Want a Fan Club? Buy This House in Our Neighborhood!

There’s a house for sale on our street, and it’s not just any house, nor is it just any street. If you buy it I (can almost) guarantee you will gain an immediate fan club. Talk about a fringe benefit! Your new neighbors will likely come up to you with big smiles and greet you, some perhaps bearing gifts, welcoming you and thanking you for taking on the project. They will tell you about our great block parties, the progressive dinners, and you will feel loved and appreciated.

Our street is in the historic part of town, graced with many stately and charming homes that owners seem to take a particular pride in restoring, and where you can sense a palpable awareness of the value of maintaining older homes. It sits there on the corner of our block ­­– once a stunning pale yellow colonial with white trims and charming eaves, neat and lush laurel shrubs lining the white picket fence – but over the last few years it has been uninhabited, and now looks forsaken and sad, as if its soul once walked out the door and never returned. As the fence has peeled, the shrubs have became unruly and the shutters drooped, we, the neighbors, have watched with sinking hearts while the unforgiving players of time and seasons have made their marks on this former bright pearl of the neighborhood.

But like natural pearls that lose their luster, this unique house too can regain its former splendor once it receives the right care; a clear vision coupled with the will to restore a once graceful home, and some good old TLC. And I bet once a family moves in and breathes its energy into the walls of this house, the dailiness of life will quickly bring about the long needed transformation. Surely, there will be a supportive troop cheering on the metamorphosis, no matter how long or slow it will be. Maybe we’ll will start a fan-page on Facebook and follow the process with encouraging comments and inspirational quotes. But hey, no pressure; welcome to our neighborhood!

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Don’t Mess With My People

This morning, with everyone in my community milling around getting ready for the first Passover seder, I’m going to my local JCC (Jewish Community Center) to work out in the first time in forever. Why? Because I want to make a statement: Don’t mess with my people!

Yesterday’s news of the horrific shootings at the Kansas City JCC and Jewish assisted living facility nearby, leaves us breathless and disgusted. But sadly, not surprised. Video showed the suspect – the biggest loser of them all – sitting in the back of a police patrol car and shouting, “Heil Hitler.” We’ve seen people like him before. We hear about their hate crimes almost daily still, 69 years after WWII ended and their cowardly brain-washer killed himself.

In all, the gunman shot at five people, none of whom he’s believed to have known. He killed three. A grandfather and his grandson. A woman. Turns out they were not all Jewish. 

When I pull into the JCC parking lot, I will see the boy, his grandfather and that woman in my minds eye. When I pant, sweat, and feel like croaking on the elliptical, I will go even faster in fury, unable to keep the murderer out of my mind. When I leave my community center, I will smile and wish the employes who work there a peaceful and meaningful holiday, because even if this tragedy did not happen here, we know in our hearts it might as well have.

We can only begin to imagine what Passover (and Easter) will be like for the families who have been affected by these devastating losses. The traditional passover meal question asked by the youngest child around the table, “Why is this night different than all other nights?” takes on a whole other meaning in light of such immediate tragedy.

Tonight when we talk about the meaning of freedom, I will make sure to remind my kids to use their freedom of speech to speak up against hatred and intolerance.

speak up

 

 

A Ritual: Butt in Chair

The greatest challenge for a writer can be just getting her rear in the chair. And staying there. Without letting herself be distracted by all sorts of easy, at the fingertips fun stuff, like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or even emails. Anything else but hunkering down and getting to work on the current project at hand, or worse yet, the new project.

Heck, I’ll even joyfully empty the dishwasher, fold laundry or pay bills rather than get my butt in the chair, unplug, and simply write. It’s a common malady.

Today I woke up and decided to begin – again – to take my vocation more seriously. I love Mondays for this reason, they make me feel like the whole world is in on helping me rally to get a new start. The saying “onward and forward!” has more oomph to it on a Monday morning. Somehow.

After a shower, a healthy breakfast, I resolve to get my yoga mat from my car to do some stretches during the day when I need a break. Not open Facebook, not begin the emailing craze; the emails certainly don’t go anywhere. I light the tea light nestled in my favorite small Gustav Klimt glass holder and place it on my desk next to my computer. I think of my writer friend in Paris who with the same candle flickering next to her, urges me on: “Write!” she tells me, “write all those stories you have inside you!”

On my way to the bathroom to dry my hair I gather up weeks worth of NYTimes Book Reviews, and decide to stop reading about books, and instead read more books, and write more stories.

And then, finally, I sit down and think, “Here I am. Let the faucet open” as my fingers run over the keyboard.

Writing

Happy?

Happiness is serious business. Last week in Norway, eating fermented trout and tasting various micro-brewed organic beers with good friends; definitely high happy factor here. This week in the US, dealing with my teen’s suspended driver’s license, and the debacle of practical and emotional issues surrounding this lovely event; not very happy, no.

The International Day of Happiness, established by the United Nations General Assembly (why so serious?) in 2012, is a day celebrated annually on March 20th (I say mark your calendar!). This got me thinking about how many people generally are not happy, since the world needs ONE specific day to remind us to that “the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal.” Also, I think of all the people who have “grouchy” as their modus operandi – as their habit – or who just tend to focus on the bad around them and in them, instead of the good. How much I dislike meeting folks like that.

Then I realize that sometimes, just some of the time, when I momentarily have a lapse, that’s me. Argh…

What is happiness? What does it mean to feel happy? According to the website This Emotional Life, happiness is “thought of as the good life, freedom from suffering, flourishing, well-being, joy, prosperity, and pleasure.” Oh boy, do I have abundant happiness in my life. And good reasons to be happy.

Happy Thankful People

Realizing how many sad souls around the world have few reasons to be happy on a daily basis, yet find it in themselves, I hear myself sigh. I see them sing, smile and dance in the various videos posted from around the world on International Happiness Day.

Happiness is serious business. I say, make it yours.

Create your own happiness by making someone else happy. But don’t wait until next year!

 

Happy People

Godiva by the Gate

Here I am, sitting by the gate about to board the plane to Oslo from New York, enjoying a Godiva chocolate, making some last minute phone calls and feeling good about traveling light.

Next to me is a mother giving her small son an infusion – it appears from his baldness he may have cancer or a significant medical condition- and it knocks the breath out of me. Keeping her hands busy with tubes and clips, she smiles, chats with who might be her husband, and the little boy starts to sing. He plays with his truck.

I swallow the sweetness of the luxurious chocolate. Think of my three healthy teenage sons, whose early childhoods knew only typical growing pains and the occasional run to the ER for a stitch or three.

A deep surge of gratitude and humility makes me feel strangely present in my body, anchored in a material reality of the seat by the gate, but also in the gift of this suspended moment in time.

The rows of my seat are called to board, and I fish out the little card from my wallet with the Jewish traditional travel prayer. I whisper it to myself. That the boy, his family, and I should reach our destination in life, joy and peace.

Because I take nothing for granted.

I'm Grateful for

The Glorious Galosh

When was the last time you considered a galosh? Well, I have a good one for you. I’ll never again dismiss this strange looking rubbery thingy one might think was solely created for dandies who can’t take on a puddle or some mud like a man. Oh no, not me. I recently had a chance encounter with a glorious galosh.

What a fabulous way to start a day: with a robust hour walk in my neighborhood park on a crisp, cool winter morning, the sky’s blue and I’m feelin’ good. Until the entire sole of my left Nike hiking boot just peels all the way back and disengages from my boot, leaving me limping and cursing and wondering how on earth I was going to make the mile walk home.

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My initial reaction was to prompt myself to act like a survivalist, thinking: “I can handle this, be creative! Tie up the boot sole with some..(looking around the park surroundings) — vine, or, or,…snow?” as I frantically searched my pockets for that pice of string or elastic I always seem to find floating around when I don’t need it.

Nothing.

Instead, I started pathetically limping and inching my way toward the main entrance of the park, scheming what I’d do when I made it to the Pond House Café, the park jewel, about 200 yards in, where I would ask for some duct tape or string.

And there, in the snow bank, like manna from heaven, I noticed something black and rubbery, whose shape I vaguely recognized as that of a good old fashioned galosh. I looked at it in disbelief. I had to restrain myself from not looking heavenward. A nifty, waterproof, shoe-covering device, available, just for me!? Just now? Really? And the amazing thing was, it fit, although it was the wrong foot. This is no small feat (read feet if you must) as I also go by the endearing, lady like name of Bigfoot (thanks dad).

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I couldn’t help but laugh out loud as I gingerly, sort of, clunked my way home with my broken hiking boot safely nestled into the glorious galosh. Later that night over dinner, telling my sons about the importance of never underestimating the value of the chance encounters life presents you with – even with inanimate objects – my youngest son blurts out: “Wait, where did you find the galosh? I put it there the other day when I was sledding with my friends. I saw something black sticking up in the snow, and I pulled it out, and left it on the top of the snow pile in case somebody was looking for it.”

Indeed, somebody was looking for it; or perhaps it was looking for somebody. And it turned out to be me, this time. The lost object my son randomly had found one week before me, touched and thought about, became the glorious galosh that saved my walk, and made me smile. Twice.

Pass it on, they say.

Way, I say.

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Announcing the Express Window!

It takes a good friend to tell you the truth, even if she knows it might sting. One morning Anne said to me “I love your blog and reading your stories, but the problem is I often open them and begin to read, only to realize I don’t have time to finish. They are a little long.” She has a full life – kids, job, dogs, home, pet rats – you know, the usual.

So, because I don’t just write to humor myself, I decided to take the challenge: write shorter posts (some of the time) so that readers dealing with lives interrupted (like most of us do…) might read them too.

Short & Sweet II

I am happy to announce the opening of The Viking Jewess “Express Window” – a place to stop by for a quicker read; curiosities from an ex-pat’s observations in life with the same wit, edge and insight you enjoy in the longer stories, but here they’re short and sweet.

Those who know me, appreciate how revolutionary it will be for me to execute the less is more dictum; it may breed some renegade and subversive writing, which could be an adventure onto itself.

Hemingway’s Four Famous Tips on Writing will come in handy here:

1. Use short sentences. (Ha ha!!!)

2. Use short first paragraphs. (Check.)

3. Use vigorous English. (A work in progress, eternally…)

4. Be positive, not negative. (Shit, really!?)

In 1934, he also confided to F. Scott Fitzgerald: “I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit,…I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”

Just keeping things in perspective here.

So, next time you’re online, stop by the Express Window for 300 words or less.

I promise.

Who knows, maybe I’ll graduate to Twitter next?

Short-and-Sweet

The King is Dead. Long Live the King!

I believe in miracles, do you?

Miracles do happen. Every day. Some big, some small, and some matter more to us than others. Last night it was announced that my town’s only family owned kosher market, The Crown, will be saved by the valiant efforts of local investors with a heart. This means that my friend who’s moving back north from Florida will be able to have her much craved for famous Crown tuna salad again, my boys can still have their yummy bagels, and I can still kibbetz (chat) with some of my all-time favorite store folks. Phew.

Once I got over the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) – which all happened within a turbulent period of a couple of days – I was exhausted, but I had a feeling something good was going to come of this. It was too good of a place, too meaningful of a thing, to just vanish into thin air.

As they used to say in France when they still had monarchy:

“The king is dead. Long live the king!”

We’ll just replace king with The Crown. Totally works.

Crown

So, now that this roller coaster ride is over, or at least that part of it, let’s board the radio-car ride, because it’s time for the ideas to be bounced around to find the best operating solution for the Crown to move forward in good, robust health.

I raise my cup of tea with honey to The Crown’s future health!

L’chaim l’Crown! – To the Crown’s life!

On this lovely occasion, some might get nostalgic with this one: “If only you believe in miracles, like I believe, we’d get by…”

Comfort Food à la Norvégienne

Over the weekend I busted my vocal cords from hollering and yelling so much at my son’s wrestling tournament, I lost my voice. While I’m slightly aware this is just one of those subtle messages from I don’t know where telling me to shut up, talk less and instead sit my butt down and write more, I’m feeling sick – and therefore de facto homesick. So, before I go to take a nap, what does any self respecting Norwegian ex-pat do but rummage the fridge and pantry for some Norwegian food, any Norwegian food. And here’s what I found:
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My childhood favorite: Mill’s Kaviar. When schmeared on some crackers, or, ideally, on the crispy Wasa bread, paired with a crisp, full-bodied glass of…milk, it hits the spot. This caviar is basically a mix of smoked cod roe with mayo that you squeeze out of a tube, and about as glamorous in Norwegian culture as the PB&J is in the US.

It was fun when the kids were young and at play dates would request a sandwich with “some caviar, please!” for lunch, to the baffled look and raised eyebrows of the host mom. That’s right, serve my kid up some CAVIAR! Or not. The quickly learned the difference of what to ask for away and what they might find at home.

Now, when they come home from a bad day and need some comfort food, they ask if we can have risengrynsgrøt (hot rice porridge) for dinner. As the obliging Viking mamma that I am, I make sure the pantry is well stocked, but these days it’s their turn to do the cooking.

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