Posts in Susan’s Musings

Comfort Reading

December 14th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 33 comments

I went to the library yesterday to get some comfort reading. You probably know about comfort food. After 9/11, even fancy restaurants began serving  mashed potatoes, chocolate pudding and other common staples of childhood. As people were reeling from the ominous events that shook the world, eating simple old-fashioned favorites emotionally connected them with a safer time and place. Don’t most of us have a food or drink that we associate with feelings of security and protection?

Comfort reading is similar to comfort eating though it has the advantage of being calorie-free. I went searching for, and found, books that I had previously read, ensuring that there would be no unpleasant surprises. They weren’t necessarily my favorite books, simply decently written and rather undramatic ones; books with only happy events. Or at least the problems that do occur are minor, reparable and not stress-inducing to me as a reader. Books like Mrs. Mike or Little Women, as wonderful as they are, don’t fall into this category. Quite frankly, (spoiler alert) one or more beloved character dies in each one. Since getting older seems to correspond with my becoming more of a blubbery mess as I read those scenes, those books clearly won’t serve my purpose.

I didn’t write this Musing as a plea for sympathy. By God’s grace, my life is wonderful. But I’m a little more tired than usual after a bout with a severe cold and a number of people I love are going through tough times. I don’t need to tell you that the United States and the world are facing enormous challenges. Add increasingly cold weather and darkness falling earlier each day and it all adds up to a pretty normal and blessed winter life. But it has been evoking in me a desire to curl up with a book that engrosses while making no demands. Sort of like My-T-Fine chocolate pudding.

My other, more important, antidote to a slight case of “the downs” is Chanuka. Chanuka is the only Jewish holiday that straddles two months. It starts on the 25th of the month of Kislev as the moon almost disappears and concludes eight days later in the early days of the month of Tevet as the moon starts waxing.  On the first night of Chanuka we light one candle but by the last evening eight lights burn merrily.

Like every special day in the Jewish calendar, layers of complex insights and intriguing byways reveal themselves to those who look at Chanuka more deeply.  But even on the surface, each night is a reminder that times are sometimes dark, but will grow light again. We each have the ability  to increase the light in our own lives and we are the most important person with the power to actually do so.

With a pile of comfort books next to me, as we head into the third night of Chanuka this evening, I think that over the next five days I’ll be ready once again for reading that stretches and challenges me rather than books that envelop me in a protective cocoon. I hope your winter is full of light.

To access some deeper meanings of Chanuka be sure to look at 
Festival of Lights: Transform Your 24/7 Existence into a 25/8 Life

To entertain your kids while educating yourself be sure to look at
Aleph-Bet: A Fun, Rhyming, Bible-based Introduction to the Hebrew Alphabet

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A Time for Cynicism and a Time for Wonder?

December 7th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 28 comments

One can be too cynical. Obviously, one can also be too trusting. Sometimes people do the right thing, not because it is right, but as a strategic move on their life chess board. Perhaps, they are doing this right thing for ignoble or self-promotional reasons rather than as a brave and idealistic stand.  Nevertheless, right is right and whenever right is done regardless of the motivation, it is good and worth celebrating.  Needless to say, it is even more praiseworthy when done as an act of courage and nobility.

Several very right things have been done recently. For the moment, I want  to accept them at face value and pray that no matter the back story, they yield blessing.

New York Democrat, Rep. Kathleen Rice, walked out of a Democrat caucus meeting telling reporters, “I don’t have time for meetings that aren’t real.” By articulating that, she was actually announcing that, “The Emperor has no clothes.”  She condemned the way that Congress winks at the sexual harassment of its own members. She ripped off a mask that will be difficult to don again. She deserves our thanks.

President Donald Trump acted upon a campaign promise and acknowledged the truth, that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.  Politicians and presidents on both sides for decades have been promising to do the same thing knowing that their words were meaningless.  President Trump set a new standard for politicians sticking to their words. He deserves our thanks. 

Seventy-six years ago today, at Pearl Harbor, thousands of American men were called upon to pay the ultimate price for loyalty to a country they pledged to protect. Most of them were young. While most were good and decent human beings, it doesn’t actually matter if some of them were dishonorable scoundrels. It doesn’t matter if President Roosevelt knew what was about to happen or didn’t. What happened was greater than the troops’ individual lives and cemented them in history as American heroes. They deserve our thanks.

Could America actually be moving in a direction that will clean up the political Augean stables and usher in a new period of American greatness? If enough citizens reclaim our willingness to be discerning rather than swallowing whatever stories are temptingly placed in our paths, if we renew our commitment to study and understand the foundations of this country, and if we demand a higher level of integrity from those in office, it is possible that real change can come. For today, I’m opting for idealism over cynicism.

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If I Lived in Alabama

November 29th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 66 comments

Go to jail. Do not pass Go; do not collect $200. If you grew up playing Monopoly, as I did, those words sound familiar. How about these words? You have scads of Get Out of Jail cards; pass Go whenever you want; and feel free to collect however much money as you can.

In a nutshell, the first set of rules applies to most of us while the second set applies to our elected officials. The sexual harassment spotlight is obscuring that fact.

I’m getting tired of reading that sexual harassment is a product of our patriarchal society or hearing politicians and pundits (especially females) paraphrasing the famous line spoken by Captain Renault in the movie Casablanca by pretending that they are, “Shocked, shocked to find that despicable behavior is going on here,” in the higher echelons of Hollywood, newsrooms and Congress.

Can we get real? People treating other people badly has existed since the Garden of Eden when Adam tried to evade responsibility for his sin by blaming it on Eve. Turn the page and Cain kills Abel. Keep turning pages and you will find examples of all sorts of human failings. If you aren’t drawn to the Bible, look at history and literature.

As Lord Acton famously said in 1887, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” We have granted, and allowed our politicians to grab, way too much power. Certainly many, and very likely the majority, of  the anointed men and women have strayed far from public service and probity. In many ways the system is now designed to encourage them to do so. Sexual misconduct is one example of bad behavior, but focusing only on that is the equivalent of treating a high fever with aspirin. You may reduce or obscure one symptom of a serious problem, but you haven’t eliminated the underlying ailment.

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Happy Thinksgiving

November 23rd, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 21 comments

No, that isn’t a typo; its a deliberate misspelling. We are heading out soon to share a Thanksgiving feast with friends. Since we had a family celebration last weekend, most of our out-of-towners are unable to come back this week and, unfortunately, our in-towners are under the weather.  Friends graciously invited us to join them.

A quick thought before I get ready to go. As a mother, one of the earliest words I taught my children was thank-you. Even before they could possible repeat the words, I voiced the syllables when I handed them toys or food. I don’t think I am unique; millions of mothers do the same.

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The Non-Musing Musing

November 16th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 29 comments

Here are some of the things I considered writing about this week:

  • Venezuela and Zimbabwe
  • Why no one (not even women or the Democrat Party) is a winner in the Roy Moore matter
  • What Mitch McConnell did right—and what he did wrong
  • How quickly murder rampage stopped being front-page news

Here is why I am not writing about any of those things:

Even though I love writing, in the continual juggling act called life, cooking and baking won out this week over my Musings. Our grandson, Eliyahu, becomes a bar-mitzva this Shabbat. Despite the frequent misunderstanding that a Jewish boy turning thirteen is all about throwing a grand party, it actually is the age when the yoke of religious obligation descends on a pair of developing shoulders. The boy can shrug off the yoke, be crushed by it, or as we pray will be true in Eliyahu’s case, the yoke serves as a soul-building weight.

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Womanly Virtue???

November 9th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 62 comments

Have you ever heard people (usually female) say that if only women ran the world there would be fewer wars and less aggression? That argument never resonated with me, but an emerging trend is revealing serious flaws in the concept.

The trend is towards the commission of violent crime by women. On Halloween, a woman in an upscale neighborhood of Baltimore was randomly attacked by a pack of 10-15 juveniles. I use the word pack deliberately, as the behavior resembled feral animals more than humans. The newspaper report reads,

“I had a red down-like vest on, so they grabbed the back of my vest and then held me, and then out in front of them came six young women with wood pieces that were like maybe an inch thick and about three feet long…” 

“They started hitting me with the wood, in the knees, a lot in my face…”

A number of other citizens were similarly attacked on the same evening.

Earlier in the year, in Chicago, two males and two females, aged 18-24, were charged with hate crimes after viciously torturing a mentally disabled teen. Once again, the attackers completely submerged their humanity.

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Self-made Men?

November 2nd, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 31 comments

The November 14th issue of Forbes magazine includes the 35th edition of the annual feature, “The 400 Richest People in America.” I don’t know if the scorecard I noticed this year is new or just one that I never paid attention to previously, but as part of each billionaire’s biography there is a “self-made” rating.

Each individual is given a score on a scale of 1-10 as to whether his or her wealth was inherited or self-made. Although I looked, I couldn’t find a reference guide anywhere that defined what earned one a score of 4, let’s say, versus 5, leaving me to guess for myself. The top four entries, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg are all rated as 8s, while 10s are doled out sparingly. Not surprisingly, some descendants of great entrepreneurs rank as 1s and 2s.

These rankings irked me. While I abhor the notion of “white privilege,” “male privilege” or any other kind of privilege terminology employed as a form of extolling and perpetuating victimhood, these rankings seemed to ignore reality.

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Fake News is Old News

October 26th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 14 comments

My husband and I have spent about thirty hours in the car over the past week. He was the keynote or guest speaker at a synagogue, a church and a business group and we both preferred driving to flying. During that time we barely listened to news. Instead we took advantage of the fantastic gift of downloading audio books from our local library.  Even when we are home, I find myself spending more time on the crossword puzzle in my morning paper rather than reading the news.

While we never kept radio news going constantly in the background and our lack of a TV set in our home meant that watching the evening news wasn’t part of our daily routine, I realize that I am avoiding news in a way that I didn’t used to do. I am tuning out.

Part of this is a function of excessive input. There is simply a constant barrage of information in our 24/7 society (o.k., for me 24/6 since Shabbat is blessedly a day off). Too much information available makes it less appealing. Furthermore, since news outlets can and do post constantly, their level of reliability has substantially dropped. At the same time, the tone of reporting has become more shrill, hysterical and partisan. If I want read fiction, I can find much better literature than reporters are delivering.

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Is the Victim Always Blameless?

October 19th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 60 comments

Just because something has become an oft-repeated slogan doesn’t mean that it is correct. Adolescents (of all ages) in the Sixties shouted, “Better Red than Dead,” in righteous ignorance that for millions of people living under it, Communism was a death sentence. Hillary Clinton chose not to reprise the chant of her generation, “Never trust anyone over thirty,” during her ill-fated presidential campaign. One assumes that even if she once wanted people to believe that motto, she had since changed her mind.

Just because the accusation, “You’re blaming the victim,” is wielded as a truncheon meant to quash discussion doesn’t mean that the concept should not be challenged. Let’s move away from the emotional issue of sexual abuse or harassment and question this idea in a different arena.

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No Tears for Hugh

October 11th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 17 comments

While it is getting more difficult to find areas that unite people on opposite sides of the political spectrum, I think that neither liberal-leaning feminists nor conservative, traditionally minded women are shedding tears for Playboy founder Hugh Hefner.  Before I proceed to destroy that Kumbaya moment, let’s take a minute to enjoy it.

Time’s up!

It is easy to focus scorn on the founder of movements you don’t like. I’m not a fan of Playboy magazine, Playboy Clubs or the Playboy philosophy that encouraged sexual liberation. However, the Hefner empire wasn’t built because the government forced men to purchase its products or forced women to participate in its businesses.  Men chose to buy magazines and become key-holders at the clubs; women chose to pose for the magazine and auditioned to work at the clubs. Many married women chose to either look the other way or chuckle when their husbands subscribed to Playboy and visited the clubs, sometimes even accompanying them. Lack of participation from either men or women could have derailed Hefner’s vision.

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