Band of Brothers No More!

Can I start by saying that men and women should be equal?

Can I start by saying men and women are not the same?

Can I simply start by saying women in combat is a stupid idea?

Can I add that I feel bad for the men on the front line who’ll have to work at developing a camaraderie with women, while trying to forget they’re women?

Truly, I can go on and on, but you see – the issue isn’t that women on the front lines will be equal to men in training and strength. I have no doubt that they will be selected carefully.

Female Australian soldiers in Afghanistan

The problem is human nature: Men automatically feel women need more protection than men. I doubt you can change this visceral reaction under fire. After all, if there’s a chance that a troop will fall in enemy’s hands, who do we suppose will be raped first?

And I know that I’m going to hear screams from many feminists about the next statement (and I’m a declared one, so don’t beat me up too badly), but some women have cramps during their periods, they have PMS or they lose a lot of blood during their periods, so can they truly be equal to men under all circumstances and conditions? I think not.

And think about the medic. If there are wounded soldiers and you hear the screams of men and women, who would you go to first? Of course everyone is going to say that you treat the gravest injury first, but what if both men and women have the same injury?

The overt message is about equality, and I’m the first one to say equality in the eyes of the law is nonnegotiable. But this new law seems to be more of a reaction to the letter of the law without any regard to the laws of nature.

The many implications and complications of women in combat cannot be overstated, from the overt to the covert.

Do we really believe that women are less sensitive than they are? That they are less emotional than they are? We continuously hear about soldiers coming home with PTSD, and when you think of a woman combatant, a woman that was designed to procreate, should we be worried about the killer instinct in the body and soul of someone who is endowed with maternal instincts? And when we think of warmth and nurturing do we associate it with men or women?

And please, let’s not talk about the exceptions. I know that there are sensitive and nurturing men. I work with them. I know there are women who don’t want to be mothers, I used to be one of them. I know that there are women who have the killer instinct, we hear about them in the news. Ironically, the majority use poison, not guns.

Ok, you might say this is a first step in desensitizing men, and that things will be equalized. Sure…

As long as there’s an innate attraction between men and women; and the relationship between intensity and attraction … then we have to be realistic about the intensity of being in training together, in combat together – that’s a lot of intensity, adrenaline, and a lot of ‘together’.

If General Petraeus could not contain himself, why should we believe that Corporal Doe will? In battle, the intensity of life gets accentuated and the emotions emanating from facing the battle bring on a primitive instinct to mate, to imagine that we’re in love (even if you have a loyal spouse at home), and to experience reality in a unique way.

Is it difficult to imagine this thought process:

The “Band of Brothers” is no more, but this woman with whom I trained knows me better than the one I left at home. She knows our deadly reality and I have a special bond with her. And… I feel protective towards her, even though she can do more push ups than I can.

Why shouldn’t we have sex now? We may be dead tomorrow.

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And last final note re: personal experience. Many years ago I was in the military, went through officers training and was very comfortable using all kinds of weapons.

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Posted in Uncategorized, Woman in The Military, Women in Combat | Tagged , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

Mozart’s Requiem, Birthday and Memorial

“How do you feel about going to a memorial on your birthday?” asked my husband, some weeks ago.

I don’t know about you, but usually there’s some fuss about me on my birthday… Flowers, phone-calls, a family brunch or dinner, and the like.  So, after even more than a few birthdays, I still look forward to some sort of celebration, even though I have to admit I’ve no use for gifts.

But this year, the memorial for our cousin’s deceased husband is on my birthday. We live far away, so this would take most of the day.

Dear reader, do you want to go to a memorial on your birthday?

Candles spell out the traditional English birt...

Well, in my continuous quest for reevaluation I’ve decided the memorial is exactly what I needed to do – first, to be supportive of our lovely cousin; and also to honor the cycle of life.

After all, the day I was born was just a regular day. The world didn’t stand still. People were born and people died.  The sun was shining in one place and it was cloudy in another. So I’ve decided that going to the memorial was the perfect way to honor that cycle of life.

Notwithstanding my effort to contemplate the nature of the universe, my husband felt badly about not celebrating it on the real day, so he made reservations at a nice restaurant for birthday eve, followed by a concert at the Alex Theater in Glendale.

Birthday-Eve

Last night was a bit unusual because I usually know what the LA Chamber Orchestra was to perform, but not this time.  I knew from the tickets it would be Mozart, which felt serendipitous, because he was born on my birthday – I just didn’t bother to look at the program ahead of time.

“Shit”, I said to my husband, as we walked to the concert hall.  Mozart’s Requiem, the marquis announced in bold letters.

“This is supposed to be the celebration for my birthday …  And now it’ll be celebrated by Mozart’s Requiem … on my birthday … a theme of death?!?”

Truth be told, I’d never heard the piece in its entirety, but I suddenly felt this theme of death accompanying my birthday to be a very powerful symbol – and that there would be a lesson there.

Happily, the concert was transporting and beautiful and I could have sat there for hours  listening to the beautiful music.

Mozart's Requiem

Mozart’s Requiem was composed honoring a dead woman; Mozart really needed money at that time and he died while composing it. I don’t know how many of you know it but, Mozart never finished the Requiem!  (It was completed by his assistant, I think.)

The Requiem had to be finished not because of Mozart’s brilliance but because his grieving wife needed money. This juxtaposition of basic survival needs and heavenly creativity is the message.

So in the midst of thinking of Mozart and his uncompleted requiem; our cousin who herself was at death’s door a year ago – the same cousin who now is the one sitting in a memorial today to honor her husband’s memory … and a concert that began as a disappointment but ended up being sublime … I realized that it’s all about letting go.

Letting go of expectations is so profoundly difficult for me.

Birth and death are intermingled:  One is born and another dies.  My granddaughter was born not according to plan just a short time ago, and our cousin’s husband was not supposed to die. Some expectations will be unmet because life occurs with little regard for the fact that we want to be the maestro who conducts the orchestra.

So the gift of my birthday is the theme of interconnectedness. We are all alike, even when we forget that we will die and raise a toast to ourselves on our birthday – we are yet mere creatures in this enigmatic universe; or, if you like – this divine comedy.

And even though I will drive to a memorial in a couple of hours to be there for our cousin – I will stop to see my family and my new grand-daughter whose major accomplishments are eating, sleeping and smiling. You see, this is all that one needs to do when life begins. And it’s enough.

My husband just told me that my coffee is ready, and you know what they say:

Wake up and smell the coffee!

English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto...

Posted in Birthday, Death, Memorial, Music, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

(Un)Conditional Love: Departures

It’s been a while since I blogged. For some reason I didn’t feel passionate about any topic. An exchange with a friend reminded me how much I care about the vagaries of parenthood. So here it goes…
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There was the day when everything changed.

The beloved son was no longer welcome. The adored daughter was told she should consider herself not part of the family if she went ahead with her wedding plans.

I wonder (always) about the human capacity to turn on a close family member just because they break away from what’s acceptable to you and what defines you as a parent.

I can start with Chava, Tuvia’s (Tevye) daughter from Fiddler on Roof who falls in love with a non-Jew. In 2013 it seems like a non-issue, but in the story upon which the famed musical is based (Tevye the Dairyman), it’s one of the two heartbreaking events which makes the play/story so universally heartfelt. The story was written in the 19th century, but the father’s rejection of his child still rings true today.

Hasidism is known in secular Jewish culture an...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was a young girl my parents had some friends who stopped talking to their daughter who went ahead and married a Moroccan Jew. The parents were German Jews, and despite the fact that both sets of parents immigrated to Israel from their native countries because of persecution, they did not see any contradiction in their attitude towards the “barbaric” man their “refined” daughter chose to marry. It took the birth of the first grandchild to thaw the hearts of the rejecting parents.

Michael (not his real name) was rejected by his parents when he came out to them. His father informed him that the only way he would be allowed to come back home would be to go through conversion-therapy for gays, which would hopefully make him “normal” again. Michael moved to LA and hasn’t seen his parents in 20 years. His mom talks to him on the phone and ends every conversation with: “I’ll pray for you.”

It takes all kinds.

And so I wonder, when does your belief system – be it your definition of normal, your religion, or your race – when do these trump love? When do you stop loving your son because he’s gay or your daughter because she marries a man of a different color or religion? When does your ego feel so rejected that the only way to manage your emotional injury is to reject your wayward child? And, why do you feel so dismissed when your core values or religion are not adhered to by your offspring? What happens to the heart of a parent when the child you loved only yesterday is not welcome in your home?

It is so difficult to fathom the possibility of raising a child for 18 years- nursing him, loving him, singing to him, sacrificing for him and feeling deep love; and then seeing it disappear because of one utterance.

The pain is mostly about departure. A departure from the parents’ beliefs, be it religious, be it cultural or political, but a departure it is.

“Will you reject your flesh and blood because she marries a black man?” I asked the grieving mother. “Yes” she answered, but her next sentence was the clincher. “It’s not that difficult anymore, I feel like my love is diminished each day. You see, I’m not prejudiced, but I absolutely believe this is a marriage cannot succeed because of the different background they both come from. And then again, what am I going to have in common with his people?” Again, I was reminded of my college roommate who married an Iraqi man and her parents threatened suicide before the wedding, and again I wonder about parents and their very conditional love.

On the other hand there was a story in the Portland Press Herald about a couple who intend to sell their house in Maine in order to live by their son who is imprisoned in Florida. The 31 year old son is serving 45 years in prison for a brutal murder. The murderer’s mother said that they love the visits to the prison: “they are so wonderful”.
http://www.pressherald.com/news/Convicted-killers-parents-return-to-be-near-imprisoned-son.html

I wonder of course: What would be the horrendous act that would make me stop communicating with my sons? Being a serial killer? Joining the Neo Nazi party? Torturing animals? I have no answer to the question, and I doubt whether anyone can be certain of their answer. But I am left perplexed by the parents of the killer who cannot wait to visit their son in prison and the parents of Michael who have not seen him in 20 years.

“So every year on March 30th” said Michael, “I get so many phone calls from my friends wishing me a happy birthday. At the beginning of our relationship, Patrick used to ask me how come I always look disappointed when I pick up the phone. Now, of course, he knows. I’m waiting to hear my dad’s voice saying Happy Birthday son”.

Michael’s father died last year.

Happy Birthday!

Posted in Betrayal, Conditional Love, Gay, Homosexuality, Lost dreams, Parenting, Prison, Relationships, Uncategorized, Unconditional Love | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Spell Check and GPS – The Dumbing of America

Conciousness? Consiousness?? Consciousness??? Consciousnes???? Conceisness?????

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I know that other countries have GPS systems as well, and their own language Spell Check, but the title is more powerful this way.  Need I say more than this? Of course I do – I like to complain.

I used to be an amazing speller in Hebrew, which is no miracle since it’s my mother’s tongue.  Actually, hers was Polish and Yiddish, but then again, it sounds better.   In any event … as an immigrant I was always so proud of my English spelling. There were few native speakers who spelled better than I did.

No more.

The other day, I spelled the word consciousness, and I spelled it incorrectly. You might feel forgiving about misspelling such a long word, but seriously, do you have any idea how often I use this work at work? It would be like a surgeon not knowing how to spell scalpel.  (I actually don’t care if he/she cannot spell it as long as they know how to use it.)

Thankfully, spell check pointed my attention to it, so I immediately corrected it without anyone seeing me blush. Moreover, this is not the only word I once knew how to spell but now misspell. The list is growing.  I’ve noticed that in the last 10-15 years my spelling skills have deteriorated.  One could blame it on advanced age and diminished gray matter. I doubt it.

Spell check is making me dumb.

Even though it comes in handy, spellcheck is a memory-killer.  It was a pain in the a– back when I used a dictionary to check my spelling. I had to go to another room; get the heavy dictionary out; sort through the pages and (hopefully) find the word.  Then, I would use a mnemonic device to help me remember it again, so to avoid going through this tedious chore repeatedly.  Spellcheck, on the other hand is everywhere. It’s great, it’s so useful and handy and my brain is atrophying all the while.

Oxford University Press Museum: Oxford English...

 

Dumbing Down Part II – The GPS

Mobiles Navigationssystem

GPS is a whole other matter. GPS was invented by the gods specifically for me. There must have been a very special day when the gods stopped frolicking and tossing rose petals in the air – and said to one another, “Let’s do something nice for Rachel!”.

And why, you might ask yourself, were the gods being so considerate?

Perhaps being gods, they watched me during an officers’ training course on navigation; and later they heard my commanding officer mockingly telling our platoon, “Rachel will easily get us to Syria.”  Even then, Syria was not a good place for your average Israeli to be marching!  Trust me, a compliment it wasn’t! Fortunately, my ego wasn’t invested in being Columbus, even if I did eventually end up in America.  In any event, I gleefully admitted that someone else should take the lead when it comes to navigation.

English: Road sign in Syria showing directions...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Or maybe the gods remembered when my GF and I decided to be adventurous and take our children to Orlando for a fun-filled adventure; and how, after renting a car, we almost ended in Cuba instead of Disney World?  To add insult to injury, my 13 years old son, who’d never touched a steering wheel in his life, ended up being our navigator.

The Only Highway Sign That Makes Me Smile

 

So the GPS is indeed godsend.  In spite of my crippled sense of direction, it might surprise you to know that I knew how to read a map when I started driving here.  Even if I wasn’t exactly Marco Polo, I honestly assure you – there was a time when I was a good map reader!

Of course, nowadays, nobody needs to read a map to ‘navigate’.

So what’s going to happen to that part of the brain previously devoted to spelling and navigation, the part that is probably atrophying? I’m not a neuroscientist, but maybe in a few hundred generations some new and currently unknown skill will develop in these now-deteriorating neurological regions.

And I didn’t even start with speed dial, which I love, and didn’t use it in my title because it would make it too long.  But, if you take my cell phone away, I wouldn’t even know how to call my sons! And I’m not making it up – this had really happened!

One day I drove to Ventura to meet my son at a restaurant but, mid-way, I realized I didn’t know its address and my cell phone froze.  No GPS.  No natural navigation skills.  No problem.  Stop at phone booth and call to say I’m lost.  WRONG!  I don’t have his number memorized so I can’t call him.  Luckily, I knew my husband’s phone number and he gave me the info. But unlike my naturally abominable navigation skills, I used to remember at least 30 numbers at all times, (some of my friends remembered hundreds of phone numbers) but there’s no need to anymore, so are those tiny cells dying as we speak?

Yes, these are trivial concerns when we think of world peace and an end to violence – but that’s the way I am, and that’s where my stream-of-consciousness took me.

I spelled it right this time … Consciousness?

Posted in Spelling | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

A Jewish Christmas

No Christmas tree and no decorations!

Santa is not visiting, and the night is not silent… So no Christmas carols, although there was the year I discovered Elvis singing Christmas songs.  The rhythm sounded so different than Andy Williams.

Many years ago –  many Christmases ago, we fled the tinsel and the wreaths and the red and the green and would go to visit the snow. Just drive to anywhere there was some snow; and we’d see lots of cars with passengers who looked Indian, Chinese and Middle Eastern.  So, we knew we weren’t alone- not the only ones not celebrating Christmas, and our kids were not the only ones who felt different.

Nowadays with the kids gone, it’s mostly Chinese food.  (Thank you China for sending your people here!)  When you step into a Chinese restaurant at Christmas you may as well start singing Hava Nagila and dancing the hora. I feel sorry for the lone gentile or the Indian couple, they must feel like they’re in a foreign country.

And of course one can’t ignore the plethora of new movies starting Christmas day, which is just a bit after the new, good movies appear in movie theatres.  Read:  Academy Awards season and off we go. So naturally, while Christmas celebrants a digging into their holiday ham, the movie theatres are filled with Jews and other non-celebrating heathens – and maybe someone who’s lonely and has no one to celebrate with?

When you live in a big metropolis such as Los Angeles, there’s always a lot of people like you, even when you’re not a part of the majority. I remember one Christmas-day, many moons ago when I went to the quintessential Jewish Deli, on the quintessential Jewish street – Canter’s Delicatessen, on Fairfax.  When I stepped out of the car there was a line almost out to the sidewalk, and I heard the multitude of all of us speaking loudly and together; there was the hustle and bustle of busy mouthy waitresses, and the aroma of chicken soup!

A Christmas Day indeed.

There were the number of times I was invited to a friend’s house to partake in the Christmas celebration, and – truth be told, it was lovely and joyous but it felt like I was a foreign dignitary visiting the locals.  I was attending a cultural experience that had nothing to do with me.

So Christmas does not belong to me, even though it’s beautiful and festive, and families get together to open gifts (which would be an anxiety producing experience for me anyway, as I would obsess on getting not too much and not too little but just right. Yes, Goldilocks I have the same neurosis.)

I believe that Christ never celebrated Christmas, just as George Washington never celebrated President’s day-   and I doubt he (Jesus, not George!) was born on the date we think he was born … but that’s neither here nor there. Holidays exist for us to give us meaning, and to pause from the ordinary.

So when most of the people in this country will be opening gifts and then eating a festive meal with family and friends, I would be eating Chinese and then watching Les Miserables.

Merry Christmas to my Christian friends, Shalom to my Jewish friends and
السلام عليكم  alsalam alaykom to my Arab cousins , Namaste’to the Hindus and 你好’ Nǐ hǎo in Chinese, and can I get another serving of Kung Pau Chicken please?Hello In Many Languages Rectangular Sticker

Posted in Christmas, Jews and Christmas | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

an ode to a child that’s gone

I was upset this morning about your room

Your room was left messy

There were clothes on the floor

Toys on your bed

Crumbs of your favorite cookie on your desk

You watched too much TV

And you forgot to brush your teeth

Again

 

Please come home

Please eat the cookie

Again

And I promise I will never mind the mess

And I promise you can leave your toys anywhere

Please watch TV

Again

Please come home

 

I used to watch you when you were sleeping

Your curls framed your beautiful face

I used to listen to your breathing

My little soldier was resting

What were you dreaming of

Then?

 

Sometimes you had nightmares

You’d cry and I would carry you into our bed

Please come to our bed

Again

I want to hear your breathing

I want to brush your curls

I want to wake up and feel your warmth

Please come home

 

I’m only left with nightmares

My new exclusive nightmares

I hope yours are gone

I hope you’re sleeping peacefully

As I can’t sleep anymore

And I

Can’t go into your room

Posted in Death, Poem, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 40 Comments

The Devil’s Punchbowl

 My husband likes to meander – which is to say, he can become curious about a road, an intriguing sign, or by some other influence not apparent to others … and then, off we go.  But even if youre not as curious as is he, how can one not be intrigued by a name such as “The Devils Punchbowl“?

devils 9devils 6

So, as we wandered through the Palmdale area some years ago for some reason that escapes me now, we saw the ‘Devil’s Punchbowl sign, and immediately followed it towards the mountains on a long and winding road.  When we finally arrived at this out-of-the-way “county park natural area”, I was in a state of exhilaration because the spectacular view of the valley behind us; the mountains above us, the geological formations, and a stunning and wholly unanticipated bowl-like canyon.

A big part of the beauty and magic of a place like this is in the discovery itself and disbelief that its only 90 minutes from home. This magnificent canyon resides so close to us and yet we had no idea it existed. I often think of the treasures which are in our midst, but then I have to travel to faraway destinations to find them…

devils 4To get there you have to go through one of the most notorious highways in CA, highway 138, known locally as Deathtrap Highway because of its history of grotesque accidents; further made famous by a David Hockney photographic collage.

Along the way you drive through this small and strange town by the name of Pearblossom, which has one redeeming quality, but more about it later

Since the first discovery, Ive been to devil’s punchbowl several times, and this last Friday I took my son with me to hike the steep one mile (which feels much longer) loop-trail.

Whenever my son visits we try to do something that involves art or hiking, so naturally, I was very excited to share my discovery with him, and the rock formations and canyon were as impressive as before.  I also counted on there being water running through the canyon after rainy season.  (This time the place was beautiful, but it was dry.)

devils 12

Outside the parks visitor center we were greeted by three owls perched, and solemn. They seemed pensive and bored.  Later, I had to stop and admire the beauty of the Manzanita trees- their richly colored branches, looking as if someone took a brush and painted them, as we hiked down, and then up the Punchbowl trail.

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The enjoyment of being in nature and marveling at the beauty and serenity of this place was doubled by sharing it with my son, and my pride at being able to “deliver” this unknown canyon to him.

… returning to Pearblossom

As far as were concerned, Pearblossoms claim-to-fame is Valley Hungarian Sausage-Meat, which is obviously a Hungarian meat and sausage deli. Why anyone would open a Hungarian deli in the midst of the desert is beyond me, but were glad they did since we end everything with food this time being no exception.

And this would explain how we came to end our hike with Hungarian sandwiches at this improbable eatery along the southern ridge of the Antelope Valley, in a deli that reminded my son of Budapest, well, kind of…

And once again, as is our custom making sure to reclaim every calorie spent on our hike …

devils 26devils 25

Posted in Day Trip, Recreation, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments