Category Archives: Celebrations

The Gurvitz family, Mother's Day 1998

Love to all mothers, not just on Mother’s Day – and moms, get in the picture!

Mother’s Day may have been yesterday, but that doesn’t mean that the time has passed to show how you appreciate all the mothers in your life. There are the mothers who gave birth to us and those who raised us. There are aunts and grandmothers who have helped to guide you. There are friends who have been like family to us. There are single dads (and single moms) doing the work of mothers and fathers. There are mothers who have no children of their own but dedicate themselves to playing a role in the lives of other people’s children or of nurturing in other ways. Mothers come in all shapes and sizes, after all.

At our Mother’s Day dinner last night, we talked about the fact that it was the 100th anniversary of Mother’s Day. What does that mean for most people? Well, it often means making a phone call – it is the day when the most phone calls are made in the United States (and that may only count landlines). It may mean buying flowers or sharing a meal or other outing. But most of all I believe it is a day to be grateful for the women (and men) who have had an impact on you becoming the person you are today.

My mother died in early 1999, just before my parents would have celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary. We had my father with us until 2010. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about both of them. I wear my mother’s ring as a constant reminder of her presence, and every day I remember another joke that my father told to make people laugh and feel comfortable. My parents left legacies of strength, wisdom, humor, lasting love, and enlightenment at the end of their lives. For better or for worse, I embody their best and worst tendencies. I am grateful for the good ones and work on minimizing the impact of the ones I am not so grateful for (such as my mother’s temper).

This photo was taken on the last Mother’s Day my family was able to celebrate together – the photo includes my parents, my father’s brother (left), my husband (top), my brother and his wife with their son (on the right) and my daughter. Usually, I am not in the picture but this is the last photo of me with my mother and I am so grateful to have it.

The Gurvitz family, Mother's Day 1998

Mother’s Day with Carol’s family, 1998.

Here is a photo taken representing four generations of my husband’s side of the family: his grandmother, his mother, his wife, and his daughter. Four generations! What a blessing that my husband’s grandmother lived to be a great-grandmother.

Four generations on Mother's Day, 1993

Four generations photograph, 1993.

So Moms, get in the picture! And if you have a wonderful picture from a Mother’s Day celebration, be it from this year or a past one, why not let me showcase it in a collage? Give me a call and let’s talk about giving Mom a tangible reminder of how much your appreciate her.

Happy Christmas! A story of generosity in a time of tragedy.

Jenn and Erick before Erick's devastating diagnosis.

Jenn and Erick in happier times.

It has only been a few days since I discovered the story of Jenn and Erick, an engaged couple who had planned to marry in August 2014. Their plans came to a screeching halt on December 17, 2013 when Erick was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given less than a year to live. They contacted their wedding photographer, Shannon Grant of Shannon Grant Photography, to give her the news that the wedding was cancelled. Facing a financial crunch, they told her they were planning something like a quickie courthouse wedding. But that wasn’t good enough for Shannon, who wanted to see this sweet couple get the wedding of their dreams.

So Shannon took action on Facebook. She created a page, “Let’s Give Them A Wedding!” asking for help. Within hours, the generous wedding professionals of New England had stepped up with an outpouring of services covering everything you need for a wedding, and then some. All you have to do is to read the story of this couple and even if you don’t know them, you are moved and you want to help.

I am one of the vendors who is privileged to be participating in this venture. I have never met Jenn or Erick, nor did I know of Shannon before this all started – we had mutual friends in the New England wedding industry whose posts got me involved. Not only do I want them to have a day to remember, I want to be among those who capture the memories of these events so Jenn and her son can treasure them for a lifetime. I wrote this press release to spread the word and give more people an opportunity to participate in any way they can.

Wedding professionals often get a bad rap – take this recent New York Times article about the industry being ruled by the needs of “bridezillas.” I like to think that the response to Shannon’s call for help demonstrates the true generous nature of the wedding industry for those in need.

Christmas may come and go, but the season of giving really lasts all year. Take a look at the press release about this couple, check out their page, and donate if you can. You’ll be helping this deserving couple.  And you will be reminded to be grateful for your own health and count your blessings everyday. Your world can change in a second. In the words of the late, great Warren Zevon, “Life is short. Enjoy every sandwich.”

Happy 5774!

The Jewish New Year, which begins in the fall, always feels more like the “real” new year to me. When I was a little girl, my grandfather used to come and stay at my house (he lived with my aunt and uncle) so that he could walk to the synagogue to celebrate the holidays, just as he did every Shabbat. My parents didn’t attend synagogue all that regularly, but over the years their “senority” in the congregation improved and their assigned seats got better – in other words, closer to where the “action” was taking place, which made it easier for me to concentrate. I remember sitting with my parents and playing with the fringes on my father’s tallit, and I remember that the services seemed to go on forever (it was a Conservative congregation), but I don’t remember much else about my family’s new year traditions. We had a live-in cook and housekeeper, so there must have been brisket, and there was store-bought honey cake – nothing that stood out or that I have kept in my own cooking repertoire.

My husband’s family, although Jewish, was fairly unobservant until I joined them. Not so much in terms of attending services – my husband and I are the only ones who belong to a congregation – but in terms of celebrating Jewish tradition through food and ceremonial rituals. So we will have a meal together tomorrow night and light the candles and sing the traditional blessings and dip the apples into honey, and connect to our heritage in a way that is meaningful.

I am a pretty good cook and have a broad collections of recipes from various sources that I draw upon for the holiday meals. The perfect honey cake seemed to be an illusion. Every year, I tried something new and always got close but there were always leftovers. Until I hit the jackpot. I’m not sure how I happened upon it, but I found Marcy Goldman’s recipe for the definitive honey cake. It turns out that Marcy is an absolute maven of Jewish baking – somehow, I had never found her over the years – but now it is my go-to cake and I am always asked to bring it when we are invited out for one night of the holidays. When my friend Ilene invited us to dinner tonight and I asked what to bring, she said, “the honey cake, of course.”

It just came out of the pan and the smell is driving me crazy!

It just came out of the pan and the smell is driving me crazy!

So I decided to share the recipe as my gift to you, to make your holidays a little sweeter (and to help you end your own search for the perfect honey cake).

A couple of tips – I make mine in an angel food cake pan, well sprayed with non-stick spray, and the bottom lined with a piece of parchment paper – this is critical for getting the cake out in one piece. I have never added the whiskey, apples, or almonds, but given how good this basic recipe is, the additions might just take it over the top.

Wishing all my friends and followers a sweet, happy, and healthy year. As we say, “L’shana tova” – a good year. And with this cake we can say “b’tayavon” – bon apetit!

Happy International Women’s Day, and celebrating my mother on the 100th anniversary of her birth

My mother, Sara Becker Gurvitz, and her granddaughter Zoe Colman, 1992.

My mother, Sara Becker Gurvitz, and her granddaughter Zoe Colman, 1992. Sara is 79 years old in this photo.

Happy International Women’s Day! The celebration of this holiday has varied over time and across geography. In different regions the focus of the celebrations ranges from general celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women to a celebration for women’s economic, political and social achievements.

I like to think of it as a day to stop and reflect and where we are as women, and I always think about the progress that was made during my mother’s lifetime because this holiday always falls on her birthday, March 8. This year, she would have turned 100 years old.

My mother was born at a time when women definitely took a back seat to men. I don’t think she ever got over the fact that her older brother was able to go to college, while neither my mother nor her younger sister were educated beyond high school. That didn’t stop either one of them from entering the workforce in supporting roles. Perhaps it was good that her brother went to college because while he was in pharmacy school, he became friends with the man who was to become my father.

My parents were married in January 1940, when my mother had reached the advanced (for that time) age of 26 and my father was 30. My brother was born in February 1942 but I didn’t follow for another 12 years. So when I was born, my mother was 40 – and back then, there was no prenatal testing. Today, giving birth later in life is more common, but back then it was unusual, to say the least.

There was one thing about which my mother was fanatic – she never revealed her age. The birth date shown on her driver’s license, marriage license, and the birth certificates of my brother and I were all different. It did make me a bit uneasy that I didn’t know how old my mother was, which was a great contrast to my father who would proudly proclaim to anyone within earshot that he was born on 10-10-10 (that’s 1910 we’re talking about).

In fact, we never knew for sure how old she was until I cleared out my parents’ apartment three years ago when I found her actual birth certificate. She always looked younger than her age, so she saw no reason to destroy anyone’s illusions. Toward the end of her life, when she was dealing with illness (she beat lung cancer, but it came back five years later to her pancreas), she would announce her age to a chorus of disbelief.

I thank my mother for blessing me with many things, not the least of which are good skin and high energy, along with a youthful appearance. My mother was intelligent and strong-minded, and boy, did she know how to hold a grudge. If she had an opinion about something, whether it happened a minute ago or a decade ago, she would let you hear about it. I think I may have been “blessed” with that, too, but I am working on it.

My mother and my father had a love affair that lasted almost 60 years. She always took care of him until, in the end, he took care of her. And among the many blessings she left him with was the motivation to join a daily prayer group at a local temple, in which he was active for the remaining decade of his life and through which he made friends of all ages who were astonished by his energy, memory, and sense of humor.

That sense of humor kept my mother laughing at the same jokes, over and over, for nearly six decades. Not a bad role model for sharing your life with a partner. I am grateful for a husband who makes me laugh every day.

It is impossible to reflect on my mother’s life without thinking of my daughter. Upon hearing that my due date was March 2, I thought, “wouldn’t it be nice for my child to share a birthday with her grandmother.” My mother had other ideas, basically warning me that she wasn’t interested in sharing her birthday with anyone, even a grandchild. As my due date passed and we got closer to March 8, there was a level of stress about when the baby would be born. Fortunately, Zoe cooperated and came out on March 7. I am so glad to Zoe got to know her beloved Bubbe, who lived until Zoe was almost seven years old.

It thrills me to think of the span of progress that will have been achieved from the time my mother was born in the early 20th century to where we will be by the time Zoe is a grandmother. Progress for women may move at a snail’s pace, or so it seems, but as I mentioned in a previous post about the 100th anniversary of the march on Washington for women’s suffrage, we must keep working at it. And I would be willing to bet that my daughter and her generation will make quantum leaps toward equality and making things better not just for women but also for men. We may hold up “Half The Sky”, as the title of the wonderful book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDun says, but if only half the sky is held up, the sky will fall.

Celebrate the women in your life, privately and publicly. And women, let’s celebrate ourselves, for what we have achieved and what we are determined to accomplish. As my mother used to say, “you never know what strange turns life is going to take.” Mother, as usual, was right.


Milestone birthday celebration: my daughter Zoe turns 21

My daughter Zoe, taken when she was still 20 years old.

My daughter Zoe, taken when she was still 20 years old.

On March 7, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell received a patent for the telephone. Which is appropriate because March 7, 2013 is the day that my daughter, Zoe, celebrates her 21st birthday. It is appropriate not necessarily because she spends a lot of time talking on the phone – as is the case for most people her age, she uses her phone more as a device for texting and sending messages rather than actually talking – but her phone is attached to her almost surgically.

Zoe has always had a lot to say. Deep in her heart and soul, Zoe is a communicator and takes advantage of whatever technology is available to get her point across. She manages to speak more words during a day than I would have thought was humanly possible. When she was young and just learning to talk we used to ask her at the end of the day, “is your mouth tired?” Zoe takes justifiable pride in her writing and is an experienced public speaker. She wants to change the world and understands how the power of words – of clear communication – is key to making things happen. She always used to ask us, “what are you talking about?” This is a person who wants to be on top of whatever is going on.

It is not without irony as a writer that I consider what words to use as I contemplate the meaning of my only child turning 21. She is a full-fledged adult now in the eyes of the law, legally able to drink and drive (although not at the same time) and vote and get married and live independently of her parents. In some senses, our job as parents is done, and we are bursting with pride at the person she has become, and at the potential contribution she can make to the world. But we are incredibly blessed to have her still close enough to us that we remain important in her life, consulted on important decisions and asked for help solving problems large and small (mostly large, or small ones that loom large, for the record). And there is still one more year of undergraduate tuition to pay, for which we are primarily responsible.

Zoe is in many ways her father’s daughter – she has his sense of humor, determination, and ability to get along with almost anyone. I like to think that from me she got her dedication, persistence, and commitment to clear communication, along with a love of action movies and education in the history of rock and roll. (We’re looking forward to seeing Fleetwood Mac together in April.)

Zoe also is creative. She took ballet and jazz lessons, fell in love with ceramics during high school, and played cello for eight years. She is my biggest supporter in the adventure that is my career as an artist, which combines my interpretation of words presented in artful ways – when you think about it, that is exactly what an invitation provides.

We’re meeting Zoe in Connecticut on Saturday for a brief official celebration of her milestone. I’m looking forward to ordering her a legal glass of champagne and hoisting it high in a toast to her past, present, and future. I can’t wait to hear what she has to say.