Archive for December, 2015

Have you or anyone you know lived through a natural disaster? The closest I came was the “once in a hundred year flood” that happened right after we moved into our mid-century modern ranch on a tributary of the Shrewsbury River in NJ.

Except that we luckily had flood insurance, friends who took care of our kids until we were able to fly back from a medical conference, and only lost a car and an HVAC system. The Corgis were stashed in the laundry room, which was thankfully above the water line. We had the resources to recover, and we were lucky.

But last week Bob spoke with the Bride and Groom as a tornado swept through Nashville. They had bundled up the kids and the dog and were hunkering down in their basement. Bob can plug into aviation weather tracking and see the path of the storm on his laptop. It was right above downtown Nashville. As sirens blared, my daughter led her family through a pretty complete soundtrack of the Love Bug’s life.

And when it was all over, I saw the pictures of the devastation that same storm system delivered to a small, little known part of the world. It’s a landscape with majestic magnolia trees and more historic, antebellum homes per square acre than any other place in the Deep South. Holly Springs, MS is where my sister-in-law grew up and where my brother Mike died. And it was the epicenter for that tornado.

Now I never ask you for anything. Week after week I say my peace about family, or politics, or “whatever is on my mind” as Bob likes to say. But that tornado wiped out the girlhood home, a farm belonging to a friend of my brother’s family in Holly Springs. Shelby is a beautiful soul. She was so close to my family at Walter Place, that she helped care for my brother when he became seriously ill. When I first met her, I thought she was an angel in disguise. She wants to become a nurse, and is currently working as a vet tech. Her parents are the salt of the earth, who were left homeless the day before Christmas Eve.

So if you feel so inclined to give a little something to those in need before January First, a friend of Shelby’s family has started a Go Fund Me account, “Kivelle Family Tornado Relief Fund” https://www.gofundme.com/u3g6xfw4

Her parents didn’t have any luck in the face of that tornado. Their MS farm was erased from the earth. But her Dad was a Union worker, as many small farmers need to have two jobs, and his Union buddies have started this fund to help them rebuild and recover. I like to know where my money goes for a good cause, and this one is about as good as it gets.

I love you Shelby, and thank God your family members are safe.   947035_10208598182494010_6736234418063270556_n


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of 2015

1 – Taking Great Grandma Ada and Hudson to Florida. This was done ostensibly to show her what snow birds everywhere know, winter is better when it’s warm

2 – Last winter was a wonderland because we actually had snow, and Buddha Baby, aka Buddy Boy, aka Jumpin Jack recognized his Nana and Pop Bob IMG_2487

3 – Whenever Bob does the dishes. I am forever grateful.  IMG_2165

4 – That time when the Rocker played on Dave Letterman

5 – Our trip to our favorite island IMG_2324

6 – Bob opening the expanded, brand spankin new ER

7 – My visits to the Shana Maidela, aka The Love Bug, aka Magoo II and her little baby brother too!IMG_2373

8 – Our trip to the Left Coast, “Welcome to LA!” IMG_2652

9 – Surviving Cervical Spine Surgery with some help from a young Jedi Knight  IMG_3235

10 – And I’m still trying to perfect the art of the Selfie, hint, sunglasses helpIMG_3646

Hope your 2016 is Happy, Healthy, and full of Harmony!

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In this hectic, sometimes happy time of year, think back to when you were little. Did you dread getting another slip for Christmas from a great aunt in the state of Washington? Maybe that was just me. But ladies, remember slips, and garter hose, and dare I say girdles? Now they call them Spanx and women pay good money to  have their internal organs shoved up into their chest!

I’m only asking because I just read a great, local newspaper gem in the Daily Progress from 1915: “Yesteryears: Community Christmas tree, Part 1: A 1915 plan to bring everyone together.” People on the Planning Board of TJ’s little piece of Virginia felt the community needed a city Christmas tree. They wanted their citizens, poor and rich, white and black to come together for a show of solidarity : “The goal was to instill the Christmas spirit in young and old, and give them something to sing as they marched to the community Christmas tree.” http://www.dailyprogress.com/jobs/yesteryears-community-christmas-tree-part-a-plan-to-bring-everyone/article_cc67486c-a517-11e5-a496-4f0079d8e773.html

I must have covered a lot of Town Christmas Tree Lightings over the years as a reporter. My kids marched, our neighbors sang. I’ll always remember 2001 in the Borough of Rumson, NJ, because I had given up my column as we were preparing to move South. And all I could think about was standing there in the cold, thankful I didn’t have to write about it. What could I say while our community was still in shock?

But back in 1915, teachers used to teach their students the lyrics to all the Christmas Carols for their procession to the Tree. Nobody complained. Nobody sued the School Board. Last week however, in a neighboring county, some parents and students were up in arms about a World Geography lesson. In fact, the schools were closed a day early for Christmas/Winter/Holiday break!

Children were asked to copy some Arabic script as they were learning about different cultures and religions, including Hinduism and Buddhism, and one girl didn’t want to do the assignment. The purpose was to see how  difficult it is to write the characters, and maybe how beautiful it can be too. It wasn’t a really well thought out lesson, as the teacher in this case said that it came directly from a teacher workbook. The phrase these Augusta County students were given, ostensibly as a little lesson in calligraphy, translated to:

“There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the prophet of God”

What an uproar this caused. Our little School Board shouting match went viral and national news networks chimed in – how dare this teacher have our children write this; she should be fired; another instance of the vast liberal agenda! Well, the Board moved quickly and to their credit did not fire the teacher, but they did issue a statement saying that in the future, any example of Arabic writing will not have any religious meaning. OK.

The Augusta County assignment was more vulnerable to outcry because of the unwise step of including the shahada. But there’s little question this is about fear of Islam, and not about objections to religion in the public schools. After all, Augusta County schools also offer students the chance to leave school once a week to attend Bible study. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/12/augusta-county-virginia-schools-arabic/421194/

So today Christian student athletes can pray around a flagpole on school grounds, Christian children can miss class for Bible study, and let’s not forget all the secular reindeer and snowflakes we have kids cutting out in the days before Christmas. Let’s remember our country was founded on the principal that we NOT favor one religion over another. In fact, President Thomas Jefferson had this carved on his tombstone when he died. Meanwhile, Merry Christmas everyone who is celebrating, and Happy Festivus otherwise! CT9bT8iUsAAHCpG

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“There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.”                

Willa Cather

I wonder about the Star Wars hype this weekend, will Star Wars: The Force Awakens live up to its name? To be honest, I was enamored of the first trilogy. In fact, we took the Bride to “see” her very first movie when she was six months old, 1980s The Empire Strikes Back. She was enthralled with the lights for the first half hour, then fell promptly asleep in my arms.

We know that this is really an old fashioned morality play, a fight between good and evil. George Lucas and writer/philosopher Joseph Campbell were friends, and we know that Campbell’s book, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” helped Lucas flesh out his sci-fi plot. But the story is as ancient as Aristotle. A young hero arises, is given a test, finds a mentor, must go into a cave to fight the dragon, returning victorious. Of course in each telling, the journey becomes infused with different details, but the story remains the same.

Carl Jung also detailed creation myths and archetypes of universal characters from around the world long before the internet helped to flatten it. The Swiss psychologist wrote about “… constantly repeating characters who occur in the dreams of all people and the myths of all cultures (and) suggested that these archetypes are a reflection of aspects of the human mind – that our personalities divide themselves into these characters to play out the drama of our lives.”

Jung spoke to our “collective unconscious.” A place where every culture invents its own religion and set of rules in order to make sense of the vast universe, to answer some old existential question like how did we get in this mess?:

” A young hero, the wise old man or woman, the shape-shifting woman or man, and the shadowy antagonist.”     http://www.thewritersjourney.com/hero’s_journey.htm

Listening to the GOP debate this week, it all sounds too familiar. ISIS is the Evil Empire, and for some reason it will take one of these conservative hawks to defeat it. But they are not the heroes in my playbook. Because they can’t see what’s happening right here at home. The bloodshed our own home-grown terrorists have caused, our own mentally ill with guns – killing themselves, accidentally killing their children, murdering unarmed people on the street. Killing a nine year old boy for the “sins” of his father.

When the whole LA County school system has to shut down because of a threat, we may be too late to the battle. One thing Campbell’s hero would have done, he would have recognized these GOP tricksters for what they are. He OR She would have found a way to change our collective perception of Evil.

I heard a refugee from Syria on NPR say the jihadists are all young men buying candy bars and Cokes with American dollars. We need to fix our American dream, in order to sell it to them. We need to reawaken the hero in us all.

Here is my hero in the aviary. He just got a new iPhone, after years of refusing to come over to the Light Side of Apple. May the Force be With You!  IMG_3616



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Instead of a curse, let’s end our Yiddish journey today with a little blessing. Let’s honor the opening of Star Wars this week with an homage to another favorite sci-fi franchise of mine – the logical, side-kick, Star Trek character, Spock. Did you know his famous greeting, the Vulcan salute with the ring and middle finger separated, actually came from an ancient Orthodox Jewish blessing?  “Live long and prosper.”

This is the shape of the letter shin,” Nimoy said in the 2013 interview, making the famous “V” gesture. The Hebrew letter shin, he noted, is the first letter in several Hebrew words, including Shaddai (a name for God), Shalom (the word for hello, goodbye and peace) and Shekhinah, which he defined as “the feminine aspect of God who supposedly was created to live among humans.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2015/02/27/the-jewish-roots-of-leonard-nimoy-and-live-long-and-prosper/

Leonard Nimoy worked tirelessly to keep the Yiddish language alive. He said it was the only way he could communicate with his grandparents. He recorded many stories in Yiddish for the Oral History Project of The Yiddish Book Center. This is a valuable resource for anyone who would like to learn more about the language. And pssst, Ada, they even have a podcast! http://www.yiddishbookcenter.org

A leben ahf dein kop

A long life upon your head

This is usually said while praising someone like; “Well said! Well done!” Plus, who doesn’t want to live to be one hundred and beyond? Today, thanks to modern medicine, many of us will! But better it should be a long, healthy journey, which is often determined by the luck of our gene pool.

And imagine my surprise to find out the famous Hannukah game of chance, the dreidel, was actually derived from an Irish game! “…the dreidel was brought from Ireland to Germany during the late Roman period. Men would gamble with a top known as a “teetotum” in bars and inns. Originally the letters on the teetotum corresponded to the first letters of the Latin words for “nothing,” “half,” “everything” and “put in.” Read more: http://forward.com/culture/326379/the-true-history-of-the-dreidel/#ixzz3uIViitvK

I’m so happy the Bride sings the Yiddish lullaby that Great Aunt Mary taught me about raisins and almonds. Now when I start to sing “Rozhinkes min Mandln” to the Love Bug, her eyes start to flutter.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLrvZiU7slc

Happy Hannukah from our house to yours!  IMG_3538



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Today is the next to the last day of Hannukah! How is this possible? I haven’t made latkes yet, or baked dreidel cookies. Times like these make me think about time; like why is the trip driving home always faster than the trip going to a place. It was the exact same amount of miles, it just seems faster.

Anyway, welcome to the seventh installment of Ada’s Yiddishisms. This one is about time, in a way:

Farshlepteh krenk

A drawn-out illness, neverending…

My niece told me about a TED Radio Hour podcast about adaptation, so yesterday I listened to it while I went through some motions at the gym. This I do on a regular basis so as to avoid a farshlepteh krenk. http://www.npr.org/programs/ted-radio-hour/455904076/adaptation

It was fascinating, and since I now have to put prednisone drops in my eye every four hours, my ears perked up at this story. A boy was born with cancer of his retinas (stay with me now) so that by the age of 13 months he had to have both eyes removed. He was blind and the first thing he did in the NICU after surgery was climb out of his crib and explore his room!

His TED point was that his parents never treated him as if he was special. They let him grow like a normal boy and explore his world. And so he naturally adapted to the darkness in the same way bats get along flying at night, echolocation – “…the sonarlike system used by dolphins, bats, and other animals to detect and locate objects by emitting usually high-pitched sounds that reflect off the object and return to the animal’s ears or other sensory receptors.”

In other words, he naturally adapted as an infant by clicking his tongue.

What does this have to do with a neverending illness you might ask? It made me think that some parents might immediately do everything in their power to shield that blind baby, to try and make his world carefree. They would emit sympathy from others, he would be labeled, classified and codified.

Some parents create a sickly child, where there is none.

Still, this month is the neverending season of joy, right? If you happen to be going through something hard right now, just remember that December can amplify those feelings. And that it is only one month, 31 days. And we are halfway there. And the second half goes faster!

Let’s hope you don’t come down with an illness, even a short one, over the Holidays, but if you do these two Jewish doctors will be working on Christmas day. L’Chaim!


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Ada has been trying to give me politically correct Yiddish expressions. When I called her yesterday she was at Red Lobster with her 90+ year old posse of ladies who still lunch. Was it someone’s birthday? “No,” she told me, “just because.” But she didn’t want to put her ancestral heritage out there in the blog world in a bad light; “I know many more that are curses,” she said “but I don’t think they are nice for the iPad.” Sometimes Yiddish can be naughty. “Like what?” I had to ask.

Vaksn zolstu vi a tsibele mitn kop in dr’erd un dis fis aroyf!

May you grow like an onion with your head in the ground

and your feet in the air!

Cursing out other people has a long history from those three wise women visiting a princess at her birth to Shakespeare. Now he was a genius at it, and I imagine Queen Cleopatra was pretty savvy at downgrading her handmaidens. One of my favorites since moving South is, “Stick a fork in him, he’s done!” Usually this is said slyly from an older woman to a young girl who has been betrayed once too often. Likening one’s straying/playa/boyfriend to a turkey will always make me smile.

But Jewish history is such that cursing had to be done in a smart way. After all, you’d be hauled off to a gulag or worse if you said the wrong thing to the wrong Gentile. Maybe this is why Jewish comedians like John Stewart and Seinfeld are so popular. Centuries of practicing the elegant put-down has twisted their psyche into the rhetoric of rebellion. It’s almost like they can’t help but see the world through a funny lens. It’s a coping mechanism, we laugh so we don’t fall apart.

The hook to this particular saying is that at first, it sounds like a compliment. We start out like a soothsayer with “May you grow…,”and finish with a one-two punch. Much better than, “Go jump in a lake.” It’s prophecy of the malignant sort. If your native language wasn’t Yiddish in fact, you would probably not get it. You might even say, “Thanks.”

So next time that clerk is too busy talking to someone else to even look at you, or that red car with antlers on it almost pushes you off the road, or yet another political robocall arrives to your landline, just smile and think about the noble onion.

And if you’re baking holiday cookies today, may you have a glass of wine at your elbow next to the butter! From this little Jewish Leprechaun I could plotz!IMG_3532

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I grew up in a quaint, working class town on the western fringe of NJ. We didn’t have much, but on the other hand, we didn’t need much. Here is a blog about Dover, NJ you might enjoy! The photographer is the father of a dear friend. http://blogfinger.net/2015/03/22/dover-ata-christmas-1960-by-henry-boschen/   1960 Dover, NJ picture by Henry Boschenboschen

I lived in a tiny house on a hill outside of town with one bathroom, but it was a house filled with love and a nurturing though agoraphobic foster mother, Nell. I never thought of myself as poor; but when I moved to the Flapper’s big Victorian house in town, with older siblings, I must have noticed the difference.

My life immediately expanded to include a glamorous sister in NYC and two brothers, one still in high school. I acquired step-siblings and a step-father, who was a well respected judge in town. We lived across the street from the Jewish synagogue, and I remember my first visit on Purim with my step-father and boyfriend/future husband Bob. This Catholic school girl was delighted to hear people talking during the service, making noise in fact, and generally not listening to the Rabbi. No more kneeling, rosary beads or silent praying in Latin!

So raising my children Jewish, in a wealthy Jersey suburb should have been easy, right? Wrong. Rumson was and probably still is a mix of “old” and “new” money. The kids’ cars were much better than the teachers’ cars in the RFH parking lot. And my children’s peers pretty much got whatever they wanted, when they wanted it. I developed a saying for the Rocker, “Want? Work. Wait!” The three “W”s it was called. Just because all his friends had the latest gizmo, didn’t mean I’d run out and buy one for him. When the Bride wanted a car, we offered to pay for half and she ponied up the rest of her cash from summer jobs.

And so I give you Day 5 of Hannukah’s Yiddish saying:

Ich darf es vi a loch in kop!

In other words, I need it like a hole in the head! Yiddish words convey beautiful bits of sarcasm. In this season of giving, and getting too much, it’s important to differentiate between what our children want, and what they actually need. They may want a drum set, but you need that like a hole in the head! Most toys are played with for a few days, and thrown away because they break or they are lost forever at the bottom of a toy trunk.

I love the approach some parents are using – they have their children make a list for Santa of four things: 1) something they want, 2) something to read, 3) something to wear, and 4) something to give away to a needy child. Perfect right? But I’d have to come up with four more for Hannukah!

How about: 5) something they need (like an educational game), 6) something for or from nature (like a terrarium), 7) an experience (like Nutcracker tickets, or a trip to Rockefeller Center), and 8) how about a kiss? That’s always what my foster father wanted for Christmas. He got that with a can of Prince Albert pipe tobacco every year!

Now that’s enough of my kibitzing for one day!  21551_1194777985859_3581712_n


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I can hear Ms Bean snoring at the foot of the stairs. Our pup has bad hips. She stopped climbing the stairs to sit on my mountain-view chaise, dutifully watching me write, last year. She knows her limitations, and although she’s not that old in doggy years, she’s made a few adaptations in order to continue living the good life. Adaptability, a very Darwinian trait.

While cleaning out and sorting through our unfinished basement last month, we came across an unopened box. “No,” I said to Bob, “absolutely not!” Up until that point I had been perfectly adaptable. It seemed like a fine plan to toss or donate whatever had survived the journey from NJ to VA without being opened and inspected. Why cart a bunch of packed boxes around with us forever?

But this box was filled with teapots. I don’t know why, and I wouldn’t call it a collection exactly, but I’ve always loved teapots.

There’s the red Chinese pot with a bamboo handle my first room mate in college gave me. There’s the aubergine art nouveau teapot I found at the Monmouth Art Show. And there are no words to describe the delicate, pale yellow Belleek teapot from Ireland, with its tiny, iridescent shell feet. One of the few treasures I have from my Nana is a small porcelain tea leaf strainer and saucer. Which is why Great Grandma Ada’s expression is so apropos this morning.

hak mir nisht keyn tshaynik

stop bothering me, leave me alone

It literally means don’t bang a teakettle at me; don’t hammer on a teapot.

This morning I had to turn off the news. This news junkie has had enough of Donald Trump. What does he mean, how do you feel about him, is this the final nail in his coffin? My head is spinning from too much teapot banging Trumpisms. I wish the media would leave him alone already!

My adaptability strategy? I’m going to a Christmas Concert at the Catholic School. Hopefully, tea will be served! Here is my antique doll cupboard with what else for the Love Bug, a porcelain tea set!   IMG_3487

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Good Morning folks. Sorry for sleeping in but I’ve been exhausted lately, how about you? I once thought that by marrying into the Jewish faith I’d get out of all the Christmas hubub. But as my psychologist brother Dr Jim reminded me, I should feel lucky since I have two holidays to celebrate!

That was the story of my young life; one birthday party in NJ, then over the Delaware Water Gap we would go to another birthday party with my birth family in PA. To Nell’s credit, she did make it seem like having two Christmases, and two birthdays was really special. Double the fun. Later, I realized it was the Flapper’s way of keeping me in her life.

So my question of the morning is, “Do you ever feel like you are overwhelmed with too much to do and not enough time in the day?” Have three people invited you to their holiday parties on the same night, and you just learned your child volunteered your cookies for the Christmas party at church the next morning? It’s no wonder psychologists say depression shoots up this time of year – we are on a treadmill of presumed happiness. Just to help you out, I give you another Ada Yiddishism:

Mit ain toches kent mir nicht zizen af tsen uriden

This is one of my favorites, and if you’re from the NY area you might recognize one word, pronounced “Toockes.” Loosely translated it means,

“With one behind you can’t sit on ten toilets!”

Stellar right?! This little saying hits so many of our buttons: the need to please; the desire to be perfect; wanting to avoid conflict. Or just plain needing to be cloned so we can sail through this joyful season. Oy Vey! But what if you take a deep, cleansing breath, and think about just one toilet – maybe it’s a fancy new one where you wave your hand to flush and the seat is always down? I love it.

My other little trick that Bob taught me is, I don’t have to apologize…or go into long, lengthy explanations about why I can’t do something like volunteer to clean up after the school’s holiday party, or corral the Kindergarten kids before the Tree Lighting in town, or well you name it. He once told me that men do NOT do this! Men will just say, “No,” and they might add, “Scheduling conflict.” Practice this phrase ladies – “No. scheduling conflict.” The more you say it, the easier it gets!

As for me, I’ve discovered the wonder of online shopping this year. Don’t judge me readers. At least Hannukah is early which is actually helpful, it forces you to multi-task. And anyone who knows me knows I’m purely a one-task-at-a-time girl. Anyway, this month is all about the kids, right?Turning them into little, civilized mensches despite and amidst crass commercialization. But I have faith, as long as I have a toilet nearby.

Here I am going to only one wedding as the Flower Girl. Even though I had three older sisters, only one was married during my gypsy years between NJ and PA. Thankfully. IMG_3502

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