Sunday, September 30, 2012

Let The Inundation Begin!

Here we are smack in the middle of the fall Jewish holy day cycle and I am already getting “yontiffed” out. It’s not like I don’t like these holidays; I actually do. It’s something about this stage of my life that makes me want to just step back a bit and let someone else do the work.

Sukkot is a terrific holiday. It’s about harvest and bounty, community and commonality. It seems almost appropriate for the American autumn. Traditionally, you build little “booths” with roofs that still allow you to see the stars. In America, it comes at a time when the air has that distinctive autumn aroma; it makes you want to have apple cider and ginger snaps.

In the synagogue, you march around with a lulav and an etrog (citron) as commanded in Leviticus 23:40:  On the first day, you must take for yourself a fruit of the citron tree, an unopened palm frond (lulav), myrtle branches, and willows [that grow near] the brook. You shall rejoice before God for seven days.

And we do rejoice. And we celebrate. And we invite people. I’ve written about Ushpizin in an earlier blog entry (Exalted Guests....or WWJT: What would Jefferson Think?), a wonderful if not mystical tradition. This bring ancient practice into a modern world, making everyone stop and think, if for just a brief moment, about the fine thread the ties us to our past. That thread runs from our fingers right through the Second Temple, through the First Temple, and back to the base of Mt. Sinai where we signed on for the ride.

Sukkot is about civic responsibility. According to the law, the corners of our fields are not to be harvested, but are to be left for the gleaners. We have  responsibility to make sure everyone has enough to sustain them. These days, not to many of us have fields, but we do have food shelves and food banks that we can help stock and maintain. It’s not enough to recognize the problem; we must be part of the solution.

That Sukkot comes shortly before election day is another message in a virtual bottle. I worry about the lack of civic responsibility in the process. I worry that how we spin our candidates and how we present them is not helpful toward unifying our nation. In fact, I worry that this particular election is tearing the fabric of our nation in a way that threatens our very existence. If our representatives cannot find a middle ground, cannot find a way to work together for the benefit of all citizens, we will lose the grand intent that made the United States the example of plurality, democracy, and relative functionalism that others want to emulate. Extremists from both sides are hijacking the process with stinging, inchoate innuendo that diminishes them as much as their targets. We are standing above a chasm that widens with every hate-filled ad. 

We are not powerless and we can stop this.

The lines on the ballot represent our voices. What message are we sending when we mark our ballots and slide them into the box? Do our choices represent how we feel about our country, our state, our district? By casting the ballot, we are not just exercising our right to vote; we make a statement about who we are, and what place we envision ourselves standing in the universe. 

We have a duty to tell our candidates that the past four years were not acceptable. 

the tree next door 
We are about to be inundated with adverts. Watch them, don’t watch them, throw tomatoes at the television if you want. If your mind is made up already, make sure you know what you’re voting for. If you haven’t made up your mind, start doing your homework. There's about one more month until Election Day…use it wisely.

And while you’re thinking about all this stuff, go grab a rake. We’re about to be inundated with dead leaves, too, and physical labor is good for you.

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
If your name is Mike Obermueller and 
you're running for Congress in the gerrymandered Minnesota 2nd,
don't you think you should let people  know?
Just a thought.

Monday, September 24, 2012

May You Be Sealed In the Book of Life

So I was watching 60 MINUTES because I really did want to hear what both the President and Romney had to say. I'd heard enough teasers but I figured a wonky girl like me had to hear it with my own two ears to decide Romney really did not have clue. And I was doing all right until I got  good look at Mittens.

I couldn't look away. There was something about him. Something weird. I just couldn't quite put my finger on it...until I went to the fridge...and there it was. A lone Clementine sitting in bowl… the same color as Mittens' face. Like the lady who put her five year old in the tanning a spray tan gone horribly wrong. All things considered, if Mittens and his crack political machine can’t mastermind a spray tan, do you really want them running the country? It ain’t rocket science, folks. I mean, even Snooki, his favorite firecracker, can get this right.

But there are more important things on my plate at this particular moment. I’m halfway through making an apple kugel with a crumb topping like a French apple pie for the break-fast at Cousin Laurie’s on Wednesday night. Last year, I was supposed to make creamed herring…but that didn’t happen. By the morning of Kol Nidre, I was too sick to even think about food, much less prepare any. For the first time in my life, I was too sick to go to shul at all. I lay in bed feeling like I’d been hit by truck and about the only atoning I did was over a bucket. Decidedly not fun. Or soul cleansing.

So this year, I feel like I have some catch up to do. I’m almost looking forward to Kol Nidre. A friend from home, someone I’ve not seen since leaving my little shtetl of North Bellmore for college a zillion years ago, will hopefully be joining me at shul. He just moved to Saint Paul and I’m anxious to hear his story.

At sundown on Tuesday, Jews across the globe will begin their fast for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Once again, we will recite the long list of sins as a community; as it is written in the Talmud (Sanhedrin p29b, Shavuot 39a),

כל ישראל ערבים זה לזה 

All Israel is responsible one for each other.

We are. 

It’s hard wired into us.

We are also responsible for caring for our greater community and our environment…both local and global

From the moment G-d asks Cain,  “Where's yer brother?” the expectation is set.

We do own ourselves and our actions. When we think about where we have fallen short and where we can do better, we all make laundry lists. My list invariably contains the one where I promise not to go around pissing people off unintentionally…or intentionally. I keep working on that.  But a new one will be to bully my father-in-law just a teensie little bit to get him to leave the house for something other than a doctor appointment or the occasional dinner out.

If I have offended you with my blog and my opinions, I am not sorry about that. It is my blog and my opinion and I am entitled to those. But the intention was not to offend; it was to share, to illuminate, and on really good days, to make you think a little more.

If I have offended you in person, via email, or on the phone, for that I am truly sorry. I shall endeavor not to do it again. Please feel free to let me know what it is or was so that I might not repeat the error. And that is a serious offer. 

And on that note, I shall wish you a year filled with only good things. 

May you all to be sealed in the Book of Life for a 
happy, healthy, sweet, and adventuresome new year. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Happy 5773!

Saturday night – after sundown

The soup is on the stove, the kitchen smells grand and the table is set. I know there are matzah balls yet to be made, but things are looking up....the junior son just called to say the round challot are covered so I don’t have to worry about them. That’s a clear win.

Sunday night, Jewish families across the globe will gather for erev Rosh Ha’Shanah dinner. Tables will be full of families and friends. There will be traditional foods, would-be traditional foods, and plenty of gee-is-this-good-enough-to-become-traditional foods. At my table will be both family and friends…people with whom we often share regular days and holy days. Steve was the Mendota Heights native…the rest of us grownups are transplants. Junior son, wife, and the friends’ son went to school together and their growing up roots are well intertwined. A new significant other will be welcomed.  Having a regular table of the usual suspects makes helps our roots, too. And a couple of the usual suspects...the ones in Milwaukee....will be duly missed. In fact, missed a whole lot. 

I wasn’t kidding about that “across the globe thing.” My friend Rabbi Julie Gordon is in Mumbi at the moment where she will be the rabbi at Bene Israel Reform Jewish Community for the High Holy Days. She’s been living and studying in Jerusalem of late, and now she’s in India. How cool is that? Remarkably cool. Awesomely cool. And reassuring. We observe wherever we go. Jews can be found in almost every country...and we all observe the same holidays, often with the same liturgy no matter how long we have been apart from each other. We are a persistent people and I am glad for that. 

Sunday morning

Thus begins the 10 Days of Repentance.

At sundown, when we usher in Rosh Ha’Shanah, literally the head of the year, we will also begin a period of introspection. The purpose is to look at the past year, see the successes while also recognizing the failures. What could I have done better? Could I have avoided hurting someone intentionally…or even unintentionally? Have I made amends with the individuals involved?

The older I get, the more nit-picky I get about this stuff. My tendency is to be harsher on myself than on others. What I find intolerable in me, is okay in others…and I’m not sure what that’s about. I do try to play down the idiotic although I do have a full year of idiocy that does require at least cursory examination. I look at how I spent things: time, money, love. Have I wasted resources or have I invested them wisely? Nobody comes out on those three unscathed. I may be fiscally thrifty by nature, but the other two? Oy! I must do better on those.

Steve's fave: apple crisp going
 into the over
Of course, I will go over to the cemetery this week. I need to sit by Steve for bit; catch him up on all the news. I’ll tell him about the Google Hang-out thingee at the Times, and about the book. At least I can tell him the Vikings are staying put and there will be new stadium built for them…and I’ll listen closely just in case I can hear his famous mantra: Fucking Vi-queens, they break your heart every time!!!!!!!!  And I will tell him how much I miss him and that I would trade it all to have him sitting here, at the end of the kitchen counter, kvetching about one thing or another. Yep. I’d trade it all.

For those of you who will begin your own 10 Days, let me wish you an easy and peaceful introspection. And for everyone,  Shana tova u’meetuka….a happy and sweet new year.

!שנה טובה ומתוקה

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Throwaway Election

Saturday night was what we Jews call Slichot…the start of the penitential High Holy Days. When I was kid, Slichot was this big mysterious thing late on the Saturday night before Rosh HaShanah. We were always told big kids babysat little kids so parents could go and besides, kids weren’t allowed in for Slichot. When pressed, my dad would say Slichot the season opener; you threw out the first sin.

My first Slichot service was in college and while it started at midnight, it was short, to the point, and intense. It was the season opener; most of the prayers were pretty familiar even wrapped in their haunting High Holy Days melodies. And you did get to throw out the first sin. The A’shamnu was recited, each sin punctuated with rap on the chest over the heart. The list is an acrostic in plurals; there's no I, there's only we. It’s for everyone said by everyone.

ASHAMNU: We have become desolate. BAGADNU: We have betrayed. GAZALNU: We have stolen. DEBARNU DOFI: We have been hypocritical. HEYVINU: We have made things crooked. VI'HIRSHANU: And we have made others wicked. ZADNU: We have sinned intentionally. CHAMASNU: We have been violent. TAFALNU SHEKER: We have become desensitized to dishonesty. YATZNU RA: We have given bad advice. KIZAVNU: We have not lived up to our promises. LATZNU: We have been contemptuous. MARADNU: We have rebelled. NI'ATZNU: We have enraged others. SARARNU: We have turned aside. AVINU: We fallen victim to our impulses.  PASHANU: We have broken standards of behavior that we know to be right. TZARARNU: We afflicted others.  KISHINU OREF: We have been stiff-necked. RISHANU: We have been wicked. SHICHATNU: We have been immoral. TA'INU: We have erred. TITANU: We have misled others.

Maybe Romney and Ryan should give Slichot a try. Maybe the whole Republican National Committee should give it a whirl. For a bunch o’guys who claim to be so wrapped up in living a Christ-like existence, you’d think they’d get the part about fact checkers.

But they don’t. So that makes me think the lying may be intentional. I have long suspected that Romney and his evil twin Ryan really are the Garbage Pail Kids. Romney is plastic. Nothing, not even the stench of old waffles and rancid syrup stick to him. Ryan, on the other hand, has credibility issues that are probably beyond repair. Why would the RNC put up two such unlikeable, unelectable candidates?

I have a theory: this is a throwaway election.

No one expected Sarah Palin’s Tea Party wackiness in 2008. They thought they’d have an attractive female candidate who’d smile and wave during the campaign. Instead they got Medusa in a hockey mom jersey and lipstick. She got the nutty contingent out in front and center. That banner was picked up in 2012 by Michele Stepford Bachmann and the Lunatic Brigade. By March, it was pretty clear that the nut faction was gain out in force and there was no sensible way to get them back under the 5000 year old rock from whence they had emerged. So the RNC came up with a scathingly brilliant idea: let the nut faction have its own way. Nominate the most seemingly normal of the bunch, then pair him up with someone so right of center that he could become the punch line instead of the candidate who’s about as funny as a screen door on a submarine. Hence, Mittens and his partner, Fibber McRyan. 

Folks, these are not serious candidates. The RNC knows it will not win against President Obama even with a soft economy. They had no viable candidate and they weren’t about to sacrifice a potential real one. So, they opted for the ToonTown RR Clowns.

This serves two purposes: it gets rid of Romney and Ryan permanently. Romney will go back to Bain and Pinocchio will be relegated to the scrap pile. The RNC can then turn to the right wing loony division saying, “See! You cannot win an election for us." That, in turn sets the stage for a more moderate candidate in 2016 when there's no incumbent. Enter the third leg of the Bush dynasty: Li'l Jeb.

Yep. I said it. They’re gonna run Jeb in 2016. Chris Christie, if he’s hasn’t keeled over from a coronary, will put up a good fight, but he doesn’t have the yicchus Jeb has. They gonna lead with their royalty and hope that eight years will be long enough for people to forget what a total disaster W had been.

The WP predicts it’s gonna be a two yicchus race….Jeb Bush up against Andy Cuomo. There. I’ve said it in print, so it’s kinda set in inter-stone.

If I had my druthers, I’d pull the covers over my head and hibernate until November 7th. The next 58 days are not going to be pretty nor, for that matter, laden with actual facts. It’s going to be a spin fest …a whirligig of lies, damned lies, and statistics from both sides. The entire country is so sick of the ads already that it wouldn’t surprise me if the guy with the fewest ads wins.

And the really sad part? The biggest loser in this race is Us, The People.

Wifely Person's Tip O'the Week
Rosh HaShannah, Sukkkot, and Shmini Atzeret 
all begin on Sunday nights at sundown this year....
so look for the blog on Sunday afternoons.....mertz ha'Shem!

Monday, September 3, 2012

As the Blue Fairy told Pinocchio: Your conscience will tell you.

Let me just get the New York Times/Google Hangout thing out of the way first. 

It was fun. The other women were terrific. Although it didn't come out sounding like we had vastly differing opinions, we did. But we also realized fighting about it is counterproductive. What I found particularly interesting was that before we went live, we pointed out to our "handlers" that we were all white. And unfortunately, we lost the feed to one of the Republican women due to technical issues. And you should also know that after we were off the air, so to speak, we women hung out in the chat room for another 20 minutes just talking. This has great potential and I hope the NY Times continues to explore this process. I know I'd do it again! I'd even let Frank Bruni moderate. Despite missing Gail Collins, he was just fine. 


In doing due diligence for the hangout, I actually watched the Republican convention. In so many ways, it was like watching a train wreck: you were almost afraid to look away lest you miss something. I had my own take on the experience, but nothing that even made me think for even one New York second I could vote for any of these guys. I must confess, however, I enjoyed Governor Christie's self-nomination for 2016. It was verbose, overblown, and self-aggrandizing in ways I thought were obsolete.

We had just listened to Romney Ann-toinette tell us peasants that she was there to reassure us about Mitt and love, when Governor Christie took the stage told us to forget love:

You see, I believe we have become paralyzed, paralyzed by our desire to be loved.  Now our founding fathers had the wisdom to know that social acceptance and popularity were fleeing, and that this country's principles needed to be rooted in strengths greater than the passions and the emotions of the times.

That wasn’t the biggest issue with his speech. Maybe that he almost forgot to mention the nominees might have been the bigger issue.
It got better. The next night, to accept his nomination, Paul Ryan bounded onto that stage like a second-grader. And just like a lot of little kids, he wasn’t real familiar with the distinction between telling the truth and not telling the truth. When FOX News has to call out the fact checkers because the kid’s nose is growing while his lips are still moving, there is a fundamental problem. And if you’re not sure about that…check out marathon times. He does not appear to be able to tell the truth. Ever. 

Silly me, I thought this was an important aspect of being a national leader.

As if all this were not enough, there was the embarrassing old uncle address by Clint Eastwood. Weird Ol’ Uncle Clint talked to an imaginary President Obama and boy, was his imagination in full force. ‘Nuff said on that. Probably too much.

I won’t even comment on Mitten’s speech because if I did, I’d fall asleep at the keyboard. Boring would be kind. Droning would be more accurate. His speech was so uninspired that not only did he not get a bump in his ratings after the convention, Gallup’s poll rated it the lowest since Bob Dole’s 1996 acceptance speech.

The pièce de résistance was the question: Are you better off now than you were four years ago?

I cannot speak for anyone else, but my answer is a resounding “YES.”  

Yeah, I am still a widow and still struggling with some of the day to day stuff, but overall, I am far better off now than I was when I started paying attention to these things three years ago. The economy is growing slowly but steadily. Job growth is still slow, but consumer demand coupled with continued growth in the housing markets are signs that we are moving in the right direction. GM is still building cars and has paid off its loans. People are shopping. In my business, corporate travel, we’re busier than we’ve been in the last few years because companies are doing business face-to-face again. Oh, yeah, Osama Bin Laden is dead and we don’t have to hear that Tora Bora dialysis nonsense any more.   

As we head into the Democratic National Convention tomorrow, I want to make this perfectly clear to them: Answer the damn question. President Obama can and should run on his record. He should point out that despite an obstructionist Congress, stuff got done.  The TARP loans are almost all paid in full. The GNP is growing. There is an Affordable Health Care Act. Remind this country that not everyone owns a business – small, medium, or large.

And remind the country that there’s room for independent contractors, artists, musicians, writers, freelancers, athletes, waitrons, burger flippers, part-timers and the like who are do not have subsidized health care options, vacation and holiday pay, or even regular paychecks. Those of us who pursue those paths should neither be ignored nor left out of the conversation.

And if you do….those of us with the pens, ink, keyboards, stages, and comedy routines will pillory the hell outta all of you. I’m just sayin’………………………

 © 2012, Steven G. Artley, ARTLEY CARTOONS 

The Wifely Person Tip O'the Week
The pen IS mightier than the sword. Trust me on this one.