Monday, March 18, 2019

Words Matter

Over the weekend, I was getting ready for Purim (happily) while following the news from Israel (not so happily.) 

I read about the "mistake missiles" scenario and Israel's response. I also read about the terrorist attack at Ariel Junction on the West Bank. And then I read about the Palestinian response to death of 2 Israelis and the wounding of others:

The Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, on Sunday hailed the "heroic" anti-occupation shooting operation near Ariel settlement in Salfit earlier in the day.

Hamas said in an official statement that the attack came in response to the Israeli crimes against the Palestinians and the latest attacks on Palestinian worshipers at al-Aqsa Mosque.

"This courageous and bold operation affirms that resistance, in all of its forms, is the most powerful and successful option to deter the occupation, foil its plans, and protect and defend our people's rights and holy sites," Hamas said.

The Palestinian resistance group saluted the "heroes in the revolutionary West Bank" and stressed that the Israeli occupation will never succeed in undermining the Palestinian people's determination.

Two Israelis were killed on Sunday morning and two others injured in a Palestinian stabbing and shooting attack near Ariel settlement in the West Bank province of Salfit.                                                                                                         Palestinian Information Center: Hamas Praises Salfit anti-occupation attack 
The two Israelis who died? A young soldier defending the crossing, and a rabbi who turned around, came back to throw himself into harm's way to protect others. What did either of these two people do in that moment to warrant murder? 

When I read stuff like this from a Palestinian source, I gotta wonder who in their right mind thinks this is part of a resolution to the conflict? The words and the actions match. They bomb, they hand out candy and stipends. They celebrate death. 

Their words matter. 

Belén Sisa, a member of Bernie Sanders' staff is a woman without US citizenship and protected by DACA. She wrote on Facebook:
This is a serious question: do you not think that the American government and American Jewish community has a dual allegiance to the state of Israel? I’m asking not to rule out the history of this issue, but in the context in which this was said by Ilhan.
Really? Does she think Bernie has dual allegiance because he's Jewish? Or is she just suggesting, like Ilhan Omar, that Jews are suspect because they believe Jews are indigenous to Israel? 

I wonder how she feels about the indigenous peoples of Aonikenk, Kolla, Qom, Wichí, Diaguita, Mocoví, Huarpe, Mapuche, and Guarani in Argentina.

This reminds me of something I didn't understand when I was a kid. A really handsome guy with red hair was running for president, and there were some people who said he couldn't be president because he was a Catholic and that everyone knows Catholics' allegiance is to the pope in the Vatican, and if one of them got elected, he would be the puppet of the pope. There was some pretty heated debates about that, and people said some terrible things about Catholics. 

Now, all things considered, in my world there were only 2 kinds of people: Jews and Catholics. I didn't know any Protestants even though my Girl Scout Troop met in a Methodist Church. No one I knew went there. I knew some of my friends believed the pope was the last word in a lotta things, but then again, our rabbi was the last word on a lotta things, too. it never occurred to me that thinking that would prevent someone from being President of the United States. 

I asked my father to explain it and he did. Pretty thoroughly. He explained prejudice. And how discrimination worked. And how we were slaves in Egypt and that Torah explicitly said we had to remember that and welcome the stranger and the newcomers to our country. This was a Republican talking, by the way and this was my introduction to Civil Rights. 

John F. Kennedy, that guy with red hair, faced the opposition head on. At a meeting with ministers in Houston, he stated:
I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic party's candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me.
His words mattered. A lot. He got elected. 

Brenton Harrison Tarrant, the shooter in Sunday's New Zealand massacre, published a 74-pate manifesto, including a "self-interview  before streaming his actions on social media:
Were/are you a supporter of Donald Trump? 
"As a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose? Sure. Sure. As a policy maker and leader? Dear god no.”
His words matter, too; they are like the gates of hell.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern responded to that act of pure evil:
As a cabinet, we were absolutely unified and very clear. The terrorist attack in Christchurch on Friday was the worst act of terrorism on our shores. It has exposed a range of weaknesses in New Zealand’s gun laws. The clear lesson from history around the world is that to make our community safe, the time to act is now…. Within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism, we will have announced reforms which will, I believe, make our community safer.
I want to believe her words will matter and the Kiwis will rid the streets of automatic weaponry. 

On the other hand, this was Feckless Leader's response:
His words matter...but not the way he thinks they do. 

A man who refuses to recognize racism and ethnic hatred fuels this fire owns a piece of the end result. A man who acknowledges there are "fine people" promoting violence owns a piece of the end result. A man who cannot come out and denounce violence and hate crimes owns a piece of the end result. 

There is a lot of unjustified hate in the world right now. Jews are easy targets just as Muslims are. As long as the White House refuses to to step up to recognize that these are hate crimes committed by White Supremacists, they will continue to happen. How many more Charlottesvilles and Pittsburghs do we have to endure before the White House steps up the plate?

Silence is not golden. It's pretty much the same as condoning the action. I do not think there is a shred of doubt where this president stands on hate, racism, antisemitism, and truth. None of those terms are familiar to him. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Sticks and stone may break your bones,
But words can have a devastating impact, fare beyond what you though.
Words do matter.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Blurt, Blush, Apologize......Repeat

Friday, I grabbed the first laugh-o-dills of the season. I love the moment I first spy them in the big green container, their hysterically yellow petals still hidden within brown, papery sheaths. Put them in water and wait for the miracle of color explosion. The room becomes touched with the scent of sunshine even if the the snow is still piled a foot high on the deck. Suddenly, spring doesn't seem so out of reach.

But outside, the beautiful white fluff is already melting into grey slush, the kind that freezes at night and melts in the afternoon, insuring that morning is a treacherous event. Despite the astoundingly blue sky that frames cotton covered branches, there is more snow on the ground than is manageable. There is so much snow, people are trying to mitigate melting around foundations by digging trenches wherever they can, and removing snow from roofs before the bulging begins. 

I suppose that could be a metaphor for a lotta things. Beauty, while in the eye of the beholder, can mean different things in many different eyes, just like words can be heard by millions of ears and result in just as many interpretations. There is, however, the tiny little matter of intentionality. If you say something untoward and people tell you that your remarks are rude/cruel/inappropriate/racist or whatever, you get to have a eureka moment followed by a whole lotta work to improve your communication skills. Assuming your intention was not to be rude/cruel/inappropriate/racist or whatever, your focus has to be on how to get a point across without being a total nitwit. This sounds a  whole lot easier than it really is. Most people fail miserably and continue to sound like total nitwits. They are unable or unwilling to do the work needed to sound less .....whatever. 

Communication requires real work. Our tendency is to forget that what comes out of our mouths doesn't necessarily match what our brains intended. Oh, you know the drill: blurt, blush, apologize. 

But that's not what I'm really thinking about. I'm thinking about when what you say is really what you mean, even though you do the blurt, blush, apologize routing. Multiple times. You continue to utter phrases and expressions that are rude/cruel/inappropriate/racist or whatever....and then plead, oh, any number of excuses: I didn't know.....I was really criticizing something else.....I meant it for other people not you..... I bet you know that drill, too. And you know it because you know that person meant exactly what he or she said. 

The Sabbath Year Float
At carnival in Belgium last week, the town of Aalst featured some pretty horrific floats with cartoon puppets worthy of 1932 Germany....and those images were defended by the mayor who said, 
But Mayor D’Haese told Het Laatste Nieuws that “it’s not up to the mayor to forbid” such displays, and that “the carnival participants had no sinister intentions.     Ha'Aretz - 03/06/2019                               
Can one assume this was all in fun? Was it meant to be a joke? Was the antisemitic image meant to be something to be laughed at? If those puppets had been Little Black Sambo would the mayor have defended them as simple, harmless, little jokey things? 

I want to believe antisemitism is a function of ignorance, (although I'm beginning to doubt that, too.) When antisemitism parades as anti-Zionism, there needs to be acknowledgement of reality. To be sure, there is much to criticize about Netanyahu and his government, but one cannot call Israel apartheid when Arab nations do not permit non-Muslims equal rights and protections within those countries. You can criticize Israel for human rights abuses, but you cannot ignore LGBT men and women being sentenced to death in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, or Yemen. You cannot talk about Nakba without recognizing that 900,000 Jews were expelled from Arab countries in the 1940s with nowhere to go. In other words, you cannot pick and choose which horrors are to be condemned. Condemn one, you must actively condemn the others, lest you be identified as the anti-Semite you really are. 

And you cannot ignore that which is taking root here. Antisemitism has increased dramatically in the last few years. And despite the words occasionally falling out of Feckless Leader's mouth, it's clear to most of the world that the man is both a racist and an antisemite. Why is it so hard for a large swath of Americans to understand that, as well as understand the long-term implications?

Someone once said it doesn't matter whether or not you're an antisemite if the antisemites think you are. David Duke is busy praising Ilhan Omar for her statements, and who is a bigger, publicly avowed antisemite than David Duke? Being supported by David Duke is troubling on a whole bunch of disparate levels. 

I sound like a broken record to even me these days, but the news is increasingly filled with images and statements that make my blood run cold in my veins. Despite it all, I want to believe America will arise above this heinous fray, but I'm not as sure as I once was. The closer we move to 2020, the more I suspect we are heading toward civil war. And just as history has demonstrated again and again, the Jews will be caught in the middle.

And here's the really scary part: if Netanyhu continues on as Prime Minister, we may not have an Israel to go to if push comes to shove. Think about that for a moment.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week

Daffodils are really inexpensive. 
Treat yourself. 

Monday, March 4, 2019

Keep Breathing

This past week, we lost a cousin-in-law to cancer. The battle was hard-fought for four years, but in the end, the cancer won. He was a couple of months younger than me. A strapping, handsome man, physically fit, athletic, competitive, and charming; he had a great legal mind and a greater sense of humor. Ziggy and I were both fond of him, and we always looked forward to seeing him at our extended family functions. He left behind a wife, sons and daughters-in-law, and little granddaughters. 

If the truth be told, I knew his wife long before I knew him, back when I was in grad school and she an undergrad who was in the pool of actors I used for scene work. I really did not know her well, and we were never terribly friendly even after we discovered we were quasi-related. Still, as I sat at the funeral, I could not help thinking I once stood in her place and have an unfortunate understanding of the road ahead of her. The things I could tell her.

There is no Handbook For The Recently Widowed and no one can tell you how to grieve, how long to grieve, how to manage your grief, or if there's even a work-around. (For the record, there really isn't one.) This is a solitary journey you get to take all by yourself. You might have people to support you here and there, but the reality is that when the lights go out and you’re lying in your bed alone, you are the only one who can come to grips with the empty space of the missing body. 

For whatever the cosmic reason, I've been in several discussions about widowhood lately. Some were with other widows, a couple with clergy types, and one rather painful one with a person wanting to know "what it's like." The only ones who really get it are other widows; those conversations are relatively easy and often enlightening. Conversations with clergy are just weird because they look like they're listening, but you kinda know they think you're some kind of nut job when you say you feel invisible. "Why don't you call so-and-so to volunteer?" they ask. How do you explain invisible hands have a tough time dialing a phone? And the person who was curious? I answered the questions as dispassionately as possible. What was Plan B for that one? But in that conversation, I said something I'd not said aloud before, and realized it was a breakthrough for me just saying it out loud: 
The minute you become a widow, you are no longer a care-giver for that someone else. 
I don't know why it was such a smack on the forehead, but it was. And I did not let on that it was a true Muppet News Flash.

Let me explain: if you've ever done long term for a husband, a family, a parent, a friend, or even a pet, the abrupt loss of that function can be crippling. You've not only lost a piece of yourself that can never come back, you've lost your job. Sure, you may have other jobs and functions, but a central piece of your total inner space has just be vacated and made into a vacuum. That recipient is gone and you are standing there empty-handed and not all that sure what to do about it. 

[Note to readers: This is why when people say seriously stupid stuff like, his suffering in over or he's in a better place now, a widow should feel free to smack 'em into next week, or at the very least, tell them to shut the hell up.]

We never talk about that part of the loss, but it's there: idle hands are guilty hands even when there is no reason to feel that way. "Keeping busy" is like frosting over a cracked and crumbling cake; it looks nice, but the problem has not really gone away, it's right beneath the surface. We know it, we recognize it, and we deal with it without anyone else knowing how broken we are inside. Even if you detested the dead person, a piece of you is still broken inside. That's part of the paradox; you feel like you missed something, you could've done more, or you did something wrong. Those feeling are real, they are there, and they are scary. And you get to deal with them. And you do.

At some point, you begin to make choices for you. You learn how to decide what you want to eat for dinner. You figure out what you want your house to look like, but this doesn't come fast. You keep waiting for the other opinion to chime in. You wake up looking for the dent in the bed that isn't there.  You may never stop startling in the night when there's no butt next to yours (I still do) but you keep breathing. 

I think Nora Ephron nailed it in SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE;
 I’m gonna get out of bed every morning … breathe in and out all day long. Then after a while, I won’t have to remind myself to get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out.
Come this June, I'll be living in WidowWorld for a decade. Yep. Ten years. A little more than one third of the time we were married. Half as long as I've had this day job. Once upon a time, a decade seemed like a whole lifetime. Now, it's too short, too quick. How can I have been without Ziggy for a whole decade? That's impossible. But it's not. It's very possible, very real, and very surreal. 

Sometimes I think my life is like one of the Chinese torture things: you stick your fingers in and the more you pull, the tighter it gets. Once you relax, well, your fingers  slide out. The moral of that story? Relax; being uptight is more painful than useful. If you're still upright and sucking air, you are alive. You may not feel alive all the time, you may feel lots of things you can't/won't/ don't wanna explain. But widowhood is only about the widow. It's all about us, how we manage, how we deal, how we sleep. No one gets to have an opinion except the widow herself. No one else gets a vote.

Anita D., Jill C., Susan C., Gail H., Cynthia G., Joan N., 
Marilyn S., Gladys S. Carol S., and Ruth M.:
you all know exactly what I'm talking about. Right?

I cannot tell these things to the new widow. She won't listen to me, and I wouldn't expect her to. She has to learn this stuff on her own. But I've stood where she is standing now. There will be moments of terror and moments of painful clarity. And guilt. Survivor's guilt. More than enough to go around. And around. And around again. Time doesn't really heal all wounds; if anything, all it does is insulate us from the intensity of that moment when we were capable of stopping our own breathing, but didn't. 

Widowhood sucks. That's just the way it is. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week

Do not sit around waiting for phones to ring or 
for people to remember one is still breathing. 
When it happens, be appreciative, but do not rely on the kindness of others. 
Most important, be kind to YOURSELF.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Sharing the Laugh

Claes Oldenburg - Typewriter Eraser (1999)
In brief: the weekend in Delray Beach turned out to be incredibly wonderful. I spent time with both sides of my family, squeezed in a visit to the newly expanded Norton Museum in Palm Beach and strolled the gardens at the Morikami Museum

Never mind that my rental car was backed into by an 81-year old lady while parked in front of the house where I was staying, the non-stop eventing was fun. I saw a bunch of my cousins, celebrated one aunt's 90th birthday, attended a gala where she was being honored, and also hung out with my 95 year-old aunt from the other side. There were lots of laughs, a few tears, enough love to keep me warm for the rest of the winter and then some. 

There is something reassuring about hanging with one's cousins....even the kids of one's cousins. We first ring kids are now the survivors' table. We still giggle and crack up at the same stupid stuff. Someone starts a sentence and then we all start to laugh because we have that same shared memory...and the sentence never gets finished because we're laughing too hard. In a way, we are each others' memories. We share fixed moments that one one else will ever understand. On Dad's side, just the word chicken puts us into spasms; we all know the phrase bakery string will follow and we will all laugh 'til the tears run. On Mom's side, the name Samantha, will set us off (she's not a human dog.) These are truly the ties that bind, the moments that remind us we share blood and history; not a bad combination so long as you can laugh about it. 

There was serious stuff, too. I gave my much older cousin (by six months and one week) Ziggy's plot over at the Beth David in Elmont. I mean, it's not like he's gonna use it and it's where she wants to be. It had already been discussed with my bro, and there wasn't much of a decision to be made. The plot is in the family plot; there are limited spaces. I'm not even sure I'm going to end up there, but the last thing I want is some stranger in the middle. Grandpa handed Ziggy the deed the morning after we got he could see that we now had two spaces. Turns out my much older cousin (by six months and one week) has the original deed from the cemetery with the seal intact. Our most elderly of cousins, an attorney, has been retained by me (I gave him a buck to make it official.) He will be in contact with the cemetery to make sure everything is up to date and we are in possession of the documents we need. Unbelievable how hard it is open a grave these days. But here's the thing: it's easy to have this discussion with them. Of course, we laughed a lot, too, but it's also a real estate transaction, if only on paper. And overall, I'm relieved not to worry about this any more.

Of course, if I do decide to get planted there, that means I'm next to my much older cousin (by six months and one week) for all eternity and Grandma Sarah's gonna be real busy telling us to behave like ladies. Fat chance. 

The Morikami Museum from across the lake
On Sunday after the last family activity (brunch, of course) a friend and I went to the Morikami. I've been there several times; each time, I see something new and beautiful. This time was no different. But after a hectic weekend of family, the walk through the garden was refreshingly peaceful. There was a moment to breathe, a chance to reflect, if only for a little while, about the joyousness of the day, the beauty of the sky, and the fact I am still upright and sucking air. And still laughing. And working. And finding out stuff. Things I like. Things I don't like. Things that need fixing, things that need changing. And things that are just fine. Those are always the most surprising things. 

There will be plenty of time to jump up and down about politics later. Tonight, I am just going to let the weekend wash over me. I am so glad I went.

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Love 'em or hate 'em, your family shares your past. 
Hang on to the good stuff and jettison the garbage.
Sharing is not required, but if you can share a laugh, do that much.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Ephemeral Gym Suit

So there was this discussion on FaceBook about gym uniforms. The way I understand it, this is a thing of the past, no one has gym uniforms any more. And then I saw another discussion about gym uniforms. And some very pretty pictures of those horrendously ugly things we had to wear . 

I didn't have to remember. I knew exactly what mine looked like. I don't have to remember every frickin' inch of embroidering my last name on the pocket. I don't have to remember my mother swearing she shoulda married someone name Jones. You see, I still have mine; ironed and ready to go. 

There it is. In all it's faded glory. You try embroidering 12 letters on a pocket with height requirements. 

Three years ago while I was getting ready to sell the house, I went through all those memory shoe boxes I had gathered over the years and ruthlessly got rid of stuff. Not all stuff, just a lot of it. This past week, I returned a high school band letter to the friend that gave it to me as a memento. That letter saw me through a bunch of questionable times. I could not throw it away, and I could not come up with a reason to keep it, so into an envelope it went and off to Brooklyn. There are other things, too, that I've been returning to people. It's a process, but a good one. I highly recommend it. 

I think I was channeling the tidy lady who is sweeping the country right now....pun intended. It was time to downsize literally and figuratively. I needed to let go of some things. Oddly, other things I found I could not just toss.

The gym suit was one of those things. 

I hated gym. I hated the locker room, I hated the teachers, I hated being short, and I hated my knees. But there was something sinister and ephemeral about that gym suit. I think it haunted me more than anything, but at the same time it was a symbol of perseverance. If Miss McCoy didn't kill me, nothing would.

That gym suit is really tiny. Was I ever that tiny? Must've been....but that I don't remember. 

Cleaning out the crap is not a bad idea. All kidding aside, I did that before I moved into this place. I was a little too efficient....I ended up having to replace a lotta pyrex I thought I didn't need. Guess again.

But there is something freeing about getting rid of stuff. I'm still working on this concept. There's still stuff I wanna jettison... 

There's a real good chance I will skip next Monday night, so if I'm MIA, don't worry. I'll be back.