Stefanella's Drive Thru

Israel, U.S., conflict, war, peace, humor, travel, romance, fashion, fun

The Globo-Life August 15, 2010

Years ago while sitting in a San Francisco cafe, I moaned to an Israeli friend: “I like being here but I miss Israel.  And when I’m in Israel the things that drive me crazy there make me want to come back to the States!  I’ve moved around so many times I feel like it’s time to make a decision about where to settle down but I just don’t know where that should be!”

My friend, bless her Zen-filled heart, replied calmly:  “Why?  Why not be a global citizen?  That’s the way I feel.  I’m  comfortable wherever I go.  Of course there are places I prefer to be but I’ve learned to relax, enjoy and take the best of what each place has to offer wherever I am.”

I didn’t get it.  My then-mindset dictated a MUST DECIDE attitude backed by conviction that loyalty to one-place-only indicated good sense.  Die hard locale fidelity was my internal dictator.

But this summer the meaning of her advice clicked.  And as the surreal nature of realizations go, it hit me head-on right in the middle of a two-step move to Toby Keith’s Trailerhood as I line danced with total strangers in a small Cincinnati working class neighborhood bar.

I spend summers in Cincinnati with my 8-year-old so that he can get to know his aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents, go to an English speaking summer camp and gain exposure to the multi-cultural experience of Israel versus the U.S. For me it’s a break from the intensity of Mid-East living and work and it’s also an opportunity to spend quality time with family and loved ones.

Thanks to Facebook, I started reconnecting with old Cincinnati friends each year, adding a dimension of fun and depth to our stays.

Over steamy cups of coffee and at dinners, parties, meetings, restaurant openings, Salsa on the Square, movie nights and art exhibits or during hours spent poolside, on shopping excursions and meeting new people via my old friends, I discovered I have arrived. I am globalized.

Because as I broke into a slight sweat alongside our a 60+ year-old line dance instructor Patty all decked out in her denim miniskirt and matching vest that I was reminded of Tel Aviv.  Saturday morning folk dance sessions along the Med pulsate to different strains but the Patty’s, Rex’s, Letta’s and Jimmy’s of Western Hills are alive and well inside the bodies of the Itziks, Chanas, Loolees and Shai’s of Israel.

As one friend shared the story of her beloved husband succumbing to cancer, another talked about Botox treatments, others spoke of job and financial woes,  methods for cutting costs in a flagging economy, choosing an education plan  for a 1st grader and facing the challenges of elder parent care, I realized I was physically in Cincinnati.  But I had lived all of these talks in Tel Aviv.  And Paris, London, Thailand and Singapore.

Vive la difference, I didn’t have to choose anymore.  I was having a damned good time with my global family and friends and rather than seeing the differences that separate us all, I was noticing the similarities forging our paths.

SO… my collaborating partners in crime – dear family, global friends, colleagues and an extra special someone held close to my heart:  Thank you for conspiring with me to make life richer, fuller, more meaningful and funner wherever I go

See you next year…..!


Chick Versus Chick April 29, 2009

Confession time:  I stand alongside the global multitudes struggling to make ends meet during the current recession. Jobs are scant and it’s downright scary right now.  Especially as a single mom.

Luckily I rely upon faith, hope, networking, routine and friends to buoy me.  And thank goodness for chat rooms and friends’ IM & email messages discussing fear, job scarcity and struggles.  “Thank goodness” not in the Schadenfreude way; I’m grateful not to be alone.  

I felt loads better last week after watching a NY Times video profile of a laid off exec who had formerly managed multi-million dollar accounts and is now pushing a janitor’s broom.  His wife needs cancer treatments so guaranteed health insurance benefits are essential.  He can’t afford the luxury of leisurely looking around.

Instead he kicks off the covers at 4 a.m. each day, checks emails and sends out resumes to potential employers.  He then heads to his janitorial job where, during breaks, he sits in his car placing follow-up calls.  I don’t know if I was more blown away by his story or by his bravado in letting the world know what he currently gets up to between 9 and 5.

I, too, am working overtime at phoning contacts, tapping into networks, making new contacts and attempting to drum up work.

Which makes having to go up against female colleagues doubly frustrating.

I have spoken several times with a work contact about leads in news production.  And each time I talk with this woman  she asks: “But what about your son?  Do you have anyone to take care of him?  I mean he IS young.”

And each time I reassure her  that yes, I do have a network in place.  A really good one.  Not to worry, the childcare issue has never presented a problem.  I even have overnight babysitters.  “I HAVE A VILLAGE!!!” I internally dialogue. “So please, send the work my way.”

But she hasn’t so far.  And I don’t believe she ever will.  Because I don’t think she can wrap her head around my being a single mom and concommitantly producing television news.  Never mind that scores of anchors, producers, editors and camerawomen before me have done just that and are faring quite nicely. Or that I myself have done just that.

I’m being pre-packaged and labeled from the get-go and not only by this particular woman.  Recently a well-known anchorwoman told me:  “You certainly don’t want to work full time or get into a heavy career.  You have your son to think about.” She wasn’t asking.  She was stating how “it is”.    And I thought:  “But you’re so wrong!  By getting into something full time I AM thinking of my son. ”

It reminds me of the time I went to see U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright speak in San Francisco.  Someone in the audience asked if she regretted the choice of fast political track over full time mommy.  She explained that there isn’t a cookie-cutter path for all women – some are meant for careers, others to stay home with kids and others to do a range of things in-between.

But she told the packed house I DO believe there’s a special place in hell for women who give other women a hard time for the path they have chosen to follow.

And the room erupted in applause.

I don’t believe the women I mention here are malicious.  But their notions are misguided and create a certain level of frustration for me.


Found the Sh*tCreek Cure-All! April 5, 2009

Thanks to my pal-ee Sallee for this one…Mwahahaaa



America-nomics July 10, 2008

My friend Liza returned to Israel from a U.S. visit this Spring talking about rising gas prices and Americans feeling the crunch.

Gas stations that can’t compete are going out of business. Lines of drivers wait to fill up at stations offering a few cents off the rate the guy a block away puts up.

One time we saw a bunch of cars making U-Turns into a station where the price was remarkably lower than the going rate. We followed because who doesn’t want in on a good deal? It was a real life “too good to be true” scenario: The station was shut down but the owners hadn’t covered the pumps or taken down the last posted price.

Visiting my parents in rural Cincinnati this summer, I am coming face to face with Liza’s description. It’s one thing to read about record high $145 per barrel oil prices and quite another to see the effects.

I could reason that my mother’s precautionary strategizing – “You’ll need to plan out what you do and where you go while you’re here; gas is expensive” – is tied to her fixed budget status.

But she’s been a retiree for several years. This is the first summer she has prodded for mindfulness over the odometer reading or fuel tank fill-ups.

And it’s not just my mom. I asked my brother Josh for his Infiniti keys so I could make a dash to the local produce farm 10 miles down the road. He handed me the keys to his girlfriend’s Honda Accord instead. “Take the other one,” he offered. “Mine inhales gas.”

My sister, prior to offering up her compact model SUV for an outing, queried: “How far away is your meeting?”

I filled the tank of my mother’s Toyota yesterday. Kroger’s post-July 4th basement bargain rate of $3.86 per gallon put me out by $50 for the tank, already a quarter full before I started pumping. Last summer’s tank fill-up ran at about $35.

Prices are relative, of course. Where I come from, petrol rings in at an alarming three times the going rate in Ohio. Green-promoting, Jerusalem-based Benchmark Capital partner Michael Eisenberg takes Israel’s government to task for not rising to the occasion.

I filled up my tank the other day on my Volvo S40. Over 400 NIS. With the weakening dollar that is about $120! Gasoline here is now $8.50 per gallon . . .and is showing no signs of stopping.

With that as a backdrop, Prime Minister Olmert’s decision to stop building the high speed rail link between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv (link in Hebrew) is worse than bewildering. It is downright dangerous.

Given the neighborhood we live in, we should be doing everything possible to reduce oil dependency in Israel.

Maybe the PM’s busy with Iran’s testing. But hang on to your rail passes because if per-barrel prices really do end up rising from the current $137 to $170 by summer’s end as forecast by OPEC president Chakib Khelil last week, it’s going to get tighter still.

Israelis may be price-gouged but they haven’t yet been hit with the doldrums of job slumping, property foreclosing recession.

Which is also in your face here in middle America.

“For Sale” signs rusty from over-exposure pepper front lawns, the local evening news routinely carries stories of families in despair and Oprah is hosting guests lamenting their loss of fortune during the current economic downturn.

Americans are all sticking closer to home these days – air travel’s down and Amtrak Rails is setting records for the first time in years.

During chance meetings last week, three different people voiced deep concern over job safety and finances.

Some days I want to scream at the salaried employees: ‘FOR GOD’S SAKE YOU GET A PAYCHECK. SHUT UP AND SAY THANK YOU!'”, Sales rep Barb** told me, worry lines furrowing her brow. It was evening but she had forgotten to remove the first financial bank pin from her blouse. “I didn’t take a salary this month. And I don’t know what’s gonna happen next month. But I guess I should be thankful for not having a mortgage I can’t pay. I’m scared.

And there was George, a middle management plastics industry professional who told me all he wants is to retire with his company. But recent cuts are rattling his nerves. There’s no job security, even with twenty years’ seniority.

Frightening stuff when viewed up close.

And if, after all the proof I still doubted America’s tough times, the niggling was quelled last week when I heard NPR’s report that Starbuck‘s is planning to shut down 600 stores.

Ach, who wants to waste the gas driving there anyhow?