Sunday, October 12, 2008


We are all news junkies in this household, Saul especially, even when we watch our frivolous stuff on television. Saul likes reality t.v., like "The Amazing Race" and "Survivor." I like cooking shows. Mom has always loved game shows like "Jeopardy," "Wheel of Fortune," and "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" In between, what we all have in common is that we switch back to the news, usually CNN these days, when we are not watching the "Today" show or the regularly-scheduled local news. In between, as we work, there is the Internet. Lately, that has meant watching our economy implode or watching presidential campaign promises of how it will be fixed. My tendency, and Mom's as well, is to want to switch it off. I spent most of my week worrying about how bad things could get here as we watched the snowball growing bigger and faster as it rolled down the mountain toward other world economies. Saul seems to be able to watch it and compartmentalize the pain and worry so that it does not affect his whole day. I wish I could!

During Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur services this week, Rabbi Howard Addison continued on his theme of the blasts of the shofar. Teruah, (the blast that is an alarm call to the community to come together) was an exploration of the personality conflicts between the Biblical twins, Jacob and Esau, and how Jacob grew and became more whole as a person, becoming Israel only when he was able to incorporate some of Esau's character traits into his own personality. By contrast, Esau was never able to incorporate Jacob's character traits into his personality and did not grow. The sermon was a call to examine ourselves, our personalities, and those traits that we find distasteful in other people to find ways to temper our behavior and grow as human beings. This call to introspection and spirituality is especially welcome right now when the trappings of materialism are being stripped away. The tekiah gadolah (a blast that is sustained and echoes for a moment even when the horn ceases to be blown) was a call to reflect on the effects that those who came before us have on our lives and the effects that we will have on those who follow us.

The fast for both of us was among the easiest we can recall, probably because of the temperate weather. Adele joined us for dinner on Wednesday evening before Kol Nidre and stayed with Mom until we returned. We had a dairy dinner--home-made challah, apples slices dipped in honey, cream of cauliflower soup, salmon burgers, roasted garlic and sauteed onion mashed potatoes, Israeli salad, baba ghanoush with pretzel chips, chocolate rum cake and creamy bread pudding. I invited our friend, Elaine, who joined MBI-EE this year, to break the fast with us. We had Sabra and Frangelico cordials, home-made date bread, apples and honey, challah, orange juice, sesame bagels and cream cheese with smoked kippered salmon, sliced tomatoes, red onion, cucumbers, red bell peppers, and leftover chocolate rum cake and creamy bread pudding. Ken came to stay with Mom most of the day and Adele relieved him around 4:30 p.m. so we could go back to synagogue for the beautiful Neilah service. The final sounding of the shofar, which marks the end of the holy day and the end of the fast was at 7:07 p.m. We had come home and set the table in the afternoon and Mom had tried to stay awake to join us, but finally gave up and went to sleep shortly before we arrived home. Adele remained and broke the fast with us.

Friday, Saul and I spent the morning catching up with our long-neglected gardening work. Mom seemed to be rejuvenated by spending most of the previous day with Ken. She had awakened by 9:00 a.m. and had breakfast in the kitchen. Then she took herself outside to sit on the deck while we worked. When the aide came to bathe her, she agreed to sit in the shower for the first time in months rather than be sponge-bathed in bed. When the aide left, I set her hair for the first time in months, as well, as she sat on the deck. When she finally went inside to nap, I removed the rollers and combed her hair and she looked so wonderful that I grabbed her hand mirror to show her how great and relaxed she looked. The weather has been glorious, neither too hot nor too cold with only gentle breezes occasionally wafting through the trees. I spent the whole afternoon on my computer work as I now have a deadline coming up again, while Saul continued weeding, caught up with his email, and got Shabbat dinner underway. Our friend, Faith Rubin, joined us for dinner along with Larry and Beth. There was not a lot of work to get dinner together this week because we had so many leftovers. I took my home-made round challahs from the freezer. I had bought a bag of frozen, individually-wrapped, Hawaiian ahi tuna steaks at Costco and had defrosted them. I seasoned them with salt and pepper, coated them with evoo (extra-virgin olive oil) and dipped them in black and white sesame seeds. Then, I seared them on both sides in a very hot cast iron skillet. They were delicious! I think perhaps they were even better than the fresh tuna that I usually buy, probably because they were flash-frozen on the ship when they were caught. I also made cole slaw substituting kohlrabi for the cabbage and Saul and I together prepared fresh spinach salad with hot non-bacon dressing that included hard-boiled eggs, avocado, fresh mushrooms, cucumber, red onion, and tomato.

Yesterday, while Saul went to synagogue, I stayed home with Mom and finished a very challenging and clever Sunday New York Times Crossword puzzle that involved the word "typo" with one letter being a typo in each of the clues. Unfortunately, on the way home, Saul developed car trouble, apparently the alternator beginning to go. He arranged with a friend who has a used car dealership a few minutes away to drop it off. The car died on the way over. He called AAA where we have priority service to have it towed the rest of the way. He called me to tell me that they said the tow truck would be there within the hour and that he wanted to conserve the battery in his phone. An hour-and-a-half later, when I was unable to reach him by phone, I apprised Mom of what was happening, made her promise not to walk around until I returned, and made sure she had her cell phone handy. I found him still sitting in the dead car waiting for AAA. He had not answered my call because they had put him on hold for a long time while they tried to determine what was taking so long. The tow truck finally came about 15 minutes after I arrived and followed us to the dealership which was already closed for the evening. As we were pulling up to the dealership, Beth called to say that she was with Mom. She had called while we were gone and when Mom told her what had happened, she came over to keep Mom company until we returned, which was a big relief to us. Another interesting part of the story is that while Saul was stranded, a breath-takingly beautiful African-American woman had noticed him stuck there for a long time as she had done an errand, and stopped her car to go over to him and offer assistance. He was overwhelmed not only by her beauty, but by her kindness and concern. When we returned, Beth stayed and we all had dinner together, again dining on our delicious leftovers.

While working on the garden on Friday morning, Saul had a short chat with our next-door neighbor, Alan. He and his wife Judy are both retired teachers with new careers, like Saul. As Alan was preparing to leave for work Thursday morning, his employer called to say that he was laid off and not to bother coming back to work. Alan said he had over $90,000 worth of orders for new kitchens he had designed, but the employer said that no new work would be coming and that his services would no longer be needed. His wife's business, which involves selling custom-made children's clothing and bedding items at craft shows has fallen off 40% and is likely to get worse as the financial crisis deepens. He told Saul that, although he had been president of the Young Republicans Club in college and had never voted Democratic, he was planning to do so now. When Beth came to Shabbat dinner, she was very disconsolate over the fact that there had been another round of lay-offs at Toll Brothers where she works as an engineer. A newly laid-off friend there had just adopted a baby after several years of trying to have a family only to discover that his wife had become pregnant. Another friend had been working for Toll Brothers for 17 years. Toll Brothers is the largest home-building company in the United States. Beth told us last night that she had offered to be laid-off first because she is single and felt that she would not have much trouble finding another job. Evidently, they decided to cut elsewhere.

Our big vice expense-wise is eating out, although the places we frequent are relatively inexpensive. We have begun to curtail these activities, not only because we can no longer leave Mom alone, but because it is far cheaper to eat at home. My family always tells me that I have the best restaurant anywhere here at home, but I am always curious especially to experience other ethnic cuisines and learn about new and unfamiliar ingredients. I only hope that the economy does not get so bad that I have to cut down on my food at home as well. I feel sorry for the people who only experience a good meal when they eat out and I am also worried that all the wonderful "mom and pop" local ethnic restaurants we frequent will close up as we all begin to cut back on our expenses. Owning and managing a restaurant is a precarious business even in good times.

As I watch the bad news unfold on CNN, I want to reach out and smack the newscasters as they smile, smirk and giggle their way through their broadcasts. Apparently, as they wisecrack with each other, most feel that they are somehow immune to the lay-offs and curtailing of luxuries to which they have become accustomed in their lives. Perhaps they have been coached to put on a happy face while presenting the sobering facts. There was quite a bit of giggling when I saw a financial adviser suggest that weekly manicures and pedicures were not a necessity and might be a way to cut back on spending. One newscaster was appalled when another suggested he might give his children hugs for Christmas this year instead of the usual array of stuff, all this taking place while Americans contemplate the far-reaching effects of a dismal Christmas shopping season this year. When we cut back, think of all the people who will lose their jobs--the restaurant managers, waiters, dishwashers, suppliers of restaurants, delivery people, manicurists, retail personnel, and the list goes on…

People who think that, because their job is relatively secure, the economic situation at the moment will cause only a little blip in their lifestyle for a short time have not really thought through all the implications and are kidding themselves. Greed at the top of society has brought about an economic crisis of world-wide proportions. I only hope that in solving this crisis, we will bring about a better world that is cleaner, fairer, kinder, and not given to wasting our resources to produce useless junk.

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