Monday, March 30, 2020

To Breathe... Or Not To Breathe

Well, it's been a whole week since I retired and I'm still breathing. This is a good thing. Actually, it's a really good thing. I did not know I could de-stress as fast as I did in the middle of a pandemic coupled with an economic crisis. Who knew just leaving my job would cure a multitude of neuroses? Okay, I like to think they are cured, but maybe not. What they're not doing is keeping me up at night. I'm sleeping like the dead. It's great.

That said, I did manage to see one or two things that set my teeth on edge today. Considering I have pretty much turned off the news...or at least I'm keeping my viewing time down to a minimum, it's amazing I notice anything at all. However, every time Feckless opens his mouth, I just want to barf. There are days I seriously wonder why any news station broadcasts that stream of garbageness. 

As a theater director, I used to get paid to put people on a stage delivering lines in such a way that you believed they were the characters they were playing. This was the most important aspect of my job. YOU, the audience, had to believe them, the ACTORS. The operative word in that sentence is ACTOR. Actors, lest you forget, are people who do make-believe for a living. It's their job to make you believe. For the record, all those reality shows aren't all really all that real. Even the regular people become ACTORS playing a part whether they're surviving on an island, sewing a ball gown for the Met Gala, cooking Victoria Sponge, picking a date, or attempting to run a small business. There are scripts. There are edits. There is spin. It is not real as you and I know about real.

Bad actor
The jackass on THE APPRENTICE pretended he was a real successful billionaire boss guy, but pretty much everyone knew it was a fake; he was an expert at facade and charade, but not much a businessman because he was constantly stiffing his workers and declaring bankruptcy. He would sit at that table and make pronouncements that were fed to him before announcing, "You're Fired!" It was a game show; it wasn't real. And frankly, he was bad at delivering his lines.

Through the miracle (?) of television and some kind of hive mentality, people voted to have this schmuck run the country. Maybe they thought it would be amusing. Maybe they thought everyone would win some version of Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes. Maybe they thought he would tell everyone the secret of how to be a billionaire. And now we've got ourselves a feckless leader with no more of an idea about how to run a real-life nation than he has about how to run a pretend board room.

The short course is that he's a fraud, a phony, a snake-oil salesman, and worst of all, a liar.

By the way, I can teach you how to tell when he's shoveling manure: his lips are moving. Seriously, here's the tell: if his voice is flat and sounds like a bad actor reading lines, he's reading something he has been given and he neither understands nor believes it. His hands are on down, usually on the podium, as are his eyes, and his lips are slightly pursed even while reading. As soon as his eyes come up for more than a glance, the hands begin to move, he's clearly off script and he's spewing bullshit. There is no half-way. The man has no filtering mechanism for his mouth and whatever he thinks of flows forth regardless of veracity. There is a clear physical disconnect between fiction and factual statements with this guy and you have to be unconscious not to notice.

But I suspect I'm not telling you anything new. 

Now, however, We, the People, are faced with something horrific happening within our borders. You read the news. I'm not going to rehash the numbers or tell you anything new about how to prevent becoming a COVID-19 statistic. There are people much better qualified than I am to tell you about that. But what I want to warn you all about is the quiet, subversive danger our nation is facing because We, the People, didn't pay attention.

Corona virus was an issue that was ignored at the end of 2019. Hell's bells! I even knew about it because I sent clients to China for business and in very early January, word was coming back that there was a new flu in China. One of my travelers canceled a trip because, as he told me, 
they said not to come; there's some kinda bird flu going around and it's really contagious. I don't have to go now; I can wait a while. 
I remember what he said because he sounded really concerned, that this was something we should know about. I did some checking because I had other people going back and forth to China, and some Chinese clients coming to the States. What I read was not nearly as alarming as it should've been. I put it on my "things to watch for" list and promptly set it to one side with the other travel warnings on my desk. But I'm not the government or the CDC or even someone who plays a doctor on TV; I was just the travel counselor who booked the trip. I kept an eye out for more information. There wasn't much at that time.

If I knew it was out there, why didn't the people who were supposed to be watching for this stuff know it was out there or do anything about it? 

They did know. It wasn't a secret. And they might've been able to do something about it had it not been immediately politicized. But it was. The White House called it a hoax. They accused this one and that one of blowing it out of proportion when they should've been putting the mechanisms to stop it into place. The lack of action followed by the stream of lies delayed real action. And that hasn't stopped. Hundreds of people are dying, and the president says governors should treat him better if they want ventilators. Really?

It’s a two-way street, they have to treat us well also. They can’t say, Oh gee we should get this, we should get that. We’re doing a great job. Like in New York where we’re building as I said, four hospitals…we’re literally building hospitals and medical centers, and then I hear there’s a problem with ventilators, well we sent them ventilators and they could have had 15 or 16,000, all they had to do was order them two years ago but they decided not to do it, they can’t blame us for that.                                                                                                                          Feckless Leader on Fox News 3/24/20

All they had to do was order them 2 years ago. Sure.

No matter what the president or the White House thinks, this isn't going away like a miracle when the weather warms up. We will be in limited social contact for some time.  The number of people who have applied unemployment benefits is staggering. The number of Americans out of work is expected to reach the Great Depression levels by June.   
Businesses will fail, many will never come back. While other nations are protecting their workers' salaries, our government is sending out checks for $1200.00. Can that possibly be enough to pay for health insurance or medical bills when laid off people get sick? We have no national health insurance. People will die because of that alone.

The reality we are facing is not pretty. It will get harder before it gets easier again, and when it gets easier, it's not going to be like it was. Instead of having a leader who stands with us and for us, we have a coward and a liar. And he will still be in office come November, because the odds of We, the People, actually having even having a presidential election in the fall grows slimmer by the day. 

LOGAN'S RUN: Last Day - Renewal
I have no idea when it will end, let alone how it will end, but I do know that the United States of America is standing at a philosophical precipice and We, the People, are peering over the edge. Some jackass Lt. Governor in Texas thinks We, the Grandparents, should do a Logan's Run Lastday renewal routine and just allow ourselves to die for the sake of the economic revival. Sure. Let me get my hemlock out of the freezer. The decisions we will make for ourselves and our families will ultimately determine who is left standing and I get that. That doesn't mean we lie down and die.

Meanwhile, I'm gonna do what I can to keep standing. You see, I've got lots of stories and adventures yet to share with Little Miss and Young Sir. I don't think I'm ready to lie down to die quite yet.

Besides... I 'm not gonna let that prick president sit in the White House without a fight.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
When you get home from shopping, 
(and you will need to go to the store at some point)
let the groceries sit for a bit.
Strip down and get the clothes you wore into the store
into the washer.
Then wash your hands thoroughly with soap,
then your face and exposed ears. 

Monday, March 23, 2020

To Boldly Go...

Today is the first real day of my new life. You see, gentle readers, I retired on Friday. A little ahead of schedule, but more about that in a bit.

Schwaidelson survivors 1962
Yes, COVID-19 played a part in the decision. As the Junior Son readily pointed out, "You are elderly. You shouldn't be going into the office!" Talk about a slap in the face. I have never considered myself "elderly" even when I use my AARP discount card. I'm not spry or sprightly or any of those other condescending words used to describe old folks. Nope, I'm just regular even if at the last family function I attended I was seated at the "survivors' table." You know which one that is. Every catered affair has at least one. 

Simon survivors 1962
I used to look at those pictures and think How old you all are! Now, I look at them and try not to faint as I think, My G-d! I'm older than you are in this picture! I have great memories of these people, but I remember them as really old. Granted, I was 10 when these were taken, but even so, the alteh kockers moved slowly and carefully. None of them looked like they were ready to sign up to visit the pyramids or the Taj Mahal....except for the lady seated at the far right in the Simon survivor table. She was a globe-hopper. Twenty years later, she was an octogenarian hiking her way around the pyramids before visiting her granddaughter in Israel. And her daughter, now an octogenarian herself, just got back from Egypt in time for the plague here. Earlier in the year, she had been bouncing around India.  Her nonagenarian sister is still driving and there is no reason for her not to drive. And she just cancelled a trip to Israel because of the plague. 

Which only goes to prove just because you're older, you don't have to be old. Sorta.

I'm the only widow amongst my ring of first cousins; everyone else is married or in a committed relationship. From my folks' generation, there are only two remaining aunts: my dad's younger sister and my mom's younger sister-in-law, both over 90 with no serious indications they are slowing down any time soon. Neither one is are particularly least in my thinking. One has a great pair of pins, and Lord knows, she still knows how to cut a rug! The other one just got her first SUV. I say first, because I suspect she'll get another one when this lease is up. No shit. If I get to be that old, I wanna be that old just like my aunts. 

Still, according to the CDC I am elderly and should shelter at home. 

The boys were a little perturbed I was going into the office. There was a general consensus hemming and hawing on the phone about how I should be sheltering at home and staying out of public places. I was reminded I still take drugs for breast cancer, although my oncologist says my immune system is fine. And the word of restructuring to deal with a new economic reality was filtering through the office. 

Okay, I get it. Which is why I moved up my retirement date.

The real reason I retired on Friday instead of waiting for my original date later in the year had to do with the fallout from the Corona virus, but it was not about me. It was about my team at work. You see, there are only 3 of us. My two teammates are not close to retirement age. I am. Removing me from the group early might mean those two will go on working since one already works from home, and the other will begin to work from home this week. I quietly told my teammates and my boss I was pulling the plug. And I told them why. A whole lotta thought did not have go into this decision. It was, quite simply, the right thing to do. 

And so, I am now retired. 

Ugh. I hate that word. I'm not retired; I am set to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no one has gone before... Oh wait, that's Star Trek. But it's also me. I will do all those things. 

What it doesn't mean is that this blog is going away. Or that I will stop editing my new novel. Or that I'm getting a new rocking chair any time soon. (I already have the one from nursing kids, thank you very much.) It simply means after morning minyan, I'll go walking with my friends before I sit down to write.  

And I'll finally get to play in a regular afternoon mah jongg game... as soon as the plague is over. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Since everyone keeps calling to ask about my first day of the rest of my life,
I can safely tell you it wasn't much different from the old life: 
I kept answering the phone.
If you want to check up on me...send an email. 
I promise you will get an answer. 

Monday, March 16, 2020


I love daffodils. I do. I cannot help myself. It's not just the color or the graceful way they unfurl from their paperish cocoons. It's not the scent or the shape or anything prosaic. It's the whole package. 

Whether you call them daffydills or laffodils, it doesn't much matter. They are just happy. You just cannot be sad if daffodils are smiling, can you? 

And I'm calling this episode Daffodils because if I called it More Depressing News About COVID-19 you wouldn't read it. At this point, neither would I. 


In case anyone doesn't know, my crummy day job is in the travel industry, specifically, corporate travel. Yes, I was there for 9/11. I was at my desk for the great Icelandic Volcano Cloud.  And I was even there for the recent Boeing debacle. 

This is different. 

How to spread a pandemic: DFW on Saturday
(Austin Boschen/AP)
A friend's daughter is in Australia on a fellowship studying bioengineering and thought she would come home before the travel ban was put in place. Her supervising professor strongly urged her to rethink that plan, explaining that if she got COVID-19, her options in Australia were far better organized than in the US. Then she saw pictures of Dallas Fort Worth Airport...she is staying in Australia. 

Another friend confirmed that, arriving from London at O'Hare on Sunday, they did nothing but ask how he felt. No temperature check, not even a question about whether he'd been to China or Italy. He knew a group on his flight had just come from Italy. There was no separation between passengers who "didn't feel well" and the rest of the crowd. He described it as "like landing in Mogadishu during the war, only Mogadishu was better organized."

People, this is a real pandemic. People don't have to die off in droves for this to be labeled as such. People only need to get sick. Yes, some do die, but the spread is what makes it a pandemic, not the death toll. This is about science, not opinion.

When the guy in charge announces he knows more about viruses than the scientists, and that he has a hunch it's all gonna blow over by April, you should be asking yourself some pretty serious questions about whether or not this guy is fit to lead this nation, keeping in mind he is the same guy who pushed out the pandemic response team. The people now running this show are not qualified in the field. They are amateurs and they have amply demonstrated their communal lack of understanding by not having adequate isolation plans in place for incoming passengers. How do you manage to excuse the excessive amount of bull-oney coming outta the White House being passed off as fact, when even the CDC 's Dr. Fauci is trying to spin it into some semblance of truth? You can't. There's gonna be a vaccine any day now? In your dreams. This is not Star Trek...there is no medical tricorder that's gonna give you the magic formula AND all the hypothetical test data after a few beeps and bleeps. Vaccines take time to develop, to test, and produce. Of course, if you think you can buy a scientist from Germany...

Where exactly does that leave We, the People?

Unemployed for a lot of us. Millions of "hospitality" workers are losing their jobs. These are not people with trust funds or a year's salary in the bank as back up. These are the hourly people: the food service workers across the boards, the hotel housekeepers, the airport shop clerks, all those invisible people who make our world run smoothly. They may get unemployment,  but will that keep a roof overhead, food on the table, or medicine in the cabinet? There will be hard choices to make in offices where hours are cut, salaries are cut, and unpaid leaves will be offered in hopes of a call back to work when the crisis is over. Did you happen to consider what happens to those people when they can no longer afford to keep that roof overhead? It's all well and good to say, "Hunker down and ride this out," but what if your hunker zone disappears? 

I guarantee there will be a sharp rise in homelessness. There will be increased domestic and child abuse. Poverty and hunger are real and they are about to get even more real. 

The arts will take a huge beating as well. Shuttered little theaters mean actors aren't paid and neither are musicians. Closed bars and music clubs means those performers get nothing at all. Artists and artisans cannot sell their work, and income streams dry up. Many do not even qualify for unemployment. What happens to them?

We are at a tragic crossroad in our nation. We have hard decisions to make, and we cannot make them based solely on our personal existence. Looking at the BIG picture is not an option; it is a necessity. Those of us who can help must. Banding together to help others survive is the most important act we can do. There are dozens of small things that add up to keep hope alive. Here are a scant few:
  • Find someplace that is making lunches for kids who qualified for free lunch programs. Those kids may not be eating without those meals. Support them with cash, or, if you're healthy, with your gloved hands.
  • Buy staples and donate to food shelves. Every city will need additional free food supplies.
  • Get take out from restaurants that are still cooking. That will help keep some food service workers employed
  • Buy gift cards for local enterprises, restaurants, and events. That revenue helps to keep them afloat. 
  • If you have tickets to canceled local events, don't request a refund; donate the money to the arts organization instead. 
Enough little things add up. You may be quarantined or self-isolating, but that's no reason to do nothing.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Domino effects eventually affect everyone.
Help slow the domino effect,
be proactive.

Monday, March 9, 2020

The Art of Persisting...And Then Some

Sunday was International Women's Day. As far as I am concerned, EVERY day is women's day. Every day is a struggle against sexism for every woman on this planet whether she notices it or not. Chances are, though, she notices... whether she is striding down 5th Avenue in a pair of impossibly high heels on her way to her CEO job, trekking across the Gobi with a yurt on her camel, changing hotel bed linens in Delhi, or standing naked in a slave market in Afghanistan. Yup, it's a pretty safe bet that any woman who breathes can tell you about sexism. 

Pervasive, pernicious, problematic...pathetic...take your pick. There isn't a pretty word out there for how sexism plays out in our matter where you are walking. The perception of sexism and what it does to women directly may vary from place to place, but the objectification of women has the same impact no matter how it is practiced: it asserts that gender determines the treatment of a person. This far along in human history, we should be past that. Well past that. 

I get it that in ancient Egypt, queens were not perceived the same way as kings even if there were a couple of queens in there that surpassed all expectations in leadership. I totally understand Queen Eleanor (of whom I am terribly fond) ruled rather successfully in the name of the king while her idiot son, King Richard was running amok on a crusade. And I certainly understand Queen Elizabeth I, Golda Meir, and Maggie Thatcher were all rather good at their jobs, whether or not I agreed with them or not. So, women wielding power is not exactly unknown, much less news.  But it is.

Interestingly, I just got home from shul. Tonight is erev Purim, the holiday that celebrates Queen Esther's triumph over the evil Haman. It's a raucous, joyous night, with costumes, dancing, and mishloach manot. it's like the anti-Halloween...we don't go around asking for treats, we go around giving treats anonymously.

Now, the Book of Esther itself is a bit of a conundrum, being that G-d is never mentioned... which is pretty radical for a book in the Bible. The bottom line, however, is that this is a story about women and power. Queen Vashti refuses to break the law even though her husband, King Achashverosh, ordered her to appear before his courtiers so they could admire her beauty. Lots of theories on that, mostly having to do with her appearing "unveiled," and Lord knows how much was to be unveiled is not specified, but she ended up getting disappeared. Her replacement, chosen through a bizarre series of beauty contests, was Esther, a nice Jewish girl, who finds herself not just in the king's bed, but adored enough to become his queen consort. If you don't know what happened after that, read the book. It's short. 

To be sure, she became queen and used the power of that position to get what she wanted. Could she have done it without being Achashverosh’s bed mate? Probably not. The request is made, however, not between the sheets but in a semi-public forum which means that she had to be pretty confident she knew what she was doing before she made her requests. This takes a certain amount of smarts, understanding, and ability to frame the question that needed to be asked. Mordechai may have coached her, but she was the one taking all the chances. 

She persisted.

Acquisition of power is as important as power itself. If power is handed to you, meh. If you inherit it, double meh. But if you see the possibility, turn the possibility into opportunity, and take on the mantle of power itself, then it's the real thing. 

Great. In a perfect world that happens all time, right? No, it does not. Look at Malala Yousafzai. She was a girl who wanted to be educated, so a bunch of guys shot her in the head, only she didn't die. She healed up with a vengeance. For a 22-year-old, she is incredibly powerful because she at time when life was darkest, she saw there was possibility and made it an opportunity.  Even so, she is still fighting those who would see her silenced. 

She persisted and emerged stronger than anyone could imagine. 

Greta Thunberg was a kid with disabilities who found her voice...and boy, is it loud and clear. That she is a girl has made her the butt end of a lot of jokes that would never have been made if she had a penis. That has not stopped Greta from leading a global charge on behalf of the environment. No one handed her that ability. She saw the possibility and took the opportunity head on.

She is persisting as I write, and we are just so lucky that she is.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg persisted... and still does. 

Katherine Goble Johnson persisted...and they named a NASA building to make sure everyone else knew just how much she persisted.

Marie Curie thwarted at every grade level and right into the lab...persisted.

Amantine Lucile Dupin... changed her name to George Sand and persisted 

Ada Byron Lovelace persisted. A lot. 

I doubt any of these women would allow men to determine what was best for them or their bodies. I am equally certain every one of these women believed women were capable, sentient, intelligent begins who could accomplish goals on the same, even playing field as men. And none of these women would entertain the notion that the lack of a penis was an impediment to their success...but might agree not having one made life a bit more challenging.... not in a good way.

I will tell you without hesitation that the belief I could change the world came straight out of the Book of Esther. And it wasn't just Esther who got to me. It was Vashti, the queen that lost. Yeah, when I was little, she usually was portrayed as a bad egg, but I knew, the minute I could read the words for myself, she was brave, braver than Esther. She took the risk and lost, but in that losing, she paved the way for others, including Esther, to be brave enough to stand up. I wanted to be just like them.

Traditionally, we dress up in costumes for Purim, and mock everything in sight. We have fake newspapers, Purimspiels, but the older I get, the more I think that's the exact opposite of what Purim really is. Dressing up, even in the silliest of costumes, is a glimpse into the soul of the wearer. Maybe what we should be doing is dressing up for who we want to be and drawing strength from that admission. 

 The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Y'know how there's Mardi Gras and then Lent the next day?
Well, we Jews have Purim followed by the 30-day run up to Passover.
Folks: gird up your's time to start cleaning. 

Monday, March 2, 2020

Grated Oranges, Blood, and Covid-19

So, I was dancing around whether or not I would make hamantaschen this year. My familial duty overruled my desire to take a nap and I found myself doing a chore I rather enjoy: grating an orange. 

It's the smell. I know this. For years, it used to also be the smell of my blood on the ol'box grater because invariably, I grated my knuckles as well. I was slow to get a micro-plane because when it comes to kitchening, I lean toward old-fashioned. I tend to do things by hand. I use a stand-mixer instead of a food processor...which i don't even own any more. I like the aroma of spices I smash in a mortar with a pestle. I use the wooden rolling pin my Great-grandma Nechama brought with her from Russia. It's got a notch; it's dairy.

I am old fashioned enough to hope tomorrow I will cast my primary vote with the same kind of paper ballot we've been using here as long as I can remember. It's a piece of paper, you color in the circles, and the machine reads it. And if something goes wrong, it's easy enough to count those suckers by hand. 

Which they may have to do. With the mass exodus from the Democratic primary tomorrow, there are a whole lotta people in this state who voted early whose candidate has bailed...including the guy for whom I would probably have voted. So now, we're back to a bunch of old white guys, one seriously dynamic woman, and a certifiable nut job. Do I need to explain which is which? 

At a moment in our history, when we are faced with a pandemic heading toward us like an ocean wave, when we are faced with a president who has no clue as to the seriousness of such an event, when we are faced with news organs more interested in tweets than facts, serious Democrat contenders are bailing in favor of an old white guy who they think is "electable." Good ol'Uncle Joe is looking more like Grandpa Joe every day. Bernie looks like an old version of Bert, and behaves like a Muppet. And any hope of having a fresh perspective, a vigorous human, and someone who, like President Obama, can present a cogent, progressive vision to lead us out of the putrid morass in which we are standing...has vanished into three old white guys.

Meanwhile, back at the White House, the moronic brotherhood is busy back-slapping over this Afghanistan deal while the wheels are already coming off. I don't know who the more gullible people are in this deal, but it sure ain't the Taliban. These guys are gonna sign anything that gets the Americans out, and then they are gonna blow that government sky high and introduce a stricter, more militant version of sharia while they're banging their child-brides and selling their prisoners of war into slavery. That behavior isn't exaclty old news. These guys are not the stupid ones in this misadventure. All they have to do is sit back and wait. And you thought ISIS was bad. 
Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders – The most famous of which is “never get involved in a land war in Asia."   
For the record, Vizzini may have said it in The PRINCESS BRIDE, but the quote itself is attributed to multiple military thinkers, including Dwight D. Eisenhower. Not like any president has ever taken that particularly sage advice.  History cannot be undone, much less changed. As a result, we are damned if we leave and damned if we don't.

And this election is just like that. We are mired in a morass that seems to only deepen every time Feckless Leader's fingers touch phone keys, and there isn't a damn thing we can do about it. All indications are that, unless the Covid-19 pandemic proves to be horrendous here with people dying in droves (much like the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918,) the White House will continue to blame the Democrats for a health hoax as they are already doing. People are dying in Washington state. We are pretty sure community contagion is already happening in California. Hello? Anyone out there noticing?
On Wednesday, Alex Azar, President Trump’s secretary of health and human services, testified that he could not guarantee that a covid-19 vaccine would be made available to all Americans who need it. “We would want to ensure that we work to make it affordable,” he said, “but we can’t control that price, because we need the private sector to invest. The priority is to get vaccines and therapeutics. Price controls won’t get us there."                                                                                      The  Washington Post, March 2, 2020    
So, people, be prepared. Not everyone will get the vaccine because, after all, we are all subject to the laws of supply and demand. Supply the people with the money while the rest of us demand proper burial. 

Bring out your dead! Bring out your dead!

Take a moment to watch this. It's the best information on COID-19 out there. I'm not kidding: John Oliver: THIS WEEK TONIGHT on Corona Virus.

I will go to the polls tomorrow, but I have no idea who is gonna get my primary vote. I still suspect that if the Dems win the popular vote and/or the electoral college in November, Barr will set the election aside. I suspect that at this same time next year we will still have our own confederacy of dunces running the country. And the action's not going to be directed toward the good and welfare of We, the People. 

And now to clean up the kitchen where the aroma of hamantaschen lingers seductively. I may make ugly hamantaschen, but boy, are they good. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Gird up your loins, folks; the worst is yet to come.