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Groovy Granny’s Back-To-School Musings

It’s back to school for  my grandsons and that includes a couple of toddlers in playgroups, a kindergartener, first grader, a fourth grader and a fifth grader.

I remember those days back when I was in those classes and beyond. I recall the mix of emotions – from anticipation, worry, excitement, happiness to eagerness. I remember looking  forward to the daily music, art, lessons and new friendships. To the newness in everything.

Children’s Art

 

And today,  as a grandmother who doesn’t attend formal school anymore, I still can relate to every one of those feelings of going back to school. The newness and freshness of a back-to-school child are feelings I enjoy in my everyday life with all its mundaneness.

“Back to school” feelings don’t only belong to children who begin school each year. The feelings and experiences are universal to everyone in our everyday experiences, even grandmothers, bubbies and all of us in middle-aged years.

Here they are – the newness of our lives as groovy grandmas and groovy grownups.

  1. New Friends – Both online and in person I tend to collect friends and acquaintances.
  2. New Clothes – Ya, I buy those sometimes and it’s a great feeling.
  3. New Lessons – every failure and success is a chance to learn new lessons.
  4. New Classrooms – whether in the grocery store or at our computer, we create our virtual classrooms.
  5. New Teachers – I look to my friends, family, students and grandchildren as my mirror and teacher.
  6. New Books – We feel like we are inundated with reading material, but each day I try to weed out the relevant material and incorporate
  7. New Chances – Opportunities abound every day of our lives. Do we grab them or let them pass?
  8. New Games – Our leisure time is spent with games, laughter and fun. Or do we create unhealthy games to mask our true feelings in relationships?
  9. New Rules – We are continuously reconciling old and new rules and figuring things out.
  10. New Shoes – Who doesn’t love a new pair of shoes? Or two or three?

 

What are your Back-To-School Life experiences?

 

 


Farewell to Challah: An Open Letter

Dear Challah,

After many weeks of deliberating on my relationship with you, I’ve decided to say good-bye to you. I am putting this letter on a public forum in the hopes that others may also gain insight in what works for them.  I think it’s crucial that I finally address our co-dependent relationship. Hopefully, this will be the first step toward my recovery.

First, let me say that I appreciate all you have done for me over the years. Every Friday night at our Shabbat table, since my childhood, you’ve provided me with comfort, warmth and excellent taste. As my father would make the blessing on the bread with our entire family around the table, then cut you into even slices, and pass around a piece to each one of us, I’d wait with my mouth watering and eyes glazed with love.

Then, invariably, after everyone took their first bite, the compliments would flow. First my father would praise my mother for baking you so perfectly. My mother would smile and shrug, and kind of humbly say, “Oh it’s the new oven” or “It’s my friend’s recipe.” But we knew she was just being modest. You were great. Maybe she brought out the best in you, but still you were great and we all knew it.

Truth is, you were special and you excelled on your own, without anyone to help you out.  Your recipe was quite simple and accessible that when my mother bought me as a wedding gift a Kitchen Aid mixer, I learned quickly how to bake you almost as well as my mother.  Yea, I compared myself to my mother when around you, which was also a problem. But still, I felt good baking you so well and of course you were yummy to eat.

Your ingredients were so basic and earthly: flour, oil, eggs, salt, sugar, yeast. So even when you had a bad day and didn’t turn out as well as other times, you were still great to have around. Soft, sweet and tasty. The best comfort food around.

Over the years we’ve become attached at the hips – (mine, not yours).  I’d eat one piece, then two, then three. My mother would look at me with that expression of “control yourself, there’s a whole meal ahead of us.” But I was on a roll and I couldn’t stop. Back then, it didn’t matter that gefilte fish, chicken soup, brisket, salad, chicken and potato kugel were to follow. I wanted you and only you. I was willing to share my stomach with the others, but you came first.  Your aroma was enticing, your flavor and texture were wonderful. But you became addictive and  your calories were  way beyond my allotment for a meal.

These days I’ve evolved and have become more introspective than I was back in the day. But at some level, I’m still that little girl. I may tell myself that I’m big and grown-up and I can eat “just” one piece and stop. I may try to convince myself that “come on, just have the crust or end of a piece and stop right there.” And here’s the thing: I really like you. I think you are good.

But you don’t work for me. At least not right now. Dear Challah, no matter how many times I promise myself that I will just have one small challah roll (the equivalent of a few points on Weight Watchers) or just one end piece, I always go back for another. And another.

You’ve been calling my name for so long that I hear your voice calling out “Eat me, eat me…I’m here for you…” every week at our Shabbos table. I’m a mother and grandmother and I still find you very seductive.

I can no longer succumb. I have to say good-bye. Just as an addicted alcoholic says, “One drink is too many and a thousand is not enough….” I say the same about you.

“One slice is too many, and a thousand is not enough.” You are an addiction and I must let go.

A few weeks ago, I was at a wedding and a friend and we made a pact. We both promised ourselves that we would not eat the challah bread at the wedding. We were going to hold back, and just eat the meal. No challah for us. Well, it didn’t work. I found myself washing my hands, making the blessing and then eating it. I didn’t ask my friend if the pact worked for her, but for me, it was a no-go.

And so dear Challah, in spite of my efforts to cut down, to use portion control, to enlist a buddy to do it together, nothing has worked for me. Our relationship has become toxic.  We need a separation. I need to make that difficult decision to not even have a tiny piece of you. Because as much as you arouse those warm and fuzzy feelings of childhood, and as much as I adore you, our relationship is not working out well at this time.

I say this all with sadness. I admit you are delicious, charming, charismatic, warm and inviting, but I can no longer hang around you. Ironically, I can still eat your cousins – certain kinds of whole wheat breads and matzoh. For some reason, I am able to have them in my life in moderation. But not you.

You – my dear challah – I can no longer have you in my own life. Not for now.  Not when you’re clothed in whole wheat, spelt, white flour, or poppy seeds. Not your water recipe, nor your egg recipe. Not your raisin toppings, nor your sesame seed toppings. Not your round ones nor your oval shape.

None of you. I say good-bye.

Good-bye Challah. Farewell.

Your friend,

Miriam


My Expression of Gramma-Tude

Life is hard and complicated and I find myself complaining about stuff to my husband,  friend or two, relative, my mom,  sister(s), my husband (oh, did I mention him already?) or anyone who will listen.

But other times, I just feel a surge of gratitude for the blessings in my life. And at those times I write. This happened a few weeks ago when I wrote an article for Binah Magazine about my gratitude or “Gramma-tude” for my life as a grandmother.

And a special shout out to Ruchi Koval of  Outoftheorthobox.com, whose insight constantly inspires me, and whose anecdote is part of this article.

Please click on the photos below to view the article. Or print them out for easier reading…


Is Busy the New Lazy?

Hello everyone! I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t had a chance to post on my beloved blog for the last two months.

Excuses. Excuses. Busy. Busy. Busy.  The truth? I kept procrastinating. I told myself I was “Busy,” but I knew there was more going on that I wasn’t admitting to myself.

And so, I wrote an article, which was published in this past week’s Binah Magazine and  the title of the article is “Busy No More.”

This Sunday is Purim when many of us get so busy preparing food packages for our myriad friends and acquaintances, cooking the food for the holiday, and dressing the kids up in the sharpest costumes ever.

Do we miss the points of the holiday (joy, gratitude, friendship) with all our busy-ness?

Can we just relax and live in the moment? Can we be present in the here and now and not worry about all the things we have to do in the future?

Since writing the piece, I’ve been trying to live my life without talking about the B word. (not breathing – that’s a good B word).  It’s a process for me, one minute, hour, day at a time.

I’m curious to know what my readers and followers  (who are no doubt just as B as I am) think about this idea of “Busy No More.” Let me know in the comment section below.

And now, I can return those phone calls I let go to voice mail because I was too Busy, I mean Focused on composing this post.

Hope you enjoy and don’t forget to Breathe!


Give Them a Break, Okay?

It’s getting a bit unnerving the way the media is grabbing every opportunity to  find fault with Donald Trump’s family.  I know that President Trump has many quirks, all great fodder for cynical writing. I know that he argues and gets defensive and twitters and tweets and all that.

I get that. And I’m not going to debate that here.

But can’t the media give his family a break? Why does the media have to poke fun at his wife all the time?

In my opinion, the Ralph Lauren blue dress she wore to the Inauguration was beautiful and classy.

But instead of leaving it at that – a beautiful first lady in a very appropriately chosen dress – the media has to rip it apart and analyze it.   They write that  she “channeled” (code for copied) Jackie Kennedy’s blue outfit back in 1961.  Like they know what was on her and her designer’s mind.

Now, I don’t remember what Jackie wore back then (I was only 1), so I did a search  and my impression was that the only thing the two outfits had in common was they were both blue. Melania is a woman with class in her own right and she is not trying to mimic Jacqueline Kennedy.

But the media already has decided that she did. And so it becomes fact.

Then there’s the son, Barron. From the facts I’ve read about him, he seems like a smart and typical kid. He seems pretty cute to me. On the night of the election he was tired and seemed to struggle to stay awake. Big deal.

The media has to rip him apart. At the election three months ago, he wasn’t smiling and seemed tired and bored. Hello, it was late. One time a kid is bored and tired and suddenly everyone is making up stories. Playing the game of Dr. Google.

Suddenly people are inventing – no, diagnosing  things about him that are just untrue.

A famous celebrity and someone else actually wrote false things about him having a certain neurological disorder. They have since apologized and hopefully retracted (but not before Melania threatened to sue), but this is wrong. Children of politicians are supposed to be off limits to rude comments.

Today I saw a clip of him playing peek-a-boo with his toddler nephew at the inauguration. To me, that’s a perfectly appropriate behavior for  a kid his age. I think all the Professor Googles can put their diagnostician hats away.

It’s none of these people’s  business. It’s none of anyone’s business to diagnose another person’s child, or to project what’s going on in their own life onto someone else’s life.

It’s none of anyone’s business why the First Lady is keeping her son at his NY school till June. That’s her  prerogative to decide, and frankly, I respect Melania for that. She’s putting her motherhood before her position as First Lady. I think that’s admirable.

Another thing – while I’m on the topic of ridiculous things that the media writes about is the green outfit that Ivanka wore the day before the inauguration. I read in a particular article that the green symbolizes growth, change and moving forward. And, then the writer  went on to say that green also signifies jealousy.

Maybe someone can enlighten me as to what the point of that article was?

And finally, the mystery gift that Melania gave to Michelle Obama before the inauguration was received awkwardly according to the press and now the media is up in arms and pointing out that Michelle must have disliked receiving the gift.

Instead of just saying “oh, isn’t that lovely that she gave a gift to Michelle,” people have to analyze and overthink things.

Whether it’s a beautiful dress at a special event, a young child’s fatigue or boredom, or a gracious gift given to another politician, I really wish the media would just take some things at face value.

I know there’s a fascination with the family of the president but can’t people just give them a break already?

 

 


No More Complaining About the Weather!

In NY where  it gets cold in the winter and hot in the summer, people don’t really talk much about the weather. Over there, where the leaves shed from trees in the fall and the flowers bloom in the spring, nobody talks much about it. They don’t complain. They don’t boast.  They are grateful for the pleasant seasons and are quiet when the not-so-good climate changes come around.

The only time someone might bring it up is if they address a practical concern such as how to dress for the weather. Or someone might grab the topic  as an anchor in order to politely redirect an unpleasant conversation, as in “Ummm, how’s the weather down there?”

But here in Los Angeles, we talk a lot about the weather.

When it’s sunny, we boast and gloat. When it’s chilly — that means 60 degrees or below — we complain.

And when it rains – and boy does it rain in a typical winter of December through February —  the conversations begin in unison while putting on boots, rain jackets and other gear.

girl-with-umbrella

 

As we bundle up, dramatically pulling a scarf around neck, we share  with friends how we either love — or hate– the rain.

And then came The Drought. No rain for five or six years. Yeah, a trickle or a tease here and there. And maybe a few short ten minute showers, but for the most part? Nothing. Nada. Grass turned brown. The air was dry. The reservoirs dried up.

We conserved water. We set our sprinkler timers to spray water one or two times per week. Or we ran the hose around the lawn for a few minutes only. We took shorter showers, loaded larger and fewer washing machine and dishwasher loads.

Instead of chatting calmly to each other about the weather, we listened to the experts warn us: If we used too much water from our starving reservoirs, we’d be fined.

We silently hoped, wished and even prayed for rain.

Now, after five or so years, we  finally have some serious rain.

And…something interesting happened.

People stopped complaining.

For one, it’s no longer politically correct  to whine about the nastiness or draft. These days,  no self-respecting Angelino after experiencing the drought would complain about rainy weather.

But the real reason we don’t complain about rain anymore is that we’re happy. We genuinely appreciate that rain, the freshness, the feeling of water coming from a higher Source.

Once we lose something we miss it.

And then if we are lucky and blessed enough to have that lost thing or experience returned to us, we value it. We know that good things in life are not to be taken for granted.

We realize that there are some things in life that we just cannot take for granted,  can’t control or hold onto forever.  At the end of the day, we don’t have control over every facet of our destinies.

We can lose stuff in the blink of an eye. We saw that with the rain.

We may have personal instances where we lose things in our lives and then are fortunate to have those things returned.

A lost item is found. Someone without a job finds a good one. An ill friend is cured.

A stream of bad fortune in life is followed by some happy occasions: An engagement, a marriage, a new baby.

Bad times  become good. Things in our lives improve.

When I broke my ankle three years ago, I was in pretty bad shape.

Buzzzz…ohhh. it tickles

For the better part of a year I dealt with surgeries, bed rest, and pain. Finally, after almost nine months, the physical therapy began. And when I was once again able to walk, I was thrilled.

As the pain lessened, and my limp lessened and then disappeared, I felt gratitude for every step I take on firm ground.

Till today, I wear comfortable shoes and have banished most high heels but I don’t care. Three years after I broke my ankle, I remember the pain and anguish I suffered. And I will (almost) never forget to be grateful  for the miracle of a working ankle.

Nowadays when it rains here in the Hollywood, you’ll hear people saying, “isn’t it great?” or “don’t you just love this weather?” Or  “Oh, yes, G-d knows we need it,” or “We prayed for this.” Because even if people hate cold weather no one would express that during these days of rain after drought.

Let us look around us at all the blessings we have today. Things are far from perfect. G-d knows, our country has its arthritis and its bones are aching. Many are without jobs. Families and friends have stuff that’s going on in their lives that makes things hard for them.

But let’s open our eyes and ears for the good that comes our way. When we do get those showers of blessings, let’s embrace them.

Let’s sing in the rain how happy we are.

Let’s show empathy for those who have less in some areas. Let’s have courage to try to improve the lacks in our own lives.

Just yesterday I heard the radio announcer predict rain for today and the weekend and although I was tempted  to vent, complain, kvetch and rant, I stopped myself.

Instead I say:

Bring on the rain!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Conversations With Grandparents

 

It’s  Chanukah and we’ve had a few family get-togethers with all grandparents (my husband and me!) and great grands (my mother-in-law), plus a few aunts and uncles and cousins. I always enjoy being with family, especially when the various generations get to mingle together on the holidays. During holidays, some grandparents reminisce about their past. Others are more quiet about their histories and need to be drawn out and engaged in conversation. And finally, there are those who try to reminisce and no one really listens. Or even worse, no one asks.

As a child, I was one of the few who had  grandparents. Most of my friends’ grandparents had passed in the Holocaust and my friends’ parents emigrated to the US to start new families.  My grandparents each survived the War and traveled to the U.S. with their children – my parents – in the late 1930’s and early 40’s respectively.

Many of my friends tell me that they didn’t grow up hearing stories about the Holocaust from their survivor parents.  Aside from the stamp that their parents  had on their arm indicating the years in concentration camps, there was little proof that they had experienced atrocities. These survivors were reticent to share their horror stories with their children and grandchildren.

And then there are those who do talk about their experiences. In his later years, my father-in-law who passed in 2001, freely shared stories of how he and his brother escaped from Poland and other interesting stories. My husband and his siblings lapped up these stories as well as those still being told by my mother-in-law who is well into her 90’s (may she live till 120).

Children ask a lot of questions but adults don’t always want to prod. They may have the dilemma of how much to probe, to ask, to engage in conversation. They may wonder: Do the elders really want to talk? Are their memories really accurate? Is this act of eliciting reminiscence really for their catharsis or therapeutic benefit? Or is it for us – so we can record it all for posterity?  How do we know if we are being sensitive to their needs?

This is the subject of a book that I’m reading now called The Conversations We Never Had by Jeffrey H. Konis.  Mr. Konis recalls his Grandma Ola whom he adored and spent a lot of time with, but after her death twenty years earlier, felt regret at not getting enough information from her about his family’s history.  His father never asked questions and he repeated the trend of not asking anything, despite having spent a lot of time with his grandmother. And so, he set out to write this book which is a recollection of his thoughts on his grandmother combined with what he did know about the Holocaust and his conversations here and there with his father. He weaves together all the warm and loving memories about his grandmother.

The book’s  title is somewhat self-deprecating if not self-critical. He wishes he would have asked more, started more conversations and he has a fantasy that his grandmother might have poured forth with story after story.

Notwithstanding his not having war discussions, the author had a most loving relationship with his grandmother.  His Grandma Ola –who actually was his “real” grandmother’s sister, raised his father after the war because the actual grandparents died in the War before his father turned nine.  Grandma Ola found her little nephew hiding on a farm in Poland and brought him  to America to raise him as her own.   Thus, Grandma Olga (“Ola”) was the only grandmother Mr. Konis  knew.  As a young adult, Mr. Konis spent time with Grandma Ola when he was in law school, living in her apartment which was close to his school. She doted on him, made sure he was comfortable and gave him the space to study, party, and be his own person.

Many of the elderly who went through the Holocaust do not want to relive their past. My own father (RIP) and my mother (till 120) were/are Holocaust survivors. Although their stories may be fewer and less dramatic than those of my in-laws as they did not experience concentration camps, they did not regale stories of their past. The only thing I remember is my father telling us bedtime stories about his childhood in Antwerp before the war. A few years before his passing, my brothers recorded him as he spoke on tape about some of the more fascinating escape stories – leaving Belgium, France and coming to the USA.

The opportunity to interview our elders – both informally and informally – are many but often we don’t grab the chance.  Either we think they aren’t interested in talking, or perhaps they really are not interested. Or maybe we aren’t asking the right questions to get them to talk and share.

Bottom line is that many of us go through our lives without having these important conversations with our grandmothers, grandfathers and even our parents.  Later we may regret those missed moments and conversations.

I think the message of Mr. Konis’s book is that we ought to delve into the situation with our elders and find out what and how much they are willing to share. If they are willing to share and reminisce, then we take out a pen and paper and write down what they say. Pull out the tape recorder or  video camera and record them talking. Make a collage or scrapbook using old pictures. Interview them, tape them and give out a CD to the cousins.

But if they are not willing to share, accept that reality. Enjoy their presence and glean your own stories from the time you had with them. That’s what Mr. Konis did and his story “Conversations We Never Had” is a testimony to his great love and memory of his time with his grandmother.

 

 


Should Age Be a Private Matter?

A few  nights ago our family was invited to the100th birthday party of my mother-in-law’s cousin.  To me, the celebration of his becoming 100 indicated that he and all around him were grateful for his blessings of a long life.

It was a time to announce his age to those who were there. Something that is often private was the topic of the event.

My MIL has lots of friends around that age, including someone from our synagogue  who turned 100 a few months ago and celebrated with a party in synagogue on Shabbat. Oh, and did I  mention my MIL’s best friend, Anne who turned 102? That was a milestone which our family and Anne’s children celebrated at a restaurant.

Until about 6 years ago, my mother-in-law’s age was private. No one seemed to know her age and if they did they certainly didn’t discuss it.

After that, her age was officially public knowledge and no longer a taboo subject.

So I’m wondering: Why wait till you’re 90 or 95 to announce your exact age? I think it should be something to boast about when we are still in our 30’s, 40’s and beyond.

I guess this belief stems from my childhood and how I was raised.

The adults in my life always discussed their age. I had two sets of grandparents growing up and I knew all of their ages as a child. And that’s not just because I was a nosy kid who asked a lot of questions! (although that may have something to do with it.)

But seriously, when my maternal grandmother was in the hospital and not feeling very well the last year of her life, she maintained her sense of humor and shall I say, brutal honesty.  When the doctor came in to examine her and asked her how old she was, she said, “90 1/2,” in a decisive tone of voice. No one was going to leave out that half a year that she was proud of.

Every year one of my sisters writes a poem using my mom’s age that year as a takeoff for a theme. That poem gets emailed to all the cousins and friends by my mother herself.

So I grew up with the adults around me treating age as a number denoting an accomplishment.  Nothing to hide or be ashamed of. Another birthday means we have arrived. And thank G-d we have more time on this earth to accomplish things.

Still, age continues to be a taboo subject in some families and cultures. It’s still considered impolite for children or adults to ask one another how old they are. I get that.

But I wonder whether the hiding of one’s age or considering it not a topic of conversation in polite company contribute to unhealthy messages about our aging bodies and souls.

Personally, I think it’s a good thing to be open about one’s age, because it helps us grow and move forward emotionally. I believe that when we pretend to be what we are not or forget that we are 56 (that would be me!), maybe we won’t take care of our health. We may neglect ourselves and skip mammograms or colonoscopies or bone density exams or other checkups… because we think we are still 25 or 35.

By contrast, when we focus on the positive aspects of growing old such as having more wisdom and experience we embrace our age.  Rather than getting depressed when we reach a new decade or big number,  I do think it’s better to reach a place of acceptance.

That celebration doesn’t have to be in the form of a party or getting gifts. It can be in the simple acknowledgment of our moving forward. Our growth. It could be a time to take stock of what we’ve achieved the past year or years and what we want to achieve in the next year. A time for gratitude and prayer.

Children are proud of their age because it denotes being more grownup and having more privileges. To them every fraction of a year counts. My young grandson has been keeping track of when his 5 1/2 years became 5 3/4 until he turned 6.

We don’t have to have that kind of glee for a new age or fraction of an age. And some people choose to keep it private. Whether we admit it or not, we feel our age. Every. Single. Day.

But instead of seeing that as a negative, let’s see it as a reminder of our blessings.

So the next time the subject comes up, be proud of your age. Whether you are 20, 30, 40, or 50 +, let’s celebrate our birthdays, not just with a party and lots of cards.

Oh and by the way, my birthday is coming up soon in a few months and I’ve been reflecting as I reach that number and as I watch others have birthdays. It could be this post is my way of working through my unconscious anxieties about the new number. Or maybe I’m just reflecting on a common societal trend of age and privacy. I don’t know.

All I know is that I  pray that we can all embrace and celebrate our birthdays by having our cake and eating it too. That means being grateful, taking care of our physical and emotional health and reaching out to loved ones.

 

 

 

 


How the Election Made Me More Tolerant

The other day I was mad at a certain person in my life. Really upset. I was ranting and raving and venting to my husband about it.

Then I thought about it and slept on it. The next day I woke up, went about my day and thought about it. I started to realize that the other person has a difficult situation in his/her life and that’s why he/she is acting that way. And I started to understand where they were coming from. I wasn’t mad at that person anymore. Wow.

I believe that this election fever and overall stress gives me a chance to practice my skills of switching gears and seeing things from another point of view.

This Election has brought out the worst in many of us. People are bickering online and in person, on Facebook and on Twitter. Relationships have suffered as voting has morphed from a basic right and privilege into an unpleasant phenomenon of political arguments, fights and de-friending on and offline. Nobody wants to discuss who they are V-ting for (the V word) for fear of repercussions – both real and imagined.

And yet, in spite of the bickering these days  we can find some common ground between us.   Whether we’re voting for Trump, Clinton, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, a write-in random candidate, or none of the above, we all agree on one thing.

We are  completely stressed from the whole thing and we can’t wait till it’s all over.

There are many anxieties that we share and misery does love company in this case. We can comfort each other, knowing  it will eventually be over at the end of Election day. And yet.  We fear that things will drag on. We have nightmares of a repeat Gore-Bush situation of the hanging chads and recounting. We are tormented by the chances that one candidate may protest the result and maybe there will be a big ——-

Stop! Stop! Stop!  It’s no use obsessing about it. I mean that’s all we’ve (me!) been doing the last few months and it’s time to put an end to the negativity and prepare to move forward

It’s time to look at the bright side of all this. It’s time for ME to see the silver lining from all this and how everything happens for the best.

It’s time for me to realize that there is a Destiny or G-d or a Higher Power out there that is protecting us from horrible things. It’s time to do my best and have some faith.

It’s time grow from all this.

First, it’s time to be a little easier on myself. So what if I flip-flop every day and can’t make up my mind who to vote for because I like his or her stances on the issues – or because I just can’t stand the OTHER candidate. So what? Right?

Here’s my process: I listen and read everything I come across. I do lots of research. And I decide that I’m in favor Candidate A and I’m totally for him/her. I mean I think she/he is aligned with all or most of the values that I believe in. And not only that, I’m convinced that the other candidate is the epitome of evil.

And then – I go to sleep, wake up in the morning, read a few articles and voila, I’m thinking “Hey, so and so really represents my view of how things can be better – based on my values and what I consider to be important for a President.”

Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera.

I start to challenge my previous decision. I realize that there is a whole other way to look at things. And I make my decision to (maybe) vote for the other candidate.

This cycle repeats itself several times per week. It’s been somewhat annoying because as Election date is upon us, I’m still undecided. And I’ve even pondered voting for a third party candidate or not at all.

I’ve been thinking about this flip-flop tendency of mine and been pretty upset with myself over it. And then it hit me the other day that maybe it’s not such a bad thing. Maybe it’s actually a sign that I can see two sides of a situation, empathize with it and be able to argue both sides of the debate.

Through this election I learned that I’m fickle, somewhat gullible. Or maybe it’s just that I’m open-minded or tolerant? Hmmm. To me things are not always black and white, and that characteristic is more evident this election.

After this election is over, we will still have our relationships with friends (hopefully) and even if the issues of the election will be behind us all, we will still need to reach across aisles to feel another person’s pain and experience.

Understanding another’s viewpoint is important. That’s what I learned from this election. I see Hillary’s viewpoint and I see Trump’s. I get them both. I just have to decide which one I’m willing to give the job of President.

I’ve not made my firm decision yet on that. But one thing I’ve decided is that for better or worse – I can’t stay upset at people for very long.

And that’s something I think we all should vote for.

 

 


A Tribute to My Father on his YahrTzeit

What do you say when someone asks you for information that is readily available on the Internet?

Google it! That’s code for “Look it up. Figure it out. You can do it….”

My siblings and I reminisce that my father would encourage our independence in learning new things, by telling us to  “look it up.”

In honor of  the yahrtzeit or anniversary of my father’s passing two years ago, I write this blog post. This one’s for you, Daddy.

Shalom Stern, or Shalom ben Shlomo (the son of Solomon) Halevi (a descendant of the Levites) passed away after a diagnosis 14 years earlier of Parkinson’s Disease. My father passed on September 28, 2014 but the Hebrew date falls on today’s Hebrew date which is the day after Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year). Today we lit a candle that lasts for 24 hours and my brothers recited kaddish in my father’s memory.

My father was a paradigm of punctuality. Descending from German ancestors, his motto was “a place for everything…everything in its place.” This time of year which precedes the holiday of Sukkos has a theme from the book of Ecclesiastes which reads, “A time to mourn, a time to rejoice…..a time for everything.” Similarly, my father believed that there is a time for everything and he stuck to a sensible daily schedule in his life.

My father was born in Antwerp, Belgium May 27, 1926. He attended Cheder (traditional Jewish elementary school) there along with his sister. He had a relatively uneventful childhood with his parents, many cousins and friends in the little town where they lived. In the early 1940’s,  the political situation changed and they left their home and moved from country to country, town to town, living over the next few years in France, Portugal, Cuba, followed by the U.S.

IMGThis is my paternal grandmother

According to stories we heard from my father and my aunt, “everything was an adventure” during these unstable times. Yes, they were afraid but it didn’t cripple them. They trusted their parents, prayed and continued on with their  daily activities and schooling in each place that they lived. Time to be afraid and time to move on. My aunt recalls saying the prayer “Shema Yisrael” in her bed as the war planes were flying in earshot. My father spoke about his countless stories of escape and survival into a recording and one of my nephews created a CD for all the family which I cherish.

When my dad came to the U.S. at age 16 (1942), he attended high school in Brooklyn and learned the English language rapidly. After high school he continued in with his Jewish studies in a local yeshiva while attending Brooklyn College to earn a degree in Economics. In 1949, my father met my mother and they married that year in June. He went into business while my mother stayed home with the children and together they raised a family of six children. They were the matriarch and patriarch of  many grandchildren and great grandchildren.

dadyoung

My father had a very disciplined and hard working nature. I was proud to have such a “perfect” father who was so smart, wise, kind, learned and accomplished. On the other hand, there was this pressure to keep up, to do things correctly. My husband spoke at a small memorial meal that we sponsored in my father’s memory last Shabbos (Saturday). One of my husband’s key comments was that he felt that our father was someone to look up to, to emulate and to aspire to be like.

He had a meticulous schedule in which he rose early, prayed, studied Talmud, ate breakfast, went to work and then came home at the same time each night. Looking back, it seems kind of idyllic in some ways. The predictability, the security and all that. At the same time as I said there was this pressure to do good work. It was sort of an unspoken expectation of “You can do it. You will do it.” Each one of us siblings has differing interests. But, we each try to do our best in whatever we do.

daddyThis is my father speaking at a family event in the final year of his life.

My father learned and studied Torah deeply and often could be found in his study poring over books either alone or with one or several grandchildren. Even in the last days when his PD had progressed to its worst symptoms of not being able to talk above a whisper, my father enjoyed listening to stories about Torah. This energized him. I believe this means my father was a very spiritual person.

Additionally, in his life, my father was active in founding a girls’ high school in our community and he gave charity to many institutions around. My father had a witty sense of humor, enjoyed being around people and socializing in the free time that he had. He liked traveling, people and words.

momdadMy Mom and Dad

Just this morning, I asked my brother a question and my brother’s return text to me was “as Daddy would say, ‘look it up!'”

I recall my father’s study with his unabridged dictionary and huge atlas along with many encyclopedias and books surrounding him, we always had to resources to “look it up.”

As we come out of the two intense days of the New Year and move forward into the 10 days bridge until Yom Kippur, I make that my new mantra. Whenever I struggle with something, I will think of my father and how he used all his abilities to look things up, to figure things out and to grow. I will remember his motto of a time for everything, a place for everything.

Whether I’m studying, reading, learning, blogging, working or socializing, I will be mindful of doing things carefully and properly to the best of my ability at the appropriate time.

My father was a tough act to follow – but definitely someone to aspire to. All in the right time.

May his memory be blessed.

daddymatzeivah

 

 


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