Monday, May 23, 2016

Saving the World.....One Letter At A Time

Courtesy of SMM Photography
We have a sofer in the house. While this might not mean a whole lot to a whole lotta peeps out there, it's actually a really cool thing. Having a sofer in the house means that our little shteibl on the prairie can fix our own Torah. 

The last time we fixed a Torah, we had to send it out, and then the sofer brought it back and we had a ceremony that lasted oh, a few hours. This time, we get to have a year long event that began with examining the scroll, cleaning the scroll, prepping the scroll, and now, at long last, inking the damaged letters. This is a huge undertaking that we have had the great good fortune to have as a community adventure. 

The sofer happens to be an exceptionally cool fellow name D.Marcos Vital. He's also been a fine teacher on the topic of Torah scrolls. In a talk the other day, he pointed out each physical aspect of a scroll must be prepared with lishma....the intent of that piece becoming a part of a Torah scroll. Reduced to simplicity, this means that before the parchment is made, that skin is already designated for use in a Torah scroll.  Lishma is a great word, and while it means intent, it means much more; it literally means, for its sake. In the Jewish context, lishma means doing something for the sake of G-d. And if you give that a little thought, you can figure out lishma is the purest basic form of an action. 

Lishma is not a new concept for me, one I have struggled with from time to time. People thought I'd lost my marbles when I said my father-in-law would continue to live with me, and there were times I thought they might've been right. What is your motivation? It's a question I often asked actors during my years as a stage director, and I knew they hated answering it as much as I hated asking it. But it's not a bad question, rather it's one we should be asking ourselves daily. Over the course of time, I came to understand my motive: for the sake of dignity....FIL's dignity. When my parents were on the move, I understood the difference between love and the desire to what was right for them and far less about what I got out of any of it. That's not other-worldly...that is conjunction of lishma and practicality. These are real motivations, based on deeply held beliefs that we are all responsible one for another, and what we get out of the experience is negligible when measured against what we put in, further proving it's not about us.

So as I watch our election year disintegrate into a heinous cycle of bad behavior, I wonder about motivation. What drives guys like Ben Carson to stand up and declare evolution is questionable? Or Hillary Clinton to still be married to Bill? These are not exactly giant questions; they're more suited for PEOPLE or OK. Think about this: the Clown Cabal and the Democratic Duo started running for the highest office in the land a year ago. What could possibly be a more sacred task than wanting to be the leader of the free world? Since then, what have any of them accomplished? Have they enriched the conversation? Have they dazzled the rest of the planet with thoughtful rhetoric and the discussion of grand ideas? Have they shown their motivation to be the betterment of We, the People as well as Us, the Inhabitants of Planet Earth? 

What is the intent, and if there is no viable intent, why do it? It cannot possibly be for the money. If there is intent, is it lishma, for the sake of doing it, or is running just another form of greed/avarice/power/hubris....I could go on. I cannot help but wonder if Donald Trump's original intent was the polar opposite of lishma, but was a gag, a publicity stunt gone horribly awry. His language of hate and his utter disrespect for everyone but himself is disturbing on a whole new level. 

Without so much as the tiniest drop of lishma, the simplest act is devoid of meaning. Wouldn't it be nice if our candidates could tell us about their intent? Frankly, I'm not holding my breath. I think they all lack lishma and in the end, We, the People are going to pay a rather high price for exactly that. 



Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Thinking about moving? Think again. Several times. What an incredible pain-in-the ass!


Monday, May 16, 2016

On the Fly

For a while, the GOP and its minions were hopeful that The Donald, should he become of nominee apparent, would begin the slow process of becoming "presidential." The right wing pundits were sure that the bluster and hyperbole would subside in the remote event he could actually secure the nomination.

Unless you are living under a rock atop Mt. Everest or Kilimanjaro, you already know that's not happening. Quite the opposite. The Donald has made it pretty clear he's gonna keep doing what he's doing because that seems to be what his audience wants. Please to be noting I do not refer to those people as a constituency, because that would imply Mr. Trump has a clue as to what it means to be a public servant because, after all, that's what an elected official is elected to do: to serve. Serve himself at the cutie-buffet line, I suppose, but the idea of serving someone, much less an entire nation, other than himself, is a foreign concept. Oops. I said the word foreign; someone could accuse me of looking for a policy statement.


1952
2016
The Queen of England celebrated her 90th birthday in April, and officially this past week. Here's a woman with no formal education who has been advising and warning Prime Ministers quite wisely for over 60 years. This does not mean she sets policy or declares national emergencies; she serves as an advisory parent to her United Kingdom, but to the Commonwealth as well. There's a reason she's not been deposed or otherwise thrown over; she exercises solid common sense. No, Queen Elizabeth is not exciting. She's neither bold nor daring. She's staid, stolid, and solid. She weathers storms quiet well. And she presents a calm countenance to her people. We could learn from this. Every one of her PMs would tell you her best skill is as a listener, and her second best skill is understanding her constituency. It's taken 60 years of never ending work to get to this point. I suppose not having to stand for election makes it easier to have a slowly developing process, but still, she stands for her people and they respect her for it. Even the anti-monarchists understand why the Queen is beloved. We understand it too: she did it the old fashioned way; she earned it.

We are not so kind to our elected officials. We expect our presidents to learn this skill on the fly, while exuding brilliance at the same time. Being President is not about being bold or daring over the course of a term; it's about being stable. Yes, there are moments for bold vision and daring proposals, but overall, we want a sane and sage person sitting in the White House. We want someone who, in the face of Crazy Kim, speaks in measured and considered tones. We want someone who can talk people off the wall, not bullies who will push them over.

Donald Trump is a whim gone terribly wrong. But I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. I don't think he ever thought this could happen, but it looks like he might be the nominee. And so far he doesn't seem to be moving away from his sucker-born-every-minute-P.T.-Barnum impersonation. It's really sad on a lot of levels, but mostly because it makes America a global laughing stock. If you are not personally embarrassed by his statements on women, religion, and climate change, then you're a few cards shy of a deck. Even if you are a self-processed Trump supporter, tell us you're not at least chagrined by what falls out of his mouth. This I want to hear. 


At my advanced age, I believe perception is everything. Donald Trump could be the male version of Mother Theresa, but that's not what we see. He shows us a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, and naive side that, since we see nothing else, gives us plenty of reason to believe this is the real Donald. Is it? I tend to think so,  based on the recent flood of anecdotal evidence paired with supporting video and audio evidence. Is there something else we should be believing? And in case you thought I was making this up, here's a gem from the other day
People said I want to go and buy debt and default on debt, and I mean, these people are crazy. This is the United States government. First of all, you never have to default because you print the money, I hate to tell you, OK?                 said to Chris Cuomo on CNN's New Day - Monday, May 9th, 2016
And this is the guy you want handling our economy? Ha!

I'm thinking my writing about this must be as boring as this whole campaign. I know I'm bored to beyond caring what they say. I just want it over. It's enough already. 

To end on a more positive note, I have to say something nice about Comcast here. Of Xfinity. Or whatever they call it this week. When my move started getting complicated, I called Comcast...and lucked out getting Joe on the phone. I won't go into the details, but I actually went with a two year deal including security for the house. This guy should be the poster child for service recovery and customer service. And yes, a wrote a letter to his boss at Comcast. I had to; he earned it many times over. 


Wifely Person's Tip o'the Day
Never underestimate the power of writing a customer compliment letter. 
it matters. BIG time. 












Monday, May 9, 2016

Orphans

Well, that a was close call. I sat down at my desk in the new study...and immediately the modem went out. 

Being a just enough of a geek to know where to look first, it took me all of 10 seconds to figure out spaghetti installer had done yet another fine job of not caring for the wires. Now, how do you get to be an installer of cable stuff and NOT know how to care for the wires? I guess his non-stop cartoon watching while installing got in the way of actually paying attention to what he was doing. It was a scary 10 seconds....but clearly I am back up and running.

And speaking of up and running, I'm about to replace my rusty, trusty Dell laptop....with a new Dell laptop much to the annoyance of the Junior Son who thinks I should just buy a MacBook and get it over with. For about a third of what a MacBook would cost me, I'm getting a 15.6" screen, Intel Core i5 6th generation Inspirion with 8GB memory and a 1TB hard drive. And I have more than enough random gift cards to cover most of it. Now, I happen to be writing this on my Mac desktop which I love to bits. I have been running Macs since 1989...the year we moved into the house. I am one of the few people you will ever run into who could program in HyperCard with ease. Yeah. I could. And did. I could give that Siegel guy a run for his money some days. But the MacBook isn't for these little hands. Nope. I hate the keyboard. it's just the wrong configuration for me. So a Dell it's gonna be. 

A year ago, we moved our parents to Minnesnowta. Eight months ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Five months ago, our Dad passed away on Thanksgiving. A month ago, our Mom passed away the week before Passover.  Three weeks ago, I moved into my new house. Let's just say it's been a busy year.

I hope no one minds, but I'm taking a break from the bullshit of politics this week. Surprisingly, at least to me, this has been a tougher week than I anticipated. The stress of the move does deserve a mention, and the stress of grokking the idea that now, my brother and I are now orphans pretty much blindsided me. 

It's weird, I suppose, at our advanced, senior-citizenesque ages to call ourselves orphans, but we are. Mom's dad died when she was 14, but it was when Grandma Bessie passed away so unexpectedly right after my wedding, that Mom shifted my world view a bit. On the day of Grandma's funeral, mom told me:
Now I am an orphan. I've always had Ma beside me after my father left me so long ago, but now she's gone and I am without parents. I am an orphan. 
me and BBB
My big brother and I lost our parents in a very short span of time; the world has changed for both of us, and we will each process this however we process stuff. But it's hard to fully grasp the idea that the 'rents aren't on the other end of the phone. I find myself extremely thankful that BBB and I have finally found common ground. Oh, we weren't estranged or anything as dramatic as that, we were just very different people. Over the course of the last seven years, the length of time since Ziggy had the poor form to die, we figured out we were going to have to band together to deal with our parent's aging issues. And band together we have. Turns out, we're good partners. We were able to use our strengths, agree on the big things, and work through much of this with the folks. Being united is good. No, that's not it. It is great. 

Mom used to worry about BB and me. She and Dad used to worry we were so different we'd never be close. These last few years, and most especially this last one, proved their worries to be groundless. And she said so. Many times. I am glad all this happened while the 'rents were still alive to see us all coalesce.

A year is not a long time, but.....

In packing up a house, one throws away a lot of stuff. One decides what one will carry forward. It's not just the physical stuff; there's a lotta other baggage that gets sifted, sorted, and redistributed. I am doing that now; I need to lighten the load. For the first time in my entire life, I am the only one who gets to answer these questions. There is no one left to whom I must answer. 

Exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time. I'll figure it out. I always do. 



The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
It's never too early to start throwing stuff away.



Monday, May 2, 2016

Sitting Down Is Not An Option ~ Part Deux

I was thinking Mies Van Der Rohe said, "The devil is in the detail," but I guess not; his usual attribute is "G-d is in the detail." Not that it matters much, but for the record, it's the devil.

This moving thing is draining. Not only am I living between two houses, I can't find stuff. I desperately wanted to make an egg cream last night and could not remember where i put the straws.  Maybe it was because the straws were in the bag with all the kitchen drawer stuff sitting on the kitchen counter of the old house because I forgot to put the damn bag in the car? And let's not forget to mention the U-Bet was missing. Maybe because I have yet to take stuff outta the fridge? So after Talmud class, I trooped over to the house to pick up the bag on the counter and take the U-Bet. And as long as I was there, I took some stuff outta the freezer, and the rest of the art sitting in the dining room, and a few other odds and ends....as long as I was there. And then I had to unload the car....which was made infinitely more pleasant because one of my new neighbors saw me and popped over to help schlep.  And then Senior son called because he hadn't heard from me in a while and was wondering if I was still alive. And then I had to put stuff away. And then I had to make that egg cream...... See what I mean?  

This is very distracting from more important stuff....like President Obama's stellar turn at the Washington Press Corps Dinner. Or Trump accusing Madam Secretary of playing the "woman" card. After his little foray into mensuram aetatis with Marco Rubio, it's perfectly understandable why he would say such an immeasurably stupid thing to Madam. Ziggy used to say "A man's attitude toward women is inversely proportional to the size of his dick." Frankly, that explains a lot about Trump; the guy must have a peanut instead of whatever, because if he didn't, he wouldn't be braying about it the way he does. 

The campaign is so disappointing on so many levels. I've said this before. The GOP has reduced the process of selecting the next President of these here United States into some kind of reality game show. It's so twisted that it's pathetic beyond description. And although I have moved into the Hillary camp, I am devastated by the smears and personal attacks of the latest incarnation of the Democratic campaign. I desperately wanted them to stay above the fray. I wanted a thoughtful, intelligent, issue-centric campaign like we had at the beginning....but alas....even theirs has sunk into some Ring of Hell arena. Crushed, I tell you. I am crushed.

Trump's schizoid presidential-asshole-presidential-asshole pendulum is really tiresome. And what's worse, it's just plain stupid. His so called policies are ridiculous. They don't exist outside of the ether filling up his empty cranium. His rallies are borderline excuses for violence. And the inhuman-on-the-street interviews of his supporters harken back to pre-war Germany. Read about the fall of the Weimar parties where there was no liberal, middle class with enough support to stop Hitler. Read the timeline, there are too many parallels not to view Trumpism with concern. 

One of the biggest differences, however, is in the division of wealth. Whereas Hitler rose from poverty, Trump has not, and all his posturing will not made him Everyman; he is the poster child for elitism. He is anti-intellectual, a provocateur, and impulsive. And this is the guy a whole lotta people want talking to the rest of the world on our behalf? How quickly they forget. 

But some of us don't. This year, Yom Ha'Shoah begins Wednesday at sundown. Ostensibly, this is a Jewish holiday, but it isn't really: it's a world commemoration. Remembering the Holocaust is the responsibility of every person on this planet. Yes, it's about the everyone who died because of Hitler's madness, but that's not where it stops. It forces ALL of us to confront that genocide is still out there. That unless we remember, it will happen again and again. The last of Shoah survivors  are dying. We are losing their voices. Those of us who grew up in the last half of the 20th century bear our own version of witness because we were the first post war generation. We heard the stories from the Greatest Generation, and we heard the Shoah Survivors. We heard the stories of great bravery, and the stories of how others managed to survive the hell on earth that was Europe. For many of us, arms with numbers were not unusual sights and we all knew they weren't phone numbers. 

Those who are the children of survivors have a unique obligation: to be the voice of our parents. Those of us who did not have survivors as parents have an obligation as well, to tell and re-tell the stories we were told, the ones hesitatingly told by our parents in uniform who were there and bore witness. I have my dad's stories, and one day, I hope I will finally be able to transpose them into written history, but I'm not there yet. 

My friend, Margie Newman, however, has started down that road. She has begun the arduous and painful process of writing a memoir. This is a project worth supporting...especially if you are seeking the courage to do something similar. Some of you know Margie from her writing, others of you know of her because she was my partner in protest behind the silent flash mob at Gasthof zur Gemutlichkeit back in March of 2014. 

Once again, silence is not an option. We, the People, may not be able to prevent Donald Trump from getting the nomination, or running an independent campaign if he does not get the nod, but we can stop in the voting booth. To be silent is wrong. Not to vote is even worse. We, the People are the only ones who can save our own country. To be silent, to not vote, to be bystanders is just like giving this neo-Fascist a leg up. Don't do it. 

Wednesday night, at the beginning of Yom Ha'Shoah, stand in front of a mirror, look yourself in the eye, and say in your best, strongest voice, "NEVER AGAIN." If you don't say it, who will?

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Standing up for what you believe is hard;
Going to the gas chamber for what you believe is even harder. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

When You Can't Tell The Toons Without A Scorecard

Well, I guess I moved this past week. At least I think I did. I'm sitting in my new kitchen at the moment, a bit peeved that there appears to be no water hook-up to the ice machine in the fridge. And here I had just gotten used to having a working ice maker again. 

There are books on the shelves in the living room, the crystal is back in the china closet, and my room is nice and tidy....just the way I like it. And since the clothes in the closet all seem to fit me, I suppose they are mine. But there are boxes everywhere else.

I've not been paying too close attention to the clown cavalcade on either side. This latest bit of collusion between Grandpa Munster and Governor Kasich to maximize the number of delegates they can pull away from Drumpf? Good plan, guys. That should be a real show stopper On the other side, I'm still smarting over the Democratic descent into politik hell. I had such high hopes....but alas. 

Oh, I'm pretty sure Hillary will be the Democratic candidate, and I will vote for her without hesitation or reservation. She will be a perfectly fine president. She will bring a new perspective and I'm sure she will do lots of things I like as well as lots of things I don't like. That's the beauty of democracy in action.

Democracy. That's the thing where you get to elect your government, and then, if they screw it up, you get to un-elect them. Right? It's the part where the people get to live under the rule of whomever they put into national office. Right? And it's the part where the citizens have to take a leap of faith to trust the people they elected will do the right thing to those, the people. Right?

Not every country gets to do what we do....listen to a bunch of crazies for umpteen months say incredibly naive and stupid things and then pick one of 'em to run the country. We have elected more than our fair share of addicts, abusers, and assholes, but somehow we've managed to survive one or two terms of idiocrasy without too much damage. It's as if this is a game show.....

Oh, wait. It IS a game show. This does not warrant further explanation  because we already know it's true. And maybe this is really the direct descendant of bread and circus. Maybe it's no surprise that ROLLERBALL, HUNGER GAMES, and SURVIVOR are all giant hits. Maybe it's because we really don't care anymore so long as we have a lifetime supply of nachos and batteries for the remote.


Back in the day, when the Senior Son was in 2nd grade, he decided to start his own school newspaper. The first couple of issues were great, full of 2nd-grader-deemed-worthy news stories about the teachers, his friends, Skeletor, you know, the usual fodder. But by the third issue, he was struggling to come up with new stories. We talked about doing some interviews, perhaps writing to his buddy Mr. Henson who would certainly contribute something for his friend. But there was a deadline to meet and there wasn't much time. When issue #3 came out, we didn't know whether to laugh or cry. But we did have a sit-down with him about truth in journalism. Looking back, I'm thinking this was nothing compared with some of the pro-GOP sites. 

You think I'm kidding? Here are a couple of samples. Read 'em and then tell me you think we're not in deep and serious doo-doo: The Political Insider, Florida Family Policy Council, and PRINTLY

My WTF-O-Meter went off the charts when I read the comments. The ones on PRINTLY are mostly the spam variety I get here all the time, Hi, I found your blog meaningfulness and want to share ideas for making millions with you because I am liking you so much. I am certain they are all Nigerian princes who want me to help them get their rightful inheritances. But the ones on The PI are downright scary. They are hateful, racist, anti-Semitic, and just plain vile. At least the ones without semi-automatic Glocks. That said, Anita Staver of FLFAMILY announced she was now going to shop at Target armed with a Glock...in case she has to go into the ladies' room. Really? People write this stuff in a public forum and come off as nutballs beyond the lunatic fringe. Are they all harmless? I have no idea, but my guess is not all. 

But harmless does not matter. They are out there. And they will vote. And there is not much anyone can or should do, other than campaign harder. If We, the People who do pay attention to the details are serious about stopping this game show from becoming a reality show, then not voting and not doing anything is not an option. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
The first thing to do when the moving van leaves is make your bed.
Have someplace sane to lie down at the end o'the day. 


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

I'm late, I'm sorry.

I sat down on the bed last night at 6:53 to catch the very end of News Hour on PBS....and woke up at 6:10 this morning. I think I was tired. 

If Passover is about the journey from slavery into freedom, this year it will also be personal journey from care-taking to ......something else. Not a clue what that something else is, but I'm sure I'll figure it out. But it starts with a new kitchen that's already pesadik. Junior son, Ms. Junior, and Little Miss helped me affix the first mezuzah on Sunday morning. I'm ready to go. 

As I write this last episode ....originally started in the study and now being finished in the kitchen, I wonder what it will be like to write it in the new house, looking out a new set of windows. Will I see things differently in a house without the the ghost of most of my adult life? In pitching so much of its ephemera, it was like losing Ziggy all over again. I cried, I tossed, I had You've Got Junk three times...all in an effort to pare down my life into something manageable. I'm close, but not there yet.

Since this is Tuesday morning, not Monday night, I will get there tomorrow. The moving van cometh at 8:30. While it's taking the billion boxes of books and the furniture, Cousin Laurie and my friend Bill have been helping me move the other stuff, lovingly tossed into baskets and bins to be immediately off-loaded in the house....including the endless stream of crystal. It's all in the new house waiting for the china closet to come over.

Since the house is not yet sold, there is more stuff to bring by hand....like my regular kitchen stuff, and it will come after Pesach. But come over it will.

The departure from Egypt lasted for 40 years until all the old slaves were gone and an entirely new generation born into freedom could return to the land of Israel. Moses could see it, but he could not enter. It was not for him. In a odd way, that mirrors one piece of this journey for me. Mom was to come to the first night Seder at Cousin Laurie's house. And I'd promised I would bring her to the new house on Sunday. For the last month or so, Mom poured over the pictures, we talked endlessly about what would go where and whether or not the dining room set would come with me. In the end, sadly, she was only  able to look. 

Even though none of them, not Ziggy, nor FIL, nor my folks will ever see the new place, I will have them in my heart. 


Wifely Person's Tip o'the Day
Always try to  move right before Pesach, then you only have to pack the kitchen once. 


Monday, April 11, 2016

Have I Mentioned...?

Have I mentioned that I'm moving? 

This morning ended the period of shiva (7 days) for my Mom. It's very strange not to hear her voice on the phone, and not to call her when I hear something of interest. I have had her voice in my ear for over 6 decades, so I guess I'm allowed a little bit of time to acclimate to the idea she's not there. Not having either Mom or Dad is excessively weird. 

Have I mentioned I'm leaving Chez WP for a smaller, more manageable domicile? I am closing on the new house on Friday. This barn, however, is still up for sale. 

Meanwhile, back at Rancho Politico, I can't say I'm too happy with the Democratic candidates these days. I loved the early days of that race, when facts were facts and uncivil behavior was being trademarked by the GOP. I love it when candidates actually talk about the issues and their own differences. Now, they have descended into junior high hell. I also get the distinct impression that Bernie does not do his homework as thoroughly as he needs to. This is a problem for me...and rumor has it I'm not alone with this concern. 

Have I mentioned that even though I got up from shiva for Mom, I continue saying Kaddish for Dad, which means I'm doing a double header for the next seven months? My Dad did it for his parents. It can be done. 

Lots of things can be done. People do stuff every day.

And so I will. I'll keep you posted.

The WP