Dear Alma: Navigating Friend Relationships With Married Men, Cooking For Guests

BY  |  Monday, Jan 09, 2017 12:15pm  |  COMMENTS (0)

Dear Alma: Navigating Friend Relationships With Married Men, Cooking For GuestsDear Alma,

At work I’ve met some really interesting, funny men. I see them infrequently but would love to see them more often, outside of the work setting, maybe have them over for dinner. By the way I am happily married. I don’t know their wives but would love to invite both husband and wife over for a meal. Is it inappropriate? Would the wife feel threatened that her husband has a female friend? I’m concerned too, that my husband will feel threatened that I have a male friend- even though he will see that this friend is happily married. I want to clarify that there is no funny business involved! I just enjoy the companionship of both men and women. How would you proceed? Is this something a married person should avoid doing?

Feeling Short Changed On Who I Can Socialize With

Dear Feeling Short Changed On Who I Can Socialize With,

Pardon my frankness, but as long as you are honest with yourself about not wanting to lure the guest(s) into your bed with your delicious cooking, I see no reason why you shouldn’t invite them over. New friends are the spice of life whether they are men, women, Syrian refugees, whomever. I would suggest discussing it with your partner and if he has an issue with it, there may be other issues at play in your marriage that need to be addressed. As for the wives of the men, they’ll have to figure that one out themselves, not you.

Enjoy the dinner party! Continue Reading

Letter to the Editor: Create A Buddy System on School Buses

BY  |  Monday, Dec 26, 2016 9:47am  |  COMMENTS (0)

rp_school-bus-e1382715064279.jpgI’m asking that the town of Montclair consider creating a Mentoring/Buddy System on school buses to foster a safe, fun environment.

Older students and peers can be trained to engage peers and younger students, especially vulnerable students, to create a friendly atmosphere on the buses where there are currently and historically complaints about teasing, bullying, unsafe and anxiety inducing behaviors. Continue Reading

“Dear Alma” Tackles Holiday Entertaining and Food Issues

BY  |  Thursday, Dec 22, 2016 12:15pm  |  COMMENTS (0)

Dear AlmaHappy holidays, everyone!

As we wind down this year, we have a few questions about entertaining during the holiday season and beyond but also about the never ending food issues with teens. Take a look and remember to send in your questions.

Dear Alma,

We love to entertain.  But this time of year, with food so much a part of the celebrations, it can get difficult with food allergies, food sensitivities and dietary restrictions so common among our friends and their children.  In particular, we have several friends on gluten free diets, a number of vegetarians and we feel like we need to be always wary of nut allergies.  Do we have to eliminate all of those ingredients from the menu for the night or is it enough to just have a few options that cover those circumstances?  What is the appropriate etiquette?  And can you suggest some good recipes that will be safe and delicious for our guests.?  We usually serve more on the casual, buffet style side of things. Continue Reading

The Passing of a Montclair South End Legend: Mr. Celess Young

BY  |  Friday, Dec 16, 2016 10:16am  |  COMMENTS (0)

Celess Young


It was a bitterly cold day in the South End of Montclair but you’d never know it from the warm and intimate atmosphere inside Young’s World of Beauty Barbershop on Orange Road. Mr. Celess Young, the barber who dedicated his life to cutting countless Montclairians’ hair over the course of four decades, passed away on November 27th in South Carolina at the age of 86. He left behind a community of mourning co-workers, clients and above all, friends and family who sought out not only his haircutting expertise but more importantly, his kindness and wisdom.

“You’d wait all day for a haircut in a long line of chairs,” said Reverend Craig Dunn who will be providing the eulogy for Mr. Young at his memorial service Saturday, December 17, at St. Paul’s Baptist Church on the corner of Elm Street. The service will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.


Continue Reading

Need Help? Ask “Dear Alma”

BY  |  Tuesday, Dec 13, 2016 10:30am  |  COMMENTS (1)

take-backI love food. I love cooking. I love entertaining. Because I love these three things I have immersed myself in the world of cooking, eating, attending dinner parties and social gatherings where there is food as well as hosting others my entire adult life.

I am also a licensed clinical social worker. Why does this matter? Well, I have spent my countless cooking, eating and entertaining life with my ears and my eyes open, listening and watching as many people, myself included, make cooking mistakes, some disasters, as well as social faux pas as guests or hosts.

I’ve decided to put my years of experience to good use for the community and help others. Think of me as a younger, curly haired Dear Abby, a Suburban Jersey-ish Rachael Ray and a less-mustachioed and less judgmental Dr. Phil all rolled into one.

With a healthy combination of what I hope will be fun and educational, perhaps, dare I say, socially life-saving tips that will result in a minimum of mortifying social situations, I offer you my services.

Here’s my first column:

Dear Alma,

Do you have any tips for timing food and house preparation in anticipation of an event like a dinner party? I would love to be an effortless hostess, but I end up overplanning, stressing out, and STILL somehow scrambling to get things done, and not succeeding, by the time my guests arrive. They’re always kind, understanding people, but I’d love to be that kind of cool, relaxed hostess who has time to put on makeup and stuff before the guests arrive.

Please help!
Hostess with the most stress

Dear Hostess with the most stress, Continue Reading

Blog: Stephen Colbert and The Syrians

BY  |  Wednesday, Nov 30, 2016 8:00am  |  COMMENTS (2)


We attended a fundraiser for the Montclair Film Festival a few weeks ago where Stephen Colbert and Jon Oliver spoke about the state of our country after the election. Many people are afraid for their futures, of not being treated fairly or with kindness and humanity. Mr. Colbert, acknowledging that we cannot control for everything to come, said a few words that I can’t seem to forget.

“Get to know your neighbors.”

We took heed and invited a family of Syrian refugees to our house for Thanksgiving through a local program. We were able to host this family who has been through hell and back; they’ve lost their home, their city destroyed, they’ve had to resettle in a new country amidst a political climate that is increasingly unwelcoming to them.

We wanted our invite to be meaningful. We wanted them to know that there are people who care, people who want to get to know them, people who would be honored to have the opportunity to host them in the most intimate of spaces, their home.

We also wanted to nurture them. To make them feel comfortable, relaxed, cozy on a cold day. And because I am a lover of cooking, I wanted them to be nurtured through the food that I prepared for them. I wanted them to not just receive nourishment without having to worry about the cost of the food, the time it would take to make it or the clean up afterward, but I wanted them to be well fed, to enjoy every bite and to learn about us through the dishes that we chose and planned for them to enjoy.

Continue Reading

Saying Yes To Walking in the Disability Pride Parade

BY  |  Tuesday, Jul 19, 2016 2:49pm

If someone had asked me to walk in a Disability Pride Parade 12 years ago when my son was born with special needs, I would have immediately felt like I was going to be sick. I might have started crying and then would have given a resounding, “not in a million years.”


Coming to terms with accepting that my child had special needs, let alone blasting it out to the world in a very public way, literally parading him around NYC, was something that seemed unfathomable to me. It basically meant we were different from everyone else, and not in a good way. It meant putting him at risk of being ridiculed. It meant exposing our private lives to strangers who had no business knowing about all of our pain and hardships. It meant feeling alone and isolated. It meant fear and sadness.


Time does not heal all wounds but I can honestly say that, as cliche as it sounds, the pain becomes less intense. Fortunately, time also allows for many incredible experiences to occur, some organically and some forced, but they happen nonetheless.

For example, you learn to get to know your child as a person and not just as their disability. You get to see how fortunate you are that there are really cool things about your child, like bravery, compassion, empathy, kindness and strength. You also get to see those features in other families whom you are given the opportunity to socialize and depend on for your mental health. You get to realize how phenomenal these families and caretakers are and you eventually get to a point where you can’t even imagine not having the life you have, as hard as it sometimes is.


So this is why, 12 years later, not only did I say “YES!” when asked if I was going to participate in the Disability Pride Parade, but I truly looked forward to going and was proud to be there. Hanging out with all the people who get their act together every day with all their challenges and still love life and smile? Continue Reading

My Mother’s Plates

BY  |  Sunday, May 08, 2016 9:49am

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My house was freezing so I went downstairs to add water to the boiler. It takes a bit of time so I started rummaging through some boxes that were damaged a few years ago by a flood in the basement. I still hadn’t gotten around to disposing of the moldy contents.

I came across an unmarked box marked “kitchen items” and on the bottom was a mound of bubble wrap. When I started to unravel it, I realized what it was.

When my mother was in her early twenties back in the fifties, she and some friends went traveling through Europe. Back then her whole world was open to her. This was a carefree time of life for her, a time when she was single and independent (not always one in the same back then). It was before she was told that she should not follow her dream to get a PhD in psychology because no one would ever marry a woman who would be “old” after finishing all that schooling. It was a time before she went on to marry my father and raise a family with seven children. Continue Reading

The Special Connection: Lincoln For President

BY  |  Saturday, Jan 09, 2016 10:00am  |  COMMENTS (7)

The day of my son Lincoln’s elementary school council election I received a call from a major news network ‘s producer who was interested in doing a story about him. She had gotten word about the outpouring of support on my facebook page, the hundreds of likes and comments cheering my son on for his bravery to run for president and for his courageous speech.

I was touched.

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My son has special needs, a rare syndrome called Prader Willi Syndrome, and his speech discussed how he recently saw a movie about a girl with Down Syndrome who won prom queen. Before seeing this he had not realized that people with special needs could do something like that. In his speech, he declared that he wanted to stand up for all the kids at school to show them that a person with special needs could run and win the presidency. His platform also included that he wanted to stop bullying in the school and on the school buses, suggesting that someone lead the kids in games and songs so that they could have fun with each other instead of poking fun at each other. It was a heartwarming story for the news: “Local boy with special needs runs for President and wins!”

The catch, however, was that in order for them to do the story, he had to win the Presidency. Otherwise the story would be “anticlimactic”.

I understand the world of media with all it’s sensationalism, the big moment leading up to the predictable story ending, the victorious win with the huge ear to ear smile by the winner. That’s not what this story was about to us, however, the people who live in the real world with children with special needs.

I tried to gently sway the producer why even if Lincoln lost it would be a great story to share. I explained that it was the process, not the actual winning that would be the story. That if she thought out of the box, this was a deep and meaningful lesson because his speech got his school and the town talking about special needs with their children. How his speech, so confidently and enthusiastically delivered, inspired and amazed not only the special services coordinator, the principal, the teachers, the social workers, the therapists with whom he works but more importantly, the students.


I explained to the producer that before the election, Lincoln never wanted to admit to anyone that he had special needs but he felt strongly that he now wanted to represent people who were different. I told her how his sister, Asa, who is a year younger and often frustrated by Lincoln, believed in him so much that she and her friends became his campaign managers. They rallied for him through the halls, even when a few people made fun of him, saying that no one liked him and that he would never win.

If the producer had chosen to do the story, I would have told her about the painful aftermath of the election when he did not win. I would have recounted the details of how Lincoln sobbed and screamed and wouldn’t leave the school nurse’s office floor for a half hour after the results were given (regulating emotions for a child with his syndrome is extremely challenging).

I would have told her that I texted my friend, also with a child with special needs, to give her son the heads up that Lincoln would not be joining him for their weekly gym class because he was too upset from losing the election.

Now this is where the producer may have changed her mind about accepting the pitch. This is the tear-jerking storyline she was looking for!:

My friend promptly wrote back that her son had returned from school crying for an hour because he felt lonely. She asked that I try to get Lincoln to go to class because it would make her son feel better if they could see each other and talk.

I showed the text to Lincoln and he stopped crying. Lincoln loves helping people. He said he didn’t feel up to going to the class but that he would see his friend after the gym.

He said “Maybe we could both talk about our bad day together”.

Lincoln did go meet him and they did indeed talk. They supported each other and it was a clear demonstration that Lincoln was true to the words of his speech; he wanted to be there for people in need and in return, his good works and karma allowed him to get the support he needed with kind words from a friend.

I don’t blame the producer, she was doing her job. Who knows, she may have feared she would have gotten fired for a bad fluff piece. We all know these are tough times in the work place. I do wish, however, that the media would have been as courageous as my son was, to stand up for something that was right, even though it was risky.

Maybe his speech was heard by even one child in that school assembly who will grow up to be a producer. Perhaps he or she will go out on a limb to spread the word that we all have something to learn by being brave, and that it’s not about whether we win or lose. The day after the election when Lincoln was too embarrassed to go to school, I had him read the hundreds of comments of support from his friends all over town, all over the country and even from as far as Japan, Italy and Argentina. He listened to us tell him he was a leader and leaders don’t have to win elections to be powerful and inspiring. We told him how the people who voted for him would want to congratulate him for his great campaigning.

Although ultimately it was the two pieces of Halloween candy in his lunch box that finally gave him the push he needed to face the crowds of voters, he left for school on the bus with his sister. He was afraid but brave. A happy ending.

But the story’s not over! And here is the surprise ending, the twist that makes it the exciting kind of tale that everyone loves!


When I finished writing this piece, I plugged in my phone which had died. A text popped up immediately letting me know that the producer decided she was still interested in doing the story, even though Lincoln had lost the election.

Well I’ll be damned if we can’t change the world just a little bit at a time. We can all be winners.

Alma Schneider is Lincoln’s mom.

Tips and Recipes For a Stress-Free Passover Seder

BY  |  Friday, Apr 04, 2014 8:00am


Question: What’s the difference between matzoh and cardboard?
Answer: Cardboard doesn’t leave crumbs in the rug.

You may think this is a joke but it’s not. Matzoh leaves a ton of crumbs in the rug. It’s a nightmare to clean. Almost as bad as a toddler eating quinoa but we must simply anticipate it and deal with it because it’s good for them/us. Quinoa is good because it’s healthy, it’s a complete protein, but matzoh, as a tradition, is good for us as well. Yes, it is usually made of white flour and has a lot of carbs but It makes us feel connected to our past. Not eating leavened bread makes us remember our ancestors who struggled to escape slavery which is what Passover is all about.

Whether you are hosting or attending a Seder this Passover, you have a potentially stressful week ahead of you.  If you anticipate the stress and deal with it, you may be able to enjoy it more.

But how?

Continue Reading

Featured Comment

Montclair is relatively heterogenous and, it could fairly be said, takes pride in its diversity. Has Montclair named a street or school after Dr. King? Why is that?

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