Author Archives: brendatobias

About brendatobias

Taking to heart the adage that silence = complicity & hoping that a spoonful of humor delivers the message in a most delightful way.

A Whole New World


Life is not smooth sailing. In fact, if it’s to be the least bit interesting or meaningful, there’s going to be wind, rain and perhaps a perfect storm. If we survive the storms we’re usually left wondering; “what next?” Even if we’re not naturally inclined to ask such a question it is imposed upon us. Clergy, counselors, family and friends will sprinkle their cooing and nodding with talk of whole new worlds (which to me simply conjured Aladdin and/or karaoke.) There are oodles of talk and text that focus on “finding our place in the world.” Can you imagine anything more daunting? Finding my place in the world? That’s a lot of terrain to navigate. My guess is that like most platitudes, it’s best to extract the gist. I come to this assumption after a lifetime of being literal to a fault. In the past when my ship has been brutally thrown off course I have looked to straighten it from the outside. This is nautically impossible of course unless you’re Poseidon. My response to catastrophe has always been “Alright then, now what?” I think of it as a “pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again” approach. And it works. It does. If you put one foot in front of the other you soon will be walking out the door. But is that really the point? Is there nothing more to gain from life than learning how to get from point A to point B?

At the risk of tooting my own foghorn, I’ve survived more than one perfect storm. Being “strong” (I swear to G-d if one more person calls me that I’m going to show them exactly how right they are with a swift kick,) is nothing more than survival instict. During my darkest days I got out of bed and showered, every. single. day. There wasn’t a fiber of my being that didn’t want to stay wrapped in the sheets that still smelled of my husband but I never felt that was an option for me. I distinctly remember my indignation upon viewing Lady Mary still in bed at Downton Abbey SIX MONTHS after her husband was killed in an accident. I believe I actually snorted; “aristocracy, what a bunch of p*&%ies!” Man up Lady Mary, man up! She did eventually get out of bed and like this viewer, heeded all the advice to find her place in the world. She did so by embracing her newfound wealth and power and insinuated herself into the running of the family business. I looked for a job. I had no interest in working but felt that was one way to be part of the world. I felt that the whole world was watching (okay maybe just the Facebook world) how I was going to emerge from the ashes. Finding a way to visibly demonstrate that life was more than simply a series of sh*tstorms felt like my charge. I needed to prove in the most visible of ways that it isn’t all just viciously senseless. So I took the job that got the greatest audience response and was freaking miserable. I hadn’t cried at work since 1987 when I got the call my niece was born. But there I was, a grown woman crying in the bathroom. My boss had raging outbursts about a dozen times a day. He would recover with seemingly no recollection of having cursed, shook, turned red, pounded the desk and thrown things. The man was a dry drunk. He also wasn’t terribly good at his job. So I left after 6 weeks, feeling battered, disillusioned and like a failure. It took another 6 weeks to get over that. I then embarked on a romance and the audience sighed. It was only after it ended cataclysmically that it occurred to me perhaps I was being a smidge too literal about finding my place in the world.

I’ve always been averse to anything that even hints of mysticism or spiritualism. I am a pragmatist and was force-fed far too many chakras and auras as a child. Anything involving remedies (unless it’s from those sisters on The Waltons,) smudge sticks, crystals (The Women and Dynasty characters excepted,) or astrological charts are out. Keep your “energies” to yourself please. The only people I’d ever known that indulged in such things eschewed the world I embraced. I had never known any city dwelling, champagne swilling, theatre going, four-inch heel wearing yurt dwellers. I did once meet a city dweller who embraced her connection to the earth by menstruating directly into the forest. Of course this meant she was outta the city and into the woods every 28 days for 3-5 days. So forgive me for having a permanently raised eyebrow. During the past few months however, it began to dawn on me that my life is too external for my comfort. I craved, dare I say, (gulp) a spiritual component. Through cautious trial and error I’ve discovered that there is a way to embrace spiritual elements while wearing heels and jewelry. I dipped my polished toe into the water with the purchase of a small set of wind chimes (I’m all about set design.) I’ve since bellied up to the buffet and filled my plate with little bits of this and that. I have discovered a dance class that makes my spirit soar while making me feel wonderfully grounded. I have learned that massage isn’t only for the fancy or bored, but when done by a mindful therapist can be transcendent. I have found teachers and practitioners wiser and more insightful than I ever knew possible. I am beginning to see that my place in the world has nothing to do with external hallmarks and everything to do with how I feel and understand. It is an incredibly liberating realization and for me it truly is a whole new world. I am choosing not to dwell on the fact that it’s taken me so many decades to come to this place. I suppose this time my ship set ground on a shore I was ready to explore.


Posted by on August 26, 2015 in Well-Being


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Nancy Drew and the Secret of SingleGuyFromSyosset

nancy drew

Have you heard? Victoria Clark got married. You know, Victoria Clark? The actress who won a Tony for Light In The Piazza? She played a middle-aged woman, on her first trip to Italy, away from her critical and controlling husband, who discovers what real love is courtesy of a beautiful older Italian man with a uniquely understanding wife. She comes alive and sees the world with new eyes. In real life Ms. Clark discovered true love…(cue screeching-break sound) on eHarmony. That’s right, according to the New York Times, Ms. Victoria Clark, the beautiful, charming, immensely talented and outrageously accomplished Victoria Clark went on-line to find a date. Ya know what? If it’s good enough for her, it’s good enough for me.

Do I believe that with a few strategic clicks you can find the person who makes you say; “I had no idea this even existed?” Can you your way to turning the world Technicolor and finally understanding what all those songs and movies are really about? Sorry, no, I don’t believe that. My motivation is much more Cabaret based (“what good is sitting alone in your room”) and most definitely not about finding love, which I believe is elusive and magical and not the result of clicking on the right profile. Quite frankly a significant part of the appeal of internet dating, or perhaps any dating, is the Nancy Drew opportunities it presents. I graduated from a research university. That, partnered with my master criminal mind makes me more skilled than the average bear at unearthing the most horrific things about people.

Unlike meeting people in real life, you can Google as an online person reveals factoids about himself. (It’s doable but terribly recherché when meeting someone in real life, and involves several suspicious trips to the Ladies’ Room.) Recently I received very thoughtful and presumably forthcoming communications. He shared life experiences and viewpoints while perhaps fictitious were far more thought-out than the usual “you look hot, what’s your workout regime?” In the process of setting up an in person date he sent me his phone number. I was going to text when I realized I had enough clues to do some research without data gathered from additional communiqué. Two clicks later I discovered multiple sites in which this gentleman had ranted and raged using the most vulgar, racist and anti-homosexual language. That’s “multiple sites” with a photo of him as an avatar. He wasn’t even trying to hide his crazy. To his credit? My first instinct was to run out and buy a deadbolt for my door. It wasn’t the vulgarity mind you; I can curse the ink off a sailor, but his complete lack of judgment and anger management. This is the same man who when asked straight out about temper replied that life was too short to ever lose one’s temper. Yikes! So he’s either a liar or a sociopath or some special blend of a little of both. Deadbolt. Of course being a woman I actually briefly thought; “how will I let him down easily?” Yeah, I got over that notion pretty damn quickly. As fast as a hatchet coming through my front door! I managed to shake/drink that one off and head for the next profile (it’s best to not think of them as “men” or “dates” at this point of the process. It could be a well-trained homicidal monkey doing the typing.)

Typically people using internet dating sites know that when creating a profile you should put your best foot forward. This strategy includes using the most flattering photo you can find. The “more of me to love” fellows tend to use headshots only. For the follicley challenged there are a lot of baseball cap and helmet photos. It’s best to look beyond the professionally wrapped package and peek under the paper. Sometimes there are splendid clues to be found in the written portion. You gotta give props to a guy who on the first page of his profile spells out his psychic affliction; “my father left when I was 9 which devastated my mother. I learned that I couldn’t count on anyone but myself and should keep everyone at arms’ length” Call Me! How about the gentleman when asked to list 3 things he simply couldn’t live without, spells out a graphic event that can only be PG-13 described as “when a mommy and daddy love each other very much…” Really? I bet that reels the ladies in, huh fella? A list of “hates” which described me to a T captured my imagination. Discovering the following list: “TV Addict”, “Vain”, “Judgmental” made me momentarily wonder if he could actually see me through the computer. I mean that could be the lead of my obituary! I was so very tempted to rope him into a date just to announce mid-dinner, “Surprise! It’s me; your worst nightmare!!”

Dating is fun, particularly for a girl detective.


Posted by on August 22, 2015 in Dating


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The Healing Power Of The Center Square

Life has a way of happening. Most people, if they’re fortunate to live long enough, have to deal with dismal happenings. Even if you are inclined to wrap yourself in an insular protective bubble; never venturing out or letting people in, your body itself might cause you anguish with illness and decay. How we deal with what life throws our way speaks volumes about who we are and who we’ll ultimately become. There are people who can put their heads down and forge on through, brushing away darkness and fear like flies on a horse’s bum. These people most likely have a fined honed coping mechanism (most likely in the form of a bottle or official diagnosis.) And while forging through pain and loss may feel like kicking furiously to the surface for a lifesaving gulp of air, it will undoubtedly at some point bite you on that bum. If you are made of flesh and blood, you probably need to feel sad when sad things happen. You needn’t wallow, wail or simper, but you do need to experience the loss.

If you are in the throes of misery right now you may be asking; “For how long?! When can I just get on with my life?” I am so sorry to be the one to tell you this; but this is your life. Bad stuff is no less relevant than good stuff or status quo. It’s all part of the same experience. But as humans, especially western ones, we love us some timeframes. Upon hearing about a fatal illness the immediate question is always “how long do I have?” When we are told of an engagement the first words out of our mouths are; “when’s the wedding?” We are not comfortable simply being. We like beginnings, middles and ends. This isn’t a 21st century phenomenon; ancient religions have proper mourning periods that dictate when we are to reenter the world. I suppose there’s nothing wrong with guidelines but they can get in the way. We tend to focus on “how long will this take?” versus “what am I feeling?” and “how have I changed?”

Eliminating a deadline is not the same as embracing stagnation. We can move forward while being present. Conscious progression is possible when we discover what practices and coping mechanisms work for us. The only way to do that is trial and error and keeping an open heart, mind and eyes. A sense of humor always helps too. Most definitely filed in the “error” folder of the coping file was a colossally bad choice I made many many moons ago. I was in an intoxicating heartbreaking tumultuous all-consuming glorious doomed romance for a year or two when I once again considered leaving him. It was going to take enormous resolve and plenty of girding to choose to walk away from the most exciting and meaningful relationship I’d ever had. So where did I go to build this resolve to throw away cinematic romance with both hands? Paris. Oh if I were only kidding. Someone had offered me a free trip to Paris and I assumed the universe was telling me to go away and get some perspective. Clearly the universe and I were playing a game of telephone; ’cause boy oh boy did I mangle that message! Can you imagine? Paris. I won’t insult you by painting the picture.

I’d like to think that with each passing year I get a little less stupid. But I might just be kidding myself. For months after my husband died I kept visualizing myself at the beach. I finally got to a point where that seemed possible and off I went. And where did I go? Of all the beaches on this entire planet, I chose the one that most resembled where we had honeymooned 18 years earlier. I had consciously avoided the exact country but had subconsciously chosen a physically identical resort, climate and ocean. The good news is that unlike the unproductive Parisian pathétique, on this beach I sobbed my way through a bottle of sunscreen and a dozen pomegranate mojitos to a new stage. I likened it to taking peyote. I’m guessing. I wailed into the water while eschewing make-up or regular hair care (hey, that’s my version of a sweat lodge.) I spoke to no one and if it weren’t for texting, would’ve befriended a soccer ball. And when I returned I drifted into a new stage that felt manageable and even hopeful. I was ready to start figuring out what moving on meant. So maybe it wasn’t all that misguided, my beach destination.

There are many stages of sadness and grief and they aren’t necessarily linear. Just because you no longer feel utterly paralyzed doesn’t mean a song or scent will not send you back to bed. Events can occur that are so eerily similar to the original loss that they can cause you to not pass Go and head directly back to the beginning. But unlike before, you know the way out. During the first few months of no longer being married, household silence was profoundly disturbing to me. I had always been an NPR-on-all-day kinda gal, but the last thing I wanted to hear was news, or worse, blithe commentary. I needed mindless comfort. I needed auditory macaroni and cheese. I found it on the Game Show Network (no seriously, there is such a thing.) There I found my childhood friends, Fannie Flagg, Richard Dawson, Brett Somers (aka Mrs. Jack Klugman), Paul Lynde and others. In a million years I never would’ve guessed that memories of childhood would ever be a comfort, but hey, that’s how bad off I was! Every morning, after drinking my tea and staring off into space, I’d gather myself up and head for the television. For one blessed hour I would have the company of old friends (and do my best to ignore the incontinence and walk-in-tub commercials.) It was about as different as it could be from discussing the New York Times with my husband every morning, and I dare say that was the point. The recently familiar was excruciating but the historically familiar was a comfort. Fast- forward a year and a half later when an intense and whirlwind relationship ended in a hauntingly similar manner as my marriage, and I headed directly to Fannie Flagg (via her author persona versus her game show persona.) I knew that her folksy approachable style was something I found to be soothing. (That is how multiple psychic sh*tstorms can be educational!)

I don’t watch game shows any longer. To say I’ve moved beyond that suggests a linear path, I’ve moved away from it. And that is the point. Finding what works for the moment is key. When it doesn’t serve you toss it aside. When talking about your loss is no longer a comfort or a relief, stop talking. You can’t control people’s curiosity but you can control your indulgence of it. You are the author of your own story. No one else is allowed to edit. If you want to identify as the mother of your deceased child, go right ahead, you are. If you want to present yourself to the world as someone entirely new, go right ahead; and feel free to continuously revise. And when this whole world starts getting you down, know that your own version of the center square will always be there.


Posted by on August 15, 2015 in Well-Being


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Top 5 Dating Tips (aka How To Avoid Losers)


Dating, like dealing with customer service, using the remote, and getting on a plane, was easier in my 20s. I’d meet a guy; in a bar, at work, in a dorm or in a cockpit (true story) and zing zang zoom, we’d be dating. There wasn’t much at stake and there was little baggage accumulated. Everyone was pretty much in the “same place” developmentally and it was all pretty much harmless fun. Yes things got real and often fraught, and sometimes ended in his and her tears. But the sheer volume of single people in their 20s meant a helluva big drawing board to which to return. As long as someone was unmarried there was very little that was suspect in a potential date. Not employed to his full potential? Well who is in their 20s? Living with roommates and/or in a hovel? Hey, these are early days. Unless one wrestled with mental stability, there really was nothing to hide from a potential date. Fast forward to your 40s and beyond and it’s quite a different tableau. Internet dating and messy lives have nudged us towards self-marketing that borders on deceit. We put our best face forward. Sometimes it’s a vaseline on the lens version of ourselves (a la Cybill Shepherd in every close-up of Moonlighting; by the way if you get that reference, this article is for you!). We leave out the less attractive aspects of our biographies, or we simply choose to forget. The dating pool gets significantly smaller as we age, unless you’re a dude over 75 & then yowza the world is your oyster once more. But for everyone else the pickings get slimmer, as so many former singles are happily (or not so happily) Noah’s Arking their way through life. And unlike in our 20s, we are not all equal now. It’s true and there’s no point in grousing over it; older men like younger women. So it is written, so it will always be. (If it helps, employ the serenity prayer from time to time.) This fact slenderizes the options even further. It is tempting then to overlook certain quirks or niggling details or even that little voice in your head screaming; “RUN!!!!” The more we’re attracted or intrigued, the more muffled that poor exhausted voice becomes, until it’s just as small & muted as Dustin Hoffman pounding on the church glass (Elaine, Elaine.) If you won’t listen to your own little voice, maybe you’ll listen to my big booming bossy one! Resolve dissolves, but commandments do not. So it is written…

1. Help From The IRS

Have you ever noticed that there is no box to check for “separated” on your tax form? That’s because it is legally meaningless. However it does mean many things to many people. Some people see business travel as being “separated”, others consider their separate vacations as a change in marital status. Suffice it to say, there are all kinds of ways to be separated and it’s key to know which version works for you. If the wife has publicly left the marriage (in a juicy embezzlement/infidelity scandal) and is gearing up to be her married boyfriend’s 4th wife, chances are she isn’t coming back (oops, have I said too much?). But separated ain’t divorced, and it’s going to get messier before it gets neater. Caveat Emptor dear reader, caveat emptor.

2. Professions Are Not Accidental

After a certain age, professions are just as much about personality as they are about credentials. It’s kinda like when dogs look like their owners. Do people choose dogs that look familiar or do they begin to take on the characteristics of their dogs over time? Either way, don’t be surprised when the lawyer likes to talk (a lot!), or when the professor is happiest with disciples. If you’re looking for a good conversationalist you might want to avoid dating anesthesiologists. If you’d like to be seen as something more than an audience member on a date you might want to forgo actors. Oh I’m sure there are many many actors capable of very healthy and wonderful relationships and utterly devoid of narcissism. I look forward to meeting one some day. It is more likely that you’ll find yourself listening to the actor’s monologue over dinner, a dinner at which he appeared 15 minutes late without an apology. There’s also a chance you’ll run into him a few weeks later and he’ll have no idea who you are, having never really “seen” you at all.

3. Less Filling, Taste Great

Whether in person or on-line we’ve all become pretty adept at selling ourselves. It can be quite advantageous to all parties to put one’s best foot forward. However, actual misrepresentation will bite everyone in the ass. Any advertiser worth their fee will make sure they understand their product before launching a campaign. I’m not suggesting swami level enlightenment here; just a good long look in the (full-length) mirror. There’s nothing wrong with keeping a few irrelevant details to oneself. Does any date really need to know about the skinny-dipping and wedding crashing of your (I mean, my) past? But it’s best to get the major stuff right out front. Saying you “don’t see well at night” isn’t an accurate representation of stick wielding, sunglass wearing, golden retriever assisted, blind. We’re all differently abled in one way or another. However I’d like to know that I’ll need to help my blind blind date to the door of the restaurant. (I’d have noticed his condition sooner had I not been mesmerized by the calloused grooves in his guitar playing fingertips. So what does that leave, just three senses?)

4. Linkedin = v.2

Have a first date with anyone. Seriously. As long as it’s in a public place and one friend knows where you are and what you’re doing; throw caution to the wind. But before you get serious or sleep with someone, do a bit of research. There’s simply no excuse for not Googling. If your potential bed buddy has no digital footprint be wary. As cold shower as it sounds, check out his/her Linkedin profile. Does it sound similar to what you’ve been told? Does it appear to be written by a 5-year old with one-sentence job descriptions devoid of capitalization or punctuation? You might be about to bed Peter Pan or be arrested. Are there discrepancies with dates and schools? Are there a lot of very brief stints? It’s probably not a game changer but the more you know…

5. Actions Are Deafening

People tell you an awful lot about themselves right off the bat. What they say is important, but it’s their actions that we really should be listening to. If you meet someone at a party, and not once during the hours long conversation do they offer to get you a drink, they’re probably not entirely adept at adult situations. If a date buys you a lovely dinner and then leaves you on the street to hail your own cab in the dark, he probably thinks his wallet can do all his heavy lifting. If a date lets you hail your own cab because he’s too busy figuring out whether or how to kiss you, he’s probably rather limited. If it all sounds confusing and embarrassingly retro and anti-feminist, try thinking of it in a non-sexual way. How do you and your friends treat each other? How do you expect to interact with people when there’s no sexual charge present? Now transfer that to a dating situation. Don’t you want to know a friend got home safely? Do you tell a friend they look fab and/or you had a great time? During a first encounter with a fella I find myself noticing the lack of a drink offer or other borderline boorish behavior and think of a recent incident I had. A married couple, two very tall and imposing gorgeous men, took me to the theatre days after I had broken a toe. They continuously surrounded me The Bodyguard fashion in the crowded, congested, toe crushing theatre. Out on the street, one stayed with me as the other ran two blocks, jumped in a cab and rode it to me. I will always love them.


Posted by on July 30, 2015 in Cultural Critique, Dating


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The Last Ship – Review


Lately it seems that before you can even pull a room temperature pint, there’s another “working class” British musical rolling into town. Small industrial towns (having seen better days) apparently are where hardscrabble dancers and designers are born. Perhaps Broadway has become the yin to television’s posh yang of Downton Abbey and Selfridges. No one would blame you for taking one and only one look at the press releases for Sting’s The Last Ship. Enough already! But I assure you, you would regret that decision. The Last Ship is how you remember (false memory or not) musicals to be. It is moving and soaring, with dance and music that serves the story.

It is a recognizable story, one perhaps with its roots in earlier theatre – edgy son, disappointed father, abandoned love and child, redemption. There is nothing particular unusual or revelatory about the book (John Logan and Brian Yorkey) it’s simply solid and moving. It is the firm foundation for what is ostensibly a light opera. A small town has lost its only industry (ship building,) out of work and hope the men have a chance to build one last ship together. But of course it is the love story buried in the welding and winching that will break your heart. The music and lyrics (Sting) are rich, understandable and at times quite stirring. The orchestration (Rob Mathes) fills the theatre and at times transforms what very well could be considered pub music into a score. While the direction (Joe Mantello) of this large cast is superb, it is the choreography (Steven Hoggett) that brings The Last Ship to an entirely new level.

The movements are natural yet entirely rhythmic throughout the production. Set changes become dance, and the dances are so deceptively simple they are just life. Many in the large chorus are hefty blokes and to watch them move is a delight. The movement/dance suits the characters and the story and seems to be continuously in play. When the characters dance it is merely an extension of their expression. This naturalism is how they sing as well.

Nobody bursts into a number in The Last Ship. All the singing comes organically from dialogue. The character Jackie White (Jimmy Nail) actually talk/sings (a la Rex Harrison) his way through solos until joined by a chorus. It is a very effective use of his rich baritone and his role as the foreman. Gideon, the wayward son is played by two actors, the younger (Collin Kelly-Soredelet) also playing the son of Meg (Rachel Tucker.) Sound confusing? It’s not. The elder Gideon (Michael Esper) is a strong presence and it’s always clear who is who. The women are splendid but this really is a men’s show. One man practically steals it in the role of Father O’Brien (Fred Applegate.) It’s a delicious role and storyline and Mr. Applegate is just delightful.

The set (David Zin) is stark, clever, effective and serves the actors and the story. There is also some very clever lighting (Christopher Akerlind) that works as additional set. If there is any flaw at all in this production it is one song that doesn’t quite belong. I believe it’s a recycled Top 40 (of Sting’s) and I leave it to you to discover it. To find it is tantamount to finding a tiny crack in a masterpiece; it makes you appreciate the mastery even more.

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Posted by on October 23, 2014 in Uncategorized


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