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Archive for March, 2022

What would you pack in your “To Go” bag?

In the middle of packing up all my earthly possessions and moving five miles west this past weekend, I was talking with a friend about Ukraine – those poor women and children fleeing their homeland. I was struck by the juxtaposition of packing all the stuff we’d accumulated over the past five years in Nashville, and wondering what I would choose to take in my “to go” bag, should the situation arise.

She said, “What’s a to go bag?”

“Everyone in Israel has a To Go bag,” I said. “It’s in case you have to leave in a hurry, because rockets or bombs are getting closer. My son the Rocker has a To Go bag in California, in case they have to outrun a wildfire sweeping down their canyon. Heck, the only time I packed a To Go bag was when I was pregnant with the Bride!”

Every mom expecting to give birth in a hospital has packed a to go bag; something for a day or two, a nice new nursing nightgown, slippers, some big, baggy pants to wear home. Unless you’re a British princess, and then you must wear a tiny-belly-revealing smart dress for those first photo ops.

I suppose I should actually pack a to go bag now. The EF4 tornado that hit us right before the pandemic was a game changer for me. Some people in our historic Germantown neighborhood had their roofs blown off, some lost windows and we all lost power for over a week. Many lost their lives right outside of town. Bob and I bunked with the Bride and Groom then, luckily our city farmhouse wasn’t touched.

Then again, if a tornado was strong enough to pick up our new/old cozy crystal 1940s cottage, it would probably take us and our to go bags right along with it.

I’ve decided to call our new home, that is currently swimming in boxes, the Crystal Cottage. We hung a modern crystal chandelier in the dining area that adjoins the front parlor. For our offices, I chose a smaller, semi-flush mounted fixture with similar crystals. The one glass cabinet in the new kitchen is showing off its Irish Waterford crystal. From my writing desk that is as old as our marriage, I have a view of the street and the larder!

I wanted to differentiate the old kitchen wall that has shelves and doors, the larder, from its adjoining new pantry.

Have you noticed how Victorian words have been creeping into my vocabulary? Jason, our fine carpenter, is Scottish and he’s named my office the “Snug!” It seems in Scotland a small room off the kitchen is a snug. I love that word so much, I’ve adopted it as my own. I call Bob into my snug every morning to do Wordle with me.

But back to the question at hand, what would I pack in a to go bag? My first thought had always been family pictures, but almost all my pictures are now stowed somewhere up in a cloud. All the ancient pictures – the Flapper in her Marcel wave, my Nana in her pearls, Great Grandma Ada looking for all the world like a 1950s movie star would be in my bag.

I’d pack toiletries – a toothbrush and paste, a bar of soap, some sunscreen and maybe a moisturizer. Next would be clothes for a week – a nightgown, underwear, some tee shirts, a pair of jeans and yoga pants I don’t wear anymore. I figure whatever shoes I’d have on would have to do, but I might pack some socks.

Of course all the important papers and passwords must be readily available. And medicine, I don’t have many prescriptions but the few I have I’ll need for arthritis. So until I could get a refill, I’d want to have a few days worth of meds. Does this mean it’s time to buy one of those weekly, old lady, pill cylinders? Maybe.

We cracked a large Italian piece of pottery we’d been using as an umbrella stand. I’d love to learn Kintsugi – “…the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum.” I love the idea of celebrating the broken spaces.

Did you see the picture of the empty baby strollers in Lviv on March 18? It wasn’t the photograph of neatly lined-up prams that Polish families left at the train station for refugees. No, this was still inside Ukraine, commemorating 109 children murdered by Russia so far.

President Biden was right to call Putin a butcher. Someone needs to slap him.

The new countertops arrived

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I hope this will be my last move.

I wasn’t destined to live in the same community for 50 years, surrounded by friends and family, secure behind a picket fence; a well-known, semi-serious journalist and Hadassah “macher.” Macher is a Yiddish word, a noun:

“Someone who arranges, fixes, has connections…someone who is [very] active in an organization” (Rosten) “important person”, “hot shot.”

n. Somebody who is successful, handy, dextrous.

https://jel.jewish-languages.org/words/325

I’ve always felt a sort of underlying derision whenever someone calls someone else a macher. But maybe that’s just me?

I guess the moment my foster parents picked me up – during our Year of Living Dangerously, with the Flapper in surgery and my big sister Kay in a coma – and brought me to Victory Gardens, my fate was sealed. I would be a little gypsy, traveling over the Delaware Water Gap, between NJ and PA. Uprooted at every turn.

I told myself I was happy to have two mothers, one warm and comforting, the other beautiful and mysterious. I was lucky to have two birthday celebrations, two Christmases, and two homes. Pulled between one set of siblings, half siblings and step-siblings and being an only child. I secretly longed to just stay put.

Now I know that longing for something you’ve never had can be a recipe for a depressive disorder. So instead I try to stay present. I’ve chosen to accept our nomadic existence, after all I married an Emergency Physician. Once he’d roll into an ER and fix it, he’d want a new challenge. I always told the kiddos their Dad wrote the book on Emergency Management, and he did!

Yesterday I asked Bob, “How many bathing suits does one woman need?” And like a good manager, he looked me straight in the eye and said, “That depends.”

Sorting and packing is different this time around. There are the clothes I’ll never fit into again, the clothes I’ll never wear again, and everything else. Pandemic fashion has turned out to be comfortable cotton yoga wear I bought at Whole Foods, along with an occasional Eileen Fisher piece on sale, online. Of course I’ll keep these things, and my boots and fancy shoes that stand watch in my closet, hoping I’ll need them again.

But why am I packing so many small rocks? One is from Ireland, and one is for our old neighbor’s dog Hodor, one is a crystal and one is a geode, and……..

Forgive my absence, but during this move I’ll be posting only once a week, on Mondays. By next Monday we’ll be in our new home – all one level with a big backyard. Bob designed the master bath for us to Age-in-Place. My beautiful master closet will be installed next month and the kitchen countertops are delayed because of a mix-up with the center island. No kitchen sink, no backsplash, so we’ll use Uber Eats for awhile.

One learns to pivot when you’ve moved as much as we have. And one learns that home can be a haven when it’s filled with the people you love.

Wish us luck!

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Waking up to snow a few days ago was the perfect start to Spring Break.

I always loved flying off to our favorite island in a storm, and returning to a spring full of robins and daffodils. The Rocker and Aunt Kiki flew cross country to attend the wedding of the last, single, Parlor Mob bandmate. The drummer with “Oh Yeah” tattooed across his chest said “I Do” to his new bride this weekend. And our Bride and Groom’s family took off for the mountains.

We stayed home in Nashville – to pack for The Big Move, and run our temporary kennel of three rescue dogs!

I’ve let a sober January turn into a sober February and March so far. Before the 2016 election, I’d gotten used to a glass of chardonnay with dinner; but afterwards it turned into wine while cooking dinner during a pandemic and after dinner and a tornado too. Day drinking was never my thing, although I do remember a certain soccer mom who brought a thermos of vodka cocktails to a practice in the 80s.

I’m not opposed to drinking, in fact, I’ll probably be the first to order a margarita whenever we go out to an actual restaurant again!

I’m remembering my foster Daddy Jim, every now and then he’d stop off at a bar for a beer and leave me in the car. I know, he’d be arrested today, but back in the 50s this was normal. Especially if your foster mother didn’t allow any alcohol in the house! The Flapper was a coffee addict, her liquor cabinet was locked up tight. She always said there was NO alcoholism in our family. And by filming my brother drunkenly climbing a set of stairs after his high school graduation, and showing the film every so often, she tried to insure our sobriety.

Honestly, my sleep has been so much better. In sleep hours alone, I figure I’m buying myself a few extra years of life. I was listening to a classical music station on the radio when an advertisement came on for a hospice care facility. Its mantra was – “Calm Comfort Clarity.” And my immediate response was – why can’t I have that now?

It turns out, I can…

… except for the war in Ukraine. Every day I wake to a sense of impending doom. Russia puts nuclear weapons on alert, another journalist is killed, and today we learn of a pregnant woman dying from an air strike in Mariupol. We can see her body on a stretcher. her left hip drenched in blood.

Every day I wake to see if the capital city of Kyiv has been invaded. The shelling of innocents in that city started four days ago, and still its citizens fight for their freedom. They say they would rather stand tall than live on their knees. Putin’s tanks and missiles are getting closer to Poland. I wonder what NATO will do. Will Biden step up to the bully?

What can we Americans do? Ignoring a bully like Putin won’t stop him – it was silence and indifference that allowed Hitler to invade Poland after all. I would like to put my money right in the hands of those Ukrainian people who are staying to fight for their land. A British Twitter writer I follow suggested we book an Air BnB in Ukraine, but is that a good plan? That would just help the top 2% of the population that has wifi and property to rent to others.

“The reaction to Russia’s onslaught on Ukraine has inspired innovative new ways of supporting people on the ground. Two students at Harvard designed their own “stripped-down” version of Airbnb to quickly connect Ukrainian refugees with emergency housing, Google rolled out an air raid alerts system for all Android phones, and the US State Department has even partnered with GoFundMe to establish a channel for businesses, philanthropies, and individuals to support organizations providing humanitarian assistance to Ukrainians. Separate from individual customer bookings of Ukrainian properties, Airbnb has started a refugee fund, where it is aiming to offer free, short-term housing to up to 100,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine.”

https://www.vox.com/22973133/ukraine-russia-airbnb-booking-donate-effective-altruism

I don’t mean to imply that the war is damaging my serenity. I’m about to move again, and that is my American, immediate stressor. I’m not bunking in a metro station or learning how to make molotov cocktails. I’m not running for my life. Just be careful what you say to your children and grandchildren about war and freedom. Now is the time to be clear-minded. Our country must light the way forward.

How many humans do you need to put up a chandelier?

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Spring, or as New Englanders’ call it, ‘mud season,’ is approaching whether we’re ready or not. A neighbor’s tulip magnolia is showing off, robins are bouncing around leaf piles, and daffodils are waving in the wind. Another season of rebirth is upon us, and masks are starting to give way to smiling faces. But first we Jews must relive the story of Purim by dressing up in costumes, making noise when a certain villain’s name is mentioned, and eating hat-shaped pastries.

Purim is about a Persian queen named Esther, who was not only beautiful enough to win the king’s hand in a beauty contest, but smart enough to know when to reveal her Jewishness in order to save her people. Esther was the original mighty, Jewish/Disney princess! She was the Bible’s first wonder woman.

On our way to Disneyland last month, I told the Love Bug that if we’re lucky we may get to see Cinderella! She looked me straight in the eye and said, “I’m not really into princesses anymore, Nana.” My heart skipped a beat, while my head caught up with the times.

The Bride’s temple was celebrating an Encanto-themed Purim carnival yesterday. The latest Disney movie isn’t about a princess after all; it’s about a young girl in a magical village finding her special gift, her passion. It’s about a community coming together to bring light out of the darkness, and to discover a universal truth.

Last week, the Love Bug called and said she wanted to dress up as Dolores for Purim. Now, Dolores is not the star of Encanto, the girl searching for her gift. She is simply a supporting character, a cousin who already has the super/power/gift of super human hearing – like a newspaper reporter, Delores knows ALL the gossip. She is the oracle of the village.

This would be an excellent fit for our creative would-be designer/writer/counselor empathic Bug. Even her teacher said that she can befriend everyone and still manage to stay out of all the pre-teen drama. So we headed out to a fabric store on the outskirts of town to look for red fabric and yellow ribbon to make a peasant skirt. It was almost like being in a candy store. We touched and stroked all the bolts of beautiful fabric until we found just the right red damask.

Pop Bob resurrected the old sewing machine and learned how to make pleats, while I searched my closet for espadrilles and a brooch for Dolores’ choker. Yesterday, the Groom put her hair up and fashioned a gorgeous red bow in the morning while the Bride was working. Then we all met up for the carnival and to our utter delight, the Love Bug won Best Costume!

Bob, the Tailor extraordinaire, just told me we have more hyacinths in bloom, in a range of colors. Who was it that said… “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away?” Our gifts change as we age, but the impetus to share, that altruistic urge to help one another, is our universal truth.

Esther spoke truth to power. Dolores always knew that what people were saying, was not necessarily what they were thinking. What is your gift, and how will you commemorate (hopefully) the end of a pandemic? I plan on taking a deep breath, and working to ensure we continue to have a free press.

Dolores

Tulip Magnolia

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