Posts in Susan’s Musings

Sloppy Shoes and Donald Trump

August 15th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 54 comments

What is wrong with the following scenario? Mr. and Mrs. Jones have three children. Over the course of a week, each of the children leaves his or her shoes lying in the middle of the living room floor. Mr.and Mrs. Jones ignore the first child’s messiness rationalizing that she is in the middle of finals. Mr. and Mrs. Jones excuse the second child’s carelessness because his girlfriend just broke up with him and he’s feeling down. Mr. and Mrs. Jones confiscate the third child’s shoes, berating her for being so sloppy.

You don’t have to be a parenting expert or in favor of shoes being left lying around to recognize that something is off-kilter in the above family. That is why I was not upset by President Trump’s tweet following the criminal car-ramming in Virginia on Saturday, August 13. While the President was lambasted for initially condemning hatred and violence “on many sides”  rather than singling out white supremacists, I didn’t take it that way.

Granted, I have no idea what goes on in President Trump’s mind and I don’t think that we are exactly “kindred spirits,” but wasn’t ready to jump on the indictment bandwagon. In fact, once emotions of the day have subsided, I wish he would give a serious, thoughtful speech explaining that there is a problem when marginalized people on one end of a spectrum are used to condemn large groups of Americans.

Here is a quote from one newspaper article about the gathering that ended in violence. “The group had gathered to protest plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, and another arrived to protest the racism.” In other words, wanting a statue of Robert E. Lee to remain where it has stood for many years is inherently racist. No! It is not. It may be something that should be challenged and discussed, but ascribing racism as the only reason for opposing the statue’s removal is wrong. Was the side General Lee chose during the Civil War a side that supported slavery? Yes. But it is a sad comment on the lack of education, wisdom and discernment on the part of people today that we aren’t able to handle the complexities that surrounded the heinous sin of slavery amidst other issues including states’ rights. Maybe a generation that gets their political understanding from late night entertainment shows should grow up before demanding an overthrow of history?

In a country where we hear the comment, “His motives are unknown,” when someone yells Allahu Akbar while murdering people and where those who speak of killing all white people or who attack people because they’re white get no media attention, there seems to be only one association that leads to  immediate and virulent condemnation. I’m certainly not in favor or neo-Nazis or white supremacists. But, something is wrong with a scenario that not only sees them as the only violent or hateful people in America, but wantonly includes millions of upstanding citizens among their number.  In America today, child #1 gets away with anything as does child #2.  Only child #3 is criticized.  All the time.

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Years of Our Discontent

August 3rd, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 35 comments

It is funny what sticks in your mind, isn’t it? Over 25 years ago, I heard my father-in-law ask in a tone that managed to be both amused and acerbic, why people couldn’t simply serve roast chicken every Friday night. At the time, my sympathies went to the woman who had innocently asked him whether a certain item only available in a specialty Japanese store was kosher. While not a gourmet cook like she was, I do vary the dishes served at my Shabbat table; my family and I would be bored with the same exact meal week after week.

My mother-in-law, like my mother and grandmothers offered no such variety. For them, being able to afford and have access to kosher chicken was in itself the special Friday night treat. How could anyone want more than chicken soup, roast chicken, and a simple side dish? They lived in different times.

I enjoy experimenting with new Shabbat recipes and while certain holidays cry out for specific traditional dishes, it is unusual for us to have exactly the same meal two weeks in a row. Yet, something I recently read made me recall my father-in-law’s lament and relate to it with greater understanding.

What spurred my realization was discovering that I had completely—I mean totally, without a clue—missed out on hearing about the trend of ‘late-in-life lesbians’. While this trend is obviously elementary compared to the politically correct idea that there are 31, no, actually 56, no wait, its 72 (the number changes almost daily) genders, perhaps the comparative simplicity of the idea caused me to laugh.

How unbelievably unhappy and confused we are. In Richard III, William Shakespeare wrote of “the winter of our discontent.” Today, we seem to be living through years of discontent. There are many real challenges in the world. Venezuelans are starving, people around the world are being killed by Islamic extremists, serious illnesses abound and too many children are born into situations that make successful living a terrible struggle, to name only a few. There are those who are born with discernible physical and genetic gender confusion.

And then, there are those of us born basically healthy and, even in difficult economic times, living shockingly well. Instead of counting our blessings, for decades now we have been busily looking for reasons to be unhappy. We don’t just seek to improve and tweak our society but to radically change: our marriages, our schools, our economic system, our beliefs, our gender…

I don’t think we can lay the blame for this on serving lemon chicken one week and potato-crusted chicken another. I plan to keep enjoying trying out new recipes. Yet, it isn’t completely unrelated either. Somehow, when there isn’t a counter-balance to the natural desire for excitement and newness, when we confusedly think that happiness can be delivered by someone or something outside of ourselves, and when we lose touch with our souls and magnify the demands of our bodies, we find ourselves on a road that has no natural end. Our rebellions may take different forms, but one warning that is very modern and up-to-date is found in Deuteronomy 32:15  explaining how instead of feeling gratitude when showered with blessings, humans tend to kick rather than kneel.

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Brains, Heart and Courage

July 27th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 47 comments

Wednesday morning’s Wall Street Journal crossword puzzle had the following clue: “Cowardly lion’s lack.” As a child, I watched the Wizard of Oz annually on TV followed by recurring nightmares, but it has been many years since I saw it. As I dredged my memory, I remembered the Scarecrow wanting a brain and the Tin Man needing a heart, but it took a few seconds to translate the lion’s desire for courage into the five-letter word, nerve.

I used to regularly read the Wall Street Journal over breakfast. Since they introduced their crossword puzzle in the main section, that gets my attention first. Instead of frustrating and depressing news, my brain gets a work-out. But this clue led me down the path of  replacing the words ‘cowardly lion’ with Republican Congress. Actually, the Republicans need brains, heart and courage, qualities they either lack or hide from sight (conceal: 23 across).

I understand that most politicians of both parties want to ensure their own re-election. Maybe it is even true that overall they will be better for the country than ‘the other guy,’ even if to do so they need to hide, duck (evade: 14 down), weave and bob from tough positions. Some are good people and hard workers who just aren’t articulate; others don’t even realize how enmeshed they are in a corrupting system that confers unhealthy levels of power. Most politicians don’t have what it takes to be truly visionary and wise leaders. But for a party to have not even one person who can stand up and cut through the fog to speak passionately about healthcare in a forceful, caring and intelligent way? That party is an embarrassment.

Perhaps it isn’t a coincidence that the movie Dunkirk is showing now. I haven’t seen it, but World War II is a part of history that is somewhat known to most people. Here is a tragic fact about war. When soldiers in World War II marched off to fight, they knew that they might not come back. The sweethearts, wives and children they left behind might end up filling the resulting void in their lives with someone not as worthy as the soldier who sacrificed his life. Going to war was still the right thing to do. In the bigger picture, it was the only thing to do for the sake of those very sweethearts, wives and children. The survival of their nation was at stake.

Healthcare is a huge issue that cannot be reduced to slogans. The slogans the Obama administration used to push it were often intentional lies such as, “If you like the plan you have, you can keep it. If you like the doctor you have, you can keep your doctor, too.”  Any reasonable person could see that wouldn’t be the case. That anyone principled or intelligent could vote for a plan that their leader, Nancy Pelosi, said had to be passed before it could be understood is downright mind-boggling.

Most Americans understand that no plan will be perfect. But if each and every politician would vote by placing brains, heart and courage above the desire to be re-elected or to amass money and/or power, we could start down a path to actually improving health-care in this nation. And yes, on this and other pressing issues, while clearly we, thank God, are not at war in a literal sense, I do think national survival is at stake. The two political parties currently represent dramatically different paths for the country. While the establishments of both parties are out of touch with regular Americans, decisions being made today will lead America on a path that embraces the country’s founding ideals or overturns them.

If politicians lose their next election, they still have lives to live (with cushy pensions).  That option is often not available to those who patriotically marched (and continue to march) off to any of our country’s wars. That the Republicans don’t have a Churchill is clear, but surely the Chamberlains should be disgraced.

I apologize for my tone. I know I sound utterly frustrated and quite disgusted with both political parties. I am. At least on this question, most Americans agree.

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Self-Made Women

July 20th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 15 comments

The cover story headline on Forbes magazine, America’s Richest Self-Made Women caught my attention. Surely, the stories of the sixty women listed would shine a light on women and money. It did, though I’m not sure that what I saw will make social engineers happy.

Here are some sentences from the top four bios:

#1) Ilitch and her husband, Mike…cofounded Little Caesars pizza… (Marian Ilitch)

#2) The Wisconsin native cofounded the business with her late husband, Ken… ( Diane Hendricks)

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I’m Not Scary; Are You?

July 13th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 68 comments

There is a blog I regularly read because doing so makes me a better person. In it, a mother details with great honesty her emotions and experiences as she and her husband raise a son with serious disabilities and a, thankfully, healthy daughter.

She and I have never met, yet she is afraid of me and my family. Afraid of our support for repealing Obamacare, of our support for President Trump and of our conservative leanings.

I have two children in the medical profession. They talk of their emotions and experiences as they are hindered and frustrated by a bloated, bureaucratic and unsustainable system. They talk of their emotions and experiences as they try to help seriously ill patients and are instead forced to tend to those abusing the system, unnecessarily consuming tens of thousands of dollars and hours of human resources. They  talk of their emotions and experiences at caring for patients who act self-destructively, thus counteracting the help they have just been given, after monopolizing resources that, subsequently, were not available for others. My children have never met the woman whose blog I read. They are not afraid of her, but they see her voting patterns and liberal leanings as harmful to them and those for whom they care.

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Good Job – Not

July 6th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 82 comments

It is possible that I am simply being curmudgeonly and persnickety, and I’m sure you’ll tell me if that is so, but there are two popular phrases that I would like to rail against. Working with my husband on our Ask the Rabbi column regarding self-esteem vs. self-respect made me wonder if both these ubiquitous phrases are misguided results of the disastrous self-esteem movement.

The first one, “My bad,” has replaced the words “I’m sorry” or “I take responsibility” in many offices. Am I alone in thinking that those words trivialize careless mistakes and poor judgment?

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George and Martha, Frog and Toad

June 29th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 30 comments

As a young child, one of our daughters had an exceedingly difficult time controlling her temper and her tongue. When I had my act together, I would spin thinly veiled bedtime stories for her about a mice family dealing with the same issues as she and her siblings faced. Listening to those tales allowed her to glimpse storms and mistakes in her own world in a safe and gentle way.

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Jury Duty

June 22nd, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 35 comments

I am not sure that I was entirely truthful earlier this week. I’m not sure that anyone else with me in the room was either.

We were together in a courtroom, having been chosen as the pool from which a jury would be selected. The presiding judge asked a series of questions. For each question, if our answer was a yes, we were told to stand up and then he went around the room asking for our juror number, which he jotted down.

Some of the questions were straightforward. Was anyone not a citizen of the United States or not a resident of the city?  Then, after being asked to listen to a long list of police officers’ and detectives’ names, we were asked if we knew any of the aforementioned  people.  But some of the questions were trickier.

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Having it All

June 15th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 42 comments

I got a lovely Mother’s Day card from one of my daughters that brought tears of joy to my eyes, but it also highlighted one of the enemies of successful living.

Among other sweet words, she wrote, “I am only now starting to realize how much of your own life and time and personal pursuits you must have sacrificed to raise us…”

The gratitude is appreciated and the sentiment is lovely. It is also wrong.  It is wrong, not only in terms of motherhood but also in terms of marriage, work and life.

My husband and I once sailed in the Caribbean. When we visited one island, the dock was not only extraordinarily narrow but also in ill repair. It shifted and rocked with each step we took. Being six months pregnant and not quite as nimble as usual, that posed a challenge. What made it even more worrying were the sharks swimming beneath the dock. Falling in the water was not really an acceptable option.

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A Peek Behind the Ivanka and Jared Curtain

June 7th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 74 comments

Shelves in my local library are filled with fictional books set in Amish communities. Considering that there are only about 250,000 Amish in North America, they are way over represented in current literature. I confess to enjoying many of these books. I am obviously not the only one to feel that way. Why are so many of us fascinated by foreign cultures?

Partially because we enjoy peering into the lives of people who live among us but who follow intriguingly different paths.

I am far more cautious about non-fiction. Once, while traveling through Utah, I noticed a book written by a woman who grew up in the Latter Day Saint community but was no longer a part of it. Before purchasing it, I checked with the store owner that it was a loving and respectful depiction rather than a vengeful attack. It was. Every community has its warts, but there is a difference between acknowledging those and distorting the truth in a mission to magnify the negatives of a lifestyle that is a blessing to many.

Books abound about the Orthodox Jewish community. Since I know this community rather well, I am more critical about these books. Actually Orthodox Jews comprise a broadly defined group consisting of dozens of sub-communities, all of which enjoy their own small theological and behavioral distinctions. Sometimes I spot foolish inaccuracies by authors whose research was inadequate; other times the author has a hostile agenda.   Many of these books do not accurately depict my life but nonetheless are authentic expressions of the author’s community, with its own unique blessings and challenges.

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