All posts by Teri

The Hurricane Club

I hope you never become a member of our quickly expanding club.

But as someone all too familiar with the hurricane/flooding/seepage drill, I have some tips for the newcomers to our unfortunate alliance.

We flooded out in Hurricane Irene and then got hit again, less than one year later, during Hurricane Sandy.

The first thing you’ll need to do is throw away your furniture, all your soggy remains of irreplaceable keepsake memories, your precious photo albums, rugs, clothing, shoes, computer monitors, appliances, pretty much everything.

Then, remove all affected drywall, which for us always meant “to the studs.” Look it up.

Carefully lug and pile the thousands of pounds of the putrid, sodden remnants of your belongings into a mountain shape to avoid your used-to-be valuables from spilling onto the street.

And most importantly, immediately eviscerate the quickly growing black mold that will undoubtedly pop up and spread out. It’s nasty and hard as hell to get rid of. If you can afford an expert to take on the removal task, I recommend that you do so. Any attempt to DIY can be dangerous. If the black mold doesn’t mess up your breathing, the bleach and other chemicals you will need to use to annihilate it will surely wreak havoc on your lungs.

Oh, and keep a close watch out for termites. I learned the hard way that they love wet wood, duh.

When Hurricane Sandy made landfall on October 29, 2012, it frighteningly and ferociously plummeted our house. As the water swiftly raged down my usually quiet street, it  carried metal generators, garbage cans,  huge pieces of wood and tree branches, and nearly covered the parked cars. My husband and I were alone and regretting our decision to remain in the house.

As the water lapped onto our lawn in waves, it inched closer and closer to our front door.

We were in a panic, and grabbed towels and sheets from our linen closet, and stuffed them against our front and garage doors. The linens didn’t work out so well.

The water seeped into our garage but mercifully stopped at our front door.

That was the nightmare happening in the front of the house.

In the back of the house, right off our kitchen, I was monitoring the movement of the 70 foot Oak tree in my neighbor’s back yard.  The wind was howling through the tree’s 100-foot canopy, causing it to whip back and forth in the wind, like a weed.  And there was no doubt that it was precariously thrashing and bending in the direction of our house.

Water was gushing onto our property in the front of the house, and a ginormous tree was readying itself to come crashing down on us in the back.  I was feeling panicky, but I wanted to appear in control of the situation.  It was my stupid idea to stay put.

Then our electricity went out so we could no longer see the torrent of water in the front of the house. I guess that was a good thing.

But it wasn’t dark enough in the back of the house to camouflage that damn solid Oak tree literally pulled from its roots, and looming in our direction.

I strongly suggested to my husband that we go up to our bedroom, which was the highest room in the house, to escape the treacherous storm surge.  He adamantly disagreed and suggested we go down into the basement. He was fairly confident that if the tree came down, it would in all probability crash into our bedroom.

I reluctantly agreed with his analysis.

But the basement?  The water was heaving itself onto our front lawn in wave after wave, and he wanted to move in the downward direction?

It was a surreal conversation.

Do we take our chances in the basement and hope that the water wouldn’t crash through the windows and drown us? Or do we move to higher ground and chance getting gored by Oak tree branches?

As we argued in the hallway about whether we should go up or down, there was a massive crash in the back of our house, which sent a shock wave through the entire structure.

After a long bear hug, my husband looked at me and weirdly casually said: “Well let’s see if the tree is in our house.”

As we crept up our stairs, we saw bright crackling and spits of flame through the kitchen window. That not so grand old Oak lay a mere three feet from our house, which was a miraculous thing.  The 70-foot behemoth with its 100-foot canopy had smashed onto our property, taking fences, trees, electrical lines, our deck, and everything else in its path with it.

It also took off a small piece of our jutting roof, but the rest of our house and our lives had thankfully been spared.

I recall grabbing my husband in terror as he calmly looked out at the crackling wires on the tree and then quietly announced: “We can go up to the bedroom now.”

The next few days were nightmarish. But as a member of the Hurricane Club, we had been down this devastating road before. So we began the arduous task of cleaning up.

Except one week later, we had an early season snowstorm which dumped more than a foot of snow on us.

Fortunately, the coastal flooding from the storm was minor, but it brought any hope of recovery to a screeching halt.

Immediately following Hurricane Sandy, gas stations were out of gasoline, there were slim pickings at the only walkable grocery store, whole boulevards had been washed away, and rebuilding seemed like an impossible task.

For close to three weeks we endured no heat, no electricity, and only ice cold water for showers. Thankfully our toilets were working.  But our cell phones were dead, so it was difficult to communicate with the outside world.

We were in survival mode. And it was freezing cold in our house. Our paltry supply of food and drinks were packed into coolers we found in our soggy garage, now strewn about on our destroyed deck.

And then of course there was that damned tree, a reminder of the work ahead of us.

 

But survive we did.

As we walked through our neighborhood, the devastation was heartbreaking. Amidst the snow drifts, downed trees cut off many of the streets, houses were demolished, rotting dead fish were oddly strewn about, and workers who had come from all over the country to assist in the recovery and rebuilding were assessing the damage.

Reminders of Hurricane Sandy are still everywhere. Five years later, many victims are still recovering and rebuilding.

With the arrival of Harvey and Irma, the Hurricane Club will sadly be expanding its membership.

Irma, who has already ripped through the Caribbean, now has her sights on Florida.

As someone who survived Sandy, I would strongly advise anyone in Irma’s path to get the hell out of dodge.

And then courageously prepare for the new normal.

Memento Park in Budapest Hungary

Political rage over statues is old news.

Approximately two hundred thousand Hungarians gathered in Budapest on October 23, 1956 to demonstrate against Communism and in sympathy for the Poles who had just gained political reform. One of the sixteen demands the Hungarians broadcast over the radio was the dismantling of Stalin’s statue.

And dismantle it they did.

The 82-foot high monument of Stalin was ripped down and smashed on that day by enraged anti-Soviet crowds, leaving only his boots, in which they planted a Hungarian flag.

The statue of Stalin was demolished, leaving only his head in the middle of downtown Budapest.

Twelve days later, on November 4, Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest and crushed the national uprising. Thousands were killed and wounded and nearly a quarter-million Hungarians fled the country.

What happened to Stalin’s boots I don’t know.

But a replica of those boots is on display in Memento Park, a remote open-air museum, high up in the hills of Budapest.

Also known as Memorial Park and Statue Park, this is also where 42 Soviet statues and monuments, removed from Budapest, immediately following the fall of communism, have ended their days.

After World War II, many colossal statues glorifying communist heroes and ideals were erected across Budapest by the occupying Soviet forces.

Immediately following the political changes in 1989, the future of the statues created and displayed during the communist regime caused heated debates. Many Hungarians reacted with hatred and wanted all statues, monuments, and symbols of the dictatorship destroyed.

It was László Szörényi, a literary historian who first mentioned the idea of a Statue Park in a 1989 article. The leaders of the new, democratic political system agreed with Mr. Szörényi.

In December 1991 the Assembly of Budapest came to a decision that districts should choose which statues they wanted to be preserved, and rather than demolishing them, they would be taken down and collectively placed in a park.

Since it was a sensitive and complex project, the Assembly announced an architectural design competition, which Hungarian architect Ákos Eleőd won.

Memento Park celebrated its grand opening on June 29, 1993, which was also the second anniversary of the withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Hungarian territory.

Mr. Eleőd had this to say about Memento Park: “This park is about dictatorship. And at the same time, because it can be talked about, described, built, this park is about democracy. After all, only democracy is able to give the opportunity to let us think freely about dictatorship.”

Several years ago, after a long day of touring in and around Budapest, my husband came up with the brilliant idea to “run” over to Memento Park and view the communist-era statues moved there.

It was 4 pm in the afternoon and the last thing I wanted to do after untold hours of touring was to take a 90-minute bus ride to see a bunch of commie statues.  Plus, the park closed at 6 pm which meant that we would have about 30 minutes to see the whole Soviet shebang.

The bar in the lobby of our hotel was calling my name.

Communist-era statues exiled to some unknown suburb hours away—or a very dry, very dirty martini?

It seemed like a no-brainer to me, so I told my husband “no thanks.”

As an aside, my at-home husband is a couch potato. He loves to hang around the house, play online chess, watch documentaries about Einstein, and lazily mosey on and around our deck and patio.

My vacay-husband never stops for one second; a whirlwind of running here, there, and everywhere, to see everything, anything, and nothing.

The bottom line for me is that vacationing with my husband is grueling, exhausting and mostly torturous.

So not surprisingly, he completely ignored my “no thanks,” grabbed my hand and off we literally ran to catch the last bus going to a graveyard of banished statues in the middle of nowhere.

My martini would obviously have to wait.

As the bus climbed the hills toward Memento Park, it was dusk, and slightly creepy.  The highway was deserted, and there were ginormous electric towers everywhere.

As I curiously glanced out at the doom and gloom sky, mostly obstructed by the towering power lines, I noticed a looming dark, colossal and menacing man, seemingly running in the distance.

I got goose bumps all over my body as we inched closer and closer toward the mammoth statues and monuments.

The gigantic monoliths of communist dictators and fictional role models from the era of repression rose menacingly above a massive concrete wall.

We had gone from modern-day Budapest into the past, traveling on a dreary and empty road toward a dark fortress. I was lost in thought imagining myself in an oppressive regime who had gained control over an entire country by creating a cult around looming tyrant personalities.

It was almost 5:30 pm when the bus pulled up to the entrance. We only had 30 minutes to walk around, so we tried to make the best use of our time.

And since we were the last bus to arrive, there were only a handful of visitors making the park all the eerier.

At the entrance stood two intimidating and imposing statues; one of Lenin on the left and the other of Marx on the right.

Two single story timber structures house the internal exhibition space, their design intended to replicate internment camp buildings.

Mounted on a soaring stone base was a replica of the massive boots of Josef Stalin, representative of all that was left of the towering statue when it was famously pulled down in the 1956 uprising.  Though the revolution had been brutally crushed by Communist forces, the replica of the boots remained a reminder of the thousands who died in the Hungarian uprising.

The exhibited items ranged from giant statues of workers, heroes and party leaders to plaques commemorating various communist events.

Standing next to these massive monuments was unnerving and I immediately felt the terror of their primary purpose. They were meant to intimidate and tower above everybody.

And despite the fact that they were now merely a collection of stone, metal, and bronze from a bleak past, and far away from their original locations, they still held enormous power over my psyche.

The statues and monuments were imposing, but the design neither made a mockery of them nor honored them. And yet I still felt fear.

There was one character conspicuously absent. There were no surviving statues of Stalin. I was told by one of the staffers that they had all been devoured by the mobs before they could be saved.

Viewing the enormous statues was an eye-opener for me. And I was actually able to visualize history through those symbols—standing in their former prominent places throughout Budapest—and I was glad that they had been removed.

Though magnificent works of art, the symbolism of those towering monuments would have been a constant reminder to people of how great and powerful the Soviet system was in Hungary, a dark part of their past that they did not want to remember or celebrate.

And seeing them all together in Memento Park made it hard to believe that it had been less than 20 years ago that Hungary was part of the Soviet bloc.

Approximately 40,000 people visit Memento Park yearly. The park is the property of the Hungarian State but is operated as a private venture supported by revenue from ticket prices and earnings from the souvenir shop.

Those sky-high statues and monuments removed from their original locations years earlier pained me and offered a glimpse into the propaganda and official narratives that dominated Hungarian public life for the better part of half a century.

Thanks to the decision to remove and save the statues and monuments, they have been forever preserved and accessible for viewing, albeit in a very different context.

In their current resting place, the statues and monuments placed by the Communists in and around Budapest now serve as a reminder of the oppression felt by the people of Budapest and Hungary during the regime.

István Schneller, the Chief Architect of Budapest from 1994-2006 had this to say about the monuments:

“These statues are a part of the history of Hungary. Dictatorships chip away at, and plaster over their past in order to get rid of all memories of previous ages. Democracy is the only regime that is prepared to accept that our past with all the dead ends is still ours; we should get to know it, analyse it and think about it.”

Call Yesterday What It Was: Domestic Nazi Terrorism

In Charlottesville Virginia yesterday, many white supremacists/Nazis chanted “You will not replace us, Jew will not replace us.”

A clever play on words. You rhymes with Jew, right?

No. There was nothing clever about those hateful words spewing out of hateful people.

You = Jew.

Yesterday, Richard Spencer, a prominent white nationalist/Nazi, and domestic terrorist vowed this: “You think that we’re going to back down from this kind of behavior to you and your provincial town? We are going to make Charlottesville the center of the universe.”

On July 12, 2015, Trump had this to say to the Phoenix people: “Don’t worry, we’ll take our country back.”

So it should have come as no surprise when yesterday, on August 12, 2017, the Nazi, David Duke said this: “We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump and take our country back.”

“Jew will not replace us.”

“Take our country back.”

What do these hateful words mean exactly?

Well, I know full well what “Jew will not replace us” means.

But take our country back from whom?

To anyone out there who thinks yesterday’s Nazi fiasco was okay, I am inviting you to man and woman up and say what’s on your mind.

For a girl will someday be a woman. And a boy will someday be a man.

Speak up. I’m a big girl/Jew. I can take it.

WHO DO YOU WANT TO TAKE OUR COUNTRY BACK FROM?

Get a backbone and spell it out for me.

Say it plain and simple.

Do you hate Jews? Blacks? Gays? Mexicans? Muslims? Everybody and anybody who’s not like you?

Don’t say it behind my back. Say it to my face.

Be straightforward.

And please don’t tell me you know a few Jews who are good people, or that you have a Jewish friend.

BE CAREFUL
Be careful of your thoughts,
for your thoughts become your words.

Be careful of your words,
for your words become your action.

Be careful of your action,
for your action become your habits.

Be careful of your habits,
for your become your character.

Be careful of your character,
for your character becomes your destiny.
~ Author Unknown

Freedom of Speech via Blood and Bones

Trump, Jeff Sessions, and the rest of his administration are trying hard to undermine and erode our press freedoms. I say good luck with that.

As American citizens, the appalling and worrisome efforts by our president to suppress our free press and freedom of speech should be our “red line.”

And I have unquestionable faith that if ever our press freedoms are in real jeopardy, most of us will do whatever it takes to protect our right to speak freely and the written word.

I must say though, that I am unnerved and alarmed not to be able to write “all” of us.

It is my belief and faith in “most” of my fellow citizens that Trump and his political lackeys underestimate the power of the written word.

Below is a heartbreaking but hopeful story about freedom of information, and the unsinkable power of the written word.

Syrian human rights activist Mansour Omari was arrested in his Damascus office in February 2012.

His crime? Fighting for freedom of speech.

For his offense, Mr. Omari spent close to a year in a series of wretched prisons.

Nine of those months were spent in a fetid underground jail overseen by Maher al-Assad, the brother of the brutal dictatorial Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The why and how Mr. Omari was released still remains unclear, but while he was detained he never gave up on the written word and the power of information.

On Tuesday, August 8, Mr. Omari carefully and tenderly laid out five scraps of worn material that had secretly traveled with him in the collar and cuffs of his shirt, to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s preservation center.

Those five scraps contained the names of 82 prisoners in the faith and hope of informing their families of their whereabouts as well as to document the atrocities against them.

The fading names on the five scraps, which included the prisoners’ names and location, were scratched on small bits of fabric cut from the backs of their shirts.

The invaluable information written on those five measly strips was produced by using broken chicken bones from their paltry food rations as pens, and a mixture of blood from their rotting gums and flakes of rust from their iron prison bars as ink.

The written word in blood and bones.

The scraps of priceless information were carefully and secretly sewn into Omari’s shirt, as ruthless Syrian government guards fastidiously watched over them.

Omari eventually smuggled those bloody scraps out of his deplorable underground prison, past brutal Syrian government forces, and safely across oceans.

Nothing was going to stop Mr. Omari from immortalizing the names of his fellow prisoners.

Let Mr. Omari serve as a courageous and heroic symbol of the power of the written word and the lengths someone will go to disseminate information and stand up for truth and justice.

 

Just Call Me Chicken Little

I recently posted the following messages on my Facebook page:

“Right before Trump’s recent visit to Poland, the White House insisted that he be met by cheering crowds. So Poland’s authoritarian and nationalist Law and Justice Party accommodated Trump and bused in untold numbers of cheering crowds who created the illusion of a strong American leader adored by masses of foreign citizens. WOW.”

Followed by:

“Too many people take for granted the freedoms we enjoy in this country. Instead of the left and right and everyone in between going after each other, we should take an “honest” look at what is going on and have the guts to speak up for the truth.”

A Facebook friend replied to my posts with the following four words:

“Don’t worry Chicken Little.”

CHICKEN LITTLE ??????

Now I remember those delicious mini sandwiches at KFC called Chicken Littles. (BTW, only people who were born before the 1970’s will remember the fried chicken square, topped with a weensy piece of lettuce and thrown into a mayo ladened bun.)

[I’m pretty sure that my friend wasn’t accusing me of being a chicken sandwich.]

I distantly recalled a children’s book having something to do with a worried hen, but I had all but forgotten the story line, so I looked it up.

I quickly discovered that Chicken Little was indeed a character in a book also titled Henny Penny.

So I kicked off my research frenzy with:

Henny Penny – The Book
Convinced by Chicken Little that the sky is falling, Henny Penny and a band of gullible friends march off to tell the king, only to meet their end at the hands of a wily fox.

[Whoa. Henny Penny and her gullible friends met their end? I’m most certain my friend meant me no physical harm.]

But Henny Penny’s unhappy ending caused me to curiously type on.

Chicken Little – The Book
A folk tale about a chicken who, when struck on the head by an object from above, believes the sky is falling, and the world is coming to an end, causing widespread panic.

[To be clear, I Facebook spoke about fake crowds and telling the truth. Who ever said the world was coming to an end? Although I’ll admit, I do believe civility in politics has come to an end. But could my words actually cause widespread panic?]   

And lo and behold, through my continuing and admittedly obsessive research, I discovered that in 2005 Chicken Little was made into a movie!

Chicken Little – The Movie
Chicken Little mistakes a falling acorn for a piece of the sky. After ruining his reputation, the young and inexperienced chicken is determined to restore his good name. But just as things are going his way, a real piece of the sky lands on Chicken Little’s head. Now he has to figure out how to come to the rescue of his fellow citizens against the aliens who have started an invasion.

[Hmm. Was my friend suggesting that I had ruined my reputation by posting that people were bused into the streets of Warsaw Poland to fake-cheer for Trump? If so, how will I ever restore my good name? And as an aside, don’t expect me to come to the rescue of anyone, because I am a bit of a…chicken.]

Once I googled around, there was no end to the Chicken Little definitions.

Chicken Little (Two Words) – Urban Dictionary
A man with a little penis.

[Obvi not what my friend accused me of, but I do know of a certain “someone” who was accused by Marco Rubio of having this “situation.”]  

Chickenlittle – Urban Dictionary – One Word
Nickname for someone who is dumb.

[I sure hope my friend doesn’t think I’m dumb! Being called dumb wouldn’t be a Facebook-friend deal breaker, but to quote our President, it’s not nice, it’s not fair, and it’s mean mean mean.]

Chicken Little – The Merriam-Webster Dictionary – Two Words
An alarmist or doomsayer. A euphemism for doomsday preppers. Someone who makes a big deal out of nothing. A person who constantly warns that a calamity is imminent. A vociferous pessimist. Someone who makes a big production out of a small event.

[Okay, I will agree that I can be overly pessimistic. Or maybe you could call me realistic. And you got me because I admit that I do think Trump is a calamity waiting to happen. But to be fair, a lot of people feel that way.]

Now you may think what I’m going to say next is way off track, but I can’t help my pessimistic self, so stay with me. Don’t go anywhere yet.

This past Wednesday, Trump called Venezuela’s President Maduro a “bad leader who dreams of becoming a dictator.”

Should we call Trump “Chicken Little” because he thinks President Maduro of Venezuela is the opposite of nice, and that he has managed to do a lot of unfair things such as:

  • Demeaned his opponents, including but not limited to journalists, governors, mayors, and even his attorney general.
  • Dismantled Venezuela’s rule of law.
  • Overly uses the phrase: “We need order and justice.”
  • Packed the Supreme Court with his loyalists and cronies of his political party.
  • Appointed Judges who have been overturning laws he and his party oppose.
  • Approved the Supreme Court’s ruling to dissolve the legislature entirely (This move provoked a “Chicken Little” outcry by hundreds of thousands in Venezuela, so the decision was reversed for now.)
  • Created a political body called the “National Constituent Assembly” who will be tasked with rewriting Venezuela’s Constitution and restructure or dismantle any branch of government seen as disloyal to the president and his political party.

Call me stupid, but it looks like Venezuela’s democratic sky is indeed falling.

So go ahead—call me Chicken Little if you so choose.

I haven’t said the sky is falling—yet.

Because I pride myself in thinking that I am part of the media truth tellers.  And all that talk of fake news, is well, fake. All trumped up so to speak.

And I’m not an alarmist—unless it’s time to be alarmed.

If I cry out that “the sky is falling,” in all likelihood, it will be.

Every Shoe Tells a Story


I recently spent a euphoric family sleepover weekend at home with my loved ones.

In the middle of a sleepless night, as my loved ones slept, I passed the pile of shoes near the front door and was compelled to photograph them.

Proof that although I was stressed and sleepless, love was all around me.

The image of my families’ footwear told the story, without my having to say one word.

The adult female and male shoes, baby girl shoes, and little boy shoes, helter skelter in the entrance way was the dead giveaway that a lot of my favorite people were “in the house.”

As I recently combed through my phone photos, the shoe image jumped out causing me to pause and reflect on the whole shoe thing.

Shoes can speak volumes about a person and their personality. And shoes can often times speak for themselves.

They can also serve as a symbol for family gatherings, historical events, and more.

No matter what the situation, shoes will most likely tell a story.

Where have your shoes taken you? What do your shoes say about you? If someone were to spend a day in your shoes, what would they experience?

Early in my life, I recall feeling horribly embarrassed by my shoes. Many of them had been purchased at the Salvation Army, and because my feet were so big (I still wear close to a size 9), I often wore boys shoes.

And everyone has heard the old adage: You can tell a man by his shoes.

Two starkly different perceptions are conjured up in my head when thinking about my view of shoes: The dark vs. the lighter visual.

The light side first:

My babies’ first pair of shoes. (How I wish I would have bronzed them). My daughter’s orthopedic ankle-high boot that attached to a bar brace at night, ballet slippers, tap shoes, and her first pair of heels. My son’s first pair of soccer cleats, ice skates, and wing tips. And all those uber-expensive sneakers the kids insisted they had to have because everyone else was wearing them.

My despised but admittedly comfortable saddle shoes I was forced to wear at Saint Ambrose Catholic School for eight long years, my white go-go boots, penny loafers, and Mary Jane’s.

My first pair of designer shoes; Manolo Blahnik’s bought in error. After an afternoon of champagne celebrating at the Four Seasons, I saw a gorgeous pair of black bowed heels in a store window. When I tried them on they fit like a glove. I thought the price on the box said $77.00. I charged them in my champagne stupor, and only realized on the train ride home that my receipt said $770.00. Non-refundable.  What a difference a 0 can  make.

If you are a regular reader of my blog posts, you know there will always be the darker, more sinister side of things.

The dark side now:

I insisted on burying my grandmother in her slippers because she always complained that her bunions were killing her. Except lung cancer killed her in the end.

On 9/11, as the towers burned and then crumbled, women yanked off their high-heels so they could flee the cataclysm as quickly as possible. Heels don’t make for fast running. A pink spike here, a wing tip there. Blood-stained, dusty, almost-unrecognizable shoes from that unfathomable Tuesday. One woman got her shoe and foot caught in a piece of twisted steel and thought she would die there. Someone helped to free her foot, and she recovered her shoe. He saved her life but she never found him to offer her thanks. Maybe he died. Others discarded their shoes as they trudged through stairwells flooded with water from fire sprinklers. And the entire floor of the Battery Park tunnel was strewn with shoes from people taking them off to run as fast as fast could run.

A grisly photograph sent to me by a colleague of a pile of bloody shoes belonging to victims from a site of a terrorist blast in Kabul, Afghanistan on July 23, 2016.  Some still had bodiless feet and legs attached to them.

On a visit to D.C., a lone pair of dirty old boots left at the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

And the hundreds of shoes piled high at the Washington, D.C. Holocaust Museum. In a room full of smelly, nauseatingly musty shoes. Heels, flats, sandals, loafers, wide, narrow, old, new, worn, withered, scuffed, colorful, dark, white, leather, cloth. Men’s and women’s shoes. And baby shoes. Lots and lots of baby shoes. A mountain of baby shoes. No missed bronzing opportunities for them.

On the wall of the shoe room was the following poem by Moses Schulstein:

We are the shoes. We are the last witnesses.
We are shoes from grandchildren and grandfathers
From Prague, Paris, and Amsterdam.
And because we are only made of fabric and leather
And not of blood and flesh,
Each one of us avoided the Hellfire.

 

 

 

 

 

The Common Sense Party

I think it’s time for a new political direction. And maybe even a new party.

I like the sound of the Common Sense Party because it speaks volumes about the current situation.

And a new party completely meshes with the various debates I’ve recently had with family, friends, and colleagues who are on both sides of the political spectrum.

Republicans currently control the Senate and the House, and almost two-thirds of governor’s offices. Over the past nine years, Republicans have gained about 1,000 seats in the state legislature and currently dominate at a rate not seen since the Civil War.

Republicans control both chambers in 32 states, including 17 with veto-proof majorities.

I keep asking myself how it is possible that so many U.S. citizens are okay with the
the top one-tenth of 1 percent owning more than the entire bottom 90 percent.

Can someone in the 90% please answer that question for me?

Last month Republican Congress approved one of the cruelest pieces of legislature in history.

And yet many Americans don’t seem to care that 23 million of us may soon be without health insurance while billionaires will enjoy ridiculously generous tax breaks.

And according to the Congressional Budget Office, not only would the American Health Care Act leave 23+ million of us without insurance but they also warned that premiums for older workers and lower income Americans would soar.

A month ago, while cases of celebratory beer were wheeled into the Capitol, President Trump praised the House version of the AHCA. Last week Trump called it “mean.”

Thanks for your flip-flop and take-charge input Mr. President.

Speaking of take-charge, the Republicans seem to be in charge of everything these days.

Well, maybe not everything.

Powerful corporations with selfish agendas also have significant influence over all things economic and political in our country.

So here it is folks: Republicans and big business are the now the masters of the American universe.

They are winning, bigly.

The Republicans insist that low taxes on the rich are the key to prosperity.

Prosperity for who?

Not the struggling middle class. Not the lower income Americans.

And now the American Health Care Act Part Two is in the competent hands of the Republican Senators, right?

But why is the plan top secret? And why are there no female Senators in on their cloak-and-dagger pet project?

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell created a working group of 13 male senators, including himself to work on the health care bill. He made sure to include staunch conservatives and ardent foes of the Affordable Care Act, but not one woman.

Thirteen senators in the group and Mitch couldn’t give one of those seats to a female?

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat in New York’s 12th District, said it best: “Women are half of the population but make up only 19.4 percent of Congress.”

Shouldn’t every woman in America be alarmed by that?

The Middle class keeps shrinking, women continue to get the shaft, and the poor are getting poorer, while Republicans are focused on providing the top 1% with $3 trillion in tax cuts.

Why are Americans allowing our government to coddle and reward the 1%?

What about the rest of us?

Why aren’t the 99% of Americans outraged that while we struggle to get health care, housing, education, and even clean drinking water, the Republicans along with the 1% hold our purse strings?

Here is why America is in this pickle:

The United States has one of the lowest election turnouts of any major country on earth.

Sad but true.

And think of it this way: If liberals voted at the same rate as conservatives, Hillary Clinton would be president and the Democrats would control the Senate.

Some will say that would have been terrible, which is why a new political party might be what’s needed to heal our wounds and come together as one America.

An America that works for all of us, not just the 1%.

In 2016, 43% of eligible Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 voted in the presidential election, vs. 71% of Americans over the age of 65.

Midterm elections were even worse: In 2014, 17% of Americans between 18 and 24 voted, compared to 59% of seniors. An appalling 36.7% of eligible voters cast ballots in 2014.

Think about that. Do the youth in America not realize that this land is their land?

Stop texting and listen up kids: Are you completely oblivious to what’s happening to your future? Americans over 65 had their turn. It’s your turn now. The future is up to you. Start voting already.

Otherwise the GOP keep on winning. And a YUGE tax cut for the wealthy is on its way.

I will end this blog post with a recent quote from Speaker Paul Ryan: “Transformational tax reform can be done, and we are moving forward. Full speed ahead.”

Full speed ahead.

Where’s the outrage?

And can someone organize the next massive protest march ASAP?

Father-Daughter Dance

If you know me, or my blog, I often write about being fatherless, and its cause and effect on the past 60+ years of my life.

The annual Father-Daughter Dance at St. Ambrose School in Bridgeport Connecticut during the early 60’s, was the blockbuster event of the year.

For me, it was the tragic reality that as the only one in my class without a father, I couldn’t go.

The nuns, of course, knew of my fatherlessness, and were vicious about it; whispering gossip to each other about me and my unusual family unit.

As a divorcée, my mother was excommunicated by the Catholic Church. As such, she was deemed a sinner by St. Ambrose and as her child so was I.

The nuns accused me of sinning, while the parents of my friends labeled my home broken.

So from grades 1-8, I enviably sat that dance out.

But oh how my imagination ran wild.

I conjured up in my young inventive head how magical the night would be.

Me the belle of the Father-Daughter ball, sparkling in a Cinderella gown, and my father the most handsome man in the room, dressed to kill in a fancy tuxedo.

All eyes would be on us as we made our grand entrance into the transformed cafeteria and danced and twirled the unforgettable night away.

Everyone in attendance would ooh and aah at the bedazzled and priceless diamond necklace my father had surprised me with.

And no chintzy corsage for me. My wrist was adorned with a matching dazzling diamond bracelet.

I envisioned posing for the Father–Daughter photo, a swarm of paparazzi bulbs popping all around the two of us.

NOT.

Year after lousy year I was harshly reminded of the sin, the broken home, the fatherless void.

  

The U.S. Needs a Presidential Candidate Like Macron In 2020

Thirty-nine-year-old French President Emmanuel Macron has lectured Putin and faced down Trump’s aggressive handshake.

He has been in office for less than three weeks, and has already asserted himself as a top-down operator and shown the world what “Presidential” means.

Like the United States, French politics are sharply divided along ideological lines between the left and right.

Macron has been described as a nimble politician who is able to juggle two opposing viewpoints at once.

“And at the same time,” is a catch phrase Macron uses in most of his speeches to reflect his ability to strategically balance.

His willingness to find a middle ground appealed to many French voters who didn’t see themselves as adequately represented by any of the other presidential candidates.

And that strategically balanced middle ground is the reason why Macron became the President of France.

As I fervently read as much about him as possible, and then watched him tackle Putin and Trump head on, I quickly deduced that the U.S. could use a politician like Macron.

Bigly.

If there any U.S. Macron’s out there who can save us from this political dogfight, please show yourself! Democrat, Republican, Independent, whatever.

Throughout Macron’s campaign, he emphasized his concern that France and its partner Germany were being threatened by two unpredictable behemoths: Trump’s America and Russia.

Trump’s America.

On the eve of Trump’s announcement that the U.S. would pull out of the Paris climate deal, Macron was blunt about the consequences of that decision.

In a phone call to Trump, Macron reportedly sternly told him that France would continue to work with the U.S., but not on climate change.

He also issued a joint written statement with Germany and Italy directly affirming that the Paris accords would not be renegotiated.

And then he did what no other French President has ever done:

Last night, while he started off in French, he strayed away from the cherished national tongue by speaking to his country, and the world, in English and broadsided Trump.

He chided Trump’s decision to abandon the global climate pact calling it an “error for the interests of his country, his people and a mistake for the future of our planet.

“Don’t be mistaken on climate; there is no plan B because there is no planet B,” Macron said solemnly.

And then Macron spoke directly to Americans, asking scientists, entrepreneurs, and committed citizens to “Come here with us to work together on concrete solutions for our climate.” He also reassured Americans that “The world believes in you. I know that you are a great nation.”

As he spoke those words, I felt his sincerity, and they struck me as ironic, and got me thinking about his view of America vs. Trump’s America.

That Macron believes in all Americans, not just some Americans.

And that this isn’t about  Trump. This is bigger than Trump. This is about who we are as a nation. All of us, not just some of us.

And when Macron purposefully ended his speech by asking the world to “Make our planet great again,” I couldn’t help but feel slightly vindicated, but mostly hopeful.

Today, EU officials have decided to cut out Trump’s White House and deal directly with the U.S. states and major corporations, many of whom have already pledged to live by the terms forged in Paris. A truly brilliant move.

Albus Dumbledore, the wizard who tutored Harry Potter in the ways of the world, said it best: There will be a time when we must choose between what’s easy and what’s right.

While Trump is playing checkers, the EU is playing chess.

Looks like Trump got trumped.  Checkmate.

 

 

Their Jewelry, My Armor

I honor those whom I have loved and lost, by wearing their jewelry.

Piece by treasured piece, I armor myself.

With each piece chosen, I conjure up my relatives. I visualize them wearing the jewelry, and fondly remember what they meant to me.

There is a vulnerable yet powerful aura of presence in those family jewels.  And each piece worn has a purpose and an emotional, familial implication.

I turn to my “loved” collection for inspiration, when I need a reminder of my self-worth or a quick family fix.

As I review the collection and consider what to wear, I am surrounded by my lost, much-loved and much-missed family.

The mere act of choosing makes me teary-happy and reconnects me to my almost forgotten past. I also feel empowered and protected.

My coat of armor. My security shield. My ancestral weapon. My bauble blankie.

The ritual of selecting is calculated, and my choices are deliberately sentimental. And I never seek out the most expensive, or the prettiest pieces.

I bedeck myself in the jewels of my lost ones to keep them close to my physical self. It’s as simple as that.

I also don my lucky charms to mark a significant day in their lives or mine. And depending on the occasion, I know exactly what needs to be worn.

On my cousin’s birthday, for example, I wear all things Pamela, or on Mother’s Day, my grandmother’s locket.

I consider my jewelry menagerie to be not just the ultimate in intimate accessorizing but a source of spiritual strength and confidence.

To describe the physical and emotional feeling of their jewelry against my skin is to use words like moved, respected, honored, remembered; missed.

Dearly missed.

The peace in every piece gladdens me, and yet it also saddens and reminds me that too many have died; some way too soon and way too young.

Ironically, many of the lives of those I loved didn’t overlap; the only commonality was their love for me.

Sometimes the choosing tears at my heart. That very heart they all so lovingly touched.

How I wish I could go back in time and appreciate my loved ones more. I so often took their love and their lives for granted, assuming they would be with me a lot longer than they were.

Now, they are but a ring, a pendant, a statement piece.

I am hopeful that when I am gone my “loved” collection will get divvied up among those nearest and dearest to me.

But will they want it? And will they wear it? It gives me solace to imagine that they will indeed cherish those treasured adornments that meant so much to me.

So that the love I had for my lost ones and the love they had for me would be forever memorialized through their jewelry—and mine.

The possibility that somewhere somehow, we all won’t be gone without a trace.