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The circle of life was evident on Sunday when our Reform Jewish congregation wrapped the Torah around the sanctuary. We were there to welcome the latest students of Torah, over twenty First Graders are beginning their path toward Tikkun Olam – the tradition of repairing the world through acts of loving kindness. When I was studying Judaism, preparing to convert in 1978, I embraced this codified concept; it would become my “raison d’etre,” although I didn’t know it at the time.

” (Hebrew for “world repair”) has come to connote social action and the pursuit of social justice. The phrase has origins in classical rabbinic literature and in Lurianic kabbalah, a major strand of Jewish mysticism originating with the work of the 16th-century kabbalist Isaac Luria. The term “mipnei tikkun ha-olam” (perhaps best translated in this context as “in the interest of public policy”) is used in the Mishnah (the body of classical rabbinic teachings codified circa 200 C.E.). There, it refers to social policy legislation providing extra protection to those potentially at a disadvantage — governing, for example, just conditions for the writing of divorce decrees and for the freeing of slaves.

This was why my Temple’s committee was exchanging stuffed animals for toy guns at a peace fair.

Why I would find myself writing more and more to persuade politically in a newspaper column.

Why I dragged the Bride and my niece Lucia to a Planned Parenthood rally in DC.

We arrived early on Sunday when one of the older congregants opened the Temple door asking, “Are you here for the Consecration?

“Yes, as a matter of fact!” And as we unloaded Great Grandma Ada’s fire-engine red rollator and settled  Great Grandpa Hudson into his wheelchair, I noted there was only one policeman inside; no patrol cars outside, no armed guards, not even somebody directing traffic.

The day before, our country witnessed one of the cruelest acts of evil at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. A deranged gunman, shouting Anti-Semitic slurs, killed eleven elderly people and injured more, before being arrested. Yet again, media will ask why and how could this happen? And yet again I propose an answer – because of our beloved 2nd Amendment. There are more guns in our society than any other developed nation.

We don’t have more mental illness! We don’t have anymore Anti-Semitism either! Although if incidents of Anti-Semitism have increased by nearly 50% last year in the US, one could argue that our social climate has changed, that what was once whispered can now find a megaphone in platforms online and in the hate speech of certain politicians. If Mr T tells us there is evil on both sides, if he must be persuaded to speak out against Anti-Semitism by his Jewish daughter and son-in-law, and if his followers believe in fake news unless it’s on FOX, where can we turn?

There is a shift in the fabric of the universe.

Brazil has elected Jair Bolsonaro as President, an extreme Right Trump-like politician “His reckless plans to industrialize the Amazon in concert with Brazilian and international agribusiness and mining sectors will bring untold destruction to the planet’s largest rainforest and the communities who call it home, and spell disaster for the global climate,” Amazon Watch program director Christian Poirier said to CNN.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will not run again for office in 2021, and speculation is that she may step down sooner. Saint Angela is paying the political price of keeping Germany’s borders open to migrants, stirring that nationalistic fervor, that spark that lead millions of Jews to their death in the last century. A cold chill went down my spine when I heard this news. Will Germany follow in the steps of Brazil, and the recent autocratic elections in Hungary? Will Germany elect a Trump?

While we were gathered in prayer this past Sunday, Mr T was playing the song “Happy” at a campaign rally in Indiana. He joked about his hair. There was one true thing he said, “We just don’t seem to learn from the past.” 

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“This job has side benefits!”

Great Grandma Ada said, as two tall, handsome young men escorted her to the stage. And so the laughter began.

My Mother-in-Law Ada was the honored guest and a featured speaker at her retirement community’s 2nd Annual Fall Film Festival yesterday. This particular organization has over a thousand continuing care and assisted living campuses all over the country. Their incredible “Optimum Life Engagement” director, Carol, met Ada months ago and enlisted her immediately, since we all know how charming and disarming this 94 year young Brooklyn babe can be!

We arrived early for the Red Carpet! Carol had provided a special parking spot, an actual handler (Lauren, an adorable Millennial), and hair and make-up people. The tech guys in the back adored the Marvelous Ms A…I was looking for E! News…

I told her later she threw a little Bette Midler into her speech, but she said, “No, don’t you know who my three famous role-models are?” I guessed to no avail – then she said, “Sophie Tucker, Margaret Mead, and Eleanor Roosevelt!” Not a bad trio.

Her son Jeff told her she’d hit the big time, corporate America. This was no Hadassah talk, after all, she was following a series of short films that residents had created on iPads to help celebrate aging and change some stereotypes.

It was an emotional rollercoaster, one woman used a teapot from her grandmother as a metaphor for her feelings about agism. A man saw the reflection of his younger self as he transitioned from home to a motor home. But listening to Ada was like rolling down the home stretch. She told us about being a family counselor, living in NJ for over 50 years and finding herself in TN. Feeling bereft at first, but taping into her sense of humor and a determination I knew she would find again.

“Life has other plans,” she told us, and she chose life. The Jewish Community Center has voted her IN, and last night we celebrated with Turkish food, her favorite. Just as her great grand daughter is starting Hebrew School this month, Ada is starting to bloom in this fertile Southern soil.

ps #HireAda was trending last night! Could talented senior motivational speaker be her next act? Here is Dr Ada with her new manager, Carol, backstage in the Green Room.

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Ever since Great Grandma Ada and Hudson moved to Nashville, Bob and I have been busy with the myriad friends and relatives who have come to visit them. First it was Hudson’s son-in-law, then his daughter from Arkansas.  Next up, Kathy and her ex from NC went to the museum with all of us. Then an old friend, Toni from FL came by, and she and Ada Facetimed with Toni’s new grandbaby.  But the last visitor stole the show!

We finally met Dickie’s daughter, Tamara.

When Ada first heard the news during rehab she was ecstatic. It made all her hard work after hip surgery bearable. Dickie was her middle son, the handsome desperado who went to Mexico for medical school and in some ways never returned. He died too young. In fact, the Rocker’s Bar Mitzvah was just a few weeks later. His very first band played at the beach party we threw for all the Eighth Grade! Dickie would have loved that evening.

Why he didn’t tell us about Tamara we’ll never know. He wrote to her, and her birth mother Kathy, once she found him. By that time his daughter was in her early 20s. Maybe he just wasn’t ready to meet Tammy; it must have been a shock to find out that twenty years ago you went to Woodstock but somewhere in NC, in one of those horrible homes for young pregnant girls, your baby was born. And against Kathy’s wishes, Tammy was given up just days later for adoption.

I’d been on pins and needles, waiting to meet her. We saw pictures of Tammy and her family – Ada now has two new Great Grandsons – and I kept trying to see Dickie in their eyes. I just wasn’t sure, until I walked into Ada’s new apartment and looked at both of them, Grandmother and Grand Daughter together. I realized Tammy takes after Ada’s family, like Bob and Jeff. Dickie looked like his father, blonde and fair, it didn’t occur to me that of course DNA can do extraordinary things!

She has Dickie’s wavy hair and his smile, but the rest is pure Ada. Those dark Russian eyes, and the sparkle to go along with them. She loves history and music. Her voice is honeyed by her Southern roots. She is beautiful, smart and sensible, and lucky for her, she grew up in a loving, intact home. Unlike most adopted children, Tammy didn’t seek out her birth parents, so this rag-tag team of Yankee Jewish relatives was a big surprise. For most of her life she thought she was Italian!

We laughed, we ate, we shopped at Talbots, we talked, we celebrated our good fortune. We added another link to our family totem; our tree of life has sprouted a new branch.

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My first, and possibly last Seder was last year in VA. Yesterday the Bride threw a fabulous feast for 14, after working the night shift the night before, and I am honored to pass the torch on to her! She makes a mean matzoh ball soup, and her charoses was to die for: Chag Sameach! Next year in Nashville with Great Grandma Ada and Cousin Anita if you’re willing and able!

My contribution was a brisket, which is actually the same cut of beef as my St Patrick’s Day specialty, corned beef. I knew the Jews and Irish could align in mysterious ways! Of course, I Googled Ina Garten’s recipe and loved the idea of adding leeks. Leeks are my Celtic heritage, I must admit I put them in everything. https://barefootcontessa.com/recipes/brisket-with-onions-and-leeks

Today we met the kiddos at Cheekwood for an Easter Egg Hunt. There were food trucks, including my favorite Grilled Cheeserie, music and lots of arts and crafts. It started out cold, almost 50 degrees, but the sun was shining and the children were willing. It made me think of my friend Polli’s Easter Egg hunts in her Rumson yard. Since we didn’t go to church Easter morning (being Jewish), we helped hide all the candy. Back then, we tossed chocolate bunnies and jelly beans around like nobody’s business.

Our reward was champagne on her porch while the children searched for treats in Polli’s beautiful garden. She taught me how to arrange flowers for weddings and not to let the Rocker miss the school bus. I miss your wisdom dear friend! Today, in Nashville, the treasure was plastic eggs with plastic toys. The times they are a changin!

Back on my porch, I read my Cville friend’s food/lifestyle blog “Things I’m Afraid to Tell You” https://www.katheats.com

Being vulnerable takes courage. She is around the Bride’s age and has a son from her first marriage. She just re-married this past year and told her readers that she’d had a miscarriage last month.

Some of you may know that I had 3 misses in one year between the Bride and the Rocker. I know what it feels like to mourn the possibility of a child. To curl into yourself and reject anyone’s help. To harbor fear and anger in equal measure, and to feel like the ground you walk on has betrayed you.

You stop driving over bridges.

I’m sending Koop my heartfelt love. Her blog has grown over the years to inspire young women to not just eat real food, but to go after their authentic selves. This time of year is all about rebirth. We clean out the bread, we prepare to tell the story of Exodus, and we talk about Jesus who sacrificed his life to bring Christians everywhere the promise of salvation.

May this sacred time find you surrounded by family. Having Easter and Passover fall under the same full moon is a miracle! The Bride will be working tomorrow, maybe I should deliver a ham to the Groom?

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Hallelujah! Star Wars the Last Jedi has finally opened on this side of the pond; Bob and I started our Friday morning by buying tickets online for the megaplex outside of town. Out of 21 theaters in the art deco masterpiece, 12 were featuring Star Wars! We opted to go after lunch, thinking other times might be sold out, plus first we had a date with the Little Pumpkin!

The Festival of Lights is in full swing and the Temple Preschool invited parents and grands to a Hanukkah Shabbat service. The sanctuary was shimmering in sunlight as the Rabbi strolled in wearing a dreidel on her head! Children played, the Cantor sang and we all laughed and watched an amazing juggler. Pop Bob even had a few latkes, with apple sauce. I remembered why I liked this religion so much.

As our tiny red head sat on the Bride’s lap, clapping and singing, time was suspended for a moment of pure joy.

Now I don’t want to ruin the new Star Wars movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, but we all know it’s about an epic fight between good and evil – the Light Last Jedi side vs the Dark Conflicted Kylo Ren side. Returning to its existential roots, the latest film in the series does not disappoint, and seeing General Leia (always the princess to me) was bittersweet to the point of tears. I only wish the latest villain, General Hux, wasn’t a red head…

Returning to “reality-based” villains, maybe Alabama turning Blue was the last straw for Mr T? Because I awoke today to this little tidbit of news from the esteemed Washington Post on my phone:

Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden words at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden words are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”  

The analysts were naturally skeptical, they thought maybe this was a joke? I thought it must be an Onion satire when I first read about our government banning words from official documents. After all, HHS has already archived information on LGBT rights; isn’t it better NOT to relay critical methods used to stop HIV infections in certain communities? It would seem we are slipping into the Dark Ages, where climate change is challenged, evolution can be debunked, creationism taught, and women senators humiliated via Twitter at the puny hands of our Groper-in-Chief.

After a thrilling Friday, my morning is sunny and bleak. We gave our Little Pumpkin a Star Wars super duper light saber kit for Hanukkah. His sister had painted his nails black and we sat outside looking for “mean guys.” We must do better with this next generation, and teach them to put the earth and science above myth and money. It’s time for every American to choose the Light or the Dark side.

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Oktoberfest ended with a little rain and a lot of dachshunds! And since our friend Eli was visiting with her son Leo, we all met the Bride’s family for the Annual Dachshund Derby in Germantown. Leo decided that Nashville should be renamed “Dogland,” since dogs of every variety strolled through the park with their beer drinking masters in lederhosen. Still, watching those wiener dogs race was hilarious. http://thenashvilleoktoberfest.com/dogtoberfest/

Ms Bean was delighted to sit on the front porch and watch the canine parade go by  behind the cover of a maple tree. She has staked out her territory thankfully, and the sidewalk is safe for most breeds. Corgi puppies and Great Danes stroll right by without looking up to see her eyeing them suspiciously. After all, she is a rescue mutt, origins unknown, and she’s proud of it! She doesn’t need some set of AKC papers to know she is a prey-driven lover girl!

Unlike certain people, who require validation in order to feel good about themselves. It’s not enough to be a professional for some, your pedigree must include only “The Best” schools, “The Finest” clerkships or residencies. These are the silent judges in our midst; constantly ranking others according to some inner calculation, one they are only slightly aware of and would never admit. It’s still a Dog and Pony Show world it would seem, no matter where you go.

You can usually sniff them out, the pretentious co-mingling of class and money. It’s a primal thing I suppose, as territorial as Ms Bean and my friendly mailman. Great Grandma Ada would call this person a “Noodge.” ie Someone who is a pest, an annoying critic of your every move. It’s exactly what we are currently trying to teach the Love Bug’s toddler brother to avoid – not to whine! “You’re not whining are you?” I’ll ask him. The etymology is probably Slavic, and:

likely from Yiddish נודיען nudyen ‘to bore, pester’, נודניק nudnik ‘bore, pest’, influenced by English “nudge”  http://www.jewish-languages.org/jewish-english-lexicon/words/417

Some people become lifetime complainers; their shoulders are burdened by a ton of self-generated worry. I’m sure Freud would tell us they got stuck at that two year old developmental stage, but the latest winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics may have a different answer. Richard Thaler started applying smaller psychological theories of human behavior to influence larger changes in public policy with his “Nudge Theory!”

How do we get someone to make good decisions? Bob explained Thaler’s theory to me this way – if his company offered employees the opportunity to sign up for a 401K, he would get a small minority signing up. BUT if he automatically signed everyone up for a 401K, and told them they would have to opt out if they didn’t want to save for retirement, the large majority would participate! I guess the human species is just lazy and we all need a little “nudge” in the right direction, to avoid being a “noodge!”

As for us, the rain dampened the number of people walking into lamp posts and spilling their steins of beer. Bob only had to pick up an occasional St Pauli Girl can every morning off our stoop. Things are getting back to normal in Germantown.

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Our new townhouse gets a tiny sliver of light each morning, and the sun streams in again in the late afternoon. Against all odds, I’ve decided to plant a few dish gardens because “Bloom Where You’re Planted” is my mantra. And even though my green thumb has been noticeably absent when it comes to house plants – with the exception of orchids –  I’m determined to turn my horticultural track record around and plant cacti!

After all, who could kill a cactus plant?

They grow in the desert, so water isn’t a problem. I’m really good at forgetting to water things, houseplants are low on my list of priorities falling right after dusting. Gardens, in my opinion, belong outside. But cacti, in or out, do need a fair amount of sun. Therefore I will inch my cactus gardens into that small square foot of sometimes semi/saturated/sun space and hope for the best.

We all adapt to our environment. I’ve gone from living on the edge of a bird sanctuary in Massachusetts, to the Jersey suburbs, to the mountains of Virginia. And now I’m sitting here, in the alcove of our “open plan” Living/Dining/Kitchen room in the middle of a big city. Ms Bean has adapted to a collar and leash; and Bob has changed in his own way, he’s enamored of Uber, forsaking driving, and has just walked in from his daily bike ride!

City life is looking better and better. I’m about to meet the Bride for another look at the fashions of Downton Abbey before the Cheekwood exhibit closes.

I learned a few things from my last visit to “Dressing Downton; Changing Fashion for Changing Times.” For instance, skirts began to shorten during WWI, as nurses on the front lines shortened their hemlines to avoid mud and blood. Hence the Flappers of the early 1920s. Fashion was adapting to the pragmatic needs of working women. Corsets became unnecessary, along with bustles. Eventually, women started riding horses astride in pants, they gave up the ritualized riding costume to ride like a man!

I recently found out a food blogger I follow from Charlottesville, Kathy Younger of KERF, made up with a particularly nasty troll of hers who had created a synchronous, satiric website for two and a half years. One of the many cruel and snarky comments on this other site had said that I looked like a man in my Downton Abbey-type hat. Those of you who know me know I wouldn’t really care, but what was interesting was that this troll took the commenter to task, telling them my website MountainMornings.net was actually well written and interesting!

The funniest thing is I thought the troll was a man. Why? I’m not exactly sure, the writing was sharp and witty, but Tina Fey is sharp and witty. Maybe I just couldn’t imagine a woman cutting down another woman like that. It turns out her troll was a 20 something young woman from LA, one with her own issues, and she wanted to make amends. https://www.katheats.com/i-befriended-my-troll#Z2pOl6ZWizcpyJbw.01

What I wanted to know was who was paying for this troll to write her miserable copy almost every single day? I haven’t quite adapted to the business side of the internet yet, but Kath said there “…are huge networks like Google Ads and they run all over the internet, so you can’t really pinpoint single businesses. They run on so many sites that they probably don’t even know they’re on a troll site.”

Well shame on these advertisers! And just in case you think the White Supremacists marching in Cville shouting “Jews will not replace us” – which no Jew I know would want to do in the first place – was a fluke, Facebook has just announced it will trim its targeting system for advertisers. Yep, it will no longer search for people to target in ads who are self-proclaimed “Jew haters!” I kid you not… They said they are “…building “guardrails” into its processes to stop offensive self-reported profile traits being used as ad categories.” http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-41278800

Did you know that a Jew born in Israel is called a “Sabra?” The name came from a kind of succulent that grows wild and free on the coastal areas, like a prickly pear. I’ve become rather proud of my bleeding post-potting fingers.

I hope that more platforms like Facebook and Google adapt to the troll and racist/anti-Semitic sites that pop up in the wild west of wifi, because free speech is becoming a synonym for spew all the hate you can, and we better learn how to handle this new territory.

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