Inspire. September.

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My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.  

Maya Angelou

New Writing Space for the next six weeks. (c)2021

Vacation’s over. School’s begun. The Jewish Holidays have come and gone without nary a new goal or resolution in sight. First therapy session of the new season is in the books. And what do I have to show for it?

It’s not nothing, but I honestly don’t know.

The monthly greeting: How are you doing always feels like a trick question. If I’m fine, am I fine? If I’m okay, why am I here in the first place? Will I actually say what’s really on my mind?

*shrug*

I don’t know. Somehow, I muddle through another session, sometimes wondering why I still come. I’m not suicidal. My anxiety is under control. It is more than the familiarity and routine of it. Part of it, I know, is that having it on my calendar gives me something positive to look forward to. If I have moments of struggle or lows, I see the appointment on the calendar and it gets me through; I know it will be okay until the next time. It gives me something to strive for. Could I get through the month without this one hour? Maybe. But why risk it?

It’s a safe place. We all need them. Big, small, in public or private, look around for yours.

The fall is the beginning of my year. Will it remain so when my kids are entirely finished with school? That day is sadly growing closer, and I both dread it (for me) and relish it (for them). I also have so many ideas. So much to write about. Places I’ve traveled that I want to share about, both as reflections and travel advisories, advice, and photos. I have ideas for new series, new columns, new book ideas. I have ideas to expand my Facebook page for those of you on FB. I even have a list of prayers to write.

My six week memoir class has begun again. The library is sponsoring it, and even though they won’t let us in the library (a change since we registered), they have found us a pavilion in a local park that really gives off a super creative writing vibe. We’re gathering with some people who we haven’t seen in two years. We’re missing a long time friend who died last year (not Covid related). Hopefully, it remains warm enough for the six weeks we’ll be outside, but cool enough to keep the mosquitoes dormant. For those of us who’ve been meeting in the park for the last year, this weather is a piece of cake. The library provided clipboards and the teacher brought cushions for the picnic tables. I brought my own chair but I may swipe one of those cushions next week.

Our ongoing park-meeting group has a new inside place to meet – the local fire house!

I’m hoping all of these writing groups with assignments will inspire me for the rest of the fall and into the new year to come.

Friday Food. September.

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One of the easiest and delicious foods to make is Ambrosia Salad. It is always fresh tasting and perfect for summer and fall. I made it recently for Rosh Hashanah dessert and I’m planning on it again this week. You’ll find the ingredients below the photos.

Ambrosia. (c)2021
Ambrosia. (c)2021

Cool Whip and Sour Cream, folded together.

Can of crushed pineaapple

Can of mandarin oranges

Maraschino cherries, halved

Coconut flakes

Mini marshmallows

The beauty of this type of recipe is there is no recipe. Put in what feels right until it’s the consistency you want. When I make it again I will add two cans of mandarin oranges, but for the rest I used about 8 ounces of sour cream, half a container of Cool Whip, half a small bag of coconut flakes, and half a bag of mini marshmallows. If any of that is too much for your sweet tooth, add less. Too much, add more.

Set in the fridge for a couple of hours. Serve in a dessert bowl.

Back to School Resources

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I saved the following quotation from Stephen King for a future writing post, but I think it’s also quite appropriate for Back to School as well.

The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better.

Stephen King

The very first resource I would recommend is Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style . I have the e-book on my Kindle and it is worth every penny whichever way you choose to purchase it. I’m waiting with bated breath for the next edition from Benjamin Dreyer. I have gotten through this year by daily tearing off the pages of his Day-to-Day Calendar.

Hat tip to Mr. Dreyer himself for most of these recommendations. The first two are my own.

Is today a holiday? It could be National Cheeseburger Day. Find out here: National Day Archives

What’s another word for…? Synonyms would be the bane of my existence without this site: Thesaurus

When was the sunrise on September 15, 1938? Was that a Saturday? Find out here: Time and Date

Mr. Dreyer’s Go-To Dictionary: Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition

Webster’s Third New International Dictionary

M-W Online

@MerriamWebster on Twitter

The Free Dictionary (online)

Election Connection – Election Day 2022

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Election Day is in 49 Days!

Make a plan to vote.

RIGHT NOW!

We need to ensure that we get every seat we can in order to accomplish the American people’s agenda. Voting Rights. Reproductive Rights. End gerrymandering. Equal Justice. a non-partisan Supreme Court.

We can do it together. Let’s go.

Some places to get you started:

Vote Save America

Vote Save America: No Off Years

Democracy Docket

Fair Fight

Mental Health Monday – Back to School Edition

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For many places all across the country (and the world) it is back to school season. Some started at the very tail end of August and some of us began right after Labor Day. There is so much going on at this time of year – end of summer holidays, school days, fall weather and traditions, the Jewish Holidays, and of course, Christmas is a mere fourteen and a half weeks away. I just mentioned to my husband that between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day there are only four weekends for shopping! I’m sure that did nothing for his mental health!

Parents, teachers, and kids all have something going on in their heads that is taking control of their senses, their insecurities, theirs plans. Some things are insurmountable; at least they seem to be. Sometimes all we need is a little support, and sometimes just from ourselves.

We all have our little go-to’s to get through the day, the month, the school year, and I would love for you to share them in the comments below for the rest of us. We are a community, and we move forward by helping each other in our own little (big) ways.

Here are a few of mine:

  1. Every day is a new day. Don’t let yesterday beat you up. Forget it and move forward.
  2. At some point you realize that the supply list is a suggestion. Somethings can be substituted, especially if your family can’t afford an item. Speak to your teacher or school social worker. They are there to help you and not embarrass your child.
  3. Give your kids some time to unwind when they get home in the afternoon. There is something to be said for milk and cookies or an apple after school, including for your too cool teenagers. No one is too cool for milk and cookies. During this unwinding time you can ask non threatening questions like how was your day and do you have any homework. Save the pop psychology for dinner time – did you make any new friends, how did this thing go that you were worried about? A simple how was your day works also.
  4. This one is a tough one especially in our family: try not to have dinner too late in the evening. There are days that we’re eating dinner at 9pm and it is kind of rough for everyone. If dinner is that late, how late is bedtime? When is homework? Is there any downtime for television/family time? Sometimes you have no choice on the timing, but keep in mind the needed downtime, not only for your kids, but also for you.
  5. Be present. Whatever you’re doing in your day, if you’re home when your kids get home, be sure that you’re there for them 100% when they walk in the door. It won’t be for long – they’ll grow tired of you faster than you’ll grow tired of them and they’ll disapear into their rooms – for homework, video games, phone calls/texting with friends. For those of you not home, and there are many parents who are at work when their kids get off the bus, leave them notes, have a snack prepared and in the fridge or on the counter, call them from work (or have them call you) to check in on their day. You will hear them roll their eyes through the phone, but they will still appreciate it. Trust me.
  6. Keep your expectations in line. Be flexible. Things will not always go as planned. Work around it.

And screaming into your pillow is always a good technique.

We will all get through this time together, and we will be better for it.

Election Connection Special Edition:

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The Texas Abortion Ban

The Conservative Justices’ Reasoning in the Texas Abortion Case is Legal Mansplaining

This brilliant piece by Slate writer, Dahlia Lithwick is a must read by everyone who calls themselves pro-choice and those who don’t. The idea that the people crying ‘our body, our choice’ over masks are the same ones brutally stomping on the bodies of pregnant people. Stomping is not an exaggeration.

This law is unconstitutional, but somewhat more importantly it is unconscionable. We should be protecting women, transmen, and CHILDREN who find themselves pregnant and unready, for whatever reason, and not forcing them to give birth.

We must remember these draconian laws and constant attempts at controlling our reproduction and our bodies at every election moving forward. GET OUT THE VOTE. Each and every election.

Read the entire article, but this quote from Lithwick really brought it home for me.

The inevitable answer is chilling: This isn’t about guns or speech or money or war. It’s about women, their lives and their bodies and their autonomy. That’s what allows you to do shoddy work, with careless disregard, because who’s going to stop you? You only do the thing in the dead of night, without care or effort, because you believe women are so used to being gaslit that you expect them to just tolerate it. You only do the thing in the dead of night without care or effort because you genuinely believe that they’re only women, and they deserve what they get.

Dahlia Lithwick, Slate

September 11th: A Reflection

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September 11th, 2001.

It’s hard to believe that twenty years have passed in the blink of an eye, although I can imagine for those there that day it passed less fast. I look at my twenty-four year old who at four, I relegated to his room and cartoons so I could watch the aftermath. He was still asleep when the second plane hit the towers, but I witnessed it live on television. It was shocking. I think I tried to call my parents who live on Long Island. I don’t remember if I got through the first time. We had just seen them the day before. September 10th was very much like the 11th – a bright blue sky, fluffy white clouds, sun shining warm on the cool air of the beginnings of fall. I wouldn’t have even been awake the morning of the 11th except we were having landline trouble and the Verizon guy was outside fixing something for us. We lived on the first floor of a former carriage house, and I kept my door open to let any passersby get updates from the news that I had still going on my television. My landlord was there for some reason I can’t remember now. The door was open most of the day.

We sat in front of the television solemnly for days. We cried. We called family and friends daily, just wanting to hear their voices. It took a long time to be able to pass the nearby airport with the planes taking off and landing overhead without cringing or having a minor panic attack.

On the one month anniversary, a plane crashed. We thought it was terrorism again. We were all on edge. It wasn’t. I remember the date because my father was having surgery to remove his second leg due to diabetes complications. And then November 11th was my aunt and uncle’s wedding anniversary.

It seemed that the eleventh would be on our minds for a very, very long time, and here it is twenty years later, and on this day it feels like yesterday.

On the one year anniversary our only child (at the time) had just begun kindergarten. We kept him home from school on that first 9/11 and we took him to the NYS Museum, which was near our home and visited the 9/11 exhibit which included a partially crushed fire truck. It was profoundly moving and emotional. We weren’t the only ones in tears.

Thinking about the interim years of war and increased security, embedded journalists, two more moves, an addition of two more children, buying a house with a large yard, growing as a writer, and the loss of three parents. But there was also the election of the first Black President, a high school/college graduate, a change in religion, a diagnosis of severe depression that is continually being addressed and adjusted to.

As with my parents’ deaths, not a day goes by that I don’t think of September 11th, although it is often remembered with the beauty of September 10th, crossing the Throgs Neck Bridge, the sun reflecting off the water of the East River, viewing the World Trade Center, the Twin Towers in the distance, pointing them out to my son in the expectation of taking him there one day. He visited the memorial and museum a couple of years ago as a firefighter.

Twenty years is a long time, but it is also a heartbeat, a fraction of life. I think I’ll go outside for a bit and just be there.

Insta-Travel

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I do have plans to post a few things this week while I’m away from home. If you can’t wait for the prose, check out the Instagram link on the lower sidebar. I’ve just posted a vignette of snapshots from our first two days in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Included in the photo are:

  • Historic Site of Margeuerite Bourgeoys et Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours – outside and altar
  • Emtpy tomb of St. Kateri Tekakwitha in Kanawake (the site where she died)
  • One of the oldest doors of the first hotel in Montreal. A nearby historical buiilding is keeping its historical features and turning into an Air-bnb
  • Largest potted plant *I’ve* ever seen – Town of Mont Royal
  • Riding the Metro
  • Poulet et poutine at St. Hubert’s
  • Gelato! Creme broule, napolean, and raspberry sorbet
  • Sculpture on our walk through towards the Port of Montreal

I will try to post photos on this Instagram daily.

Any suggestions on what to see and where to go in Toronto and Niagara Falls are welcome in the comments.tm

Election Connection: NO OFF YEARS

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Vote Save America has a new campaign, and it couldn’t be more urgent for us to get involved. It is definitely not too early. In this climate of gerrymandering and voter suppression, there is no too early.

And EVERY YEAR is an Election Year!

In 2022, we need to hold the House and expand our majority in the Senate so one of two egocentric Senators can’t hold us hostage with the fantasy of bipartisanship. They couldn’t even muster bipartisanship for an investigation into an Insurrection we witnessed before our eyes that could have left some Members of Congress dead. That noose in front of the Capitol wasn’t a prop and they weren’t cosplaying. By their own admission and video confessions, they were out for blood.

Go to Crooked Media’s No Off Years and sign up to be notified of what you can do to keep our republic, to ensure our democratic values for another generation. And if you’re the praying type, pray that it isn’t too late.

Friday Food. August.

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Jacket Potatoes

The first time I had a jacket potato was in Warwick in the Warwick Castle cafe. It was a special treat. Warwick was a food oasis. We were hiking and staying in hostels and so we cooked our own meals – mueslix for breakfast, canned hash or peanut butter for lunch, hot dogs. We had eggs once. Warwick was the castle cafe and dinner at Toby’s Carving Room. No idea if it’s still there, but that was delicious.

It may have been the food on the go that made this jacket potato so amazing, but it stayed in my head for years; decades. It was simple and it was delicious.

It was simply a baked potato with stuff in and on it. I can’t remember what it contained. I have a vague memory of melted butter, freshly shredded cheddar, and sour cream, but there may have been bacon and there were definitely chives.

It became bigger than life in my memory.

When my family went to Wales a few years ago, we ate at a wonderful cafe that I had eaten at on my solo trip in 2009, The Bell Tower Cafe, and I ordered a jacket potato with a salad. It was amazing. It lived up to the memory of Warwick Castle. It was laden with cheese, and honestly on baked potato even with stuff in it doesn’t look like much, but it fills you up, and you’re set for the day. With all my instagramming, I still can’t believe I passed up the opportunity to take a picture of it!

Recently for dinner, we had roast beef, and instead of making my usual leftover meal of Shepherd’s Pie (I know, it’s cottage pie, but my mother in law was from Antrim in Northern Ireland, and if she could call it Shepherd’s Pie, then I can call it Shepherd’s Pie). But I digress. I decided instead to make jacket potatoes with the leftovers.

I baked large russet potatoes in the oven for an hour or so at 400, and when they were finished, sliced them open, added butter, an already warmed up mixture of roast beef, gravy, peas & carrots, onions, and Worcestershire sauce, topped with shredded cheddar, sour cream and chives.

As I type this, I want one right now!

Jacket Potatoes. (c)2021