A Brief History of Time! Take Two.

Eddie Redmayne won an academy award for portraying Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everythingin 2014. The movie, captivating in its portrayal of the brilliant and funny Stephen Hawking, the physicist who made landmark advances in physics and math. His career spanned 50 award winning years. Amongst the prestige of his awards was The Albert Einstein Medal in 1979 for his scientific findings. The keeper of odds beat his for 51 of his 76 years of a five star life. He was diagnosed at 21 years of age with ALS, an extreme deleterious motor neuron disease. His body and voice, although physically bound and compromised never got in the way of his mobility or his Voice. He never allowed his limitations to get in the way. He knew the thrill of discovery has no mate. This was his fate and he never bemoaned it. He finished the marathon of life even if it was after dark and amongst the last of the racers up first avenue.

On any given day finding an excuse to hang in bed, binge watch a  Netflix series and order in food is often too close at hand (not an easy feat for those in the know.) I can only imagine even Stephen Hawking couldn’t count the number of days he allowed himself one of those. A favorite and meaningful quote of his was “it would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.”

So on Pi day we say good-bye Stephen. Wondered if he planned it that way or was it just the “odds.

What is Happening Here?

When guns have more rights than women.
We march to gain control.
Our bodies, ourselves, our credo.
We stand united and determined and yell.
Overturning our dignity.
The fire, the fury, the horror.
We beg to know the “why’s.”
We sit and wipe our sorrow.
Children shot dead in Uvalde.
Our constitutional rights dispelled.
In a huge destructive hand-basket,
Our world has gone to Hell.

Everyday Friday the 13th?

And then one day the sky fell down.
No chicken little warning- the house fell on the witches legs and just like that the emperor had no clothes. Cinderella lost more than her slipper and the three blind mice could no longer run. Mother Goose stopped singing nursery rhymes to her grandchildren- and stood by as women prisoner’s exercised around the “mulberry bush.” There were no rainbows and cloudy days were here again. Severus Snape knew that “the dark arts are varied, ever- changing and eternal. Fighting them is like fighting a many- headed monster, which each time a neck is severed, sprouts a head even fiercer and cleverer than before.” Even though Tom (Tom and Jerry) was the antagonist, all of us felt for Tom. “After all what good is a cat if he can’t get the better of a rat.” From our own little corner in our own little chair- uh! oh! we spied with our little eye a black cat crossing our path. And to quote Elmer Fudd in his garden of evil- “Shhh. Be vewy, vewy quiet. I’m hunting wabbits. Only in that case, the hunter gets hunted always. And then we ran into Mary Poppins who offered us a spoon full of sugar. It helped the medicine go down. We began to believe again and just like we know pruning our flowers helps them to grow bigger and brighter the prince of tides helped our ship sail in. We turned the beat around, stopped playing victim, ran from villains, and got behind the literal wheel to claim our power back. If you believe in magic, follow toto down the yellow brick road, and know that somewhere between a curtain and the wizard is a place called Home.

Nostalgia with a Side of Double Bubble!

Back to the Future!

No Rhyme-All Reason. Landlubbers, drindl skirts and bell bottoms. Tennis sweaters, weejun penny loafers and madras blouses. Typewriters, wax dipped monogram letter seals and loose leaf notebooks. Bon Bons- jujubes, chuckles and double bubble. Chocolate yoo hoo’s, dairy queen sundaes and red licorice strings. Dave Clark Five, Connie Francis and Charlotte Russe . Dobie Gillis, pink erasers, papagallos. Loden pea-coats vinyl jackets, mary jane patent leathers, and white shoe polish for ked sneakers. Apple Brown Betty in Swanson tv dinners, buitoni ravioli in the can and potato sticks. Sewing class, emenee toy trumpets and the morning show “Just for Fun.” The Mikado, Pirates of Penzance and Flower Drum Song. Won-ton soup, chopped suey and egg foo young. Peanut Butter and Jelly on Ritz Crackers with Campbells tomato soup. Spaldings, Jacks and 45’s. Army, Navy Stores, Kresge’s Dept. Store and Alexanders. Mohair sweaters, shift dresses, mini and maxi skirts, baby doll dresses, colored tights- stirrup pants. Science projects on Oak Tag, pencil sharpeners and No. 8 pencils. Revlon Rum Raisin lipstick and Mary Quant make-up. Shalimar, Joy, Ambush, jade east, english leather and Old Spice. Po-ke-no, parchessi and Simon. Bonanza, Gunsmoke and Wagon Train. Make it a throw back Thursday!

When There is Food on the Table- there is always room for one more-

Table for Four Plus More!The feeling of being excluded stinks! We recently learned of a reach out program called #operationshabbotshalom. It was started by a lovely guy we know who heads a modern orthodox day school in Westchester. We met him 18 plus years ago through one the modern orthodox temples in New York where some of the grandkids attend school. He is renowned and in fact the son of the Rabbi Emeritus at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun. Shout out to Josh Lookstein. Fast forward, post (bh) Summer 2022 and we are out and more about. One pervasive and lingering side effect for so many resulted from the feeling of being isolated. The common denominator was negotiating our safety from our own ships during the the many phases of the universal storm. #operationshabbotshalom was set up as an “effort to bring people together after a year of distancing.” Friday afternoons are designated to reach out to people who could use a call. Come one, call all. You in turn get the calls too. Social lives have an ebb and flow. There are times when we are inundated with invites to join the party. There are periods where empty calendars feel italicized in yellow marker fashion. Differentiating between alone and lonely is a tough call. In an attempt to make up for lost time we schedule our days and nites in bulk. Some days we almost look forward to cancelled plans. We can then get into our sweats, no make-up and hair pulled back mode. It gives us a moment to get off the treadmill of activity, tap into an evening of take-out Chinese food, netfiix and a Vodka we nurse through binging Teheran. We are tired. Tired of the reboot. Lots of time and sometimes tortured energy to create a syllabus that is new but contains components of what was. Unplug and hope we what we lost, was either no longer serving us any good, or in fact stored in the elusive cloud. So just for today, when you find the time, perhaps reach out to someone who may be going through a narrow calendar of events. Leave the door open and let them know in a more than merrier way, that they will never walk alone, as long as you are around.

Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You!

Jared Kushner your arrogance expected.
Your attorney was pleading not whining.
Your fidelity to shekels and pesos,
Leaves your credibility, less than shining.
The apple nish fallen too far,
Your pedigree was bought with a check.
You represent behavior disdainful.
Your values wreak with disrespect.
Entitled and privileged and so on,
You had an enormous head start.
Nepotism led you down a path,
Not coming from simply the heart.
Somehow we wished you knew better.
Your children will learn of the truth.
Get off your high horse, the music you’ll face as you’re pulled out of the illusive glass booth.

We Promised Her Ice Cream!

“The parents of 10-year-old Alexandria “Lexi” Aniyah Rubio—one of 19 children killed by a gunman at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde—testified virtually before a June 8 U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on gun violence.”
We have had the fortuitous opportunity to share time with grandchildren for what is now almost 17 years. Whaaaat? Yes, from baggies of cheerios to drivers permits we have kvelled all the way through. From day 1 we took an oath of safety first. Nothing got in the way of crossing streets, holding hands in museums and eyes on the prize every precious minute. One of our best takeaways were sleepovers.

We would close the blinds and it would be the stars, the moon and Us. “More french toast”- coming right up.

Very Best of times. 

Yesterday the good times continued as we celebrated a right of passage a “zimrah,” a musical celebration.

Good-bye kindergarten, hello first grade. Grateful, gracious and lucky in more than one way as we have come to learn.  

Cut to Oct 18, 2018 Shabbat morning at The Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. A day of prayer in a random synagogue engaging in a sermon of prayers and gratitudes. An assailant stormed in Nazi style and committed the deadliest rampage against a Jewish Community in our country’s history. The murderer’s life was spared and he was deemed in “stable” condition. As far from the truth as can be imagined. We are positioned as we enter a school, a house of worship, a sports or entertainment arena to now wonder if we will walk out.

We are mired in prayer today choosing to focus with eyes who spent formative years in the 1960’s when we walked into a Shabbat service, our school, the bowling alley, or the local candy store and banked on leaving with more than we came in with. And no Lexi Aniyah Rubio never got her ice cream. BH

Fall in Love with Lots of Things!

Richard Burton called Elizabeth Taylor his “eternal one night stand.” I croon at the tenor of the mere idea of that. An emotional reverence of prodigious proportions hardly containable in thought. Conversely as reality stands still for no one he played George to her Martha in Edward Albee’s- Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe? They were married and divorced twice, although their fascination for one another lingered on. The intermix of hindsight and reality defines “the serpent in envy paradise theory.”

We all have an emotional fingerprint that comes to full expression when it is stamped and recognized by the people we love. The state of limerence (infatuated love) is fleeting. It serves as the gestation period waiting to convert impassioned into permanence. If Jack is in love with Jill he is no judge of her beauty. With a fortuitous, askewed eye we hope that our veneration for our beloved evolves into a ” happily ever after” place. Loving children, grandchildren and our dogs helps to make our hearts sing. Shout out to Bettie Ann.

Calvin Trillin wrote a terrific short read called “About Alice.” He eulogized his wife in beautiful detail. He tried his best to make her feel real in spite of its hyperbolic style. My take away was reminiscent of “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.” Michel Legrand wrote the music under the direction of Jacques Demy. The movie plays out in song. The music adds breathless enchantment to the characters dialogue. I am always left wondering how this would have played out outside of song. I imagine this is one reason we can’t get enough of any media that has a dream laced with tune. Tickets to coveted Broadway Musicals – a veritable waiting game. Nothing like a good American Songbook excerpt to get the hoof beating and the heart racing. The fantasy and sighs as we sway back and forth helps to complete the experience of wonder. Yes, Calvin Trillin loved Alice, his muse, he is quoted as saying “all his writing was for her.” She was described by friends as “someone who managed to navigate the tricky waters between living a life you could be proud of and still delighting in the many things there are to take pleasure in.” Waxing poetic, indeed.

So “hello young lovers wherever you are.” Getting it close to center in the quadrants of your life is the journey. Destinations perhaps overrated. Let’s do it one Sunday at at time.

Maestro hit it! Saturday

Can you dig it baby?
Follow me on my gram,
Some days a grand slam.
Others a fizzle on the ground.

No interest is found.
Music and laughter and flowers and more.
That’s how we roll on the happiness score.
With fear and fright and THE VIRUS!!
—Can’t ignore.—
Some days a battle to get through the door.
So play your games, draw a picture or two, Hug a loved one who is tried and true.
We are in it together a time like no other.
Make the nasty more pleasant embellish the joy-
Each moment, hour and days, yours to enjoy.
Aim for the sky and reach for the stars.
Better together in times called bizarre.

Sheryl Sandberg repost 2015- “life is for the living.”

Today is the end of sheloshim for my beloved husband—the first thirty days. Judaism calls for a period of intense mourning known as shiva that lasts seven days after a loved one is buried. After shiva, most normal activities can be resumed, but it is the end of sheloshim that marks the completion of religious mourning for a spouse.

A childhood friend of mine who is now a rabbi recently told me that the most powerful one-line prayer he has ever read is: “Let me not die while I am still alive.” I would have never understood that prayer before losing Dave. Now I do.

I think when tragedy occurs, it presents a choice. You can give in to the void, the emptiness that fills your heart, your lungs, constricts your ability to think or even breathe. Or you can try to find meaning. These past thirty days, I have spent many of my moments lost in that void. And I know that many future moments will be consumed by the vast emptiness as well.

But when I can, I want to choose life and meaning.

And this is why I am writing: to mark the end of sheloshim and to give back some of what others have given to me. While the experience of grief is profoundly personal, the bravery of those who have shared their own experiences has helped pull me through. Some who opened their hearts were my closest friends. Others were total strangers who have shared wisdom and advice publicly. So I am sharing what I have learned in the hope that it helps someone else. In the hope that there can be some meaning from this tragedy.

I have lived thirty years in these thirty days. I am thirty years sadder. I feel like I am thirty years wiser.

I have gained a more profound understanding of what it is to be a mother, both through the depth of the agony I feel when my children scream and cry and from the connection my mother has to my pain. She has tried to fill the empty space in my bed, holding me each night until I cry myself to sleep. She has fought to hold back her own tears to make room for mine. She has explained to me that the anguish I am feeling is both my own and my children’s, and I understood that she was right as I saw the pain in her own eyes.

I have learned that I never really knew what to say to others in need. I think I got this all wrong before; I tried to assure people that it would be okay, thinking that hope was the most comforting thing I could offer. A friend of mine with late-stage cancer told me that the worst thing people could say to him was “It is going to be okay.” That voice in his head would scream, How do you know it is going to be okay? Do you not understand that I might die? I learned this past month what he was trying to teach me. Real empathy is sometimes not insisting that it will be okay but acknowledging that it is not. When people say to me, “You and your children will find happiness again,” my heart tells me, Yes, I believe that, but I know I will never feel pure joy again. Those who have said, “You will find a new normal, but it will never be as good” comfort me more because they know and speak the truth. Even a simple “How are you?”—almost always asked with the best of intentions—is better replaced with “How are you today?” When I am asked “How are you?” I stop myself from shouting, My husband died a month ago, how do you think I am? When I hear “How are you today?” I realize the person knows that the best I can do right now is to get through each day.

I have learned some practical stuff that matters. Although we now know that Dave died immediately, I didn’t know that in the ambulance. The trip to the hospital was unbearably slow. I still hate every car that did not move to the side, every person who cared more about arriving at their destination a few minutes earlier than making room for us to pass. I have noticed this while driving in many countries and cities. Let’s all move out of the way. Someone’s parent or partner or child might depend on it.

I have learned how ephemeral everything can feel—and maybe everything is. That whatever rug you are standing on can be pulled right out from under you with absolutely no warning. In the last thirty days, I have heard from too many women who lost a spouse and then had multiple rugs pulled out from under them. Some lack support networks and struggle alone as they face emotional distress and financial insecurity. It seems so wrong to me that we abandon these women and their families when they are in greatest need.

I have learned to ask for help—and I have learned how much help I need. Until now, I have been the older sister, the COO, the doer and the planner. I did not plan this, and when it happened, I was not capable of doing much of anything. Those closest to me took over. They planned. They arranged. They told me where to sit and reminded me to eat. They are still doing so much to support me and my children.

I have learned that resilience can be learned. Adam M. Grant taught me that three things are critical to resilience and that I can work on all three. Personalization—realizing it is not my fault. He told me to ban the word “sorry.” To tell myself over and over, This is not my fault. Permanence—remembering that I won’t feel like this forever. This will get better. Pervasiveness—this does not have to affect every area of my life; the ability to compartmentalize is healthy.

For me, starting the transition back to work has been a savior, a chance to feel useful and connected. But I quickly discovered that even those connections had changed. Many of my co-workers had a look of fear in their eyes as I approached. I knew why—they wanted to help but weren’t sure how. Should I mention it? Should I not mention it? If I mention it, what the hell do I say? I realized that to restore that closeness with my colleagues that has always been so important to me, I needed to let them in. And that meant being more open and vulnerable than I ever wanted to be. I told those I work with most closely that they could ask me their honest questions and I would answer. I also said it was okay for them to talk about how they felt. One colleague admitted she’d been driving by my house frequently, not sure if she should come in. Another said he was paralyzed when I was around, worried he might say the wrong thing. Speaking openly replaced the fear of doing and saying the wrong thing. One of my favorite cartoons of all time has an elephant in a room answering the phone, saying, “It’s the elephant.” Once I addressed the elephant, we were able to kick him out of the room.

At the same time, there are moments when I can’t let people in. I went to Portfolio Night at school where kids show their parents around the classroom to look at their work hung on the walls. So many of the parents—all of whom have been so kind—tried to make eye contact or say something they thought would be comforting. I looked down the entire time so no one could catch my eye for fear of breaking down. I hope they understood.

I have learned gratitude. Real gratitude for the things I took for granted before—like life. As heartbroken as I am, I look at my children each day and rejoice that they are alive. I appreciate every smile, every hug. I no longer take each day for granted. When a friend told me that he hates birthdays and so he was not celebrating his, I looked at him and said through tears, “Celebrate your birthday, goddammit. You are lucky to have each one.” My next birthday will be depressing as hell, but I am determined to celebrate it in my heart more than I have ever celebrated a birthday before.

I am truly grateful to the many who have offered their sympathy. A colleague told me that his wife, whom I have never met, decided to show her support by going back to school to get her degree—something she had been putting off for years. Yes! When the circumstances allow, I believe as much as ever in leaning in. And so many men—from those I know well to those I will likely never know—are honoring Dave’s life by spending more time with their families.

I can’t even express the gratitude I feel to my family and friends who have done so much and reassured me that they will continue to be there. In the brutal moments when I am overtaken by the void, when the months and years stretch out in front of me endless and empty, only their faces pull me out of the isolation and fear. My appreciation for them knows no bounds.

I was talking to one of these friends about a father-child activity that Dave is not here to do. We came up with a plan to fill in for Dave. I cried to him, “But I want Dave. I want option A.” He put his arm around me and said, “Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the shit out of option B.”

Dave, to honor your memory and raise your children as they deserve to be raised, I promise to do all I can to kick the shit out of option B. And even though sheloshim has ended, I still mourn for option A. I will always mourn for option A. As Bono sang, “There is no end to grief . . . and there is no end to love.” I love you, Dave.