Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Reinventing Rhonda: Reinvention in the Mirror

Reinventing Rhonda: Reinvention in the Mirror: "Inspiring you to reinvent yourself" Dear Friends, I’ve written five new posts in my imagination since the last one that act...

Reinvention in the Mirror

"Inspiring you to reinvent yourself"

Dear Friends,
I’ve written five new posts in my imagination since the last one that actually made it to you. (Each brilliant in its own way.) Today, I want to open up a bit of my character for our collective inspection, reflect on the reinvention I’ve been sharing since February, and let you know why I paused.

“It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.” Just like the giddily playing kids whose parent must yell this cliché, I began my journey of reinvention with little idea of the risks. For one thing, it did not dawn on me, though it should have, that this blog and my FB pages would be stalked by someone without my best interest in mind. As I hope you’ve figured out, there are aspects of my life that I do keep private, writing nothing about here or on Facebook. Besides simple discretion and courtesy to others involved in my “reinvention,” I am sensitive to the idea, developed in social science, that to observe something is to change it in some way. So, I share with you what I am open to your influence over – you, meaning the innumerable people, currently known to me or not, who may ultimately read these musings. By opening myself to your observation, I know that my experiences themselves are somehow altered. All the more so, as I am describing my life to you with intent and choices; of course I’m aware of and influenced by your presence.

This blog is about growth, learning, joy, gratitude and excitement. In these areas, the more the merrier! Come on in for a swim in these pools of my mind; splash around; make some noise; run, even, if you wish. It’s safe and I welcome it. 

Why did I start the blog this year? Because I have illnesses that have forced me to change direction; because I was too ill to work and what on earth was I going to do with myself? Because I have financial and familial circumstances that one could consider dire. (Okay, that are dire.) Because I am much lesser abled than I ever was, in life-critical ways. Because everything must change because everything has changed.  

My response to those truths is to dwell as much as possible on these equally available truths: that there are also good circumstances in my life, that I have plenty of blessings to count, and that to a great extent, I get to choose my private and public responses to the losses. (Jewish tradition includes very sensible distinctions between public and private mourning.) It is not the circumstance that defines one, but the response.

My cyber-stalker – yes, someone I know – believes that if one is true the other must be a lie. Either I am in dire straits or I am joyful.  If I write about joy and good fortune here, that belies my “claim” of difficult circumstances. If my physical and financial difficulties are true, then – obviously – I am lying to you in this blog and on Facebook. This person has decided that I lie habitually and that I have little integrity.

So I paused. To ponder. To give the stalker less fodder for misinterpretation. To wonder, am I being truthful with you? After much deliberation, I came to this thought: 


It may be harder to burst with joy when counting too few pennies or when feeling knocked off one’s feet, but it is by no means impossible. A stimulating conversation may do it, as may evoking an infant’s smile. 

Watching a cat choose the posies’ planter as a cat bed has done it. Seeing FB photos of former students loving life does it. Chocolate ice cream does it (duh!), as does linguistic and philosophical discourse with a new FB friend.

I don’t yet have the answers to my fiscal well-being, and I don’t know how I will live a productive life with the ailments that limit me. I don’t. I grieve plenty, in private and to my closest confidantes. It scares me not to control the outcome, not even to know it. 

What I do know is that for me, joy is the antidote to fear. Laughter pushes stress away. Creative expression lightens the burden. Loving family and friends soothe my achy soul. And that, my dears, is no lie.

So, after this, back we go: to aspirations, inspiration, and the occasional stinky perspiration. Back to joy, growth, and beauty. Back to learning, reinvention, naysayers be damned.

Thanks for reading!

Love, Rhonda

Friday, May 15, 2015

Reinventing Rhonda: Unintentionally Slapstick

Reinventing Rhonda: Unintentionally Slapstick: "Inspiring You to Reinvent Yourself" Dear Friends, Years ago, I asked two colleagues to stop talking about their sex l...

Unintentionally Slapstick

"Inspiring You to Reinvent Yourself"

Dear Friends,

Years ago, I asked two colleagues to stop talking about their sex lives in front of me: "Don't you understand," I said, in mock exasperation, "I'm unintentionally celibate!" 

They chuckled, left my office, and we went about our week. Except that Sandy giggled every time she saw me, returning repeatedly to the concept of "unintentionally celibate." 

Just as a staff meeting was about to begin, Sandy and I made eye contact across the table; muttering, "unintentionally celibate," she began to laugh again. 

Here's a nice picture of a nice cucumber. No reason. Why?
"Sandy," I said in mock exasperation, "Don't you understand? It wouldn't be funny if it weren't true!"

"Oh!" she responded, thought a minute, nodding her head slowly. 


It was an odd concept. Celibacy, as opposed to “not getting any” or “in a dry spell,” connotes choice, virtue. To be celibate is to be well-behaved, disciplined, pure and strong. In control of one’s destiny. I was unintentionally strong and in control? Yes! I'd much rather have been impulsively screwing up a storm every night and bow-legged with exhaustion every morning. It was my age-right, my birthright. I was racking up virtue points when I should have been racking up notches on a bedpost. It was frustrating. And funny.

I often burst out laughing when I recount my frustrations, and, as I saw clearly this week, so do my friends. I’ve been in NYC, down from Albany for a divorce mediation session that took place on Wednesday. I planned 1.5 days free and close by on either side of the stressful event, in case of debilitating potential Fibro flare-ups. (Thanks to the Have Computer Will Work strategy, I am able to be as productive in borrowed digs as I am at home.)

Making time to connect with friends through the week, I had lunch at a café, dusk beside the Central Park Reservoir and dinner at a corner Italian place. After each get-together, my abs ached and my cells felt over-oxygenated from belly laughter. The stories were the sort that are over-the-top funny because, well, they aren’t really funny at all. Self-deprecating slapstick: Not so-and-so slipped on a banana peel; rather, that’s me slipping on the damned banana peel that I threw down to begin with!  

My friends and I laughed about grunting like old, arthritic men every time we move, the relationships that went insanely south, the most bizarre moments of those relationships, and the grief of lost love and trashed dreams. Conversation sloshed between sharing real pain and giggling over it, being worried and being giddy and strategizing and caricaturizing.

I could barely catch my breath or hold my bladder. At the café, the woman behind us could barely hear herself think. At the reservoir, self-satisfied runners just barely managed to ignore us. No matter – we were thoroughly enjoying the fruits of our failures.

Often, I describe my body with Fibro as a carnival fun house mirror – everything’s warped and unreal. “It would be hysterically funny if it weren’t true,” I say. But enjoying this week so much and remembering back to “unintentionally celibate,” I now see that if it weren’t true, it wouldn’t be funny.

Are you enjoying these posts? Please do share them. It’s fun to see what new countries people are reading me in. I don’t have anyone in Africa or Scandinavia yet. Let’s go, people!

Love, Rhonda

PS. Need writing or editing help? Write me at 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Reinventing Rhonda: For the Love of God…

Reinventing Rhonda: For the Love of God…: “Inspiring you to reinvent yourself” Dear friends, I bought a blender this month, the kind that crushes everything with blades o...

For the Love of God…

“Inspiring you to reinvent yourself”

Dear friends,

I bought a blender this month, the kind that crushes everything with blades of steel. Not the insanely expensive brand that produces so much friction, COSTCO hawkers make soup in it. I dreamed about that one, imagining it would change my life forever. I love soup, and if I make frozen margaritas, surely beautifully plumed people would flit around me like hummingbirds to nectar? Nah.

I rejected the TV miracle one that looks like a mortar shell and is likely to send smoothie gloop-shrapnel all over my kitchen. On the other hand, I loved my Ginzu knives, so maybe this is good quality. Still, too utilitarian; I wouldn't love it.

No, I bought the Jackie Chan of blenders, the one that chops board-hard carrots like butter. It was love at first blend. Amazing! Kale tastes great with pears, ginger and raspberries, and with carrots, apples, protein powder and chocolate chips. It’s remarkable how kale, almond oil, parmesan and pine nuts turn into pesto with the push of a finger. I have eaten more iron, Vitamin C and fiber than my intestinal track knows what to do with. It’s like after a week at Kripalu, eating vegan foods in bulk.

Though it might be hard to discern, this post is about the languages of love – or more specifically, my languages of love. My new friend Anna, a fictional representation of a real person  (I am helping a beloved client writing a Roman à Clef—fictionalized tell-all—and this is a good warm-up), mentioned love at her kitchen table Monday.

I had just sealed a deal with her daughter, Rebecca, to work for me this summer, and Anna and I had just agreed to collaborate on a writing project. We had also just conspired to get more food-based iron into her oldest daughter, Callie, who babysits at my house three afternoons a week. My role? Make her smoothies with kale hidden within, of course. Kale for Callie. (The alliteration works with Callie’s real name, too, but if I told you, I'd have to..., well, you know.)  Anna had just texted back to Rebecca, who texted her mom from the basement that she wanted to go hang out with her boyfriend. And I had just told Anna that her ex-husband Bernard, who is my fictional friend and financial advisor, has been trying to get me to stop buying people gifts. “The languages of love,” Anna murmured, in a moment of intellectual flight that hooked me and carried it with me.

What are my languages of love? I am a love polyglot! I do speak gift. How could I not buy the What da Cluck T-shirt for a friend who raises chickens? A spring jacket for a toddler niece? A hand-painted mug in her favorite colors for a friend who turned 50?

I also speak a hybrid of schoolmarm, Jewish mother and soft-bosomed auntie. I see to your education and that there are childproof locks on the cabinets. I scold you for talking trash and kvell over your every achievement. (Kvelling is Yiddish for celebrating a loved one’s/student’s accomplishments in a joyfully connected “And s/he’s mine!” sort of way.) I hug you, coo at you and rub your back. I laugh at your jokes and listen to your music. I use endearments and touch your hair or shoulder when I walk by. I say and text “I love you” often. If you are an infant, toddler, dog, cat, goat or alpaca, I talk a stream of pleasant sounding nonsense to you, often responding to your garbled verbiage with, “I know, baby. I agree with you completely. What do you think about X (world peace, those Mets, etc.)?” If you’re a teenager, I meet your ideas with wondering questions – you sparked my curiosity! I cook you soup.

Speaking of soup, I was trained from birth to speak food: smoothies with iron; pesto in little jars for everyone; a Passover seder for non-Jewish friends replete with brisket, Moroccan chicken, fresh-made horseradish and beets, matzo ball soup and innumerable kugels; brunch out; ice cream. Coffee fixed the way you like it. And I am also an avid listener to the language of Food.

I can listen and jabber on for days in Daughter, Friend, Lover and Sister. 
Parents Fran and David. Taught me many love languages
I speak resume and cover letter and their parent language, editing. I speak Stay at my House, Borrow my Car and What do You Need beautifully, along with Breathlessly Funny Shared Story-Telling. I am fluent in Hold on, You’re Safe, though much less so in I’m Letting Go Now. I overuse the cyber love language, Facebook, and cannot get enough of I Love Hearing Your Love Languages.

When alone, I use my ESL–extra-sensory love–to scan the well-being of those with whom I have not spoken today, this week, this month, and sometimes even, this year. I use this vibratory language to wish them into greater well-being, celebrate with them, ease their fear or grief, and let them know that I miss and love them. In many cases, a greeting card would do better, but I speak post office haltingly and have never quite gotten the rhythms of Remember My Birthday or Happy Anniversary.

Languages of love:so satisfying to think about this morning! Thank you, fictional Anna, for sparking this train of thought. I’ve loved it. Now off either to make my breakfast smoothie or take my early morning nap. Probably the nap; I love naps.

Love, Rhonda

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Reinventing Rhonda: When the Fibro Flares

Reinventing Rhonda: When the Fibro Flares: "Inspiring you to Reinvent Yourself" Dear Friends,  I planned a month of driving, visiting, meeting strangers, eating ...

Reinventing Rhonda: Reinventing Rhonda: The Not-so-Lonely Gal on the R...

Reinventing Rhonda: Reinventing Rhonda: The Not-so-Lonely Gal on the R...: Reinventing Rhonda: The Not-so-Lonely Gal on the Road : "Inspiring you to reinvent yourself." Dear Friends,  The sunroof ...

When the Fibro Flares

"Inspiring you to Reinvent Yourself"

Dear Friends, 

I planned a month of driving, visiting, meeting strangers, eating out and on-the-go, and sleeping different homes: NY, NJ, DE, MD, VA, NC, SC, GA, FL, GA, SC, NC, VA, MD, DE, PA, NJ, NY. I knew that Fibro fatigue would catch up with me and Fibro pain would strike. So I planned for broken plans, sprinkling several longer than necessary stops throughout the trip so that I could rest. 

I build in flexibility, knowing that my body would insist on taking control. 

(Fibro/chronic pain travel hint #1)

What happened was a quick onset, stress induced Flaming Fibro Flare just south of Orlando. 

Orlando was meant to be my three-night rest stop. 

When Couch Surfing, I request to stay where a bed in one's own room is offered. I can nap at will and groan in pain to my Fibro heart's content. (Fibro/chronic pain travel hint #2)

I made Couch Surfing plans that sounded great with a wonderfully reviewed host, who turns out to be a terrific and interesting man with a lovely girl friend to boot. And an artist and a man who has turned every room of his house into a renovation zone. I needed guidance to walk through. 

Belongings were piled everywhere. I snaked my arms past a wall of half filled paint-rinsing jars to wash my hands. While "my" bedroom was the neatest and the bed was nicely made, there were still things piled and leaning every which way.

Some of you know that I spent many years living with a hoarder. Not a fun experience; sometimes a horrible one. So, while I make no judgment on my host's relationship with things, I felt deeply uncomfortable in his home.

First, I took a brief nap. (Remember, my energy was already wearing thin; this was meant to be my recuperation stop.) When I awoke, I found myself lingering in bed. 

An inner dialogue began: I'll just stay in bed until tomorrow. That would be rude. Where would I sit out there? I can't stay here! Well, you can't insult them, they opened their home to you. I feel myself sinking. Stay the night and find another place tomorrow. 

A pause, and then a different inner voice. The health superego I've been trying to develop, the one who guards me against wantonly putting others before myself: 

You cannot stay the night. Your anxiety is rising and you will end up in a huge Fibro flare. You're already on the brink of one, which is why you're not thinking straight, but really, Rosenheck, you must leave now. Sit up. Good. Put your things back in your bag. Good. and now, go out to the living room and say something. You can do this.

"Hi," I began. "I need to share something. I lived with a hoarder for a long time and while I know that you're in the middle of renovations, the amount of clutter here is bringing on an anxiety attack. I'm sorry, I cannot stay with you. If not for my background, I'd be excited to learn about all the work you're doing on the house. But I have to go. I'm so sorry."

They understood. They wanted me to be comfortable. They asked where I'd stay. I threw out the name of a place nearby, though I'd not made plans. I grabbed my bags, slipped past mounds of things following my host to the door, and practically ran out. 

From the car, I booked a last minute hotel deal nearby. 

When using AirBNB and Couch Surfing to travel, have a just-in-case budget available for an inexpensive hotel room. Keep Priceline's app handy on your phone to book an immediately available room with express deals at 50-60% off their normal prices.

(Fibro/chronic pain travel hint #3)

I couldn't forestall the anxiety attack; it arrived full force just as I was driving away. I pulled into a gas station to let it safely work its way through my body. I cleaned every bit of rubbish out of the car, reorganized my snacks bag, and strove to slow my breathing. When I felt calmer, I drove to the hotel and spent three days and two nights in a blessedly clean room riding out a major Fibro flare.

I got myself out of an unhealthy situation and into a restorative one after only an hour or so of hesitation. This was huge!

I continued my trip the day I felt well again. Made one more stop before reaching my folks' place. Spent hours catching up on freelance work in the Co-Op Cafe, a fantastic natural foods place in Fort Pierce, FL, Watched pelicans swan dive for fish off a pier. Got another good night's sleep. Then, at last, I arrived in Boca and fell into my mom's compassionate arms, just in time to help with the Passover preparations. 

by Mary Theresa Streck, former nun, hopeful future Catholic priest

Hope you all had a terrific holiday. Mine was just right! 

Love, Rhonda

Monday, March 30, 2015

Reinventing Rhonda: The Not-so-Lonely Gal on the Road

Reinventing Rhonda: The Not-so-Lonely Gal on the Road: "Inspiring you to reinvent yourself." Dear Friends,  The sunroof is back and my hair is blowing in the wind. (Okay, my h...

The Not-so-Lonely Gal on the Road

"Inspiring you to reinvent yourself."

Dear Friends, 

The sunroof is back and my hair is blowing in the wind. (Okay, my hair looks like this even when I stage a still shot of hair blowing in the wind.) I have been on the road for nine days, heading straight south. I am approaching Central Florida, on this, the first day of my trip to go above 60 degrees Fahrenheit

Traveling solo is lovely and not at all lonely.:

I get to see people I love. NJ was a sleep-over with good friends, DC was a sleep-over with cousins, and Raleigh was a sleep-over with lifelong friends plus a night out with less long, but still long, time friends. Savannah was supposed to be a stay where I knew no one. Popping onto the Couch Surfing site to input my request, I found that of over 1100 potential hosts, the very first to appear was a graduate school friend! Savannah became a sleep-over and catch-up with one of the sweetest rabbis I know and his remarkable wife. 

Strangers become (at least) momentary friends. Ken, a new Word With Friends adversary from Philadelphia. David, who hosted me in Wilmington, DE for two nights, a family medicine intern who grew up not far from where my brother now lives. Got an amazing hug from the fabulously witty owner of a yogurt and coffee shop, also in Wilmington, called Scrumptious. Spent over an hour in free-flowing discourse with her and a regular who is an artist. Sid, the band leader in Raleigh, expects me not to miss his show next time! Anya, the restaurateur's wife, also in Raleigh, near-promised a successful shidduch for me and has already invited me to join her and Arthur (the restaurateur) at a Jewish gathering in August.

Brooke, the clerk at Pep Boys in Georgia, sneaked me in for a tire replacement at the end of the day Sunday. (She enjoyed a sampling of my yummy/healthy road snacks to ease the dinner-time delay.) Heath and Leann, my hosts in Jacksonville: HS sweethearts, they each married and divorced, then found each other fifteen years ago. In 27 years of a career in state corrections, Heath has never carried a gun. 

Friends and loved ones remain in reach. Mom: Where am I today and what Haggadahs should we use for the seder? Nephew: Childcare possibilities in Portland, ME? Edison, NJ friend: Textlogue in process until I visit on the return. Friends of a good friend in NYC: Can they stay with me one night during Passover? Yes, but I won't be there: here's my beloved housemate to host you. Facebook: posts, comments and likes. 

Reinventing Rhonda: well, here you are! ;-)  

Spanish Moss: Neither Spanish nor Moss. Discuss.
I should shove off. Most beautiful so far? Strolling where Spanish Moss grows? The lush Ocala National Forest whooshing by as I drive? (Did you know that Florida has a huge national forest?) Sunshine and a temperature gauge that says it's 72 degrees out? The love I'm feeling out here on the road. Hard to say, really.

Please follow, share, like, etc. if you do, indeed: want to follow, feel like sharing, like it, etc.  

To those who celebrate: a Happy Easter, a Sweet Passover, and in general, a warm welcome for budding renewal of earth, spirit, and please, a peaceful human sensibility. 

Love, Rhonda


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Reinventing Rhonda: The Muck Between the Bucket Seats

Reinventing Rhonda: The Muck Between the Bucket Seats: "Inspiring you to reinvent yourself." Dear Friends, I'm just sitting for a moment. Recapturing my breath on a...

The Muck Between the Bucket Seats

"Inspiring you to reinvent yourself."

Dear Friends,

I'm just sitting for a moment. Recapturing my breath on a cold and accomplished day. Homemade sipping chocolate rests cooling close at hand. More to do, more to do. In a bit, I promise.

May this fibro-woman hear an "ooh, ah," for each of these accomplishments?

  • Get out of bed. Get dressed right away. (Huge.) 
  • Feed the cats, water four creatures and let the dogs out. Give each some one-on-one loving. 
  • Resolve a TurboTax issue by seeing if it would resolve itself: It did. Taxes filed. 
  • Fail to design a business card on If at first you don't succeed, procrastinate. 
  • Phone meeting: brief, warm and productive. 
  • In-person meeting: brief, warm and productive. 
  • Get bank paperwork done in under fifteen minutes. (I'd prepared ahead.) 
  • Eat lunch while chatting with my niece. 
  • Get snow tires changes to all-weathers. This meant: clear heavy things from car; put heavy things in car; do crossword puzzles and email; shop on Amazon Mobile; and clear heavy things from my car again. 
  • Remove car muck. I believe the Talmud states that car muck over a k'zayit ("like an olive") must be removed by hand two weeks before Passover. Four freezing months' worth of fallen popcorn, dried pear stems, gluten-free cookie crumbs, seltzer can tabs, faded gas receipts, lozenge wrappers, used napkins and broken tooth-flossers. 
It was the muck that got me. Leaning across the driver's seat, right elbow up on that storage thing, left arm stretched full length into the passenger foot-well, I realized that I could not move. My legs were straight back, toes barely touching ground. My arms had no leverage; whatever muscle tone in the past would have popped me right back up was gone.

This was slapstick. "Stan....ley!" (Young 'uns, no one alive should miss Stanley Laurel and Oliver Hardy’s work:

I scissored my legs, seeking traction. Nope.

I collapsed my right arm. Really!? Why?

I clutched at the crushed pen cap, flopped over sideways and, finally, wormed myself backward until my toes gripped tarmac and I could bend my knees.

Up I bounced, practicing what my feline friends have taught me: Land on your feet; shake yourself off; say, "I meant to do that," then walk away slowly, with your tail in the air.

No one saw. (A wiser woman might not have blogged about it.)

Tonight, you ask? There's a bedroom to tidy, laundry to load, a Paypal account to open, and an office to organize. So if you need me, look for me in front of an episode or two of NCIS.

Please share, follow, like, and comment. I don't yet understand why, but I think it matters.

Thank you.

Love, Rhonda

Here's what warmed me, besides your company: Rhonda's Almost Vegan Sipping Chocolate:

6 oz        Silk Almond-Coconut Milk
6 chips   Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 packet Stevia, any brand
1.5 Tbs   Unsweetened cocoa, Hershey's or finer
1 dollop  Whipped cream, chilled

Microwave nut milk for 1 minute. Assemble other ingredients. Add cocoa, chips and stevia. Stir with a fork to dissolve powders and attain a foamy top. Heat again, 30 seconds at a time, until desired warmth is achieved. Peak with whipped cream. Sip, being sure to establish nose-tip to whipped cream contact. Moan happily.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Reinventing Rhonda: A Religious Experience at the Attorney's Office

Reinventing Rhonda: A Religious Experience at the Attorney's Office: "Inspiring you to Reinvent Yourself" Artist: Jennifer North Two days ago I turned 53. Today I signed my Last Will &...

A Religious Experience at the Attorney's Office

"Inspiring you to Reinvent Yourself"

Artist: Jennifer North

Two days ago I turned 53. Today I signed my Last Will & Testament. The sequence was a coincidence of attorney-client mutual convenience but nonetheless struck me as meaningful.

Here's the story: In the first 68 days of 2015 (minus one hour stolen by the Spring Ahead demon), I:

  1. Stepped down as head of my school, ending a 32 year Jewish education vocation.
  2. Started
  3. Served divorce papers on my husband after 13 years of marriage and three of estrangement.
  4. Began a freelancing business of writing, editing and proofreading.(
  5. Consolidated various 403b and IRA savings so that they will grow faster.
  6. Put myself on a spending budget and a healthy-for-me eating plan.
  7. Labeled myself "semi-retired," to relax into my Fibromyalgia rather than fight it.
Not bad for a person who is chronically fatigued and in pain. (Though I don't think I yet understand the meaning of semi-retirement.)

With many changes looming, the time seemed right to organize my pre-death and in-death experiences. Control freak or kind soul? You choose. Either way, I chose now to convey my wishes.

Besides the legal forms, I wrote an Ethical Will, which is a deceased person's final soapbox, on which she can climb in death to share with loved ones her gratitude, values and wishes -- with no back talk. Ethical wills are a minor, long-held, Jewish tradition. Though not exclusively Jewish, I believe. 

See Jack Riemer's now classic text, So That Your Values Live On: Ethical Wills and How to Prepare Them, December 1, 1993 ISBN-13: 978-1879045347  ISBN-10: 1879045346

Back to my attorney's office, today. I thought: In for a quick check of corrections and my John Hancock; in by 2, out in 30.

Instead, I had a religious experience. Re-reading my end of life instructions, my Last Will and Testament, and my love-soaked Ethical Will, my spirit began to well. The chik-chok-watch the clock attitude I came in with left. Time slowed and so did my breath. 

I used each moment alone in the conference room to meditate. It came easily for once. Empty my lungs and shut out air with my adductors; fill my lungs and shut air in with my glottis. Feel the rushes -- in and out -- when I unlock the muscles. Think only of each breath and, to be honest, of Jeanette Miller, the yoga instructor who taught me this practice long ago. 

In walked the attorney and three witnesses, bearing documents on heavy, ivory paper, with headings in elegant type, bearing my penultimate and final wishes. I rose and shook hands with each witness. We took seats around an oval table. I laid my hand on the pile of documents, accepted a pen from the attorney, and thought, "There should be a blessing." I couldn't think of one on the spot, so I did the birthday candle thing instead: Closed my eyes, made a wish, opened my eyes and got to it. My wish? 
"May this do its job to ease and obviate the pain of others."

I found the first blank places and wrote "9th," then "March," then "2015," very carefully with a blue pen. Found the line with Rhonda Lea Rosenheck centered under it and signed Rhonda Rosenheck, because Lea is never part of my signature. Handed the pen and paper to the first witness, who filled in her part while we silently watched. She handed paper and pen to the second witness, who wrote her part and then handed it across the table to the third witness. The attorney laid it down, first of a stack invisibly labeled, "Done." 

We reenacted this for the Health Care Proxy, the page that attests that the witnesses are who they say they are, something else procedural and my Last Will and Testament. This was then notarized, to demonstrate that I am who I say I am. 

The last document was my Ethical Will. As a letter to my loved ones, only I signed it: Love, Rhonda Rosenheck. I was going to sign "Rhonda," but out of kindness to genealogists in the next century, I added my last name.  

Can you feel the religion? Ritual, grounded in tradition, shared among officiants with specified roles, meaningful in perpetuity, and giving structure to the most uncomfortable questions of life, death, pain, hope, faith and grief. 

There should have been a blessing. Here's my stab at it tonight. Not an experienced liturgist, I have chosen the essential Jewish formula for blessings over mitzvot, commandments.

Baruch atah adonai...
Blessed are you, Adonai, my God, Ruler of the Universe, who blesses us with your commandments and commands us to prepare for death in life. Amen.

Amen, my beloveds who will, one day, have to listen to a recitation of my less-than-terse Ethical Will.

Amen, readers who can choose now to express their end of life wishes, saving their loved ones the agony of guessing. 

Amen, readers who can already check off these tasks: "Done."

I'd love to hear your experiences. Please share freely in the comments.

Thank you. 

Love, Rhonda

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Reinventing Rhonda: Time Travel

Reinventing Rhonda: Time Travel: "Inspiring You to Reinvent Yourself" Dear Friends, The message was  dread-inspiring: "Please call me, I've go...

Time Travel

"Inspiring You to Reinvent Yourself"

Dear Friends,

The message was  dread-inspiring: "Please call me, I've got news," said in that sad voice meant to soften a blow. Bad news was in store. Someone had to have died. 

Someone had: the mom of three high school friends. I was in the school choir, but not particularly close, with the twin boys my age. But their older brother was a different story. Mitchell was my first crush, my first date, my first kiss, my first boyfriend. We saw the first Star Wars film on the first showing of the first day of its local release. (And I have the "May the Force be With You" pin to prove it.) 

I've been Facebook connected with Mitch since about 2005, but not at all with the twins through the 37 years since we graduated. There is also a younger brother who was a little kid when we were teens. 

Mrs. Schwartz , Mom to her sons, and Maxine or Magi to friends and family (so I learned yesterday). Mrs. Schwartz and I spent little time together -- it wasn't what you might imagine, with her raising four boys as a divorced mother: I was not the daughter Maxine never had. 

While I doubt I made an impression on her, Mrs. Schwartz made a huge impression on me. This woman, "Mrs." to no man, was the first brash, independent and sexy over-sized woman I'd met. She had what she needed and lived as she liked (from my adolescent perspective, anyway). She raised four boys firmly and with no fuss. 

When Mrs. Schwartz wanted to sun her ample body, she wore an itsy bitsy bikini. This snapshot serves me as a coaching image: a tanned, sweaty, bikini-clad Mrs. Schwartz entering the house to get an icy drink. For nearly 40 years, it pops up to remind me -- a perpetually over-sized woman -- that I may dress as I wish and I may feel sexy without approval from the Thin Police.

So I drove to Baltimore for the funeral. To comfort the Schwartz boys, whom I knew when I was a girl exploring her femininity, and to imbibe memories of the first woman to show me that Sexy, like a bikini, should be worn however one chooses.  

Hugging each Schwartz brother for the first time in decades, felt like honey tastes. Watching the alchemy of laughter, tears and memory morph their faces into those worn by the boys they were made me happy. 

I met Mitchell's magnificent wife and nearly adult offspring. I caught up with his closest friend -- the one who called  to say I should be there -- and the third in their three musketeers-style friendship. I re-met my own brother's childhood friend, a fellow public and Hebrew School traveler. Weekly, these boys amused themselves with a hearty game of Kill the Guy with the Yarmulke at the bus stop and on the synagogue lawn. 

I traveled down through New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Time yesterday. Today, I will travel up to New York and the present, savoring the sweet sights, sounds, memories and tastes of Mrs. Schwartz's farewell. From my view, this fabulous woman went out as she lived -- loved and in style!

Thank you for reading. If you are enjoying Reinventing Rhonda, please share it with your friends. If not, please share it with those whom you wish to annoy.

Love, Rhonda

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Fibro Smog: A Toxic Mix of Brain Fog and Bad News

"Inspiring You to Reinvent Yourself"

Dear Friends, 

Reducing stress has become a source of stress in my life. I am certain that many of you have just said, "Yes!" or some such outburst of agreement. After all, doesn't research indicate an inverse correlation between overall health and stress levels? When stress rises health erodes. Health improves as we reduce stress.*
*Two notes for this past paragraph: a. Please don't ask for citations, facts are not what this post is about; and b. Please remember that correlations are not cause and effect -- which is the chicken and which is the egg, and what if both sides of the correlation are, I don't know, parallel donkeys?

Reducing my stress in a world going mad has become tricky. Picture the Ostrich with her head buried in the ground. Do you imagine her to be relaxed? I don't. I see her haunches quivering with fear. I see her breath held, awaiting the inevitable approach of unseen terrors, increasing in monstrosity every second. By hiding in plain sight, our mythical Ostrich has ceded control over her fate to others and made herself a near perfect target for adversaries.

I gained a long-held belief from my family's history that self-blinding (e.g. naivete about humankind's potential for evil) is the handmaiden of self-destruction. I look with pride on being third generation American across the board (very unusual for a Jewish woman of my age from central and eastern European origin). All eight of my great-grandparents left Europe at the turn of the 20th century. These ancestors looked the danger from increasing anti-Semitism in the eye. Decisively, they each risked and invested everything in survival, freedom, and a fair chance for their children, my parents, my brother and me (and cousins) and our next generations of offspring.   

I learned to pay attention. Follow the news. Listen to my internal alarm. And because my parents were the offspring of these alert ancestors and highly liberal New Yorkers, I learned that bigotry, injustice or violence toward anyone should ring that alarm.  

Stress exacerbates Fibromyalgia symptoms. I strive not to watch the news, read past the newspaper's comics or agonize long over other people's (and peoples') pain. But this effort itself produces anxiety: I know something is happening out there, but what exactly? "Stay informed," whispers my entire bloodline, "It matters." So, eventually, I catch up.

The straw that broke my Fibro body's back earlier this week was this article in The Atlantic Monthly. Consider yourself warned -- follow the link at the risk of never sleeping well again. 

This terrifying analysis landed on a huge pile of straws my weakening back was already balancing*
*I'm speaking broadly below, folks, to show you my mindset.

  • Concerns about my own resources for living, now and into retirement;
  • A nation that finds shooting unarmed, Black men viscerally acceptable and acts as if child shooting deaths have little to do with gun laws; 
  • My beloved President pussyfooting around international issues important to me and disdained and hobbled in Congress regarding social issues important to me. 
  • The spread, influence and government sanction of obscene greed. 
  • Women's rights put up for discussion and erosion again, as if they are less than human rights.
  • Ancient forms of anti-Semitism awakening as people and governments grow desperate, frightened and enraged.

Two days ago, I read The Atlantic Monthly's article and could not sleep. I vibrated with near-panic level anxiety, collapsed for a few hours in the morning and awoke with Fibro Fog (reduced mental acuity) and a body that ached as if inflamed everywhere. Today, I am still striving to recuperate from the spike in symptoms, known in the Fibromyalgia community as a Flare. 

I dubbed this bout of unwellness "Fibro Smog" because I feel polluted and sickened by empathy's poor showing against indifference and hatred. 

Yes, I am restarting a mindfulness meditation practice; yes, I am reflecting and writing; yes, I am walking. Yes to following all the recommendations for stress reduction. Yet I am not yet reaching a healthy balance between self-care and engagement in the world. 

It is very stressful, failing to manage my stress. 

Please, world, a little cooperation? Pretend that everything is all about me. What I need from you is kindness, goodness, generosity, curiosity, patience, joy, laughter, and a laying down of aggressors' and defenders' swords at the same time. Is that really too much to ask for the sake of a good night's sleep? I don't think so. Thank you so much!

Love, Rhonda

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Reinventing Rhonda: Travel Adventures of an Energetic Fatigued Woman: ...

Reinventing Rhonda: Travel Adventures of an Energetic Fatigued Woman: ...: “Inspiring You to Reinvent Yourself” Friends, Walls of snow notwithstanding, it is time for me to start my travel writing career....

Travel Adventures of an Energetic Fatigued Woman: Schenectady, NY

“Inspiring You to Reinvent Yourself”


Walls of snow notwithstanding, it is time for me to start my travel writing career. I plan to practice on you by regularly devoting posts to this endeavor. 

I live in New York’s Capital Region, which stands at the crossroads (90 and 87) of the Shawangunk, Catskill, Adirondack, Berkshire, and Green Mountains and en route to New York City, Boston, MA, Burlington, VT, and Montreal, QB. 

I've got access here to local bands, musical superstars, home grown theater, traveling blockbusters, dance, horse racing, and every sort of ethnic restaurant except, sadly, Ethiopian. I can shop at a farmers' markets four days a week and indulge my slothfulness at idiosyncratic coffee shops and drinking holes. An international airport is ten minutes’ drive from my home, yet my backyard window offers a wild things peepshow daily.

While my travel experiences are geared to what's possible for this energetic fatigued woman, others can easily bike a canal trail, kayak down a river, bet on horses, drink in the Impressionists, ski the slopes, and sip cocktails lakeside from here. 

My affection for this area, rich in natural beauty, kind people, quirky places and cultural marvels, is new. Camping near Ithaca, studying in Binghamton, practicing a Pepé le Pew accent in Quebec and getting my Om on in Lenox, I always passed through Albany. At Albany's highway intersection, the car turned right, left or not at all. No, I understood, we’re not there yet. When I found reason to evoke an image of the city, I saw author William Kennedy’s bone-chillingly gray backdrop for weary souls who clawed at the bar to slow a slide into despair. 

Only one place seemed grimmer than Albany: her abandoned, industrial neighbor Schenectady. So I'll start right here, in Schenectady. 

State Street, Schenectady, N.Y. (Michael P. Farrell/Times Union)

With your indulgence, I will introduce you to her Electric City legacy along with her cafés, pubs, theaters, shops, outdoor spaces, and an oddly tasty thing called a Pickle Back Shot.

These places may be five minutes drive from my house, but they comprise the very stuff of travel the way I like it. I hope you enjoy taking the adventure with me.

Love, Rhonda

Monday, February 9, 2015

Reinventing Rhonda: How to Start a Travel Writing Career While Snowed ...

Reinventing Rhonda: How to Start a Travel Writing Career While Snowed ...: Inspiring You to Reinvent Yourself Friends,  What am I to do when the day I picked to start writing travel articles looks like this? ...

How to Start a Travel Writing Career While Snowed in

Inspiring You to Reinvent Yourself


What am I to do when the day I picked to start writing travel articles looks like this?

Postman's prints; Writers take no such oath.

1.   Make tea immediately.
2.   Drink it slowly, allowing boy cat to crawl all over me, looking for his mother.
3.   Push boy cat off and get to work. 
4.   Write up overdue notes from a committee meeting.
5.   Email giggly, funny things with a friend. Pretend that it is not disruptive.
6.   Urgently reorganize the crafts shelf that has been messy since the day I arrived. I can take it no longer!
7.   Set the dishwasher going. Hand wash everything that didn't fit so it does not soak a minute longer.
8.   Broil a seasoned haddock fillet. Stare at broiler. 
9.   Microwave broccoli and corn. Move away from the microwave. Awaken sleeping computer.
10. Return to broiler; stare. Move rack closer to the flame.
11. Start up Reinventing Rhonda. Click Analysis. Crow over 272 reads thus far!
12. Take fish from broiler. Plate it. Bring it with me to the computer. Eat a bite. Meh.
13. Check Facebook, in case something happened and is being reported by, commented on, blogged about, caricaturized, debated over or mocked by someone I know, someone whom my friends know or Jon Stewart. Check the news feed each time it bings. 
14. Look outside. Take the picture above. Feel virtuous: this is work, after all. 
15. Tune in to veggies beeping in the microwave. Get up. Consider, but ultimately reject, butter. Feel virtuous. Eat veggies. Virtue courses, like a tsunami, through my veins: Sloth, catch me if you can! (Don't you wish a sloth would lay his three clawed paw on your hand? I do. I also love acting slothful; look how happy they are!)
 16.  Tidy up. Find gluten-free cookie dough from my insomnia-binge. Get spoon. Lose all virtue points? No! Because, a. it's gluten free and b. I'm eating it in teeny, tiny bites.
17. Open my mail. After all, the postman's journey was, again, not stayed. Complain: I need a better grade of mail, people.
18. Think, Oh, hey! I was going to start the travel writing career today. Eat more cookie dough.
19. Write a clever name for this blog post.
20. Diligently write a list of 20 instructions for.... 

You're busy. I know. I'll leave you now with a contented sigh and the probability that I will soon need to warm up my tea. 

It is 1:45 pm. Surely, there's plenty of time to write my first travel article today while snowed in? 

After a nap, of course. 
But surely before dinner. 

Have a warm and safe week, my friends. Please spread this brilliance broadly, and let me know your thoughts!

Love, Rhonda