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What comes after disaster fatigue?

This morning I woke up and like many of us, read about another mass shooting. This news pushed aside the already overwhelming tragedies of millions of people dealing with the aftermath of 3 devastating hurricanes. There are people dealing with toxic filth in Houston and people in desperate need of basic supplies that are sitting in ports in Puerto Rico (although the Teamsters are now on it). But have you forgotten about the horrible cluster of earthquakes in Mexico, or the powerfully destructive floods in South Asia? How well are you tracking the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar?

Despite it all, we still need to find the energy to get through the mundane details of our day to day lives. And heaven forfend there be our own struggles to deal with.

To quote the ever wise Joss Whedon, where do we go from here?

I have no answers. And that is what scares me the most. Marches and protests barely draw the attention of The Powers That Be, except to distract everyone from the whole purpose of the protest. Our congressional delegations, from both houses and both parties, (with few exceptions, thank you Ron Wyden!) are standing by uselessly while millions of children lose health insurance and our administration puts up barriers to prevent adults from signing themselves and their families up for the ACA. Obviously letter and postcards campaigns have failed (but please keep them up anyway!)

I have undergraduates in my class at SUNY that have never seen a congress that focuses on getting anything done. As far as they know, true bipartisanship is a myth. When they finally step into leadership positions of their own, they will have no positive role models, regardless of whether they go into the public or private sectors. We are setting them  (and therefore ourselves) up for ongoing failure.

Almost every pundit and journalist whose integrity I trust has written a version of this post recently. They are well beyond suggesting recommendations for how we move forward as a country. We are all left to bemoaning the horrors to people who are feeling as lost and helpless.

So knowing that these are all useless reminders of a truth we are all too aware of, why did I write this post anyway? Let me assure you, it was not for catharsis. I feel worse than I did when I started typing. Perhaps it is because I feel a need to let future generations who live in the dystopian world we are leaving them that there were people who cared. We wanted to help, we just didn’t know how.

Nature or nurture. Who cares?

I am unquestionably my father’s daughter. My father was an avid reader of pretty much anything he could get his hands on. He loved knowing as much about everything as he could. I don’t ever recall seeing him encounter a topic on which he had zero knowledge. I naturally assumed that this was part of being a parent. So I set out to learn as much about everything as I could for my future child(ren).

I suspect my father picked up his reading habit from his mother, although my grandfather died when I was 7, so I can’t speak to his own reading habits. I don’t recall my grandmother having many books, but she did read magazines. In particular, I have a distinct memory of her reading Smithsonian magazine. At the time, I was very fond of English literature and could not understand how she could possibly survive without fiction. Neither she nor my father were big on watching tv, so reading really was central to keeping themselves entertained.

About a year ago, David and I were in DC for his cousin’s bat mitzvah. While we were there we spent several hours at the Udvar-Hazy Center, which is an extension of the Smithsonian Air and Space museum. We found a cool gift for our friends in the gift shop, and I got a significant discount for joining the Smithsonian. One of the perks of membership is a subscription to Smithsonian magazine.

Yesterday I found myself sitting and reading a copy of the Smithsonian and I had a sudden flashback to my grandmother’s house with her copy on the coffee table. How ironic, that all of these years later I would be the one eschewing fiction for the very same magazine. At that moment, I felt such a strong connection to both my father and grandmother. We were bound together through 3 generations with a shared love for knowledge. I could almost feel them kvelling.

 

I *almost* made Dancer’s day

I know I have been fairly quiet since the move, but that is because life continues to be a real whirlwind. After almost 4 years, I left AgileBits in July. I figured so much of my life was already in flux, why not just add a cherry on the top of the chaos. This has left we with plenty of time to put a really significant dent in our boxes.

David and I keep lamenting that we have had so little time to explore this summer, but then we think about how we have been spending our time and realize that we have spent a lot of our time being out and about. Just most of it has not been in Plattsburgh.

Our first week here with cats, we were committing to Lake Placid. Then, not too long ago we joined the synagogue from Saratoga Springs in an outdoor service near Schroon Lake. That was significant because it was both our first hike in the Adirondacks this year and when we knew it was time to get serious about acquiring a car with all-wheel drive and higher clearance than our Prius.

We also had an unexpected trip to Burlington to have lunch with an out-of-town friend and his boyfriend. Lunch turned into a walk to the waterfront where we were introduced to Maple creemees (which is simply a higher fat version of soft serve). We also stopped in to the Echo, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain where we had a fun time geeking out. I think I confused the person working in the Resource Room when I asked for a handful of information on the local watersheds and invasive species. When I explained that I was new to the area, she gave me her card in case I had any questions.

David’s and stepmother finagled a second week at the camp in Lake Placid and spent a couple of nights in Plattsburgh. They joined us for a shabbat service and then we all went to Montreal to the art museum. The museum was excellent, but we only got a tiny taste of the collections. The good news is that their memberships are very reasonably priced so we will definitely be back. We then sat in traffic for a while trying to get into the old part of the city before giving up and going to the botanical gardens.

Last weekend we joined several other North Country congregations at the historical synagogue in Tupper Lake.  The following day we headed off for 4 days in South harbor, Maine with David’s mother’s side of the family.

I got a good hike and a half in before doing something painful to my foot while clambering down some rocks. I hobbled, hopped and slid on my butt for the remaining mile and a half back to the car. My x-rays showed was was likely hairline fractures on 2 or 3 metatarsals. I got a CAT scan the following day, but I was told not to expect results before early next week. But they did give me both my x-rays and CAT scans on a CD to bring back.

We drove home yesterday (which was the original plan anyway) where I confirmed that the back seat of the new car (Named Mabelline, May for short) is quite comfortable. This morning I sent one of David’s congregants off the with scans to see if he can dig up a radiologist to review them.

Meanwhile, I am sitting on the couch with my foot up typing this on my tablet. My laptop is within reach, but the cord is not and the battery is basically toast. Hopefully I will be back up and mobile soon so I can get back to unpacking at least to a good pausing place (or ideally done) before the high holidays hit. If not, I will at least get through the bulk of the adoption paperwork and a good head start on my reading for the Environmental Law and Policy class I am taking this term.

Frozen, but unable to Let it Go

Let me preface this post by saying that we are making good, discernible progress on the unpacking front. That being said, I am being challenged daily with considerations about what should go where. I don’t think any of these issues are specific to this house. Any time one moves from one space to another, these types of questions will arise. Unfortunately for me, this is not my strong suit. But hey, what is life without the occasional spacial challenge, right?

Speaking of challenges, I am beginning to wonder if I will ever again be able to listen to public radio for extended periods without wanting to poke my eyes out. Unrelenting news about mean and vile behavior is more than I can handle right now. Thank goodness for NPR One and podcasts of my favorite shows to remind me that there are still good people in the world.

I have always said that local government is where the rubber meets the road, so I have decided to direct my frustration-driven energies there. Plattsburgh is facing some challenging financial times driven by the Common Council’s ongoing unwillingness to make the difficult decisions. I saw a note in the local paper asking for people to join the Citizen Finance Committee. Of course, I volunteered. Our first meeting was last night and I am pleased to report that there was some good discourse. But we still have a long way to go.

My favorite small town moment was when someone asked to see the full city budget. The council member running the meeting explained that the full budget was about 40 pages long and that might be too much for most people. He offered the 2 page summary instead. I tried hard not to laugh because I have yet to encounter a city’s departmental budget in either Portland or Philly that was that short. I requested the full version, obviously.

One of the perks(?) of leaving Oregon is having a congressional rep (Elise Stefanik) whom I can try to encourage to change her mind about destroying the ACA. I have made my opinion known to her office, but that is of limited use. As I am beyond angry about the blood-pressure raising perpetuation of the health care debacle I needed somewhere to direct that energy. Which is why I have also submitted an application to volunteer at the local Planned Parenthood.

This weekend we met Tedra Cobb who is one of Stefanik’s potential challengers for the house seat in 2018. Her heart is clearly in the right place and she has held municipal office. However, I really need to see some of her policy positions before I can throw my support behind her.

This is where I admit that writing this post was little more than an excuse to avoid the boxes surrounding me. The guilt is beginning to reach critical mass, so I will sign off now and go slay some more box dragons.

Clicking my heels together

The last few weeks have been quite the whirlwind. There is more than I can possibly say in a single post, but I will do what I can to post more frequently now that we are at least not living bi-coastally.

A couple of days after we arrived with cats in tow, David and I commuted back and forth between Plattsburgh and Lake Placid for several days (discovering several cool country roads in the process). David’s stepmother’s family has a house (or a camp in local parlance) where they/we have been gathering as an extended family since long before I arrived on the scene. This year, David’s family’s week coincided with our first week in New York. We were hesitant to leave our cats alone having just recently moved them cross-country, so we visited during the days and spent the nights at home with the beasties.

It is always nice when we gather there and have an opportunity to catch up with people we see all too rarely. This year, for a variety of reasons, the cast of characters was different than usual. Those who couldn’t make it were very much missed, but it was a great opportunity to get to know some relative newcomers.

Sadly, there was one very noticeable absence. Shortly before this year’s gathering, we lost a beloved family member. Since Lake Placid was his happy place, we interred him there, in view of the Adirondacks that he loved. It was a perfect time and place to say our farewells, but we were all acutely aware that he was taken from us much too soon.

I stayed in Plattsburgh for David’s first service (which was very well received, I am excited to say) and then flew back to Portland to do some final packing and supervise the last stages of the move. Unsurprisingly, it was a bumpy process. We will get a better sense of just how bumpy when our furniture and boxes arrive tomorrow. For the moment, let me just say that the movers were not used to Reedie/rabbinical types and were overwhelmed by the sheer number of books we own. What they didn’t know was just how many boxes of books had already been culled from our collection.

As an aside, I remarked to a friend that David’s books now make up about 2/3 of our total collection. And of those, about a third were written more than 1500 years ago. Although the copyrights may have expired, they are not always easy to locate electronically. And even if they were, it somehow seems appropriate to me to have paper editions of texts that were written long before modern paper making techniques or moveable text were invented.

To wrap up this rambling post, let me cut to the chase. On July 13th I made my final flight east as an Oregonian. The next day, several of David’s congregants welcomed me home. Although I am not sure I could have predicted that I would ultimately settle in New York, I am very glad to be here.

What a long strange trip its been

Tomorrow I reverse the trip I took in August 1988. Back then I was a naive 17 year old with a New Yorker’s view of the country. 

When I told people that I was going to college in Portland, the first question was Maine or Oregon (pronounced AR-E-GONE).  The question was quickly followed by a look that essentially conveyed “do you know you are heading to the frontier?” Now when I tell people I live in Portland, they immediately assume I mean the one in Oregon and know that it is a mid-sized city filled with coffee sipping, beer-loving hipsters obsessed with donuts. I remain amused when the people who once scoffed at me moving to Portland now extoll its virtues.

Back in 1988, I didn’t get any sleep the night before I left home. Some combination of my friends Rachel, Lisa and David Franks spent the night hanging out with me. I can still clearly remember stopping by the front door and looking back and thinking that things will never be the same from here on out.

My next memory is one of me on the plane to PDX, walkman in hand, popping in the Dead Milkmen cassette copy of Bucky Fellini and opening the paperback of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Both were farewell gifts from Rachel because of their references Reed and Portland.

I really don’t think I have truly wrapped my mind around leaving Portland. Maybe it is because last time we left Portland for a spell, we always knew that we would come back as soon as we could. Maybe it is because this has been my home for my entire adult life so I don’t know what planting new roots really feels like.  Maybe because it is just too big a change to fathom in one fell swoop. Maybe it is because I know that I am coming back in July for 5 days to meet the movers when they load up the house. Regardless, I am fully aware that there will be an emotional reckoning ahead.

As sad as I am to leave my home, I do feel some degree of lightness. The move put the purge on the front burner and we have donated boxes and boxes and boxes of crap that had been accumulating for an embarrassingly long time. The last vestiges of the furniture I acquired while in college will be donated to live out their remaining days in Portland.

Tomorrow morning I move back to New York. And I keep catching myself looking around my house and my city and thinking, once again, that things will never be the same.

 

So many thoughts, so little time

I am building up quite the collection of draft posts that, for an assortment of reasons, I have decided not to post. The most prevalent reason being a lack of time to devote to editing. I tend to draft posts by spewing words on to the screen, so they can be fairly incomprehensible without that last step.

The weeks have been flying by, which, in all honesty, is kind of terrifying.  June 27th, the day David and I fly to Plattsburgh with our cats, is waaaaay too close for comfort. Especially when you consider how little David is around this month. I won’t enumerate the actual days I am solo because I am trying to avoid inducing panic in myself or David. But trust me, he is gone more than he is here.

Being a short-timer has helped me become more mindful of what I love about Portland. Most of what I think I will miss most varies from day to day, but my number one item remains constant, friends. I have many friends in Portland whom I have known since I was but a wee freshling at Reed.  I have grown up with these people, been there for marriages, babies (some of whom are somehow now headed off to college), career highs and lows, family illnesses and deaths. In other words, we have all grown up together.

But my friendships extend far beyond the bubble on SE Woodstock. I also have dear friends made throughout my professional career, whether they be from Portland Parks & Rec, CubeSpace or the Portland tech scene. I value these friendships greatly and will miss getting together with these friends, albeit often less frequently than I would have liked.

Believe me, I have absolutely no intention of losing touch with my Portland friends. Nevertheless, things will inevitably change once I am no longer local. And that is sort of sad-making. But I have lived 3,000 miles from my BFF (who is also a Reedie) for over a decade and if anything, I would say the need to be intentional about nurturing our friendship has helped bring us closer.

Portland has become much more of a foodie town since I first moved here back in the dark ages when the only food available after 9pm came from The Hotcake House or QP. No one can accuse Portland of having a dearth of delicious food at this point. But sadly (at least for me), some of my favorite haunts are now long gone. I would love an to opportunity to have farewell meals at Saigon Kitchen or Jarra’s, but they are no more. And even a last #4 at Woodstock Wine & Deli seems unsatisfying without Tak around.

On my way to reunions this weekend I had a sudden craving for Oasis Pizza. I have lived 2 blocks from Oasis for the past 13 years and I have only been there a handful of times. But once upon a time, the pizza options in Portland were fairly limited. Oasis had slices for a $1. Which made it well worth the effort to hop on the 75 to get cheap pizza. Their slices are now closer to $5 a pop and they are not the tastiest pizza in town, but I am nevertheless planning on getting a slice for nostalgia’s sake.

This post did not end up where I thought it would, but I am posting it anyway. I suspect there will be a few more rambly posts before we become Plattbugh Platypi (no that is not a thing, but enough of my friends think it should be so we are going to see what we can do).  You have been warned.

 

Our next great adventure

After a week of jet-lagged misery, I am finally over whatever nasty bug I brought home with me and feeling human again. Even so, I don’t think the enormity of the move has fully hit me yet. I am going to take this window of opportunity to share my thoughts before the logistics of a cross-country move take over my waking hours.

As many of you know, the last couple of years have been very difficult for us. The seemingly endless state of limbo while we continue to wait for our baby has been slowly sucking the joy from our lives. I had resigned from all of my volunteer and board commitments when we started the adoption process to make room in my life for a baby.  That left me with too much time on my hands. Early on, I used that time to be creative, but as time passed, my creative energy dissipated until it was essentially gone.

Meanwhile, David continued to apply for select rabbinic positions. He got close a few times, but nothing came through.

Right before Passover, David and I were invited to spend a weekend at Temple Beth Israel in Plattsburgh, NY.  David was really impressed with the community members he had been speaking with  during his Skype interviews, so I was eager to meet them.

We had already planned to spend Passover with David’s family in Boston. We had even booked our tickets. All we needed to do was take a weekend jaunt up to Plattsburgh. But that was easier said than done.

Long story short, it was fortunate that the airport we got stranded in was JFK. We were able to hop a cab into Manhattan, spend the night in a hotel (last minute hotel booking sites are awesome, we found a great deal at a hotel just 3 blocks from Penn Station) and take the train to Plattsburgh the following morning.

To say that we received a warm welcome in Plattsburgh would be an understatement. Everyone we met, both within and outside the congregation, was wonderful.

The congregation is comprised primarily of transplants, many coming from one of the 5 boroughs. One comment we heard over and over again was how people had moved to Plattsburgh for work, intending to stay just a couple of years.  They then surprised themselves by staying for the next 20 to 30 years (and counting). To me, that speaks very highly of the community.  I am eagerly looking forward to getting to know these people better as we settle in to our new home.

In addition to the ubiquitous strip malls, Plattsburgh has a historic downtown that has been revitalized with restaurants and shops. They have a newly expanded co-op that David has made me promise not to join the board of (at least not right away). There is also a used book store and a children’s book store to keep us entertained throughout the winter.

We were originally concerned about the weather, but since Plattsburgh is in a valley, the weather is more moderate than in the Adirondacks. The average low is 8 degrees Fahrenheit and the average precipitation year-round is 2 – 3″ a month. Yes, we will need to revert to having seasonal wardrobes (as opposed to what we have in Portland, which is one set of clothes that we either layer up or down), but all in all, it is not too terrible.

The one thing I have not mentioned is how this move will impact our adoption process. The answer is that we don’t quite know. Adoption laws in New York are more restrictive than Oregon. Our secondary adoption agency has already removed us from their pool because they are not registered to place in New York. We have a call with a New York adoption lawyer on Monday to discuss whether we can continue to work with our primary agency. Either way, we will also be discussing next steps so we can do what we need to to put the adoption process back on track.

At a minimum, we will have to get a new home visit and do a new criminal background check in New York. Worst case, we will need to redo our entire home study. Our incredible adoption attorney in Oregon, Robin Pope, has connected us to some highly recommended lawyers in upstate New York, so we feel like we are in good hands.

All in all, I am choosing to be optimistic about these developments. As a wise friend told me when we told her about the move, this is why we haven’t ben matched with a birth family yet.

David and I are planning on having some kind of farewell gathering before we leave. We will set a date as soon as we have worked out our travel and move schedule. Keep an eye on Facebook and Twitter for details.

There is also a (likely) final #PDXBreakfast (unless someone volunteers to take the reigns) scheduled for 8:30am, May 18th at Mi Mero Mole in Chinatown.

Last but not least, we really do want to see as many people as possible before we leave. We will do our best to remember to reach out and schedule times with people individually or in small groups. However, our to-do list is long enough that it is very possible that we will find ourselves completely overwhelmed and completely lose track of time. Therefore, we are relying on you, our friends, to help us by reaching out to schedule a time to see us before we go. Believe me, we will welcome the forced breaks and the excellent company.

 

 

My only hope

In some ways it was hard to be a little girl in the 70s. There weren’t very many female characters to identify with.  Sesame Street only had Prairie Dawn who had a whispery voice and was a goody two-shoes. In other words, she annoyed me. Fortunately, I had absolutely no problem assigning gender to non-humans*. I simply decided that Grover and Ernie were girls because they were my two favorite muppets.

When I first saw Star Wars in 1977, my little mind was blown. Here was a princess who was not passive. It only took a few minutes before she showed us her mettle by standing up to the scary villain. That made me sit up and take notice. So much so that I even  remember being irritated with Luke from an early age for describing Princess Leia as beautiful when he sees her in the holographic message. Who cared whether she was beautiful or not? She had an important message to convey. Why didn’t he understand that?

As I grew older I started to (grudgingly) recognize that Carrie Fisher and Princess Leia were not one and the same. But that was ok with me because it turns out that Carrie Fisher was more than just an actor. I can still remember my surprise when I first ran across a book she authored at the library. In the days before IMDB and Wikipedia, it actually took me a bit of digging to confirm that this author and Princess Leia were the same person. I knew actors and I knew writers, but I had never encountered someone who could do both. It would not be the last time that Carrie Fisher impressed me.

 

In 2008, Carrie Fisher released “Wishful Drinking” and that is when, in my mind, she truly came into her own and transcended Princess Leia. If you haven’t read any of her autobiographical books, I suggest you do so in short order. Her style of no-holds-barred truth telling is both funny and poignant. And if you really want some good entertainment, watch the one woman show that grew out of that book. I’ve seen it several times and she still cracks me up every time.

Carrie Fisher is gone and a great light has been extinguished from the universe. But Princess Leia will live on. She has been immortalized in film and literature.  The Star Wars universe may now have Jyn Erso and Rey, but as awesome as they are, they will both walk forever in Leia’s magnificent shadow.

 

*As R2D2 was an ungendered droid, I happily decided that he was female. And no, using the male pronoun was not a mistake. It never bothered me that my favorite female characters were referred to using the male pronoun. It simply made me feel like I was in on a secret that no one else was privy to.

Breaking up is hard to do, but sometimes it is necessary

This week I  decided that I need to break up with the guy who has been cutting my hair for the past 3 years. He is more than just a service provider to me. During that time, he has become a friend and confidant. However, after he shared that he was going into business with a man who had voted for Trump, I realized that our relationship was over. I spent the ride home feeling queasy and uncomfortable and that feeling has stayed with me. Ultimately leading me to share my thoughts on the matter.

This friend is a young (25ish) white, gay man from the Portland area. He has been fortunate enough to grow up in a city that not only celebrates its LGBTQ population, but has now elected both a LGBTQ mayor and governor in races where their sexual orientation were non-issues. He is too young to know about the AIDS crisis and is naive to the homophobia that remains a serious issue in this country and the world at large.

When he mentioned that his new business partner had voted for Trump, he added that he completely understood that decision because he is a very wealthy man. He seemed oblivious to the hatred and venom that was an integral part of Trump’s campaign. The same hatred that Trump continues to endorse when selecting his closest advisors and cabinet members.

He is either unaware or unconcerned that his ability to marry is being threatened.  Or that fellow LGBTQ people are feeling threatened and/or suicidal as calls to the Trevor Project have increased to numbers last seen after the horrors of the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

While he was washing my hair, he asked why I was wearing a safety pin on my shirt. When I explained that it was to demonstrate my solidarity and willingness to step in and support those who are feeling threatened because of their race, gender, color sexual orientation, immigration status or religion, he was touched, but clearly did not see himself as a member of those communities most at risk.

But why should he? The world is a very different place than the one I grew up in. There have been great strides made in LGBTQ rights over the past decade and that is the only world he knows. Over the years, I have tried to explain how much things have changed and how important it is that we never go back to the dark ages where discrimination was the norm. Where men like Matthew Shepard could be tortured and beaten simply for the fact that they were born gay.

Although I understand how my friend’s decision to disregard his business partner’s vote comes from a place of naiveté, that doesn’t sway my decision. I don’t require that my friends agree with me on everything that I believe nor do they require that of me. But there are some lines that I am not willing to cross. The biggest one being an endorsement, whether implicit or explicit, of hatred for others.