Bruce, Stipe, Mellencamp, Matthews & More (and Farewell NABLOPOMO)

Consider this post a public service announcement.

We’re ending this month with so much sadness and bad news and facing an election year sure to bring much more. SO instead of the long NABLOPOMO meditation I’d planned I offer you the last song from the best concert I have ever been to IN MY LIFE, not just because this amazing lineup* (it was almost too much to absorb,) but because it existed to serve the 2004 Democratic ticket as John Kerry challenged George Bush.

Yeah I know he lost, but the song – this song – written by Patti Smith, still helps to remind us today of the task that lies before us.  “The People Have the Power.”  We, the people, need to do all we can to protect our rights and fight to revive those stolen from us:  the Voting Rights Act, the terrible assaults on women’s healthcare providers, especially Planned Parenthood, racial injustice and pain beyond describing, xenophobia and hate speech from those who would lead us.  We can’t afford to lose.

So, enjoy the music and take it to heart, then remember for the next year that those people who have the power?

They’re us.


*Babyface, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews Band, Dixie Chicks, Eddie Vedder, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, John Fogerty, John Mellencamp, Jurassic 5, Keb’ Mo’, Pearl Jam, R.E.M.

A Terrorist is a Terrorist, NOT a “Shooter,” NOT a “Gunman.” A Terrorist.

Cristina Page's photo.

So is he a crazy “shooter” or a terrorist?   Does it matter what we call him?  This is the question on all the Sunday talk shows – but yesterday . . .

Listen to Cristina Page ( Yesterday at 12:58pm)

Interesting how the media is characterizing this premeditated act of terror against Planned Parenthood as committed by a “calm and crazy” person whereas the attacks in Paris, including Charlie Hebdo (another workplace targeted for political reasons), were carried out by terrorists who were only characterized as “calm”. The media’s attempt to make the string of fatal attacks against clinics isolated attacks by insane individuals, whereas the string of fatal vigilante attacks by Muslim extremists are considered political acts of terror, is because the media fears being seen as taking sides in the abortion debate.

Then read this:

And this, from CNN – a real surprise:

Huckabee: Planned Parenthood shooting is ‘domestic terrorism‘  CNN

Here’s the first post I read about this topic – also from Christina Page.  Thank you Christina for reminding us all of the importance of words!

The media needs to change this language immediately. They are referring to him as a shooter. He is a terrorist. This language needs to be corrected from the inception (I think behind the scenes so as to not make that the issue). If they start naturally referring to him that way, that’s what we want and that’s what it will be. All of the messengers should just not sway from this language. Terror was understood right from the start in Paris, this is the very same. One officer killed, four officers shot and 4 civilians.

It’s gratifying to hear so many establishment pundits, right and left, advocating the conscious use of the word “terrorist”  but if it weren’t for the advocacy from women like Christina and others, who knows how much longer it would have taken to get them to do it?

NABLOPOMO Winds Down; Writing Struggles and Ta-Nehesi Coates

November posts sized
The sun has set upon Shabbat; now we need a Saturday post.  Today is the 28th; Monday is the last day of November and also of NABLPOMO.  I’ve managed every day except one Shabbat that I forgot to set up in advance, and have been glad, each day, of the commitment.

It’s so easy to let things go; just look at my very embarrassing WordPress chart: gaping holes all over the place. June is a little better than the rest because we were traveling and my blog is always lively when we’re on the road, but basically it’s a portrait of an undisciplined writer.

Then November rolled around, and with it the opportunity to accept an external structure.  I made a promise; it wasn’t a case of writing when I felt like it.  I would write every single day.

I love the process, once the idea comes.  Of course with most posts I am certain what I’m posting sucks, no matter how often I edit it.  Usually, when I read it later, it’s better than I’d thought.  Always there’s room to improve, sometimes there’s also real potential.  My favorite posts for the month:

Abortion and Olivia: Prison Has Many Forms and So Does Freedom

The War for the Souls of Orthodox Jewish Women (and Men) and Why It Matters

“Truth” and “Spotlight” and the News

Good Girls Revolt — When Men Were “Mad” and Women Were Researchers

Author Ta-Nahesi Coates, whose amazing Between the World and Me has informed (and transformed) much of my perspective on our country today, described his own labors toward writing, and writing “breakthroughs,” here.  It has been very helpful to me this month and, I suspect, will continue to be.

The only way to write something is to face down that blank page.  Whatever comes out can be altered and edited and re-thought or even rejected.  But if it isn’t there, it isn’t there.  Every day there’s a decision: shall I make myself sit down here or not?  It’s awesome and scary and frustrating which is why the opportunity to pledge a steady month of writing is so valuable.  Now I have to figure out how to keep going.


Happy Thanksgiving!

thank you cloud2Seriously.  Whatcha got?  Health?  Family?  Career?  Friends?  Purpose?  Beauty outside your window?  Music whenever you want it?  Food whenever you need it?  You know what’s there.

Let’s all use our inside thank you voices and remember.  There’s wonder amid the terror and love and laughter, and life.

Best wishes, in the most literal of terms, to you all.

Aunts and Cousins: Great Memories and an Uncertain Future

Nonny & 3 sisters

Sunday night both boys, their wives and kids came for dinner.  We won’t all be together for Thanksgiving; one son and his two kids will be with his wife and her family; we’ll be with our other daughter-in-law’s family.  So Sunday was special, and it was a lovely evening.

Afterward, for some reason, I couldn’t stop thinking about the Thanksgivings when we were kids.  It was always at our house: my parents, my mom’s sisters and their husbands, my grandmother and “the cousins.”  There were 9 of us, six girls (I was the oldest) and three boys.  My Aunt Bettie, her husband, two sons and a daughter lived in Cleveland; the rest of us were all local, so when the Cleveland Cousins showed up, it was a big deal.

There was a kids table of course.  Nobody, not even bossy me, was in a hurry to move to the old folks’ territory.  We were having too much fun.  In addition to everything else (including games of “Murder” and “Sardines” and lots of running around outside) we planned and performed little dramas every year.  I doubt they were very good, but everyone clapped and we had fun.

I wonder about so much now, though: the covert sisterly conversations in my parents’ bedroom, my grandmother (that’s her in the picture), whom I thought had gotten mean but was apparently losing her sight and trying to hide it, the lovely uncle and the wild one, and the impact of the Depression on the sisters and their men.  There’s so much of that time that I’d love to see with my grown up eyes: about raising kids and being a grandparent of course, but even more, about what WWII and the Depression had done to them.   After all, as I watch events unfold, it’s scary to think how close we are to leaving our kids and theirs to face similar harshness.

I wrote this about them back in 2007, when the last sister died:

In some ways, they were the lucky ones; all three sisters and my father and uncles — were able, on scholarships, to go to college. All three marriages, despite tensions and tough times, survived with a real friendship between spouses for most of their lives. Each had three children who were smart, interesting, and self-sufficient. Even so, the bounty of choices they gave to us was so much more than they had had themselves. The young women in this photograph, and their husbands, never had the luxury of dropping out of school to campaign for Eugene McCarthy or majoring in music or theater or spending years doing trauma medicine a couple of months a year to pay for a life of mountain climbing and exploration. There was no give, no leeway, in the lives of those whom the Depression and the war that ended it – had stamped forever.

I’d give anything to hear it all now.  All of it.

I hope we, and our kids, have the guts to be as courageous — and tenacious, as they were.

Happy Thanksgiving.

iPhone Bummers – Lyft Too. First-World Problems – But a Big Pain


OK so today we each “updated” our iPhones from 5 to 6s.  They are very cool.  However.  Rick has spent most of the afternoon trying to get iCloud to update so he can move his data to his new phone.  It keeps stalling.  Apple people are very nice and helpful and took over his screen and everything but no one can get the damn thing to update iCloud and it’s tough to move without that step.  We think he’s going to have to do everything by hand.

Meanwhile I, happily fooling around on the bus with my own new 6s, which did load successfully, accidentally ordered a Lyft ride (it seems that the app screen has a hair trigger.)  It was impossible to get any Lyft people on the phone so I could cancel it.  Our driver called me and said No worries –  he understood – but that if we didn’t officially cancel we’d be charged.  However.  The cancel key doesn’t work.

All embarrassingly stupid stuff in a world that seems to be crumbling around us.  I think I’m only writing this to yell at myself for caring about such dumb stuff.

I feel better already.

Syria, ISIS and Women: Painful Stories

ISIS Women NYTIt’s all horrible, of course; morning news junkies that we are, we dread waking up each day – always sure there will be yet another terrible story to contend with.  Anger, fear and grief are only a few of the emotions riding roughshod through all of us, yet Sunday, one story about three young women once again crystalized the hideousness we face.

Labor unions often call their members “brothers and sisters;” and women do it a lot.  I can’t count the number of times the words “my sister” or “our sisters” appear in women’s rights pieces and posts and books like Robin Morgan’s classic “Sisterhood is Powerful “—  and it is.

Sunday the 22nd of November, a trio of “sisters” appeared on the front page of the New York Times — three friends who fled Raqqa, their home town in Syria and now ISIS Central, and found shelter in Turkey; girls who grew up in houses, not tents, who went out in their summer dresses, and west swimming with the guys — and went to college — girls who are now prisoners of their gender.

Their stories emerge almost bloodlessly: tales of forced marriages, of severed heads, of complete loss of freedom and of the deeply troubling work they did as members of the religious police, taken on to help insulate their families from the terror of ISIS’ fierce punishments, all described in the simplest of terms.

This very unexceptional tone insures that their stories will haunt me for a long time – this tale of three of our sisters, suffering like so many of theirs.

Abortion and Olivia: Prison Has Many Forms and So Does Freedom

We watched Olivia Pope have an abortion right in front of us, with Silent Night playing in the background; it was unsettling, right?  Not just for the irony of the Christmas soundtrack, but also because the song’s “mother and child” were themselves unwelcome.  There’s more to these sorts of moments than pretty, sort of symbolic, Christmas music. As usual with Olivia, the truth is complicated.

“Family is the only thing that has kept you alive here.” Huck tells his captive, Olivia’s father Eli.  But Eli argues that family doesn’t save us, it’s an “antidote to greatness.”  “Family doesn’t complete you, it destroys you” he says.

For Olivia though, destruction is the inevitable outcome of the the stolid White House life, the outfits entombed in the Presidential bedroom, the so-called fairytale life of a First Lady, her very real prison.  We see she manages her performance well; we need to know that for her choice to make sense.  No she wasn’t leaving because she wasn’t good at First Lady-ing.  A bird (even a successful one) in a gilded cage is still locked up.

We always knew (and some of us hoped) that she’d go.  Fitz’s questionable worthiness, not withstanding, she had to get out o there!   Her life, however twisted, said so much to all of us and taught us this – that this is possible:  Olivia Pope doesn’t do shotgun, she drives the car!

Even so, a woman of such stature who had surrendered so much, couldn’t walk away without an amputation – metaphorical – but real too.  Alone, telling no one, she chooses to end a pregnancy that no one knows exists.  It’s hers.  Hers to keep, or not.  Hers to speak about, or not.  And so as she leaves her pregnancy behind her, so too she leaves a life that has been confining almost to the point of trauma.

As fiercely pro-choice but also a baby addict, I find I surprise myself as I write this.  I feel, I see, I know that sometimes choices I’d fight not to have to make myself are life and soul-saving for another.

Eli’s meditation on family is either a counterpoint or a validation of his daughter’s decision.  Like the decision itself, it depends on who’s watching.  From over here where I am, she made the right choice (because, after all, she had a choice) the right way.  Would that every women had the power, and the money, and the access, to do the same.

Refugees, Politics and And Civics (Not as Boring as It Sounds)


This post was supposed to be about the budget cuts that have allegedly wiped out Civics education, supposed to wonder how Americans could know their rights – and those of others – if they’d never even been given baseline knowledge.

Here’s what I was going to say:

American schools used to require a class called “civics.”  Every kid learned about elections and government and bicameral legislatures and the Constitution.  Separation of powers.  Federalism.  States rights.  And the Constitution.  The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island (give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…) and — wait for it — the Constitution.

Education has always been, at its best, a tool to advance a civil society.  And Civics made it work.  We all thought it was dumb and boring and they gave us a terrible teacher who couldn’t be fired but we did learn the basics – enough to know, for example, that you can’t set religious limits on immigration or anything else in the United States of America!

OK all that’s true.  BUT it turns out that we DO have Civics education, just not much. It just doesn’t work. According to US News and World Report:

At present, more than 90 percent of U.S. high school grads get a semester in civics and at least a year of U.S. history. But something is clearly not sticking. A Xavier University study showed that while 97.5 percent of those applying for citizenship pass the test, only two out of three Americans can do the same.

The test they’re talking about is the 100 question exam immigrants to the US have to pass to become US citizens.  Their passing rate is 97.5%  Among the rest of us, it’s only 66%!  Since basic citizenship knowledge is what sustains our social contract, losing 1/3 of our citizens is kind of awful.  Here’s more from US News:

It’s hard to overstate just how poor is the average American student’s grasp of civics and history — or how badly we need to breathe life into civics in our schools. The most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress showed about one-third of American eighth-graders scored at or about proficiency in reading, math and science. But those are robust numbers compared to civics and history, where 22 percent scored at that level. But we needn’t worry about those embarrassing scores any more. In 2013, the National Assessment of Education Progress, perhaps believing ignorance is bliss, announced that the civics and history tests, historically given in the fourth, eighth and 12th grades, would only be administered from now on in the 8th grade.


In 2009, Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor founded iCivics to promote the need for better Civics training.  There are other groups too.  But we sure aren’t making any progress.  Todays immigration battle demonstrates the level of ignorance of, and reluctance to learn the basic tenets of a democratic government; it’s deeply troubling.

Try to watch the current “dangerous refugee and besides they’re Muslim” battle going on now and disagree!

Blocks from the Horror: Beautiful Canal St. Martin

Canal at Villette wide
Near Villette at one end of Canal St. Martin

The bombing and the shootings happened blocks from this, the Canal St. Martin.  We took a boat ride down the Canal in June – from one end to the other.  It was a ridiculously hot day but cool, beautiful, and peaceful on the water, with plenty of tempting activity along the shore.

Canal side
Parisians relax on a lazy summer Sunday along Canal St. Martin.

Described as one of the “new cool” Parisian neighborhoods,  it lived up to its reputation. Bankside restaurants were jammed on a Sunday afternoon, joined by popup boutiques and plenty of energy.

Canal St. Martin trees
From our boat, one of the bridges that cross the Canal: a great view for us, and for those on the shore.

It was my favorite stop of this visit to Paris; so great to be in a place that really belonged to the locals and had that feeling great neighborhoods always do.

Although the beauty remains, residents have been violated and punished.  It doesn’t compare to the violence and death inflicted upon so many, but it’s just so damn sad.