Saturday, August 24, 2013

I've fallen, and I can't...

My Dad and The Kid
I haven't much felt like writing since my dad passed away. The tumor in his head won the turf war with his brain. It was early April when he slipped into a coma. A day later, two weeks before his 63rd birthday, he slipped away.

In terms of my grief, I think I may be stuck in the denial stage. I still can't believe he's gone, can't believe The Kid won't remember him, can't believe he'll never see my new house.

He was my advisor, my confidant, my cheerleader and the first man I ever loved. He was loved by most everyone who knew him--family, friends, clients & coworkers.

He was one of the good ones. I miss him every day.

Of late, I feel like I've been riding a roller coaster. Mom nearly died, and then The Kid was born. I was very stressed at work and then David got orders back to Maryland. Dad was diagnosed with a tumor, and then my sister, the SAHMnambulist, announced she's expecting her second child. Dad was given a bad prognosis and then we started looking for a house in Baltimore. The Kid had her first birthday, and then Dad passed away. We bought a new house and now I am having trouble finding a job.

It feels like all these ups and downs have shaken the chutzpah right out of me, leaving me doubtful,
insecure, unhappy: chutzpah-less.

I find myself buying crap for the house we don't really need--as if the right purchase would make me feel better. So far, I can assure you that neither shoe organizers, nor cleaning supplies, nor giant baskets for toys are my anti-sadness cure. I often feel empty and sad. I'll say to The Kid, "Mama isn't feeling well, sweetheart, but it isn't your fault. I love you very much." She smiles at me and makes things just a little bit better.

Yesterday, I got a very polite email from the HR department of the organization for which I'd hoped to work. They decided to offer the position to another candidate. The news hit me hard: another defeat in what feels like an unending streak.

Perhaps because of the lack of control in other parts of my life, I've become obsessed with cleaning my kitchen. My formerly nonchalant attitude about dishes and counter cleanliness has transformed into an almost unhealthy need to have a sparkling, spotless, and empty sink. Last week I wiped the fronts of the cabinets until I started to literally strip the finish from the wood.

Yet even as I go OCD in the kitchen, my home office remains half unpacked with an ever-growing stack of mail and papers waiting to be filed. Each day I tell myself I really should work on it, and each evening I go to bed without having touched it.

In short, I've fallen, and I can't get up. Here's hoping life's roller coaster has an upswing waiting for me on the horizon.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The day after my birthday

Yesterday, I turned 37. Today, we found out the tumor in my dad's head has grown.

Dear Dad,

this morning when we were on the phone, I worked hard to keep myself together. It didnt seem right to force you to comfort me when you were still reeling from the news: the tumor in your head has chosen not to remain a still small voice, but is growing to a shout. I cried a bit on the phone, but once we hung up, I broke down. I put my head on the desk and bawled, my tissue stained with mascara and tears.

I keep thinking about The Kid: how much you enjoy her company, how delightful your relationship is and will be--is supposed to be--far into the future. It's not fair! I want that for both of you! Please don't go yet! Please stay and play with my daughter. Let her get to know you. Make her remember you.

Whatever you decide to do regarding treatment, I will support you. It's your head, your brain. I can't blame you for choosing to keep it unaltered by surgeon's blade. But Dad, when you go--whether it's two years or twenty or more--it's too soon. I am not and will not be ready.

I love you,

Sunday, August 12, 2012

An update on Grandma Marian

A lot of people have been asking me lately how my mom is doing, so I thought I'd do a public update. While she still has some work ahead of her to get back to pre-coma energy and mobility, on the whole, she is doing great!

She continues to get stronger every day, and is seeing a physical therapist a couple of times a week. She and I have resumed our regular telephone conversations, and she tells me that The Kid's current trouble falling asleep at night is due to the bad karma of my public gloating in this very space. And so, at her urging, I take back my "nanny-nanny-boo-boo" of the last post. Sorry, Em. Please tell Morpheus to take it easy on The Kid. There, Mom, bad karma reversed?

I know that Mom misses the gallery -- or, more specifically, all of her customer-friends. But not even a coma could keep her from doing what she loves, which is why she is working with her friend Michelle Amadeo of Bode Floors to put on what has become an annual event--Summer Camp for grown-ups. I'm pasting the information below. Please consider checking it out if you're around. It should be a good time, and it's for a good cause.

Bode Floors (in honor of      Gallery  44) presents Summer Camp for Grownups
       (without the bugs!)
The Art of Interior Design. And support for a great cause.  
The Fourth Annual Summer Camp for Grownups.
August 13 through August 17.
Five days and ten sessions with some of the best designers and other home experts in the area. Sessions are $10.00 each or $75.00 for all ten. And every penny will be donated to Success in Style, an organization that provides free work attire and counseling to disadvantaged women and men trying to enter the job market.

Bonus: Bring your lunch or order a boxed lunch for a nomimal fee by calling Marian and enjoy lunch with both of the day's designers. Bring your questions and ideas and get answers and advice. 

Monday, August 13
10:30 am - noonTips and Tricks of Interior Design    Ever wonder why your room doesn't quite look like the ones in the magazines? April Force Pardoe will share her secrets, tips and tricks for designing a space that makes your heart sing.
Noon -
1:30 PM 
Bring  your lunch or contact Marian (410-917-3544) to order food and spend more time with
1:30 PM -
3:00 PM

Tips and Tricks for Designing a Kitchen that You Will Love in 30 Years
April Force Pardoe will show us how to create timeless, classic design in the room we need to love.

Tuesday. August 14
10:30 AM -
Color Scheming
If you are stymied by the thought of putting colors together, then this is the seminar for you. Patti Wannall of Creative Design and Furnishings will teach us the basics of color theory and color schemes.

Noon -
1:30 PM
Lunch break Patti and Jenny. Boxed lunch available by calling Marian. (410-917-3544)
1:30 PM -
3:00 PM 
What's Color without Texture?
 Decorative painter and texture specialist, Jenny Snyder, of color Ingenuity brings us both do-it-yourself and expert wall finishes and textures.

Wednesday, August 15
10:30 AM - 
What's Up Underfoot?
Have fun with Michele Amedeo of Bode Floors when she shows us everything that's new in flooring.

Noon -
1:30 PM
Lunch break with Michele and Carol.(Boxed lunch available by calling Marian (410-917-3544).

1:30 PM -
3:30 PM
Do You Recognize Your House?
Have you outgrown your house? Do you walk into a space that,frankly,just feels wrong? Well if that's your problem,Carol Weil, the Decorating Therapists, has the solutions for you.

Thursday, August 16
10:30 AM-
Mixing Patterns
Debbie McHale, of Interior Transformations, will take the mystery out of mixing patterns in a room. 
Noon -
1:30 PM
Lunch break with Debbie and Marian;boxed 
available by calling Marian at 410-917-3544.

1:30 PM-
3:00 PM 
The Fine Art of Hanging Art
Marian Berman, formerly at Gallery 44, will discuss the rules and guidelines for hanging art, even if you are 5'2" and your husband is 6'5".

Friday, August 17
10:30 AM-
 The Cure for the Plain Box Room  
 Hal Happersett of Interior Decisions will  demonstrate easy fixes for rooms without  architectural interest. And knowing Hal, I can  assure you that there will be lots more.

1:30 pm 
Lunch with Hal. Boxed lunch available by calling Marian (410-917-3544).
1:30 PM -
3:00 PM 
Window Treatments
Join Hal Happersett, Of Interior Decisions, for a spirited discussion on the types and applications of window treatments and fabrics.

Call Marian at 410-917-3544 or send an email to for reservations for what I promise will be the most fun camp you can go to as a grownup.

Michele Amedeo and Marian Berman

P. S. And remember that 100 percent of the proceeds go to Success in style. Check us out

Thursday, August 2, 2012

My Kid's Sleep Could Beat Up Your Kid's Sleep!

My sister, the SAHMnambulist, was prescient when she named her blog. The name was hatched before my nephew, little LO was born. Before she knew what a wonderful young man and terrible sleeper her little man would turn out to be. I have been following the ups and downs of her LO's sleep (or lack thereof) as a sister and as a follower of her blog for these past two years. As The Kid made her debut, I had prepared myself for sleepless night after sleepless night.

Sure enough, the interrupted sleep came. But at around seven weeks, The Kid started going a full five or six hours after her "bedtime" feed. Since then she has been going longer and longer after her final feed of the night, waking up for fewer and fewer nighttime feedings. Until last week. Last Tuesday night, The Kid went to sleep around 7:30 PM and woke up around 7 the next morning. Since then, she has repeated the performance exactly twice.

I know that her easy sleep habits and her sunny disposition are the result of her inherent personality, not my good parenting, but I cannot help but feel a swell of pride as I put The Kid to bed and resist the urge to call the SAHMnambulist to say "nanny nanny boo boo!"

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

When I was in my first year of graduate school, Jonathan Z. Smith, the eminent historian of religions, was invited to give a guest lecture to one of my first year MA classes at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. J.Z. Smith makes quite an impression, with a wild beard and wilder hair. He walks with a cane and fills the room with his presence.  He was in my classroom that day to lecture about the importance of place in ritual. The blurb from his book To Take Place (which I read that year) says "Smith stresses the importance of place--in particular, constructed ritual environments--to a proper understanding of the ways in which 'empty' actions become rituals." 

I don't remember much of his lecture, from that day, but I do remember an anecdote he told. A scholar of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, Professor Smith told us about the time he visited that building with his wife. He described the ancient rooms as chaotic: dark and loud with polyglot prayers of penitent pilgrims and thick with the smell of incense and humanity. His anxiety at the scene was clear even in that Chicago classroom many years and thousands of miles away. He told his wife that must not be the place--it couldn't be the place. She found a monk to confirm--they were, in fact, standing in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the very place about which Smith had studied and written. "Let's go," he said to his wife (I paraphrase my recollection of the story), "this isn't my Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I prefer the clean, perfect model on my desk."

I can remember feeling a sort of self-righteous pity for Professor Smith on that day. A sense that he was so deeply afraid of the mess that is life that he must be choosing not to live.

The Kid's naming ceremony last weekend brought back memories of Professor Smith's story from all those years ago. A student of Jewish ritual, I worked hard developing a ceremony that would honor my grandmother and David's grandfather for whom The Kid is named while at the same time recognizing the importance of children in Jewish literature and symbolically representing all of my deepest wishes for her future. I wrote a ceremony that really was lovely. Then I shared it with the rabbi who would be leading it. Rabbi rearranged and made suggestions. She reworked and encouraged me to cut. She edited it into a ceremony that really was lovely.

Then we actually performed it.

The Kid was impeccably behaved throughout the first half of services. She was all smiles and coos. David bought her a tiny yarmulke with strings to tie around her chin. She giggled when we tied it on, tickling her chin as we did so.

First she got annoyed with the strings, batting at them with her hand. A few moments before it was her turn to be the center of attention, she got really annoyed, and made sure everyone knew it. David took her out of the chapel to change her diaper and give her a quick bite to eat. When it was time for her to go up on the bima, she wasn't back yet. When she got back, she was supposed to be passed from grandparent to grandparent to receive blessings from each of them. She wasn't crazy about all that passing.

Still, she received a blessing from each of her six grandparents, and the ceremony really was lovely. I missed the midrash I'd originally planned to read to the assembled, but no one else did. I regretted the fact that though The Kid touched the handle of the Torah, no one ever said the words "as you touched the Torah today, so may the Torah touch your life," but no one else seemed to notice. And as I fell asleep that night, I thought of J.Z. Smith and his Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

I thought about his sterile model sitting on his desk. I imagined it made of a bright white material to showcase the angles of the architecture--a complete contrast to the stone church, gritty with 2000 years of desperation and faith, gratitude and hope--and I felt a new sympathy for Professor Smith. My bright white sterile ceremony that is sitting on my desk is just words on paper. And yet. 

The Kid's naming was lovely. She was adorable and beautiful in her fancy dress. The ceremony was dense with meaning and with love. I wouldn't change it. Unlike Professor Smith, I don't prefer the sterile, ideal--in it, The Kid is just words on paper, not my living, breathing, crying, smiling, eating, cooing baby girl. Still, I'm glad I am able to visit the scale model on my desk--even if no one else ever sees it. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A message from the (not so) new and improved Marian Berman

Did I miss much?


As many of you know, I avoided most of the winter by sleeping through it in a medically-induced coma. When I woke up, I couldn't move anything but my toes. The good news is that with the help of your prayers and countless hours of physical therapy; I am home, walking with a cane, getting up steps and itching to figure out what I am going to be when I grow up.

My daughter, Tracie, kept many of you up to date on my condition and the closing of the gallery but I know nothing of what has been going on in your lives. As your framer and art consultant, I shared life passages with you, a blessing for which I will always be grateful and I miss all of you.

No matter what else I do, I will continue to assist anyone who is interested in art and frame purchases; I will just do it differently. So please call me at 410-917-3544whenever you are ready.

In the meantime, I have approximately 90 paintings and prints on paper and canvas that I will be selling at ridiculously low prices (Bryon wants our dining room back) on Sunday, June 24th from 12 noon until 4 p.m. at Bode Floors ( two doors down from the former gallery location). 

Even if you aren't interested in adding to your collection, please stop by that day and say hello, see my improvement, and let me thank you for your support and affection. How many people get paid to do what they love for almost 39 years?

With much love and gratitude,


P. S. Remember great art at fire sale prices and big hugs from me on Sunday, June 24th from 12 noon till 4 p.m. at Bode Floors. 
P.P.S. Please feel free to call me at 410-917-3544.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

There's no place like home

On Friday, May 18, my mother was discharged from Levindale Rehabilitation Center. Her homecoming was both miraculous and, I take it, somewhat disappointing. The miracle comes in that it occurred at all, and that it occurred when it did--her therapists expected her to be at Levindale through August. The disappointment stemmed from the fact that she is not, yet, fully recovered. She walks with the aid of a walker, and requires some assistance for everyday tasks. She is not yet walking stairs--a big disappointment to her, since the shower is upstairs. Still, she is home, and that is a miracle.

The Kid and I made the drive up to Baltimore from Norfolk so that grandmother and granddaughter could meet. We spent a whole week there. I was the sandwich between my two-month-old, who needs everything from me, and my mom, who needs more help than she might like. It was tiring, for sure, but it was great. The Kid and I slept in the room that was mine when I was a teenager. Mom slept on a bed in the living room on the first floor. I barely left the house all week.

The Kid has recently started smiling, and she was a sunny presence all week, smiling whenever she was awake and not suffering from gas pains. Her Granddad, Bryon, got it right when he told me that she seems to like everything--except gas.