Saturday, 24 March 2018

Today, I Marched


I had never marched before.

I wanted very much to march last year with my sisters both at home and around the world. I didn't because I wasn't in a location that held a march.

So, I had never marched before.

I grew up in the seventies. The world was so very tired of marching. And of demonstrating. And of protesting.

We didn't march. We shook our heads with mock disdain at all of the ills in the world, but we didn't march. We became lazy and complacent. We put our heads down and we pushed forward but we didn't march.

And then came Columbine.

My sons were 11 and 9 then. I remember thinking it could have been them. It could have been my children.

Nineteen years ago. Nineteen.

And nothing has changed.

Today's young people have never known a world without school shootings. Active shooter drills and lockdowns are an everyday part of their lives. When I was in school, I worried about fire drills. They worry about gunfire drills.

Virginia Tech. Sandy Hook. Pulse, Orlando. Las Vegas. Fort Lauderdale Airport. Charleston. Aurora. Eaton's Centre. Bloor and Yonge. Parkland.

Movie theatres. Churches. Malls. Concerts. Parks. Restaurants.

SCHOOLS. So many schools.

So....

Today I marched. In the bitter cold. I hate the cold. But I marched anyway.

Today I let the youth of the world lead me. Today I walked with them and today I walked for them. Today I marched to remember and today I marched to say "no more."

I marched for the kids and I marched for their parents. I marched for every single person who has ever been touched by gun violence. I marched and I remembered Albert, a friend of my parents who was gunned down blocks from his home in South Florida while out to dinner with his wife. I marched for my future grandchild. May he/she never know what an active shooter drill is. I marched to add my voice and my body to the chorus and the throng.

I marched to remember sanity and to remind myself that together we can change the world.

It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old will dream dreams, Your young will see visions. (Joel 2:28)












Monday, 12 March 2018

Zen and The Art of Jigsaw Puzzles

There was an episode of Black-ish that aired in January to which I really related.

As an aside, if Black-ish isn't already a part of your regular viewing routine, I suggest you put it on the list. It is one of the smartest and most adventurous comedies on the air at the moment. It regularly takes risks with its family-centred storylines and it straddles the always perilous line between social consciousness and just plain fun. I highly recommend it.

In the episode entitled Bow Knows, mother of five Rainbow joins a mommy online group for support and advice. As part of the guilt and backlash she receives from her invisible and judgemental new friends, she decides to remove screen time from her children and chides them about their lack of other hobbies. The kids are reluctantly forced to interact with each other as they take up the supposedly archaic pastime of jigsaw puzzles. While they bitch and moan for most of the episode, a little spark of togetherness ignites while they aren't paying attention and when Bow ultimately returns their devices at the end of the show, they decide to stick with the puzzles.

I was delighted with the episode mostly because my mom and I have reignited our passion for jigsaw puzzles this season at The Southern Home. It started with a gift that Sister/Cousin bought for my parent's wedding anniversary in December. Why she thought my puzzle-challenged dad might enjoy this gift is still beyond my comprehension, but my mom was thrilled. We used to do puzzles all the time when I was a kid. She decided to wait until Younger Son and his B'shert visited in January to open it. The jigsaw was a bonding success. Mom bought a puzzle mat for her dining room table and she and her grandson spent several afternoons together deftly fitting Mickey Mouse's movie posters together. It was such a successful endeavour and I was so very pleased with the relaxation and pleasure that it brought my mother, I immediately ordered another after my kids left for home. And then another....and another.





I had forgotten just how much I truly enjoyed the quiet zen of doing jigsaw puzzles. While seen as a frivolous time-waster to some, I choose to look at it from other perspectives. The completion of a jigsaw is the restoration of wholeness from something that is in a perpetual state of brokenness or ugliness. Beauty is found not only in the completion but in the task itself. There is a quiet sense of flow as Mom and I work seamlessly together on the undertakings of shaping and sorting the pieces. The work moves quietly but deliberately until larger images seem to fall away into the concentration of mere shapes and colours. Shades on the colour spectrum and gradations matter so much more than full photographic representations. We often chat amiably as we go but, more often than not, we tend to work in quiet synchronization. I fill in the smaller details that Mom finds difficult to navigate with her "ageing eyesight" (her words, not mine) but she totally blows me out of the water with colour matching. That artistic eye has not abandoned her. There is no competition, only the common goal of completion. The only distractions are a bottle of Diet Coke for me or a coffee for her.

For a couple of hours each day, all of life's frustrations and complications have been set aside to work on an entirely doable thing. We may not be able to fix the ills of the outside world but we are able to find relief and reparation in the reassembling of something shattered back to its original integrity and in that task, we find some measure of peace and tranquillity. It has given me a space to recharge and find wholeness again for myself.

Look, I am not saying this is a hobby for everybody. The Husband and my dad would sooner paste their eyes shut with a hot glue gun rather than engage in this pastime. But just as Bow wanted her children to understand in that episode of Black-ish, the need to disconnect from things and to reconnect with people, even ourselves, is vital.

I have never been a good practitioner of meditation or mindfulness. I find that both exercises stress me out and that seems extraordinarily counterintuitive to their stated goals. Jigsaw puzzling, however, especially in the company of my mom, has given me a bit of peace over the past few months. It has afforded me a chance at a soul reset. I wouldn't call that a waste of time at all.

***We have one puzzle left to complete before I head home this weekend. It is Broadway musicals. I've saved the best for last.



Friday, 2 February 2018

My neighbours across the water still have their Christmas tree up.

Today.

On Groundhog Day. 

February 2nd.

I know this to be true because the tree is set up for my maximum visualization in the balcony window that is directly facing our unit, and for good measure, the lights on the tree are obviously set on a timer to brightly illuminate their apartment every evening at sundown. (I would take a picture but it is somewhat creepy if not questionably illegal to photograph the inside of your neighbour's apartment. If Jimmy Stewart were alive today to make Rear Window, he would certainly be considered a stalker.)

Seeing that I myself have zero frames of reference for Christmas tree etiquette and I have absolutely no idea as to the proper length of time one should continue to have a Christmas tree up, illuminated, and decorated in one's living room following the appointed day, I can only imagine (or concoct) oddly disturbing conspiracy theories as to why anyone would still want said tree a full six weeks after the holiday. Here are my top 5.

1) These people are deeply devoted to the Christmas season and are absolutely determined not to let it go until some libtard bastard in this Democratic shithole wishes them a "Merry Christmas" the way the supreme leader promised them they would.

2) Because the seasons here range from the "burning fires of hell" to "iguana-dropping cool", there is often confusion as to whether or not Christmas has yet occurred. The Valentines that were on display at Walmart on New Year's Eve should have been a dead giveaway, but I suppose it is possible that somebody's internal calendar is malfunctioning.

3) The dog likes it and it saves them a canine bathroom break.

4) They want to use it in next year's Christmas card picture but haven't yet been able to gather the clan. Planning is everything.

5) They died and the tree is masking enough of the stench that nobody has yet called the coroner.

I invite you all to send me your theories. Post in the comments section of this post or on my Facebook Page.

Shabbat Shalom to all who observe and a continued Merry Christmas to my neighbours.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Reboot is Just Another Name for Old Shit.

I read in an entertainment piece yesterday that there are planned for or currently in production over one hundred reboots of old television programs.

One hundred!

Murphy Brown, Roseanne, Will and Grace, Swat, Charmed, Hawaii Five-O, One Day at a Time, Dynasty, The X-Files, Party of Five, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, MacGyver, Prison Break, The Office, American Idol, and even those wacky Animaniacs are making their way back to a network near you. (Truth be told? I'm really ok with that last one.)

And that's just a beginner's list.

One hundred!

That's more programming than most of us watch in a year.

I've been giving this complete lack of creativity and total disregard for originality some deep thought and honestly, all I can come up with is Kohelet.
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under t
he sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
It feels like we have come to the end of television. The reruns are now making their own reruns. I feel like TV is living its own perverse version of Groundhog Day and we, the viewing audience, are being massively played. We sit there in front of our screens like fucking zombies and digest and regurgitate all that is fed to us. We have surely become the Deltas and Epsilons that Aldous Huxley cautioned could be our fate. (You really need to read Huxley's Brave New World.)

But...it is a fascinating concept, this idea of a reboot. What if we could take the events in our own lives, run them through a "Wayback Machine," tweak the storylines to fit our current narratives, add a few characters, and finally live the lives we always wanted for ourselves. What if we had a chance to do it again? Would we do it differently?

Maybe I would have been more aware of the front step that time I broke my foot and almost dropped Younger Son on his head? Maybe I would have insisted that we NOT set out on the interstate in the middle of an ice storm? Maybe I would have spent more time listening to my grandparents and their stories? Maybe I would have taken more time to play and less time to clean up?

Maybe?

But here's the problem with reboots. They are never as good as the originals. We long for the nostalgia of what we knew; some sepia-coloured bygone era that can never be replicated or duplicated. We hope that the 2018 version of Murphy Brown will bestow a shit-laden tongue-lashing to the current holder of the Oval, but we know in our hearts that it can't be nearly as good or nearly as funny as the one she gave to Dan Quayle. As much as that accident on I75 in the ice terrified me, the resulting time together and family stories have lasted a lifetime. We learned valuable lessons from that experience. Lessons that I wouldn't trade for anything.

The problem with reboots is that we tend to look backward instead of forward. We tend to lazily reach for what is easy and avoid that which might challenge or confound us. A reboot is candy for the Deltas and Epsilons in a world where we should be striving to be Alphas.

Kohelet also states: "There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven." (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

We need to live our lives as if there are no do-overs, no reboots. Live your life in such a way that, if given the opportunity, you would do it the same way all over again. No regrets. No reboots. Demand better.

Shabbat Shalom to all who observe.



Tuesday, 9 January 2018

The Tiny Human is Coming

The new year has finally turned and while 2018 hasn't yet given us much respite from the international follies of 2017, in our little family at least, there is a great deal to look forward to. This year our nuclear unit will be expanding by at least one. (If there are others of which I am not yet aware, I prophylactically apologize.) Younger Son and His B'shert are eagerly anticipating the arrival of a tiny human sometime around the spring thaw. And while I was given leave several months ago to crow, glory in, heap praises upon, or simply kvell in bits and bytes in this space, the truth is that every single time I have sat down to put thoughts to screen, I have cried ugly and heaved sobs of joy. It seems to me that it is perfectly fine to know and understand that there are times when words alone cannot adequately convey emotion, even for the most loquacious among us.

And so....

I have deliberately sat on the public displays of written affection until I could do justice to what this little person's impending arrival means and how I am excitedly and mentally preparing for "Bubbyhood."

An aside...while we are in the know as to the gender, and others out there in the reading universe are as well, I have chosen to alternate between pronouns for the remainder of this post when describing the arriving alien. That bit of news isn't mine to share unless its creators choose to let the world know in their own public forum.

This child will be the first person in our family to have both feet firmly planted in this millennium. There will be no frame of memory or reference for her when discussing cataclysmic events like 9/11, crazy stupid elections, the move of Sesame Street from PBS to HBO, or even the demise of Sears. She will live in a world that has always known these things to have been true and she will hopefully learn the historical lessons they provide. I expect at some point in our relationship for her to hear her doddering old Bubby regale her once again with a tired old anecdote about the past, for her to roll her bored and glassy eyes at me, and then prepare to shuttle me off to the less-crooked home as I scream "Hell yes...Elmo was far more relevant on public television."

He will not know or be raised with the constraints of gender conformity. That isn't to say that he won't identify as his birth sex, (that's ok too!!) but rather that he will inherently know that every avenue is open to him regardless of being male, female, or other. He will be someone who loves musical theatre and someone who loves baseball; the two are not mutually exclusive. He will be encouraged to study STEM with the same verve and vigour as he will the arts. He can act strong and feminine or soft and masculine. The world is a roadmap open to him and the path is his to choose. It is all there for him, free from the obstructions of our gendered past.

She will always be blessed with tech support, know the release dates for the latest Star Wars/Trek movies, understand the differences between Nintendo and PlayStation, be a suffering Maple Leafs fan, and inherently comprehend what the fuck a Pokemon is. She will also be into chick-flicks, shopping excursions to Ulta, love to dress up, be a gloating Buckeye's fan, and inherently understand the colour palettes of OPI. Apparently purple is never just purple. These wondrous things will be bequeathed to her by her extraordinary parents. I choke up at the thought of my children becoming parents, but despite their nerves and concerns, I have no doubt they will be incredible. They both have all those skills inside of them just waiting to be exercised. Their child can be a geeky Scifi lover AND a frilly-laced princess all at the same time. Isn't that amazing? I am left staggered and breathless by the breadth and depth of her eclectic future home-life.

He will be raised with dignity and respect. He will be taught that while he may be at the centre of our universe, he lives in a global society. He will be taught that there are many less fortunate and less privileged than he and that he owes a debt to give back whenever he can. Service and mitzvot will be a part of his world. As Reb Nachman from Bratislav said:

Kol ha-o-lam ku-lo gesher tzar me'od
V'ha-i-kar lo l'fached klal

The whole world is a very narrow bridge;
the important thing is not to be afraid.

She will be blessed with music. Lots of it. Constantly. I will sing to her until I am hoarse or until she tells me to shut up. I plan on introducing her to Broadway on day one so if anyone has a problem with that, too fucking bad. I also plan on passing on my hatred of all things opera, so if somebody else wants to take up the cause of Rigoletto and Figaro, I won't argue. It is my determined mission to help this child sing and dance her way through life. All the rest is commentary.

He will know his heritage, but it will be up to him to define it. Judaism matters in this family, but how to express it is for the individual to decide. He will be taught to never forget how difficult it was for his ancestors and how he now stands on the shoulders of every single family member who came before him.

And...

She will call me Bubby. I choose the name to honour some very fierce and very formidable women whom I called Bubby and others whom I knew as Bubby. It isn't an old-lady name. It is a name imbued with dignity and respect.

I hope to follow in their footsteps. I hope to be the doting Bubby, the feminist Bubby, the vegetarian Bubby, the Canadian Bubby, the rabid Toronto sports fan Bubby, the theatre-loving Bubby, the left-leaning Bubby, the trivia-spewing Bubby, the singing Bubby, the guitar-playing Bubby, the sometimes wacky Bubby, the often uptight Bubby, the hopefully fun-loving Bubby, the chocolate-laden Bubby, the flip-flop wearing and toe-ringed Bubby, the cookie-baking Bubby, the can't sew for shit Bubby, "the hates winter with a passion" Bubby, "the come and visit me in Florida" Bubby, the Diet Coke drinking Bubby, "the don't tell mom I gave you chocolate chip cookies for breakfast" Bubby, "the gets carsick on a subway" Bubby, the cursing Bubby, and most of all the Bubby who will treasure him/her for forever and a day.

All my life's a circle;
Sunrise and sundown;
Moon rolls through the nighttime;
'Til the daybreak comes around.
All my life's a circle;
But I can't tell you why;
Season's spinning round again;
The years keep rollin' by.

~Harry Chapin




Wednesday, 20 December 2017

An Update on our Plumbing Problems

A quick update on our internet/cable/hot water dilemma.

When last I left you all, our shomer shabbos, Toronto-born plumber was banging on our very ancient hot water heater in an attempt to repair damage caused by the installer from Telecom B. We were forced by our condo building into making the switch from Telecom A (which, for the record, had NEVER damaged our hot water heater) to Telecom B and in the process of hooking us up, the Cutie Techie knocked something loose from our hot water heater that seems to have been a holdover from the Reagan era. My hero the Jewish plumber was able to provide us with a fix that cost us $350.00 (an emergency plumbing call is not cheap) which I seriously considered billing to either our condo board or to Telecom B. I was talked out of that maneuver by my dad, who as a member of the condo board, (insert Seinfeld reference here) assured me that I might as well cover myself in honey and throw myself into the bear exhibit at the zoo.

All seemed to be functioning fine until this morning when I noticed that the hot water coming out of the tap in the kitchen was rather tepid. The Husband, always one to leap in and solve my problems, told me to just let the water run longer. Thanks, dearest. I'll remember you to the bears. The final straw came when my morning shower was about the temperature of warm saliva. The Husband went to check on the water heater and sure enough, it was stone cold. The circuit breakers had been tripped, so he reset them and while the water heater started up again, it was only temporary. He opened the unit up to discover that all of the insulation that covered the wiring was drenched like a toddler's diaper. While The Husband is a trained electrical engineer, this fix was beyond his abilities. Another call to our Hero Jewish Plumber was in order.

After a three-minute conversation, Jewish Plumber tells us not to throw good money after bad on a dying appliance. He knows exactly the unit we require and if it is in stock, he can have it installed tomorrow morning for the bargain basement, post-Chanukah special price of...wait for it...$1800.00!A few calls later and we are now eagerly awaiting his arrival tomorrow morning. (As an aside, I should say that this kind of service amongst tradespeople down here in South Florida is highly unusual. It was more likely that I actually would have followed through with the honey/bear thing than get a plumber and a new water heater here on twenty-four hours notice. On that count, we are very fortunate and I am seriously considering submitting this man's name for canonization.) The only real good news to come from all of this is that we caught the leak right away and there was no other damage done.

So....by the time this whole mess is finished, we will have spent $2150.00 in order to have our cable company switched over to Telecom B. I figure that the yearly savings from this switch will amount to about fifty bucks a year on our cable bill, but it will take about 43 years before we recoup our investment from the installation.

Explain to me again why this was a good idea!


Monday, 18 December 2017

Internet or Hot Water? Which would you choose?

If you had the option, would you trade a questionably cheaper and marginally better internet/cable TV service straight up for functioning hot water in your home?

I ask because it seems as if that is the Hobson's Choice we have been faced with all day today. 

This ridiculous situation, that we are STILL experiencing even as I type this, has its roots beginning last March when a few very angry unit owners in our Southern Home were wholly dissatisfied with the telecom provider in our building. Using some anecdotal evidence and a few miserable encounters with Telecom A as the basis for their arguments, these angry Floridians and Snowbirds managed to convince the condo board to investigate switching to Telecom B. After some wheeling and constructive horse trading, the deal was struck to move the entire condo building over to Telecom B. Needless to say that when a few dollars are at stake and the opportunity to stick it to an unattentive and nasty Telecom A is in the offing, a certain demographic of condo owners/board members jumped at the opportunity to endorse the switch.

Of course, not everybody in the building was attentive or even aware of the impending change. Despite countless emails, phone blasts, flyers, and in-person communication, there were and still are many in this building who have not signed up with Telecom B, even though the full impact of the switch-over will be felt in the early days of January. In other words, if you haven't booked your appointment with Telecom B by now, the chances are you may be relying on a dial-up internet and analog television in 2018. I wonder how many of us still have to physically pull our ample asses out of a chair in order to change the channels? And without internet, one can't even Google those statistics.

I was hard-pressed to find ANYBODY in this building who could explain what the shift from A to B would mean to me the consumer. 

"What channels would we be receiving?" 

"The channels will be great", I was promised." 

"Are there channels that will be disappearing?"

"The channels will be great", I was promised.

"Will our internet speed be better?"

"The internet will be great", I was promised.

"Will we still be able to access On-Demand?"

"The channels will be great", I was promised.

"But....you will be saving a lot of money."

"How much?" I asked.

"So much", I was promised.

Needless to say, The Husband and I were extremely skeptical mostly because we have dealt with too many telecoms both at home in Canada and here in Trumplandia before, and they are all equally horrible. So, we both have an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality when it comes to those magicians who deign to keep us internet-enabled.

After a balagan of a sign-up process that saw dozens of seniors convinced that stormtroopers were coming in to confiscate their televisions and led many to believe that they weren't going to be equipped with HD television and would be returning to the three channel universe of the 1980s, we were given this morning between 8:30am-12:30pm as our designated change-over time. Telecom B's technicians swarmed the building today in a vain attempt to prove that they are indeed better than their heated rivals over at Telecom A.

Our cute-assed techie did indeed arrive within the allotted time and he did indeed seem to know exactly what was necessary in order to complete our transmutation. And then....the fun began.

Our wiring is accessed via a box just above our very ancient, but still serviceable hot water heater. In order to get our internet/cable functioning, Cutie Techie needed to work in that box. All of a sudden, The Husband and I heard a squeal coming from Cutie Techie's general vicinity. 

"Umm....I think you have a leak", he said.

 The Husband ran into the room to help and indeed noticed that through the course of his work, Cutie Techie had gently elbowed a corroded pipe off of the hot water heater and it was now spewing water into the laundry room. No damage done, but no hot water for us. 

Two hours later, we now have a new cable/internet service that seems to be faster and cheaper than what Telecom A was previously providing. Yay us! Except that now we don't have any hot water.

We placed an emergency plumbing call to our service contract repair company, who is almost as decent and reliable a company as Telecom A, which has now been jettisoned. Service Contract employee shows up, looks at the job, tells us that he can't fix the problem, suggests we replace our ancient hot water heater, and tells us that he can't guarantee it will be in before Christmas. The Husband is having none of that and promptly starts to scout out plumbers. Six calls and six hours later, a very skinny (no plumber butt required) and very Jewish plumber (he doesn't work on Shabbes) arrives at our door, looks at the problem, can't guarantee the fix will work, and says that it will cost $350.00.

So, our financial savings that were coming from the switch to Telecom B have now all been eaten up for the next three years by a plumbing problem caused by them and the fix from an emergency plumbing call that may or may not work or last for very long.

IF IT AIN'T BROKE, DON'T FIX IT!

A really wise motto to live by.