My Grandma Elsie

On July 5th I received a call from my mom — my 96-year-old Grandma Elsie had taken a turn for the worse. It was just a matter of time before she would be gone. I was so thankful that I was with my friend Megan when I received that call. Having someone around made receiving the news a little easier.

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Grandma Elsie as a baby. How precious is this photo?

That next day, while on the subway, I decided that when the time did come I wanted to speak at my grandma’s funeral. My grandma and I had a very special relationship. I knew it was my job to tell people how much she meant to me, especially after attending a family friend’s funeral earlier that week and hearing my childhood friend speak so lovingly about his grandmother.

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My grandparents, Jack and Elsie, on their wedding day in 1940.

Shockingly — yet no surprise to anyone who knew my grandma — she held on for seven more days. Grandma Elsie was a strong-willed woman, and passed last Thursday morning. I was so relieved to be working from home that day so I could cry and grieve, then put myself together and start making plans to fly to Florida for the funeral.

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Until I arrived at my parents’ house on Friday morning, I planned on speaking during the service. However, when I began to read my mom’s eulogy, couldn’t make it more than a sentence in without crying, I knew there was no way I would be able to speak in a few hours in front of friends and family. Of course I was right; I hardly kept it together. Instead of speaking, I’m putting my words on “paper” so everyone can know how much I love my Grandma Elsie and just how much I will miss her.

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Grandma and my mom.

My grandma and I had a special relationship that started when I was a newborn. You see, if you didn’t already know, she called me “my baby.” Even well into my 30’s she STILL called me her baby. She loved to tell people how she brought me home from the hospital at only a few days old.  Of course my parents actually brought me home from the hospital, but in her eyes, she brought me home. I was, after all, the first granddaughter….well, after the dog. She’d tell this to anyone who would listen that I was her baby. In fact, in 2010 she broke her hip and was in a rehab facility for a while after surgery. I was in Florida for Rosh Hashanah and my parents and I would visit grandma. Nurses and staff would walk into the room and she would stop them and say “Have you met my baby, Stefanie?” As I said, I was in my 30’s at this point already. Gotta love grandmas, right?

I would always spend time with just my Grandma Elsie either when my grandparents would visit us in New York, or we were down visiting Florida.  When I was 13, we moved to Florida and we became even closer. We would talk on the phone more, and occasionally go out to lunch. Once I obtained my drivers licence, I would spend time with my grandma — and my grandpa too, just because.  When my grandpa passed, my grandma was in a rehab facility due to a back injury. I sat with her all day while my parents took care of the funeral arrangements.  I will never forget the sadness on her face that day; my grandparents had just celebrated their 60th anniversary a few months prior.

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My grandparents dancing at my parents’ wedding in 1968. (That short guy in the background on the right…that’s my uncle)

My grandma was a good cook, but she was an amazing baker. My mom and I got our love of baking from Grandma Elsie. When I was younger and away at camp she would send me coffee tins full of her famous chocolate chip cookies.  When camp stopped allowing food packages, my bunkmates were devastated they get to snack on these treats. Everyone who had the privilege to try these cookies knows how delicious they were.  You always knew they were made with love. Now mom and I make them on a regular basis. For most of my friends, and especially my cousin Allison and my uncle, they are my go-to for birthday presents or study supplements like when Allison was studying for the bar exam.

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Grandma with my brother, Mickey and me

As a little girl I remember always helping grandma roll the dough for her apple pie crust for Rosh Hashanah. However, I’ll always regret not learning from her how to make her amazing rugelach. Seriously, you will never taste rugelach as wonderful as the rugelach my Grandma Elsie made.

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My grandma was the youngest of three strong and feisty sisters. Mae (L) and Ida (R) at my cousin’s Bat Mitzvah.

She would always ask how my friends were, even if she had only met them once or just heard me talk about them. She loved meeting her grandchildren’s friends, and usually feeding them as well.

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This photo was taken as we celebrated my grandpa’s 90th birthday and my grandparents 60th anniversary. My grandparents are surrounded by their 4 grandchildren.

The last time I spent time with Grandma Elsie she took me by the hand and said — out of the blue, “You know, I’ve decided something. It’s ok if you marry Derek Jeter.” This of course, shocked my parents and myself into hysterical laughter. You see, she always acknowledged my affinity for the Yankees’ shortstop and captain, but told me I couldn’t marry him because he wasn’t Jewish. (I also think she just wanted me to finally get married, even if the guy wasn’t Jewish.) Well, Grandma…I hope you’re happy with how the rest of my life is turning out, and don’t worry, mom is really good at giving me guilt about still being single.

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My grandparents were married 60 years. We should all be so lucky to have the love they had.

Over the past few years dementia set in and it became tough to see her. After seeing my grandfathers soon before they passed, I knew that the lasting memory I wanted to have of my Grandma Elsie was a happy one where she remembered her family. So in reality she has been gone from us for a while.  I, and the rest of my family, already miss her terribly.  Whenever I bake — especially her famous chocolate chip cookies — I will think of my grandma, the love she had for her friends and family, and I will smile.

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Grandma and me at my Bat Mitzvah.

 

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Central Park, the day after Nemo 2/9/13

Metro-North overpass at 110th StFamily heading to the ParkMaking a snowman
Harlem MeerLooking into Conservatory GardenDuring the summer those designs are all flowers
The snow was just a little heavy

Yesterday I spent the day in Central Park taking post-nemo photos. I have never seen so many people in Central Park before (Except for the Bon Jovi concert on the Great Lawn back in 2008). Aside from freezing temperatures, it was an amazingly beautiful day to be outside.

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Not the Best Monday

Today started out how most Mondays start. I hit snooze a few times on the alarm. My bed was just too warm and comfortable. The commute was fine; I even managed to get a seat on the subway! That was the highlight of my day.

It went downhill from there.

After a long, slow day of work, as I was getting ready to leave, my boss asked to speak to me. I don’t have to tell you what happened next, but today was my last day at Major League Baseball Advanced Media. I knew it was possibly going to happen. I was told over a week ago things were changing and people would have to be let go because of budget concerns and a lack of hours. I had really hoped one of those people wouldn’t be me.

So here I am, seven months after starting an amazing job that I didn’t know how long it would last, looking again. I have learned more during my time at MLBAM than I could have asked for. I leave with the opportunity to return when Spring Training starts, and the promise of a glowing recommendation should I find something full-time prior to that.

So I turn to you again social media, should you know anyone who is hiring someone with my background, please refer them to my website: HireStef.com. If you’re not exactly sure what I am looking for, I can best explain it as a hybrid of social media and event planning. Last year I wrote a post about what my perfect job would be, but after working at MLBAM, I know I want social media to be a main focal point.

For now, I’m hoping tomorrow will be a better day.

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NHL Lockout: It’s not just hurting the fans

For those of you who know me or follow me on Twitter know how much I love the sport of hockey. If you don’t, let me give you a brief history.

I was raised in a hockey rink. From a very young age most of my time was spent at Sport-O-Rama in Monsey, N.Y., either learning how to skate or watching my brother play hockey. My weekends were spent at hockey rinks all around the northeast watching my brother’s travel hockey teams.

My dream was to be the color analyst for the New York Rangers; I didn’t know anything else. Yes, I love baseball and football, but there’s something about going to a hockey game: watching it, lacing up a pair of skates and the smell of a rink, of the ice. There’s just nothing else like it.

I might not attend a lot of games during the NHL season, maybe a handful when I can afford it or someone is nice enough to give me tickets. But I spend money. I spend money when I go to games. I seem to spend money even just walking past the NHL store on 6th Avenue in Manhattan. When I don’t go to games I go out with my friends to watch games at local establishments near Madison Square Garden.

Back in August, possibly even before that, the NHL Players’ Association offered to play under the now expired Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and continue to negotiate a new CBA. The NHL said no.

The CBA expired on September 15th with Commissioner Gary Bettman announcing the league was locking out the players. (Side note, I assume if you are reading this you know the difference between a lockout and a strike. If you don’t here’s the simple explanation: A lockout is brought on by the league/owners. A strike is brought on by the players.)

By the way, did you know that this is the THIRD lockout since Bettman became NHL commissioner? The second lockout canceled a whole season. No other professional sports league has seen the amount of games canceled than the NHL has under Bettman. I spent more time negotiating my Saturday night curfew with my parents when I was in high school than both sides have negotiating a new deal.

With today’s announcement of another month of canceled games, that’s money kept in my pocket, or spent other places. However, that’s money out of arena workers’ pockets because they work hourly and rely on these games for work. It’s also money out of the small business owners’ and their employees’ pockets around the arenas. Yes, we can all go and eat and drink at places around MSG and other arenas on a regular basis, but there is no way they would do the same business on a random Tuesday in November with no hockey being played down the street.

Many teams have already laid off staff, some teams laid off staff on September 17th, the first business day after the lockout announcement. Others have laid off staff since then, cut work days and of course salaries. A cut to the salary of an assistant or coordinator or even a director can be detrimental to a person’s livelihood. I’m not talking, ‘Oh now they can’t eat out every other night.’ I mean now people might have problems paying bills!

Fans are starting to call their ticket representatives asking for refunds and giving up their season-ticket-holder seniority because they are frustrated with what is going on. Those season ticket holders will now go and spend their hard-earned money somewhere else.  Maybe on a vacation, on home improvement, or even on another sport.  Who knows, but those who are pulling their money out are ones who might never come back.

Does the NHL realize that it has definitely lost the fringe fans? The ones that started watching because of that amazing triple overtime game between the Rangers and the Capitals during the playoffs last season? Honestly, what person who just became a fan would want to invest their time and interest in a league that just doesn’t seem to care? I know I wouldn’t.

If there was a season, tonight the Rangers would be playing the Carolina Hurricanes. Three of the four Staal brothers would be playing in the same game that mattered, probably for the first time since they were boys. What an amazing story! What amazing hockey! But instead, a good amount of the NHLPA is over in Europe playing, while many others are considering their options.

With the fact that a second month of NHL hockey is being wiped off the board, hockey fans everywhere are turning to other forms of hockey entertainment: NCAA, ECHL, AHL, OHL, Pee-Wee, Bantam or even pick-up games at the local rink to fulfill the huge hole.  Hell, fans like me are even turning on our computers to watch the KHL and other elite European leagues while we probably should be focusing on our work. No matter what, none of these options are on the level of the NHL. As a NYC resident, it’s not easy for me to get to a minor league or NCAA game; the availability just isn’t there like it is for me to attend a NHL game. 

The sooner all the owners and Gary Bettman realize they are hurting the sport and the future of the league more than helping it, the better. Unfortunately, I don’t see this happening anytime soon unless both sides lock themselves in a room until a deal is done. I’ll even volunteer to moderate.

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What’s this attachment below?  Well, back in 2006 my group NYU Sports Business graduate school thesis (myself and four other students wrote and conducted the research) was a 10 year overview of the NHL and what it needed to do to improve. Feel free to read: NHL: 10 Year Overview (FYI…It’s a Word document download)

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Mini-Sticks for Mikko

If there are two things I love, it’s hockey and kids.  If there’s one thing I hate and I mean hate, it’s cancer.

Today I learned about a little boy from Hastings, Minn (home of Rangers forward Derek Stepan), John “Mikko” Gengen. Mikko is a 5- year old who has recently been diagnosed with Neuroblastoma.  I was asked to share Mikko’s story and “Mini-Sticks for Mikko”.  Friends of Mikko’s family are collecting mini hockey sticks for Mikko and his brothers as something for them look forward to while Mikko uses all his strength to fight this horrible disease.

Mikko – 2011-12 Hastings Blue Mites

Do you have any mini sticks laying around your home and really don’t know what to with them? DONATE THEM!  Don’t know what a mini stick is? Well here’s an example. Want to put a smile on a little boy’s face but don’t have a stick…go online or to a sporting goods store like Modells or the NHL store and buy one (or a few).  It is their mission to receive sticks from all over the world.

To learn more about Mikko, Mini-Sticks for Mikko and what sticks have been donated so far PLEASE click here. Like their Facebook Page! (But still hate cancer!)

OH! By the way, if you’re in the NYC area you don’t have to worry about mailing the stick(s) to Hastings! Bring the mini stick(s) to Foley’s NY Pub and Restaurant and get a free beer for every stick you donate during the NHL playoffs!

Thank you in advance!

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Completely Superficial Post: My NHL All-Crush Team

If you know me, or follow me on Twitter, you know that I am a huge hockey fan. As I am typing this up I am flipping between the Panthers v. Devils,  Bruins v. Capitals and Coyotes v. Blackhawks games.

I appreciate a goalie standing on his head to save a game, an amazing breakaway that leads to the game winning goal and players sacrificing their bodies to block a shot…even a slap shot from the Bruins captain, Zedeno Chara.

Now that we are a week into the NHL playoffs, earlier this week Cosmopolitan Magazine released their “Hottest Guys of the NHL” list.  I saw it, tweeted it and then debated many of the guys on the list.  I mean Sidney Crosby?!  Really?  I do not know one female who finds him remotely attractive.  

At the urging of my friend Steve, I have complied my personal all crush team (current players only).  They include Olympians, All Stars, Stanley Cup Champions and, in my opinion, players that don’t get enough ice time. Oh, and all but 2 of these players are on playoff teams.

So feel free to comment, tell me I’m right, tell me I’m wrong.  The players are in no specific order, but I did leave the best for last.

Centers:

Torrey Mitchell, San Jose Sharks

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Jason Arnott, St. Louis Blues

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Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Left Wingers:

Zach Parise, New Jersey Devils

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Photo: nhl.com

Ray Whitney, Phoenix Coyotes

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Photo: Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

Right Wingers:

David Clarkson, New Jersey Devils (this is mainly for my friend Lauren, but I do like his eyes)

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Bobby Ryan, Anaheim Ducks

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Photo: NHL.com

Defense:

Mike Green, Washington Capitals

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Stu Bickel, New York Rangers

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Photo: Stefanie Gordon (me)

Goalies:

Rick DiPietro, New York Islanders

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Photo: Getty Images

Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

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Photo: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Honorable mention: Well…that would be a whole other blog post!

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The 2012 NHL Winter Classic: Where the NHL is Missing the Point

The 2012 NHL Winter Classic between my New York Rangers and their rival Philadelphia Flyers will be played  on January 2nd at Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies.  Today while browsing Facebook, I learned that from December 31 through January 2nd , the NHL will have a “Spectator Plaza” set up outside of the ballpark.

In theory , the spectator plaza is a wonderful idea. It draws fans that are going to the Alumni game on December 31st and the Winter Classic to the ballpark early.  It has a “fan fest” type feel with games, autograph sessions, etc. Then I looked closer and saw that the plaza closes at 1pm on January 2nd.  The Winter Classic game starts at 1pm.  If you’re going to the game or not interested in the game at all , you probably think, “So what?”.  Let me explain, in my opinion, what the problem is. I’ll start with a little back story.

In 2003, the Montreal Canadiens played the Edmonton Oilers in the first “Heritage Classic.” I said to myself, “If the Rangers were to ever play in something like this…I am there!” Fast forward almost 10 years later and there’s an announcement prior to the 2011-2012 NHL season that the Rangers will be facing the Flyers in Philadelphia. Finally! My Rangers will be playing in the Winter Classic!

As soon as I heard this news, I started to have serious talks with my friend Megan about taking her son to the game. Much to our dismay, we soon discovered it will be nearly impossible to get tickets for face value and tickets on the secondary market are about half a month’s rent. Sadly, I just can’t afford to go. We have spoken about tailgating with friends and then going somewhere to watch the game in the city, as well as entering every contest possible to win tickets.

Today, I read about the NHL’s planned Winter Classic Spectator Plaza. GREAT! Maybe we could actually tailgate with friends and then stick around for the game itself and watch from outside the ballpark.  One would think that an area called a “Spectator Plaza” would include a viewing area for the game itself. Unfortunately and surprisingly, this is not the case.  The plaza closes right before the game begins.

Closing the spectator plaza when the game starts represents a huge missed opportunity for the NHL both in terms of potential revenues and development of fan goodwill.  I visited Italy during the 2006 World Cup.  In every city, piazzas had screens set up where the public could go and view the matches.  It was a fabulous idea and a fun way to watch matches.

Here’s an idea for the NHL. Rope off an area, set up high tops (tables), move some concessions over, charge $20 and let people watch the game right outside the ballpark. Don’t want to do that? Ok, just set up a screen and let people watch for free.  There are people who would do that (i.e., me, and many other hockey fans). I believe the NHL is really missing a great marketing opportunity.  Want to make hockey more accessible to the masses?  Here’s your chance!  Show the game on the big screen and have alumni out during the intermission to chat with fans. A Q&A with fans could be a huge success.  This can’t be a logistical issue, since security and vendors are already in place.

I am sure there are people reading this saying, what if it’s 20 below? What if it’s snowing?  Here’s my answer. If people are willing to go to the game and deal with the elements, why wouldn’t they stand outside and deal with the same elements? I would. I know many other fans that would. Oh, and NHL…those fans would also then purchase additional merchandise.

This could be a tremendous opportunity.  The NHL is missing the point.

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