Archive for September, 2008

Happy Humanistic New Year

I belong to a Humanistic Jewish Congregation.  Basically, that means that it’s Judaism without the Hocus Pocus. It’s cultural, ethnic, historical, can’t escape who we are and don’t want to Judaism.  And today, Rosh Hashsana, I was asked to address our congregeation for the New Year.   Here’s an edited version of my talk.

Happy New Year.

************************************

Truthiness.

That’s TV host Stephen Colbert’s for “the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true.”

When Colbert first coined the word on his show he used the Iraq War as an example.  “The facts may have proved us wrong.” He said.  “But didn’t the invasion just feel right?”

Truthiness, then, is the opposite of skepticism. Where a skeptic questions the validity of things that can’t be proven true, —  like, say, that a certain Alaskan governor is ready to be Vice President — the Truthi-ac just plain likes her.

Truthiness is also completely antithetical to Jewish tradition.  We don’t just feel things and then decide they are so.  We scrutinize, we agonize, we analyze.  There are endless debates about everything from whether or not one can eat rice on Passover, to whether we light the menorah from right to left or left to right, to whether or not pastrami on white is a punishable offense.

As Humanists we question everything.  I once read that the believer only has to justify the existence of God, and the atheist the existence of everything else.  Well, for many of us, that leaves everything else. (more…)

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September 30, 2008 at 4:53 pm 2 comments

The Great Debate: City v Suburbs. City wins.

“You’re still in the city?  Don’t worry, you’ll get a house soon.” A (former) friend of mine actually said that to me with a straight face.  As if staying in the city to raise my kids was some kind of booby prize.

“Gee, I’d love to move to the ‘burbs where I could eat in chain restaurants and think they were good. Help me, oh suburban wise-woman.”

Puh-lease. Yes the city is loud. Yes the cost of living is high, the square footage of my apartment is low, and grime seems to deliberately make it’s way through the cracks in my eighty-year old windows just to piss me off. (Click on the link for a solution, it really works) But I am a city person and I will never, ever move to the suburbs.  I do not like the suburbs.  I would be bored.  I would feel isolated.  I would have to drive a lot.   I would not be able to go to the theater on a weeknight,discover a new shop just by wandering a few blocks from home, or get truly great takeout any night I didn’t feel like cooking.

But that’s all about me.  What about my kids?  Do I just tell myself that they’re getting it all, when really they’re missing out on so much?

In a word, no.

Because a lot of what people argue is so great about life in the burbs: the space, the freedom.  It just isn’t there anymore.

Take walking to school.  I walked to school with my friends — no adults — from third grade on. Today, parents are afraid to let their kids walk to school alone.  It’s gotten so bad that towns even need “Walk to School Day” initiatives.    My own sister-in-law drives my niece the .25 miles from their suburban New Jersey house to her school.   Suburban parents say things like “but it’s so unsafe now, they can’t walk to school anymore.”  That used to make sense to me.  But it’s too unsafe for my kids to walk to school too, so I WALK WITH THEM.  Nearly 1.5 miles each way.  It’s a wonderful time for us to be together.  We talk and laugh, they nag me incessantly about buying a dog, and I say “hurry up” a lot.  But what I don’t say is “it’s too unsafe for them to walk alone — so they won’t walk at all.”  What’s with all this driving in the burbs?  It would drive me crazy.

And biking?  Sometimes we use our Xootrs ,(check them out- cooler and sturdier than Razors) zipping across the park to school.  When I was a kid I rode my bike.  Well, last week I was in my hometown where the streets are narrow and the SUVs are huge.  Unless you’re into your kid playing chicken with a SUV driven by a woman on her cell phone, your kid isn’t biking to school, either.

So what, exactly, are my urban kids missing? (more…)

September 27, 2008 at 6:57 pm 3 comments

Sing, Sarah Palin, Sing!

Last night, I went to see a neighbor’s cabaret show.  You know, one of those things where you rent out the space, hire the band, and then invite all your friends to pay a cover charge, drink the two drink minimum and come to hear you sing.  And all I could think about, the whole time I sat there, was Sarah Palin.  Because  – and this is just between you and me — my neighbor can’t sing.  I mean, he can carry a tune and all.  But that’s about it.  The thing is, though, he was good.   Neighbor Man is a great performer.  He was charming.  He was funny.  He was warm.  He was, quite clearly, having the time of his life.  And so I didn’t (much) care that when he held a note for more than a beat or so it started to go flat.  I didn’t care that his voice was, shall we say, less than fabulous.  He was truly entertaining. I liked him.

I think that that’s how people feel about Sarah Palin.  Maybe she doesn’t know her stuff.  Maybe she doesn’t have enough experience, maybe she can’t really sing, but gosh darnit, isn’t she just the greatest?

Last night in her exclusive interview on CBS news, Katie Couric asked Sarah Palin to give her even  “one example of John McCain pressing for more regulation” on Wall Street.

“He’s a Maverick.” Palin answered, non-sequitorally.

Couric pressed again, asking for a specific example.

“Well, we need to really be behind new regulations.”

Couric, promising that she wouldn’t beat this to the ground, asked one last time for specific examples.

“I’ll try to find you some and I’ll bring ’em to ya.” answered Palin.  Her folksy smile and phony eyeglasses gleaming for the cameras.

So there you have it:  she can’t sing, but she’s entertaining.

On the Cabaret stage, when your friends are in the house, that’s a good thing.  But on the international stage, when the country and the world are depending on you — well, you’d better have your facts straight.. or at least your script;  you’d better be able to belt it out like Bette or Barbara.

Because out there in the real world, where everyone isn’t your friend, charm and likability just aren’t enough.  And even a really big cover charge won’t cover that up.

September 25, 2008 at 1:28 pm Leave a comment

Listen, You can Almost Not Hear Me!


If you’re writing a blog and no one comments, does it make a sound?

Well, not a sound. But you know what I mean. I just feel a bit like nobody’s listening to me.  Which might be OK — except I feel that way a lot.  Like when I say to my kids, “time to brush your teeth,”  walk them to the bathroom, put their toothbrushes in their hands, and come back five minutes later to find them sitting on the floor playing Monopoly, toothbrushes abandoned, breath as rancid as a dead fish on a hot dock. Or when I say, for the bazillionth time, “put your clothes in the hamper” only to watch my son walk by his pants, crumpled in a heap on the floor, on his way to grab a toy off his shelf.  There are my constant, unheard admonitions to sit at the dinner table, hang up their coats, stop yelling, do your homework.  It’s endless.  No wonder they don’t hear me.  I wouldn’t want to listen to that all day.

My husband doesn’t hear me either.  I’ll say to him, “I bumped into your friend Ted today.” and he’ll answer “You bumped your head on some hay?”  which doesn’t even make sense.

I actually set him for a hearing test.  The doctor laughed and told him that innumerable men get sent to him by their wives.

Of course Hubby’s hearing was fine.  He’s not deaf, he’s just ignoring me, to borrow a well-known t-shirt saying.   There’s actually a song with that title, but nobody listens to it. (some four-letter lyrics – clicker beware)

If I ignored my kids as much as they ignore me, I’d be called in for child abuse.  Can you imagine?  “Mommy, mommy, can I please have some water?”  And I’d just walk right by the fridge on my way to the Barney’s Warehouse sale. Or “Mommy, Mommy, I think I broke my leg!”  and I’d just smile vaguely on my way to the gym.  That’d show ’em.

They listen when I read to them.  I’m like the Jim Dale of Mommies – with a voice for every character.  That gets their attention.  So maybe that’s it.  Maybe I should put on an Irish brogue when I tell them to clear their plate, a French accent when I want them to drink their milk, a southern twang when it’s time to turn off the tv.  I’ll be the Meryl Streep of nagging.  I think I’ll try it.  Hey, whatever works, right?

I’ll let you know how it works out.

September 23, 2008 at 8:55 pm 1 comment

My First Working Mom Dilemma

A few years ago, when my twins were three or four years old, I left my daughter home with the Nanny while I went to work.  My Wee One (WO) had a cold, so part way through my day, I called to see how she was.

Me: Hi baby-girl! How are you?

Wee One: I’m fine.  But where are you, Mommy?

Me: I’m at work.

WO:  Do you have a hammmer?

Me: No, sweetie.  No hammer.  What do you think Mommy does at work?

WO:  I don’t know.  What do you do?

Me: I make commercials so that people know what shows to watch on TV.

WO:  Well, that doesn’t sound very important.  I think you should just come home.

Out of the mouths of babe, right?  Not long after that I slowed work considerably, only accepting those projects I knew wouldn’t keep me in the edit room until 3am. (Which in TV, isn’t a lot.)  And eventually, I stopped more or less all together, aside from the occasional day-job here and there.

But recently, I started working again.  And today, I had to back out of going on a class trip because I have a work meeting I can’t get out of.

You know what?  This working thing is really cramping my style. (more…)

September 22, 2008 at 10:02 pm 1 comment

John McCain Should’ve Picked Me!!

Every time I see Sarah Palin, a former beauty queen (runner up), mother of many, not all that experienced governor of a state that has about as many residents as my building.  I cannot believe that John McCain would do this.  I mean, why not pick Elisabeth Hasselbeck?  She’s cute. She’s conservative.  And people have actually HEARD of her. Or, why not just pick me?  Never mind that I’m a  pro-choice, pro-gun control, seriously left of center liberal — I don’t blink. I stay the course.  And I really need my glasses.

But in case you still need convincing…read on

1. I am the Mayor of my own domain.

  • I do all the budgeting (you try to send two kids to private school in NYC).
  • I do all the scheduling: gymnastics, piano, guitar, roller blading, cooking, Tae Kwan Do.(It’s a wonder they have time for school at all.)
  • I take meetings about matters important to my constituency: how much tv can they watch, when can they get a dog, do they have to kiss their Great Uncle hello, even though he’s the kind of guy strangers offer to buy food for when they see him on the street?
  • Pretty much everything I do is a photo op, what with the cuteness of my little ones.

(more…)

September 17, 2008 at 9:43 pm 2 comments

Minding Manners (bad ones, that is)

A few weeks ago I was at a friend’s house for dinner. As usual, it was a mix of kids and adults, even a new puppy. What wasn’t so usual was the conversation. I mean, let’s be honest, high-level intellectual and political conversation has gone the way of the adults-only dinner party. Sure, they happen once in a while, but for the most part, it’s pasta, pizza and potty training. But this dinner had some pretty interesting guests: one is a director of development at The Clinton Foundation, another is the founder of KIPP, the Knowledge Is Power Program, “a national network of free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public schools in under-resourced communities throughout the United States,” our hosts are a former state department employee and a woman who is the chief knowledge officer at a non-profit that strives to improve the quality and retention of top quality teachers in the public school system nationwide. And me? Well, I’ve won the Nobel Peace Prize. Yeah, that was me. For outstanding achievement in drool wiping.

So I found myself in a truly interesting conversation. We talked about the election (of course), the Lehman Brothers situation, the amazing lack of respect for Country (first) McCain’s VP pick displays.  There wasn’t a Hannah Montana reference in sight. And then it happened: the invasion of the eight year olds. (more…)

September 15, 2008 at 2:33 pm 3 comments

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