Mom, I’m Not Really That Bad

So… this must be written about. I’m a little slow this week, the week has gone by me too fast, partially a product of total non-productivity last weekend; I didn’t make the slightest dent in my ever-growing list. Friday night… the boy wonder is off and running with his buddies as usual. Supposed to call by 9:30 or so. Calls at 10:15 says they are at the ocean walk at the movies. I say ok, dome right home after the movie. I thought they were just starting so I figured 12:30 or 1 a.m. I later learned that he had come out in the midde to call when he realized the time. But I digress. I went to bed. Dad came to bed at 2, I asked if the boy wonder was home. No, he growled. I got up, turned the porch light back on and proceeded to stay up most of the rest of the night. The good news is I pretty much knew where he was and proceeded there at the crack of dawn to drag his skinny butt home. All the parents know how the night was, long and agonizing. He is generally a very good kid and does very little to complain about. What is amusing about all this is that in discussing the consequences, first he just cried and sulked. Then he said “well, if I was kidnapped or dead you still wouldn’t have known where I was and you wouldn’t have grounded me; after all, all I did was fall asleep.” (I’m thinking this is my fault; the son of a lawyer, what did I expect?) When that didn’t fly he came back with “I agree that there should be consequences, it is fair, but I want to impose them on myself, I don’t want you to do it.” So I am left trying to decide whether he has a finely tuned sense of justice or….I don’t know. He just keeps saying “mom, I’m not really that bad. I could be using drugs, running the streets, flunking school.” The real problem is, he’s right.

Sukkot

I learned today that this is a most complex festival, particularly the timing…who knew. This festival, coming hard on the heels of Yom Kippur, is an affirmation of our relationship with God, with faith and with our own best selves. The sukkah, we know and we are told, is a fragile thing; a frail construct that we beautify with the work of our hands and our imaginings of harvests we no longer participate in. But the roof of the Sukkah is left open to the sky, to God. This is in contrast with our homes, our usual dwellings, which represent our wealth, our prosperity, our worldly achievements. These structures are closed; they surround us and keep nature out. The Sukkah invites not only nature, but God, in.
There are a great many ideas about Sukkot but I like this one: that we live in our sukkah to be open to God; to demonstrate that we live by faith and not by our earthly goods.
We are living in a time in which our material prosperity is crumbling around us. I felt this idea in the parsha deeply because everywhere I turn there is a story. A story of someone’s misfortune, distress, loss and fear of what the future might bring. Everyone is struggling in some way. Many have lost their jobs, many are fearful of losing them, many have lost their life savings, their 401K or retirement money, many are losing their homes or fear they will – with good reason. Parents are less worried about the long term and more worried about how to fill their cars, feed their families and keep the lights on.
People are very afraid, and yet we have just come from affirming our faith in our Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur observances. But…. we are not accustomed to living by our faith; living in our faith. We are accustomed to find comfort, our security, in our houses, our jobs and our bank accounts. In this parsha, God covenants with us that God’s grace and mercy are available to us, at all times and in all places. All at once the Sukkah, open to God, seems the more durable of the two structures, a house built by faith and not by money, which seems the more transient currency.

Introspective Holidays

So…the two biggie holidays for Jews are just past. Smack in the middle of two weeks in a row. These holidays demand introspection, self-examination and, if possible, reflective self-improvement. Despite a chronically busy life, I always enjoy these holidays, and the accompanying thoughtfulness. It was hard this year, however, to focus inward with the world crashing down around our ears and the election looming as one of the most important of my lifetime. There is a line in our liturgy that says something like, this group confession is ok if you have offended God, but it is not good enough if you have hurt another person. For that, you must make real amends. I don’t actually think too many people notice this, or take it particularly seriously. I like this idea a lot; that what you do to real people, here on earth, during your lifetime, is what really counts. In other words, say what you will, its your actions that count. We could all use a little of this. A little less greed, arrogance, self-righteousness and a little more empathy, compassion and humility. This might have been a good idea on Wall Street too, even in the presidency (think about the war that only three people now think is a good thing – McCain, Cheney, Bush). Think what a legacy those qualities might have achieved. Sadly, we are not used to seeing these qualities in our leaders. Obviously a certain amount of confidence, even certitude, is good in a leader. But I think this may be part of what seems so unfamiliar about Obama, he does not come across as arrogant and self-righteous and it is alien. As personal disasters spread across our country and our world like a virus, we will need all the empathy, compassion and humility we can get…and a happy new year to you too.

Explain It To Me

Trying for some real consistency here, not every day but often, often, often. So…tonight McSame and O’Bama have at it again. Hopefully someone has told McCain that interrupting people just makes him look stupid; no, I take it back, the stupider the better. I believe that Obama refrained from aggression in the last debate in order to ensure looking “presidential” but I really hope he attacks a bit more and does not let some of the more blatant posturing and downright falsehoods pass. I still don’t understand how Obama’s numbers can be so close to McCain’s (notwithstanding that he is doing better) when this was the election the dems couldn’t lose and should be even more so now. This does not, of course, take into consideration the whole issue of whether America is really ready for an african-american preisdent; another discussion. While I support Obama, I am confused about what is right for the future, the future seems terribly complex to me and I am not sure anyone really understands it. If they do, they are doing a tragically bad job of explaining it in real, pragmatic and useful terms to the rest of us. Generalities and political posturing are great for showing the big differences between the candidates, but our form of government doesn’t allow for it to be that simple. For the big things to really change, an awful lot of people with very varied agendas would have to “get it” all at the same time and with the same purpose….not very likely.

The Difference Between Silk and Polyester

The difference between silk and polyester is that only the good silk bouse can be ruined by your husband in the dryer. The ugly polyester always survives. It is some perverted rule of life. Another difference between silk and polyester is that silk will never fool you, but polyester might. I have a very good eye for fabric, particularly good fabric. I can always spot silk but occasionally I am fooled by polyester these days. It seems that they are able to make some wonderful synthetics these days, some quite amazing. But on second look, or second feel, I can tell. I had an opportunity to shop today amongst things that were considerably better than what I normally have an opportunity to shop amongst. This is the case in part because I live in a non-urban relatively unsophisticated part of the world, and one in which there is little climate change. It is such a pleasure to try on clothes that have correct fit and cut, even if you can only afford them rarely and on clearance. The older I get the more I am beginning to believe in what my mother told me about this (although she did not follow her own sage advice) which is that it is better to own a few really good things than a closet full of dreck. I still am not down to the “few things” but I am getting closer all the time. Even when shopping for less expensive things now, I do not buy them unless the fit just right and look expensive. And taking the advice of another wise woman, my step-mother, I now delete things often; particularly things that don’t fit just so or which I bought because I thought I “needed” something rather than because it was just the right thing. So, I bought a few things. I probably shouldn’t have, but they are much needed, just right, gorgeous and they were on sale. So I will try to resist guilt just enjoy. Not enough people really get the difference between silk and polyester.

I Might Be Laughing

I cannot, cannot, cannot understand how anyone could have watched Sarah Palin’s performance last night and thought “gee, that’s just what we need” gosh darn it. When did we decide that education and experience are a bad thing in our public servants. Just because we want a fresh approach or a new view doesn’t make a solid education an elitist or insider requirement. Do you want the high school dropout running your business? All that folksiness was so over the top that I thought I was going to puke and I hope that most people see through it, whether they yearn for familiarity or not. “Say it ain’t so Joe” ? My child has never been allowed to say ain’t and neither should our national leaders. We are a laughingstock in the world for so many reasons, I can’t imagine the hilarity (and abject terror) amongst our allies as they watch us taking this woman seriously. The format of the debate helped her significantly as she was never pressed in follow up to actually respond to the question asked. She clearly did not know what an Achilles heel was and wouldn’t have admitted error, mistake or change of ideas even if she had. So she just repeated the campaign speech she had memorized for the third or fourth time, ignoring the questions altogether. I am a mother, I was never a mother before I was a mother. Nature and temperament and, yes, asking questions, made me the good mother I am. Being a good mother, even being a good lawyer, does not make me qualified to be Vice President of the United States, it doesn’t even make me qualified to be the CEO of a medium size company for crying out loud. She is insulting to educated rural dwellers, she is insulting to women by trading on her gender and her children as if it makes her better, she is insulting to our intelligence. If it weren’t so scary, I might be laughing.

Don’t Look a Baby in the Eye

Like, I suspect, millions of other Americans I was glued to the vice presidential debate this evening. First, let’s get the expected out of the way; yes Sarah “Moosekiller” Palin did better than everyone expected. Who won? Who knows. On content, obviously Biden but is that really how the average American decides? Who knows. What kills me, and I have commented on this before, is all the fluff that obscures the real issues. Even Biden had a disingenuous moment when he pretended that the Senate had not already passed a spending bill that included a provision lifting the ban on offshore drilling, which they did while the crisis on wall street had the news cycle in a headlock. Sarah Palin is the queen of fluff. America, the troops, her kids, apple pie are the centerpiece of her presentation and around her swirls media hype about the choice of moderator, about the media itself, etc. Sarah Palin holds herself out in the debate as a supporter of women’s rights but wants rape victims to pay for their own tests. Nobody called her on it. In part because the media is busy with the fluff. While we talk about the flulff, the real stuff is obscured. The level of ignorance is appalling, including her belief that the role of the vice presidency can be expanded beyond the constitution (thank you Dick Cheney), and that being the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska constitutes executive experience in the presidential sense. What are we thinking in this country, opposing beliefs and views aside, to even consider that this woman is remotely qualified for national office. Are we really willing to hand over our children’s futures to someone who doesn’t know the difference between Iran and Iraq, who doesn’t understand the problems of Afghanistan and Pakistan, who thinks “nucular” weapons are just the be all and who believes that diversity in her family suits her for global diplomacy. I don’t often play with babies, but today I did. Let me tell you, it was pretty hard to look him in the eye what with all that we have going on in our national life.