The week that was

Whoa! What a week.  From the minute to the momentous. From everyday slights to the evisceration of things we hold dear.  From personal triumphs to the deathbed of a world hero.

What a difference a week makes.

The Supreme Court taketh away and the Supreme Court giveth (with caveats).  But before all the epic decisions, the Supreme Court punteth the ball. Yep, punt on affirmative action, gut the Voting Rights Act, and hold that the Federal government cannot demean or injure what a state seeks to protect, in matters within a state’s purview.

So if you are a gay, non-white Democrat in a Red State, you can’t get married to your partner, you may not be able to vote and you certainly cannot have the totality of your identity and your life story considered in any application to higher education.

If, however, you are gay, white, Democrat in a Blue State, you probably get to claim an iPad as a winning contestant in the Supreme Court sweepstakes.

How’s that for “equal protection under the laws”?

I am thrilled that Edie Windsor, who in her own words, was “just an out lesbian suing the United States of America,” prevailed and DOMA is DEAD.  It was a thrill and an honor to go to Sabbath Services on Gay Pride Weekend to hear Edie, who talked about her spouse, Thea (of blessed memory), just a little before Edie started to cry, and then have hundreds of people standing up to cheer her. 

Get the documentary on them.  It is beautiful and sad and just simply a true (non-Hollywood) love story.

People sometimes ask, “why gay PRIDE?”  Because if you have felt marginalized, shamed, invisible, unwanted, a veritable punching bad for angry people and all of society’s ills, then you need to own your identity and say that you are proud and not ashamed.  It is important for those still in the closet — of any kind — and our children.

I suspect that Mandela is hovering between life and death only through the curse of modern medicine, while politicians figure out the best time to announce his death.  Call me cynical.  The world will be different on the day that the man who presided over immense change in Africa and, indeed, the whole world, is declared dead.  One person can make a difference, but there are only too few in any generation who are truly capable.  We will have lost (or did we already lose) a hero.

SOS went off to sleep away camp for seven weeks.  Both POB and I were happy, sad, scared and proud that he hopped on the bus with someone he met previously who was also going to the same camp.  Hugs, but no tears.  A watershed moment in our baby’s growth.

I stopped a client in the hallway of our firm and greeted him.  He was momentarily caught off-guard and then said, “[Blogger], you look great; I would never have recognized you!!!”  And then he dug himself deeper to a point at which I had to say, “Don’t worry, a little hair color and make-up can really make ALL the difference . . . ”  I expect that from Dad’s mother (“You look so gut, I vouldn’t recognize you, dahlink.”) but not anyone born after World War II.

Fom petty slights to soaring heights.  From a widow’s indignation to liberation for so many.  From tiny family triumphs (and the funny slights) to a loss for all humanity.  From the mundane to the immortal.   From the set-backs to the steps forward and then reluctance to decide.  The juxtaposition of all of these make the important events stand apart, in stark relief — some to be celebrated, some to be worried over, one to be mourned.

What a week it was.  Good thing I fastened my seat belt.

Countdown to Sequester and other problems

“Sequester” will be a reality in less than two weeks.  Economic and political chaos visible on the horizon.  The Congress and the White House are in their respective corners, blaming each other.

McCain is yelling “cover-up!” on Benghazi, while under Bush’s watch, the attacks on our embassies were incalculable and the lives lost a moral travesty.

Syria is being armed by the Russians, even though Britain made a statement that Russia had stopped, further isolating Prime Minister Cameron from the EU and the world.

The President golfs with Tiger Woods. It is ok now, say those who only speak on the condition of anonymity, because he isn’t running for re-election.  I guess Michelle Obama hasn’t taught Barry enough about the rage of women.

The White House rankles partisan divides by leaking an immigration plan. Marco Rubio flamed out in his response to the State of the Union.  So much for Time’s savior of the GOP.

The Keystone Pipeline and fracking are gaining momentum even as the dire environmental implications are clear.

Ashley Judd is taking on Mitch McConnell for his Senate seat.  He looks ever more like a chicken that Frank Perdue wouldn’t serve.

For anyone keeping score on this contest between the government and nation, the nation is losing.  Badly.

Tax Day is coming up and for the first time in my life (read, even under George W. Bush), I am not proud to pay my taxes.  Why? A bunch of clowns run our government.

GROW UP OR GET THE HELL OUT.

 

 

Fatigue Fatigue

Election fatigue.  Fiscal Cliff fatigue.  War fatigue.  War hero sex scandal fatigue.  Bomb Iran or not fatigue. Crazy politicians saying psycho things fatigue. Human-engineered natural disasters fatigue. Finger-pointing fatigue.  European debt crisis fatigue.  Stock market sinking fatigue.  Living in precarious economic times (controlled by others) fatigue.  Dealing with a failing parent fatigue.

Wow, I am tired.  If one or more of these things come to fruition, it (or they) will dwarf the others and can send our nation, our society and/or just me into a tailspin.

In fact, I was too tired to get all excited that President Obama was re-elected.  I was more relieved that the months of uncertainty were over.  And BOB, who lives in a Red State, wrote a poignant Facebook post just before the election that made me re-think any self righteous glee after the president’s re-election.  BOB wrote:

I don’t post, particularly about politics. Others do, for whatever reason. I am certain that whoever wins the election tomorrow, and his supporters, will continue to be reviled and mocked by those that did not vote for him. I do not care who my friends vote for and will respect the fact that they believe what they believe. I do not try to lobby them and I ignore any efforts to lobby me. The diversity we have is what makes us a unique place in the world and what makes no sense to one makes all the sense in the world to another. So, my hope is that on Wednesday morning we get back to (or start) respecting each other, doing good in our own way and not just complaining about what others are not doing the way we see fit, and working together instead of bullying and demeaning, recognizing that it is too late to take all of that money that was spent (read: wasted) campaigning on all levels to help feed hungry mouths here and elsewhere around the globe. And that’s all I have to say about that.

BOB is a good and smart man.

But Nate Silver (fivethirtyeight.com) is my new pin-up boy (ok, so many levels of complexity there).  Nate:  you have gotten far too many love letters from straight and gay men and women for a numbers geek.  I think Brad Pitt’s agent is trying to have the exact tally sealed.  It is a Hollywood thing.  And that guy with a girl’s name who is really popular now is soooooo not loving you right now.  Neither is Karl Rove and that is just fine with me.

But, I digress, comme d’habitude.

I am so tired of our national issues being treated like a really bad reality TV show that masquerades as news.

I am hungry for good news, for hope, for public service without political advantage.  I am hungry for good things happening to good people who work hard and do the right thing.  I am hungry for a commitment by those of us who have more to share with those who have less.  Not wealth redistribution; rather, compassion.

Good policy and hope come from searching, sometimes emotional, debates about our national values and our common future and how we best meet the challenges ahead.  It involves compromise and respect.  It is not a winner-take-all game.

Until then, the fatigue will slowly, but surely, become indifference or powerlessness.  And, assuming it spreads beyond just me to the greater populace, that will bring a good and mighty nation to its knees more surely than any war or any economic crisis could ever.

Getting Out the Vote

Yesterday, POB, SOS and I joined a group of well-heeled, mulit-cultural (I might add) Upper West Siders on a bus to West Philadelphia to get out the vote for Obama.

We arrived at an Obama field office.

We were given clipboards with lists of voters who hadn’t voted in 2010.  We had to knock on doors to make sure that these citizens knew that their vote was important, what they needed for proper ID (and that the Pennsylvania voter suppression law was struck down) and the location of their polling booths.

POB and I were given names on opposite side of the street.  SOS tagged along with one of us.  People were so welcoming and glad we were out in the cold making sure that they knew where to vote.  Many people weren’t at home; the people who answered the doors said they were at work.

West Philly is not exactly the cushy part of town.  It was working class until the Great Recession.  Now, parts are boarded up.

High unemployment.  Crime skyrocketing.  See the sign in the pizza place below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I was in there buying a pizza, someone came in with a hoodie, and the cashier said, “take off your hoodie, or I am calling the police.”  The management is serious about the hoodie thing.

It seemed (to my white, upper middle class, eye) that many needed a reminder that their vote counts.  Certainly, with all the attempts at voter suppression, a person could give up hope.  But, more than anyone else, their lives are literally on the line — the poverty line — depending on the outcome on Tuesday.

Some places were scary and creepy.  SOS was a little unnerved by these places.  Especially, a young boy who was outside with no one minding him.  (Yes, sweetie, I thought, please think about this when you re-enter your rarefied world.)

Among the three of us, we knocked on 120 doors and got some very enthusiastic responses (once they realized we weren’t canvassing for Romney).

POB, SOS and I talked about our adventure over dinner tonight.  I tried to make the point to SOS that his great-grandparents were the working (or sometimes not working) poor who lived and raised their children in tenements and then, later on, in nicer places.  But his grandparents had a great public school system and there were jobs for them when they graduated.  And that I am one generation removed from this neighborhood.  And Grandpa got mixed up with a gang before his brothers intervened (and then beat the crap out of him).

I don’t know if he understood the importance of what we did, as citizens of this country, and as a way to pay forward our family’s good fortune and opportunity by re-electing President Obama.  I believe this.  And I always will.

an H-E-N-D

H-E-N-D?  Human-engineered, natural disaster.  Hurricane Sandy.  I would have called it a man-made natural disaster, but that sounded too oxymoronic (however, true).

And it would confuse the morons who don’t believe that humans are at least, in part, responsible for climate change.  Ok, I don’t have to be insulting, but let’s just leave it like this:  it has to better for the planet if we don’t dump toxins in the oceans or let toxins loose into the atmosphere.  If we were as gentle with the world as we expect our loved ones to be with us, then maybe we wouldn’t need a political-scientific war of words.

Since I am not good at the big theories, let me tell you about a small, unintended, consequence of H-E-N-D Sandy:  Dad’s care.

With power outages predicted, one of Dad’s children or children-in-law needed to be with him, even though he had a home health aide.  Why? What if he fell, or became confused and agitated, and the phones were down, how would the health aide — who cannot leave his side — get help?  What if, as happened, no one comes to relieve the home health aide because everyone is stranded?  One home health aide couldn’t leave for 60 hours; no one could get to Dad’s house to relieve her and she had no way of getting home.  We needed to be there to let her sleep and help with cooking and minding Dad.  And Dad needs minding.  Especially at night.

We are lucky.  Dad didn’t lose power.  We live nearby.  We married good, kind and loving people who were willing to treat Dad like their own dad and take shifts in Dad’s care.  I slept there twice; HOSOB once.  POB and SOS were there during the day.  SOB had to be in her hospital because other hospitals were evacuating very sick people to her ICU.

But so many of the elderly or infirm in this country are not so lucky.  Their children don’t live nearby.  They can’t come to the rescue in a disaster.

I bet a lot of people went without medications, good food, and proper hygiene during these past three or so days.  And I bet they were frightened.

So, don’t think about this on a global scale.  Think about your neighbors, whether they are elderly or the children who couldn’t fly to their parents’ rescue.  Then, think about your gas guzzler car, your over-processed food, your bottled water.  Then, consider how you (and I) contributed to the crazy weather patterns that made H-E-N-D Sandy an epic disaster.

This Parent’s Nightmares

Two New York Times articles this weekend conveniently book-ended the gamut of parental nightmares — child abuse and drug abuse.

In the hallowed halls of elite Horace Mann School, unabashed pedophilia survived through willful blindness for decades.  Just another reminder for me to listen closely to my child’s discomfort and fears, if G-d forbid, there was some problem.  And any man who takes an active interest in SOS and engages in “horseplay” is suspect.

When SOS was young, we thought to have a manny (male nanny) to give him daily contact with a male (something missing in a two-mom household).  But the logistics got complicated when I realized that if we had a manny (who might just be a pedophile), we would also need a nanny to watch the manny watching SOS.  POB gave up on the idea rather than try to unravel my paranoid (and correct) logic.

The second story was about high school kids buying prescription drugs used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  These drugs, when used properly, help certain kids function with the “appropriate” level of attention and focus in classrooms and other venues. The drugs’ effects on kids who don’t need the drug are laser-focus on task and rapid recall.  Like steroids, these drugs are now seen as performance enhancing aids so that kids can perform better on class tests and college entrance exams.

It is shocking how easy it seems to get a prescription or buy a few pills from a classmate.

(My high school alma mater was singled out as one place where there is a real problem.  The person who said any publicity is good publicity is, um, wrong.)

So, POB and I were talking about this and we both scratched our heads.  We as a society are pushing our kids into drugs “to make us proud”.  It made getting high and playing frisbee seem like something out of Mayberry.  You know, the stuff you did to rebel and make your parents fret about your future.

And now my new view is:

SOS, if you must try drugs, please smoke A LITTLE dope (and then make sure it was a bad experience).  And promise me (pinky-swear and everything) that you won’t ever, ever, snort Adderall for performance enhancement. 

I love you just the way you are.

 

A Silent Cacophony

After work, I rushed for my 7pm appointment at Bliss.  Facial with micro-dermabrasion (who knows how that is spelled).  POB had one and, because she does not want to be a Bridezilla — in contradistinction to my Bridezombie — I had to have one, too.

So, I changed into my robe and slippers and joined others in the quiet room permeated by lemon and sage scents.  There were healthy (and not so healthy) snacks and lemon-infused water.  I ate some sliced cucumbers and drank the water (Bliss’s version of Kool-Aid).  There were four of us in our matching robes and slippers waiting for our treatments, with the new age music and the scents filling the air and I thought this must be a high-end version of an insane asylum.  Judging by how the “technicians” greeted the other inmates, I was the only non-recidivist in the bunch.

Then, my name was called.  Nanetta was my technician.  Did I fill in the new inmate form?  She asked with an Eastern European accent.  No, the concierge didn’t ask me to fill anything out. “Come with me,” she said, in a tone that suggested that I had been transported from 57th Street to the gulag.  Why again did POB need me to endure this?  Nanetta told me to take off my robe and get under the sheets on the table.  Oh, no, I am prisoner in Soviet hell.

She asked me about the moisturizers I use.  I told her I don’t really use moisturizer and, if I do, it is whatever POB buys.  She shined a beaming light into my eyes.  “You don’t know moisturizer?”  she said in an accusatory tone.  Omigod, I am going to die for the sin of taking my good genes for granted.  “I do what I can!” I said in a way that is the intersection between emphatic and meek.  The crashing you hear is the tension underlying post-USSR Eastern European and the descendants of those who fled the USSR in 1921.

Nanetta took pity on me and put cucumber slices over my eyes.  “I just snacked on cucumber slices in the waiting room!” I said to bridge the divide between us.  She laughed, in a slightly un-amused way. The gulag, for sure.

She started the micro-dermabrasion.  “Does this hurt?”

“As much as vacuuming my face with sand paper hurts, I imagine.” (what else was I supposed to say?)

“Would you like the anti-aging collagen treatment? It only costs —-”

“If you say, ‘anti-aging’ I don’t care how much it costs.  Do it.”

Now we could relax because I was an easy mark for anything that promised the Fountain of Youth.

We chatted about life and her story about coming to this country.  Nanetta is Romanian and was pleased that I knew a little about the country’s history pre- and shortly post- USSR’s implosion.  She struggled to learn English and put her daughter through school.  She has endured hardships, but she makes a living through the self-indulgence of people with money.  I wondered if she smirks at the irony.

She asked about my beauty treatment history and I told her that I was getting this done because I was marrying my partner.  Whoa, that took a little time to sink in.  (But this is New York, why?)

When she finished, my skin felt great.  I went into the changing room and, having only a robe on, shed my robe as I prepared to get dressed.  One of the house-staff asked me, as she was picking up my robe from the bin, “did you have a good visit with us?”  Is this woman — a stranger — asking me to have a conversation while I am naked?  Really?  Really?  “It was terrific.  Excuse me while I put on some clothes.”  I think that she realized that I was not one of the usual inmates who would chit-chat naked with a person who was fully clothed.

Call me the uptight Americana.  I am totally good with that.  Because if you want me to talk to you when I am naked, then you need to be naked, too.  For the record, there aren’t that many people I want to talk to while either of us is naked.  It sounds like a stress dream.

I dressed and walked along 57th Street with glowing skin, as a result of good genes from Mom and the efforts of Nanetta.  I thought about a manicure and pedicure and all the other things that would make me feel even better about the trials and tribulations of life.  But then I looked at expensive stores and expensive half-built high-rises and felt defeated and under-privileged (but with great skin).

I hopped a cab.  My cab driver asked me if the buildings we were passing were Lincoln Center.   I said “yes” and asked how long he has been driving driving.

“Three weeks but I have been in this country for one years [sic].”

“Where are you from?”

“Africa.”

“Where in Africa?”

“Sudan. Darfur, ma’am. One years [sic] ago since I left.”

There is nothing to say to someone who has been to Hell and back.  I sat quietly and then had to say that the reason for my silence was that I was overwhelmed that he survived and escaped Darfur.  I asked him how the rest of the world can stop the violence.  He said that Save Darfur was a blessing (www.savedarfur.org).

I listened as he tried in broken English to tell me that the government does nothing but kill its citizens and the people are starving and there is no water or schools.  And I offered lamely that I descend from survivors of atrocities and that there is hope for the generations to come. Then we passed a Pinky Nail Salon.

“Our nail salons must seem stupid.”

“Life is different here than in Sudan.”

The understatement in this conversation could make a person cry.

He said his sister and nieces and nephews have a better life in CHAD.  Let’s all stop for a moment and realize that together we earn more the gross domestic product of Chad.

Life is better in Chad.

Life is better in Chad.

Hug your spouse, your children, your-pets-who-are-children and be amazed at where you live and what you have.  Because, in this world, there are places for which CHAD is a step up.

Such was my day in the extremes that intersect in New York City; silently at first, but then with a great emotional burst of noise and pain, acknowledgement of plenty and nothing, experience of joy and sorrow, and of personal triumph and communal defeat.

A day full of lessons to remember.

How I learned to Relax and Enjoy the Newtron Bombney

For many months, I have been tied up in knots over the contenders for GOP nomination. I am terrified that on the third Tuesday in January, 2013, someone will utter any of the following:  “President Romney”, “President Gingrich”, “President Paul” or “President Santorum”.

I watch the GOP debates, with all of the venal, xenophobic, hypocritical, self-serving garbage that the candidates spew.

Any of these people would destroy our nation.  Setting aside Ron Paul and Rick Santorum (who are not winning the primaries), Gingrich is just evil, mercurial and evil (it bears repeating) and Romney is clueless and changes position faster than some in our nation change underwear.

President Obama who was elected to fix everything in less time than it took to break it all.  And, he wasn’t supposed to break a sweat or a promise or make a mistake.  We were exuberant, irrational and naive about the true state of our nation.  No one — no Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Tea Party-ist, whatever — would face any easier re-election bid.

Let’s just accept that.  If McCain had won, he would be called the GOP’s version of Jimmy Carter.

And let’s be clear — Obama’s campaign fed on the hopes and aspirations that we were electing a messianic politician.  He rode high and won on outlandish expectations that his campaign encouraged.  Once elected, he had to tamp down the expectations.  Because he found out just what he inherited and it wasn’t pretty.

But the GOP nominee can be the next president of the United States.  We cannot ignore that scary possibility.  (To wit:  GWB won 5-4 in the Supreme Court.)  Too many people are comfortable that Obama can beat either Romney or Gingrich, but the economy is fragile and people are deeply divided over President Obama (some for political reasons; others, for reasons that are, let’s say, less than Christian).  So, nothing is a sure thing.

Why am I scared? We have never been more divided as a nation.  And President Obama has incited the angry passions in the left wing of the Democrats and all of the Republicans — Democratic left, because he wasn’t nearly as “progressive” as they had expected and the Republicans, because he wasn’t nearly the effete liberal, scared-y cat they were hoping to skewer.

Now that the GOP is divided and frantically scrambling to blow back against a Gingrich nomination or presidency, I smile and relax.

If I set aside what the mud-slinging says about us and our society, I can talk about the debates in the same conversation as others talk about the Real Housewives of Los Angeles.  And no one knows I am talking about the political debates and our (G-d forbid) future president of our country.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Songs in the Key of Life

This was a particularly hard weekend.  In the Jewish calendar, Friday was the 9th anniversary (a Yahrzeit) of my mother’s death.  We went to synagogue together:  Dad, SOB (sister of blogger), HOSOB (husband of SOB) and I.  We endured the endless rituals that preceded the recitation of the names of those with Yahrzeits and saying the mourner’s prayer.  Each year, SOB and I ask each other “why is Mom on the list with all the dead people?”  Both of us pull out worn pictures of Mom and run our fingers over them.  I also have an emergency Mom slideshow on my iPhone in case we still do not feel her presence.  “Blogger family does death” is not for the faint of heart.  We pick every scab, open every wound, dredge up every Hallmark moment.

Dad loves the Oneg (the after-service nosh and schmooze) especially when there are Bar and Bat Mitzvahs the next day because there are really good hors d’oeuvres.  The rest of us wanted to get out of synagogue because HOSOB and SOB were particularly afraid that my constant transgressions might cause a biblical conflagration that would consume the congregation and they didn’t want blood on their hands. Wow, they think I have power.  I surveyed the attendees at the service and I assure you that there are others whose trespasses run afoul of Big Ten (the Ten Commandments) constantly and consistently.  So, my snarkiness and anger at G-d (we are not close, G-d and I) pale in comparison.  Mom might send a flicker to remind me to mind my manners, but there were way bigger fish should G-d want to fry.

Dad poured himself a wine in a water glass (good thing he is still steady at 91) and dug into the not-so-very-kosher looking edibles (it is a Reform synagogue, but STILL).  The Onegs also attract homeless people who don’t abide by ritual cleansing before entering a house of worship.  They should eat and be full, without curling my nose hair.  But I digress.

SOB and I were heartened when people came over to say Shabbat Shalom and tell us that they still remember Mom and miss her.  Each said that how shocking it was to hear Mom’s name on the Yahrzeit list.  Once we counted 10 people who remembered Mom, we were ready to have dinner.   We made sure she lived on in others, even nine years later.  Mom was indeed remarkable and her memory is a blessing.

We peeled Dad away from the cheese tray and went off for some indigestion-inducing Indian food.  We had a lively conversation because, around Mom’s Yahrzeit, Dad is really clear-headed and “present” in the way he was when Mom was alive.  As sad as it is to hear her name on the list with the dead people, the people who remember her and our presence at synagogue invigorate Dad.  He said he feels as if Mom is right next to him.

The conversation went along crazy tangents about Dad and others his age finding new companions and his comments about the capabilities of men his age made us need to stop the conversation and move to another direction.  His comment about what an 85 year-old man can really do with a 45 year-old made us laugh, cry and turn purple.  He is still married to Mom, he says.  Somehow, it makes us want him even more to find a companion to fill his days in his final years.

It was a cramped place and Dad is hard of hearing so we had to talk very loud.  Dad says there is nothing wrong with his hearing.  I tell him he can’t hear when the ear doctor recommends a hearing aid.  At various points in the conversation, I needed to repeat things right into his ear so he could catch the conversation.  I always started by saying, “I love you Dad and you need a hearing aid. . . .”  He laughed and repeated that his hearing was excellent.  But then why was I screaming into his ear?  “Everyone mumbles.”  Look, everyone needs a good dose of rationalization every single day.

POB (partner of blogger) left a Yahrzeit candle out for me to light in Mom’s memory.  The acts of striking the match and lighting the wick really personalize the moment in the way a recitation of a prayer in a congregation cannot.  In the darkness of my kitchen when my family was asleep, I lit a candle to remember my mother and bring light into the darkness she left behind.  Imagine Carly Simon’s song about losing her mother.  Weep.

HOSOB had lunch with Dad on Saturday and took him to a museum.  Dad called each of us Saturday night, a little bored and somewhat despondent.  Imagine Jim Croce’s “Photographs and Memories.”  It is a hard time for all of us.  We are glad he reached out but we cannot fill the void.  We can just be on the other end of the phone line.  I wonder how much that helps him but I hope it eases the loneliness.

Dad is man with a past much fuller than his future.  I love him because he kind, generous and able to be vulnerable in front of his children, and acknowledge our love and trust our decisions.  Enter a medley of “Sunrise, Sunset” with a smattering of “Circle Game” and “Life is Eternal”.

But then there is Sunday night dinner.  The weekly ritual during which my father pushes my emotional buttons the way Cole Porter could make a piano sing.

Since I was kid, Dad and I fell into this rhythm that a 8pm on a Sunday night, we would get into an argument about something.  Many times, neither of us had any basis for our opinion.  Other times, one was indeed an expert (me, for example, when it comes to life as a lawyer in law firm) and the other (Dad) was not.  Most times, it was about politics; sometimes it got personal.  Mom and SOB used to set their watches by the argument because it was more regular and constant than any clock in the house — 8pm.  Mom and SOB also tempered the “conversation” and brought us back to civility.

Over the years, we have dinner earlier because of SOB (son of blogger, our source of sanity), so the argument starts promptly at 7:15 and lasts to 7:45pm.  Usually, Cousin Gentle, CB (cousin Birder), HOSOB and SOB come over, too.  So there are plenty of people to help Dad and me back from the brink.  Tonight, everyone was busy. Dad came over at 4pm because he was lonely.

Tonight’s argument was triggered by my young cousin’s desire to go to law school and my visceral “NOOOOOO!!!!” response.  I thought he should do something with a better business model and that could not be outsourced, like plumbing.  My point was that law school is not the default choice of this generation if the student was paying for his or her own education.  For me, it was easy.  Mom and Dad were paying.  But life in a law firm is hardly the easy life or the cash cow it was a generation ago.  Dad wouldn’t listen to me and continued to discuss how important and rewarding was the practice of law.  He did admit that it was snobbery that precluded him from considering non-professional avenues.  I applaud his self awareness.

Of course, I went to law school because I was not fit for medical school and I didn’t want to be a pariah in my family.  I guess I wanted some acknowledgement, at long last, that my parents’ dreams were not mine and didn’t turn out the way everyone imagined.  I wanted Dad only to say, “we did the best we knew how.”  That would have been enough.

These arguments are about mental exercise and the eternal struggle between parents and children for acknowledgement, acceptance, honor and respect.  We have settled the struggle, more or less, but there are occasional border skirmishes.  But we always leave the table hugging and kissing and saying “I love you”.  And then, if SOB is not present, I call her immediately after I come back from putting Dad into a cab.  I must download the events — for guilt, for the collective memory, for the continuity of family.  What guilt you ask?  The guilt of putting the welfare of sick people in the hospital over the mental health of her sister.  SOB should be indebted to me for decades to come.  [There must be some song from old Yiddish theatre that captures all of this.  If I find it I will update my blog.]

Of course, notwithstanding the sometimes harsh words, Dad is coming with us to the Metropolitan Museum of Art tomorrow, because  . . . he needs us and we need him.

A Merry Little Jewish Christmas

Even though I believe that one respects other’s traditions by not co-opting them, I do live in the real world.

In the real world, my partner and I are lesbians moms to a boy, my sister is married to a Catholic, my Jewish cousin has secretly (all his 67 years) wanted to decorate a Christmas tree and my son thinks that Hannukah wouldn’t be Hannukah without presents.  There, you have it.  A typical American family trying to navigate the traditions without losing our minds in the process.

Friday night, we started the festive weekend at the children’s Hannukah service and potluck at our synagogue.  Our synagogue meets at the Church of the Holy Apostles (Chasidim Kadoshim, to the Jews).  As if to show me that I am not the clueless among Jews, someone said, “It smells so wonderful in here, like pine trees!”  Really?  Really?  Ever hear of “deck the halls with bows of holly .  .  . ” and the recipe, “kill a tree,  attach chachkas to them, and one week later reduce to mulch.  Repeat each year.” ??????

We also stayed for the adult service.  It is difficult to take seriously a rabbi who has a Santa’s elves’ styled hat with a menorah on it but she did take it off when she spoke some words of Torah.  It was an important drash to hear.  There were three main themes:  our viewpoint is imbued with our baggage, for every light there is a shadow and vice-versa and, finally, don’t accept the heroes of a story at face value.

First, the baggage.  The story of Hannukah is simply the miracle that oil enough for one day lasted eight days so that the Jews who recaptured the Temple could perform the necessary re-sanctification rituals.  But if it is 1948 Palestine, the story is about a military victory by a small group against mighty armies.  If it is 1498, during the Inquisition, it is about the subjugation of a people.  If you gather rabbis, it is about a miracle.  If it is 2011, you might wonder if the Maccabees were zealots somewhat akin to today’s radical fundamentalists.  (In fact, history bears that out.)  So, who you are, where you’ve come from, and who you want to be, can shade the way you tell the story, and emphasize the elements.

Light of the Hannukah candles casts a shadow.   For advance, there are detractors, some of whom are merely engaging in a power struggle.  The shadow can be dangerous and it can be restful.  The light can be the path but it can also burn.  Light and shadow need each other.  Success lies in the right balance.  And that is the greatest challenge.  The rabbi told us of settlers in the Israeli occupied territories who, whenever there is a threat to their settlement or way of life, burn down a mosque inside Israel.   (Israel immediately rebuilds the mosques and other Jewish organizations provide Qurans and prayer rugs.)  In the light of peace there is darkness.  Darkness of zealots who use the cover of Judaism to perpetrate atrocities.  Have they forgotten their parents’ and grandparents’ ordeals in Europe?  How could this be?  The light needs to shine a light on this darkness.  These “Jews” do not deserve a place in Israel or anywhere in the quasi-civilized world.

For the first time in a long time, I was glad to to synagogue and learn about things that the mainstream media doesn’t cover.  It made me think, rather than go to synagogue again, I should visit a mosque, Sikh temple or a church and listen.

After leaving synagogue, we looked up at the Empire State Building.  Blue and white adorned two sides, and red and green, the other.  I love New York.

Saturday, the Blogger family gathered with assorted cousins and in-laws to celebrate both traditions.  In my sister’s house was a small Christmas tree decorated in blue and white with a rabbi as an ornament.  Cousin Gentle was so excited because he thinks ornaments are sooooooo adorable that he wants to decorate the tree next year.  I told Cousin Gentle that it had to have an irreverent theme, like that the Hasidic rabbi and the dreidel that was at the foot of the tree.  He had a look of total inspiration that I believe he may have been visiting after-Christmas sales these last two days.

I LOVE how politically and religiously incorrect it was.  And, of course, there was a Yahrzeit candle burning for my Catholic brother-in-law’s father who recently died. And my brother-in-law made the latkes.

Saturday night, everyone was Jewish and Christian and all was good with the world.