Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Authority Figures

If you’ve ever felt paranoid when a police car is driving behind you EVEN IF THERE ISN’T A RULE IN THE BOOK THAT YOU ARE BREAKING, then you are having the most typical reaction to authority figures.


FACT: “People on average will obey authority despite their own moral objections.”


I laughed the first time that I read that statement. Way back in 1977 I got an early morning call from my sister telling me that my dad had died suddenly. He had been at work in New Jersey, she was on her way to the hospital to do the legal stuff of identifying him. Meanwhile our mom, at home in the Bronx NYC, was sick and the police officer who delivered the news to her had told my sister that he was worried about her condition.


I was in Rockland County, NY, at least 40-minutes away and it was a miserable, rainy day. Nonetheless I got into the car and I knowingly did much more than the posted speed limits. (I was remembering a story of my dad rushing home because mommy wasn’t well and he actually received a police escort across the George Washington Bridge… I guess I was hoping for the same advantage) Maybe it was because of the weather, but no one stopped me so that I could ask for an escort.


 What really struck me as odd, and now in retrospect actually makes me chuckle, was when the coins I threw into the Tappan Zee Bridge hopper didn’t register, and instead of my just peeling out and hopefully attracting a police escort, I sat there honking my horn until the toll-taker a few booths over manually reset the light. I could NOT bring myself to go through the stop light even though I was certainly breaking the speed limit.


We are (mostly) conditioned to accept and obey authority figures… at least to a limit. So here I was, knowingly breaking every speed law in the rush to get to my grieving mother, and yet when it came to going through the STOP sign at the toll bridge, I froze, I couldn’t do it.


Especially in this day and age we’ve seen several instances where folks have ignored authority figures selectively. Many of us will “respect” and comply with authoritative directives unless our moral obligations are stronger, and we believe the authority is wrong. I guess I was able to justify the speed in which I was driving, and yet I was not prepared to burst through a red light at the toll booth. It sounds funny now, so many years later, when I clearly remember my annoyance and impatience at that toll basket and yet my foot remained frozen on the brake pedal.


Months after that horrible day I told my mom about the way I froze in-route to see her. She chuckled and told me it was all the years of her and daddy telling me there were rules to be followed. She joked while patting herself on the back reminding me what a good mother she was in teaching me to be a “good girl”.


So many years later (and no longer living in Rockland County!), many of the lessons that my folks taught me still remain, and not always in the BACK of my mind.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

I Was Named for My Grandfather


In the Ashkenazi Jewish faith that I was raised in, it is customary to name a newborn baby for a deceased loved one — I was named for my maternal grandfather, Reuben. This tradition both honors the deceased, keeps them “alive” by connection, and it is believed helps to form a bond between the ancestor and the child.


I heard many wonderful stories about my grandfather and quite ironically, both my sister and I have very distinct memories of being read bedtime stories by him… even though he died long before either of us was born.


My grandfather was a loving man, a smart businessman, a devout Jew, and an actual HERO. Living in the Deep South, my mom grew up amidst many prejudices towards Jews, towards Blacks, and basically anyone who didn’t look the same. It was also customary for many families to have hired help in their homes, and most every housekeeper was Black. My grandma was criticized by her neighbors because she would often sit and have coffee with her housekeeper, and my mom and the housekeeper’s son would sometimes sit in the parlor and play board games together.


Mostly for safety reasons, the races did not normally mingle on the streets of the town they lived in, and no Black man was allowed to confront or get physical with a White person. Yet there was the one day my mom and a girlfriend had gone into town and were accosted by a couple of drunken White men who had stumbled out of a bar. They loudly told the men to keep their hands to themselves, but they wouldn’t listen.


As “luck” would have it, the housekeeper had sent her son into town to pick up groceries. The young man was across the street when he heard my mom and her friend yelling at the drunken men. One of the men had grabbed my mom’s friend by the arm and pulled her in tightly. At that point the housekeeper’s son ran across the street and loudly confronted the men. In both surprise and anger, the wrath of the drunks turned to this young Black man who firmly stood his ground and demanded that the two young ladies be left alone. The two girls walked up the street, followed by their rescuer who made sure that they were not harassed again.


That night when my grandfather returned home from work he found their housekeeper crying hysterically in my grandmother’s arms. They explained to him that there had been a death threat, a vow to lynch the young Black man for having the audacity to confront the White men; it didn’t matter that the White men were drunk and accosting White teenage girls. My grandmother had helped to hide the housekeeper’s son long enough to wait for my grandfather to come home and decide what to do.


That night my grandfather, a Jewish merchant in the south, contacted a friend in North Virginia and arranged for transport for this young man to somewhere in New York State. And then he rolled the young man up in a heavy carpet and tied the young man to the undercarriage of his delivery truck. He promised to bring the young man to safety, hoping that he would not get stopped along the way.


          My grandmother and the housekeeper kept a vigil at the kitchen table until the next morning when my grandfather walked in. He told the housekeeper that her son was safe and passed her money so that she could afford the transportation up north to join him.


          I watched the movie “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” on Netflix the other night and I was reminded of this heroic story my mom always told me. I am so proud to be named for my grandfather.

Billie Holiday sings "Strange Fruit"




Wednesday, March 17, 2021



Have you ever had one of those days when you are just too tired to do anything?


Who hasn’t?!


This past year, especially since March 2020, the COVID pandemic has thrown almost everyone’s life askew and many of us are just plain, darn tired of the isolation, restrictions and of course the news of so many deaths (more than half-a-million!). But how do you know if your “tiredness” is more than just being TIRED?


Being tired can be a momentary feeling, listlessness can be a simple as a common cold, or it can be a feeling as if you are banging up against a brick wall with no hope of saving yourself. You are the one that knows yourself best, but that does not mean that you are the only one who can save yourself. Know the signs of burn out and depression.


Do you feel as if you have NOTHING to look forward to, as if life has simply left you behind? Do you have difficulty in finding any enjoyment in things you once looked forward to? Do you find that you just don’t care anymore? Do you find it impossible to complete the simple tasks you once were able to breeze through? And do you find yourself using crutches like alcohol, drugs or behavior you wouldn’t normally do? Is it difficult to sleep nights, or do you wake up feeling as if you haven’t slept at all? Do you feel sad as well as fatigued?


All cases of severe tiredness and fatigue, especially when you can answer YES to a number of the questions above, should never be ignored. Medically there are a number of reasons why you may be feeling so overtaxed and washed out — don’t ever let a doctor dismiss your symptoms. There are conditions which can affect your blood, your bones, and your mental well-being that MIGHT be affecting you, even your medications might be causing a problem. A full examination and blood-workup might be recommended, so speak to your doctor. (And from my own experience, if the doctor simply laughs and says it’s all in your head without checking you out… get another doctor!)


If no physical reasons are found, there is the possibility that you are depressed AND THERE IS NO STIGMA TO SEEKING HELP. While momentary disappointments may be easy to bounce back from, severe depression isn’t. As mentioned above, this past year has been extremely hard on a lot of us; in addition to the pandemic and the financial and social problems it’s caused, our country also went through a very contentious political battle, and social dissension, no matter what the cause, adds to stress. It’s very important to talk and communicate with others, especially professionals, and to make healthy lifestyle choices in your eating habits, exercise, and sleep.


There are several support help-lines that will allow you to speak with professional counselors as well as support groups, group counseling and individual counseling services available. Very often your insurance will help cover a portion of any expense you might incur. You can also find tele-therapy with licensed doctors that charge only minimal fees even if you don’t have insurance. Local hospitals and clinics can help put you in touch with the resources you need to help you climb out of your depression.


The following resources are just a few and no endorsement is implied:

 If you are a veteran, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-TALK and press 1 (or chat online at  

 If you or someone else is having thoughts of suicide, call 911 or the Suicide Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (available 24/7).

Teen-to-Teen Peer counseling is available at 877-YOUTHLINE (WWW.HOPELINE.COM)

AARP lists the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 for crisis counseling and support for anyone in the U.S. experiencing distress or other behavioral health concerns.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Mouse Tales

 They call me Jesse.

I don’t know how this started. All I was doing was trying to find a warm house and maybe some food, but there were cats. I had to avoid them, but I was hungry… I had no idea that the door would shut as soon as I reached the peanut butter.

I spent a long scary night in the dark and then they released me into some kind of plastic box, but there was food!

I’m a captive now, but it’s warm. They said they will let me go in the spring.

My belly is full, but this little case is too much like a prison... So, do I make a run for it, or do I stay and fulfill my need to eat? Too many questions for a mouse like me.

Yes... Yes... YES! I am going to make a break for it. Those air vents, I can nibble my way to freedom. Do I really want to though? Yes, I'm a mouse, dammit!

Free, yes, I am free. Wait, someone is coming... Oh no, he's got dinner for me. There is no way I can get back into my cell, he's already seen that I escaped.


Sigh, he went back upstairs and he took my dinner.

Wait, he's coming back, and he's bringing reinforcements. Oh goody. I am going to play Hide n' Seek. Here I am, now you see me — and now you don't.

Oh this is so much fun. They think they have me, hah-hah-hah-hah.

Oh POOP! She caught me!

They are taking me outside. No, no, no, I was just playing.

They put me down in the woodshed, at least there's the cover of leaves and logs that hide the winds. Wow, she just emptied a bottle of food for me, wow...

They were really nice to me, sniff. But I am a wild mouse and I don't really belong in a house. It's still a little chilly but it's not as frigid as it was before. And I do have this nice bed of leaves to hide in. I do have friends that I want to see again.

I really liked them. Every mouse should find a house with people like them.

Thank you, I had a nice vacation.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Day 352

It’s been nearly a year of isolation. The lack of human contact has finally gotten to me. I long to see someone’s smile. I long to feel the gentle arms of hug.  It seems my only connection with the outside world has been on a computer screen… at least I’ve had that. I couldn’t even fathom living through this without the technology that does provide us with some connection.


March 16, 2020, businesses and restaurants were closed in my state because of this scourge they call COVID-19. Life has changed, it will probably never be the same again. Some business has re-opened, maximum capacity is minimal — some businesses are gone for good, financially destroyed forever. There was a time when an evening at a movie theatre was fun, and now it is just a vacant dream as if it never really happened.


Each day headlines that appear on online newspapers mention percentages of unemployment and lost jobs due to businesses closing, there are lists of homes being sold by families who can’t afford them anymore, children have been kept from classrooms and parents are concerned that their children will never catch up on their academia, animal shelters have been closed to outsiders making adoption a nearly impossible task. Periodic food shortages, closed fitting rooms, curbside delivery… just so many catchphrases, so many changes.


 I read an article that claimed there is an average of nine relatives and close friends who have mourned every death since this pandemic invaded our shores. It’s unfathomable when I do the math. Half a million deaths… “As of March 1, 2021, there have been around 513,090 deaths related to COVID-19 in the United States”…that means there are more than four million people who have mourned for lost loved ones. The numbers are incomprehensible.


There’s a glimmer of hope, but we need to be patient. After many failed attempts I finally made it onto a list to receive a vaccine injection. My dreams of LIVING have begun to creep into my daily thoughts. One shot, then wait another 28 days or so for a second, and then another 30 days for the full effect to happen. Even then there is the recommendation to continue wearing masks and to avoid crowds. BUT — there’s the possibility of living life again to see smiles, to hug relatives, to sit in a restaurant for a meal… so many things to look forward to.


Three-hundred-fifty-two days to date, almost an entire year and the hope of one day moving on. I look forward to shaking hands in greetings, to watch family children grow-up first hand, and just to be with people.


 I can’t wait.