Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Urns To Die For - by Sybil Sage

"Would you rather be buried or cremated?" is a question some of us are asked more frequently than "Want to get it on?" so I've been reflecting on it. The problem was less about the how than the what. The truth is I want to stick around, which isn't always an option. The closest one gets is being the last one standing on "American Idol."

In a recent special, Barbara Walters and other A-listers who'd had open heart surgery -- David Letterman, Charlie Rose, Bill Clinton and Regis Philbin -- admitted the experience had forced them to confront their mortality and recognize that the good table reserved for them will one day be on the other side, where Elaine Kaufman has probably edged out St. Peter and is directing traffic.

It's clear that we're all going to die and can't take our Sleep Number beds with us. Though I have friends who've been diagnosed with control issues, I'm the only one who's created her own cremation urn. To future generations, I won't be reduced to "beloved daughter, sister, wife, mother" (and perhaps "bubby"), as they will see photos of me on a beautiful mosaic urn -- beaming at our son's graduations, admiring a Buddhist temple and hiking in Costa Rica (with nothing to suggest that I turned back after four minutes). I embedded only flattering photos and used our dinnerware so the pattern, if not my face, will be familiar to our son.

With the growing popularity of cremation, it was clear that others would be excited to have an urn like this. Though it aired decades ago, I've never forgotten the memorable Barney's commercial (when Barney and the writer of the ad, Steve Gordon, were going strong). Young boys sitting on a stoop were answering the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Each kid took his turn, expressing a lofty aspiration. The spot ended with Barney shrugging, "I don't know, but they're all going to need clothes."

That brings me to my online mosaic art boutique (, where along with other functional art, there are now urns, the Et URN ity and Pet URN ity. These are done on a commission basis. The client chooses the colors and provides photos that I re-size and mount onto clear glass, integrating them as well as other personal items (a business card, final Twitter update, signature, etc.) onto a metal urn. They can be ordered in advance by those who demand photo approval, or when needed.

Seeing what I'd done, a friend gasped, "Those urns are to die for!!"

Saturday, January 8, 2011

"He's Just Not That Into You"

"He's just not that into you," is what friends must be thinking about the one-sided, dysfunctional relationship I can't seem to break off. I, too, find it pathetic that I grovel for attention, hoping for a shout out or an inadvertent butt call from a cell phone, anything to suggest that I'm on God's buddy list.

I can't ascribe the fascination to chemistry. If God has made me tremble, it's because of fear, not foreplay. I'm the one repeatedly begging for forgiveness, never hearing, "No, this was my bad." My role is to be righteous while God gets to be self-righteous. And regardless of how I try to please, I get less face time than a friend with benefits.

The stories about God are awesome, and the message is unmistakable: "Play around, God forbid, with others and you'll pay." As with any long relationship, the stories become familiar and you want to scream, "Enough already with the omnipotence!" I tried to get past the narcissism to keep our standing date, usually from Friday night through Saturday at sundown. But did God ever surprise me with dinner reservations or a concert? No, it was up to me to make the plans. Did God ever ask, "This week, let's hear what vengeance you've wrought?" Though everything was about God, I was expected to believe that God had my back.

In my teen years, I got the idea to test God by doing something forbidden. I'd risk incurring God's wrath to see what would happen. Shortly after I ate an unkosher cheeseburger, Hurricane Carol took a turn and started heading in our direction. Everyone west of the George Washington Bridge was about to pay for my transgression. Our homes would be washed away and we'd be forced into exile, wandering in the Pocono Mountains for forty years. Luckily, the Amish and Quakers aren't as oppressive as the Egyptians. It appeared that the storm was coming to prove to me that God exists. I hoped to get forgiven, after which I'd play by the rules. But northern New Jersey was spared; it was the southern coastal towns that took the hit. Maybe someone from Seaside Heights had pissed off God more than I had. My plan didn't pan out.

Still single in my late 30's, it occurred to me that God might have felt a storm, even a major one, wasn't personal enough and that God was firing back at me by having me remain single forever. Now I was praying in earnest. "Look, I'm sorry I offended you, but haven't I done enough atoning? Every Yom Kippur I'm the one in the seat behind the plaque donated by the Glassman family, fasting and hoping to see your compassionate side. Come on, already, give me a break. I want a husband, one of my own, not those guys who think of marriage as a time share.

A close friend who was on a liquid protein diet called. "I'm invited to a dinner party and I asked to bring you as my designated eater." I went along, had two portions of veal stew made by the man who would later become my husband. My getting married at the age of 38, to my family and most of my single girlfriends, was more of a miracle than any burning bush. Overcoming multiple fertility problems to give birth at the age of 41? Better than the parting of the Red Sea. Okay, I wasn't as old as Sarah, and I did get help from a team of fertility experts, but this is the story God should want in the Bible. The Book of Sybil would do a lot to boost God's PR. God could be the new Mark Zuckerberg. (And, by the way, God, it looks as if he's getting rewarded big time despite helping himself to his Harvard neighbors' idea.)

Were my prayers answered? An argument could be made that they were, but it's hard to distinguish religion from coincidence. It's not impossible that the value of believing and praying is the placebo effect. I'm still waiting for a sign. I know we're not allowed to see God, but how about a blog?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Open Letter to Gawker Hackers

Okay, hawkers, you've made your point. I should have used different passwords for each of my accounts, but it was so much easier to remember that my son's birthday followed by my blood type would access my email accounts while the last four digits of my social security number and what my driver's license says I weigh would get me onto ebay, Paypal, Etsy, You Tube, GoDaddy, Amazon and assorted sites I used in my quest to find the tastiest olive oil.

I don't remember ever visiting gawker, but apparently there was a time when I was curious about whether or not Gwyneth Paltrow might have been photographed eating carbs in a trendy Soho restaurant as I had an account. That was my undoing as having a Gawker account made it possible for you to pass yourself off as the online me.

Would you use my Etsy account to buy a hand loomed scarf? My Amazon account to push some obscure author to number one? My PayPal account to score elite tickets to "The Merchant of Venice" or a New York co-op? I was desperate to create new passwords and would now take it more seriously, avoiding using my birthday or schools I'd attended that you could know from Facebook, and not being lazy like those who grasp at the most popular passwords: 12345, password, lifehack, qwerty, abc123, 111111, monkey, consumer, 0, letmein, trustno1.

AOL provided instructions for strengthening a password, which helped me arrive at a formula impossible to penetrate. The trick is to mix capital and lower case and accompany the letters with numbers. I capitalized the second letter of Hackers to make my password a most improbable "hAckers" (clever, no?). And I split up the word by inserting my area code, 212, at different points between the letters. I don't mind telling you I feel slightly smug and just hope Julian Assange doesn't spread this around on WikiLeaks.

Seemingly the only site not penetrated by you is my web site - But you and everyone else should feel free to go there and buy mosaic art with complete confidence that you will be completely secure.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Advice to Tea Party: Use Your Words (Unless You Don't Know Any)

It's clear that Tea Party enthusiasts have forgotten what the rest of us learned in high school about the Constitution and evolution, but the pummeling of member Lauren Valle reveals they're also ignoring the basic lesson taught in nursery school, "use your words." Valle, carrying a sign in a group of Rand Paul supporters, was knocked down, her head repeatedly stepped on. This attack was then characterized by campaign coordinator Tim Profitt as "passion," who mistakenly believes "passion" is a synonym for "violence".

I, too, am angry, and have been since George W. Bush was said to have been elected. My condition, if diagnosed, would be called "Keith Olbermann Syndrome," the symptoms being an obsessive, unbridled fury at right wing politicians and pundits as well as a handful of relatives. There's no effective medical treatment for this fury so I turned to a homeopathic remedy, mosaic art.

For years I've been breaking plates, using the shards to design vases, picture frames, lamps, planters and candlestick holders. When Sarah Palin appeared on the scene, I needed to find an acceptable outlet for my anger and channeled it into mosaic political satire, which led to my Breaking News series. This includes vases that pay homage to Stephen Colbert and the environment and edgier cremation urns done with red, white and blue American flag plates and small pictures that comment on our current crises -- financial fraud, job losses, political sex scandals and right wingers. These and the more benign items can be seen by going to

Monday, July 19, 2010

Studies Show Parents Are Not Happier Than The Childless

According to an article in New York magazine, a number of studies have revealed that parenting is not necessarily a source of happiness. Creating babies, therefore, may be something you shouldn’t try at home. Children, like Toyotas, appear to be a disappointment and may, in fact, find themselves being recalled.

In 2004, back when people still had jobs, a survey was done of 909 Texas working women. They ranked childcare sixteenth in pleasurability out of nineteen activities, behind housework, napping, exercising, preparing food, shopping and watching TV. I have to assume they don’t get the same programs we do on the East Coast. I wasn’t among those queried, but I got far more enjoyment from singing "Wheels on the Bus" to our son and participating in the process of his evolving into a competent young adult than I ever have on a treadmill. Given how parenting is perceived in Texas, one wonders about the popularity of the pro-life movement there. Toddlers would be well advised to hide their parents’ guns.

But these perceptions are not limited to Texas. Other studies claim that parents are more depressed than the childless and report that childcare is seen as drudgery. As a Hollywood scriptwriter, I had what is considered a glamorous career, yet I found being with my son far more compelling than watching rehearsals of "Growing Pains." Being a mother is the most important role I’ve had, the most challenging and rewarding. Parenting is dynamic, requiring repeated reassessing and revising, which keeps it fresh. Sure, having a child adds anxiety and stress, but that’s the case with anything you take seriously.

Dogs, ironically, continue to get good press and are credited with providing emotional support, particularly in difficult times. I’m baffled that pets are getting better press than children. My relationship with our Tibetan terrier was far from reciprocal. I did all the giving and caretaking with nary a thank you. Unlike our son, who learned to go to the bathroom by himself, the dog made it clear that the antique rug would suffer should I be selfish enough to go to dinner and a movie.

From the first touch of his tiny fist on my chest to today’s amusing instant message, my son has enhanced my appreciation of life. From him, I learned much of what I know about men, that I can’t persuade him or maybe anyone to use sunscreen, that there comes a time when backing off should replace being there, that teasing can be an expression of affection and that when my computer gives me trouble, I should reboot. Without him, life would be far less meaningful, my world would be smaller, I’d certainly not be as happy as I am and I’d be totally depending on Tech Support.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

with the news that spirit airlines is now charging $45 to place a carry on bag in an overhead bin i am beginning to think that heidi had a good idea. for those of you who are too young or too illiterate to have ever read the classic - heidi is the story of a young swiss girl who is sent away from her beloved, but poor, grandpa to go live in the home of a wealthy family and act as a companion to their invalid daughter.

heidi had no luggage. heidi wore all her clothing, all at once. now it's true that heidi probably didn't have an extensive wardrobe and i am betting that she only had one pair of shoes but i still think it is a good plan. when my husband and i travel i am the one who always takes the lions share of the luggage. therefore, from this time forth, when we travel, i am going to wear all my daytime clothing at once while the husband will wear all my evening clothes.

he doesn't know about this plan yet but i am sure he will agree once hears that we can save the $45 luggage fee.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lying About Your Age: When is it Okay -- by Sybil Sage

One of the perks of turning 65 in New York is you become eligible for a Senior Metro card that allows you to use public transportation for half fare, so I was surprised to see a 67-year-old friend whip out a regular card as we were heading into the subway. Responding to the puzzled look on my face, she explained, "Oh, this is the one I use when I'm with a guy I've met online, where I claim to be 62."

She doesn't look 62 and she certainly doesn't look 67, but even shaving off five years hasn't been productive because most men our age are looking for women who are much younger. Another friend who's also posted her profile on dating sites refuses to misrepresent her age, which created a conversation about when it's okay to lie about your age.

I lied about age when I was using fake I.D. to get served before I was of legal age and again, this time about my son's age, to take advantage of a photography package being offered to children under the age of two, scheduling the session at nap time so he'd be tired and not articulate enough to raise suspicions, stuffing his mouth with Gummi Bears to keep him from talking. But recently, after repeatedly getting rejected by online surveys and imagining it was because of my age, I took to claiming I'm ten years younger than I am. Even so, I'm rarely accepted and unlikely to answer enough questions to get the $10 gift certificate I crave.