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Posts Tagged ‘Jewish family’

When I was young, and didn’t want to eat something the Flapper served at the dinner table, she would happily chirp, “Good! All the more for us!” She was all about the Freudian theory of opposites, and she thought if she just played up how great a new dish was, my defense would fold and I’d give in to her exceptional strategy. Sometimes it worked!

Which is why I was intrigued with an essay written by Andrew Wilkinson on his tactic of reversing his To-Do-List at work; he applied the theory of opposites by turning his goals upside down and became immeasurably happier. “He wanted to figure out how to improve his day and make it more enjoyable. So, he followed the lead of Charlie Munger, right-hand man of famed investor Warren Buffet, and a proponent of ‘inversion’ – a strategy that looks at problems in reverse, focusing on minimising the negatives instead of maximising the positives.” http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20170919-the-power-of-a-not-to-do-list

Last night, as I was explaining simply what the Jewish New Year meant to me while the 5 and “almost” 3 year old partially listened, it dawned on me that I wanted to start off the year 5778 with a new angle. I promised myself I’d try and look for the silver lining when things go south, I’d apply my Pippy Longstocking pigtails to every new challenge. I’d learn something new.

Just imagine making your New Year resolutions, only this time God has his Book open and he’s writing down everything you’re putting on your To-Do-List, making Rosh Hashana a kind of spiritual reckoning that ends at Yom Kippur and you better have confessed all your sins by that time.

“What’s a sin?” the Love Bug asked. I mumbled something about not listening…

So I thought about changing my resolutions, my intention to “do Better” infers that I haven’t been doing enough, right? What if I chose to make this the year I employ some “Anti-Goals?” Like Wilkinson, who stopped meeting with people he didn’t like, stopped holding morning meetings altogether, and never scheduled more than 2 hours of his workday, I might just say “No” now and then. I wonder how he dealt with his emails?

Let’s all try and reverse our thinking for a day, a week or maybe even a year. Let’s just put the wrong shoe on the right foot for once and walk around like a toddler not caring one iota! What will bring you more joy in the New Year? Let’s all make our very own “Not-To-Do-List!”

Happy Birthday to the World and I promise never to stop fighting for climate science education, because otherwise our great-grandchildren will have to populate another planet and start over. And I’m not so sure God would start out with “Let there be Light” again, since we didn’t listen the first time.

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The photographs I have left of my Father, who died when I was a baby, are in black and white. As are my baby pictures, stuffed into a bag in an album that has lost its binding. The Flapper gave me to her friends, my foster parents, after her automobile accident because her only other choice would have been an orphanage. My sister Kay was already taking care of my two brothers, and they had to go back to school, so who else would take care of me?

Nell only had one child, and her daughter was in nursing school when I arrived in Victory Gardens after the War in 1949. And so I was raised by a grandmother figure, as Nell was already in her 50s. And she catalogued my childhood lovingly, pasting black and white pictures with tiny black paper edges onto every page. Only my memories conjure up the white and pink explosion of the dogwood tree outside our kitchen window, the red and white tile in the one bathroom, the green grass under my feet with the white sheets billowing above.

Our TV was in black and white, and after school I would walk home from the bus in my maroon plaid Sacred Heart School uniform, to catch Nell watching Art Linkletter on Kids Say the Darndest Things. A small piano stood in a corner with brass feet and hard white teeth. Our first dog was black and brown, I remember sitting on Daddy Jim’s feet while he read the black and white newspaper, and smoked his pipe after work. I would lean back on his knees and stroke the dog’s fur, listening to his critique of the day’s news. Maybe this is when I thought I might have something to say about world events? clr-on-tricycle-20170127

When we view history through a black and white lens, we lose something of the nuance. The tone is off, and it becomes harder to relate to something that happened so long ago. It creates the distance we need to survive certain tragedies, like my Year of Living Dangerously – my psychologist brother Jim’s description of 1949. Which is why finding this photographer, Marina Amaral, is like finding a jewel in the coal dustbin of time.

Amaral’s passion is restoring and colorizing old black and white pictures. And I found a picture she posted online of a child, a Czechoslovakian girl who was the same age as my sister Kay in 1949, when she died at Auschwitz in 1943. Her name was Czeslawa Kwoka; and I remembered Nell’s given name was Kosty, which was probably changed at Ellis Island. On Amaral’s webpage, you can move a line back and forth over the child’s face, and bring color to her cheeks and blood to the cut on her lip.

“Color has the power to bring life back to the most important moments,” http://www.marinamaral.com

Today more than ever, on Holocaust Memorial Day, we must remember that the Holocaust started with the rhetoric of hate, and the silence and indifference of the rest of Europe and America. And we must vow to resist in any way we can, and we must say her name, Czeslawa Kwoka.

Photograph courtesy of Marina Amaral.

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As you already know, we had a Bris this weekend for our new grandson. He was named after his Great Grandmother Ada’s Father, Sam Pinkofsky, who was the first to immigrate to this country with a few scheckels in his pocket from Russia. Sam taught my honey, his Grandson Bob, to love digging in the earth, and to go through life looking on the bright side of things. “Better it Couldn’t Be” was his motto. And this baby boy was blessed with Sam’s Hebrew name, Sholom, which means “Peace” – a a very chill, peaceful baby he truly is!

The Greats flew to our Simcha – a Yiddish word that means a joyful celebration. Grandma Ada, Grandpa Hudson, and Great Uncle Jeff all came from NJ. Friends from Nashville came bearing flowers, beer and gifts galore. And we not only had a delightful, young woman Rabbi, we also had a sweet and talented woman Cantor to accompany this age-old ritual procedure, the circumcision of a son on his his 8th day of life. Our Mohel was a pediatrician from Vanderbilt; the house was chock full of doctors! And though everyone thought it might be his Nana (me) who might hit the floor and pass out, it was actually Great Grandpa Hudson who went very pale and said,

“I don’t feel so good….”

So Hudson hitched a ride by ambulance to the Bride’s hospital. One of their friends went with him, and the baby naming went on as usual. Because in Judaism, life always trumps death, and anyway, Hudson was fine and being a Vet, he was discharged immediately. As most ER docs will tell you, Vets pretty much have to be unconscious before you can admit them to a hospital.

PopBob got back in his plane and flew home to the Blue Ridge, and the Greats all went back North. But I’ll stick around a few more days just to help keep the chickens out of the kitchen.  IMG_1644

 

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Please. With a newborn in the family everyone loses a little sleep. But the Bride carries the heaviest burden of nursing every two to three hours. And since today is going to be a glorious life-affirming, celebratory day, I’ll make this post brief.

TN in its infinite wisdom has voted “YES on 1” which was an anti-choice, anti-women ballot initiative. The question was deliberately confusing, and ads by religious PACs made it seem like a reasonable option.

However, in the future elected officials now have more power to legislate what we women can do, or not do with our bodies. We may be made to wait longer for an abortion, make multiple visits to a doctor, and even watch an ultrasound or succumb to an invasive pelvic sonogram. TN cannot overturn our right to seek reproductive care, but the GOP can now chip away at our ability to access it with more TRAP laws.

So thanks TN, for thinking that old white men and a few women know best.
http://m.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/11/what-tennessees-new-abortion-amendment-means-for-america/382401/#

With more and more women in medicine and politics, this state just may be first for music but last in recruiting young people in science and technology fields. Just another result of apathetic young voters, or is this a sign of the times?

Let me sleep on it baby.

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It’s not everyday that my whole family gets to walk around NYC, on a holiday weekend, when anyone with a car has long since left this piece of the Apple. The Bride thought the city looked beautiful in its abandoned state: an older woman was slowly pushing her small dog in a fancy pram; decorated, horse-drawn carriages were lined up in front of the Plaza waiting for tourists who never came; and out on Sue’s upper-East side terrace, where she had planted 35 tomatoes in painters’ tubs, a nest of baby birds was singing to us. It’s one of those strange, paradoxical moments in time. In the midst of grief, sitting shiva in the middle of this concrete canyon, we realize there is still beauty.

And that’s probably what we are meant to do, reflect on my cousin’s life through our own lens. Someone said she wasn’t a political person, but I knew better. Because around Ada’s kitchen table we let our political hair down, and Sue was always in the middle of the fray, leading the conversation. Maybe with her NYC realtor/colleagues she didn’t voice her opinions, but her family and close friends knew she had the heart of a liberal. Which is why my conversation with the cabby of my taxi on the way to Penn Station was apropos.

He was from Africa. He spoke French “officially.” He got his BA from Baruch College in the Flatiron District and was going to get his masters soon. Just as soon as he gets his green card…

And to wake up at home this morning and hear all about President Obama’s meeting with Gov Perry in TX and speculation about Obama’s decision not to have a “photo-op” holding refugee children at the border yesterday made me feel sick. Particularly when I saw Perry quickly swivel his chair out of sight as the CNN camera started rolling at that meeting with the POTUS. God forbid he should be seen like Gov Chris Christie – embracing our President. Of course Perry would like a picture of Obama holding children he is “…about to deport” as one commentator said.

Because to a politician, it’s appearances that count. And the optics of immigration isn’t very pretty.

My cabby told me there is a French saying about things you may want in life. Bit by bit, the bird builds her nest.

Father and Daughter in NYC

Father and Daughter in NYC

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Kugels are being frozen, matzoh balls rolled, and families are getting ready to gather again for their annual Seder. It’s been a rite of passage for me ever since I married into my husband’s huge Jewish family. Don’t get me wrong, my stepfather was Jewish, but the Irish Flapper didn’t do Passover. This holiday is unlike anything else, it can’t be compared to Easter, because Easter was a direct result of the Last Supper, which was a Passover Seder, if you get the drift. This is more like a Jewish Christmas. Everybody has got to get home for the Seder.

We sit around a large table and tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt and our path to freedom. There are prayers and songs and finally food. Every single Jewish family around the world is going to be doing this in eight days. My specialty, as you all know, is the haroses – a delicious condiment of apples and dried fruit meant to symbolize the bricks and the labor that was used while our people were slaves. It happens to be the star attraction on Grandma Ada’s Seder plate.

I remember my first Seder with the Baby Bride, 1980, like it was yesterday. Driving from the Berkshires back to NJ. All the relatives cooing over her, holding her, giving her presents. A great tradition was being passed down and I knew it was important to pay attention. Bob would one day lead the Seder, recline at the head of the table, and ask questions just to keep us on our toes. Last year the same rituals were repeated, only the Love Bug stole the show.

But this year we’ll be missing our north star. Judith married Ada’s nephew after a long and hard divorce. She brought him back to us, a happier healthy man. She was a counselor, whose smile could light up a room. A devout Jew, her parents had survived the Holocaust with numbers on their arms to prove it. It was the first time I had ever seen that horrific symbol, alive on a real person, not in a history book. And yet, somehow, they raised an angel of light.

Judith, the woman who brought a profound sense of meaning to our gathering every year, died yesterday. Her Hebrew kept Bob on track during the Seder, she would be the one to lead us through long passages, to sing without having to look at the words. Her Judaism was a living breathing tribute to her parents. Her loving spirit a balm to her husband and her son, her stepdaughters and her grandchildren. And I can’t tell you how many times she took me aside at the Seder to reassure me on my road through this long and winding family dynamic – to tell me that everything will be alright. These are just rough passages, we’ll plow through.

She battled cancer with the ferocity of her Biblical namesake. She was too young, too kind, it was too soon. And this Seder, along with all the rest to come when the Love Bug brings her baby to meet the  family, Judith will always be remembered.

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