Notes from Mt. Bookpile

Year end: Made my goal by the skin of my teeth.  In part it's because the work day never really ends, and in part it's because I've been glued to the tv (binge watching series or the news) and, of course, doomscrolling.  

Middle Grade/Young Adult Fiction
Middle Grade/Young Adult Speculative Fiction

Middle Grade/Young Adult Suspense
Speculative Fiction


Have you heard the word(s)?

 It's time for the Word of the Year... except this year, there are far too many!  Because 2020.  

I've blogged about this before, and it's always interesting to see how the WotY reflects what's going on (although there are times when it's a little confusing as to why that word).  Earlier this week I attended an event (sponsored by Atlas Obscura) with @lynneguist as she discussed how different entities come up with their version, what some of the words are, and even what some of the non-English WotYs are (more on that later).  

First off, of course the NYTimes has to weigh in.  In this case, there are 20 phrases that (they think) defined 2020, including blursday (isn't every day blursday now? forget the month, I just want to know the day of the week!) and doomscrolling (which I doubt will end on Jan 20th, although many think it will).  Not to be outdone, WaPo asked readers to come up with one word and I absolutely agree with it: exhausting!

Lynneguist spoke about the American Dialect Institute's words, voted on by the membership. Somewhat boringly, they came up with COVIDMerriam-Webster and Dictionary.com go by user searches, which again, boringly, was pandemic (even Lynne made the mistake of saying "global pandemic", which is redundant /pedant). 

After going through a lot of words, including the portmanteaus that cropped up, like covidiot and quarantini, we finally got to the words that were the WotYs in other countries.  There were two that caught my ear, and I highly recommend we start using them asap:

Knuffelcontact (Flemish) – "hug buddy" (and here, by "using" I mean finding and using!)

Hamsterkauf (German) – "panic buying" (and after the Great Toilet Paper Panic of 2020, didn't we all indulge?)

I'm sure there are other words out there, but I'm pretty much done with 2020.  I think.  I'm pretty sure it's not 2021 yet... right?



 My college professor father taught 18-22-year-olds for about 40 years, starting as a TA while getting his doctorate through his retirement.  For quite some time he was young-seeming, but aged a lot in the 15 or so minutes it took for him to drop me off at my dorm and for me to walk into his classroom: suddenly, he was old enough to have a daughter in his class.

Working in schools, I don't feel old either (although I know I'm older than my students are, especially the K-5 students!).  There are occasions when time slips away, when I think something happened recently but it was actually some time ago.  Usually it doesn't bother me, though.

Last night, for some reason, I was thinking about my father and his mother.  It suddenly occurred to me that by the time my grandmother was my age,  she was already my grandmother.  

And wham! I realized: I'm old. 

How did that happen?


Enough already

 There was an op-ed in the WSJ this weekend that's gotten a lot of people's attention and drawn many comments and airtime.  Here's the beginning:

First of all, it's clear that the author just wants to stir things up (mission accomplished).

Second, does it really matter what honorific Jill Biden uses?  

In schools it's now expected that we, faculty and students, share our pronouns.  The rationale is, in part, to help students feel safe sharing their identities with us and for them to feel accepted for who they are.  I read one article that suggests that perhaps the options have gotten a little out of hand, and at least at MPOW they aren't there... yet.  

The next step is obviously honorifics.  At a recent faculty meeting we were encouraged to think about what honorific we were using and whether it was gendered (Ms., Mrs, Mr.) or not (Dr., Coach).  As a substitute for the gendered version, Mx. was recommended or we could just use our first names or last names.  Now, that last part just doesn't work for me.  Using my last name is a little too much like I'm in the army.  I've used my first name at a Quaker school and at the school previous to the one I worked in, but that's rarely the culture of the school.  And Mx.?  One of my staff suggested "Minx" (I think she was joking) but I'm just nixing Mx.  Using a gendered honorific is like sharing my pronouns - if I'm using Ms/Miss, then students can assume she/her/hers, right?

As for Dr. well... Some schools are incredibly proud of the number of faculty who have doctorates and insist on using Dr. whether or not the faculty member wants to.  My father has his PhD and always said that his degrees stood for "BullSh*t", "More sh*t", "Piled high and Deep" (no, he didn't make that all up).  Getting tenure and being a full professor was more important, so his preference was for Professor Lazygal's Dad.  And as an academic snob, he feels that anyone in secondary education who was not a medical doctor who used Dr. was simply someone who couldn't make it in a college/university job (note: I'm repeating his thoughts, not saying that I agree with them).

Me?  Well, I'll share my pronouns within my school (most of my non-academic friends won't understand) and I'll keep using a gendered pronoun.  And if we can move on from this silly season giving the op-ed more attention than it deserves, well, I'll be grateful.

January Dreaming

 Rumor has it that there will be a 2024 campaign announcement/superspreader event rally on January 20th.  Maybe even around noon.  

So here's my dream: shortly after, the same people behind the Lincoln Project and RVAT announce the formation of a new political party and have a few senators and representatives declare they're switching affiliation.  Maybe even have someone declare their presidential campaign.  

It would draw focus from both the Inauguration and the Pouty-Boy-Who-Lost events, which is a glass half-full situation but still... it's nice to dream that could happen.


Looking for gifts?

Here are some of the places I've looked at to buy gifts over the past few months.  Note: I have no relationship to any of the sites nor have I always purchased something there (but I have considered it).  

Happy Shopping! (ps - Hanukkah started last night, and Christmas is in two weeks)



 Because of the disruptions caused by COVID, once a week I try to "support a local" and order takeaway.  This was on the menu I was exploring earlier today:

(insert head banging into wall)


The things I'll miss (kind of)

Last month I read What will the press do without Trump and What happens to CNN and MSNBC if Biden wins which got me thinking about the twitter accounts I follow, the news I watch and the news I read.  I mean, The Trump presidency is ending and so will Maggie Haberman's wild ride!

Unlike some, I know who won the election and I'm looking forward to a quieter presidency.  However it would be silly to assume that the current POTUS will go quietly, particularly since he's threatening a 2024 run (all the better to continue those truth-free zone rallies) and will likely face multiple legal battles.  My prayer is that networks that consider themselves to be news organizations don't cover the rallies or the tweets in detail until the midterms.  Honestly, no potential candidates should be covered in depth until the midterms.  This "campaign creep" has got to stop!  Two years, max, for president; one year for senatorial and less for house candidates.  Perpetual campaign seasons lead to a disconnected electorate as they tune out and drop out of the process.  

Many people don't know this, but I was pre-law in college.  So I enjoy looking at what I think of as interesting takes on the legal system and currently there are several twitter feeds I follow that are commenting on the election challenge lawsuits.  How much work will they have once those end?  People like Joyce Vance and Barbara McQuade and Matthew Miller are barely on MSNBC commenting on legal issues, and Ari Melber has virtually no legal content (even when he could do an entire show on them, he follows the rest of the shows into the umpteenth iteration of discussing the same stories that were being discussed all day).

There are several very brave souls who watch the various "super spreader events" and share snippets of idiocy and fact-free ranting.  What will they do?  How will the beefed up fact checking departments handle the lack of presidential content?  

I'll miss those things.  On the other hand, I won't miss the constant assault on our ears and eyes and being challenged to believe in an alternate reality (or alternate facts)!  





In case it's not clear to you, my reader: 

  1. Jews don't go to church
  2. The holiest time in the calendar for Jews are the Days of Awe, usually September/October
  3. There is no Judeo-Christian calendar.  It's the Gregorian Calendar, which has become the majority global default calendar.  Even within Christianity, there is another calendar (used by the Eastern Orthodox). 


As God Is My Witness (aka A Different Thanksgiving)

For several years now, my usual Thanksgiving plans have included a trip to Montreal, where I've taken advantage of les soldes de vendredi fou at some of my favorite shops.  My Thanksgiving meal is taken at Taverne Dominion, where their tonique maison (and Hendricks) and duck confit are a nod to the celebrations going on down south.

This year, of course, that wasn't going to happen.  Finding a place that could provide a Thanksgiving take-away meal became important.  And rather than shopping, I'll watch what Wired magazine calls the Best Thanksgiving Episode ever.  

If you didn't get a chance to tape it, here's the clip that elevates this above all other episodes:


Five years ago

Five years ago my then-oldest, Mallory, was unable to walk on one leg and got a trip to the emergency room.  It turned out that he was mostly blind, and had likely thrown a blood clot... the next day we went back to the hospital and did the right thing for him, sending him to eternal sleep surrounded by my loving arms.  I know that the other "mantle" cats were there, waiting for him.  

A week later I noticed there was something a little different with my vision in my left eye.  No trip to an ER, but an emergency trip to an ophthalmologist and then a quickly arranged visit to the neuroopthamologist... many blood tests and two MRIs later, we had a diagnosis of CRION.  Since then I've taken a lot of Very Serious Medications, and finally my eye went into remission.  There could always be a relapse, and I live in fear of COVID triggering one.  

The past five years have been a struggle: the pandemic and all the attendant restrictions and the endless Zoom calls have made what should be relief at my recovery difficult to achieve.  One could even say that I'm struggling, mentally, to cope with it all.  Yet underneath that is an underlying gratitude that things aren't worse... that I've been able to receive the best medical care, that The Herd is still here and cuddling, that I have a job and loving friends and family.

Five years.  So long, and yet so short.


Spam or not?

This could be a new twist on an old game, or it could be legit and someone messed up.  

First of all, my name is not Linda.  Second, I don't deal with the bank referenced.  Third, Canadian funds?

Years ago, I discovered that someone had deposited money into my American Express account.  The scam went that they'd "prepay" and then use a PIN to withdraw the money before the check bounced.  Luckily I discovered it before too much damage was done.

So, is this a version of that?  Or is it a way to get me to contact them and thus give over information?  Or is it someone with my last name, first name Linda, who legitimately oopsed on the email as they tried this transfer?  We'll never know because I've flagged it as spam and am deleting it right away.

ETA: it's spam.  four other attempts have been made in the past 15 min. to different people from "my" account.


Spam or not?

Today in my email I found the following message:

My first thought?  Wow, those spammers are getting creative.  I never took out a student loan, and college ended 35+ years ago. But later in the email it says

And it really looks official.  Which made me think... I know I'm not the only one out there with my name.  I'm not even the only one out there with my first name, middle initial and last name.  Maybe in the UK there's a mirror me, living my Best British Life (albeit one laden with college loans).

So, you decide: spam?  or not?


No kits needed

A few years ago, my father fell and hurt himself, giving my sister and me an opportunity to see what my parents were actually eating.  Spoiler alert: it wasn't great.  Lots of Lean Cuisine and a few other things, nothing really homecooked.  So we got busy making food, buying containers, and filling the freezers and fridge with more nutritional meals.

Then I and Thing One went up for a long weekend, bringing cooking supplies with us so we could get as much done as possible in a short time.  Plus we weren't sure what my parents had at home.  Then we tried to give my father recipes for the food we'd cooked.  That went well:

Me: So, Dad, a vodka sauce is just a tomato-based spaghetti sauce mixed with an alfredo spaghetti sauce...

Dad: What's the ratio?

Me: Depends on your taste.  You could go 50/50, or if you want more tomato, 60/40, etc..

Dad: What did you do?

Me: I like a little more alfredo, so I did roughly 60/40 that way

Dad: "Roughly"?  You didn't measure?

Me: No... I went by how pink it was...

Dad: And you bought [brand name]?

Me: It doesn't matter what brand.  Thing One sometimes gets [alternate brand] with roasted garlic.

Dad: But I should get the [brand name] and do 50/50 with [brand name] alfredo?

Me: bangs head into wall 

Later, after Mom died, my sister and I thought he could try a food kit.  After all, it's pretty foolproof since they give you exact instructions and exact ingredients.  He seems to like them, and it's become a weekly thing for him and his girlfriend (lady friend?  companion?) to make a kit and have dinner together.  

Last weekend Thing One and I went back to pick up an armoire I'd been coveting for a number of years, one that Dad didn't like and Mom loved.  Since she's no longer around to object, he was happy to have it out of the house and I was happy to have it in my bedroom.  He also thought it'd be So. Much. Fun. for us to make a meal for the four of us using the kits.  Thing One and I grumbled, but did it.  Then Dad suggested maybe we'd want to get a subscription ourselves?  He'd be happy to give a gift or two...

Here's what dinner Chez Lazygal looks like when we're not "scrounging":

(veal scaloppini on lettuce with 
butternut squash risotto and parmesan asparagus)

(chicken breast in a pepper/caper sauce 
on sautéed scallions and potatoes)

(frittata with "leftover vegetables")

No kits used.  Or needed.  










I think someone's desperate

Yesterday I was checking one of my email accounts, the one I reserve for my financial, health and insurance related emails.  It's great to know what when I get a message from my "bank" or "credit card company" in another account that it's phishing because the real companies only have this one account on file.

Anyway, in my mail was a letter saying that I'd been selected for a Double Entry:

One of his top supporters? Really?? Um, that's a hard no.  I have never contributed to his campaign (and any contributions to any campaign would not be linked to this email account).  And I have never heard of anyone winning one of his contests.  And capitalizing Friend is just wrong—even Richard Nixon, a Quaker himself, wouldn't have used that in an email.

I wasn't born yesterday and I haven't fallen off of any turnip trucks.  Sorry, Donnie. Don't worry, though, I'll be watching you lose your debates... from the comfort of my own home.


The things I learn!

My father has always struck me as a bit of a dweeb—he's a physicist, after all—wearing punny t-shirts and black socks with his sneakers and sandals.  I'd also known that he had a BA/MA in Electrical Engineering, but decided to do for a PhD in Physics so as to not have to work for the war effort (apparently that's what most EE's were doing in the late 50s/early 60s).

So imagine my shock when I learned at dinner last night that in 1955-56, he worked on the Dew Line for Bell Labs!  Yes, my dweeby father was part of the military industrial complex.  

Now I have to reevaluate everything...


An odd kind of normal

Nineteen years ago, our regular day was interrupted by news of a plane crashing into a World Trade Center tower.  I've blogged about this before, including how close Thing One was when a second plane followed the first.

Usually we're busy starting the school year, getting to know our students and settling back into our routines.  And Thing One and I are quietly remembering what happened, observing but not really observing it.  It's also Thing Four's birthday, and for several years we had a semi-subdued nibbles'n'drinks to celebrate the start of the year and the seriousness of the day, as well as another year around the sun for him.

Today, thanks to the Woodward book and The Atlantic's article and the craziness of the political season, the memorial and all the seriousness was overshadowed. It was "just another day", going to work with a mask on, staying six feet away from my colleagues, and getting my second COVID test (we're getting tested weekly). It felt like an odd kind of normal to not have to remember the sound of bodies hitting the sidewalk, or feeling the towers collapse, or how eerie my subway ride home was.  

Next year, twenty years on, will be very different.  But for now, it's kind of nice to have it be just another day. 


Notes from Mt. Bookpile

Somehow, I've managed to get a few books ahead of my reading goal.  Unlike last year, when I was 25 books ahead by the end of summer, it's a mere five books but I'll take it.   One new thing in my life is the addition of my first real book club.  The other members are friends from my Alex Award days (because we missed each other and talking about books) and I trust their recommendations.  I don't always trust people on those, so yay!  We meet once a month, taking it in turns to choose the book.  Stay tuned for more on that.  Anyway, on to the books read since May 1st.

Middle Grade/Young Adult Fiction

Middle Grade/Young Adult Speculative Fiction
Middle Grade/Young Adult Suspense
Speculative Fiction

Spending my time wisely

When we have longer breaks (as opposed to a three-day weekend) I like to create a To Do List and see how much gets done. So, adhering to tradition, I did just that when we started Spring Break — which had been lengthened because my trip to Lisbon was cancelled — but then Spring Break because Most of Second Semester which became Summer Vacation. I, like most people, Worked From Home and Zoomed and Socially Distanced. And got a lot of other things done:

Listening Miscellaneous
  • Updated family trees for both my mother and my father's side
  • Wrote letters to friends and family
  • Sorted through nearly three years of weekend newspapers and read the still interesting parts
  • Sorted through three years of four different magazines and read the interesting parts
Watching (aka #TooManyStreamingServices)
  • Requim
  • Ballykissangel (rewatch)
  • Lucifer
  • Marcella
  • Belgravia
  • Bancroft
  • London Kills
  • New Blood
  • Dead Lucky
  • From Darkness
  • Suspects
  • Rillington Place
  • Deep Water
  • Sondheim at 90
  • Dix pour cent (Call My Agent)
  • The Heart Guy (aka "Doctor, Doctor")
  • Warrior Nun
  • Party Tricks
  • The Good Fight
  • Hitmen
  • Black Books
Work Related
  •  Not quite at "inbox zero" but pretty darn close
And, of course, reading.  And blogging.


Adjusting to reality

MPOW has a sabbatical policy: you can take your first after your seventh year, the next eleven years later; and then another eleven years.  As with most college policies, you get full pay for a half year, and half pay for a full year.  However, with COVID and the expenses involved with increasing technology and buying new furniture and losing income from rentals and room/board, it's not surprising that this is a policy that might change.  As in, disappear.

This is my sixth year.  I wasn't planning to take mine in two years, to be honest.  My plan was: help build the new library, live in that space for a year, then take fall semester sabbatical, return for spring semester, and then… gulp... retire.  Yes.  Retire.  

I don't feel as though I'm in my late 50s. I don't feel as though, had I had a child as early my sisters-in-law and nieces did, I could be a grandparent with grandchildren applying to MPOW.  I don't feel older than many of my students parents.  And yet, I am.

Back in college I did a lot of work with the theatre, and at that point I could easily carry four stage lights at once.  Now?  The other day I struggled with a 39lb box.  And I usually cart that load around during an ALA conference, thanks to the ARCs.  Perhaps now I can't, and need to revise my "collection" policy.  

As readers know, my health has gotten progressively worse—it's stable now, thanks to a great medical team, but still...and I wonder what comes next. So, yeah, it's time to remember I'm old.  And getting older.  And retirement is rapidly approaching.  In fact, in two years I can start withdrawing from my 401(k) without penalty.  In five, I could start to get Social Security.  It's time to adjust my thinking from the 20-30 year old starting out and think about winding things up.  Over the years I've collected many ideas for what my ideal house (or kitchen, or bath, or deck) would look like... and then there's the night blooming garden I've always wanted.  It feels like those are dreams whose time has passed. It could be exciting, that next phase.  Let's hope.


The origin story the president wishes he could tell...

We've all heard about how the Drumpfs came here and settled, leading up to the current president's stories great business acumen and why he alone could fix things.  Much of that story feels very familiar to me, with a few major divergences.

Back in the late 1800s, my great-grandfather arrived in the Boston area (along with two of his brothers and a sister; there were nine siblings in all).  He settled and opened a cobbler's shop, hoping to earn enough to bring his wife over.  To help him save as much as possible, he walked barefoot into town so as not to waste leather repairing his own shoes.  Eventually, he brought her over and they started a family.

Along with a family (four girls, two boys), N (as we call him) opened a dry goods store.  It grew.  He opened another.  And another.  Pretty soon, he had a chain of stores in the area that were the equivalent of Sears.  His children went to work for the company, as did my grandfather, a son-in-law.  It was a family-owned and operated company and N's word was paramount.  

That's where things really diverge from the other story.

At some point, N decided to buy another chain of stores, one that was better known and traded on the American Stock Exchange.  Suddenly his personal fiefdom was subject to the SEC and a Board of Trustees and stockholders.  N changed.  Because our family owned the majority of the stock, it was easy to put my great-uncle, B. in as President of the company while N became Chairman (oddly, like that other story, there was an early death, when N's other son died too early from a heart attack, pushing B into the leadership role).  Various cousins took leadership roles in the company, running stores or departments (my grandfather was the hosiery buyer and comptroller of the whole company until his death).  B moved into the Chairman role and a cousin took over as President.

My cousin tells the story of how one day he read the WSJ and found an article that said that corporate management didn't have confidence in the president.  Running into B's office, my cousin asked what was going on, only to be told that B himself had called the Journal.  At the next Board meeting, my cousin had to fight his uncle (and an aunt) for his job - my cousin won.  Luckily, they were able to separate business from family (much to another board member's surprise, during a break in this meeting, my cousin got coffee and a donut for his uncle, choosing the family connection over the business one).

For reasons too boring to go into, we sold the company in the early 80s and my cousins had to find jobs outside the family umbrella.  But because they'd worked for a publicly traded company, answerable to others, working in another company wasn't a shock.  They were prepared for the checks and balances of having to account for decisions both good and bad.  

Back in New York City, we all knew that the Trump Org was a very small, family owned and run company and the whims of one man were all that counted.  My prayer is that others have also realized this and that while it may work for a small company it does not work for a country.


Notable Quotes

Someone in a mosque once told me about the water behind people's faces.  This water, he said, changed depending on what you did and what you believed and as you got older it began to freeze.  The kind of life you led, whether you heart was full of love or joy or shrewdness or bile, all of this changed the nature of the water and, therefore, the look of your face.  In this way, your face told the story of your life...

Maybe I'd been staring for too long, because she looked up.  "What?"

"You have a very nice pond face."

Syed M. Massood, More Than Just A Pretty Face 


My first 100 days

Dear Vice President Biden, 

I'm not running for President of the United States, and I'm not a paid political consultant (nor do I play one on tv).  I am a voter, and a concern citizen.  I'd like to offer you some suggestions for what would be an amazingly accomplished first 100 days:

  • Tighten up the Hatch Act.  Currently, supervisors are expected to set out consequences for violations and we've seen how well that works.  Make it a law, punishable by a stiff fine.  
  • Enact legislation that ensures that everyone working in the West Wing put their investments in a blind trust or divests completely.  Up until now that's been "best practice" but not enforcable.
  • Ensure that anyone who cannot pass security clearance tests does not get it; the president should be able to override it for an issue or a document, but not so that someone can get a job without it.
  • Work with the DOJ to craft legislation that puts a pause on any criminal action that cannot be prosecuted due to the statue of limitations running out.  If someone flees the jurisdiction or gets elected to office, the clock stops ticking until they can be prosecuted.
  • Rejoin the WHO and other organizations; re-sign the Paris Climate Accord.
  • Spend time - a lot of time - reassuring our allies and alliances that we're still America and we're still reliable.
  • Begin the process of examining the regulations that have been recently discarded.  Maybe some of them don't need to be reenacted, but some probably do.
  • Have a robust hiring office looking for qualified people to restaff the various departments that have seen a huge brain drain.  
  • While you're at it, don't reward large donors or political allies with positions unless they have real world qualifications (for example, the Secretary of Labor should have worked in the corporate world; the Secretary of Education should have been a classroom teacher at some point)
Try working with the leadership of both parties.  Getting bipartisan support for any of this is critical for its success.  

Oh, and another thing.  Don't engage the other campaign.  They're looking for you to make mistakes and to use them in their campaign.  Far more effective would be just ignoring the slings and arrows (and it will drive them nuts).

Good luck,

A Lazy voter


Notable Quotes

According to him, it was not a question of liking or not liking to read, but of finding the book that was meant for you.  Everybody could love reading, as long as they had the right book in their hands, a book that spoke to them, a book they could not bear to part with...

They asked her what those novels were about, and Delphine confessed that, most of the time, she was incapable of summarizing them.  She had not read anything memorable.  Yet she continued to feel excited at the start of each new book.  Because what if it was good?

David Foenkinos, The Mystery of Henri Pick


Too many causes

As at most schools, students at MPOW were quite upset by the George Floyd murder (and the other murders, including Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Aubery) that led up to the current Black Lives Matters protests.  Because of COVID there was a feeling of disconnect and distance from the school forming an official response, and students felt that.  They also felt as though the school had a lotquite a lot—of work to do to be anti-racist and fully accepting of BIPOC in our community.  Yes, they've also started one of those Black@ Instagram accounts.

One of their suggestions/requirements to show that this work was being done was virtually demanding that the school and individual faculty donate to BLM causes (defense funds, etc.).  Now, I'm not against that but... there are a lot of worthy causes out there and I have limited discretionary funds to donate.  

For example, I've donated to organizations that are working to ensure that all students who used to rely on public schools for free meals can get those meals while schools are closed.  I've donated to help artists get funding for basic life things (like food and rent) while they are out of work because theatres and concert stages and other venues are now closed.  Some people may feel donating to medical institutions is critical.  Others may believe that the best way to help is to donate to political organizations and candidates.  

That's not to see these causes are more worth than those causes, or whatever causes you feel are important. It is to say that requiring donations to a specific cause or concern as a token that you care about that case (or "donate or be cancelled") isn't fair.  


Grief and anti-fragility

Many years ago I mentioned that my uncle and aunt studied Mussar.  When my uncle died, my aunt continued to go to her synagogue and participate, and I went along with her.  It became our Tuesday night thing: I'd go down to NYC, we'd do Mussar, Thing One and I would walk her home, then I'd spend the night at Thing One's.  Obviously, when I moved out of New York State that became impossible.

I'm not sure when my aunt mentioned Mussar to C (a converted Jew and one of my father's companions) but with COVID, the group has gone online.  C convinced my father to attend with her, and when he mentioned it to me, I decided it would be a nice way to spend time with my father, aunt and C.  Most weeks there are maybe 20 people, four of whom are related.  I may not be the literal youngest but I certainly look as though I am.

Each week we explore a midot, a trait, and are given reading to do to prepare for the conversation.  Yesterday, it was grief and we were asked to read excerpts from The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief by Francis Weller, specifically the five gates of grief.  At the start of the meeting, we were asked to choose one bullet point from a gate and journal about it. Here was what I chose, and wrote:

Illness is another grief we find at this gate. Any lingering illness can activate a feeling of loss. When a prolonged sickness arises in our life, we lament the life we once knew and enjoyed, the one brimming with vitality. We may feel betrayed by our body, as though we no longer have a foundation beneath us for living fully. Illness dislodges our sense of control and invulnerability. We resist, resent, argue, and protest, attempting to wrestle our lives back from this unwelcome guest.

The illness part really spoke to me because of my years long battle with CFS and now CRION.  I don't remember what it was like to have enough energy, to be able to stay up late and rebound, to not worry how a small thing could create a huge problem.  I mourn the person I was in my teens and 20s, even my early 30s.  It means I may not be the friend that I want to be, or my work may not be at the level I think it should be, because things are a little muted (as they are when people are tired).  I try not to think of myself as a sick person, but years of experience have taught me that I actually *am* one - and that I shouldn't blame myself if I can't live up to my own expectations.

My father, perhaps obviously, wrote about the loss of my mother last year.  Others wrote about illness, depression, the ancestral grief that comes from having family lost in the Holocaust or to slavery,  what's going on in our political world, among other topics (not everyone spoke).  One woman mentioned the term "anti-fragility" and my ears perked up.  

Of course I started to poke around looking for resources, finding mostly a book that seems to apply mainly to businesses.  But then I saw this article that speaks to it from a human, psychological perspective.  And then this article.  Something to ponder as I prepare for next week's midot (praise).


Digital Detritus

Life right now is... interesting.  There's good news, in that I'm feeling healthier than I have in a while.  And there's bad news, in that we have this COVID-19 thing that has led to death and an abrupt end to life as we've known it.  The paradox is that the social distancing of the latter has helped move the former in ways I don't think would have happened had I been going into that germ factor we call a school library and I call MPOW.

It's been over two years since I last did one of these posts and do I have links for you!  So without further ado...


Imponderables (Sunday morning edition)

Today's New York Times has this story: G.E., Which Traces Its Roots to Thomas Edison, Sells Its Lighting Business and a part of my past died.  Sunday mornings used to be filled with commercials like this one for BASF:

For years, I joked the BASF made adjectives and adverbs. I'm still not sure they don't.

And GE used to have customer support for everything, including MRIs and nuclear plants:

Can someone tell me: who will now be bringing good things to light?


Everything Old, etc.

I'm old enough to remember the Automat.  My grandfather and father took me in NYC, and it was So Cool that the food just appeared behind the little window!  And I got to pay for it, just by putting coins in the slot!

You can imagine how excited I was to see something similar when I visited Amsterdam:

Eater just had an article saying that a dumpling shop was considering an automat-like model, given that we're in the Age of COVID.  Please — please! more restaurants and bakeries, do this.  And not just because of COVID, but because it's So Cool.


You can't even get there...

45 years ago, movie goers saw this trailer

And five years later, in 1980....

The best part (or so my college BFFs and I thought) was the tag line:

We changed it slightly and would frequently say things (in a creepy voice) like, "Just when you thought it was safe to go to breakfast... you can't even get there"

Good times.

This past February, which feels as though it was about as long ago as the early 80s, the parents association had it's annual appreciation brunch/lunch for the Upper School faculty.  One of the things they do is have -- in addition to amazing food -- is a raffle set up.  There are a number of tables with different prizes, and in front of each is a glass vase into which we put our tickets (each faculty member gets five).  My first year I won Trader Joes gift cards, and this year I won a $200 gift certificate to a local day spa.

Given my various health issues, I haven't been feeling spa-y but I knew that in March I'd be going off most of the medications (turns out I went off even more, but that's a whole other weird medical story) and maybe, just maybe, I'd be feeling up to it.  Reader, I am.

But COVID-19.

Just when I thought it was safe to get a facial and massage... I can't even get there.


I can relate to the fear

I guess it's good that Mt. Bookpile is still close to 300 and I have access to BPL's ebooks!


A Quick Mother's Day Story

People over on Twitter are talking about the ways their mother was a fighter - like not insisting that their daughter's wear longer skirts because boys would get the wrong idea, etc.  Maybe it's me, but I get the feeling that those are younger women and these events happened relatively recently.

Me, I want to celebrate my mother the fighter back in the 70s.  The school district for SmallTown had two K-6 schools and then one K-3 and a 4-6 school in SmallVillage.  Even though we were just over the border of the Village, we were districted into those two schools. The 4-6 school was, to put it mildly, old and decrepit.

How old and decrepit?  My BFF K remembers getting burned by the hot piping in the basement music room.

I attended that school for two years, and then we moved to Switzerland for Daddy's First Sabbatical.  When we returned, it was up the very steep hill to the Junior High, big enough for all of the elementary school students and a much newer building.  But my sister, being five years behind me, was then in second grade and nearing the time when she, too, would be going to the old and decrepit 4-6 school.

Mom, and her friends, agitated and protested so much that they got that school closed down and my sister got to go to the newest of the K-6 schools, the one furthest away from our house.  K's younger sister, luckily, had moved (with K's family) to another city or she would have gone to the expanded K-3 school, even though they lived further from the Village boundaries.  A very famous Children's/Young Adult author's family bought K's house and that's the K-6 school she attended.

My mother was many things, including a fighter.  And I miss her.