I hesitate to think, let alone write this, but it looks like we are going to make it through 2020. Yeah, I know, we have another day to go, but with a negative Covid test under my belt (or, more accurately, up my nose, tickling my brain), I have as much confidence as humanly possible that I, we, will make it to 2021.
There is absolutely nothing new to say about the year gone by.
Every nuance, emotion, and life changing observation has been made.
Writers far superior to me have done an exceptional job reflecting back on what can only be described as a ridiculous, terrifying, obnoxious, depressing, super strange year. They’ve dissected the layer upon layer of shitstorminess. They’ve turned everything on its ear and extracted the abundance of positive that has come from it. And they have laid the groundwork to prepare us all that, come Friday at 12:00 a.m., not a lot is going to change.
So what can I add?
Well, here we go.
Not proud to admit this, but I am kinda a pessimist. That stupid glass (more often than not) tends to be half empty. It is my least favorite character trait. Though I refuse to make a New Year’s Resolution, if I were to, it would be to be more positive. There, I said it. But it is not a resolution. I don’t do resolutions. Gonna be positive. Dammit.
So many people are suffering on so many levels. They are ill. They are out of work. They don’t know how they will pay for their next meal. They are lonely (well, I think we are all a little lonely), they are scared, terrified, actually. They are unsure how they will survive. I, thankfully, am not any of the aforementioned. Except the lonely part. Because I think we are all lonely. Although my loneliness is not alongside isolation. Isolation is the true demon.
I am becoming ever more mindful of just how fortunate I am, and more than a little ashamed at sometimes getting caught up in my own (largely uncalled for) misery. That’s not to say that it is not cool to be struggling right now – because, really, who isn’t to some degree or another – but I really have a life that is an embarrassment of riches. Here’s why (and it is pretty simple…):
I am healthy. (The old me would have started that sentence with: “Sure, I have aches and pains, but…”)
I have great kids who are doing well. (old me: “Man, there have been lots bumps and unpleasantries, and there may have been a few instances where I have considered murder, but…”)
I adore my husband. (old me: “Even though he can drive me completely out of my mind…”)(That’s true. He really can. But I adore him nonetheless.)
I have a beautiful home (old me: “Aside from the kitchen cabinets circa 1960…”)
I had the best father ever. My mother is the bomb. My brothers? Also outstanding. So, too, my in-laws. (old me: actually, I have always felt that way. Win!)
I am attractive enough, smart enough, kind enough, thoughtful enough, strong enough. (old me:”If only I were _____, or _____, or even ______, I’d be awesome.)
I could go on. And on. I have a pretty rockin’ set up. Others do not. Others have an even better one. That’s never going to change.
Everyone – as in: e.v.e.r.y.o.n.e. – is struggling to some degree. I am quite certain that, even those among us who have a blessed life, 2020 was not easy. There should be no shame in admitting that.
Let’s not disallow ourselves to feel our feelings just because others have it worse. There will always be folks who have it worse. Or better. There will always be people with more and people with less.
2020 did an incredible job of taking our psyches and throwing them up in the air, but not before making sure there was no net.
In 2021, let’s try to be each other’s net. I’ll be yours if you’ll be mine. Whaddya say?
Wishing you everything you hope for in the new year and contentment with your many blessings.
It started off as a thought. Then it was a suggestion. Soon it became a recommendation. Then a plea. A directive. I promised to look into it. But did not. I swore I would explore it further. But did not. … Continue reading →
For the past several years, I have been working at a K-8 school. I am neither a teacher nor an administrator, rather, I am the one who walks around capturing little magical moments (of which there are many) and sharing them in articles and on social media.
Because I am at school a lot, the kids all know me as Julie: the lady who is always taking pictures. I am in tune to the kids insofar as knowing who is camera shy, who will jump in front of the camera whenever humanly possible, who is photogenic and who is having none of it. The kids don’t necessarily know that I post the pics up on our Instagram and Facebook accounts with a pithy description of any given magical moment (again, there are many), but their parents do. And they kinda dig it. Who doesn’t love seeing their kids being totes cute? It is one of the joys of parenting: knowing your kids are doing just fine in your absence.
As a parent, I have had at least one child in school every year since 1999. I have one who is done, and three more who are active students.
I have been to umpteen conferences, back-to-school nights, school committee meetings, and assemblies, both as a parent and a school employee. Some I even paid attention. Some I even enjoyed.
Over the years, I got to know many teachers. Not to brag, but I was pretty much universally loved by them, mostly because I refused to come from a place of “not my kid”, rather, I assumed it was my kid. And it usually was.
I am still in touch with many of them, because, well, they not only put up with my kids, but returned them back to me in an improved form. And for that I am grateful.
I naively thought I had a pretty good grip on what it might be like to be a teacher.
And then I took on a new role: proctoring middle schoolers while their amazing teacher valiantly teaches from home via Zoom.
Remember when I said I had a good grip…yeah, that was a lie.
Folks: Now is the time to bow down, cherish, adore, and heap gifts upon every single teacher you know. And even the ones you don’t. I don’t care if they never taught you or your kid…they deserve capes to accompany their Super Hero status.
To be clear, in my new role, I am expected to impart exactly zero knowledge to the kids. I am little more than a placeholder for the real deal. Rather I am there for two purposes: to keep everyone alive and be the grown-up in the room.
Let me tell you something: there is not.one.single thing easy about being a teacher – even if you are not actually teaching.
Every single kid in the world is awesome. At least some of the time. (What? You thought it!)
Every single kid in the world is unique in how they learn, interact, opine, and share.
That being said:
This kid never has a pencil. That kid talks too softly to be picked up on the microphone. The other kid finished all the work ahead of everyone else and is, argh, bored.
This kid seems to literally have ants in his pants. That kid is all about mask breaks. The other kid is crazy smart and knows every answer before everyone else, every time – in a good way. Except when you are the adult trying to keep things under control.
This kid is less interested in the lesson than in talking with that kid. That kid cannot stop herself from responding. And the other kid, yeah, she just got booted off of Zoom. Again.
They are kids. Doing their job. Nothing to see here.
That is where the teachers come in.
They are calm when us mere mortals definitely would not be.
They are patient for way longer than you or I would be.
They are accepting because they know exactly what they are working with. And don’t hold it against a kid. Like, ever. Oh, sure, they might think some less than charitable things, but they never-ever-ever let on how frustrated they might be. Super power.
They have this laser focussed ability to pick up on each child’s needs and manage each kid so seamlessly that it looks easy. Newsflash: It is not easy.
They are teaching with masks on. All day long. The only upside to this is that they need not fret over chin zits which are a direct result of wearing said mask. Not that that’s happened to me.
They are reliant on computers and applications that should, but very well might not, work. And, just to keep things fun, one never knows when justonemore Zoom attendee will crash the whole internet connection.
Now, I would never dare to call myself a teacher of anything other than, perhaps, the virtues of McDonald’s french fries, but I will dare to say that if my limited “teaching” (you know, the one void of lesson plans, creating tests, and, um, imparting information) is any indication, these folks are numero uno super humans.
To the millions of teachers I have had in my and my children’s lives, let me say this:
Sure, I was a parent that teachers dug because I hung on every word they said, but I am willing to bet that to every one of me, there were dozens of the other kind. You know, the “Not my kid!” kind. They stink. I am truly, truly sorry you had to deal with them. Or any other jerk – adult or child.
Thank you for loving my kids when they might have been a little unlovable. Which was not altogether unusual.
Thank you for having the patience of Job. (Sidenote: In 2nd grade I had a teacher who was not a numero uno super human. She did not love me when I was either lovable or unlovable, and had no patience at all. She actually definitely hated me. And did little to hide her feelings. Ah, Miss Estelle Cassidy…or, as she will forever be in my mind: Miss CassAssidy.) (Note: It is okay to talk smack about her for the following reasons: she was wicked mean to me, I believe the only thing she taught me was self-doubt, and she is long dead.)
Thank you for showing up every day, ready to take on whatever might come your way. Particularly knowing that “whatever” could truly be anything.
Thank you for being wise enough to teach all those things that I know nothing about – like math and science – and, further, being able to teach them to my kids who, because half of their genetic make-up came from me, were at a potentially lethal disadvantage. (Aside: they happen to have done great in both math and science. Go figure.)
Thank you for not only figuring out, but slaying the whole remote learning gig. From where I stand – as a parent and a stand-in fake teacher – it is kinda hell on earth. (Legit question: how many of you are teaching with sweatpants on?)(C’mon, you can admit it, I won’t tell anyone.)
Thank you for picking up where a lot of us parents/mortals fall short or, more to the point, don’t understand this funny new math.
If you have children who are or were in school, as in ever, please go socially distantly hug a teacher. Or send them a note. Or give them Starbucks for the rest of their lives. Or get down on your hands and knees and bow down to them. And thank them like you’ve never thanked anyone ever.
They truly have the hardest job on the planet. (School administrators have a hard job, too. Feel free to hug them.)
When was the last time you felt free? Like truly free? Nothing worrying you, no low-grade or high anxiety, no general discomfort, not a care in the world? Yeah, me neither. This guy here? I think he might be the … Continue reading →
I am exhausted. Well, maybe hungover is a better way to put it. Problem being, I never (okay, almost never) enjoy more than a single glass of wine in one sitting. Given, well, life, I believe that to be noteworthy. Anyway. Not a drinker, yet seriously hungover. Geez.
Assuming you are a living, breathing creature who did not spend the past several years living under a rock, I am going to assume you know what I am talking about. Hungover and exhausted every single day. Minus the fun of drinking.
I would argue that it doesn’t really even matter where you stand politically or socially; whether you vehemently agree or disagree with the goings-on of the world – you feel hungover, too…right? Here’s why: the daily hysteria, and ruckus, and he said/she said, and anti this versus anti that, and a seemingly endless tornado of chaos which, in and of itself was e.x.h.a.u.s.t.i.n.g. And left you feeling perpetually h.u.n.g.o.v.e.r.
Yet now, even though we are thisclose to a different “mood”, the weariness and resultant nausea and headache seems to have ramped up rather than settled down. And again, no tasty adult beverages were had. Well, that’s just rude.
It almost doesn’t feel safe or even appropriate to exhale and not feel ill. The troubles we face as a county are enormous, the damage done is immense and runs deep. The divide is so deep, that, in my estimation, it will be beyond our lifetime before it is settled. Crap.
Saturday night, I sat with my husband, his parents, and our 22 year-old niece listening to Kamala Harris (aside: she is everything) and Joe Biden speak. My niece was in tears, my in-laws were mesmerized, and I had goosebumps all over. But then, when the Harris and Biden families came on stage?? Man, I sat up straighter, felt my shoulders relax, could feel the genuine love between them. As things began to wind up, and the promise of new reality dared to settle in, though, I was overcome with exhaustion and an almost drunk feeling. All I know is that I-needed-to-crawl-into-bed-for-a-week and hoped to wake up sans the hangover. Anyone else?
Sunday morning, my husband was raking the tremendous piles of leaves that had amassed so suddenly. It was as though the trees, struggling with their own exhaustion, simply could not hold onto those leaves for one more moment. In an effort to avoid raking, I headed out for leaf bags at Home Depot.
In line, there was one woman in front of me, one behind, and one running register. The customer in front of me turned around, looked me dead in the eye and asked;
“Are you happier today than you were yesterday morning?”
I legit hesitated for a few seconds, wondering if I was being set up. I was concerned as to whether she would align with or denigrate my response. I paused and considered avoiding the question, fearful that I would find myself on the wrong end of an argument in, of all places, Home Depot. Given our proximity to one another (admittedly less than 6′), I really had no choice but to respond. My back was up, having grown so accustomed to animosity, anger, and vitriol. And I had an unearned hangover.
Thowing caution to the wind, I replied.
The woman behind me said something along the lines of,
“Amen to that!”
The woman at the register, a young African American woman, also agreed. Aggressively. In a good way.
The woman posing the question had tears in her eyes. I had not, in fact, been set up.
I noted to her that asking someone a question like that could be risky. She acknowledged that fact, but enthusiastically, and with pride added,
“I straight up don’t give a shit.”
Then, women in arms, we all purposefully exhaled and visibly dropped our shoulders. Then they (okay, we) let loose on the magnificent relief. Finally, we all sighed at how utterly exhausted we were. Hungover, even.
The relief at something being over is almost always coupled – and complicated – by the fact that something new is coming. Everyone always says that change is good. I have always retorted with a (perhaps) whiny,
“But it’s haaaard!”
Sorry to be Debbie Downer, but to my thinking, things are going to get worse before they get better. I am not able, or, perhaps, ready, to let go of that hangover quite yet.
There is so much wrong with our country.
People within my own small community who have differing opinions are, on the daily, vicious to one another. (Admittedly it is mostly online – lots of keyboard warriors out there, folks.)
Covid has issued a super gigantic fuck you to those who thought that we might be approaching the other side. We aren’t.
And, oh, yeah, our climate is whacked. As much as I like 75 degrees in November, it ain’t right, and, not for nothin’, does nothing to ease my personal hangover.
No one can predict what lies ahead. No one person (or two people as the case may be) can fix what was recently, and not so recently, broken. It’s not over. The fat lady isn’t singing. Yet.
Look out for your people.
Take care of yourself.
Try to clear your head from all the noise. It’s not helping.
As I write, I am nursing a glass of wine. I encourage you to do the same.
This got a little bit political. I really tried to avoid it, but failed. So, before you go any further, please base your decision to continue reading on these two facts: I don’t like DJT or ACB (and I also … Continue reading →
Yesterday, Jews around the world celebrated Rosh Hashana – the Jewish New Year. Like most of 2020, the way in which we observed the holiday bore no resemblance to years past. For our part, we hosted a RHBBQ (Rosh Hashana Barbeque). We were a small but mighty crowd of some, but not all, the people I love. I have to say, it was among my most favorite RHs ever. Below is something that I wrote and shared as we participated in Tashlich. Don’t know what Tashlich is? Read on.
Correct me if I am wrong, but I think it is safe to say that none among us would debate that this past year, 2020/5780 will go down in history as one of the worst. Forget the forced isolation, anxiety, and fear that is part and parcel of a global pandemic – that’s just icing on the cake. I am 100% confident that each of us has faced our own personal struggles and demons. Whether the battles were internal or interpersonal, the fears real or imagined, the anger just or unjust, no one is immune to the ongoing assault of life.
I speak only for myself in saying that this was among the most challenging years of my life…and that’s really saying something!
Everyone here is a warm, kind, and loving person. Although, if we are being honest, none of us is immune to having behaved in a way that could be considered less than warm, kind or loving. We’ve barked at one another. We have pushed – sometimes too hard. We’ve talked in unflattering terms, criticized, and judged. We’ve thought we knew better – or more – than those around us. We’ve been quick to anger. We’ve been inpatient. We’ve been either too sensitive or not sensitive enough. You haven’t? You, then, are a better person than I.
In a normal year, this morning we’d have gone to synagogue. For some, it is about the liturgy. For others, the social connection…something we all crave now more than ever. Regardless of your reasons for going, or not going as the case may be, we’ve been robbed of the ritual.
In a normal year, we’d have put on nice clothes, the men in suits, relieved when it was time to go home, mostly for the joy that comes with kicking off shoes that pinch.
A cast of thousands (no one was ever turned away) would be gathered around the table at my in-law’s house. Bursting with delicious food, wine and more desserts than we could possibly consume, three generations came together, some family, others, friends who would leave (complete with to-go food) feeling like family.
This, however, is not a normal year.
I don’t always participate in Tashlich. Okay, truth: I actually cannot recall the last time I did. I do love the concept, though and always say, “next year”, but, alas, it hasn’t happened. This year, I became fixated and maybe a little bit obsessed with making it happen. It’s meaning, beauty, and, perhaps most important to me: the ritual.
Tashlich comes from the Hebrew word meaning “to cast,” referring to the intent to cast away our sins. The act of throwing bread crumbs into the water can be cathartic while joyful, intense while freeing, simple while complex. It pushes us to take a look inward and acknowledge our weaknesses while looking ahead and focusing on our strengths. The bread you toss into the sea might represent something as simple as that time you talked smack about someone or as complicated as the time you held onto a blatant lie. It could be your neglecting to point out to the cashier that they had forgotten to charge you for the turkey (that might have happened) or walking past someone on the street who could really have used your help. It could even be giving yourself props for owning your stuff and then letting it go. Ultimately, it is accepting the challenge to do everything within your power to become the very best version of yourself.
You need not share what you choose to cast away. This is for you, your peace of mind, and your own personal journey…no one else’s. It can be tricky business, but I suspect it will be worthwhile. Just the act of throwing something, anything, is a release and offers a freeing of your soul.
Okay, I know I just finished saying it is no one’s business what you choose to cast away, however….
A few weeks ago, I took a baby step out of my comfort zone and went tubing. I had never done it before, even as a kid. As I (not so gracefully) climbed onto the tube, I talked myself out of worrying that I would get hurt, or dizzy, or would lose a contact lense. At 40 MPH, bouncing in the waves, water splashing in my eyes, wind whipping my hair into a frenzy, I was truly joyful. And then I (not so gracefully) fell off. After quickly (and with great relief) retrieving my bathing suit bottom from my knees, I noticed that my engagement and wedding rings were gone. I didn’t freak out. I didn’t panic. I actually, and I know how crazy this sounds, felt a little bit, well, free. To be clear, I adore my husband and loved both the rings and their sentiment, but I knew in my heart that there had to be a reason this happened. I couldn’t for the life of me imagine what the reason was, but I just knew it.
Yes, it helped that my husband and brother, my two greatest cheerleaders, were there to comfort me. It further helped that my brother reminded me of three important things: 1. It wasn’t my father’s bracelet (that I have not taken off since his death) which completely irreplaceable, 2. I have Barry for a husband (read: he didn’t freak out) and, 3. it was insured. At that moment, I realized that, although I loved my rings, they were ultimately just things and not the important ones. In hindsight, it was in that moment that I actually knew everything was really going to be okay. As my father used to say, “Everything is going to work out, perhaps not how you expected it to, but it will.” I, like my rings currently residing at the bottom of Lake Cochituate, was free (okay, freer..let’s not get crazy.)
That night, I dreamt that my teeth were falling out. The teeth, though, were covered in beautiful crowns (the kind royalty wear on their head, not the kind that cost a fortune at the dentist) adorned with sparkling gems in reds, oranges, and that perfect blue. Of course, I Googled the meaning of this highly disturbing dream and discovered that, while, yes, indeed, dreaming of losing one’s teeth can symbolize loss and death, it can also represent rebirth. I chose to run with the latter.
So, how does this loop back to my fierce need to make Tashlich happen this year?
As I embrace feeling lighter and more at peace now that I can ever remember, I want you to have the opportunity to feel the same. Of course I still have things to cast away but I now appreciate that the very act of tossing one’s sins, struggles, and challenges into the ocean and embracing a new start is way more powerful than I could have imagined.
Now, in an effort to continue to venture out of my comfort zone, I am going to blow the Shofar. Up until two days ago, I had never even held a Shofar, let alone attempted to blow it. Thank you to Barry and the boys for patiently (for the most part) teaching me. They can (and better!) attest to the fact that I have had many successes in making the Shofar sound. I have, though had an equal (or greater) number of failures which have truthfully frustrated me, yet I have kept at it. (Aside: turns out there is a strong correlation between one’s ability to blow Shofar and being able to whistle. I have never been able to whistle. Just sayin’.)
I am proud to have not given up (a pretty solid habit of mine) and will stand here today trying and trying (and probably trying some more) until I make it happen. Take that, 2020.
p.s. Turn up the volume. 😉
Here’s to freeing ourselves from the sins of the past year, and welcoming a new year of peace, contentment, and joy.
I am not proud to admit this, but I am, by nature, kind of a pessimist. I say kind of, because I think I am less of a pessimist and more of a worrier. I am famous for pre-worrying (again, not proud), and that glass? It’s usually half empty. Bad shit is all around us, amIright?
My husband Barry, on the other hand, is an eternal optimist. He wakes up every (okay, most every) morning happy, ready to get things done, blissfully unaware of whatever shit might hit the fan. That’s because he knows that, whatever it might be, we can deal with it. Intellectually, I know that to be true, but fretting is my go-to. Again, not proud.
Throughout this entire disaster called Covid, he’s kind of kept me alive. Not literally, but certainly emotionally. Actually, literally, too. Of the probably 600 meals consumed since March, 599 of them have been cooked by him. And I am talking real, actual (usually delicious – with the exception of that weird thing he did with that fish…yuk) meals. It’s quite impressive, actually. (Edited to add: I will look in the fridge and announce that there is nothing to eat. He will them, perhaps even just to prove a point, pull things out and whip up a meal. I used to feel defensive, now I just sit back and watch.)
My own (not so) little energizer bunny, he – and his brain – are in constant motion. He seldom (read: never) sits still for very long, is seldom (read: never) without some sort of project to tackle and, truthfully, watching him dart around, often in circles, provides endless entertainment. It’s almost like I can see the synapeses firing.
I am always (every.single.time) ready to go before he is. I will be in the car, lipstick applied (I miss pretty lips), cooling my heels while he is roaming in those circles, going through a checklist in his head (complete with counting on his fingers) to ensure he has every possible item we might need for any possible situation we might encounter. Note: we never need any of it and, if we are being honest, he often manages to forget the one thing we did need. Like, for example, the pile of Bed Bath and Beyond coupons we needed for the one place we were going: Bed Bath and Beyond.
His breakfast vs. mine: Can you guess whose is whose? Yes, those are eggs on pizza.
He has two speeds: on and off. I never shut off, even, alas, while I am sleeping.
He will go anywhere and do anything. I am a bit more,shall we say, selective.
His way of keeping score vs. mine: (Yeah, he beat me. This one time…)
As much as he hates needles, they don’t bother me in the least. I, however, abhor the sound, smell, and mere thought of vomit. One could barf on his feet and he would be unfazed. For my part, I can take or watch someone getting a needle with nary a blip in my blood pressure. This makes us a perfect union.
We have one essential thing in common: we love to laugh and, perhaps more to the point, we crack one another up. And that, my friends, is the key, particulary during these shitstormy days.
We also happen to be the world’s best photo bombers. Don’t believe me, well check these out for yourself. No one is safe from our stealthily running up and no one has refused to Airdrop the photo to me. No one.
The mom was in on this one. The kids had no clue we were behind them. The whole restaurant was cracking up, as were the kids when we showed them that they’d been bombed.
These young women spoke no English, having just arrived in NYC from Japan…but knew all about Airdropping.
These two kiddos thought it was so funny that we photobombed them that they proceeded to chase us down the beach trying to playfully scare us. They might have succeeded.
Mom saw us coming. The kids did not. I lost my phone in the process. One of the kids found the phone and ran it down to us as we were retracing our steps. It had fallen out of my pocket as I ran over to bomb. Insert eye roll here.
How cute are these two who were just trying to take an Insta-worthy shot. Barry kindy offered to take a photo of them that did not include us. He said, “that’s okay” while she was saying, “sure!” She won.
And then there is this. Thanks, B. for having my back, being my bestie, and making me laugh (usually with, but sometimes at) you. There is no one I’d rather be with in Crazytown.