HuffPo: Neurosurgeons Batting for Brain Tumor Research.
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HuffPo: Neurosurgeons Batting for Brain Tumor Research.


They’re an intense bunch, these gray matter operators. Also well-intentioned. Check out my article on the Huffington Post about the Neurosurgery Charity Softball Tournament.


Last Saturday morning in Central Park, I came across a uniformed male softball team, practicing intently before a game. A grim-faced player jogged out to shag a ball.

“Excuse me,” I called, “you wouldn’t all happen to be neurosurgeons, would you?”

“Yes, we are,” the player said. His eyebrows remained firmly knit and he didn’t crack a smile — the impending game was two minutes away — but he did kindly direct us to the field where I would find my friend Dr. Joshua Bederson, who heads up the Mt. Sinai neurosurgery department. My 7 year-old daughter and I giggled at the player’s gravity as we scampered across the lawn.

En route, we encountered some blue-uniformed Mt. Sinai players. “We’re playing over there,” pointed number 7, Dr. Andy Hecht.

“What chance do you have of winning?” I asked.

“Zero point zero,” said Dr. Hecht, grimacing.

“Good odds,” I commented.

Dr. Bederson, the neurosurgeon who recently saved a New York City cop stabbed in the head, had told me about this charity softball tournament over Szechuan fare the previous night. Dinner conversation morphed into a debate about whether or not the sublime fine motor skill coordination possessed by trained neurosurgeons would translate to the gross motor skills needed to hit and catch a ball.

In fact, neurosurgeons from around the country were in New York City for the tournament. Twenty eight teams of neurosurgeons had come to raise money for pediatric brain tumor research. Pediatric tumors have surpassed leukemia as the leading cause of cancer death in children; the Neurosurgery Research and Education Foundation is committed to advancing understanding and treatment of childhood tumors through scientific investigation.

Let me tell you, when neurosurgeons commit to something, they mean business.

Mt. Sinai first played against the Columbia University neurosurgery department. “You’re keeping it in the city,” I commented.

“Columbia has been known to cheat,” teased another doctor, with a wink at the end that belied his words, and left Columbia’s sterling reputation unbesmirched.

“We usually win,” proclaimed Columbia pitcher Dr. “Goody.”

Columbia players had names emblazoned on the backs of their jerseys: “Han Solo,” “Angry Passion,” and “Deuce” among them.

My daughter asked why the Mt. Sinai players didn’t wear names. “It’s not what’s on the back that matters, it’s what’s on the front!” exclaimed young Dr. Ted Panov. “We’re Team Sinai!” Another doctor pointed out that the Yankees don’t wear their names. This befits the founding of the tournament, by a Columbia resident who went to George Steinbrenner in 2004 with an idea for an event, laden with camaraderie and fun, that would make a difference.

“Why do you drink all this Gatorade?” my daughter persisted.

“We want to feel like we’re actual athletes,” answered Dr. Panov.

I couldn’t help but notice that there were only men on Team Sinai, which surprised me. Bederson’s wife is a famed neurosurgeon in her own right–and a skier who competed at the national level.

“There used to be more women,” Bederson admitted. “It’s just become so competitive.” Indeed, watching as teams washed around the fields, I couldn’t avoid the testosterone-laden alpha-male fumes which ebbed and flowed like an insistent current. Nor have I ever witnessed a sports team playing with more extreme focus. These are men who don’t joke around when it comes to competition: they like to win.

Good thing, because they compete with death on a daily basis.

“Phoenix usually wins, they’re a very athletic department,” Bederson told me, scowling while also smiling at the Chiefy’s who waited to play the winners of the Sinai-Columbia contest. Games are four innings long and each batter starts with one ball and one strike, so the round robin turns over quickly. Bederson kept his eye on the Chiefy’s, the team from The Barrow Neurological Institute. “They’ve won the last two tournaments.”

The Chiefy’s did look professional, in their spiffy red uniforms. They’d brought dolled-up maidens to cheer them on to victory. I haven’t seen skirts so short and stacked sandals so high since an episode of Jersey Shore. The attention to detail was admirable.

I trotted over to get a quote from a Chiefy, any Chiefy. They were a tall, toned bunch. Uber alpha-males? “We’re looking to complete our three-peat,” stated Dr. Fusco, a neurosurgery resident at Barrow.

Team Sinai did themselves proud during the Columbia game, though a slide into second base by Dr. Gologorsky raised the question: was that a Shabbos-approved move? It was not resolved. But in the top of the third inning, score 0-0, Sinai was up and bases were loaded. Sinai batted in two runs. The good Dr. Bederson himself batted in another run.

Columbia joked about stage one versus stage two, a dark inside joke for neurosurgeons, though it seemed to alleviate the sting of 4-0, Team Sinai.

“Sinai dominates Columbia,” yelled Dr. Hecht. “That should be the headline of The Huffington Post tomorrow!”

Alas, gallant Team Sinai could not prevail over the illustrious Chiefy’s, who took the second game 2-0. Then Ohio State clobbered them 15-1.

But Team Sinai, along with all the other teams, was still heroic. These guys have lives full to overflowing, work days that last sixteen + hours, barely enough time for their families. Yet they’re out on a baseball diamond to help kids. It shines as an example of both generosity and professional commitment.

For more information, see


Happy Graduation
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Happy Graduation

Happy Graduation

Happy Graduation
My brilliant and beautiful step-daughter graduated from Johns Hopkins University last week. She’s continuing on to the molecular biology and immunology program at the Bloomberg School, and from there to medical school. We’re very proud of her.
But even the joy of her accomplishments is eclipsed by something: her loveliness of spirit. Julia has worked with diligence and commitment to achieve her rite of passage. She’s shown a gift for deferred gratification, long-term goal-making, and personal sacrifice. More than that, she’s kind-hearted and grateful, loving and sweet-natured. It was exquisite happiness to share her moment with her.
Fire Island
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Fire Island

Fire Island

What is it about children and the beach? Such innocent and intense joy! My little one was so happy to go that she left love notes all over the house for her father and me: “I love to go swiming, I love the water, love, me.”
Ecco, Fire Island. It’s no Truro, and I have a wistful love for the Cape, in all its scruffy pine and sandbar glory. But neither is Fire Island 5 hours away. (Unless you leave for the ferry at the wrong time on Friday afternoon). It’s an hour and ten without traffic, and then a short ferry ride.
Ocean Beach has a honky tonk strip where too much raucous music spills out of bars and too many yahoos hang out, beer in one hand and cigarette in the other. Deer roam the sidewalks and every time I see one, I think: yikes! Lyme disease!
But… the beach, the beach, the beach. It’s beautiful. It’s fun.
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Brene Brown: The power of vulnerability | Video on

Brene Brown: The power of vulnerability | Video on

Over the last several years, I have been given a wonderful opportunity: I’ve been repeatedly attacked by someone in my life, through litigation, character assassination, poison emails, contemptuous letters, and screaming episodes that occur both in public and on the phone.
It has been unpleasant. Often sad. Certain therapists, who are infected with the false notion that “It takes two to tango,” eg, two parties necessarily participate equally in high conflict situations, refuse to see that it is happening. This is one of the problems with current psychotherapy. Fortunately, a few therapists are starting to see beyond those kinds of cheap, untrue platitudes.
So I know for a fact that, in a conflict, if one person wants to fight, the other person’s best efforts at conciliation may fail. Because despite years of my returning kindness for blame and excoriation, the persons involved in this situation are not amenable to any kind of peace. Some people are committed to their own malice, hate, and vengefulness.
The opportunity here, despite the profound discomfort, is to reaffirm my self-worth internally. It’s for me to see myself as worthy of love and connection in the face of someone desperately wanting me to feel unworthy. To do this, I have had to come to some awakenings. One is that other people’s feelings and actions have absolutely nothing to do with me. They do what they do because that’s who they are. Someone who acts with constant nastiness and negativity has that internally with which to act. It’s no reflection of me.
Another awakening is something beautifully articulated in the video above: “Blame is a way to discharge pain and discomfort.” I never articulated it to myself this way, but I had a sense of it. I came to this understanding, which correlates with the first one, by way of realizing that if even five percent of what these people say about me were true, I would be Adolph Hitler or Genghis Khan. I simply am not.
But they really, really want me to feel bad.
And that is about them, not about me.
So it has been a gift. And it is a gift that has led me deeper into my heart. Because it makes me feel vulnerable, to be so constantly attacked. And in that vulnerability, I have come to recommit to my own courage, to offer myself compassion, and to tell my story with my whole heart. I affirm my imperfections. I love with all that I am despite the lack of guarantees–though, to be sure, this is for me a daily practice, not a fixed endpoint. Another practice I cultivate is one of gratitude.
So I recommend the video posted above: it’s a shortcut to the learning that I came to via unpleasantness. And it’s great fun! May all who read this blog know their own self-worth, and find in their hearts both their frailty and their lovableness.
The Benefits of Radical Anarchy: Enjoying Family Dinners
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The Benefits of Radical Anarchy: Enjoying Family Dinners

The Benefits of Radical Anarchy: Enjoying Family Dinners

My blogs of late have emphasized my dissatisfaction with some thoroughly corrupt institutions in our lives: government and big business. Radical anarchy may be the only solution. And radical anarchy has so many applications. Once you get in the hang of it, it’s a useful approach to so very many situations. All this time I’ve considered myself a one woman stand against entropy. Maybe it’s time to rethink that.

Like family dinners. Getting all 4 of my daughters to sit down to a meal with my husband and me is like herding feral cats. Two are in college and are often in their distant cities. Even when they’re around, this one is working, that one has dinner with the other parent, the other one has two parties and, like, six best friends who demand to see her!
There are always the emotional undercurrents of getting a bunch of women together, who’s mad at whom and why. There’s the emphasis on relationships, makeup, hot guys, relationships, clothes, and hot guys. Did I mention there’s a lot of discussion about relationships and hot guys?
It’s not like we don’t talk about other things as well. Books, movies, TV shows, politics, and the current topics in their majors, neurobiology and sociology. But sooner or later…
“Do you think I should cut my hair real short and wear a lot of eye make-up?” one daughter asks.
“Do you think I should get an apartment with my boyfriend this summer?” asks another daughter.
“Do you think it’s okay to date a guy if I’ve already dated his best friend slash roommate?” asks the third. “Does it matter if the guy I dumped is stalking me now?”
“Can I paint my fingernails and get a dress like Mary had on at the Christmas party?” asks the little one.
“Oh my god, it’s an estrogen-fest,” my husband Sabin moans.
Then the dog barfs on the floor after eating someone’s purse, and the 5 year old breaks a glass and turns off all the lights in the house. The Christmas tree falls over, disgorging its lights, and all the iPhones in the house beep with simultaneous texts. The middle daughter chooses that moment to explain exactly why her boyfriend should be so much more grateful and appreciative to be dating her than he is–all while she in-boxes three guys she’s keeping on the hook for later, maybe. Sabin stabs himself in the knuckles with a fork just to distract himself.
And if you are in the mental state to enjoy radical anarchy: it is a rich feast for whimsy.
The Power by Rhonda Byrne
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The Power by Rhonda Byrne

The Power by Rhonda Byrne

Rhonda Byrne, author of The Secret and now The Power, is close to people who are close to my husband, so I had the good fortune to meet her. She was lovely, with the contained grace that I associate with people who live from a strong sense of purpose.

Byrne advised me to read The Kybalion by the Three Initiates and The Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manly Hall. With my insatiable reading lust, I acquired the books immediately. I devoured them promptly. I’m glad I did; the old Hermetic teachings have a lot to offer. The sense of paired, complementary qualities reminded me of the Kabbalistic Sephiroth winding along the Tree of Life. I love these ancient, eternal paradigms of thought!

So, being favorably impressed with Byrne, and wanting to support her because she’s friendly with some of my husband’s favorite people, I ran out and purchased two copies of The Power. One for me, and one for my husband, who refuses to share both food and books. The first bit of territorial prerogative always surprises me. I had my oldest daughter twenty years ago and I haven’t eaten an entire plate of food by myself since 1990. Someone is always sticking a fork in and grabbing a bite. Lunch is my happy time, when I’m alone in the apartment. I can eat standing up and walking around, which I prefer, and enjoy my tuna and peanut butter sandwich in peace, with no grimy fingers trying to steal some.
But I understand why Sabin won’t share a book with me. I use them up. I ravish them. Books are comestibles and I scribble in the margins, apply post-its, and turn down corners. Once I’m done with a book, it wants to take a shower and a nap.
The Power is no exception. It’s juicy and interesting, ripe for plundering. There’s a lot here, most of it good stuff. Opening the mind and heart to love can only benefit people. Thinking in positive ways about what you want is wholesome. When you ride a horse, you have to look where you want to go, and that is subtly communicated to the animal, who then goes there. It’s the same way with your mind and your life. Your mind has to focus on what you want and love, and then the great beast of your life can trot in that direction.
In general, I like this “New Age” the Secret and positive vibrational stuff. It’s got flaws, like everything else in this marvelous, imperfect, blissful, agonizing world. Gossip claims that one of the guys from the original movie of The Secret is in jail. And there’s sometimes a lack of groundedness in these teachings; elements of fantasy creep in. “Blame the victim” arises.
My most serious qualm with this school of thought has to do with karma. As I currently understand it, Karma is a complex law with a long, long arc. I’m not so certain that it works so simply as “Do good and think nice, and because you’re sending good and nice vibrations out into the universe, good and nice will come back to you.” I think that sometimes what you did twenty-five years ago, or twenty-five centuries ago as a temple dancer in Egypt, can come back to bite you in the tushie. Sometimes we reap the fruit of a seed we planted eons ago.
Then there’s the relational dynamic. We have karma not just as individuals, but as members of our family, our generation, our country, our religion. We also have dyad karma. I am stretching the meaning of karma here to apply to the invisible field of thought and feeling, emotion and expectation and communication within which two members of a couple live. Eg, if you’re married to someone who thinks badly of you, or who is convinced that you embody a certain negative trait (which is probably their shadow anyway), it’s hard to overcome the stickiness of that. It’s easy to get trapped like a butterfly in a spider web. It can be just as toxic within a family or any other community, like a school. Structures of thought and connection arise, and they can be cages.
Still, The Power is full of truth and light. It is passionate in its desire to give to the reader and to improve the reader’s lot. I’m writing my personal reservations in the margins, but it’s worth reading. It’s always helpful to return to the fundamental touchstone of life: am I acting out of love or out of fear? That’s the choice. Love or fear. I like to read these kinds of books at night, so I’m uplifted in the hypnogogic state. I like to think that the positive impact on me will be more profound, if words about love and joy and peaceful abundance are sailing through my dreams.
I also recommend Mary T. Browne’s The Five Rules of Thought and Geshe Michael Roach’s The Diamond Cutter. Like Byrne’s book, they give to the reader. What all three books share, though The Diamond Cutter approaches it differently, is the need to discipline the thoughts. We spend decades learning how to read, write, and cipher, but we have to seek out the knowledge of how to use our own minds constructively. The Power can help with that.