Saturday, 24 January 2015

OLD.

‘Booba, what’s wrong with your back?’

My very tactile 9 year old grand-daughter had climbed into the snug space between the chair back and my back, as she likes to do, when she asked me this.
She put her hand on my upper back, near the nape.
‘Why is it like that?’
‘Like what?’
‘Like’- she nimbly wriggled out from behind me and stood so I could see her, and then hunched her shoulders and stuck her chin forward- ‘that.’
Oh.
My posture.
My ‘rounded shoulders’.
My delightfully named ‘dowager’s hump’.
My age.

About 5 years ago, ever the observant one, she pointed to my arms and said:
‘Booba, what’s that?’
‘What’s what? My arms?’
‘Yes your arms! They’re so – squishy!’
Quick inspection and shake of upper arms. Correct assessment. Squish factor high. And wobble also.
‘Well, umm, that’s what happens when you are a booba. You …grow…wings! Because, because…boobas can FLY!’
‘REALLY?’
‘Well…not really…not yet... Hey, look at that pretty princess in that book! How about I read you a story!’

But for a year or so after that, she kept poking my upper arms – through my sleeves and all- and asking when I would fly.

Right now, as I sit here at the keyboard, my right knee hurts, and my thumb joints hurt and my left hip hurt so much all day that I had to give in and take some ibuprofen. And I have recently recovered from a nasty tendinitis of my right wrist. My tummy’s gurgling and I have heartburn. I just had all the kids and grandchildren over for dinner and I did a barbecue, and that kind of food does me no favours. Not to mention the effect of the ibuprofen. Please, Gd, no reflux tonight, OK? I’ll take a Pariet if I have to.

The hip thing. I’ve been to my massage therapist, and an osteopath, and I do stretches, and it comes and goes. It affects my gait at times, and my 79-year-old Mother-in-law has pointed out, correctly, that I walk like an old woman! She, of course, does not.

One area of my gum is swollen, and when I brush my (yellowed) teeth like crazy, or press on it with my finger, there is an icky taste. Despite my regular visits to dentist and periodontist. And no doubt, along with the icky taste is an icky smell. An old person smell. But one can’t smell oneself, so I’m just making an educated guess.

I don’t want to talk about my lady bits, and what my father would have called ‘women’s trouble’. But there’s trouble.

I am 59.

When my mother was my age, she walked with a stick and she had an upper denture. And a pronounced dowager’s hump. She was OLD.

When my grandmother was my age, she had been dead for 4 years. I never knew her.

It seems that the women in my maternal line don’t age well.
As for my paternal line- who knows, most were murdered by the Nazis. My dad was kind of sprightly until his late  70’s and then went downhill with a whoosh.

But I’m a Baby Boomer! We’re supposed to stay young forever!

When did this all start happening?!

About 15 years ago I went to a dermatologist with one of my kids and while I was there, I pointed to my right upper eyelid which had gone a bit crinkly, and asked, what’s going on here? I just noticed this a few days ago, like, what’s up with that? And the doctor laughed in my face. He thought I was joking about the effects of age on my skin, as if it was a joking matter.

And that’s what it was, ageing skin. And I look after my skin, you should know. I use sunscreen, and have ever since it was invented, which was actually too late for me because I was in my late teens by then, and had had a few decent sunburns. But I don’t give up easily; I use sunscreen every day. That’s probably why I’m low in Vitamin D. So I take supplements.

And I swim, and I do water aerobics, and I have a personal trainer and I lift weights.

But in spite of Pilates past, and yoga, and zumba, and bellydancing, I have an old lady hump and old lady joints and old lady breath and wrinkly eyes and wobbly bits. And the wings: Sorry, dear grand-daughter, I was kidding; they can’t fly me anywhere. They just kind of flap and wobble, despite all the laps in the pool and the weights in gym.

It’s not fair. It’s excruciating.

But at least I’m still here to complain about it all. And it only gets worse!  Great!

I conclude with the immortal words of Paul Newman: ‘Getting old ain’t for sissies.’

I'll try not to be such a sissy then. 




Sunday, 18 January 2015

Nanna, not nanny.

strange thing is happening to me as I get older; I think more and more of my parents, my mother especially. I think of how I never had any grandparents, and on top of that, my mother did not live long enough to be a grandmother to my children. So it turns out that I have had no role models for being a grandmother, and I don't know how to be one; I'm learning on the job. I have ruminated about this before but it's not over.

So recently I had a piece published on Kveller which drew down some wrath from 2 major groups: those in defence of Stay At Home Moms (SAHM) (read on and you will see why); and some other grandmothers who berated me for not appreciating the wonder and privilege of being a grandmother. Without exception, the irate grannies had 1-2 little grandkids and not a whole passel, as I do thank G-d. And I certainly DO appreciate the privilege and honour! I'm not complaining! G-d forbid!

I thought I would publish again, but this time without the edits imposed. Let's see if it makes things better or worse! I must warn you that I will be exploring the Grandmother theme again, basically until I get it out of my system.
Here goes:

I know this lady, let’s call her Eva, who has several grown children, all of whom have blessed her with grandchildren. She cannot do enough for them. Whenever I see her she is about to pick her daughter’s children up from school, or take her son’s to the dentist, or is planning a big birthday bash for one of them, or taking the home for baths and dinner, and she seems very happy to do this. One time she was limping after she had an injury, but there she was, on her way to school pickup. She is a retired SAHM. Her kids have careers or jobs, although one daughter-in-law doesn’t, and she clearly has no sense of being used. Which I think she is.

I always look at her with a mixture of pity and awe.

We are very different. She is a sweet sort of lady and I am not. I’m not a gooey, super-affectionate type. I’m into competence and capability and problem-solving and have had to teach myself to be less Mr Spock (as my children used to refer to me) and more Mr Rogers, so to speak, more empathetic and emotionally responsive. I also have a profession which I have always practiced less than full-time since becoming a mother, but it still keeps me pretty busy.

So when my kids started having kids, well, at first, no problem because the first crop lived overseas, so all I had to do was visit a few times a year bearing gifts, and Skype a little, which always gets tricky when the baby is old enough to start bashing the keyboard and trying to fling the laptop on to the floor. And phone calls with not much talking at first, apart from heavy breathing and the occasional ‘dah’ on the other end, evolving over the years to proper conversations and singing and being sung ‘Happy birthday to yoooo’. Just adorable.

But then they moved to Melbourne. And then some other kids did, and others got married, and now I have 7 grandchildren living here (and 4 overseas) thank G-d, they should all be well.

And slowly the demands started coming in; ever so gently, but they kept coming. Can I pick up from school? Something’s come up. Can I come to the house? The babysitter has to leave, the mum is held up. Can I do this? Can I go there? And remember that in 2 cases, I am the only accessible grandmother, because all but one of my kids married Americans, so I’m the Go-to Granny.

What to do? All I knew was that I did NOT want to be like Eva. I did not want to be hobbling around with a toddler in tow, on my way to pick up kids from school, and then bring them home and give them dinner and bath them so they would be in their jim-jams all nice and clean for Mummy to come and pick up. Every day.

No thank you. No matter how adorable my grandchildren are, believe me when I say that I have done my time in Mummyland, and I am all Mummied-out. My 7 th and last child was already rather sloppily mothered because I was kind of over it, and that was over 20 years ago.

I reflected on how much help I got from my mother when I had young children- sadly, almost none; she died when my eldest (twins) were 4, and she had been sick for some time before then. And from my mother-in-law? Zero. She had 3 daughters of her own who also were having kids, and I was just not on her list. My husband was working long hours so I had paid help or I had no help, but I was always strong and capable, and I got the job done, including after-school music lessons and swimming and sport etc.
And I won’t go back there.

BUT. I also know that I want to be a part of my grandchildren’s lives. So the time came to lay down some ground rules:

11    I will do anything in an emergency. I have taken kids to the emergency room when their mum is stuck with babies and dad is stuck in traffic. That’s life, stuff happens, and I will be there if at all possible.

  2   I will do pickups from school, or look after toddlers, but NOT every day and not so that mummy can go to Pilates. And I need at least 3 days notice, so I can clear my diary. (Emergencies excluded, refer to 1)

33    I will not be used as a regular babysitter, or a night time babysitter so mum and dad can go out. Get a high school kid. Make your own arrangements. I also like to go out for dinner, you know.

44   I respect a mum who is studying or working more than one who is a SAHM, sorry, so I will be more generous with bending the rules when the pressure is on with work deadlines or exams etc. Hate me if you want, but that’s how I feel. Please note, I do NOT disrespect any mother who is doing the hard work of mothering! And yes, all mums need a break from time to time. But surely there is an extra degree of difficulty if she is doing all the mum-stuff AND she has to sit exams or prepare a brief or deal with patients phoning after hours etc. (I know all about that!) I hope I make that clear; please don't hate me TOO much.

55   I will do stuff that I am good at and enjoy. I do not enjoy and neither am I good at, taking kids to the parks and playing boisterous ball games and chasey. I am not one of these youthful sprightly types. Fortunately, I am good at cooking so I will do pizza night once a week for all the families, and I will do Sunday brunch for anyone who comes, and Shabbat meals. I will even drop in dinners if mum is under the weather. I will also take every opportunity to read to the kids; it was my favourite thing to do with my own kids and it still is.

66   I will look after the kids, including having them move in and stay for days or weeks, if one or both parents have to go overseas for family reasons. That’s part of having daughters and sons-in-law from America. There are other families over there who also need to see their kids, there are weddings and simchas, and there are illness and funerals, and they have to go, so I will hold the fort, and have done so many times.

77    When we go on family vacations, I am not there to look after the kids while mummy and daddy have pina coladas on the beach. Do your research and find a local.

My late mother used to joke that she had a sign near the front door for when grandchildren came to visit. On one side was written ‘Baruch HaBah’ (Welcome). And when they left, she would flip it to the other side, which read ‘Baruch HaShem’ (Thank G-d). Not such a joke, really.

I have had my son and daughter-in-law and their 4 kids move into my home for 9 months while they were renovating their home. Yes, you read that right. NINE MONTHS. And we all worked together like a well-oiled machine. I mostly kept my mouth shut and didn’t bang on about the clutter and the general lack of organization, and we shared dinner preparations etc etc, and I read to the kids most nights which was such a pleasure. And it was work, though it really deepened my relationship with the kids; but OMG I was pleased to see them leave. Baruch HaShem.

So maybe Eva loves her life as a grandmother who seems to be doing a lot of the heavy lifting of parenting; but not this little black duck.
I wonder how many parents of young kids are using their own parents a little too freely, in a little too unthinking a manner. And I wonder how many grandparents are taking it, because they are guilted or otherwise manipulated into it.


Nothing is more important than family, and the happy chaos of family get-togethers is such a pleasure. But please, respect the grandparent-grandchild bond. Baruch HaBah! Baruch HaShem.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Happy 2015. I think.

I want to write. There is so much to write about ; so much happening; so many things I feel I need to comment on, elaborate on, explain, explore. But it's been weeks since I did anything but post comments on other people's work on Facebook.
Firstly, I was overseas, and I thought I could write on my phone; but that never happened because my phone, with its stupidly small memory (16 Gig iPhone 6 plus, don't even ask) didn't even want to take photos unless I made room by deleting half my apps. So nix on the blogging.
And then, there's all this other stuff that gets in the way of my creative life, like my children, all grown but still; and grandchildren; and husband (even on holiday it's always 'what are we doing for lunch? Dinner? What's the plan?' Make yourself a f***ing sandwich, you infantilised kitchen moron, I said to him NEVER.) And do you know what I will never, ever hear from him? Or anyone else? 'There you go, take a few uninterrupted hours to gather your thoughts and write. Unleash your creative wit! I'll take care of everything else, I'll answer the phone, I'll make sure you aren't interrupted every 5 minutes by other people's demands on you. Or my own.' That's NEVER going to happen. I know that.
(Right now, Sunday, I am sharing the study with my husband who has perfectly good earphones but still listens to music out loud, until I had to tell him to use the earphones or turn it off. I can't stand having music on while I work, especially some sucky crap that he was listening to. So blessed peace at last.)
And then the heartsink of it all. The state of the world, the murder of children, of innocents, by terrorist scum, and worse, the pretending that there's no specific anti-Semitism, or Islamism, it's just a bunch of criminal 'lone wolves' who all happen to be radicalised Muslims, all with the 'Allahu Akbar' and killing in the name of Islam. That the targeting of a kosher supermarket in a Jewish area of Paris by Muslim terrorists was not specifically anti-Semitic because Muslims also shop there. That the one Jewish woman killed in the Charlie Hebdo attack, among 13 men, was killed because she was a Jew; all the other women were spared, the killer even said that they don't kill women. So Jews being killed because they are Jews and THE WHOLE F***ING WORLD SHOULD STAND UP AND SAY 'THIS WILL NOT HAPPEN AGAIN!' BUT THEY DON'T. They hem and haw and find excuses. And the pope, the POPE! Defending the actions of the murderers of the Charlie Hebdo staff because 'If you insult my mother, expect a punch.' WTF??? So it's OK to kill satirists? Or anyone who insults or mocks or jokes about your religion? You bastard, I was just starting to like you what with the breastfeeding thing and all.
There are many other writers who are far more knowledgeable and articulate than I am; the number of articles I have read and reposted, and I'm sure that you have all read, is enormous. So what am I going to write about; I'm not a politician or a historian or a social demographer or a government official. I'm just a heartsick, angry Jew.

I just got back from travels to visit children and grandchildren. 18 days in Israel, 4 days in New York, and then, 3 days in Berlin. The Berlin bit was tacked on even though it makes little sense geographically because our ticket had us going through Frankfurt on the way home, and we have a friend in Berlin, Rabbi Yudi Teichtal, who had been nudging us to come visit for a while. It was no big deal to go from Frankfurt to Berlin; arrive Thursday, tour Friday, Shabbat started early, 4pm, then spend the Friday night dinner and Shabbat lunch with the rabbi and rebbetzin, and then fly out Sunday morning. Originally we were going to tour Sunday as well and fly out Monday, but hubby and I looked at each other and thought that too much Germanness would make our Second Generation Holocaust survivor heads explode, and we took the get-out-early option.

So on Friday, we took in a lot of touring. We had a Jewish guide who was excellent, Monica Puginier. Unfortunately the weather was inclement, very wet and windy, so we were hopping in and out of the car quick smart, but we started at Platform 17 and then on to the Brandenburg Gate, Unter Den Linden, Checkpoint Charlie, remnants of the Wall (now protected by a fence! Ha!), the rebuilt Golden Dome Synagogue (I can't remember the official title but it must have been something to see before it was destroyed on Kristallnacht), the Holocaust Memorial with all the concrete blocks (stelae) and museum, the Topography of Terror museum (dedicated to the history and rise of the Nazis and SS- no artefacts and nothing that you couldn't learn from the book we bought) and the Jewish Museum.
The Jewish museum was interesting in that it documented over 1,000 years of Jewish life in Germany (hey, we aren't called Ashkenazim for nothing, and it's no coincidence that Yiddish is so similar to German), and there was  also a special exhibit about Brit Milah (Circumcision) which was advertised so crassly that I was too offended to even look, apart from the fact that Shabbat was approaching and we were running out of time. The brochure had a picture of a circumcised banana with the caption 'Snip/it!' in English and something else in German. I could only surmise that the curator was not Jewish because I couldn't imagine a Jew taking that sort of flip approach to Brit Milah.

While we were at the Brandenburg Gate we saw the French Embassy in Unter den Linden; the tri-couleur flag was at half-mast- all the flags in the city were at half-mast- after the Charlie Hebdo massacre. There was a condolence book to sign and there were bouquets laid on the ground. And meanwhile, the Hyper-Cacher atrocity was being carried out.

A few hours later, the Rabbi picked us up and was telling us that his eldest son, a Yeshivah student in Brunoys, near Paris, had been stranded in Paris that afternoon, because the Metro had been shut down due to the terrorist attacks. He and his friends were trying to get back to the Yeshivah before Shabbat. He tried to flag down a taxi, but the cabs that stopped had Arab drivers and the boys were too scared to get in. Anyway, they managed to get back in time, much to the relief of the parents. And I reflected, what a strange day, when a Jew can feel safer in Berlin than in Paris.

As for our fear of Deutsche Freak-out Syndrome, it didn't happen. All the people we met were friendly and polite and nobody sounded like Hitler. We did stay at a fancy hotel (Kempinski Bristol- tiny bit of the Grand Hotel Budapest vibe, with the smartly liveried bellboys and excruciatingly helpful and polite concierge) and I tend to tip (even the Zimmer Madch left a little note saying 'Danke' - so I'm thinking I was tipping too much, but I don't care, a few extra euros won't make me poor and it won't make her rich, and I'm a one-per-center and whatever) so yes, everyone polite and friendly and also with the 'Shalom' and 'Boker tov', so in their minds all Jews are Hebrew speaking and might as well be Israeli. But all was well and the paranoia didn't get the better of me. After Shabbat we went with the Teichtals to a Schloss, talk about POINT one-percenters that used to own it, some nobility, with the high ceiling and huge fireplaces, oil paintings and damask wallpapers, ornate carvings and what-have-you, and we had drinks. We were greeted by an enormous liveried Aryan dude who shook the Rabbi's hand and bowed from the waist- I though he was going to click his heels and kiss my hand- and welcomed us warmly to the schloss, no irony detected, everyone is Rabbi T's friend, it seems! Amazing guy.

So Berlin was interesting. And Ms Angela Merkel is a good person. My kids are great. My grandchildren are adorable. But the world sucks.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Spread a little light

I just arrived in Jerusalem and heard that the Martin Place Chanukah menorah lighting has been cancelled in the aftermath of the Lindt Cafe terrorist siege in Sydney during which 17 people were taken hostage, 2 of whom were killed, by a self professed 'sheikh' with a long criminal rapsheet including accessory to murder and 40 counts of sexual assault. 
At first, I, along with many others, thought of this criminal murderer in terms of his criminality rather than his religion. He was a baddy who did this deed as a crazy 'lone wolf', and the fact that he put a Muslim declaration of faith up in the shop window , and apparently asked for an ISIS flag as part of his demands, was sort of brushed aside. 
I have since changed my mind. 
During the siege, even before the siege was over and the 2 victims were killed, we had this ridiculous #I'll ride with you campaign cooked up by some leftard - sorry, but there really are times when this pejorative term needs to be used- in Brisbane, who was riding on a bus and saw a Muslim woman fiddle with her headscarf and take it off. The observer cooked up a scenario in her mind, without actually speaking with the Muslim woman, that maybe she took it off because she was afraid of a backlash against Muslims and so she thought, no, I will protect you, Muslim sister, from the depredations of us racist Australians. I will ride with you in a bus without spitting on you. And the hashtag spread and everyone though how beautiful it all was. We hashtaggers aren't racist, like the other right wing Aussies.  We protect minorities, not like they do.  Aren't we wonderful people. 
I think everyone forgot who the real victims were. They were the hostages and the murdered cafe manager who was killed trying to disarm the terrorist; and the lawyer, who left 3 motherless children. They actually were the victims. The Muslims were not.  
So that's a couple of points I would like to make. Australians on the whole are tolerant people and are not likely to burn crosses or crescents or whatever on lawns and lynch Muslims etc. And Muslims were not the victims in the Lindt cafe seige. 
Then we saw this public outpouring of grief through floral tributes laid in Martin Place at the scene of the crime. Every florist ran out of stock. The photos looked amazing. Of course, the flowers will all rot and it will be a big job to clear the place in a few days, and what will be left? Nothing. I'll come back to that in a minute. 
Then came in all the analyses and reassurances from police and politicians and pundits. This was not an act of Muslim terror. This was a crazy criminal 'lone wolf', who did what he did because he was a baddy. (If he was so bad, why was he out on parole or on bail, free to plan and execute this attack? Hmm. That's a good question.) No, it was not because he was a Muslim. No no no. We mustn't think that (or I guess there will be a terrible backlash against the poor old Muslims). 
(And we know what happens when Muslims feel offended and insulted so hush, let's keep the peace. I'm sure there was some thought process like that going on in someone's head.)
Well, all I can say is that there seems to be a lot of these 'lone wolves' about. There was one in the Canadian parliament, and 2 who murdered Lee Rigby in the streets of Manchester, and the shrink who shot up Fort Hood and killed 14 US Army personnel - he was a lone wolf too, despite evidence in his email account where he was pledging jihad against the infidel- and there was the plot to randomly behead an infidel in Sydney which was thwarted, and the Arabs who ran down people waiting at light rail stops and bus stops in several incidents in Israel, and the 2 who murdered 4 rabbis at prayer in Har Nof in Jerusalem, leaving 14 fatherless children, and all of these lone wolves - so many that I don't know if the word 'lone' really applies- have one thing in common. Have a guess. No cigars for guessing the answer- they are all Muslims. And they have all taken it upon themselves after being incited by radical Muslim clerics and interpretations of Koranic verses, to attack infidels wherever and whenever they encounter them, Jews, Christians, in Israel and abroad. 
You can continue to pretend that these people are not motivated by religion to kill- oh well, of course in Israel it is about the resistance to the occupation, right? Wrong. It's about Muslim incitement to fight The Other, especially the Yahud. 
So keep pretending , but be prepared for more of these 'lone wolf' attacks because the incitement is not stopping any time soon. 
I can't help but compare the response  among Jews to the horrific attacks which have been perpetrated on them, to the Martin Place floral tributes, which make a strong statement but which are ultimately ephemeral. In every case, after every act of terrorism, the bereaved Jewish families urge people to give more tzedakah in the name of the victim, or to do more mitzvot, or to increase their level
of prayer and religious observance. Or they establish charitable foundations to help other families of victims of terror or other good causes. The Har Nof Shul was cleared of the blood staining the walls and the floor the very next day after this heinous attack, and more people have been attending  and studying there than ever before. 
This is also a form of resistance against the darkness that is closing in. This is all in the name of trying to make the world a better place. 
I strongly believe that it is a terrible mistake to cancel the menorah lighting in Martin Place. If there was ever a time that we need to see more light, it is now. The kindling of the lights reminds us of the miracle of the oil, and that is how we celebrate Chanukah; but Chanukah means 'dedication'. We rededicated the Temple to Hashem after the miracle of the victory of the few over the many; but we don't dwell on the military aspects of the festival which enabled the rededication and the miracle of the oil. We Jews don't really gloat about military victories. To paraphrase R Adin Steinsaltz, we don't put swords in our windows to celebrate, we put menorahs. We add more lights and more lights, for every night of Chanukah, because that is how you push away the darkness. 
Happy Chanukah to all, and may the families of the victims of terror be comforted. 

Sunday, 14 December 2014

OY TO THE WORLD

I confess. This time of year, when I venture into the shop or supermarket or malls, I see all the tinsel and hear the music, and I see all the puddings, panettone, stollen, big weighty fruitcakes and I have a tiny bit of Xmas Envy.

Not that I'm looking for more things to cook! (although I do a mean Christmas cake Rich Fruit Cake in November which sits in the fridge getting doused with alcohol for our ... Chanuka party). And I laugh when I hear the Non-Jews stressing over inviting family over for Xmas lunch or whatever ('How many are you having?' '12.' 'WHAT! TWELVE PEOPLE! How on Earth will you cope!!??). Hello! Have you heard of Shabbos? I do this every week! And not just twelve! And not just one meal, often Friday night AND Shabbos lunch! Wow!

There's just something in the air, along with all the carols wafting around. There's the kitschy tchotchkes and table decor; there's The Tree, which is- let's face this- a thing of beauty. It is! I would do a superb Xmas family dinner, lunch, everything. If it was me, I would go to Carols by Candlelight. I would wear reindeer antlers and dangly tinsel earrings while preparing the massive turkey and roast veggies and aller chazerai, prawns and a big ham, and a pudding (with suet if I could get it, but butter if not, and I would steam it for hours) and brandy sauce. Or maybe a goose, instead of a turkey, because that's actually MORE traditional. I would go to Midnight Mass. (Is that Xmas or Easter? Or both? I would do it for both.) I would do everything. Put up stockings and leave a nip of whiskey for Santa and have a tree-decorating for all the family. I would have a big box of heirloom tchotchkes and baubles including a soppy angel to decorate the huge real pine tree. I would put up a whole Nativity sound and light show in LED lights on my front lawn. And seeing that I wouldn't be Jewish, I would have a husband who could rig all this up himself, (and not have to call a non-Jew to come and do it) with the help of our fine strapping sons, all wearing plaid shirts and work jeans and boots, climbing on ladders with insouciance and laughing heartily while festooning the roof with miles of LED lights. And then the menfolk will be enjoying a well-earned ale and horsing around, wrestling and falling about with laughter...wait, this fantasy has gone off track a little.

It looks like such fun! You don't have to spring-clean your house with a toothbrush, you don't have to build a little structure to eat your meals in, it doesn't go on for 8 days of fressing, just a couple of days. I would hire a roly-poly Santa with a real beard to come and give presents to all the kids at the big family lunch. If I could arrange it, he would come with a sled and reindeer. I would have a special set of table linen and crockery that I only used for this purpose, decorated with holly and ice skaters and snow and reindeers and all that Northern Hemisphere stuff.

I don't do anything by halves. As it is, you can imagine what Pesach and Rosh Hashanah and Succot look like at my place (but they go on FOREVER and at the end of a month of feasting and fasting and fressing, I feel like I'm going to explode, like Mr Creosote.)(WARNING: if you don't know who Mr Creosote is, don't hit the link. Absolutely disgusting.)

I actually feel a bit cheated that we don't have Thanksgiving in Australia, because that's the festival I really envy. Non-sectarian! Fully inclusive! 4 day long weekend! Crazy good food! And it' all about gratitude and giving thanks! (Duh.) I would carve pumpkins- no wait, that's Halloween. (No, feh, I don't like Halloween.) I would have little pilgrim salt and pepper shakers that I only used on Thanksgiving. And a big centrepiece with corn and little pumpkins and autumnal harvesty stuff featured and a tablecloth with a turkey-featuring design on it. Not only would I have my own special turkey-stuffing recipe, I would make my own cranberry sauce. My pumpkin pie would be to die for. So I also have Thanksgiving Envy, but that's OK. Jews can do Thanksgiving.

Xmas is a whole other thing. But don't worry, I won't do any of that stuff (except for the Rich Fruit Cake marinating in my fridge as I write this.) What I AM doing as a Chanukah party for all the family, where there will be latkes and ponchkes, along with a good old Aussie BBQ, and presents and Chanukah Gelt for the kids, and by kids I mean everyone. And then some ... fruitcake. And then we light the Menorah and sing songs and play dreidel.

AND THEN. My hubby and I are flying out to Israel to visit our other kids, and THAT'S where you really see what Chanukah looks like, the streets and homes ablaze with lights. There, the 25th of December is just another day.

Happy... Holidays!



Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Just PERFECT.

Is it just me, or have you also noticed this little language tic that's just popping up everywhere?

I first heard it some years ago when I was making large functions - bar mitzvahs, weddings, charity dinners- and employed a professional events company to put these things together. The people I dealt with were great. They had wonderful positive attitudes and were always upbeat, and my every suggestion or request was met with a positive comment, like 'Gorgeous!' or 'Fabulous!' or, with the passage of time, more and more, 'Perfect!'
OK, that's events-biz, which is like show-biz except even more over the top; Perfect! Gorgeous! Stunning! Every superlative.
But now I'm hearing it everywhere. Where once 'Great!' or 'Wonderful!' would have sufficed, or, really back in the day 'Beauty!' (pronounces 'bewdy') or 'Ace!' or 'Bonza!' or some such, now it's that prissy 'Perfect!'

'Meet you at 11 for coffee?' 'Perfect!'
'Here's those notes I promised you.' 'Perfect!'
'Your child made you this fingerpainting.' 'Perfect!'
Everything is so perfect. Not.
The world's going to hell in a handbasket, but dinner at 8? Perfect!

Such an annoying prissy little word. All pursed lips ('p') and teeth ('ff') and a neat little click ('kt') at the end. No sloppy old tongue involved. Unless you are American and you pronounce the 'r' with a neat little tongue-tip flick before the teeth and the click. And then it has a smug little 'Purr' in it.

I'm finding it slipping out of my own mouth now too. I could honestly slap myself when I say it.

Because nothing's bloody perfect! Nothing! It might be good, or great, or wonderful or amazing (or 'amazeballs'- YUCK), it might be terrific or marvellous or even fantastic, but it's NOT PERFECT.

OK, here's an exception; the 'Perfect Storm' thing where everything is as extreme as it can be and then it all converges and POW, dramatic disappearance of ship or building or something, and that's pretty horrible and not very common. Not like this ticcy-clicky-prissy little 'Perfect!' popping out of everyone's mouths.

So stop it already, let's move on, or move back to just 'great'. Let's all calm down and relax and stop striving for this impossible state of perfection in every mundane aspect of our daily lives. OK, sometimes perfection can be achieved - 10/10 in Olympic Gymnastics or something- but otherwise, please GIVE IT A REST. Or we'll all spontaneously combust in our perfection.


Sunday, 2 November 2014

Is Religion really the cause of the world's ills?

As I have previously stated, I see myself as a cyber-warrior for Israel, and I will frequently find myself going head to head with some anti-Semitic troll about Israel and Judaism etc. I realise that it is mostly a lost cause. Occasionally one does find people who really are uninformed and would genuinely like to know more, and appreciate the history lessons etc but really, precious few. So I guess it's a waste of time, except for the fact that it helps me hone my 'voice' in advocacy of Israel instead of floundering around in spluttering outrage. It's also nice, though sometimes a bit creepy, to see how many Christians profess this love of Israel and the Jews. I mean, they may say that Israel belongs to the Jews (YES!) but then they may then discuss the importance of the Jews accepting YOU KNOW WHO as their Saviour (NO!) and then the Messiah will come (come AGAIN in their narrative) and kumbaya.

That's OK, I can deal with all that. I say, first, Hashem, send the Moshiach, and after that we can work out all the details about who he is etc.

But the ones who really get up my nose are the people, self-professed atheists, who say things like, if it wasn't for religion, well, there would be no wars and all wars are based on religious conflict. And they point to radical Muslims and they point to how the Jews only think that Israel is theirs because of religion, and if we all went all John Lennon and didn't have religion, there would be 'no one to kill and die for' and everyone would live as one.
Then the snarky ones will say things like, how all these silly people believe in their own 'imaginary friend in the sky', thus inferring that people who believe in G-d are all deluded and childish, and in fact, the brave atheists are the Keepers of the Common Sense, and back to religion being the source of all conflict.

Firstly, a quick ignorant sweeping look at history does seem to give us that impression: The Crusades. The Moors and the Catholics in Medieval Andalusia/Spain. The Troubles of Northern Ireland- Catholics and Protestants, right? All the Middle Eastern stuff, that's all religion, right? Muslims against Jews, against Christians, against Muslims, against everyone essentially.
But what of World Wars 1 and 2? And so many other forgotten wars which were about land and money and power. There is no end to the reasons for nations and people to kill each other.
So even if these statements might have some truth in them, the fact is that it isn't ALL about religion and even now, these current wars are about far more than religion.

But that isn't really what I want to talk about. Because instead of the Wise Atheists blaming all the world's ills on the stupid vicious children who actually believe in G-d, let's have a think for a minute about what the world would look like if nobody believed in a Higher Power, just in their own intellects. Imagine; no Heaven, no Hell, nothing to kill or die for, no religion, too.

There are people who call themselves Secular Humanists who believe in the essential goodness of civilised people who love each other and care for each other because we are all the Family of Man and we should do all that. To this I say: do you really think that the basis of this particular belief springs from logic and human intellect? Because, for example, where is the logic of caring for the sick and the weak? Where is the logic in Charity? Giving hard-earned money and goods to people who can't or won't look after themselves? No logic at all. It is far more logical and sensible to give to yourself and your family so you have the advantage; why on earth would you waste resources on people who have an incurable disease, or who were born with some sort of condition which would render them incapable of caring for themselves? Far more logical and sensible to put them out of their misery. Put the crippled child out on the hillside to be eaten by wolves; much better in terms of the environment as well. The Circle of Life and all that.
Like it or not, the Secular Humanists are drawing on a philosophy which is entirely based on monotheism, or at least the concept of a Higher Power who instructs us in a code of behaviour. And since the Jews were the first monotheists, followed by the Christians and the Johnny-come-lately Muslims, I feel entirely at peace in saying that if it wasn't for the Jews and for the Torah, we would be living in a complete jungle, where the Will to Power would be the driving force of existence.

There would be no charitable organisations catering to the poor, the sick, the incurable. There would be no neonatal intensive care, or really, not much in the way of intensive care at all, unless the person to be cared for was deemed to be important and powerful enough to be worth saving. Not much caring for old people; if they outlive their usefulness, what's the point? So expensive, and for what?
And once they die, why waste resources in burying or burning them? Why not recycle them? Like Soylent Green. I mean, why not? Who says you can't eat people? What's the difference between animals and people anyway? (Hello, Professor Peter Singer!) OK, so they can't talk, but neither can a baby or a dead person.

And what about relationships? Who says you have to commit to anyone? Marriage is about love, and what if love dies? So you move on. And marriage is about property,  so you make legal arrangements. And what about children? Hmm, tricky one. That needs a bit of nutting out. That's always going to be tough. Are children property? Is it about love? Who says? Oh, it's in our genes, in our biology, look at animals, generally mothers, who will attack anything that threatens their young. Yes. But what about the example of the young lion who defeats the old lion and takes the lionesses for himself; and what does he do with the cubs? Kills them of course. It makes sense to him; that way the lionesses come back on heat and the next crop of cubs will all be his genetic line. So how should a stepfather behave to stepchildren, in this world of uncommitted relationships? Has anyone actually thought about this?
I mean, even today in our monotheistic-based societies, stepchildren can be dealt with pretty shoddily.
Boundaries are often transgressed there. We are all grossed out by Woody Allen's relationship with Soon-Yi Previn even though no laws were actually broken; and they are very happy together, thanks. And what of those stories you hear about brothers and sisters unintentionally marrying, and then intentionally staying together, once they learn the truth? (Even Oedipus was disgusted when he found out he had unintentionally married his mother; I wonder why? The Pharaohs had no problem with brother and sister marriages, in fact that was the norm, since they were, in their own eyes, gods.) So where do the Laws of Decency, which don't actually exist, come from? I don't think they come from the human intellect, the Clever Monkey, Homo Sapiens, who loves to pleasure itself however and whenever possible.

What about Culture? I guess people would support the Arts, much as today, and there would be some magnificence - although no Sistine Chapel or Michelangelo's David or Moses or Pietas or religious art at all, or Requiems or Oratorios, but there would be a lot of movies and shows about sex and death and revenge- so I guess there would be Opera. And Shakespeare! So all is not lost. And comedy, where stupid people are tricked and taken advantage of by smarter people, or slapstick or fart and boob jokes, or reality TV. That probably wouldn't change. There would be Tracy Emin and many of the same folks esteemed by today's appreciators of Art. Much of which is trash, in my opinion. It's very difficult to rise above yourself if you think that 'your self' is the highest thing around. And a lot of art does seem to be by and about humans infatuated with human infatuations.

I'm wandering off here because there is so much to think about in this World without Religion (and I'm not a theologian or philosopher.) I think a lot of it would look like Ancient Greeks and Spartans, and Romans, and some would look like Nazism and Communism and other totalitarian regimes. (And a lot would look like bits of today's secular societies.)  Because it would all be about Power (Money Sex Death). And last I looked, these regimes were singularly warlike and responsible for the deaths of millions and millions of people. And the conflicts weren't religiously motivated. Jews weren't murdered because they prayed to Hashem and lived according to the Torah; they were targeted for reasons of 'race' or for being a convenient scapegoat, or for historical, even traditional reasons, or out of envy, or for so many reasons that make anti-Semitism still as mysterious and absurd as it is today.

So can we put that stupid theory to rest? About how religion is the root of war, and how much better the world would be without religion? Because no matter how dark are the days we live in, how much darker and more horrible would life be without the belief in some sort of Divine Plan or the concept of Tzedaka (which is not just Charity, but Just distribution of money or goods to the less fortunate), or the sense that there is something greater than us in the world. Imagine Humankind being the greatest thing there could possibly be. Just imagine that.

I don't think so.