Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Combat COVID

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Friday, December 18, 2020

“Build Back Better”

“Build Back Better”
The parallels are clear.

I was in a workshop yesterday focused on Chanukah where we discussed the differences between dedication and rededication. In my breakout study group, I offered that with rededication you already know the realities of what you are about to say yes to again. I compared it to the saying “a second marriage is a triumph of optimism over reality”. After rejoining the full group and continuing to reflect and work, the thought of the incoming administration’s slogan of “Build Back Better” came to my mind.

Chanukah. The Jews fought hard, against terrible odds, and they triumphed. Then they looked around and saw all the devastation Antiochus had wrought during his reign. They cleared the Temple of the desecration and chose to rebuild; to rededicate.

As Chanukah ends and the secular year of 2021 approaches, let us rededicate ourselves to the greatest American ideals and values. Let us be clear eyed about the fact that even when we were at our most honorable as a nation, we were still failing in significant ways. Let us, as a country, strive not to be “the best”, but to be our best selves. Let us take inspiration from our founding documents. Let us heed the words of Dr. King and, as a nation, “…rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’” Let us acknowledge the death, the devastation. Let us work to undo damage - of recent vintage and of long standing. Let us say yes and build back better, together.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

In Karen's Honor

Today is my sister Karen’s yahrzeit - the anniversary of the day she died. Karen died in 2012, a week before her 65th birthday. In 2001 Karen spent a month in the Mayo Clinic fighting for her life. She survived ARDS (Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome). At the time we knew how high the mortality rate for ARDS was and how incredible her recovery was. But in 2012, the cumulative damage to her lungs, coupled with a new illness, brought about her death in a matter of days. Along with many family members, I was blessed to be with her as she died. I sat alone with her, my hand on her arm, until the funeral home came for her body.

COVID-19 has been compared to ARDS. Most comparisons explain all the ways COVID-19 is significantly more complex and dramatically worse than ARDS.

I’m not going to discuss all the challenges individuals, families, communities, schools, students, teachers and small businesses are facing. I’m not going to discuss the harrowing, exhausting, dangerous experiences of healthcare workers. I’m not going to discuss all the risks being faced by essential frontline workers - from police officers to letter carriers to grocery store staff.

I am going to say this: This is not forever. Be patient. Remember the common good. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Make sure you and everyone you know is registered to vote. Take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. And stay the fuck home.

I love you Karen. I miss you.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Rail Trail Therapy

We took a walk on the Rail Trail this afternoon. We were not the only ones with that idea. It was crowded - well, for that particular section it felt crowded. Sometimes, when we’re walking and the only ones there, I ask Chuck if he phoned ahead to reserve it just for us. Today, not so much. As clouds moved in and out in front of the sun, we saw solo walkers, runners and bicyclists; couples, and young families with children and dogs, strollers and tricycles. We all exchanged greetings as we passed each other. A lot of “Beautiful day, isn’t it?” because it really was.

For that hour we all kept to our family groups. We all breathed deeply of the fresh late winter / nearly spring air. We let our legs carry us, almost on autopilot, as we tried to let the news headlines recede for a little while.

Respite is important. Moving, breathing, listening to our own breath, feeling the wind on our faces - all of it is restorative.

So is social connection. We currently have social isolation as the headline. But we can still connect. Phone calls, emails, texts, Facetime, Skype, letters, cards, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook… so many ways to reach out and stay in touch.

Rabbis and Cantors are streaming services in empty sanctuaries, but that livestream is illuminating a living room, a kitchen, a studio apartment, as well as the congregants there joining in prayers and singing the songs. We are finding new ways to connect.

Keep breathing. Keep focusing on the greater good. Pick up the book or the knitting or the model ship or the stack of crossword puzzles. Haul out the Scrabble and Monopoly boards. Be present. When the worry rises up, let it. Sit with it for a moment and then use a lifeline to phone a friend. In this challenging time, those calls are unlimited.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Solstice Sunset

There was a brief and subtle sunset tonight. Photographs couldn't do it justice. It was soft pink to mauve; a streak of yellow across orchid; and then a burst of magenta; closing to soft blue gray. It was in the upper twenties, the air crisp and the snow crunched quietly underfoot as we walked on the paths and in the woods. The Shortest Day. The Solstice. Winter officially begins, even as the subtle shift happens and the days begin to grow longer. Beautiful...

Monday, June 4, 2018

Grief Is Love

Today the Universe was kind to me. A friend from my childhood shared part of a quote by Jamie Anderson. It took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes. I recognized the feelings and was deeply grateful for the way Ms. Anderson described grief as love. I went searching for the source and found her blog All My Loose Ends. Soon I found her original post, with the full quote: As the lights wink out...

Since my Mom died a year and a half ago, at age 93, I have struggled with all the emotions you would expect. As Chuck and I have been involved in an enormous renovation of our old farmhouse, over and over I think “Oh, I’ll have to tell Mom about this.” or “Mom will love this.” The thoughts are always in the present tense. Instantly, the penny drops and I feel a swift wave of loss/grief/mourning followed by a slight disorientation. My Dad died 30 years ago at 68. And Mom’s passing has once again sharpened the pain of Dad’ absence.

The mental and physical challenges of the renovation have been therapeutic. But the joy of the progress remains tempered by this undercurrent of mourning. That’s why Ms. Anderson’s quote resonated with me. I still have all that love - not uncomplicated love, but powerful love natheless. So it helps to interpret this grief as the proof of the love; perhaps the price of the love. As Rabbi Anne Brener wrote in “Mourning & Mitzvah”: “The truth is that relationships continue to grow and change, even after one of the parties to them is dead.”

As Chuck and I sit on our new stone patio, I picture Mom and Dad visiting or Chuck’s late parents visiting - impossible reunions to be sure. Navigating these new relationships with our deceased parents is both fraught and blessed by all the memories, sweet and sad. It is challenging, but, yes, comforting too.

Photograph of Frenchman Bay in Bar Harbor, Maine and Layout LMR/Pink Granite. Software: Apple iPhoto ‘08 & Adobe Photoshop CS5 for Mac. Font: Hypatia Sans Pro.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Personal Storms

Over on Facebook, a smart and funny friend who is not originally from New England, was a bit fed up with all this snow. To be fair, three nor’easters in quick succession can do that. He also was rolling his eyes over people telling him about other major storms. It was his last comment, a bit of a toss off, which gave me pause. He said folks remember the names of the storms, but no one remembers when they happened.

I do. I remember the Halloween blizzard. It was in 2011. The Easter/April Fools Blizzard was in 1997, which I also remember. The Ice Storm of 2008 I remember vividly. Hurricane Hanna was also in 2008 and will never be forgotten. There are many, many more - including the ones my parents and grandparents told me about: the hurricane of ’38 and Hurricane Carol in 1954.

Many of the storms are notable for their power, their fierceness, their damage and aftermath. But what I mostly remember are the personal stories.

When my Providence, Rhode Island dwelling grandparents and parents spoke of the Hurricane of ’38 you could still sense their awe and fear, even decades after the devastation.

Hurricane Carol in ’54 wiped away the tiny beachfront cottage my parents rented for a week every summer. They never stopped speaking of it wistfully. There was also pain because what was built in its stead was exclusive and far too rich for their middle class pocketbook. In that little cottage they had felt rich. After Carol they felt far poorer.

In 2011 we travelled to Rhode Island for my aunt’s funeral during the Halloween Blizzard. The next morning, in the dazzling sunlight, we held our petite grandniece Bella in her oversized lamb costume. We then drove home to more than a foot of heavy wet snow and a house without power.

The Easter/April Fools Blizzard was in 1997. I know that because 1972 plus 25 equals 1997. The math matters because some loved ones were on the verge of divorcing, while some unaware family members were planning a silver anniversary party for them. Some painful conversations are forever tied to a glorious spring day accented with mountainous snowbanks.

The Ice Storm of 2008 was partly memorable for being without power for almost seven full days along with the purchase of our generator. But it is also tied to the kindness and generosity we experienced. Our niece called and invited us to come stay with her. Neighbors piled into a pick up truck and methodically cleared our road by hopping out and chainsawing downed trees, thereby making it passable.

Hurricane Hanna in 2008 was the backdrop and backstory to our niece’s wedding. The horizontal rain, mops deployed to keep the dance floor dry and the brief and perfectly timed lull in the storm which allowed photographers to capture the exuberant joy of their love is what I will never forget.

These storms are shared experiences. They are markers on our life timelines. Well beyond their powerful meteorology, each of them is bound up with stories and people and memories. They tie us together. They remind us we are strong. We are hardy. We are resilient. We are connected.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Their Memories Live On

They are all gone now.
My mother, Dorothy, died the day after Thanksgiving. This is my first Mother’s Day without her. In her memory I am re-posting what I wrote back in 2007:

We send our love and gratitude on Mother's Day to Dorothy and Betty. We send the same to Catherine, Marion, Minnie and Rose. We reach farther back to thank Leah, Fannie, Esther, Bessie, Mary, Mary, Elizabeth and Augusta. We send our gratitude back before photographs, back to when their names are only remembered on yellowing pages in record books, back to before there were any written records at all. We thank all our mothers and their mothers, all the way back to stardust.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election Night 2016

We knew this would be a tough election and a rough night. And we knew that no matter the outcome, the work to move us forward would continue tomorrow; wounds would need to healed; new - perhaps fragile - bridges built.

If things continue to go pear shaped, we will all need to be even more committed in our support of the organizations and elected officials who share our values. We will not abandon our beliefs nor our deep and lasting love for our country.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Happy Father’s Day, Dad

Dear Dad,
Thank you for working so damn hard for all of us every single day. Thank you for being such a wonderful storyteller. Thank you for singing and laughing and barbecuing and making sink sandwiches and kneeling in prayer every night. Thank you for “Anh anh, ea-sy, ooh ooh” and “All I want is ladies!” and “What’s the chill factor?” Thank you for teaching me to drive and loving the ocean and the beach. Thank you for being smart and funny and a voracious reader and for hanging my Religion Award in a place of honor in the kitchen. Thank you for teaching me my times tables and for helping me to see the patterns and for giving me the cheat I still use for the sevens. Thank you for dinners in the basement and in the garage to celebrate after you and I had cleaned them. Thank you for taking me for pony rides at Roger Williams Park and for Del’s Lemonade. Thank you for explaining what a mile long hot dog was and showing the teenage boys how to wrap their beer cans in aluminum foil. Thank you for planting tomatoes every Memorial Day and weeping with me when we had to cut down the Rose of Sharon. Thank you for getting me my red ten speed bike with the sales points you’d earned and for letting me ride it all over two towns all the time. Thank you for saying how beautiful I looked in my wedding dress and for wanting me to take it back as soon as you found out we had paid next to nothing for it. Thank you for walking me down the aisle even though it was to marry the wrong man. Thank you for saying I love you and for big hugs and watching Johnny Carson in the living room in the dark. Thank you for being humble and quiet and for being fierce and bold for your family. Thank you for driving us everywhere to get the best views of the ocean and for saying “Sign? What sign?” as we ventured down roads marked private. Thank you for standing in the middle of all those police officers and then kicking the front bumper back into place and then telling me I should still go to the dance after the accident. Thank you for hauling my stuff back and forth to college and checking under the station wagon to make sure it wasn’t dragging on the ground. Thank you for being so damn proud of me when I made Dean’s List every semester in college and for letting me get away with lousy grades in high school just because my conduct scores were “A”s. Thank you for teaching me how to frame and take a photograph and for calling rock and roll music “ker-plunk, ker-plunk, ker-plunka”. Thank you for Lawn Darts and for sharing your Heinekens with my best friends. Thank you for telling me I could stay at the house when my marriage was falling apart and for hugging me so hard when I said no, I had to go back. Thank you for doing “It Pays To Increase Your Word Power” with me and helping me with my project on the SDS. Thank you for laughing wicked hard while punching me firmly in the shoulder when I sang you that mildly scandalous musical joke I made up. Thank you for sneaking over to watch me hawk cheese samples in the mall and and for teaching me how to lay a fire in the fireplace. Thank you for grounding me that one time and sitting with me the next night as we cried together about all of it. Thank you for rescuing those baby robins and for bringing up the worms with the laundry pole and for celebrating when their parents took them back and for being heartbroken when one of them didn’t survive. Thank you for teaching me what love means.
I love you Dad.
I miss you Dad.
We all do.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Uncle Carl

Uncle Carl had just turned 33 when he was killed in action in Italy during World War II. He had graduated from Harvard but not yet married when he was called up. He was the eldest of seven. When his younger brother, my late father-in-law, was following him into the army, he wrote him a letter filled with practical and brotherly advice - including how to deal with the anti-semitism he would encounter.
Thank you for everything, Uncle Carl.
You are loved and missed and yes, your memory is a blessing…

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Hearts II

Dear loved ones of Suzann Diehl,
We visit that heart shaped rock slab on top of Cadillac Mountain twice a year.
We will check in on your heart each time we do…

On this April visit, all was well and as we first found it last October.
Lee and Chuck

Previous post: Hearts

Thursday, February 25, 2016


January 16, 1920 ~ February 25, 1988
28 years.
I love you and miss you every day.
Thank you for everything, Dad.
Zichrono liveracha / Your memory is a blessing...

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Be Not Afraid

Kol haolam kulo gesher tzar m’od
v’ha-ikar lo l’facheid klal

The entire world is but a narrow bridge;
the most important thing is not to be afraid

~ Reb Nachman of Breslov

Photograph and Layout LMR/Pink Granite. Software: Apple iPhoto ‘08 & Adobe Photoshop CS5 for Mac. Fonts: Helvetica and Papyrus.