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Archive for March, 2015

R.I.P. Faithful Companion

Storm & Lightning

Storm & Lightning, 2008.  R.I.P, Faithful companions.

 

People become very attached to their pets. Pets become “part of the family.” I’ve heard them described as being “just like a baby,” “the only one who really understands me,” and “the love of my life.” I’ve had dogs. I’ve had cats. I’ve owned fish, turtles, hermit crabs, and took care of the 3rd grade’s reptile for the summer. I’ve given numerous fish a funeral at sea. I’ve also taken a dog to be euthanized, or “put to sleep” as we say. For me the pets were beloved friends, but they were just pets. My sister, Michele, and brother-in-law were more of the first sort of pet owners, head over heels about the dogs.

Storm was put to sleep today.

Storm and Lightning were “brothers,” German Shepherds from the same sire and dam, with Storm being two years the older. Storm’s ears cocked inward; thus he was not suitable for breeding. Lightning developed seizures as he aged and also could not be bred. They were big dogs, Storm the larger of the two, and they barked a lot if they didn’t know you. Great watchdogs. However, they were well-trained and responded to commands. Once they stopped barking I never feared them for they were affectionate and attentive. But they barked until I got out of my car and they were commanded to stop barking. Big noise.

Storm sensed the atmosphere and emotions when it came to my sister. When Michele’s remission from cancer ended, it was Storm who sensed something was off. His behavior prodded my brother-in-law to take Michele to the hospital. This 100 pound furry fellow kept her company, even climbing into the bed, when she was recovering from chemotherapy. He was stalwart. He was the leader of the pack. Meanwhile, Lightning needed more attention, and his health failed progressively until the only option was to put him down. Storm missed him terribly, looking repeatedly around the house for Lightning.

Then Michele died a few weeks afterward. The worst day of all……

Storm and my brother-in-law were buddies after that. Sure, there were the cats, but cats are aloof and didn’t comfort him like Storm did. Then last year Storm started to fail. The only decision was to put him down. Today was the designated day.

Here’s a nod to a good dog and good friend. He’s buried in the back acre near his brother Lightning. Goodbye noble friend.

 

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How Do We Make Sense

Candle of HopeHow do we make sense of a tragedy such as that which befell the Sassoon family in Brooklyn last Friday night?

We cannot. We are too small, too limited. We can’t see what the Creator and Sustainer has in His plans. All we can rely upon is our simple faith that all G-d does is Good. That there IS a purpose and meaning to everything. That this family did not perish in vain.

I am no philosopher, ethicist, religious expert, or authority. I’m just a woman, a mother and wife, who cries and trembles in the face of this disaster. I try to put it sensibly in my world, but there is no sense, no bounds that can hold the magnitude of the horror. I can’t make sense of it. I can’t process the enormity. My heart is too stunned to be breaking and yet I go on with my quotidian life.

But it will not be the same. How do I make sense of this tragedy? I cannot.

So in come the experts to help us through. Chai Lifeline is an organization dedicated to serving seriously ill children and their families, and provides crisis intervention, counseling services, and community services amongst its many functions. On Sunday night, March 22, they sponsored several speakers to help people process tragedy. I heard the speakers in a live videocast. Today they were released on YouTube. I am presenting links to two of the talks, Rabbis Joey Haber and Yisroel Reisman.

Their messages are incredible and solace can be gained from each. Solace and comfort, but no understanding as the Rabbis themselves do not understand. As Rabbi Haber said, “It’s crazy.”

May there be a total recovery for the mother, Gila bas Francis, and the sister, Tziporah bas Gila. Blessed be the memory of the ones taken so young. May the One Who gives comfort be a Comfort to all of the family and community.

Rabbi Joey Haber: Making Sense of the Midwood Tragedy


Rabbi Yisroel Reisman: Making Sense of the Midwood Tragedy

 

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(Photo credit: “A Candle of Hope” by ArcheiaMuriel, used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

 

Sitting in Starbucks

Knitting in Public - aqua afghan

Knitting in Public – aqua afghan at Starbucks, March 20, 2015

At a Starbucks in New Jersey this time, taking refuge from traffic as we travel to our Shabbos destination. An impossibly heavy snow started falling shortly before our departure. Snow obscures my vision on the road. We left early and I drive slowly. We’re early and stop to savor time and a cup of warmth. We’ll leave in an hour, closer to the time we’re expected at our hosts. My nostrils twitch in anticipatory pleasure, a nice cappuccino to soon pass my lips. We settle on the leather armchairs near the front window and wait for our order to be called. I wait; he goes and fetches the cups.

The lady in the corner knits. I see her following the instructions with her finger. Bright orange highlighter marks the lines. I ask what it is, outing myself as knitter. It’s an afghan, she says. A most captivating color of aqua green spills over her lap.

I guess her age to be in the 70s. Seeing I am wearing a headscarf and long skirt, she tells me that her mother was from Poland, the youngest of 8 children. This is a form of Jewish geography, the unconscious attaching we do to connect ourselves in time and space. Her grandmother was very religious, she continued, praying copiously. The grandfather died at 39 leaving a widow to cope with all those children. How they made it to the USA was not disclosed. Despite the religious grandmother, l can tell that she is not, but she’s Jewish, too. She wears youthful blue jeans and a trendy hairstyle. She peers over her bifocals at me, one finger on the page, the other hand gripping the knitting needles. 

When I came in she had been talking with the man with a very strong New York accent. They compare their respective histories in the vast country of Brooklyn, discovering they had walked the same streets. Although he traveled all over the world, he never shed his Brooklyn voice. In New Jersey, however, it doesn’t hinder him. He tried to learn Spanish to no avail although his wife is Colombian and the children are bilingual. She lived in Vermont, Texas, Florida, North Dakota, California, and five other states, and lost most of her Brooklyn voice. She can camouflage herself almost anywhere while his New Yorkese blared as loudly as a foghorn. Together they walked through their remembered neighborhood. How they came together on this snowy afternoon is happenstance, coincidence, fate.

A second man joins Mr. Brooklyn. He speaks with a strong Spanish accent but he looks foreign to me, not like local Spanish. Maybe it’s his clothing or sibilant S’s that strike me as different. They launch into a discussion of pipes and fittings, fire sprinklers and city codes. Soon-to-be business partners I surmise. I don’t pay attention to their conversation. I let the business details patter around my hearing, so many wet snowflakes melting as they touch down.

They smile, plan, gesticulate. Ms. Aqua knits. I sip. Hubby reads. Snow falls. The hour inches closer to Shabbos and the time we will continue our trip.

Basement Monsters

Basement Monsters

Imagine these as monsters… in our basement.

Creepy faces stare out at me from the quiet, dark room. I resist the urge to tiptoe by.

It’s odd enough in the basement in the late hours, though it is well-lit. I’m on my way to the trash room with bags of recyclables. But first I have to pass the … monsters! I feel compelled to sidle past the doorway with my back against the wall. But I don’t. I peek in. The imaginative me sees blank faces with glowing eyes. Gaping maws. Guardians. Soldiers. Watchmen. Or monsters. The red eye glares and the blue eye freezes you in place if it catches you in its beam. The mouth gapes widely, blackly toothless, waiting to devour the unwary. The murky gloom beckons you inside in a soft, insistent voice even though you mean to walk past that opening. Fast.

I could be terrified… until I take one step into the laundry room….

The second I cross the threshold, the lights blink on, and the monsters become tame washing machines. No noise, no suds, and most definitely, no monsters.

Yeah, I knew it all along, but there’s a part of me that is still six years old, creeping up the stairs a bit afraid of the dark because I’m afraid of a shadowy lamp in the corner… the silhouette of which just happens to look like the man-eating plant I saw in a cartoon! There’s a part of me that stays awake long into the night, assessing the sounds, measuring the frequency of the sirens, hearing the tock tick tock tick of the clock as it counts the hours. I’m a creature of the night but it doesn’t mean that I can’t see things in its veils of gloom. I’ll exercise that part of my imagination happily because it makes me feel alive and safe—here in my happy home.

Now next time I go down there, who knows what I’ll see?

More multi-continental

Readers, December 2014

Readers of this blog in the first month, December 2014

 

On my blog post “Multi-continental!” dated March 7,  I  crowed, “Yesterday I got my first reader from another continent: Australia!”

Well, I was wrong. I just hadn’t known how to look up those things and missed the obvious: in my first month, readers from ISRAEL and GERMANY were my first “multi-continental” readers.

What do you know?

 

Wrecked on Broadway

Wrecked Camry in the Bronx on Broadway

Wrecked Camry in the Bronx under the 1-Train tracks on Broadway

Today’s blog comments on a scene not far from Washington Heights. I moved my car for the first time in two weeks the other day. No snow, no Alternate Side Parking. Bad news: a tire was flat. I drove slowly to the gas station and filled it with enough air to get me to the tire shop in Riverdale. Preparing for a bit of a wait, I walked down Broadway to the supermarket to get something to drink and came across this ruin.

The wreck sits under the 1-Train tracks. It has been moldering here at least since last fall, six months or so, judging from the dead leaves inside and around it. Ironically, a white police cruiser sits across the street, and two cars over is a black auxiliary police car. You would think that the police know about this eyesore and would be doing something to have it removed. I can’t fathom why it’s been here so long. The owner must be known; the front license plate is still affixed!

An intact shoe rests on the driver’s side rocker panel contrasting oddly with the condition of this wrecked Toyota Camry. How odd, I thought, my curiosity piqued. I walked around it noting the totally shattered windshield, the flayed innards, rusted metal, nightmarish wires jutting out, and the oddly unmolested back seat. I prayed that nobody was in it when it got crushed. No one could have lived through an accident that would cause this much damage.

What story could this car tell? What happened to cause this damage? And how did a lone shoe come to rest here, of all places?

Random Act of Bagels

What’s inside the box? What random act of kindness could be inside?

My box once held two bagels. I looked forward to enjoying their chewy goodness toasted with cheese melted on each half.  I had been at a party where they served a nice meal. At the end guests were asked to take the extra food home. I helped myself to the bagels, wrapping them in the time-honored fashion: in a napkin. I slipped them into my bag and boarded the subway home.

The bagels spoke to me from inside my bag. I knew exactly where the bread knife rested at home and saw myself slicing them into halves on my much-scored wooden cutting board. I heard the click of the toaster’s lever as I lowered them down in the slots, adjusting the browning knob to the perfect doneness. Ouch!  the hot bagel seared my fingertips as I pulled it from the toaster and popped the halves onto a microwaveable glass plate. Now, which cheese? Yellow cheddar or white Muenster? The cheddar won so the bagel was paved with small slices around the center hole.

My fingers slid over the microwave’s time controls. Too short and the cheese would be solid. Too long and it would be a burning puddle on the plate. How long would be just right? My fingers knew the right setting. Then the microwave buzzed and I opened the door. The gooey cheese puddled perfectly on the platter and steam curled from the surface. All I needed to do was take a bite….

I was savoring the anticipation of my cheesy treat when I heard a voice in the aisle. “Sorry to bother you but I’m homeless and haven’t eaten. If you can spare any change for food I’d appreciate it.” A scruffy-looking man in a soiled army-green coat had entered the car. “God bless,” he intoned as he walked down the aisle with his hat outstretched. He repeated his homeless plea again, humbly.

I knew what I had to do. I waited until he approached my seat then withdrew the bagels in their festive napkin. “Please enjoy this,” I said handing him the bagels. What was the dream of a cheesy bite in the face of a man who had nothing to eat. “God bless you,” he said looking into my eyes.

At that moment, providing a “box of kindness” to this unfortunate man tasted better to me than the most meltingly delicious cheesy snack I could ever prepare.

Some random act of bagels had fed my soul and nourished another, too.

Snow on the Fence

Fence Decorated with Snow

Fence Decorated with Snow

Snow adorns the fence and it is transformed into otherworldly lace.  Flake clusters sit on the bottoms of the iron diamonds, amassing loftiness. Were I to return in five minutes, the fence would be different, some blocks filled in, others oddly bare. The pattern relies on whimsy; the air will sculpt and push and cajole the icy diamonds so they land capriciously. Random beauty like this makes me smile and revel in the rarity as flakes pelt my face. I love this!

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