Monday, December 31, 2018

Blog Episode 444: Grandparenting In A Dimly Lit Room

I am grandparenting. I am sitting in a dimly lit dining room because Little Miss is asleep on the couch. Young Sir, however, went down in his own room right on schedule and I've not heard from him since. 

So here I sit trying to finish this final episode for 2018 that I started yesterday. 

This is my 444th blog episode. 

That's 8.5384615 in widow years. 

This whole thing got started because ....because.....oh, I don't remember. I think I started out wanting to write about being a widow, and then it was just a stomping ground for my own opinions....and then it got political. By the way,  I'm not sorry about that at all.

As this years slips away and a new one comes crawling in, my thoughts turn to the world at large. The US is rapidly becoming a third world country, where infant mortality is high, maternal mortality is high, and people ration meds because they can't afford to buy them even with insurance. The stripping away of environmental protections undoes decades of work to clean up our air, water, and toxic waste. The undermining of the judicial branch shames the United States; we look more like the Philippines than Western Europe. Our allies are no longer our allies, thereby opening a door to provocation from North Korea, China, and Russia. Who would stand with us against an attack? Certainly not the nations who have been trashed by a schoolyard bully.

At the end of 2018, the only thing I can say about my country is that I am deeply ashamed of what We, the People have become. As Americans, We, the People, can continue to buy into the rhetoric as so many already do. As a Jew, it's hard to miss the handwriting on the wall. 

I'm sure the Jews of Berlin and Munich and Frankfurt saw the same handwriting in 1932 and chose not to believe they were in danger. That was then. 

This is now. Antisemitism remains the safe hatred even after all these years. Nothing much has changed. Doesn't much matter what minority or majority you are, you can always find antisemitism right beneath the surface. It's the only hate that is sanctioned  by silence. It's the only hate that is conveniently shared by diverse groups who don't even understand they're antisemites...they just want a better the Jews get. And it's the only hate that victims tend to give a free pass: Oh, it'll blow over. 

It never does.

My grandkids are asleep under this roof. Their parents are at Orchestra Hall listening to a concert of Bernstein, Copeland, and Gershwin. Jews, all of them. Dead, alive, it doesn't much matter. What matters is that we have survived in the past. What matters is whether or not we have the koi'ach, the strength, to fight this fight before it's too late. Unlike the last time. 

I'm going to stop here. 

My heartfelt thanks to all my readers, and honest wishes for a happy, healthy, prosperous, and peaceful New Year,

The WP

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Hugs your loved ones a little tighter.
We're not off the roller coaster yet.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

The summer I turned 6, we moved to the wilds of Long Island. That winter, I found out about Christmas. I mean, I'd heard of it, but I didn't know anyone who had that holiday so this was all new territory. We did sing some songs in school, but they didn't make any sense, so I didn't care much about them. My neighbors across the street invited me to help trim the tree. I had no clue what that meant, but my mom thought I should go.

Into a sparkly world  of tinsel, lights, and ornaments I went, eyes wide open and unable to fully digest that majesty of it all. When it came time to assemble the manger scene, my friend Patty told me all about Jesus being born in a stable, the magic star, and the three kings. Gently, we unwrapped all the pieces, the mom, the dad, the camels, the cows, the kings.... but the baby wasn't there. We couldn't find that baby anywhere. We went back down the basement where one of her older brothers held her up high so Patty could reach in to feel around the space where the manger was stored. Suddenly, she gave a shout, and out came a little bundle. We danced with excitement that the baby was found, and we gently laid him in his manger crib. Then we settled down for hot chocolate and stories. Patty's parents told us about the night the baby was born and then about Santa Claus. When it was time to go home, Mrs. Eyerman promised she would call my mother to see if it was okay for me to go see Santa Claus at Roosevelt Field. 

I was too excited for words! I was going to see Santa Claus! I raced across the street and down the block 3 houses to my house. I ran in the door. "I can go see Santa Claus if you let me," I burst out. "I had fun, but it was almost terrible! We almost couldn't find sweet baby Jesus!"  Oddly, my mother looked like she was gonna keel over.

That night, my dad, the great make-up story artist, did not make up a story at bedtime. He recited a poem he had been compelled to memorize in school. 

A Visit from St. Nicholas

BY CLEMENT CLARKE MOORE or thomas livingston...take your pick
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
There was a lot of learning that night. I learned about Christians and their holidays. I learned that people believe different things. And I learned to ask a different kind of question.

Much of me, unknowingly, was forged that night. 

Years later, I was telling the story about sweet baby Jesus to my British grandmother. Suddenly, she began to recite, A VISIT FROM ST. NICHOLAS. She laughed at my shocked look; when she was done she said, "I bet Daddy recited that for you." I nodded, unable to say anything. "They forced him to learn it for a school assembly and he didn't want to do it, so I learned it with him. I always did love to memorize poems, even that one. It's a Christmas poem, but it has a nice cadence." Then she told me something I would never, ever forget. "Not everything that looks tasty is good to eat." 

By the way, I did get to see Santa that year I was 6...but that's a story for another Christmas Eve.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
May this Christmas be the happiest one ever. 

Monday, December 17, 2018

When Hallmark Channel Is Your Friend

I've been reduced to Hallmark Channel. 

This is a very sad state of affairs. Sad for a number of reasons, none of which are terribly dramatic or life altering. Basically, there is nothing on TV I want to watch. 

Oh, yeah, I have a watch a list of movies yet to be seen, and there are old favorites that always perk me up. But in the scheme of "what's on," I'm tired of violence. I'm tired of gratuitous sex. I'm tired of absurd police and federal law enforcement "dramas." Those aren't dramas; those are excuses for bad special effects. Does anyone really need LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL NOSE PICKING UNIT? The cha-chung noise, once a staple comment in this household, has lost its charm.

TODAY show anchor desk ~ c.1956
The news is almost worse than these non-dramas for the worst possible reason: it's not news; it's infotainment, and it's not even good infotainment. TODAY has turned into an idiocracy fest. GOOD MORNING AMERICA is more like Good Morning, Fantasyland. CBS is the only one out there actually showing news in the morning, and thankfully, our local station, WCCO, has held to their model. With about a quarter of the happy-talk on the other local stations, 'CCO concentrates on news, weather, and traffic, the BIG THREE in Minnesota. That I watch while I'm getting ready for work. Notice I don't even mention Fox. No reason to. We're talking about news. 

Frankly, I miss J. Fred Muggs and the Today show anchor desk. They had a whole lot more gravitas than the current crew. 

Let's not even talk about the prime time news shows. NBC's DATELINE is visual click-bait. 60 Minutes does more than its fair share of populist baloney and they can be pretty dodgy on their own. And the serious stuff is soooooooo dramatic. What ever happened to good story telling? 

NEWS HOUR on PBS is the only evening news program worth the time. In fact, most of the history and documentary programs on PBS are worth watching. See, they deal in facts. That's refreshing. You can learn something watching actual fact-filled stuff. 

Meanwhile, what I really want are happy endings. I want people falling in love, struggling a bit with the process, then happily ever after. I know that's not real, but that's not the point. 

The point is that in the car this afternoon, I was listening to an analysis of the INF's demise. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces agreement was the last of the Cold War treaties, and one that has held up for quite a while. The US accuses Russia of being out of compliance, and Russia says everyone else is, too....while moving on to Instagram as their social media of choice for electoral interference. 

In Texas, a judge has ruled the ACA totally unconstitutional and says everything must be peeled back. The stock market continues its plummet. Carbon emissions are expected to reach a new high in 2018. 85,000 children may have already died of starvation in Yemen and the executive branch of our government continues to support Saudi Arabia. Of course, 85,000 is a lot more than one kid who dies from dehydration and starvation in ICE custody but the loss of that child is no less important or painful as the others who have died in war. Which the border really is, if you really wanna know.  Just another war zone. 

As if the unnecessary death of children due to starvation is just another day in the office for Feckless Leader, he says he's shutting down the government because they won't give him his wall. Oh, for pity's sake, do us all a favor: just take your baseball bat and go home.

So I watch sappy, overwrought Hallmark channel to escape. Escape the fears I have for my kids. The fears I have for my grandkids. I worry about war, the environment, and antisemitism. I constantly ask myself is being Jewish is putting a target on all our backs? We are way too many steps into that parallel universe of 1930s Nazism. Didn't the Jews of Germany say, "Oh, no, it can't happen here. We're part of the fabric of our society?"

Now that I have depressed everyone into Hallmark and insensibility, let me leave you with my current ear worm:

There's a holdup in the Bronx, 
Brooklyn's broken out in fights. 
There's a traffic jam in Harlem 
That's backed up to Jackson Heights. 
There's a scout troop short a child, 
Khrushchev's due at Idlewild 
Car 54, Where Are You? 

Clap if you know what Idlewild is. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
If you like a good cry at the end of Christmas movies,
the WP highly recommends LOVE, ACTUALLY
THE HOLIDAY isn't bad either. 
Both are pretty funny, too. 

Monday, December 10, 2018

No Smocking Guns Allowed On These Premises

There were a few skeptics out there who said they never heard of a Hanukkiah and that the candle-holder thingee is a menorah. For the last time: it is not a menorah. Even my 4-year old granddaughter, the brilliant and mathematically advanced Little Miss, when explaining Hanukkah to her cousins, said 
...and then we light all the candles in the Hanukkiah because tonight is the last night. 
If Little Miss knows it's a Hanukkiah, trust me, it's a Hanukkiah. Now that we have that straightened out...

Bill Bramhall / Tribune Content Agency/ 12/09/18
I still don't feel much like writing about politics. The president continues to embarrass the nation with his tweets. As his non-existent business empire continues to implode, revealing more and more heinous business dealings, crimes, and felonies, and the White House staff keeps exiting at a furious pace, there isn't much to say about it.  I may not have liked George H.W. Bush as president, but watching everyone fall over themselves praising his statesmanlike behavior is a greater indictment of what we have...or don't have... now rather than how it actually was under 41. Even 43 came off as a gentleman-in-mourning. When the nation suddenly views the Bushes as model Americans, you know something is not quite right.

Personally, I long for a family like the Obamas: a loving couple, seemingly normal kids, no adulterous scandals, smart people responding appropriately. I don't have to agree with everything they do or say, but I want people with grace, elegance, and good manners occupying the White House. They do happen to represent our nation in public. 

Instead of  moronic, misspelled tweets, I would settle for a single, cogent thought that considers the state of the world. Is that asking so much from a world leader? Apparently, it is. 

The Mueller investigation appears to be heading into the final stretch. I'm not crazy about the idea of impeachment if only because Pence, that right-wing, not-so-closeted Nazi would become president. All of them belong in jail: Feckless, his traitor-tots (Junior, Eric, Ivanka, and Jared,) his campaign committee, and even some of his robber baron cabinet appointees. They all need to be fitted for orange jumpsuits... with lovely smocking, of course.

We have become an international joke, a laughing stock on a world stage where once our commitment to science and technology was a lamp to the world. Instead, we embraced fossil fuel usage today, and we were mocked for it at the U.N. conference on climate change currently taking place in Katowice, Poland. 

The stock market is not winning. The employees of GM are not winning. The earth is not winning. What happened to all that winning Feckless promised we were going to have? By the way,  he can get you a great deal on a bridge in Brooklyn.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
There is a spell checker on Twitter, 
but it kinda assumes you know what you're talking about.

Monday, December 3, 2018

They Tried To Kill Us. We Won. Let's Eat.

Something about that meme struck me. Perhaps it's the reduction of the concept to standing on a single foot. Or maybe it's the juxtaposition of ancient and modern. Whatever it is, on a very gut level it's ultimately very wrong.

Hanukkah is not much of a religious holiday. It's more political than anything else, miracle of the lasting lights not withstanding. So, here's the short version of what happened. 

They tried to kill us. We won. Let's eat. 

Okay, that's a little too flip. Let's try a slightly longer version. Here's a brief academic timeline from Wikipedia:
  • 168 BCE: Under the reign of Antiochus IV, the second Temple is looted, Jews are massacred, and Judaism is outlawed.[50]
  • 166 BCE: Mattathias dies, and Judah takes his place as leader. The Hasmonean Jewish Kingdom begins; It lasts until 63 BCE.
  • 165 BCE: The Jewish revolt against the Seleucid monarchy is successful in recapturing the Temple, which is liberated and rededicated (Hanukkah)
Add to that the idea that there are sources who suspect Antiochus IV was really trying to quash an internal civil war between the Maccabean Jews and the more Hellanized Jews and got caught in the middle. Extrapolate, kids. Sound a little familiar, does it?????

Unlike the High Holy Days of the Fall, plus Sukkot (Tabernacles,) Pesach (Passover,) and Shavuot (Pentecost,) all of which appear in the Torah and have work prohibitions (as in observant Jews go to synagogue, not work nor school) Hanukkah does not have that same status. Since it's not in the Torah, and not recorded into the canon until quite late, there are some Jews, like Beta Israel of Ethiopia, who are Biblical Jews or Pre-Rabbinic Jews, who were unaware of anything after Written Law (Torah) until modernity stepped in. But I digress. This holiday is unlike the others. It's about a revolt, a political and military victory, and it's about reunification of Jews in Jerusalem. It's a holiday of re-dedication. 

There are a couple of big take-aways from this story. 
The Merneptah Stele

  1. The first is that all this happened at the Second Temple... before Jesus was born and long before Mohammed was born. Which kinda reinforces the idea that Jews were living there, building there, worshiping there, and periodically operating their own country there in between invasions, exiles, and assorted disasters. This little stele is from the the Iron Age, circa 1209 B.C.E and is the earliest recorded use of the word ISRAEL to define a separate nation. We've been around the neighborhood for a while.
  2. They did try to kill us and we won. Now, it's entire possible there was an internal struggle going down at the same time, but have you ever known Jews not to argue amongst themselves? You've heard the old joke, two Jews, three they can both agree they'd never set foot in. This kind of fight, however, was more serious. It also makes me wonder if this particular fight will ever end. It's still going on, in different forms, today. In Israel. But that's another story.
If you want to understand Hanukkah, you have to stop thinking there's some kind of equivalency with Christmas. There isn't. They only thing they have in common is the date, the 25th of the month. Hanukkah falls in the 25th of Kislev. It predates "December," even though both are winter months. 

Spoils of Jerusalem, Arch of Titus, circa 82 CE
This is a menorah from the Temple with 7 branches.
If you're lighting a Hanukiah (that thing most people incorrectly call a menorah,) you are marking the time when the Second Temple was taken back from the Greeks and rededicated. This is a joyous time, but it doesn't hurt to consider how this observance came to be. We are celebrating freedom from tyranny...albeit temporarily...and we are celebrating self-determination. We are standing tall as Jews. Period. We are what we are. Jews have spent TWO millennia fighting off attempts to assimilate us into the collective. And when we didn't eagerly assimilate, they stuffed us in ghettos and gas chambers. 

The hanukiah from Grandma Sarah
and Grandpa Moishe's house.
I am generation 3. 
If you're lighting a Hanukiah because you are observing Hanukkah, it's because you are the product of generations of people who refused to give in. Don't just light it because you think you're supposed to. Light it to be proud of the strength of will and lineage that has gotten you to this moment. 

If you're lighting a Hanukiah because you think this is some sort of symbolic Jew thing your grandmother said you should always do, well, you're right. It is symbolic. But consider this: does being a Jew mean anything to you?

Maybe this year, instead of going through a rote ritual, you'll pause to consider why you're lighting those candles in the first place. 

Did the Jews of Germany and Austria even had the same thoughts? Was there a moment they knew they were in trouble? When they lit their Hanukiahs, did it ever occur to them that this was an act of defiance? I know it did later, in the ghettos and the camps, but when the storm clouds were on the horizon, did anyone recognize them for what they were?

If you are a Jew and are not lighting a Hanukiah this year, for whatever reasons, it does not absolve you from being one of us. When push comes to shove, you'll still be considered a Jew. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
You didn't have to agree with President George H.W. Bush's policies,
(I sure didn't)
but he was a class act. 
Maybe the last of his kind. 

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Handmaid's Christmas

When I saw Melania's Christmas display at the White House, I once again had the sense that this woman is way smarter than most people give her credit for. 

Those red trees are pretty scary. What do they represent? Primal fear? Pain? Menstruation? Afterbirth....or abortion? 

Before I could even begin doctoring that picture, lots of people did it for me. This construction was so clearly homage to The Handmaid's Tale that you have to be living in an alternative universe not to see it. The color, the line-up, the slightly bowed trunks....none of this is random. And the intent was for everyone to see the obvious.

Melania, a model and media savvy woman, did not miss the cultural implication of this scene. The rest of the White House could be decorated like the Nutcracker Suite, but this corridor is a veritable birth canal. She wants everyone to get the picture. But it's the picture she wants us to get, not the one her husband thinks she broadcasting. 

Face it, folks, Melania is admitting she is married to a monster. She recognizes the self-inflicted aspect as fully as she understands that her husband is a hate-mongering neo-fascist. The selection of red is not lost on her audience. Most will get it. The others will be repulsed, but I'm thinking that's okay, too. Those are the Wives and Aunts of Gilead who do not want to see what is in front of them. I would be you a buck Melania has watched the series and totally gets it. 

The messages aren't particularly subtle. She sent one with the "I don't care" coat. She did it in a Valentino dress by designer Pierpaolo Piccioli, a well-known critic of her husband. She did it with a spanking white pith helmet in Africa, a fashion symbol of colonialism and oppression. She did it with the white outfit at the State of the Union, the color worn by Suffragettes. The woman is a fashion model. She knows how to use clothes to get the message out there. She doesn't have to talk; she just has to pose.

At the same time, Melania has no Beauty and the Beast scenario going down. Her monster is not going to transform into a kind, handsome prince at the end of the story. Nor is she is Andromeda chained to a rock awaiting her fate in the jaws of Cetus; there is no Perseus racing to her rescue. She has scripted this horror story herself and she knows it. She's too far in to escape now. All she can do is telegraph to the world that she has no hope.

Christmas is such a visible time for a stunt like this. White House decorations are usually a national love-fest for the first family, when politics are set aside in favor of holiday spirit. The president does not know how to do this. His thankfulness statement from his Thanksgiving dinner makes you wonder what the guy really thinks:
...For having a great family, and for having made a tremendous difference in this country. I’ve made a tremendous difference in the country. This country is so much stronger now than it was when I took office that you wouldn’t believe it
He shoulda stopped at "great family" and left it at that. 

Meanwhile, back at the border,  U.S. Army Lieutenant General Jeffrey Buchanan, the guy heading up troop placement down there says his guys are just about done with their mission, scheduled to end December 15th anyway. Gen. Buchanan confirmed the military rejected a request from the Department of Homeland Security for an armed force to back up Border Patrol agents. 
That's a law enforcement task and the Secretary of Defense does not have that the authority to approve that inside the homeland.
Can it be any clearer? He expects the troops to be home by Christmas. Of course, that could change if the Mexican government attacks the US. ...

Or Feckless Leader attacks them first.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
It appears to be open season on Jews.
Be careful out there.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Greetings from Lollipop Farm

My dad left the building here in St. Paul 3 years ago. I still have trouble reconciling the fact that my folks are gone, and I guess this is pretty normal stuff. But he died on Thanksgiving night, and this year, his yahrzeit begins on Wednesday at sundown and runs until Thursday at sundown. Almost a lunar and solar match. Almost. Not quite. 

I've been thinking about Thanksgiving with my dad. When we were little and still living in Bayside, he would hustle us into the car to get away from the Wrath of Mom who usually had at least three, maybe four knuckles jammed into her mouth as she panicked over having a houseful of people. His job was to get us outta the house, out from underfoot, and outta sight. My best memories of those escapes from Mom's kitchen perennially include Lollipop Farm out in the hinterlands of Long Island...although nowadays, Syosset is just another bedroom of the city. The had a miniature railroad and big, white, Long Island ducks that would grab your fingers along with the popcorn you held out. (Duck bites are not duck kisses no matter what Grandma Sarah told us.) But I digress. 

Those were great adventures. We laughed at escaping, we laughed at the ducks, we laughed at the cold. We rode the Lollipop Train. No kid knows it at the time, but when we get old, those parental moments... good or bad...are the moments that stick with us. Only you know which are which. They belong only to you.

Missing my folks these days is more about dealing with my own status change. When my Grandma Bessie died suddenly on the Sukkot right after my wedding, Mom (who lost her own dad at 14) turned to me at the graveside and said, "I'm an orphan now." I held her hand and mumbled something quasi-meaningful, but I didn't understand, not even when I said pretty much the same thing to my brother at Mom's funeral. This concept takes time to fully grok.

So it's three years without my dad and his pocketful of commas. I try not to think about the fragile old guy who faded way. I'd rather remember the guy arguing grammar with me on the phone, reviewing the daily word game from the NY Post on the 7 a.m. wake-up call, plotting ways to slip him the Final Jeopardy answer without Mom knowing, and laughing at Black Adder and Are You Being Served. 

But remembering is a lousy substitute for being part of a live group. The truth is that me and my gang are all the same age as the old people at the Survivor's Table at weddings and b'nei mitzvah. We are the Survivor's Table.. Yeah, we're in better shape, but we're still old people by comparison. We know we get humored more than we'd like to admit. And we remember the dead. That is part of living. 

As Thanksgiving swoops in this week, I am keenly aware that my dad died on Thanksgiving night. I am thankful I spent the afternoon reading his favorite English poets to him. I am eternally grateful that I had just escorted Mom to have a bite to eat but returned to be with him when he took his last breath. And when I went to tell Mom that Dad had gone on to Aunt Ruthie's (our euphemism for the world-to-come) without her, I think we were, in a strange way, relieved it was over. 

Mom followed a few months later, the week before Passover. Suddenly, there was no one to talk to about covering the counters. There was no one to talk to about lots of things. Nor would there be, ever again. There is no one who can answer that age old question, "What happened to Vanilla the rabbit?" Only my mother knew the real answer and she refused me. Even when I was 50. Parents are collective memory. When one goes, sometimes we get lucky and the remaining parent becomes the receptacle. You try to ask all the questions, but you won't remember all the answers. There is always something you forgot to ask. Holes are created that are never really filled. 

Not having Ziggy is an overwhelmingly huge hole. Even not having my gruff'n'grum FIL leaves an empty space. Holidays, Jewish or secular, tend to be long on memories; we miss the missing because we can no longer ask the question. 

This is not a unique experience. Everyone who lives goes through it in some fashion, and somehow we come out the other end. No two experiences are alike. No one can tell us how to process. No one does it better or worse. We just muddle through. It's part of living. No, actually, that's wrong;  it's part of surviving. 

Three years later, I get it.

I am an orphan, I am a widow, and in many, many small, fragile ways. I am alone. Don't get me wrong; I'm not complaining about being on my own, I rather like it, but there are moments when something funny happens and I'm the only one laughing. It doesn't mean I'm lonely, because I am not. It doesn't mean I don't have people in my life, because I do. I have kids and grandkids, and thank G-d, they have their own lives and mishugas. They don't need mine. If Ziggy and I raised them even remotely right, they are kind, respectable people. More importantly, they are independent. This is important. 

Still, every so often I wonder if I don't wake up in the morning, how long until someone notices I didn't show up for something? 

I don't know of a single widow who hasn't wondered the same thing. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Of The People, By The People, For The People

Well, by now, everyone knows the outcome. Angie Craig is our new representative in Congress. Jason Lewis blamed John McCain for the significant losses handed to the GOP...on Veterans' Day, no less. Don't get me started. 

And now, as of a few minutes ago, it looks like Krysten Sinema is the new senator from Arizona. There are still serious counting events taking place in Georgia and Florida. What most people manage to forget is that the tally on election night is only a projection; actual counting takes several days, even more if there are lots of absentee/mail-type ballots to be counted. I don't think any elections are certified on Election Day or the morning after. Hell, Al Franken's election wasn't certified until June 30th, 2009.
I can't die yet. Al hasn't been certified. I'm gonna hang on 'til then. I can't die not knowing."                                            Ziggy, June 1, 2009 (he didn't make it)

I was at Angie's gathering on Tuesday night after the polls closed. We were hoping for a victory party, but there were no guarantees. There were moments when Lewis was ahead, albeit never by very much. At the end, Angie won by a statistically significant margin. Not an overwhelming mandate, but enough to solidly trounce the Invisible Congressclown. I was relieved more than anything else. 

The one thing Angie and her campaign did that was significant to me was that they kept it simple and kept it clean. The negative ads you saw about her opponent were not coming from Angie's team....and I don't want to talk about those. I want to talk just a little about why I think Angie won. It was because she was present. The focus of this campaign, at least from my perspective, was outreach to the district. After 2 years of not one public town hall meeting, Angie and her team were in every city, every town, every village LISTENING to the constituency. In a time of tariffs and turmoil, she and her team weren't talking; they were listening. And people responded to that. BIG TIME. Over and over that night, as I talked to people from all over CD2, I heard the same thing: 
She was in our face asking us to talk. No one ever did that before.
I did not realize until days later what I had actually heard. I don't know how I missed it or how anyone else was missing it until I started to think about this week's blog and what I really wanted to write about. I was thinking about how we can take our democracy back. How we can bring to fruition the understanding that our Constitution is in jeopardy. How can we go back to being We, The People instead of this fractured, fractious mob scene calling for blood. Someone said it, I was sure, much better than I ever could. And he did. At Gettysburg:
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.                                                                                  Abraham Lincoln ~ November 19, 1863
That was not quite 155 years ago. Right now, we don't have just war dead, we have children dead, civilian dead, police dead, minority dead, immigrant dead...but they are just as dead as the Civil War dead. Nothing is going to  bring them back.

Just like nothing is going to least for the foreseeable future...what is coming out of the White House. We can continue to give it column inches and let the current administration yank our chains and sow seeds of division, derision, and discontent, or we can refuse to give them the platform they desperately want. If our newly elected House of Representatives would turn inward into the chamber, toward the tasks at hand that require a unified, united front; then perhaps we have a chance of staving off a complete fall off the world stage. 

Maybe the Democrats have given the sane Republicans a golden opportunity to salvage themselves. They can concentrate on having a joint congress instead of a divided one. Use the new Democratic majority to gently move back to the center where the rhetoric is not so irate. Figure out what everyone can agree on, and learn from the shift that took place on Election Day. Let the change of House colors foster a new sense of cooperation.

End of kumbaya moment. 

And now, back to our regularly scheduled real life. 

  1. Israel and Gaza are at it again. Casualties on both sides.
  2. Forests and towns are burning in California. 
  3. Migrant children are still warehoused in "facilities."
  4. The president is calling on the state of Florida to stop counting the votes and ignore incoming military/absentee overseas ballots. 

Which one of above constitutes a Constitutional crisis?

If we really want to see change, we need to let our newly elected/re-elected congressclowns know we weren't kidding in the last go 'round. It cannot be business as usual. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Remember, kiddies, the 2020 election begins now.

Monday, November 5, 2018

There Are Plenty of Words

Photo courtesy of
Sally Lorberbaum
First it was "thoughts and prayers." Now, it's "there are no words....."  

Actually, there are lots of words to describe what happened in Pittsburgh last Shabbat. So many words, that surely a million miles of shelf space is occupied with all those words. Some are ancient, some medieval, some modern, But there are a gazllions words wasted on explaining Pittsurgh and similar events when a single word works quite well: antisemitism. That's the only word you need for this heinous act. When someone shouts "All Jews must die!" while shooting up a sanctuary during Shabbat service, antisemitism is the only world that fits. And the act the word denotes has been around a long, long time. 

May 17, 1934 ~ New York City
Madison Square Garden
from the Bettman Archive
The Amalekites practiced it in the desert. The Babylonians practiced it. The Romans practiced it. The British, the Spanish, the French, the Italians, and the Germans all practiced it. And the Americans have practiced it for years in this republic. Don't think for a New York moment that it was not practiced here. Antisemites and the New Germany true believers rallied at Madison Square Garden. And they even rose for the Nazi salute in little North Bellmore, New York, where our synagogue was built over the site of a tavern that hid in its basement a treasure trove of Nazi regalia. 

Antisemitism ain't new. The difference right now is that there is a documented upsurge in the number of antisemitic  acts over the course of the last six months. And lots of words are being written about that. And now our countrymen are rising to the silent call to take up arms once more.

Did you know private militias are heading to the Mexican border to "help" the troops sent by Feckless Leader? What surprises you more....that there are private militias in this country, or that they are on their way to the border?

Our very own Feckless Leader, so well known for his masterful way with words, used these in Montana over the weekend: 
                     Barbed wire used properly can be a beautiful sight.

Like this?
Child survivors of Auschwitz in 1945 

Or this?
Otero County Prison in Chaparral, New Mexico,where immigrant 
mothers have been detained by the United States government.
Photograph by Philip Montgomery for The New Yorker

So when you go to the polls tomorrow, 
  • vote as if it's your child or your spouse behind those wires
  • vote as if you are a new immigrant
  • vote as if you are from Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh
  • vote as if you are gay
  • vote as if you are trangender
  • vote as if you are Black
  • vote as if you are Latino
  • vote as if you are a member of the free press
  • vote as if you are not afraid of huddled masses yearning to breathe free
Most importantly, vote as if the heart and the very soul of this nation depends on your vote.


The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Hang it. It's almost over.