Thanks, Elton John

I had a dream last night that I was front and center at an Elton John concert. No one wore masks and no one was social-distancing. There was just fantastic music. Actually, he was playing just one song.

Don’t you know
I’m still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid
And I’m still standing after all this time
Picking up the pieces of my life
Without you on my mind

I’m still standing
(Yeah, yeah, yeah)
I’m still standing
(Yeah, yeah, yeah)

Maybe this is my new theme song. God knows I’ve been through a lot this year. I probably had COVID-19 back in March before we even knew what it was. I couldn’t get tested because I didn’t meet all the guidelines – no fever, no shortness of breath. Still, I was sick for over three weeks with a horrible cough, fatigue, and the most telling – losing my sense of taste. I know now that it was likely a lighter case of the virus. But, I was sicker than I’ve been in a long time.

I’m still standing
(Yeah, yeah, yeah)

I was furloughed back in July and spent the better part of three months job hunting and collecting unemployment for the first time in my life. I spent most of my time networking, writing, applying, and interviewing. Rinse and repeat. I’ll say this – looking for a new job is no picnic in normal times. During a pandemic, it can seem like an eternity.

I’m still standing
(Yeah, yeah, yeah)

Everyone in our household was affected by quarantine in different ways. Jenna had to leave college early and finish the semester from home. Andrew couldn’t hang out with his friends or play sports and had figure out how to go to school remotely. Both my husband and I were also working from home. We realized how much we missed the commutes we used to complain about all the time. But, they were a clean separation from work life and family. And while we love each other dearly, it wasn’t easy being on lockdown for so long. Our dog, Chloe, was the only one who loved every minute of it.

I’m still standing
(Yeah, yeah, yeah)

It’s been an adjustment for all of us this year. Little things that we took for granted like going to our children’s activities to canceling vacations and sacrificing big events like bar mitzvahs and weddings all went by the wayside. Even now, we are still trying to figure out our comfort levels as we head into an uncertain winter season. Who will we let into our quarantine bubble? Are we comfortable eating indoors at restaurants? How will we spend the holidays? There is still much more ahead of us. But, we can pat ourselves on the back a little and remember…

We’re still standing
(Yeah, yeah, yeah)



Dinner for Four

My son, Andrew, has eaten dinner at his girlfriend’s house many times in the past year. From what I hear, her mom is an amazing cook. She not only serves the main meal like filet or pork loin but also a plethora of side dishes to choose from. She also makes homemade bread and desserts which she often generously sends home with Andrew to share with us.

A few things here. In my house, side dishes are typically a canned vegetable or applesauce. I’ve always had trouble with side dishes. To me, side dishes are for Thanksgiving dinner, not Taco Tuesday. Also, it takes me a while to make the main course and side dishes mean more work and more dishes to clean.

Second, I’ve never been much of a baker. Sure, I will whip up the occasional batch of chocolate chip cookies and, of course, hamantaschen on Purim. When we have company, I like to buy dessert and the local bakeries (and probably the fire department) thank me for supporting them.

Recently, I decided to invite her for Shabbat dinner. I asked Andrew to set the bar a little lower for me and set expectations accordingly. I cannot compete with her mom and definitely don’t want to. But, I can certainly pull off a Friday night dinner. I will make her the food of our people – brisket, sweet and sour meatballs, and push myself to make a side dish of honey carrots (fancy, right?!).

One question – does sweet kugel count as dessert? I hope so.

I enjoy a good challenge such as having a special occasion to cook. They are only 17 so this isn’t a dinner that means anything more than wanting to spend more time with them. And in the end, I hope it is my conversational skills that will win her over where my culinary ones likely will not.

And maybe – just maybe – she will bring home a few pieces of kugel for her parents to try.

COVID Will Not Cancel Christmas

I know people are worried about COVID-19 canceling or at least changing the holidays. It is true that our holidays –  like everything else in 2020 – will be different, but honestly, I think Christmas is the one thing that is too big to be ruined by a global pandemic.

Yes, you will have to make adjustments. Christmas dinner may be safer with just your immediate family in attendance. Church services will probably take place via Zoom. As a Jew who has been on many online Shabbat services and most recently Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – our holiest of holidays – I can tell you that I still felt connected to my community despite not being able to pray in our sanctuary. I hope and pray it will be the same for you.

And as a bonus, you don’t have to get all dressed up. I watched my son read HafTorah from the comfort of my family room couch wearing my pajamas and fuzzy slippers. While I did miss the fall fashion show that coincides with the holiday every year at temple, I was able to focus even more on the meaning of the holiday instead of which hat Mrs. Levin was wearing this year. I do love her hats!

And let’s face it. Christmas is EVERYWHERE! To get into the holiday spirit, make some egg nog and turn on the Hallmark channel. Blast Christmas carols throughout your home and in the car. Decorate your tree and include those special 2020 ornaments to commemorate the historical year we are having. And surely, twinkling Christmas lights and decorations will still deck our Facebook halls – I mean walls.

Regardless of what holiday you celebrate, the spirit of joy and giving won’t go away. There are plenty of charities to donate to and volunteer your time. Just make sure to don your holiday masks and COVID-themed t-shirts. For my fellow Jews, I haven’t heard of a chocolate gelt or dreidel shortage, so we should be able to celebrate Chanukah just fine.

No matter how or what we celebrate, may we be safe, healthy, and even more grateful and thankful for everything good in our lives. And pray for a more normal 2021!


For The Undecided Voters

This morning, I woke up and couldn’t figure out what to wear. I searched my closet for the perfect outfit. First, I put on a pair of shorts and a cute t-shirt. I soon realized it was going to be much cooler, so I opted for jeans instead. And then, I switched my top for one that was more appropriate for my morning Zoom meetings. Thirty minutes later, I ditched the whole ensemble for a cute dress and big hoop earrings because I decided I needed a pick me up to motivate myself to start the day.

Finding the right outfit to wear is never an easy decision for me, but you know what is – who I’m voting for in the presidential election. I guess I am fortunate in knowing which candidate represents my values, and which one I want to be exiled to a deserted island for all eternity.

I guess it is also why I’m so baffled when I listen to people who are still undecided. But instead of criticizing them, I’m trying to understand what’s going on. And the more I read, the more I learned.

For instance, a voter who has been a Republican their entire life–raised Republican, parents were Republicans–can’t wrap their head around the idea of voting outside their party, I totally get that. I couldn’t imagine voting for anyone but a Democrat. To them I say, maybe this time is different. Maybe it isn’t about what party you belong to but about putting your country before party.

For Democrats who didn’t want Biden to win the primaries, he wasn’t my first choice either. I liked Pete and Kamala and Cory myself. But then, I decided that a Biden/Harris administration won’t consistently lie to the public, dismantle trusted systems, or disrespect and publicly ridicule and bully those who are different based on their race, religion, or sexual orientation. I’d much rather go to sleep at night knowing we are a beacon of hope for the world instead of a laughing stock in the global community.

For those who wanted to vote for Kanye West, sorry, I have nothing for you.

Here’s the thing. I’m not trying to tell you how to vote. These are my own feelings that I’m lucky to have a platform where I can share them with you. But, if you are registered to vote, please, please don’t sit this one out, cross your fingers, and hope for the best. It shouldn’t be that hard to match your values to the candidate. You are a smart cookie and you know what you believe in. You know right from wrong. You love your country. You want us to continue to be a leader in the free world. You want to help others in need. You want to succeed in business. You want to provide for your family.

And maybe like me, the most important issue to you these days is having a safe, scientifically-based, and effective vaccine to treat COVID-19 so that you and your loved ones can live a healthy life to the fullest. You want to travel again. Go to the movies or a concert again. Attend a wedding or a graduation party with all of your loved ones. Or just go back to school or work or leave your house and go out to dinner without risking your life.

So, here is my question — with 13 days left to go, what will you decide?

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