Sunday, November 30, 2014

Their Music Is A Blessing

It was five years ago this month that Chuck and I first visited The National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts. It was a wonderful, powerful and influential experience for us. (I wrote about it here.) Right after that first visit I went in search of Yiddish music. That was how I discovered and fell in love with The Barry Sisters.

Born in the 1920s in the Bronx, New York, Clara and Minnie Bagelman began performing as children. They eventually took the stage names Claire and Merna Barry. First generation Jewish girls of Ashkenazi descent, they sang in Yiddish, Hebrew, English and other languages. They became international stars known as The Barry Sisters. They appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show sixteen times, so chances are good I saw them more than once. But unfortunately my strongest memories of that show are mostly of The Beatles, Topo Gigio and various comedians.

Claire and Merna have powerful, beautiful voices. Their singing can be haunting, moving, exhilarating and charming. Yes, some of the arrangements are certainly of an era and to some, may feel a little dated; a little campy; a little schmaltzy. But I grew up listening to Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Tony Mottola, Perry Como, Doris Day, Tony Bennett, Patti Page - - - you get the idea! So when I first heard The Barry Sisters, I was an immediate fan.

The photo above is one of my favorites. It was used on their album “Their Greatest Yiddish Hits”. That was the album that drew me in. You can still find many reissued and compilation albums for The Barry Sisters on Amazon and elsewhere.

Sadly, Merna died in 1976. She was only 51 years of age.
Her sister Claire died last Monday. She was 94.
Zichrona liveracha ~ May their memories be a blessing.

The Jewish Daily Forward published a nice write-up about Claire’s passing.

Here is Claire’s more comprehensive obituary from the Music section of The New York Times.

And here is Merna’s 1976 obituary, also from The New York Times.

Aleha hashalom ~ Peace be upon them

This is one of my favorite songs by The Barry Sisters...

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Bigger Than Ferguson

Tonight's protests are not just about Mike Brown, Darren Wilson, the grand jury, Robert McCulloch and Ferguson, Missouri.
The roots of this distress are old; they run deep and wide.

I feel the echoes of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, the protests against the Vietnam War.

I also feel the rumblings of the more recent Citizens United and Voting Rights Act decisions in the Supreme Court.

As Michael Brown's parents wrote: "We respectfully ask that you please keep your protests peaceful. Answering violence with violence is not the appropriate reaction. Let's not just make noise, let's make a difference."

May these protests be peaceful.

May good come from these actions.

With the internet there is the opportunity to communicate and organize. The Ferguson National Response Network is just one example.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

John Fitzgerald Kennedy
May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963

May he always be an inspiration; may he always spur us to action.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

With Honor & Humble Gratitude

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month...

“On that day let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us re-consecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.”
- President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Presidential Proclamation

Honoring all who served

Honoring all who were wounded 

Honoring all who gave their lives

You stood in our stead
You stood for our country, for our constitution

You stood for our freedom, for our liberty

You have our gratitude, our respect, our memory

We pledge our service, our advocacy, our work for peace…

Dad ~ 1942

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Election Day! What To Wear...

We can wear an evening gown or PJs with Bunny Slippers! Voting is what matters!

Live your values.
Love your country.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

ALS, Ice and Israel

With all the discussion about Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and the Ice Bucket Challenge, I wanted to share some encouraging news. In 2011, BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics of Israel and Hadassah Hospital in Israel treated a patient who had ALS with a new autologous stem cell technology called Nurown. The 75 year old patient, Rabbi Refael Shmulevitz, improved!

As of April 2014, a US Patent was granted and, pending FDA approval, Brainstorm plans to hold Phase II clinical trials at Massachusetts General Hospital, the University of Massachusetts Memorial Hospital and the Mayo Clinic. It's possible that this type of treatment could also help folks with Parkinson's and Multiple Sclerosis. So whether you are dumping ice water on your head or writing a check, progress is being made!

Monday, August 11, 2014


On Suicide” was written by Jennifer Michael Hecht and posted on January 11, 2010.
I refer to it simply as “Stay”.
It is one of the most poignant, powerful, passionate and compassionate messages I have ever read against suicide. She wrote it after the suicides of two friends.

Because Robin Williams committed suicide within the last 24 hours, I felt compelled to post excerpts from Ms. Hecht’s post here:

“So I want to say this, and forgive me the strangeness of it.  Don’t kill yourself.  Life has always been almost too hard to bear, for a lot of the people, a lot of the time.  It’s awful.  But it isn’t too hard to bear, it’s only almost too hard to bear.”

“...if you are even a tiny bit staying alive for the sake of the community, as a favor to the rest of us, I need to make it clear to you that we are grateful that you stay.  I am grateful that you stay alive.”

“The truth is I want you to live for your sake, not for ours.  But the injunction is true and real.  Anyway, some part of you doesn’t want to end it all, and I’m talking to her or him, to that part of you.  I’m throwing you a rope, you don’t have to explain it to the monster in you, just tell the monster it can do whatever it wants, but not that.  Later we’ll get rid of the monster, for now just hang on to the rope.”

I want very much to publish Ms. Hecht’s full article, but I do not own the rights. So I urge you to go to her original post and read it in its entirety. “On Suicide

Then print it out and hang onto it. You may never need to read it again yourself. But if you ever do or if you want to give a copy to a friend, you will be relieved you have it to hand.

Thank you Jennifer Michael Hecht. We are so grateful you have stayed and that you wrote this...

Robin Williams

He inspired me, taught me much and always made me laugh.

Monday, April 28, 2014


It has been two years since my sister Karen's death. We all miss her. Our 90 year old mother grieves and wonders how she could still be here, while her eldest child is gone. I can give her no answers. All I can do is acknowledge our loss and remind her of the happy memories; the laughter shared.
Zichrona liveracha ~ Her memory is a blessing...

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

U2 on the Couch

The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon launched yesterday and it was fantastic!
As I Tweeted last night: "Jimmy Fallon could have done a Mic Drop at the end of the show and retired! Thank Heavens he didn't!"
This moment was one of many exceptionally fine ones.

Or go here to watch the video: U2 On Jimmy Fallon - Ordinary Love

Ladies and Gentlemen!

Ladies and Gentlemen!
Start Your Engines!

I'd be happy to mention what number storm this is for this winter.
But I lost count a long time ago!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


I love this song.
I really like this video.

And in case you missed a highlight of a particularly good Grammy Awards Show, here is the marvelous Carole King performing with Sara Bareilles!

Thank you Carole King!

Thank you Sara Bareilles!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Layout and paper by LMR/Pink Granite. Software: Apple iPhoto ‘08 & Adobe Photoshop CS5 for Mac. Transparency: Street Grunge Scratch by Brandy Hackman. Texture: Grunge Textures 1 - Scratches/Grids by Lori Cook (both available from Scrap Girls). Font: Hypatia Sans Pro.

Happy Birthday Gail!

”Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday dear Gail
Happy Birthday to you -
and many more!

Today is my sister Gail’s birthday!
Enjoy every minute Gail!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Glenn Murphy, Oisin O’Callaghan & Ronan Scolard

University College Dublin brought Glenn Murphy from Waterford, Oisin O’Callaghan from Cork & Ronan Scolard from Dublin, Ireland together. They have exquisite harmonies and strong voices. And they have created lovely arrangements. Enjoy!

I’ll Be There For You

500 Miles

When Somebody Loved Me

Tuesday, December 31, 2013


She walked into our hearts eleven days shy of eleven years ago. We adopted her from an MSPCA shelter on a Sunday which would have been my grandmother’s 102nd birthday. She died this morning, on the last day of a very long year.

Abigail and Cassandra were not sisters, but adoptive siblings surrendered from the same home. They were and remained a “bonded pair” as the MSPCA put it. Abby was born first. A year later along came Cassie. Cassie died first. Six weeks later Abby, the elder, died too.

If you read Cassandra’s story below, you really are reading Abigail’s story as well. “Abby-and-Cassie” or “Cassie-and-Abby” was they way we so often referred to them - as if they were conjoined not bonded. But they each had their own personality and idiosyncrasies.

Cassie was very active. She was usually the one who wanted to get the game of chase going with Abby. Cassie was also very vocal. Abby was quieter; a little more reserved or perhaps mature or dignified. However, there was a major exception to that. Whenever we brought the cats home from the kennel after boarding, Abby would express her displeasure clearly. She would make a clipped little grunting, grumbling sound which could never be mistaken for anything other than disapprobation. At the same time she would stomp her feet as she walked. Seriously, if she had only two feet instead of four she could have been mistaken for a short, sullen teenager. But 24 hours after returning home it would all stop. Apparently Abby believed we had been well chastised, so all was forgiven. Let’s get back to normal.

Normal often meant finding a lap and settling in. If I was stretched out in bed watching television or reading, I usually had two cats on top of me. Abby was always on the left; Cassie was almost always on the right. But she would also sprawl at an angle so as to get the most lap and be up against Abby. When perfectly parallel to one another, with their noses pointed toward my toes, Chuck would call them my “two cat hitch”.

Cassie liked to leap up and over the edge of our clawfoot tub - in and out, in and out. Abby preferred to leap up onto the rounded edge of the top of that tub and walk around and around.

Abby was wicked smart. She came when called - rather puppy-like. Because Abby and Cassie could break out into little skirmishes and sometimes fights at any hour of the day or night, we had to put them out of the bedroom to sleep. All I had to say was “Bedtime” in a high pitched tone and Abby would hop off the bed and head out the door. It may have been routine but it never stopped being amazing.

Abby was beautiful. Cassie too was beautiful plus had the benefit of being charmingly photogenic. But Abby’s black fur with copper and gold highlights could never be properly captured on film - not even her cream colored bib.

For nearly eleven years Cassandra and Abigail loved us, let us love them, entertained us, worried us, annoyed the heck out of us and comforted us. They were our companions; our family.

The end is too recent, too heavy with grief to write about. Just as we had to with Cassandra, we had to decide to euthanize Abigail at the age of 17 and a 1/2, due to irreversible illness. Because of Abby’s passing hard on the heels of Cassie’s recent death, we feel overwhelmed. We were with Abby when she died and there were no words left unspoken to her. For that we are deeply grateful.

Last night, as I held Abby in my lap, I played Áine Minogue’s hauntingly beautiful "Celtic Lamentations". Chuck and I told her everything we loved about her; recounted the story of her adoption and all her other stories. I also told her even though I knew a cat mom shouldn’t say such things, she truly was my favorite. She was feisty and independent, yet sweet and easy going and oh so smart. Abby was the best cat ever. I am very lucky to have been able to tell her over and over how much I loved her, including in her final moments.

As I wrote six short weeks ago, this is the pain I didn’t want. This is the pain I agreed to when I said “Yes.” to adoption eleven years ago. I made the right decision then and I made the right decision this morning. But this is the pain I dreaded. This is the pain I accept; bartered freely for eleven years with my dear Abby.

Monday, November 18, 2013


She walked into our hearts almost eleven years ago. We adopted her from an MSPCA shelter on a Sunday which would have been my grandmother’s 102nd birthday. She died this past Saturday night, on my mother’s 90th birthday.

I had told Chuck I didn’t want to adopt any more pets. My heart had been broken too many times. I didn’t want any more pain. But as the months went by, Chuck reminded me of all that I loved about living with four legged creatures. I finally agreed, but I said we had to adopt a pair who were already bonded to one another and needed a forever home. At some level I think I expected that to be a big hurdle. I was wrong. Chuck called the MSPCA and soon we were in the car driving to Springfield, Massachusetts.

The shelter was bustling that day; lots of cats in cages and lots of humans looking back at them. Chuck and I walked up and down the aisles. As soon as we finished looking I walked back to where three cats were housed together in a bottom cage. I squatted down; focused on the two cats in the right hand corner. They were butt to butt facing out. I had the sense they had decided to present a united, defensive front to all these human strangers roaming around. Chuck asked me about another pair we had seen in another cage on the other side of the room. I told him he was welcome to go look at them again, but I was staying right there because I was done. Chuck looked around a little bit more. When he returned to me I said he needed to go get one of the staff members because I wasn’t going to risk leaving.

The staff member came over and soon we had the chance to visit with both cats in a little glass room. As Chuck and I got acquainted with the cats, the shelter manager told us about their background. Five animals had been surrendered to the shelter because of a divorce. One cat had to be put down. The one dog had already been adopted. The three cats in that cage were the only ones still looking for homes. The third cat was not well bonded to these two. These two were inseparable. More visiting ensued. As people walked by the glass walls they looked inside and mouthed the questions: “Are you adopting them? Both of them?” Over and over we said “Yes.”

As the time ticked by I became more convinced that my instincts about these cats had been correct. The 5 1/2 year old white cat with the black and brown markings looked very much like our cat Amanda who had lived to be 20. The 6 1/2 year old black and gold cat looked very much like our cat Willow, a stray who adopted us but died very young of Feline Leukemia. The manager left us alone to visit some more. When she returned she told us that the medical staff was worried about their health. They were afraid both cats were developing respiratory infections. It would be best if they were adopted very soon. Were we ready to adopt them both?


The next couple of weeks were a blur. The newly renamed Cassandra and Abigail were in fact very ill. There were lots of trips to our vet, lots of tests, some medications. They lost their appetites. I remember trying to tempt them with sardines; counting the number of little bits of kibble that they would each eat. Because of the respiratory problems, our vet advised us to use steam. I bundled the cats into the bathroom with me. I filled the bathtub with hot water. I brought in a humidifier and turned it to maximum. I stretched out on a pad we used under our sleeping bags when camping and the three of us just breathed. When I saw the paint was beginning to peel from the ceiling because of all the steam, I didn’t much care.

For nearly eleven years Cassandra and Abigail have loved us, let us love them, entertained us, worried us, annoyed the heck out of us and comforted us. They have been our companions; our family.

I can’t write about the end yet. It’s too raw, too painful. I can say that, as we have had to do before, we had to make the decision to euthanize Cassandra because of irreversible illness, at the age of 16. I can say that we were with her when she died. There were no words left unspoken to her. On the ride to the hospital we talked to her about all the things that made her special: how vocal she was; how sweet; how she was ever so photogenic and so willing to be posed for pictures we called her our “Gumby” cat; how we knew that she shared an extra close bond with Chuck. We told her we loved her over and over.

This is the pain I didn’t want. This is the pain I agreed to when I mouthed the word “Yes.” back to all the other humans looking for cats that day eleven years ago. I made the right decision then and I made the right decision Saturday night. But this is the pain I didn’t want. This is the pain I accept in trade for those eleven years with Cassie.