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By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

It’s still the same old story, only 60 years later. When I was an undergraduate at Barnard, the college president, Millicent McIntosh, who was well ahead of her time, urged the women — actually we still called ourselves “girls” then — to prepare themselves for a career and not just for marriage. “Statistics tell us that you will be alone during some parts of your adult life, whether from widowhood, divorce or not finding a mate. You may have to support yourself and your children, should you have them.” We giggled at the message.

The question then became: Who will take care of the children while we are working, and what will be the effect of a working mother on those children? In short, the issue was how to balance a career and motherhood.

Although she didn’t say it, the answer for President McIntosh, our role model who had several children, was to have help in the home. That was made possible by the fact that she and her physician husband made a sufficient living to pay for that help. That meant for women to have a career was a luxury, and we resolved the career/motherhood dilemma by assuring ourselves that it was quality time spent with children, not quantity, that would make the difference in their lives.

How pat an answer. How innocent. How ridiculous.

This was just before the world changed, just before Betty Friedan, Bella Abzug, Gloria Steinem and the invention of birth control pills. Within the following 20 years, certainly by the early 1980s, women poured out of the kitchen into the workplace, and the two-paycheck family became the norm. Values in America had changed, family income had improved, but the conversation was the same: Who will take care of the children and how will women and men — and the children at home — cope?

So how have we coped?

For starters, women can pursue success in the workplace much more readily, if not yet with pay equality. Women can also support themselves rather than stay in a marriage they may deem difficult. The other side of the coin is that the frustrations of balancing the workplace and motherhood that we imagined early on have indeed come true. And lots of other changes have taken place in society that weren’t imagined.

The relationship between men and women inside marriage has changed. The drive for equal pay in the workplace continues. The rate of divorce has soared in the last half-century. And fewer Americans are even getting married than ever before. 

In 1960, 82 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 were married, but in 2010 that rate had dropped to 44 percent. By 2018, the reproductive rate in the United States had fallen to a 32-year low, which will of course have all sorts of implications for the future workforce and economic consequences on Social Security, among others. Remaining in the middle class now depends, for most people, on two incomes.

And the work-life balance question? Well, that problem still hangs in the air. Someone has to take care of the children, but who? I can honestly say that almost every career-successful wife I have ever interviewed and asked how she managed the home-workplace situation has expressed frustration with the outcome even as she loves her work. 

Couples today work out their own arrangements. Those fortunate enough to have the funds hire help. Roles in marriage have sometimes reversed, with the husband staying at home for the family. Some corporations have realized the benefit of offering paid family leave, so that infants are not left to third-party care. Grandparents have been pressed into service to care for their grandchildren. 

But the bottom line is that the choice to work has now become the necessity in most cases for both partners to support the family. 

The choice is still a luxury.

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Many of us sit through meetings of one kind or another: business meetings, community meetings, even social gatherings. But did you know that the air we breathe in those closed spaces might not be so healthy for us? If you come out of such a gathering and the air around you then feels fresher and cooler, consider this: “Small rooms can build up heat and carbon dioxide from our breath to an extent that might surprise you.”  So explained a recent article in the Science Times section of The New York Times.

When we breathe, we exhale carbon dioxide. That gas, which we might characterize as stale air in such a situation, can actually affect decision-making as a result of its impact on the mind. Some eight studies over the past seven years have considered the effects on cognitive function in small, airless rooms over a couple of hours. The results suggest that perhaps we should not entirely trust decisions made there.

Carbon dioxide, when inhaled, dilates blood vessels in the brain and reduces activity among cerebral neurons, thus decreasing communication between brain regions. We know this to be true when a large amount of the gas is inhaled but we don’t know so much about the effect of smaller amounts. If student test results are compared in rooms with 600 parts per million (ppm)  of CO2 and similar rooms with 2,500 ppm, the scores of the test takers with the high concentration are significantly lower. It is interesting to note that carbon dioxide levels can be twice that high in some classrooms.

Such studies were repeated in the workplace, with workers taking problem-solving and strategy tests, and the results were the same. In today’s energy-sensitive world, many office buildings are better sealed, with less fresh air seeping indoors. Another interesting fact was that not every type of test showed that same result.  Less complex test material, like some proofreading, for example, did not show a comparable shift.

So the next time you are in such a situation, open a window or keep the door ajar. Perhaps the intellectual level of the conversation will rise.

Now here is another tip for better living that is also from The Times, although published a different day. For those of you who, like me, love to sit around sometimes and do nothing, here is exoneration from the charge of laziness in an otherwise busy world. The Times tells us that the Dutch call this “niksen.”

What is doing nothing, exactly? A psychologist named Doreen Dodgen-Magee, who studies this matter, likens it to a car whose engine is running but isn’t going anywhere. It’s “coming to a moment with no plan other than just to be,” she writes. She calls that boredom, which she doesn’t intend in a negative way.

But the idea of niksen is to take conscious time to do activities like gazing out of a window or sitting motionless. I like that, although it flies in the face of our always-be-productive American culture. According to some experts, “the benefits of idleness can be wide-ranging.”

Daydreaming, “an inevitable effect of idleness — literally makes us more creative, better at problem-solving, better at coming up with creative ideas,” according to Sandi Mann, a psychologist at the University of Central Lancashire in England, who has done research in this area. “Let the mind search for its own stimulation. That’s when you get the daydreaming and mind wandering, and that’s when you’re more likely to get the creativity,” she explained.

It’s not easy to do nothing and certainly to do so and not feel guilty about it. We have to set time aside deliberately to disconnect — and not just from our devices. The reward is that we can refocus with more energy. I have a chair in my living room that I can sink into and just have my mind go blank. It’s even tempting to fall asleep there, and sometimes I do for a few minutes.

Delightful! 

By Nancy Burner, Esq.

Nancy Burner, Esq.

The best way to manage your own affairs while you are alive and to provide properly for your beneficiaries at your death is to have an estate plan. There is a distinction between having a “plan” and having documents. The close attention to detail, knowledge of the law and past experiences of the attorney you are dealing with should help you create the plan that fits your own circumstances.

The first step of the process is to gather a comprehensive list of your assets. Since everything in the plan is different depending on the personal circumstances, it is important for the attorney advising you to know what type of assets you have and in what quantity. An individual with a home worth $400,000 may require a very different plan than an individual with the same amount of assets that are held in cash or retirement accounts. 

Once you have your list of assets together, you can review it with the attorney and discuss the goals of the representation. For many clients, the primary goal is to make sure they are taken care of during their own lifetime with the maximum amount of control over their assets without concern for what happens upon their death, while others may have concern for those they wish to benefit at their death.  

Take the single mother with a disabled child; while she is concerned about her own well-being, she would likely consider the well-being of her child to be equally as important. By contrast, a single person with no children will have different concerns and, therefore, a different estate plan. 

Discussing your goals with an attorney is the greatest value the attorney can provide. Estate planning attorneys are more than just document drafters. They are advisers. With your attorney, you should be running through the different scenarios that may occur at the time of your death and making sure that you are satisfied with the outcome of each based on the plan you decide to create. 

The estate planning attorney can flag for you other issues that may be of concern. Depending on your age, income and assets, it may be prudent to discuss long-term care insurance or asset protection planning for Medicaid purposes. You can discuss whether or not your beneficiaries will need a trust for any reason, including creditor protection, protection of government benefits or protection from themselves if they overspend and undersave. 

After you have discussed your assets and goals with the attorney, they can recommend options for you. Often, there is more than one option available. A description of the pros and cons of each plan and the cost to you should help you determine what is best in your circumstance. This is the point at which the documents can be created in draft form. If you are satisfied with the documents as written, they will then be signed with the attorney. Each document will have its own signing requirements for validity that will include the presence of witnesses and/or a notary public.  

If you have never created an estate plan or have not reviewed it in the last five years, you should reach out to an attorney to start the process.  

Nancy Burner, Esq. practices elder law and estate planning from her East Setauket office.

The house on Lower Rocky Point Road in Sound Beach, a relatively quiet, two-lane road that parallels the North Shore coastline is somehow indicative of comfortable, suburban living. The house is quaint and the front yard is loaded with lawn ornaments. Now there’s something hauntingly disturbing at the sight of it.

On April 25, the Suffolk County district attorney announced a multicount indictment of a resident of that Sound Beach house, Raymond Rodio III, for allegedly keeping over 20 women in a cycle of drugs and prostitution over several years, often using that basement for activities related to that prostitution. The parents said they didn’t know. Comments from community members online were similarly flummoxed. Nobody expected a story like that to come from such a neighborhood.

Nobody ever does.

Everyone knows about the opioid epidemic. It’s said you don’t have to stick your arm out too far before you brush against someone who has been impacted by the crisis. For years it has ravaged Long Island, and only with concerted and multiyear efforts from community activists, journalists and policymakers are we finally starting to make efforts from the ground level up. Local legislators and school districts continually host Narcan training courses to aid overdose cases, and with the New York State budget, an expanded access to medication-assisted treatment has become available in both the hospital and jail settings.

Residents have commented online there are houses they suspect are involved in drug dealing, but why would anybody expect that this case also has allegedly been involved in human trafficking?

That’s just the thing — perhaps people need to be more alert to prevent these crimes.

Rodio was allegedly operating this illicit scheme for five years or maybe even longer. He got away with it for that long only until thankfully during an unrelated traffic stop an officer recognized that the woman passenger in Rodio’s car showed signs of being in a forced prostitution situation. 

Prostitution? On the North Shore? Yes, it does happen here, and it doesn’t just take place in seedy motels or in illicit massage parlor operations. It happens at reputable hotels, and online, through well-known websites like craigslist or on dating apps like Tinder. It’s likely that people as young as 15 years are involved. These sex traffickers often recruit online through social media or find young women with poor family lives or with existing drug problems.

It can happen anywhere. The case in Sound Beach more than proves it.

It’s time for parents and teachers to learn about this issue, one that has only grown with the opioid epidemic. Children need to learn the dangers beyond drugs, and adults should learn the warning signs to notice young women who might be involved in these truly horrific situations.

Many North Shore communities have continued to step up in the overwhelming face of the opioid crisis. We can take a stand against this issue as well.

Young man photographing family at outdoor wedding. Horizontal shot.

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Something about a posed picture brings out the prankster in me. I realize, of course, that posed pictures can and do capture a moment when a group of people come together.

In fact, I recently visited the athletic center of one of the colleges that admitted my daughter and stared, for hours, at the faces of athletes over the decades who took time out from their sports games and practices to have a picture taken. Without the uniformity and decorum, these pictures would have been a free-for-all with little structure.

And yet, in my own life, I can’t help seeing the camera and the formal process as an invitation to assert my individuality or, at the very least, to force the formality off someone’s face.

I can trace this back to formal extended family photo sessions we had when my brothers and I were young teenagers. Every so often, the aunts, uncles and cousins would get together. When they did, someone inevitably wanted to capture the moment for people to revisit years later, which, I guess, is around now, given how long ago the younger versions of ourselves forced a smile on our faces for those pictures.

So, anyway, I remember this one picture, when I was standing between both of my brothers, which made sense at the time because I am the middle child and my younger brother hadn’t decided I stopped way too early in the height department. As the photographer was getting ready to take the picture, I reached down as subtly as I could and pinched my older brother’s thigh, causing him to grin broadly at just the right moment, if you’re me — or the wrong moment, if you’re the photographer.

To her credit, my mom kept that goofy picture because, unknown to me, the photographer had taken a head-to-toe shot that clearly showed my fingers pinching my brother.

When my younger brother got married, I recall my father’s extended family all trying to line up for a family photo or, as my aunt said at the time, a fa-mi-lee pho-to, as she enunciated each syllable in a way that would cause poets to cringe. She accented all of the syllables and spoke so loudly that the camera picked up her demand to get everyone in their place.

Later, as we watched my brother’s wedding video, the whole family discovered an unknown treat. At some point, the videographer had clearly asked my uncle, one of the more serious and least playful people I ever met, if he had any marital advice for the newlyweds.

Seated in a chair by himself, with the music playing in the background and plates of hors d’oeuvres passing in and out of the frame, he paused for a moment before looking straight at the camera.

“It’s a sense of humor,” he said, cracking the smallest of wry smiles.

As my daughter and nephew prepare for their high school and college graduations, I can’t help wondering what the young men and women in the photos will be thinking when the many amateur photographers insist that they move a step to their left, lean to their right, stand up straight or open their eyes wider, no, less wide, no, wait, wider.

Hopefully, my daughter and nephew will be able to look back at pictures and see something more than a group of people celebrating one moment as they prepare for the next one. Hopefully, the camera will capture something, small though it may be, that brings a smile to their faces months or years later. Maybe the perfect imperfection will transport them back to the moment someone insisted that they “give us a natural smile” on cue.

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Celebrations are a beautiful thing. Besides being festive, they tell us who we are, where we come from and maybe even where we are going. For example, the Fourth of July reminds us that we are Americans, Thanksgiving Day prompts stories about our history and that we have aspects of our lives to be thankful for. Religious holidays strengthen our beliefs and traditions. And the best part of celebrations can be that they bring us together — as a nation, as sports fans of a winning team, as members of a particular block or just as a family.

My family looks to ceremonialize as much and as often as we can. The month of May has been especially kind to us in that regard this year. For starters, my oldest grandson will be graduating from college in Boston in May. My granddaughter will graduate from high school in Charlotte, North Carolina, later in the month. Both have earned their next stage in life. To continue the party, my youngest son will celebrate a big birthday at the beginning of July. We try to get together for some of the Dunaief birthdays each year. And any other excuse — new job, acceptance to college, a new success at work, an honor bestowed on a member — any occasion serves. A triumph by one can be an opportunity to rejoice by all.

Celebrations can establish traditions, and traditions can provide structure for each year. With such framework can come togetherness and the security of a community. The community can be as small as a family coming for Sunday dinner to eat the tomato sauce that’s been cooking slowly on the stove in grandma’s kitchen much of the day. Or it can be as large as one of the world’s great religions that transcend national and international boundaries. A community can be of one’s sex, or age, or station, or nationality, or village, or school district or neighborhood. There is great power in community — a defining and anchoring identity, a sense of inclusion.

So how do most people celebrate?

The answer is usually with food, but not always or only that way. For my grandson’s graduation, we will all come together in the bleachers of Fenway Park and variously cheer or boo the Red Sox, depending on our individual intelligence. We will stay in the city a couple of days and perhaps visit one of the many terrific museums. Maybe we will even take a duck boat ride on the Charles River or a swan boat ride on the Boston Common or a historic walk through the many hallowed neighborhoods. Any and all of those will make for lifetime memories that will encourage us to further celebrate by making them into traditions and perhaps repeating them or recalling them with amusement whenever we get together. Common stories are part of what unite us, as a people and as a family. Oh, and there will surely be lots of seafood throughout our stay in Beantown.

In Charlotte, we will be newcomers eager to explore the new hometown for one of my sons and his dynamic family. Before they moved, we were already acquainted with how long the flight was from here to there, and which airlines made the trip. It is inherently exciting to explore a new region of the country, with its different festivities, histories and traditions — and regional foods. By now you have surely gotten the correct impression that my family enjoys traveling and celebrating on its stomach.

For my youngest son’s birthday, there is always a baseball game involving us. He gets to stay up at bat as we take turns pitching to him, and he typically knocks the ball out of the park. Other times we get to chase it all over the field. Such is the privilege of the birthday kid.

They are completing one stage and entering the next one, members of my family, and that is so significant as to be noticed and marked with congratulations and optimism. By celebrating together, we are saying, “Well done! And we are with you all the way.”

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

When we want to use a pronoun to refer to a deity, we use a capital letter out of respect, so that even if we’re writing about His will, we use the capital “H” in the middle of a sentence. For some, of course, the capital letter could also represent a female deity, as in, I thought I would get the job, but, apparently, She had other plans for me.

That’s so wonderfully deferential that it shows that only supreme beings merit such grammatical greatness.

But what about all the people we can’t stand, whose ideas are ruining our day or, gasp, our country?

We have long used symbols or faux letters, like an asterisk (*) to take the place of a letter or words we all know, so that we might write, “What the **** was he thinking when he cut me off for a parking spot at the supermarket?”

Nowadays, though, I think the politics of personal animus requires more than a few letter abbreviation or a casual dismissal. We need the equivalent of a literary eye roll, which can show a level of antipathy and disrespect befitting the lack of humanity, the utter depravity or the absolute inanity that defines someone’s actions or words that make us grind our teeth or snarl in frustration.

How about a super lower-case first letter of a pronoun, to make it clear that we don’t just disagree with someone, but we find that person so frustrating, evil, despicable, irritating and/or ridiculous that the person doesn’t merit a customary human pronoun? Perhaps we need a symbol that does the graffiti equivalent of writing that person’s name and spray painting an “X” or a thumbs-down sign over it.

Instead of referring to the person people either love, hate or love to hate, as he or him, we could use a diminutive placeholder for the personal pronoun, like *e seems poised to start another war to satisfy his ego, or *is idea so completely lacked substance that it’s hard to argue with *im when *e hasn’t read any intelligence reports.

On the other side, we might see a nemesis as unworthy of a typical pronoun, arguing that *he is preventing this great country from marching forward or *er ideas seem rooted in the word “no.”

But, of course, this doesn’t have to be limited to the power elite in Washington, D.C. It can refer to anyone, allowing us to alter the personal pronoun in a way that underscores our distaste for the idea, the person, or *is or *er actions.

Let’s say we’re watching a Little League game and a mother, father, grandparent or just random fan comes by and heckles an umpire. That seems so utterly absurd that, in the retelling, we might want to point out how *is words set the wrong example, or *he made me throw up in my mouth.

When we’re tapping out a text message to our friends, we might share our disgust that *he had the nerve to ask me if *er choice to date my best friend was OK.

We might realize that this person seemed eager to train *er dog to use my lawn as a bathroom or that *e was telling me how to live my life when *e apparently has no idea how to live *is.

These super lower-case pronouns can allow us to vent in code to our family and friends. We might suggest that *e is driving me crazy. If *e actually read the email or text, *e might have no idea that the subject of this diminutive pronoun is, in fact, *im.

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Listen, my children, and you shall hear

Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,

On the eighteenth of April in Seventy-Five:

Hardly a man is now alive

Who remembers that famous day and year.

So begins Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride,” about the famous midnight gallop that happened 244 years ago. The poem was first published in The Atlantic Monthly on January 1861, and I dutifully learned the first lines as a young student. As a result, every April 18 I think of Paul Revere. 

Who, exactly was Paul Revere?

I know that he was a talented silversmith because I have seen some of his work, starting with teapots and engravings, at antique shows. I also assumed that Revere was an ardent colonialist, hanging out with the likes of Samuel Adams and John Hancock, to whom he rode through the night in Concord to warn them of imminent capture by the British troops. That was about it until I did a little research, and here is what I found.

Revere was born in Boston on either Dec. 21, 1734, or Jan. 1, 1735, depending on different calendar conversions. That still makes him 40 years old that famous night. His father was Apollos Rivoire, a French Huguenot immigrant who had come on his own at the age of 13 to the New World and eventually married Deborah Hitchborn, the Boston-born daughter of an artisan and wharf-owning family (whose last name was also spelled Hichborn and Hitchbourn). Revere, the third of 12 children, attended school from age 7 through 13 and then learned the silversmithing trade. He was married twice, having been widowed in 1773 and remarried that same year, which means he was little more than a newlywed the night of the ride. 

In addition to his work with silver, Revere did some dentistry to augment his income. He participated in the Boston Tea Party, during which Bostonians threw tea into Boston Harbor from the holds of ships anchored there to protest against parliamentary taxation without representation. 

The colonists were increasingly angered by severe taxes imposed on them by their mother country to help repay the considerable debt Britain had incurred from fighting the French and Indian War. Revere, as a rider for Boston’s Committee on Safety, had devised a system of signals with lanterns to communicate the whereabouts of the British soldiers. Hence that night, the message was, “One, if by land, two, if by sea.” In a sense, Revere was Boston’s first media man.

With others, he was aware that the British troops might shortly be on the move because on April 16, 1775, he rode out to Concord, Massachusetts, to urge the patriots there to move their military stores to a different location.

On the night of April 18, Dr. Joseph Warren told Revere and William Dawes that the king’s troops were about to embark in boats from Boston to go to Cambridge, and from there to Lexington and Concord by road that night. Revere borrowed a swift mare named Brown Beauty, and waited on the far bank of the Charles River for the signal from the steeple of the Old North Church. Revere and Dawes made the ride from different locations should one of them be blocked from leaving Boston.

Revere, however, had the benefit of a distinguished publicist, Longfellow, who honored him accordingly. Also left out of the story was Dr. Samuel Prescott, who rode on to Concord after Revere was captured by a British patrol in Lexington. Revere soon escaped, while Dawes lost his horse and had to walk back to Lexington. But Prescott made it through to carry the warning.

Revere and the others surely did not yell, “The British are coming!” despite tales to the contrary. They were, in the final analysis, all British. They probably said, “The redcoats are coming!” and they surely didn’t yell since British troops were stationed throughout the countryside. Such is the mystique of history. 

But “that famous day and year,” we know from ensuing battles, is true and to be celebrated this day.

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Four people get into an elevator together. They kind of recognize each other, but they’re not sure so they smile politely and nod. They’re all going to the 7th floor. On the way up, the elevator gets stuck. Mr. B, the baseball coach, looks at his watch and shakes his head. Ms. S, the soccer coach, paces back and forth, as if she’s blocking a goal. Mrs. V, the violin teacher, closes her eyes, taps her feet and imagines the rhythm of a Mozart concerto. Mrs. Jones tries to text her three children, but the elevator doesn’t get any cell service.

“This shouldn’t take too long,” Mr. B offers hopefully. “I’ve been stuck in elevators, had rain delays and all kinds of problems in the past. We’ll be fine.”

“Oh, hey Mr. B,” Mrs. Jones says, her voice shaking a bit. “It’s me, Joan Smith. I’m John’s mom.”

“Right, right, I knew you looked familiar,” Mr. B says. “Did John have a chance to go hit in the cages like I told him to?”

“No, well, he had a violin lesson, so he couldn’t,” Mrs. Jones replies. “But I know he wants to and he’ll get to the cage this weekend.”

“This weekend?” Mr. B sighs. “By then the big game will be over.”

“So, you’re the reason John couldn’t concentrate during his lesson,” Mrs. V says, as her foot stops and she swivels to face Mr. B.

“Excuse me?” Mr. B says, crossing his arms over his chest. “John has been slumping recently and we need him to start hitting again. He has tremendous potential and we’d like to see how far that will take him.”

“Wait, John Jones?” Ms. S asks, turning to the group. “John is a fantastic goalie and we need him for our club game this weekend.”

“I thought soccer was a fall sport,” Mr. B sighs.

“Right, and baseball is a spring sport and yet during our busiest season, John seems to sneak away for extra hitting and throwing,” Ms. S says.

“Well, he needs to practice all year round. What’s he going to do with soccer?” Mr. B adds.

“You’re kidding, right? You think he’s going to play baseball in college?” Ms. S asks.

“Does anyone have any idea how talented he is on the violin? Have you ever heard him play? He is way ahead of his peers on the violin and could easily play at a much higher level,” Mrs. V says.

“He never talks about the violin with me,” Mr. B says, unfolding and refolding his arms.

“Would you be interested in hearing about it? Do you think he’s figured out that you might not be a receptive audience?” Mrs. V adds.

“Now, come on, think about this: John gets to play soccer, baseball and the violin,” Mrs. Jones says. “He gets to benefit from all of your expertise and he’s passionate about all these activities. You’re all giving him experiences he’ll never forget and he’s fortunate to have these opportunities. That’s a good thing, right?”

“Yes, I suppose,” Ms. S huffs. “But if he really wants to be great at anything, he needs to commit to it year round.”

“I could say the same thing about baseball,” Mr. B says.

The elevator suddenly starts to move again.

“Yes, but he has committed to all of your activities throughout the year,” Mrs. Jones sighs. “I know, because I’m driving him and his sisters everywhere. Please understand that he does the best he can to pick and choose during overlapping events. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to shop for a present to celebrate his 10th birthday.”

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