Wednesday, November 25, 2020

And A Happy Thanksgiving to All


So tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day, I will be hosting a family gathering for 31 people — via ZOOM. I’m hoping that most of my invited company will be able to stop by even just for a quick HELLO. I know that many are on different time schedules and have different responsibilities, some work from home and some work in the field, we are all over the country. I would be in complete bliss to see my daughter and son-in-law, son and daughter-in-law, Mark’s and my siblings and their better halves, our nieces and nephews and even grand-nieces and grand-nephews.


Years ago when our children were just young’uns and we weren’t spread out all over, we would meet at my sister’s home for a Thanksgiving meal; before we would begin eating we would go around the table saying what we were most thankful for. This year has been… strange and very lonely, and the pandemic is still raging. I am thankful that WE have made it to this time, that my family is safe, and I hope that all who are reading this also feel thankful for what they have.


 It’s been a hard year for so many. America has lost more than one-quarter-million lives, families have been financially devastated, hard-working business owners have seen their life-work dissolve, and we are still facing taming this horrible disease. My sincere condolences to all those who have suffered losses, please don’t think I have forgotten you when I feel thankful for all I have.


School children were raised on the stories of Pilgrims landing here seeking religious freedoms in the 17th century and one day sharing a friendly feast with the Native Americans they met and lived amongst — a fairy tale fabrication to explain the Thanksgiving tradition. The first National Thanksgiving Day didn’t happen until almost two centuries later and President Abraham’s proclamation didn’t even mention Pilgrims and “Indians” (as Native Americans were referred to since the original explorers thought they had landed in India).


Lincoln’s proclamation, made in the middle of the American Civil War, referred instead to “fruitful fields and healthful skies… which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come”,  he continued “invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens” and finally asked for the “Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.”


The fanciful story of grade-school primers and Charlie Brown movies gave a vastly different meaning to Thanksgiving than President Lincoln’s apparent interpretation. I believe Lincoln was reminding us to be thankful for the things we DO have, and not just the ideals we wish for. It would also be befitting to say thank you to the indigenous people who lived here before our European ancestors arrived, we’ve built our homes upon their lands, often just taking and not asking.


 We should say thank you to every man and woman who has served our country in every one of our Armed Forces. And especially as this past year has shown us, we need to be thankful for all of our healthcare workers, first responders, and essential workers who have kept us safe, treated us, cared for us, and enabled many of us to exist through this trying time.


It is a good time to remember all the little things we should be thankful for, the challenges we’ve survived, and the strength we have to keep moving forward. And especially, thank you for allowing me into your lives through my words.


Thanksgiving 1993

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Art Imitating Life

Many of the new TV season’s dramas have incorporated A LOT of real life into their stories. We have so much more than just actors wearing masks and TV-news footage of protests and riots. I have to give kudos to the writers and the actors who represent not only some of what has been happening the majority of this past year, but have also effectively evoked the emotional impact it has had on all of us.


I know there are many more shows than the ones I am mentioning, but I was riveted by shows like Station 19 and Grey’s Anatomy, the Chicago trio (Fire, Med, and PD), SWAT, and All Rise. Each one of these dramas showed real life situations, frustrations, tragedies and emotions. None of these shows had mere news reports running in the background, they had characters LIVING through the same things that Americans, and folks all over the world, have experienced since the early part of 2020.


So is this entertainment? What happened to the beauty of escapism? … Don’t worry, there are still plenty of funny and entertaining shows for those of us who just want a break from life.


As a writer I, and many of our ilk, have been taught that stories and characters that the reader can relate to are the most engrossing. When a writer uses real life in her writing it is also a wonderful opportunity to make people think and maybe even possibly strive for solutions. That was what I tried to do when I wrote my book Hyphema about a Pakistani immigrant who just wanted a life with her family, an American husband and their infant son, and the racism they encountered. I also tried to reach out to the social perception of assault victims and the PTSDs they suffer in my book Bartlett’s Rule. In Courage of the Heart I presented a male sexual assault survivor and the social attitudes that belittled his experience.


My efforts to make people THINK are just (excuse the cliché) just a tip of the iceberg compared to some of the drama on our nightly television sets. The actors are doing remarkable jobs bringing us into their lives and the emotions they feel, the writers are providing challenging scenarios that truly can be the basis for discussion and hopefully attempts towards healing.


Yes, there are some of us who definitely need a break from the real life drama we’ve been living, and there is no harm in taking time for self-care, but when you are up to it, watch some of these dramas and hopefully get on board with rebuilding, healing and acceptance.


We’re a week away from Thanksgiving and many of us are feeling cheated once again as we keep distance from loved ones, or worse, realize those loved ones who are no longer with us. I hope and pray for comfort and calm for each of you. Please take necessary precautions against this dratted disease — yes, wear a mask and maintain social distancing, stay away from crowds.


I’m not being chicken when I ask you this and I know very well how hard it is to be separated from family because of COVID. This Thanksgiving holiday my husband and I are hoping to at least “see” our grown children through some audio/visual app, we won’t be seeing them in person because, simply put, they are first responders and they’ve been out there taking care of those who have fallen victim to COVID so they are quarantining themselves to protect us.


Sending healing thoughts for everyone’s health and a huge thank you to all of the first responders and essential workers who have given so much for the rest of us.


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

The Value of Street Smarts


I genuinely believe that the smartest man I ever knew was my Dad. Before joining the service and then marrying my Mom, the highest level of education he had was 8th grade; he was the product of a broken marriage where neither parent really took much responsibility. After the war (WW2) he went back to earn his GED and later went to a trade school to learn to be a Tool and Die Maker.


In addition to his profession, he was a wonderful husband and took care of my Mom (she became disabled a few years into their marriage), a great father raising two daughters and teaching them, even way back then, that they were as good as ANY man or woman, he was a community leader and Auxiliary Captain at our local police precinct. Daddy didn’t have the opportunity of a fancy education or letters after his name, but he always seemed to know how to do the right thing.


Through the years there were some who actually looked down on him because of his humble beginnings, the fact that he worked with his hands, and he wasn’t interested in putting on a show to impress others. My Dad truly was a hard-working man. Maybe if he had a college degree or a monied background he could have climbed some corporate ladder or even opened his own business… but he always provided for his family and he was always there for his children.


As Auxiliary Captain in the NYPD, he had impressive leadership skills, he always knew when to listen and never belittled anyone, but you knew he was in charge. He was methodical in thought and really “read people” very well. I know there were extreme times when my Dad lost his temper, but most times he was always controlled and welcoming. His family, my Mom, my sister and I adored him, we respected him — he was our hero.


I told you about my Dad because so often I’ve heard people look down on others who have not had Ivy League educations or who  took pride in getting their hands dirty to do a good day’s work. Daddy was one of those special people who had an enormous amount of “Street Smarts”, otherwise known as common sense. Some, SOME people who have fancy educations also are gifted with common sense but there is no guarantee that the two will go hand-in-hand. To be honest, if it only has to be one or the other, I prefer the street smarts.


Happy Veterans Day to my Dad and all of those who have served our country.


Wednesday, November 4, 2020

It Ain’t Over ‘til It’s Over


So America’s 2020 Election Day is behind us… at least the voting part. Ballots are still being counted and we may not have all of the results for a few days. So we wait, not necessarily patiently.


No matter which presidential candidate you voted for, one of the two major candidates or a third party, electing our next American president is an important event. And there were many other races as well for state and federal positions, local mayors and governors and don’t forget a few referendums in some locations.  Every person who cast a ballot was part of a very important process of our democracy. It’s really a very heavy responsibility.


This year’s election was complicated because of the COVID-19 pandemic, most states made voting by mail an easy option. There was also “Early Voting” to try to keep down the election day lines, but there were long lines in almost every case both for the early voting and on the actual day of voting. Mail-in ballots also gave their share of consternation with delays, stories of lost mail and concern about alleged voter fraud. No wonder so many would-be voters have been complaining of tension headaches for the past week or so.


According to the United States Constitution, voting is a right and a privilege. Many constitutional amendments have been ratified since the first election. Surprisingly voting was never made mandatory for U.S. citizens. And also surprisingly, there is NO statement in the U.S. Constitution that does state, inexplicably, that our citizens have the RIGHT to vote. But there are inherent rights granted to our people and individual states included the right to vote. The original folks who could make decision regarding our leadership were landowners, and then MEN, and later specified that all men were allowed to vote no matter was their race was. Finally somewhere around 1919 women were finally allowed to make their preferences known and vote as well. It’s been a long road and many people fought for the right to vote.


And yet even in the year 2020, some people don’t bother to vote. Why not? There are a few who can’t vote because of religion. Then there are some who simply are not interested in the candidates or races. The most common reason given for not voting is “What difference does my one vote make?” Since states are permitted, within reason, to decide their own voting rules and regulations, some people don’t meet the requirements easily — someone may have missed the registration deadline, or they don’t have the necessary documents (including residence) to prove their identity and/or eligibility. Unfortunately, there are some (relatively few) cases that seem to be voter suppression such as not making polling centers convenient to certain populations. People may become disenfranchised when the person they want to win loses. There are even some who simply are not interested in casting their votes because they don’t like the candidates running or they don’t know enough about a referendum.


I like knowing that I have had a say in the government where I live, even if it is just one tiny vote, even if the candidate(s) I voted for didn’t win, and even if it means getting up early to stand on a line to cast my vote. Next year, or even for the next primary, think about voting. It may not be in the Constitution, but it is a privilege.





Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Family and the Pandemic


In the last eight months or so we’ve all had an extreme case of separation, separation from our extended families, our friends, our jobs, and a way of life where we felt (more) carefree. COVID-19 has disrupted our lives and it looks like, unfortunately, it’s going to continue interrupting life as we wish it would be for a while yet.

 For years I watched some of my extended family deal with their military children overseas and wondered how they could contend with that time and distance separating them. My children and their spouses live within a few hours from where we live, all four are in first-response and health/wellness, and I consider myself lucky having seen each of them (in person) two or three times each since February.

 So how have we coped? It really hasn’t been easy. Fortunately all of our immediate family and most of our extended family have gotten used to various visual and audio means of communication; of course there have been phone calls and emails as well. We watched, via the power of the internet, a niece get married, and a few months later a nephew tied the knot. We enjoyed a multi-household abbreviated Passover Seder together via ZOOM, and our daughter and son-in-law broke the Yom Kippur fast with us through the same online app.

 And we’ve had the opportunity to attend community board meetings and a few interesting seminars. I even got to attend my first ever Romance Writers’ Conference virtually! So we’ve had interaction beyond the occasional trips to the supermarket (where I feel like a bandit adorned with my mask!) and our routine doctor visits which have graduated from tele-visits to the office. With both of us retired, we haven’t had to deal with routine office work; except for the first-responders in our family, most of our working relatives have been working from home — we’re lucky in that several of our extended family have been able to maintain at least some of their employment.

 I can’t help but think back to my childhood and wonder how we would have survived without so many ways to virtually interact, or how my folks would have dealt with the concept of home-schooling my sister and me without online learning. How did folks and families survive the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic? Today in 2020 the separation stings… but the lack of communication venues more than 100-years before was so much less than today. I can’t even imagine. Right now I just want to hug my kids.

 And yet, even with all of our advances, so many of us are battling with depression and feelings of isolation. Even when we are outside, we can’t come near others, many grocery stores still have six-foot reminders on the floor. When we say hello to someone, we can’t even see their mouths because of our masks. I certainly am NOT advocating that we do not use masks or social distancing, more than 225-thousand deaths prove that we need to do whatever we can to protect ourselves and our loved ones. But even when we are near others, the feelings of loneliness are enforced. Many of the things we used to do for enjoyment and socializing are now taboo, or at least severely limited… no movie theatres, limited restaurants, or other leisure activities. Everyday we seem to hear of another business closing permanently because they couldn’t survive the necessary shutdowns. It’s just sad.

 As we are heading into the holiday season we’re once again trying to juggle. Big family dinners are probably not going to happen; even if we feel safe enough to have some family together, we need to be wary of including some who might be quite vulnerable. Maybe we’ll need to turn to ZOOM again in order to share? Those of us whose major concern might be choosing between ZOOM or Facebook Rooms to share this holiday season need to remember there are those who have lost loved ones, who are in danger of losing their homes, or might not be able to put a holiday meal on their table.

 If you or a loved one is suffering from “COVID depression/anxiety”, take care of yourself and those around you (easier said than done?). Be sure to reach out to your family and friends, especially those who might live alone or feel more isolated from their loved ones — pick up a phone, send an email or do a “drive-by” and wave through the window. If you are able, think of others, send a pizza to an on-duty ambulance crew, or a boxed dinner on the doorstep of a neighbor who needs help. Helping others can help you to feel better. Get involved with activities in your own home, play board games, watch a movie on TV together, and look for on-line seminars and video tours. And if seems really too much for you, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English, or 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish.


We will get through this.




Wednesday, October 21, 2020

To Vote, to Vote, Perchance to Vote


 In just under two weeks, Americans will go to the polls (or will have mailed in or walked in their ballots) to vote for several candidates, most importantly for who will be the next President of the United States. It’s a heavy burden on each of us. Anyone who follows me on social media knows who I support, but this post is not about WHO – rather it is about YOU.


I recently posted the following on my Facebook page:
     I remember, in 1960, one of our neighbors sitting on the front stoop of the Bronx building she lived in and crying her eyes out. My parents stopped to speak to her to find out what was wrong... she wanted to vote for JFK but her husband told her that if she didn't vote for Nixon she had to leave their home.
     My dad told her "when you get into that polling booth, who you vote for is YOUR business, no one else's..."
     In 2016 I heard a father screaming at his daughter over a cell phone (standing in the center of CVS), apparently she made it known she wanted to vote for Clinton, he screamed at her that if she didn't vote for trump she could pack her bags that day.
     It truly doesn't matter who you vote for (well it does, but I am not trying to make THAT point), YOU have to vote for the candidate YOU choose.
     Whether you are in a booth or filling out a ballot, you have privacy and NO ONE has the right to tell you how to vote - certainly NO ONE HAS THE RIGHT TO THREATEN YOU IN ANY WAY.
     Even if your polling place has "observers", YOU NEED TO VOTE FOR WHO YOU WANT.


Your vote DOES count. A lot of folks cry that it doesn’t, that the Electoral College actually elects our president. There is SOME truth to that as we saw in 2016 when the Electoral College did NOT declare the popular vote winner as president. However each state is assigned a specific amount of electors (supposedly something to do with population) and the popular vote of each state decides WHICH electors will cast a vote. Even if the vote is close then the electors vote for the majority candidate. There are many arguments calling this system archaic, but for now it is what we are stuck with.


Understand though that the ONLY and very few times the Electoral College disagreed with the popular vote, the popular vote was CLOSE, VERY CLOSE (considering the percentage of votes against the people who voted). So your vote, along with others, DOES decide who the Electoral Collage from your state chooses. Unfortunately, especially in national elections, third party candidates have not historically shown enough strength. Those votes in effect do not help decide the Electoral College count. If 100 people vote and 46 vote for candidate A, 44 vote for candidate B, and 10 vote for candidate C (third party), then candidate A will receive the Electoral College. So even if 8 of those C votes were people who absolutely did not want A but thought B wasn’t perfect, A would win because those 8 votes weren’t enough to give any strength to C.


This year between the pandemic and fear of violence at the polls, as well as some areas closing polling places and creating longer lines, getting your vote in may seem more challenging. Remember though that whatever time you need to take to vote, or distance to drop your mail-in ballot at an authorized receptacle – well this vote will have a major impact on the next four years of your life. It is extremely important to make your voice heard.



A state-by-state guide to voting in 2020

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Religion and Interpretation


No one practices their faith exactly the same way as the next guy, and I’m talking about the SAME religions. Everything is subject to interpretation. There’s an old joke in Judaism (my own faith) that goes, “If you ask two Rabbis you’ll get three opinions.”


Almost every religious reference, NO MATTER WHICH ONE, is accompanied by “…and by this, it means…” (no wonder TV commentators think they can tell the viewers “this is what you heard”). In their defense most religious volumes have been translated from their original language to the current language of the people. It’s a well known fact that you can lose a lot in the translation.


If you read scripture or religious tenets OF ANY FAITH, you can really find yourself horrified at some of the writings.

·       “If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.” [Deuteronomy 21:18-21]

·       I decided to order a man to lead the prayer and then take a flame to burn all those, who had not left their houses for the prayer, burning them alive inside their homes.[Bukhari 11:626]

·      Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother-in-law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.[Matthew 10:34-35]

Are you cringing yet? These are just three of MANY examples from the Old Testament, New Testament, and the Quaran.


The other day, on Facebook of course, someone posted a meme that showed a picture of Judge Amy Coney Barrett (a Catholic) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (a Muslim) which was headed, “When her religion is a problem, but hers isn’t”… My response was an innocent “Religion shouldn't matter in either case.” Another FB member (whom I don’t know) responded abruptly about how violent the Quaran is and “Muslims have been fighting Christians since Mohammed!!”


Indeed there have been many religious wars through the centuries and ALL of our spiritual texts do contain items that seem callous or violent. But, it is my opinion, that every human being, while respecting the main preaching of their chosen faith, must decide on what kind of a life they want to live. No matter what you call your higher power, HE (or SHE) has also given commandments to love your fellow man, to always strive to be better, and to make this world a better place.


Surely we’ve all sinned, sometimes by error and sometimes in anger. But really, are we that different from our fellow beings. We feel pain, we love, we cry, we bleed, and in the end we ALL die.