“Afraid of Happiness” Club

I can easily relate to the phrase, “fear of failure.” As far as fear goes, it might be the most obvious. “Fear of success,” on the other hand, sounds preposterous. I’m a perfectionist who prefixes every Google search with “best.” Success in itself isn’t even a success to me; it is what is expected. I thought success was my programmed (genetic) default. There is nothing scary about success; is there?  As … Continue reading “Afraid of Happiness” Club

“I’m a Jew Who Loves Christmas Songs” Club

I didn’t grow up in a religious home; I knew I was Jewish and knew it was important that I know that. Together with my parents, I came to America as a refugee from the former Soviet Union in 1979. The anti-semitism drove my parents out; they wanted to live in a country where their religion didn’t prevent them from going to college or getting … Continue reading “I’m a Jew Who Loves Christmas Songs” Club

“I Voted” Club

I knew this would be a day to which I’d reflect in a “where were you when…” kind of way. As I walked down the crunchy brown leaf-lined street on this quintessential fall election day, it was unseasonably warm, and the sun cranked up the saturation on the remaining autumnal leaves. Either way, today would be emotional, historic, and memorable. My 14-year-old son asked if … Continue reading “I Voted” Club

“I Can Never Be Satisfied” Club

I can blame PMS or I can simply take accountability for being a mega-bitch who is never satisfied with anything. The song Satisfied from Hamilton: The Musical could be written about me (without the Alexander Hamilton part). I researched and made decisions about things I never thought about (toilets, tiles, grout) and I measured everything which needed to be measured. The deliveries happened and for these … Continue reading “I Can Never Be Satisfied” Club

“My Daughter is the Non-Immigrant at an Immigrant School” Club

Five months after I landed in New York City from the former Soviet Union, I had my first day at the public school across the streets from the projects in which we settled. It was an average school, (although I didn’t know the difference) and it was filled with kids just like me: fellow immigrants. We were Russian, Chinese, Korean, Indian; a quintessential New York … Continue reading “My Daughter is the Non-Immigrant at an Immigrant School” Club

“One Size Fits All Medical Solutions” Club

One of the concepts (and there are MANY) from My Big Fat Greek Wedding which I relate to is the father’s obsession with the ubiquitous usage of Windex as a one size fits all medical solution. My Russian father similarly resorted to his go-to resolution to remedy many health ailments: RUBBING ALCOHOL. If I got a bite, a scratch, a rash, a pimple, the solution … Continue reading “One Size Fits All Medical Solutions” Club

“Flavors Trigger Memories” Club

My default vanilla was established in a subterranean ice cream shop in the former Soviet Union, where my parents took me after I had my ears pierced. I was three years old and while I don’t recall the actual needle stabbing in my ear, the intense sweet vanilla lodged itself as the standard by which all future vanillas will have to measure against. Maybe in … Continue reading “Flavors Trigger Memories” Club

“I Don’t Like Cartoons” Club

I didn’t grow up watching cartoons, even though I came to America at the prime cartoon watching age of five. In the Soviet Union I had watched Cheburashka (according to my parents) and even though I can still hum along to the theme song as intuitively as to a lifelong lullaby, I don’t have a sense of nostalgia towards the animated show. In America, Tom … Continue reading “I Don’t Like Cartoons” Club

“I Caught My Father in an Affair” Club

My favorite way to eat eggs is sunny side up. I take pride in frying them into two impeccable gold domes, the whites congealed perfectly beyond the mucous texture. When I dunk dry toast into warm yolk, a satisfaction spills over me; this is my comfort food. I have been making myself eggs this way for thirty years, and every single time I crack a … Continue reading “I Caught My Father in an Affair” Club

“My Divorced Parents’ Wedding Song Still Makes Me Cry” Club

My parent’s wedding song was the Theme to Love Story. To this day, the iconic melancholy melody punches me in the gut, squeezes my heart, and puts a lump in my throat – and it’s not because of a nostalgic longing for my parents loving marriage. They divorced after 25 years together; ten years beyond their expiration date, by which point the stench was enough … Continue reading “My Divorced Parents’ Wedding Song Still Makes Me Cry” Club

“Hesitant to Share Good News” Club

There are too many new sad stories every day. Shootings and terrorism and cancer and what the fuck is happening to our world? “Are we on the brink of a revolution?” my husband said the other day and I didn’t answer him because I didn’t want to go there in my head. I try to stay local, stay present, stay in the now, but these … Continue reading “Hesitant to Share Good News” Club

“Searching for Suppressed Memories” Club

Traveling has always occupied a huge part of my life. Not necessarily exotic, but not stoic either.  I want to move, see, explore, study other locales and people. I fantasize about the time my kids are both off to college and my husband and I take off on continuous travel, with no home base, just traveling everywhere we want to visit before our time here … Continue reading “Searching for Suppressed Memories” Club

“I Don’t Like to Be in Front of the Camera” Club

I was born in the Soviet Union in the mid-70s, which in photography standards was equal to 1950s America. My father, my first photography inspiration, snapped all of my childhood photos on black and white film and developed them in the tiny bathroom of our one-bedroom apartment in Kiev. I was the muse and subject of his never pursued, dormant love of photography. In those … Continue reading “I Don’t Like to Be in Front of the Camera” Club

“I Don’t Like Cake” Club

My grandparents arrived in America two years before my mother, father and I joined them in 1979. My grandmother was good at hustling to make a buck. She was also a phenomenal cook and baker. In her new American life, she christened herself a baker. For 7 years, (until my family of now 4 moved to Staten Island in 1986), my sister, cousin, and I … Continue reading “I Don’t Like Cake” Club

“I Moved in with My First Boyfriend” Club

At 19, I remember a precise moment when I felt I had a grip on this life thing. Somehow I thought I had matured to this ripe age, where I could function as a grown up in society. I was attending NYU and my parents didn’t want to pay for me to live in the dorm because they believed we lived close enough for me … Continue reading “I Moved in with My First Boyfriend” Club

“My Parents Aren’t My Loudest Cheerleaders” Club

My father hasn’t read my blog since I started my “365 Project” on January 1st of this year. This is my 103rd piece and still I haven’t received a “good job” or “fun read” or even “nice to make me look like an asshole in that piece.” Instead, I got nothing. At first, I wondered had he read the piece which had gotten press, the … Continue reading “My Parents Aren’t My Loudest Cheerleaders” Club

“Living Outside My Native Tongue” Club

I have this fantasy one day I will be in the elevator (or anywhere) and Russian-speaking people will talk about me without knowing I understand them and I will turn around and surprise them with my exquisite command of Russian curses. This has yet to happen. At our last Gogol Bordello concert, I found myself surrounded by fellow Russians in midlife crisis partying with this … Continue reading “Living Outside My Native Tongue” Club

“37 Years an Immigrant” Club

Yesterday was the 37th anniversary of my immigration to America from the former Soviet Union and I forgot all about it. The date isn’t circled or marked on my calendar. Maybe my parents independently raised a shot glass toasting the memory, but I’ve gone years without noting the day. For my parents, it marked the day they started their new life but since 1979, there … Continue reading “37 Years an Immigrant” Club

“I’m a Reluctant Artist” Club

The day I met my husband just over 11 years ago he was working his “day job” as a professional clown. I was a young mother taking my son to his first Manhattan birthday party. Our how we met story is awesome, as anyone who is lingering in the happily ever after part, would say. We left the party together and the first question I … Continue reading “I’m a Reluctant Artist” Club

“I’m a Womanist Feminist” Club

Yesterday was International Women’s Day. I wrote my 5-year-old daughter a poignant note on the back of a watercolored card I painted for her, which said: “believe in your dreams.” Between my daily musings urging her to smile and be kind, I urged her to celebrate being a beautiful, smart little woman. Not because she is able to comprehend the power of womanhood now, but … Continue reading “I’m a Womanist Feminist” Club

“I Wrote a 100-Word Story” Club

In starting my 365-day writing project, I vowed to write every day. I imagined I would work on 250-500 word essays, but in reality and practice, I acknowledge I have a difficult time getting anything out in less than 850 words. Reader’s Digest features a 100-word True Story contest. I thought this would be a productive, educational exercise – and it was. 100 words is nothing for me. I … Continue reading “I Wrote a 100-Word Story” Club

“I’m Not Good at Forgiveness” Club

I haven’t reached a ripe age of maturity yet. My proof? I still have yet to master the art of forgiveness. I meet people and I either love you or hate you completely, just like you would do to me. If I love you, I bring you into my life entirely. I surrender my inhibitions, lower my barriers, and invite you into my ‘modern family’ … Continue reading “I’m Not Good at Forgiveness” Club

“I’m an Instigator” Club

Let me start out by saying I don’t enjoy confrontation, although one may argue, on occasions, my actions may have inadvertently caused it. I have been accused of being an instigator. Translation: I bring things up enough to bother someone else with doing something about it, because like I said, I don’t take pleasure in hostile encounters, but I do appreciate justice and answers. For … Continue reading “I’m an Instigator” Club

“I Don’t Have a Dream” Club

The Mamas & the Papas sang about it. So did Aerosmith. Dream a little dream of me. Dream on. In modern America, #LiveYourDream is on billboards, shopping bags, t-shirts, mugs, and in combinations of status updates, tweets, and Instagram memes. A blinking mantra of our time; we love to share quotes and we love for them to be inspiring, but how often do we practice … Continue reading “I Don’t Have a Dream” Club

“My Modern Family Trumps Yours” Club

My teenage son and I heard a hilarious phone prank on the radio. The victim: a 45-year-old mother. Who set her up? Her 18-year-old son. The premise? The DJ calls pretending to be the son’s 45-year-old girlfriend. Throughout the fake call, the mother’s anger escalates as she keeps repeating, “My son is a teenager!” After our laugh, I push it further because I’m the inappropriate … Continue reading “My Modern Family Trumps Yours” Club

“Old Photos Play Tricks with My Memory” Club

People haunt me from the past; the mysteries of what’s become of them. When my family came to America in 1979, we didn’t document our everyday life the way we do in today’s selfie generation. We broke out the cameras for special events, birthday parties, weddings, occasional trips to the zoo, and vacations. Studying through old images, I recognize a familiar group of people reappearing … Continue reading “Old Photos Play Tricks with My Memory” Club

“I’m Not a Ballerina” Club

I am not a ballerina, even though I have the perfect name for one. Girls typically start dance classes in grade school, but we were new Soviet immigrants living in the projects, and we saved the dancing for parties at Russian restaurants. At one point, somewhere between age 6 and 13, I passive-aggressively mentioned to my mother how I never got dance lessons even though … Continue reading “I’m Not a Ballerina” Club

“Engaging With Souvenirs from the Old World” Club

If you had to pack up your life into two suitcases, what would you bring? I ponder this occasionally when I find myself using something my parents brought with them from the Soviet Union in 1979. Today I poured water into a stemmed glass adorned with a train decal. I inherited these six glasses from my mother because I had mentioned to her I liked … Continue reading “Engaging With Souvenirs from the Old World” Club

“I Grapple With Irrational Emotions” Club

When I worked in the family donut shop as a teenager, one of the co-workers told me she was chemically imbalanced, which was the clinical diagnosis of being too sensitive. She suggested I consider getting myself the same diagnosis and the pills which accompanied it. I’ve battled with intense emotional reactions for as long as I can remember, and blame myself for being too sensitive. … Continue reading “I Grapple With Irrational Emotions” Club

“I Took My Last Family Vacation For Granted” Club

The last vacation I took with my parents and sister was to Puerto Rico in July 1996. I just graduated from NYU, newly dating my later-to-be husband. My sister was madly in love with her then boyfriend and played Nothing Else Matters by Metallica on loop the whole time. My parents, still two years shy of their quarter-century divorce, met some fellow Russians vacationers and … Continue reading “I Took My Last Family Vacation For Granted” Club

“I Don’t Like My Birthday Parties” Club

In my 41 years, I’ve only had four birthday parties. My birthday falls in the middle of August when my classmates and friends were either notoriously at camp or on family vacations, so my mother always had an excuse for skipping a kids’ birthday party. What did I know of American birthday parties anyway? We celebrated most of my birthdays with family and my parents’ … Continue reading “I Don’t Like My Birthday Parties” Club

“I Lost My Memories” Club

My family immigrated to America when I was almost five years old and I have few memories of my life in Kiev. I’ve recollected few stories of my childhood and those have been enough to sustain me. Big chunks of time are missing in my memories. My American husband thinks my young refugee status left me somewhat traumatized, but I disagree. He has suggested a … Continue reading “I Lost My Memories” Club

“I Curse – Proudly” Club

In Russian are two words for ass, but they are modifications of one another. One is pronounced “paw-pa” and the other is pronounced “zj-awpa.” That first one is like “tush,” the second one is like “ass.” My house was a pure “zj-awpa” house, but my cousin was purely a “paw-pa” family and whenever we got together, I always used the wrong word for ass. I loved … Continue reading “I Curse – Proudly” Club

“I Came of Age at a Donut Shop” Club

Over a cup of coffee and a donut, a person will spill their secrets. Do not underestimate the magical unravelling power of a cruller and a cup of Joe; it is the elixir of truth. In our society, donut shops connote happy imagery: syrupy goodness oozing between puffs of powdered sugar. Not for me, though. One whiff of honey glaze singes the insides of my nostrils … Continue reading “I Came of Age at a Donut Shop” Club

“I’m Afraid of the Evil Eye” Club

“Sglazeet” is what the Russians call “giving the evil eye.” I totally believe in this, but it’s technically hocus pocus witchery; like ghosts. My husband tells me that it’s up to me whether I give anyone the power to jinx or cast this evil spell. Apparently, I do. If I could, I would spray a magic shield of protection around myself before I ever left … Continue reading “I’m Afraid of the Evil Eye” Club

“I’m More Like My Mother Than I Thought” Club

Every mother has mommyisms. These phrases are typically derived from life experiences and hand-me-downs from their own mothers. Here are some Soviet-inspired nuggets I got from my mom: You can never be too rich or too thin. Only prostitutes wear anklets. If you have a gap between your legs, you’re a whore. If you’re a pretty secretary, then you’re a “secretutka” (a word formed by … Continue reading “I’m More Like My Mother Than I Thought” Club

“I Got Bit by a Dog” Club

There’s a photo of me at 10-months-old, bundled-up, Russian style, propped up in my Seventies plaid pram. I’m being guarded by a large German Shepherd named Alfeek. He was the first dog in my life and I don’t remember him but suspect he scarred me in some traumatic way, because until the age of 12, I had a terrible fear of dogs. My 12th birthday … Continue reading “I Got Bit by a Dog” Club

“My Father had a UFO Sighting” Club

My father has always attested that he doesn’t believe in God, but believes in aliens. He believes it was the aliens who were responsible for the creation of the earth, rather than the commonly-held principles of God in 7 Days, or you know, the Big Bang theory. He also believes that the entire human species, in itself, is an alien experiment gone wrong. Humans are … Continue reading “My Father had a UFO Sighting” Club

“Lost in Translation” Club

One of my favorite parts from the 1985 classic, Rocky IV, is when Drago, in the finest Russian accent a quintessential Swede can muster, says, “If he dies, he dies.” Essential to this scene is the lip raise; like an invisible fish hook caught on his upper lip and pulled it up toward the corner. My sister and I have spent thirty years imitating this … Continue reading “Lost in Translation” Club

“I Called Russia in 1985” Club

I was 11 years old and I was the one in my family responsible for calling Russia. In 1985 we had just moved to Staten Island; we were in our ivory-wallpapered living room, on the taupe leather couches. The house was immaculate with its modern window treatments and cream-colored carpet. It hadn’t yet been soiled by the mastiff’s muddy footprints or by the stench of … Continue reading “I Called Russia in 1985” Club

“My Sister was a Gift to Me” Club

My sister was always presented as a gift that was created just for me – and not because I needed a bone marrow transplant or anything. I was just a typical six-year-old, newly immigrated to Queens from Russia, and I was lonely. I was also supposedly incredibly cerebral and persuasive (go figure), because while other girls convinced their parents to buy them a Barbie Dream … Continue reading “My Sister was a Gift to Me” Club

“My Sister Got a Hole in Her Head on My Watch” Club

I was a mature 10-year-old and my younger sister, Reena was only three when we were  enjoying all the glories of new immigrant life in the Housing Projects of Queens. Aside from the male jogger who hung upside down, dangling his junk in front of us, everything from this period blends together like a hazy blur. There are few memories that stand out, but the … Continue reading “My Sister Got a Hole in Her Head on My Watch” Club

“I Lived in the Projects and Didn’t Know it” Club

“Oh I didn’t realize you grew up in the projects!” my husband says the first time I bring him to visit my grandmother, who has lived in this same housing complex for her 40 years in this country. Apparently “Cooperative Housing” is fancy for projects, but I have always thought it was a perfectly normal place to have my rudimentary years in this country. The … Continue reading “I Lived in the Projects and Didn’t Know it” Club

“Apparently I Almost Died as an Infant” Club

I don’t remember almost dying as an infant, but apparently, I did. My mother recounts the story of my Soviet birth ripe with exaggerated old-world details. She describes laboring in a room with nine other women, all of whom took turns pushing their babies out, while an orderly with a thick mustache mopped the floor with dirty water. She witnessed one woman give birth to … Continue reading “Apparently I Almost Died as an Infant” Club

“I Have a Weird Name” Club

Nowadays unusual names are all the rage, but in 1986 Staten Island, when your parents make you transfer mid-year to your new junior high school, having missed out on vital teenage lessons (namely how to put on eyeliner and lipstick), it was way cooler to be Lisa or Maria or Jill. As lovely girls named Michelle and Vicky, took me around from class to class, … Continue reading “I Have a Weird Name” Club

“Growing Up, I Never Had Play Dates” Club

The only play dates I’ve ever been on are the ones with my own children. In 2016 America (and the Internet), parental and educator rhetoric professes the vast academic and developmental benefits of play dates for our children. They all agree good social skills are essential to helping your child lead a happier, healthier life – but these skills need lots of practice and coaching. … Continue reading “Growing Up, I Never Had Play Dates” Club

“I Have a Coin with a Dictator on it Rather than a Birth Certificate” Club

“Where are you from?” Such a basic question, and yet I stutter and exhale a deep sigh of annoyance. I clarify, “You mean where I do live now or where was I born?” To which most will reply, “I mean, what’s your nationality?” The easy answer would be, “I live in New York, but I was born in Russia.” That’s how my father would answer … Continue reading “I Have a Coin with a Dictator on it Rather than a Birth Certificate” Club