Category Archives: Ramblings

Why Hate?

A friend recently asked me “why do people hate Jews?” It’s a good question. Why?

Those of us who are Jewish know what antisemitism is on a personal level. It has been around for thousands of years and we have learned to deal with what people ignorantly say to us. From the misinformed “Oh, you’re Jewish? Are you rich?” to the offensive “Why didn’t your people just fight off the Nazis?”, the stereotypes take over.

Those people who hate Jews believe, truly believe, that we are going to take their jobs, sabotage the government, and cheat them out of their rights. How are we going to do that? We’re not, and that’s the ridiculousness of the whole thing. I just read a piece by Yair Rosenberg of The Washington Post, trying to explain why Jews are in this position:

“Jews function for today’s white nationalists as they often have for anti-Semites
through the centuries: as the demons stirring an otherwise changing and
heterogeneous pot of lesser evils.”

This week has been very difficult. We are scared and angry. We are afraid our concerns will not be taken seriously and that the protection we need will not be available at our synagogues and community centers. As I told a friend, this is where the despair in my heart comes from.

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Where Is the Civility?

ci·vil·i·ty
səˈvilədē/
noun
1) Formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech.
synonyms: courtesy, courteousness, politeness, good manners, graciousness, consideration, respect, politesse, comity
2) Polite remarks used in formal conversation.
plural noun: civilities
synonyms: polite remark, politeness, courtesy; formality
– Definition from dictionary.com

I am starting with this definition because I want to talk about what civility is and why we seem to be losing it bit by bit in today’s society. It happens to be election day – probably the most contentious presidential election campaign in history, so you might think I am going to talk about the candidates, but that’s not it. Candidates for public office always make us look at them a little sideways. The mudslinging ads have been going on for many years. Before television, political cartoonists and newspaper reporters criticized and berated candidates and political figures.

This particular election has made me think about how mean strangers can be and how politeness seems to have taken a back seat to judgment. I am a media person and a bit of a social media voyeur, or “lurker,” if you will. My degree is in public relations and I studied sociology, and my hobby is photography. I like to go to a crowded setting, like a theme park, and use my zoom lens to get the perfect artistic shot of people in public – people laughing, playing, talking. It is a challenge to capture people at just the right moment to see their emotions. Along those lines, I also like to read comments online. What is the general public thinking? That parent who posted the most adorable video of a child singing? What do people think of it?

Invariably, there are people who comment who have the nastiest comments, even at the most charming and inoffensive things. That child singing? The majority of people say “how adorable” and they share the video. A group of people, however, will always say horrible, judgmental things: “What idiot puts their child on display for the world to see?” “She has a horrible voice. The parents are deluding their child into thinking she is a good singer.” “That song is stupid.” Blah, blah, blah. Whatever happened to the line that Thumper’s mom made him say? “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

I saw a video once of an 11-year-old girl who was invited to the Ellen Degeneres show. She had been learning hip hop dancing, and she was on the show with her instructor. She was really good and it looked like tons of fun, but the song that she was dancing to was by Nikki Minaj. The hateful criticism of the child’s parents, Ellen, the instructor, the musical genre, and even the child’s dancing ability was just appalling.

I could go on for a long time describing the comments I see, but my point is that this anonymity makes people say things that they might not say to people’s faces – or would they? This election cycle has made me question whether civility is not the norm anymore. Are people teaching the next generation how to be civil? I know I expect my children to be civil and I hope I am civil, and guess what? If I say something mean, I seek that person out and apologize. I talk it out with them. If it was a stranger and I cannot make amends, I make a promise to myself to be more civil next time.

We’re not perfect. But if this lack of manners and hatefulness continues into the next generation, we will never be able to fix the simple relationships with strangers. The philosophy of Pay It Forward should be the way we live. Say or do something nice and that person will say or do something nice. Maybe we can make the world a better place.

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Planes, Trains, Automobiles, Ships, and Ferries

IMG_9482

Yesterday we dropped our middle child off at college. She is so excited to start this chapter of her life, and we are excited for her. I am going to be cliché here and say that I don’t remember the time going by so fast; so fast, in fact, that I feel that we didn’t have enough time to take vacations with the kids before they didn’t want to go on vacation with us anymore and then before they moved to college.

For many years our vacations consisted of visiting my sisters out of state. It was a great deal – We got to go on a vacation and we got to stay with family. For free! My kids got to spend time with cousins, we saw the local sights, and we got to spoil our niece and nephews.

Somewhere along the way we started to acutely feel the passage of time, so we started to vacation in new places. We have had so much fun finding new places, and the kids have gotten to see a little bit of the US, Canada, and the Bahamas.

Take time to go places. Don’t like theme parks? Go hiking in the Florida Keys. Don’t like the outdoors? Go on a sports tour. Don’t like sports? How about choosing some museums? It always amazes me how much I learn when I go places and see the similarities and differences in the places I visit to where I live now. So, go to a new place. Expand your view of the world. You will love it.

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It Finally Bloomed!

Quite a few years ago a relative gave me a small plumeria plant. I planted it in a sunny place in my garden in my back yard and every year it had beautiful leaves but never bloomed. I never knew what color the flowers would be and I waited with great anticipation to find out. One year we had to have some maintenance work done in the back yard and the workers, to my complete horror, chopped down the plant. In case you don’t know, plumeria plants can be just stuck in the ground and they will root, so I moved the chopped down plant to a sunny place in my front yard. The lawn people damaged the plant, damn it, which up to this point had two branches. Now one branch was gone and the other was at a weird 45-degree angle. It has still gotten wonderful thick leaves every year since, but no flowers. Finally, a few weeks ago I noticed a different shoot coming through the middle of this one remaining branch. Then I noticed buds. Then today I went outside and it has its first flower! It’s yellow! It’s a good sign for 2016.

The first bloom on my plumeria plant

The first bloom on my plumeria plant

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What Color is October?

One of my favorite books when I was a child, maybe 10 years old, was called “Dream of the Dead” and was a story about a ghost and everlasting love. It is a kids’ book, and it is deliciously creepy. I love that kind of story. My favorite authors in high school were Stephen King and John Saul, both masters of creepy. So you won’t be surprised that one of my favorite holidays is Halloween. I love ghosts and jump scares and haunted houses and scary stories, and Halloween is a holiday that seems to have been made for me. As I have gotten older (and wiser) I have also taken an interest in the history of Halloween and the ways other cultures honor the dead, such as Dia De Los Muertos, Day of the Dead, which is November 2.

Enter the pink ribbon. Before I tell you what I think of “breast cancer awareness month,” I want to state for the record that I appreciate with all of my heart the advances that have come out of breast cancer research. I am a breast cancer survivor, and I know that I have been afforded the best treatments available because of breast cancer fundraising.

But here’s the thing: My favorite holiday has been overshadowed by pink. The excitement of going into the grocery store and seeing orange and black and a fall motif everywhere has been hijacked by breast cancer displays, to the point that there are companies and customers out there who see it as a festive time of year – We are “celebrating” breast cancer awareness. For those of us who are breast cancer patients, it is a month of mixed emotions. It is nice to see people get behind this cause that will hopefully help all of us, past, present, and future, who are affected by breast cancer. But on the other hand, some cringe at those who make breast cancer awareness into a party with pink boas and pink decorations. I was recently asked to do a promotion for a local breast cancer awareness campaign, and I showed up looking professional in black dress pants and an emerald green shirt, as I was told not to wear white or anything with too busy a pattern. The rep who met me said, “Oh, everyone else has been wearing pink, but I really like that you’re not.” Pink does not look good on me, ironically, so I can be a face of breast cancer without it.

Back to Halloween…every year I mourn what I used to love about October – orange, black, brown, and red. Even in Florida, where those colors are not naturally found in the trees, the decorations reflect fall. So, help out the breast cancer cause if that is what you choose to donate to, but don’t forget to decorate and dress up for Halloween!

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Reflection On Grandparents

Grandma with my daughter in 1994.

Grandma with my daughter in 1994

I did not have the opportunity to know my grandparents very well, but I do have happy memories of each one.

Dad’s mom used to offer my sisters and me gefilte fish every time we visited, first thing, right as we walked in the door. Although we never took her up on it (in fact, I don’t think you could have paid us to eat it), I love that this is something I remember about her. I still have a children’s encyclopedia that she gave us, signed in her own handwriting on the inside cover. She died when I was 11.

Mom’s mom used to give us Boo Berry cereal when we came to visit, and it was the best cereal EVER. Boo Berry was reintroduced a few years ago with a new formula and sadly it was not the same. My grandma died when I was 17, but she had suffered from Alzhemier’s for many years before that, so my memories of her without being ill are from when I was much younger.

Dad’s dad entertained us with animal noises when we were very little. He and Grandma lived in a small platform house, and when we jumped on the floor it made a racket, so he would tell us not to jump because we would wake up the ants under the house. It is funny what we remember; that and the dinners at Morrison’s cafeteria. Grandpa remarried after my grandma died, and he moved to a nice Jewish retirement community in South Florida. He died when I was in college.

Mom’s dad danced and sang when we visited him in Miami while I was growing up, and he was my only grandparent to be able to make it to my wedding. By that time, he was in a wheelchair and very frail. He died three years after I got married.

Sometimes we get another chance to have a grandparent, and I have claimed my husband’s grandmother as my own. This family I married into is large, very close, and most of them live close to each other. I should have known we had a connection when my husband (boyfriend, at the time), took me to his grandma’s house and the name of the street was my name. I later learned that Grandma was the one who chose the name of the street.

Rachel Street

Grandma was diagnosed with cancer recently and just had surgery, so you might think I am writing this out of fear for what is going to happen in the months to come. I guess that is true to a degree, but really I just wanted to put down on paper, so to speak, the things that are on my mind. Grandma is independent, strong, caring, and somewhat cantankerous. She is a lot like me. Although we aren’t related by blood, I would swear that we were. She loves to read (I love to read), she is not afraid to say what she thinks (I am not afraid to say what I think), and she has a beautiful way of accepting everyone without judgment (I hope I can say the same for myself). The things I wish I could have learned about my own grandparents I have had the great fortune to be able to learn about Grandma – who she is, what she likes, what her life has been like, and stories about her children, her parents and 5 siblings, and her grandchildren before I knew them.

Besides my love for Grandma, I feel ridiculously lucky that my kids know their great grandmother. My kids know how lucky they are, and I take pride in that. What a special thing to be able to say you grew up having a relationship with a great grandparent. Grandma has 4 children, 7 grandchildren, and 11 great grandchildren. My daughter is the oldest great grandchild at age 21 and the youngest is just a baby.

Grandma does not like the helpless feeling she gets from having to rely on others to take care of her.  She does not like feeling sick or being in pain (who can blame her?). Doesn’t it suck that our bodies start to fail us when we really are young inside? I told her before I left the hospital today that it’s going to suck for a few days, maybe a few weeks, but she’s going to get better. I know she will get better.

 

 

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Remembering Challenger

My dad took me to see the Challenger arrive for the first time, piggyback on a 747, in July 1982 at Kennedy Space Center. I watched from outside my high school when it launched on January 28, 1986. I was at lunch, hanging out in the band room, and we all stepped outside to watch the launch. Funny how something that happened 28 years ago can seem so clear to me. I feel blessed to have lived in Merritt Island during the beginning of the shuttle program; seeing it from my house, FEELING it from my house, going to KSC to watch the launches. My dad even got press passes for us once, and we saw it launch from the closest a spectator could get. I am sad that my kids don’t get that excitement. RIP to the crew of STS 51-L.

http://www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy/shuttleoperations/orbiters/challenger-info.html

Challenger

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