Category Archives: The World We Live In

I Paid it Forward with Hamantaschen

I Paid it Forward With Hamantaschen

I Paid it Forward With HamantaschenAlthough the word hamantaschen comes from two German words, mohn (poppy seed) and taschen (pockets), poppy is just one of the flavorful fillings modern bakers like to use in these delicious Jewish cookies.

This was part of the explanation I prepared as I set out to deliver home baked hamantaschen to mostly non-Jewish members of my suburban community. By the quizzical looks on their faces as I proffered the assortment of pastries, many had no clue what they were, who I was, and why I was standing in front of them with a gift. It wasn’t Christmas, after all.

At the prompting of best-selling cookbook author Marcy Goldman on her Better Baking Facebook page, I decided to share the sweetness of homemade hamantaschen with the helpers in my community, to thank the people who deserve our appreciation and don’t always get it.

Would they be hamataschen-receptive?

As I backed out of the driveway, I suddenly felt a prick of concern. In this age of terrorism, would the giftees view me with suspicion? Even if I appeared to be simply a flustered woman in flour-speckled jeans, you never know these days. Were cookies part of an evil plot, to poison innocent citizens just doing their jobs?

“We bake these on Purim,” I recited out loud in the car, “the Jewish holiday that celebrates Queen Esther’s bravery in saving our people.” I glanced in the rearview mirror, plucked a piece of dough from my hair and practiced a disarming smile.

In return for my gift of sweetness, I would ask them just one question.

The Library

I had butterflies as I began my spiel, but the librarian smiled warmly. She assured me  the cookies would be devoured within the hour.

“Can you tell me about something sweet in your life?” I asked her.

I Paid it Forward with Hamantaschen

She thought for a moment. “My dog, Ellington.”

The Veterinarian

“Hamanta … what?” asked one of the assistants. Was I mumbling, or was it the cacophony of barks and meows that interfered? I spelled the word for her and she wrote it down. The other assistant asked what the fillings were. “Triple Chocolate. Poppy. Cherry. Blueberry.” I mentally counted on my fingers.

“Ooh, yum,” she said.

“And the sweetness in your lives?” I asked.

I Paid it Forward with Hamantaschen

“My 14 year-old son,” said one. “My dog, Blue,” said the other.

The Hospital

Back in the car, I drove a mile to the hospital and parked in front of radiology, where I get my annual mammogram.

“Oh no, don’t take my picture,” demurred a nurse, holding her hands up in front of her face. “I didn’t wear makeup today.”

A male nurse peered around the corner and said, “Hey, for cookies you can take my picture.”

“What is one sweet thing in your world?” I asked.

I Paid it Forward with Hamantaschen

“My cats, Fortune and Mason,” he said.

The Police Station

Fourth stop, the township blues.

Amid the hustle and bustle of a hectic weekday afternoon, two police officers readily agreed to be photographed as they held the plate.

“Could you tell me about a sweet …” I began.

I Paid it Forward with Hamantaschen

“Wait, this is …hamantaschen?!” exclaimed the one on the right as she peeked under the wrapping. “My favorite!”

The Fire Station

The vast garage was filled with shiny fire engines and uniforms hanging neatly on hooks. I called out but no one responded. Around the corner I found a window with an office on the other side. Two firemen were sitting at desks. I didn’t want to startle them, so I rapped softly and held up the goodies so they could see I was not a threat. One of the fire fighters came out to greet me.

“Now, don’t these look good,” he said, accepting the plate from me. “Awfully nice of you. Is this a project or something?”

“It’s just my own way of giving back and saying thank you for what you do,” I answered.

He bowed slightly.

“In return,” I said, “please tell me what is sweet in your life.”

I Paid it Forward with Hamantaschen

He paused, then said, “My job. I was a volunteer for 10 years and I’ve been full-time for five. I’m lucky to have a job I love.”

The Synagogue

I love Purim at my synagogue. Purim is kind of like Halloween, with funny costumes and parades. Both kids and grownups dress up, and this year the Megillah (the reading of the Purim story) was performed with a Motown theme, and it was hilarious. Hebrew prayers were sung to the tune of golden oldies and the rabbi in costume as Stevie Wonder was a sight to see.

This is Jill, our temple administrator who does a million different tasks every day to keep the congregation running. She doesn’t always dress this way, incidentally.

“Jill,” I asked her as I handed her a tray of hamataschen, “what is sweet in your life?”

I Paid it Forward with Hamantaschen

“My son, my new daughter-in-law, and my dog,” she said.

The Congressman

Take a look at this photo. See the guy in the greenish-grayish sweater, center stage?

I Paid it Forward with Hamantaschen

That’s U.S. Senator Bob Casey, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at a fundraiser at the home of good friends. Before I left my house I made two plates of hamantaschen, one for the hosts and the other for the Senator.

“I’d like to give Senator Casey these cookies since it is the Jewish festival of Purim,” I whispered to an aide. “Can you help me?”

I knew what I wanted to say. I would tell him that we celebrate Purim because of the bravery of a beautiful and kind woman, Queen Esther, who in today’s parlance would be known as a nasty woman. Because she persisted by convincing the clueless king of a murderous plot, the Jewish people survived.

“No problem,” she whispered back. “Stand by the door and you can catch him on his way out.”

The event came to a conclusion. The Senator was making his way to the front, shaking hands and letting guests take photos. He detoured into the kitchen. I waited by the front door. People were walking past me as they left. Where was he? I walked into the kitchen. No Senator.

“He snuck out the back door. He had to get to his town meeting,” apologized the aide.

My message of sweetness was tabled.

The Bookstore

I am so happy that an independent book store has opened in my community. Yesterday i attended a book launch for my friend Cathy, whose latest excellent book is “Who Moved My Teeth?” Cathy is smart, funny, and a great friend. She also loves my hamantaschen. It’s kind of an inside joke with us.

Her eyes danced when I handed her the tin.

“They’re for me! she announced to the crowd, squirreling them away in a back room before the party began.

“Cath, what’s something sweet in your life?”

I Paid it Forward in Hamantaschen

“My mom is pretty sweet,” she answered.

I approached the owner of the store, Ellen. “I love your shop and I hope it succeeds,” I told her. “Every community needs a bookstore. I can’t wait to come back.”

I didn’t have to ask my question. For Ellen, the sweetest thing must be books.

I Paid it Forward with Hamantaschen

I love baking hamantaschen for my family. Sharing them with those who deserved sweetness but didn’t expect it was in some ways even better.

Based on my small sampling and admittedly unscientific method, I concluded that random acts of kindness are more meaningful than we might think. Paying it forward really does work, especially when it’s a bit out of your comfort zone. We have the capacity to make a difference, one hamantaschen at a time.

In the end, it’s family, it’s home, it’s relationships that sweeten our lives. That will never change.

It’s not rocket science. It’s hamantaschen.

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Give Your Support on Giving Tuesday

Give on Giving Tuesday

Since its inaugural year in 2012, #GivingTuesday has become a worldwide movement that celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy. Although charitable giving can and should take place year round, Giving Tuesday was intended to kick off the charitable season after the frenzy of Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Giving Tuesday can be a day for us to put holiday shopping on hold while we think of those who are not on our gift list, but are so deserving of our generosity.

There are hundreds of organizations whose mission is to make the world better, and our support fuels their success. Even a small donation will make a difference.

Plus, it feels good to donate. It really does.

Giving Wisely

I make a point of researching charities through Charity Navigator, which lets you know how much of your donation actually goes to the intended cause as well as other important information about the charity.

If you make your donation TODAY on the Charity Navigator website, your donation will be matched 3:1. That’s hard to pass up.

Here are some worthy organizations that are personal favorites of mine with high rankings on Charity Navigator. The important thing, though, is to give to an organization you care about.

Animal Welfare

Main Line Animal Rescue is considered by many to be the finest animal shelter in the United States. With more than five hundred active volunteers, thousands of animals helped every year, a state-of-the-art veterinary clinic, innovative training and educational programs, and almost sixty acres of fenced pastures and walking trails, MLAR is a godsend for animals and animal lovers. MLAR is nationally recognized as a leader in the fight against puppy mill abuse.

Delaware Valley Golden Retriever Rescue helps Since 1993, Delaware Valley Golden Retriever Rescue has successfully placed over 4,500 Golden Retrievers and other DVGRR dogs into new homes. DVGRR has been recognized for innovative work in rescuing and rehabilitating puppy mill breeder dogs.

PAWS Chicago (stands for Pets Are Worth Saving) is Chicago’s largest no-kill humane organization, focused on adoption, free spaying and neutering, and community outreach. It provides a warm and cozy environment for pets waiting to be adopted.

Wildlife Conservation Network protects endangered species and preserves their natural habitats by supporting entrepreneurial conservationists who pursue innovative strategies for people and wildlife to co-exist and thrive.

Health

Cure Alzheimer’s Fund is dedicated to funding research with the highest probability of preventing, slowing or reversing Alzheimer’s disease.For many years, Alzheimer’s research was completely stifled by a lack of funding. This organization, privately funded, was set up to dramatically accelerate research and focus exclusively on finding a cure

Give Kids the World Village is a 79-acre, nonprofit resort in Central Florida that provides weeklong, cost-free vacations to children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.

National Pediatric Cancer Foundation is dedicated to funding research to eliminate childhood cancer. The focus is to fund research to fast track less toxic, more targeted treatments by partnering with 20 leading hospitals nationwide.

Human Rights

National Women’s Law Center champions policies and laws that help women and girls achieve their potential throughout their lives — at school, at work, at home, and in their communities.

Southern Poverty Law Center fights hate and bigotry and seeks justice for the most vulnerable members of our society.

Teach for America brings committed individuals into low-income classrooms to become teachers with the power to dramatically expand students’ opportunities. In turn, the teachers learn from their students, and gain a better understanding of the problems and the opportunities in our education system.

The Environment

World Wildlife Fund is devoted to conserving nature and reducing the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth.

National Resources Defense Council works to safeguard the earth—its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends.

Give Your Support to Giving Tuesday

I hope you will support Giving Tuesday. Happy Holidays!

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Elizabeth Banks and the Value of the ‘I Voted’ Sticker

Elizabeth Banks and the Value of the 'I Voted" Sticker

With just four days left in the presidential race, most of us are breathing a sigh of relief. Like many of you, my emotions have run amok.

But one of the highlights this fall was the opportunity to meet Elizabeth Banks stumping for Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail. She is warm, down-to-earth and passionate. She sat down with me and a small group of supporters to talk about the election

***

Elizabeth Banks takes nothing for granted in this election, and that is why she has been a presence on the campaign trail.

The actress, director and producer, known for her many role in movies such as The Hunger Games, Pitch Perfect, and Spider-Man, is walking the walk for her candidate of choice, Hillary Clinton.

She is also the mom of two boys, and joked that Back-to-School Nights at her sons’ school had cut into her busy schedule.

“The reason I’m doing this (campaigning) is because it matters. And as Hillary supporters,” she said looking around the room, “what you are doing matters. We’re all here for the same reason. We want Hillary Clinton to be the next president of the United States.”

Banks described the first time she met Hilary Clinton. It was a wow.

“It was 1992 and I was a freshman at Penn (University of Pennsylvania),” she said. “I attended a rally for Bill Clinton, but what I remember most was being transfixed by Hillary.

“As an eighteen year-old, a young woman who was trying to figure out what I was supposed to do and how to be a leader and who my role models should be, I was just completely struck by her.

“I knew then that she would change the face of what a First Lady was. There was a real partnership with her husband, and she had the brains to make a contribution. She was going to make a real difference.”

Fast forward to 2008. “My husband (sportswriter and producer Max Handelman) – he’s big into politics as well, and he was really excited about this young upstart named Barack Obama and I was like, but what about Hillary?”

Now it is Hillary’s time, she said.

“The founding fathers had long discussions about what they wanted this country to be,” she said. “After a great deal of thought, they decided on the number one ideal. It wasn’t the pursuit of happiness. It wasn’t freedom. The number one ideal was equality.”

She added, “It’s taken a long time, but we’ve been getting closer and closer to equality. When I think about equality, I think about women’s suffrage. Women fought to vote, and after 150 years that happened.

“We’ve had the civil rights movement, and the LGBGT movement, and we’re making progress. Hillary Clinton is the next step in reaching that ideal of equality.

“Weren’t we all told as little girls we could be anything? You can dream big. The world is open to you. Be what you want to be. The world is open to you.“

But until now, the prospect of a female president did not seem attainable.

“I have kids now, I know how it is,” she said. No one ‘has it all.’ If you’re doing one thing you can’t be doing another. You miss the kids’ things, you have to go to work. Well, that’s how we do it.

“Hillary Clinton knows this better than anyone. She’s worked hard, with over 40 years of public service. What her critics like to say is ‘she’s very inside Washington. We need someone from the outside.’ Well, how more outside can you get? She’s a female! No other woman has ever done this. And by the way, I don’t think of her as inside. I think of that as experience. She’s so qualified, so amazing.

“We are at a crossroads. We are looking in the mirror as a nation and we are either going to take keep choosing progress toward our idea of equality or we are going to take a massive step backward.”

For anyone thinking about sitting out the election, she said, this is the time to exercise your right to vote.

“I remember going to vote for Obama and getting the “I Voted” sticker, and I was so proud of that,” she said. “Because it was so historic, and it was amazing to be a part of that.

“For young people especially, it is so important to get out and vote. You’ll be really disappointed in yourself if you don’t get the “I Voted” sticker when we elect the first female president.”

Banks said that she would be out campaigning no matter what.

“I am a politically active person from growing up with parents who had us sit around the table and read the paper and get involved in politics. So this is in my blood. What I love about my position is that it affords me a voice. I really understand the voiceless — people who need politics and policy to help their lives. I’m here because I think it really matters who is in charge.

“If my celebrity gives me the platform for my voice to be heard a little bit louder, I’ll take it. I love this country and I want what’s best for it.

Elizabeth Banks and the Value of the 'I Voted' Sticker

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These 10 Facts Are Why I Support Gun Control

It takes a lot to fire me up.

But fired up I am, so to speak, on the gun control issue.

Gun control is one of the most emotional and divisive issues our country faces, with clear lines separating two sides.  We could argue our interpretations of the Second Amendment and the rights it provides from now until forever and never agree.

Do you really think the founding fathers would have written this amendment if assault weapons had been around?

Neither do I.

These 10 Facts Are Why I Support Gun Control

But most of us do want common sense changes in our gun laws. Yesterday the Senate voted down two gun violence prevention amendments that would have struck the balance most Americans want. By doing so, our legislators ignored what their constituents are telling them. This is unacceptable.

We the People … remember?

Facts About Gun Violence

When emotions rule our better judgment, it is helpful to look at the facts. We’ve got a gun toting, gun loving, gun shooting culture. Here are some of the ramifications.

  • From the Brady Campaign: over 18,000 American children and teens are injured or killed each year due to gun violence. That’s 48 young people a day.
  • Not a single federal law has been passed in decades to prevent gun violence – not after Columbine and not after Newtown. And now, not after Orlando.
  • In 2013, the year after Sandy Hook, more than 11 million guns were manufactured in America.
  • There are approximately 270 million firearms possessed by civilians, and only 897,000 carried by police in America.
  • Mother Jones tracked and mapped shooting sprees over the three decades from 1982 to May of last year. They counted “at least 61 mass murders carried out with firearms across the country, with the killings unfolding in 30 states from Massachusetts to Hawaii.”
  • On average, 31 Americans are murdered with guns every day and 151 are treated for a gun assault in an emergency room.
  • Living in a house with guns increases your odds of death.
  • Also from the Brady Campaign: A gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used to kill or injure in a domestic homicide, suicide, or unintentional shooting than to be used in self-defense.
  • To cover the cost of gun-related deaths and injuries, American taxpayers pay roughly $12.8 million a day.
  • According to Pew Research, Americans have shown broad and consistent support for expanded background checks for gun purchasers. The vast majorities of both Republicans (79%) and Democrats (88%) — including three out of four NRA members — favor making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks. There has also been substantial bipartisan support for laws to prevent people with mental illness from purchasing guns.

What can I, just one voice, do about gun control?

In college I marched in Washington to protest the Vietnam War.

In the 90s I marched in Washington to protest the plight of Soviet Jewry.

In 2016 I will do whatever I can to alleviate gun violence in our country. I have made phone calls and sent emails. I have signed up to volunteer for organizations that support gun control. If there is a march, I will make every effort to go.

I will talk the talk and walk the walk to do my part to make our country safer for us and our children.

Please, please join me.

***

What do other countries think of our gun crazy culture? I’ll close this with a bit of levity from Australian comedian Jim Jeffries.

 

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The Troll and I

The Troll and I

Once upon a time there were three goats and a troll. Remember this fairy tale, The Three Billy Goats Gruff?

The story goes like this. The little goats are minding their own business, grazing on luscious Norwegian grass. When their supply is depleted, they must cross a bridge to get to the abundant meadow on the other side.

Underneath the bridge lurks a nasty troll who threatens to devour anyone crossing over. This time, however, he is outwitted by a formidable foe. Blessed with street smarts, the goats are able to talk their way out of being eaten. The troll grumbles to himself and slithers back to his subterranean real estate, where he lives a sad and solitary existence for the rest of his days.

In modern day parlance, a troll is something different. Equally odious, yes, but instead of living underneath a bridge, the Internet troll stalks selected people or groups online and attempts to be disruptive.

From Wikipedia:

In Internet slang, a troll  is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory,[1] extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response[2] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion,[3] often for their own amusement.

Who’s got a troll? I’ve got a troll.

My troll first appeared on Twitter a few years ago. She followed me and after I read her profile I followed her back. Since we shared certain similarities (we were writers, roughly the same age, adult children) I didn’t hesitate, although it seemed  unusual that I didn’t “know” her through other social media. Nonetheless, our occasional Twitter exchanges were normal.

But then I noticed that she was commenting on just about every one of my tweets.

At first it was just annoying. But then it began to get weird. She did the Twitter equivalent of photo bombing, inserting herself into conversations I was having with other people. Her comments became personal, nasty and critical.

Totally creeped out, I blocked her. Good riddance.

Trolling Along

Several months ago someone new started to pop up in the Comments section on my blog. The commenter was highly critical of my work, pointing out what she perceived to be numerous errors and poor writing. Weirdly, she referenced specific passages from posts I had written years ago.

She has read everything I have written online, I realized.

Ignore her and block her, was the advice from my blogging friends. That is what I did. I also inserted a new paragraph on my About Me page with my terms of engagement. In essence, be civil and kind, or get out of my house.

But last week she was back. She kept her name (a pseudonym, I am certain) but changed her email address slightly. I stared at her comment, again, her disapproval of my writing. Like all her comments, it was dripping in sarcasm.

This time I contacted my website host and, through the miracle of technology, the host was able to give me her identity. The blog troll and the Twitter troll are one and the same.

According to an article in Psychology Today, Internet trolls are narcissists, sadists and psychopaths. Many would agree with that assessment, especially those of us directly harassed by one. It may or may not be true of the woman who is trolling me, but at the very least she has an unhealthy obsession with me and has nothing better to do with her time than stalk me … and likely others as well.

As the pieces fell into place, I realized it was also this person who left a couple of mean comments about me on another site that had interviewed me for a profile piece. She Googled my family to get more information and mentioned that in her comment.

Hello, Troll

She is undoubtedly reading this post, so I will speak directly to her:

I know who you are. I feel sorry for you and your obsession with me. We will never be friends, and I will keep blocking you from my site every time you muscle your way in.

My three words of advice for you: Get. A. Life.

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Mourning for Paris

mourning for parisIt’s Monday, November 16. A Monday that should be a normal back-to-work, back-to-routine kind of Monday, but it’s not.

I feel like life is on hold today.

How could it not be, after the carnage in Paris over the weekend?

The images from the bloodbath are surreal and defy comprehension. As the death toll rises and the horrific stories continue to unfold, I try to wrap my head around this atrocity, because that is human nature. To try to make sense of things.

It’s useless. Evil on this scale can not be explained.

Evil is imprinted on the faces of those terrorists as they systematically snuffed out innocent lives of people just living their lives. Evil is marked on the terrorists who planted a bomb on the Egyptian flight bound for Russia. And evil is the name for the suicide bomber who blew up a busy street in Beirut, killing scores. More innocent lives, lost for nothing.

Just like with 9/11, there is no sense to be made out of terrorism that rips our social fabric to shreds, tears loved ones from our arms, destroys life as we knew it.

The jihadists are gloating over their success as the rest of the world weeps for the City of Lights.

My husband and I have been to Paris several times. Our daughter spent her semester abroad there. We have walked the streets, dined in outdoor cafes, visited museums, shopped in boutiques. Normal things that you do in a city like Paris, experiencing the vibrancy and charm of this stunningly beautiful city. Exactly what the innocent victims were doing Friday night.

What is to be learned from this? How can parents explain this to their children? Why are we hated for pursuing the pleasures that life has to offer? When will we be able to live our lives in peace? Where will the terrorists strike next?

There are no answers.

But once again, we find ourselves on high alert, watching the news, wondering what will be next, fearful.

I have been pretty much staring blankly at the work I should be doing. My head and my heart are with the Parisians who are numbly trying to get through their Monday, just going through the motions as best they can.

It should be a normal Monday.

But it isn’t.

In Mourning for Paris

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Election Day Diary

Election Day Diary

Election Day 2015

… is now history. The votes are counted, the people have spoken, and some are waking up happy this morning, others not so much..

Election Day 2015 in my neighborhood was a sunny and unseasonably warm day for November, a good omen, I thought as I got in my car to go volunteer at our polling place. I tend to look for signs when I want things to go a certain way, reading way too much into a random occurrence like weather, “making something of nothing,” as they used to say.

Nonetheless, I interpreted the sunshine to mean metaphorical sunny skies for my candidate of choice,  who was not only supremely worthy of the office, but also a very good friend. When he asked me to help out at the polls on Election Day, of course I said yes.

Election Day 2015 turned out to be a pleasant day, weather-wise.

But I had misinterpreted the sunny skies. Turns out they were meant not for my friend, but my friend’s opponent.

My friend lost his race. It was a close one, but he lost.

The turnout was decent for an off year election, I was told by the regulars working there. Voters streamed in pretty constantly throughout the day, some pausing to chat with us volunteers or accept the proffered campaign literature or one of the home baked cookies arranged on a tray. Other voters eschewed the pleasantries, marching purposefully, eyes focused ahead, and ignored the friendly overtures from us. Yes, there were a few who were overheard muttering under their breath about a certain candidate or political party, but they were few and far between, I am happy to report.

From my perch at the polling place I ran into people I hadn’t seen in years: the parents of one of my daughter’s high school friends; the hairdresser I had abandoned after more than a decade for another stylist five years ago; the neighbor whose dog menaced our dog but sadly had passed away recently (the dog, not the neighbor); a former friend with whom I had had a falling out ten years ago; the cantankerous and hostile old man with a reputation for creating trouble at the polling place, who used to take walks on our street with his cane and once swatted my husband’s car with it; the neighbors on my block who I had hoped would show up; and an old friend who recently moved from an adjoining community to ours, unbeknownst to me until I saw him yesterday.

When I wasn’t greeting voters at the door, I helped out at the registration table along with two other women. One I knew casually; the other I hadn’t met before. During intermittent slow spells we got to know each other. The woman on my left was an interior decorator going through a divorce and moving to San Francisco. The woman on my right was a physician whose husband was working as the judge of elections at our poll.

Though we did not share affiliation with the same party, we did not let politics polarize us as we got into an efficient rhythm of greeting, looking up names, assigning a number, and directing voters to the booths. By the end of the day we felt like old friends.

My husband arrived after work to vote, and the physician’s eyes widened when he walked in the room. She and her husband looked at each other in surprise. “That’s your husband?” she asked me. “The runner?”

Her husband told me, “I see him every day at 7:05 a.m. at the corner of Ithan and Morris. Like clockwork.”

Yes, that’s my husband. The man who runs six miles every morning, 365 days a year, known in the neighborhood as That Guy Who Runs Every Day.

I hadn’t planned on staying until the bitter end, but I couldn’t leave. I felt so invested. At 8 p.m. the voting machines were turned off, the door was locked and the few of us remaining were allowed to help with the final count. As the outcome for my friend became clear, some of us grew quiet.

My friend was gracious in defeat, immediately calling his opponent to congratulate her. While some of us just stood around with downcast eyes, he cracked jokes and forced us to smile.

He stayed classy. I hope someday he will run for office again.

The physician must have read the disappointment in my eyes because she came over to me.

Grasping my hands, she said that both candidates had run great campaigns and either one would have been an asset to our community. She said she hoped we would work together again. I said I would very much like that.

Before I left, I hugged my friend and whispered, “I will never stop believing in you.”

And then I drove home.

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Celebrate Teachers on World Teachers’ Day

Today is World Teachers’ Day. Have you hugged a teacher yet?

Or if you could go back in time, is there a teacher who would be deserving of a grateful hug?

My appreciation for what teachers do went up several notches the first time I volunteered in my child’s kindergarten classroom.

Not for a full day. Not even a half day.

It was two hours.

It was exhausting.

When I got home I took a nap.

Teachers are awesome.

It takes a special person to be a teacher, and not everyone is up to the task. Clearly, I was not blessed with the patience, endurance and sheer love of teaching needed to be successful at it. But teachers often do not get the thanks they are due.  So today, on World Teachers’ Day, thank a teacher when you see one.

I wish I could thank one of the best and most influential teachers I had. She was my 8th grade English teacher, Mrs. Polter, and she was tough, demanding, and unwilling to accept mediocre performances from her students. She taught grammar so well that to this day I can diagram a sentence, thanks to her. We read a poem called Breathes There The Man by Sir Walter Scott that she made us memorize and recite.

I can still recite it, line for line.

Many students were intimidated by her. Her loud voice and insistence on running a tight ship could make you cower, and her classroom was not one for fun and games. If her disapproving gaze was directed at you, you felt like shrinking into your chair.

I’m sure her teaching style would be frowned on today, but it sure was effective.

Teachers can make a difference that lasts a lifetime.

The most memorable thing about Mrs. Polter was that she was the first teacher to really believe in me. I was an indifferent student but I loved to write. She recognized that and encouraged it. She told me I had real talent. Coming from her, this meant a lot, because she was a teacher with zero B.S.

By focusing on my strengths instead of criticizing my weaknesses, she gave my self-confidence a badly needed boost. She made a difference in my life. As a fourteen year-old, I’m sure I didn’t realize it. But as an adult, I look back and realize how much her influence had to do with my becoming a writer. I wish I could tell her how grateful I am.

This infographic from Grammarly provides statistics and fun facts about educators.

World Teacher Day

What can we do on World Teachers’ Day to show our appreciation?

First, thank a teacher who made a difference in your life. Whether you’re still in school or you haven’t set foot in a classroom in years, World Teachers’ Day is the perfect time for all of us to tell our teachers that their work paid off.

Second, consider donating to a nonprofit organization that supports educators, such as Teachers Without Borders or Teach for America.

Third, consider volunteering in you child’s classroom or the school library. I volunteered several hours a week in the school library. I liked being involved, and it was way less exhausting than the classroom.

Which teacher made a lasting impression on you?

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Celebrate International Literacy Day

My grandmother was a teenager when she came to America. Fleeing the hardship of shtetl life in Russia, she landed on Ellis Island with just the clothes on her back and a small valise. She had little money and no formal education; in fact, she did not know how to read or write.

She and my grandfather settled in Pennsylvania and raised four active sons without the help of modern conveniences. No dishwasher, no washer and dryer, no microwave for a quick and easy meal.

My grandmother worked hard to keep her family well tended, with food on the table and clean clothes to wear. She spent her days cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing.

She never got around to learning to read or write. But she was so proud of her sons who excelled in school, all of them becoming college graduates.

Literacy is a human right.

These days we tend to take our education for granted, so it is alarming to discover that there are 757 million adults in the world, age 15 and older, who can’t read or write a simple sentence. Even more shocking, 14% of the U.S. population is illiterate — and 19% of them are high school graduates.

Literacy is not only a basic human right; it is a human need, as basic as water and a daily dose of sunshine.

The good news? The goal to eradicate illiteracy is achievable.

Today, the day that many of our children return to school to start or continue their education, is International Literacy Day. This week Grammarly is working to raise awareness about the importance of literacy.

There are global problems that seem too massive to fix, causing us to throw up our hands in dismay or just give up. What can I do, we ask ourselves.

Illiteracy is not unfixable.

There is something we can do. For starters, and I’m sure you all do this, make reading in your home a part of the daily routine. Develop a love of reading in your kids as early as infancy by reading to them every day. As your children grow, encourage them to read and write for pleasure.

There’s more. You can donate books or money to local libraries and schools. You may even want to volunteer a few hours a week as a literacy coach. Check with your library for information.

The infographic below is being circulated on social media today to raise awareness of the issue of literacy.

Do you have ideas for breaking the illiteracy barrier?

Literacy Day

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Enough Already. Women, Unite!

If the revelations in the news this week are any indication, some men need a refresher course on how to treat women.

Enough Already. Women Unite!

Shocking, right? I think back to the 1960s, when women across the country had had it up to here and mobilized to demand equality.

Equality was part of it. But the other piece was that women would no longer pander to men. We would no longer be subservient or objectified.

Women, it’s time to unite.

Oh 1960s protests, where are you when we need you? We need you N.O.W.

The 1960s gave birth to the National Organization for Women, N.O.W., in which women declared their empowerment, their autonomy, their entitlement to every right that men enjoyed. Women would no longer be second class citizens, we avowed. The message was loud and clear.

Treat us equally, we argued. We can be your equal in the boardroom and in the bedroom. And speaking of that, men, we are more than just tits and ass, here to serve your needs.

In 1967, Aretha Franklin belted out her hit song, “Respect.”

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. All we’re asking for is a little respect, men.

Did someone miss that memo? For starters, Donald Trump, Josh Duggar and accused/alleged rapist at St. Paul’s?

Josh Duggar

Christian fundamentalist, family values espouser and former 19 Kids and Counting “celebrity,” is a confessed sister molester and wife cheater. This hypocrite only came forward to ask for forgiveness for his latest sin when outed by the Ashley Madison site hack. Up until now, his victims sisters have been defending him, claiming he had reformed.  Now, with an infant and three other young children, it’s his wife’s turn to deal with the hurt and betrayal both privately and publicly.

Like high profile women whose husbands cheated – Hillary Clinton, Jenny Sanford, Dina McGreeevy, the late Elizabeth Edwards – Anna Duggar is the latest to be thrust into the limelight by her husband’s peccadillos.

Donald Trump

And then there’s the blowhard bully, the poster boy for misogyny Donald Trump, whose verbal assaults on women have nothing to do with their brains and everything to do with their body type. Atop his gilded perch, he gleefully sneers at women, degrades them, scorns them. If anyone is criticizing him, their voices are getting lost as his popularity continues to skyrocket. We need to get his pompous ass voted off this unreality show now.

Alleged St. Paul’s School rapist

And then there’s the outrageous case of the 15 year-old student at St. Paul’s boarding school who was allegedly raped by an 18 year-old as part of a ritual known as Senior Salute, in which senior boys compete in a contest to have sex with freshmen girls. In her testimony, the victim claimed that she had refused her assailant’s advances, but tried to be as polite as possible, because she had not wanted to come across as “bitchy.”

I shuddered when I read this. It is terribly sad that a young girl cared more about her assailant’s feelings than her own safety.

In the sexual revolution of the 60s, it was all about free love, casual sex, no commitments. But there was also the lingering vestige from an earlier generation: a woman’s role was to please. To not make waves. To be accommodating and acquiescent and complimentary. To not be bitchy.

Can we dispel this notion for once and for all?

Whether the alleged rapist will be convicted is yet to be seen. But this should be a wake up call for us women, that we can be bitchy, we should be bitchy and we should demand R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

I’m ready to mobilize. How about you?

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