some good memories.  We did have them, and we are continuing to make them, no matter how challenging things may seem today.  Here are my top ten:

  • Sitting in the Big Room as a family on Saturday nights to watch The Love Boat and Fantasy Island (even better, when they had the two hour cross-over episodes) – if that dates me, I don’t care.  Everyone had their spots – Maichle in the leather rocker, Eyesore on the other leather chair, Mummy on the gold couch, Dad on the leather sofa and Rascal in front of the fireplace or next to his favourite person – we all know who that was.  The only one who didn’t have a spot was the baby of the family – me.  I drifted from ottoman to ottoman, or wherever i could squeeze in.  Sometimes, if it was a really good night, Dad would make popcorn for us on the stove.
  • Swimming in the pool on the few hot nights that we had in Sydney.  The pool felt warmer than during the day, and it was so fun swimming with just the flood lights on.  Plus, I didn’t have to worry about bees or wasps chasing me into the pool.
  • Going to movies with you both was a highlight and always made me feel like “a big girl”.  I remember lining up with you both to see Star Wars at the Vogue having no clue what it was.  Then, being totally freaked out by the Sandmonsters and Darth Vader.  We all slept in Maichie’s room that night.  You two lying in the normal sleeping position, me across the top of the bed because I was too scared to sleep on the floor.  I remember Mom forcing you to take me to Charlotte’s Web, but I knew that I was really doing you the favour.  Best movie EVER!
  • Speaking of Charlotte’s Web, I loved reading that book aloud to myself day and night and all of you telling me to SHUT UP over and over again.  Thanks to the verbal abuse from my older sisters, night after night, I finally did learn to read using my inside voice.
  • Remember when we went to Miami and Disney World for the first time?  It was my first time on a beach and I couldn’t quite get the hang of sandcastles, but you guys tried your best.  I’ll never forget, at Disney, the old woman coming out of the parade and hitting Dad on the head with her rolling pin.  It didn’t knock any sense into him, but it sure was funny.  I remember Goofy coming up behind Mom and covering her eyes with his hands – only he and I knew what was happening.  Mom yelling – “Larry, would you cut it out!” then Goofy revealed that it was really a top dog playing a trick on her.  Goofy took a picture with me and I’ll never forget that moment, especially since Mickey and Minnie dissed me earlier in the day.  I remember you guys went on Dumbo together and were soaring!  I was on the ride with Mummy and every time I’d try to make Dumbo go higher, she’d push the lever down so we were closer to the ground.  She pretended it was so that I wouldn’t be afraid, but I knew the truth.
  • I remember FINALLY getting to go to school like you two.  It was one of my best memories.  Argyle was the only time that the three of us were in the same school together because I was so far behind you both.  You both protected me at school – Michele fighting off the bullies and Donna telling me who I could speak to and who I had to avoid because they were one of the “bad kids”.  You even taught me to play hopscotch.
  • Sitting outside, under the umbrella and having our barbecues.  Remember how a nice day in Sydney was the nicest day ever – no humidity – just warm and sunny…
  • The odd time, getting to play games together as a family.  Monopoly and Pay Day – it wasn’t often – Dad didn’t have the patience and Mom didn’t like to lose (she still doesn’t).  They were still fun memories.  Later board games were replaced by cards.  Gin, black jack, bloody knuckles – whatever we felt like at the time.
  • I remember your high school graduations – you both got to wear such beautiful white dresses.  I was a little disappointed that you didn’t have the mortarboard, but I got to wear that.  Bobbie came to both graduations, and she was bursting with pride.  I was too – but happy/sad – as proud as I was, I knew how badly I was going to miss both of you in the fall when you went away to school.  I learned a valuable life lesson when I went away to school a few years later – it’s always easier leaving that being left behind.
  • Best of all, I remember the days when the power would go out.  Maybe nobody liked it as much as I did, but we all got to be together with no distractions.  We didn’t have to go to school.  We got to sit near the fire…toast marshmallows…our enterprising mother cooking our dinners in the fondue pot…taking naps together because there just wasn’t a lot to do…but it was just nice…

These are just a few of my highlights…I welcome yours.

To my other older sister – Babs – thank you so much for today.  It was the best day that I’ve had since my father died.  Thank you for making the mani-pedi appointments, taking me shopping and picking the dinner location.  I’m so happy that I got to hang out with you and it was so nice not having to decide anything more stressful than what shoes to buy.


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A Eulogy for My Father

Dr. John Lawrence Schneiderman

March 24, 1933-June 10, 2015

Dad…

I don’t think I’m going to get to speak at your funeral tomorrow, so I wanted to do a eulogy in my own way.  In many ways, you were a stranger to me.  You were one of the fears that I had to face this year.  Seeing you so ill in February was so hard, but letting you know that I forgave you is bringing me peace right now.  I know you didn’t agree that you needed forgiveness, you didn’t believe that you did anything wrong.  I still needed to say it though.  As with most things, we had to agree to disagree.

I am sorry Dad.  I always felt that I was a disappointment to you.  I was never Daddy’s little girl, but my Bobbie’s soul mate and my mother’s daughter.  I wanted to look at you the way Mummy looked at her Dad – as a hero.  I know that you looked at him the same way as well and I wish that your parents were as wonderful as Bobbie and Zaidie.  I wanted to respect you and put you on a pedestal and maybe, I failed you in that way, and for that I am sorry.  I did respect your intelligence and I did have compassion for your shortcomings.  I did try to be the best daughter that I could.

I will try to remember some of the good things, Dad.  Like the time when I was a little girl and I was afraid that Frankenstein was going to take me away.  You and Mummy sat on my bed and explained to me that we had two big wooden doors that he would never be able to break into.  I remember how we always had the most beautiful garden in Boulderwood because you had a green thumb.  I remember how you loved to tell a dirty joke and you did it well.  I’ll remember how you snuck surgical scrubs out of the hospital so that I’d have something to wear on career day.  I’ll remember that you and I were the only two people in the house who loved Shakespeare and we’d trade quotes.  I’ll remember how you taught me to play gin. I’ll remember how you took me to meet your 99 year old patient so that I could interview him for a school project and the pride that I felt when he told me about how you saved his life.  I’ll remember how you let me give the pre-op orders over the phone once or twice…”Chest…ECG…BUN…Creatinine…Electrolytes…CBC and Sed Rate…Mogadan 10 HS…SS Enema HS…prep mid chest…” I still remember that to this day.

I’ll also remember the bad.  I won’t dwell on it.  I won’t be bitter because of it, but I’ll remember.  Again, I’ll try to be compassionate.  When we came to see you in February, I made the decision not to bring up the past to you.  I knew that there was no point in arguing with a dying man.  It was so sad for me to see you barely able to hold a paper cup of juice.  Your once steady, surgeon’s hands shaking as you tried to sip it.  It broke my heart to see your body covered with bruises caused by the blood thinners.  You were defeated.  Where Mummy can be so strong and fearless, you were always more timid.  When Mummy gets sick, I look at her, and she still has a spark – you didn’t have that spark when I saw you.  When I went to leave the room for a minute, and you said “Jill…Jill where are you going?” I was shocked because it was one of the few times in my life where I saw you vulnerable and where I thought you actually wanted me to stay.

I wish that you had been able to go and die with dignity in your own home surrounded by your own things instead of in a hospital room.  I wish that you didn’t have to die alone without your children at your bedside.  Dad, I wish that wherever you are, that you finally have peace and that you were able to forgive yourself.  I hope that you know that I never hated you and that I’ll be OK Dad, we’ll all be OK.