My ‘Feh’ Mood Seems Overwhelming

24 Jan

There are certain Yiddish words that just fit.  When you say them, you know that everyone understands exactly what you feel and why you feel that way.  And lately one words keeps coming to my mind all the time: Feh!

Feh:  I am so disgusted.  I have reached the age where I look at life in a different way.  I get so disgusted with unreasonable behavior.  With those more concerned about their own glory than the people they are supposed to serve. People so caught up in their political side that they are forgetting that people are now suffering without pay.  That our economy is hurting, our people are hurting.  Feh on them all. Actually, our political world is beyond feh!  I would say it was all “verkakte,” screwed up!   I have been calling my two senators several times a week.  Does it help? Who knows! But I feel better for trying.

I am disgusted with baseless hatred.  And with people who spew hatred. I am disgusted with the increased acts of ‘anti’ behavior: anti-Semitic, anti-LGBTQ, anti- immigrant, anti-anyone who is different than you. Feh on all the haters out there. I honestly never thought I would see an America so filled with hatred. But here we are! FEH!  I could just ‘schrai,’ scream,  in aggravation. And I do.

But my feh mood is more than just on the atmosphere of the political structure, it is also on the atmosphere of the world!  Reading or watching or listening to the news has brought about many feh moments the last few months.  I am at the point where I do not want to hear any more. But then I realize I have to listen. Despite my disgust and my temptation to yell, “Feh,” at my television, I keep on watching. But to be honest, this mishegoss is making me meshugah!

Then there is the atmosphere of the weather. Feh on the weather!  Climate change is killing me.  The summers are too darn hot!  And this winter has been a polar bear of ice, snow, sleet, graupel, freezing rain and more.  I am done. FEH! I do not want to kvetch, but who needs this weather? Not me.

Feh on the dirty snow piled on the roads and my driveway. Feh on the mud and muck coming into my home. Feh on the downed trees and limbs felled by 10 inches of wet nasty snow.  Just FEH.

I am so tired of schlepping!  I am tired of putting on layers of clothing and my boots.  I am tired of schlepping a scarf and gloves and hat with me wherever I go, and then running back when I forget something or if fell as I was walking into a building.  I am tired of schlepping my coat around when I go shopping at the grocery store.  If I take it off it takes up too much of my cart; if I leave it on, I get too hot.  Feh on my schlepping and my winter clothes!

I remember my grandmother saying feh on little things, like a mud-covered child, a dirty diaper, a messy face.  My fehs have reached epic proportions this year.  I am in super feh mode.  There has to be a word to express my extreme disgust.

I honestly do not want to become verbissen, totally bitter, by all that is happening in the world at this time.  But my feh mood seems to be over whelming some days!

 

 

Does My Takasago Couples Bring Happiness to My Marriage, Perhaps!

19 Jan

My Japanese carved celluloid pieces are bits of memories of my Dad, who fought in the Korean War in 1951-1952.   He spent time in Japan as well and purchased little carved objects that he gave to my Mom, as well as to my grandparents.

I remember four items in particular, there might have been more: the clamshell with its tiny diorama, the elderly couple, the rickshaw, the seven lucky gods of fortune.  When I see them, I think of his service, and his pride of serving his country.  But I also see the lovely art made in Japan.

I have the clam and the elderly couple.  My sister has what remains of the seven gods and their pedestal.  They were on a corner shelf in my parent’s apartment as long as I can remember.  We often played with them as did our children and some are lost.  As for the rickshaw, it has disappeared.  The clam, couple and rickshaw were always in a curio cabinet and so remained intact.

I wanted to find out more about these objects.  Why they were made? Were they made for the soldiers who came after World War 2 and were occupying Japan?  Was it a way to earn money in an economy that needed to grow?  A cheap gift that soldiers could buy and bring home?

I have no idea. I tried going on line and finding out about them. But all I could see was multiple images of items similar to mine.  I saw about 30 different clamshells, including one so similar to mine.  It had the cute little red crab on the top, the two little shells on the bottom as feet, and a similar boat floating in a river. The tiny people carved inside were different.

I found rickshaws carrying geishas similar to the one I remember.  There were also several collections of the seven gods available for sale.

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My parent’s Takasago couple.

The only items I did not see available for sale was my elderly couple.  I understand that, because they are considered lucky for married couples!  My parents got married just before my Dad was shipped overseas. And my Dad brought this couple home for my mother as a gift.

I remember my graduate school roommate, who was Japanese, seeing these at my parent’s home and telling me that they were good fortune given to a couple when they married to bring long live together.  It did work for my parents. They were married for 59 years before my Mom passed away.  Pekoe loved these figurines and was so happy that my parents had them.

I have since learned that they represent the Takasago Legend about an elderly man and his wife.  They figurines are to help a couple live together in harmony until they grow old together.  The couple are often shown in drawings with the elderly man raking to bring in good fortune, while the woman is sweeping to push away trouble.  I love this legend!  You can even see that my couple, the man is holding a rake, and the woman holds a broom.

At Japanese wedding ceremonies, these Takasago figurines are put on a special shelf called Shimadai with other items that bring good fortune.  The figurines can be made from many different items and are to invoke a long, harmonious married life.

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The couple I received .

My roommate gave me another Takasago couple, carved from pine wood, which she sent from Japan, when my husband and I married.  The Takasago couple are also called the ‘twin pine couple,’ hence the wooden couple has much significance as well.  Because of my immersion into Japanese culture, my parents gave their couple to me when to me when I got married.

My parents had a second well-worn couple from Japan. They might also be Takasago. But I am not sure.

So I have three sets of figurines.  One is a young couple just beginning their journey. The other the embodiment of an elderly couple who has grown old together.  The other is another young couple, who shows that it had been handled over time. Perhaps for good luck?

We will be married 39 years this year.  And I see by our greying hair, that we are maturing.  I do not know for sure if these two Takasago couples helped us in our journey, but I tend to think their presences daily in our kitchen, watching over us, could not hurt.

 

 

https://japanesemythology.wordpress.com/the-takasago-legend-of-the-meoto-couple-or-the-happy-couple-and-the-twin-pines/

Do More of What Makes You Feel Happy: Or Why I Want to be a Spiritual Care Volunteer

16 Jan

For the past two years I have been trying to find a different kind of volunteer role.  I have served on boards and planned events; I have shopped for gifts and supplies; I have written and stuffed letters; I have organized and directed. But I wanted something that was more one-on-one, where I could actually help someone. Something that would give me an important obligation and destination once I totally retired. Something that had meaning.  It is important to me to give back, to do tzedekah, to make a conscious, ethical commitment to do good.

Then I listened to a radio podcast that featured my sister-in-law.  In it she said something that resonated with me:  Do More of What Makes You Feel Happy!

I realized that something that makes me feel happy is making others feel happy.  Many times, when I am with someone not feeling well, or feeling blue, I just want to help them laugh before we leave each other.  I learned years ago that laughter really makes people feel better. The saying, “Turn that frown upside down and smile,” sticks in my mind.  I decided I needed to find a volunteer role that would help people feel emotionally better.

Several years ago, I participated in a two-day training program put on by the Institute for Jewish Spirituality and our local Jewish Federation called, Wise Aging. We were taught how to facilitate a program for people who were in a transitional stage of life, from 50s to late 70s. We learned the skill of mindful listening. We learned about mindfulness and meditation along with dealing with transitions.

I really enjoyed teaching classes with my co-leader on the transition from thinking about the aging process to living in the aging process and how to make it a most positive experience.  But we are not doing as many workshops. I needed something else that might use the skills I learned from this workshop.

Then life happened.  Someone I know for years was in a rehab facility.  I went to visit her and saw what my visit meant, even though we were not close friends.  Then a good friend of mine was in the hospital and then rehab for months.  I started visiting her once a week when I was in town.  She loved the visits.  Even when her husband came, they wanted me to stay. Having outside company was comforting and helped them passed the time.  Besides making them happier for the company, it made me happier because I know my presence helped them.

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The booklet the volunteer dropped off.

One day when I was there, a man stopped by and gave her a booklet.  He was a spiritual care volunteer.  Since she had company he dropped off the booklet and said he would be back later.  Hummm the wheels in my brain already started to turn.

I remembered back to when my parents were sick.   I would fly to NJ every five weeks and spend a week there.  Many times, I was just going to the hospital every day.  My siblings wondered how I could sit in the hospital or nursing home all day long. They could not do it.  But it did not bother me.  I also remember the volunteers who came from the local synagogue to visit the hospitalized.  I had several nice conversations with them.  I remember thinking what a great way to do a mitzvah.

I remembered back to when I was a teenager and worked as a candy striper in a local hospital.  I had one incident that changed my desire to be a nurse, but I always liked helping others.  (See blog link below.)

Recently I was in Israel when my daughter had surgery. I spent several days in the hospital. Many times, my daughter’s roommate did not have someone there when I was there, so I helped her as well.  It made sense to me.  It is ‘gemulat hasidim,’a deed of loving kindness to help the sick.

My mind started ruminating over a specific volunteer opportunity: visiting the sick, or in our community Spiritual Care Volunteer.

I realized that this might be the best fit for me.  I like people.  I like to talk to people.  Sick people do not scare me.  I think some people are afraid to be around someone either old, or just someone who is sick.  It does not upset me.  The more I thought about it, the more considering volunteering as a spiritual care volunteer seemed right for me.

And then there were the ‘signs’!

One day while visiting my friend, the local rabbi in charge of Jewish Family Services’ Chaplaincy Program appeared to visit her as well.  I saw this as a sign.  The spiritual care volunteers are part of his program. I do not see him that often, and here I was thinking about calling him to volunteer when he showed up.  So right then, I told him, I want to do this.  It has been on my mind ever since. But. I did not follow up, I had much going on.

I went to Israel to be with my daughter.  When I come back from Israel. Rabbi Rudnick emailed me to comment on a blog I wrote about being in a hospital in Israel.  I took this as my second sign that I am really meant to be a spiritual care volunteer. I, in turn, emailed him and I reminded him that I wanted to participate in this program.  He put me in touch with another person at his agency to get more information.

My third sign is that the 12-hour training, which is to begin soon, is actually on days that I can attend!  That is amazing to me.  It really must be a sign that this is the right role for me.

I have filled out the paperwork, had my interview, had my rabbi write a letter of recommendation.  I am all set.  Next week I begin my training.  I have made a one-year commitment to this program.

I hope that I can give comfort to those that need comfort; listen to those who need to be heard; pray with those who need prayer; and cheer up those who need cheering.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2017/04/16/my-time-as-a-candy-striper/

Cemetery Records Impacts Family Stories

11 Jan

Recently I received a cemetery record from a friend of mine, who grew up with my husband’s cousins.  Her grandfather and my husband’s grandfather were great friends.

In any case, she is researching her family history and did research on the Jewish Cemetery in Leavenworth, Kansas, where my husband’s grandparents and aunt are buried.  (Mount Zion Cemetery or Sons of Truth. )She found their funeral records as well, and sent them to me and other family members.  I sent it on to one more.  For me they were enlightening.  My husband’s mother had told me many stories about her family before she died.  And these records impacted these stories.

Story Number One:  Her mother, Esther, died in childbirth when she was in her 40s.   The cemetery records make this clear.  She died in the early 1930s and was buried with an infant.  This would have been child number 11, although her oldest daughter had died years before.  Born in 1889, she died in 1933, when she was just 43.  On another note,  her birthday was October 4; and many of her grandchildren are born October!

Story Number Two:  My mother in law was named for her older sister, Molly, who died in May.  I was told she died in the swine flu epidemic in 1918 or 1919.  Not true.  Molly died from the pneumonia in May 1924, when she was 19 years old.  What amazes me as well is that she was born and died on the same day in May just 19 years apart!Still a tragedy!  But what is true is that my mother in law was born almost exactly a year later.  And so was given her sister’s Hebrew name, along with another name.  This impacts me, as my daughter is named for her grandmother and so also for this great aunt.

A story we did not know, is that Malvina or Molly or Malcha, was first buried in Wichita, Kansas, where the family lived.   The family moved to Leavenworth some time after she died, leaving her grave behind.  But after her mother died, Molly’s remains were moved to Leavenworth in 1935, to be with her mother.

My mother in law told me that her father went every to visit the grave of his wife and daughter.  I have been at the cemetery and I know there is a bench there where he sat.

Story Number Three:  My husband’s grandfather died in the middle of World War 2 in Leavenworth, which impacted his three youngest children.  So true.  His date of death is listed as December 6, 1942.  Just one year after Pearl Harbor.  He had been a widow for nine years.  And was just 64 when he died.  The same age my husband is now!

At the time of his death, three children were minors, the others were married or serving in the military.  The oldest of these three was my mother in law.   She was a senior in high school.  We think she stayed with friends for the rest of the school year.  We know after high school, she moved to St. Louis to attend Washington University and live with an older sister and her family.

My mother in law told me that one day when she came home she saw her brother and sister sitting on the steps.  Some family friends were there. And she just knew something horrible had happened.  It had.  After losing her mother when she was only 8, she was now an orphan.

The two youngest, 12 and 15 at the time, were first taken to Wichita.  Remember the good friend?  She told me that her grandfather drove through a horrible storm to get the youngest children so they would not be alone.  He brought them back to Wichita.  From there they went to Arkansas to live with their oldest brother and his family.  Officially they were supposed to live in Kansas, according to my mother in law, but the state gave permission for them to leave the state to live with family during the war.

After the war was over, the youngest son was still a minor.  He went to live with another brother and his wife in Wichita.  The next youngest, a daughter, was in nursing school,  but would stay with this brother as well during vacations.

All three of these youngest children went to college, which I find amazing!  But I remember my husband’s aunt, the one who lived in St. Louis, telling me that although there was not a lot of money left after their dad died, there was enough for college, and the older siblings made sure the younger siblings went.

After I received the cemetery records, there was some serious texting back and forth between this friend and I, as well as an older first cousin who grew up in Wichita.  Her parents are the ones who took in the youngest sibling.

It is just amazing that different people know different parts of the same story.  But when you put it all together, a truer picture appears.   Most  amazing how finding the right records can answer so many questions!

 

Thank you to /www.findagrave.com/.  I was able to see grave stones.

Oy, An Egg Kichel! Delicious!

9 Jan

Amazing how the taste of a freshly baked egg kichel can bring back so many joyful memories!

It started with a Facebook post by a friend.  She posted something from My JewishLearning.com, entitled “Kichels Recipe: Jewish Bow Tie Cookies.    (See link below, it includes the recipe.)

A few of my friends started commenting on the post about how much they loved these cookies, including me.  I commented: “My grandpa made these in his bakery and continued making them for us.  I loved them.  I would glad to be a tester for you!”

Next thing I knew I had committed to meeting a different friend and making them.  What a delight! She had posted that her Bubbie made these treats.  And she wanted to make them again.  I was all in!  (I do feel a bit of guilt that we did not have the person who posted the article with us!)

You do not bake egg kichel, you fry them.  You do not need much, just flour, salt, vinegar, eggs, oil and powdered sugar.    Mixing bowls, a mixer and a frying pan, along with lots of paper towels are required.  I promise you an hour or so of fun, and then a delicious reward.

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One of our early batches.  A bit too thick!

We learned something from our foray into making them.  The dough does have to be paper thin!  It is best to have all the dough rolled out and cut into strips before heating up the oil.  And really, you must make sure the oil is hot, hot, hot before you start putting the dough strips into the frying pan.

My friend was in charge of mixing, then rolling out the dough, and making the paper-thin morsels for us to fry.  The learning experience commence with our first frying. The strips were too thick.  So for the next batch, she started cutting the strips and rolling them out again. SUCCESS!

The excitement once we did it correctly was encompassing.  Each rectangle of dough would almost instantly turn white, bubble up and float to the top of the oil.  In a few moments one side would be golden brown, and I would flip them over.  Watch them a few moments more and then out into the towel to soak up extra oil.  Then I sifted the powdered sugar over them.

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I combined some batches.  But here they are letting the oil soak out!

We had to try one from each batch to taste the difference.  The thinner the dough, the hotter the oil, the crispier the fried kichel, the better it tasted.  We had six batches, so we had to try six. YES!  We really did!

I am so happy my friend not only said that we need to make them one afternoon, she set a date! It was not only the fun of tasting and frying, it brought back the memories of cooking with our grandparents.  We cannot bring them back, but we can in our minds relive happy moments like this!

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 Mine are on the right!

Even after tasting, we had so much left over.  We divided them up relatively evenly.  I suggested she keep extra as she has a grandson living close by to help in the eating.  But I was happy to bring a plate home for my husband and me.

My husband doesn’t have the same memories.  He never tasted egg kichel.  A Shanda!  Can you imagine never eating them?  I cannot.  But then he did not have anyone to bake traditional cookies and treats when he was growing up.  Both of his grandmother’s died very young.

For me, however, each snap of a kichel in my mouth along with the melting of the powder sugar gives me joy.  Oy!  Egg Kichel!  It is so delicious

 

https://www.myjewishlearning.com/the-nosher/kichels-recipe-jewish-bow-tie-cookies/?utm_content=buffer717d6&utm_medium=social&utm_source=thenosher&utm_campaign=buffer

 

Finding A Charity Donation That Fits Perfectly!

29 Dec

I am a person of faith who believes in prayer.  I also believe in actions.

Some of my friends will be surprised because I also am a strong believer in science and medicine, biology and evolution.  But in my mind both work together in harmony.

What this means for me, is that when someone I love is sick, I trust the doctors, who I have researched; I trust the hospital, which I have checked out; and I pray and ask others to pray as well.

Recently, when my daughter was ill and needed surgery I went all out.  I had her name, in Hebrew, added to several synagogue mi’sheberach lists, which adds that person’s name to the prayers asking to heal the sick. These names are read during the Torah service, when the weekly section of Torah is read, and a special prayer, the Mi’Sheberah,  is read.

I asked family members to add her name to their synagogues’ prayer lists and to keep her in their prayers.  I asked several friends of mine who are of other faiths to add her to their prayer circles as well.   There is just one G-d, and he listens to all prayers in my mind.

I called a friend of mine, who is the wife of a Chabad rabbi, and asked that my daughter’s name be added to their mi’sheberach prayers as well.  The rebbizin asked that I meet with her before I left my trip to be with my daughter.  So I went.

She had her agenda as well.   She reminded me to check my daughter’s mezuzah.   There are those who believe that a damaged mezuzah could cause ill health.  She also suggested I make donation to charity on the day of the surgery, bringing a tzedakah box with me to the hospital.

These are two beliefs that I knew about.  Although I knew my daughter and her husband had a mezuzah on the front entrance of their house, I was not sure about other rooms.  And as for charity… well. I am not one to bring a tzedakah box to a hospital to ask others to give.  But I always donate to charity.  I just needed to find the right one for this specific event.  I needed a charity that would speak to a medical need.

Soon after I arrived at my daughter’s home in Israel, I realized they did not have a mezuzah on their bedroom entrance.   That I could rectify.  I specifically went shopping to find the perfect one to fit their home.  A small purple mezuzah cover fit that need.  But of course, the most important part was the kosher scroll.   I purchased both at a small store in Yafo.

As an additional purchase, because I guess I am a bit superstitious as well, was a hamsa.   A purple hamsa with the Sh’ma prayer on it.   I love the hamsa symbol, so it made sense to me.  (See my blog about hamsas with the link below.)

However, the most important for me was identifying the best charity to make a donation.  I needed to fulfill this part of my promise to the rebbizin.  But not just for her, so many people were praying for my daughter.  I needed to make a donation both to help others as a way to thank my friends and family.  I needed to find the perfect fit.

Then I saw in a newspaper article about two women in New York who had eliminated $1.5 million in medical debt for 1300 people by raising $12,500!  That looked like something that would fit my need perfectly!

They had given their money to RIP Medical Debt. This charity works to eliminate medical debt of those who cannot pay “by buying medical debt for pennies on the dollar and then forgive it, forever,” as the website says.  Every dollar can forgive $100!

I gave anonymously to the charity. But I am saying it here to encourage others to give to this charity as well. From now on, when someone in my family has surgery or faces a medical problem, I will be donating to RIP Medical Debt.

We are fortunate to have great health insurance and also have the finances to pay off our medical bills.  I truly believe that no one should go into debt because they could not afford the treatment!  This is one of the biggest crimes in the United State, the rationing of health care based on finances and not on need.

Luckily my daughter’s surgery was a great success.  Luckily my daughter lives in a country with universal medical care.  She will have no costs for this surgery.  I wish everyone had such wonderful insurance.  Thus for now, I will be supporting RIP Medical Debt!  A charity that perfectly fits my need to donate.

Definitions:

Rebbizin:  Rabbi’s wife

Tzedakah box:  a box to put in money to give to charity

https://jezebel.com/two-women-erased-1-5-million-of-strangers-medical-debt-1830888079

https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/mi-sheberakh-may-the-one-who-blessed/

www.ripmedicaldebt.org

https://zicharonot.com/2016/01/26/mazel-and-good-luck-my-middle-eastern-hamsa-and-native-american-hand-symbol-collection/

Halvah, My Favorite Childhood Treat

26 Dec

Sometimes walking through a store brings back a memory. It happened to me today. One minute I was walking through a grocery store in Holon, Israel, with my daughter. And in an instant I was transported back in time and place. I was in my grandparents’ bakery in West New York, New Jersey.

I am sitting at the counter while my grandparents work. In front of me are three large rectangles of a most delicious treat, halvah. My favorite, marble halvah, is in the middle. And I so want to eat some of this sesame and sugar delight. My grandmother sees me sitting there. “Just take a small piece,” she says. And I do. I carry the love of halvah with me till now.

After some weekend visits, Grandma would send a half-inch slice home with me. My father and I were the biggest halvah fans. We would savor that slice, trying to make it last for a week. A feat that was a bit difficult to achieve!

After my grandparents closed their bakery to retire, my Dad would go to the local deli to buy halvah to satisfy our family’s cravings. My sister also loved the marble halvah. She remembers, “The halvah from the deli came wrapped in wax paper inside the white deli paper, like how lox came. I think because of the innate oiliness.”

In the summertime we could always get halvah at the bakery in Monticello or the deli. Halvah was always part of our life. But moving to the Midwest took me away from this treat.

In Kansas I never see full chunks of halvah. If I am lucky I find packaged process halvah By ‘Joyva’. However it is not the same. I have not tasted this treat in at least four years, since I don’t like the taste of the processed packaged squares of what should be a delectable treat that melts in my mouth.

The sign says “Halvah and sweets.”

But there in the large supermarket, Hetzi Hinam, was an entire counter of halvah with many different flavors. It called out to me. It took me back in time. I craved it. My daughter told me to get some. But I decided no, I just took a picture. I have been regretting that decision since we came home.

I have been going through every instance of halvah memory when I was denied my treat. When my husband, then fiancée, and I were in school, I kept my halvah in his refrigerator wrapped in a plastic bag with a handwritten sign saying this was mine, “Do Not Eat”. I would bring the halvah back from New Jersey to Missouri for those moments when I really needed cheering up. You can imagine my furious anger when I found out my husband’s roommate, David, ate my halvah without my permission. Let’s just say he never did that again.

My disappointment that day was overwhelming, I can still feel my anger even now 40 years later. So although my angst is not that bad today, I keep thinking, why. Why did I deny myself this treat? I could have purchased just a small chunk. But I said no.

Part of it, I think, is that I have such high expectations of halvah. I know what I remember it should taste like. But after eating those packaged chunks I have been disappointed. So I think seeing all those lovely rectangles made me a bit afraid. What if this halvah’s taste did not match my memory?

When I had it four years ago, I also purchased it in Israel. My daughter was living in Tel Aviv then, and I purchased a piece at a little shop. It was delicious. Perhaps my fears are unfounded. I should have purchased some! I could be eating a piece right now!

Instead I am here writing about halvah, remembering the taste, and wishing I had purchased just a bit of my favorite childhood treat.

Perhaps we can go back or find another store!

For those who wonder, according to Wikipedia, “The word halva entered the English language between 1840 and 1850 from the Yiddish halva(Hebrew: חלווה‎), which came from the Turkish helva (حلوا), itself ultimately derived from the Arabic: حلوى ḥalwá, a sweet confection .