Tag Archives: pandemic

My December Dilemma

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Every year, right around this time, I start to feel stirrings.  All around me I begin to hear holiday (actually Christmas) music, decorative lights appear on the houses in my neighborhood and of course, there are the sales.  It’s hard not to be drawn into the frivolity and cheer.  My religious tradition however, has little, if any, public displays involving our winter holiday of Hanukah.  Traditional Hanukah music runs to the minor key variety and, let’s face it, “The Dreidel Song,” just isn’t particularly sexy.  Not to mention the home décor of the holiday is, well, let’s just say in order to stay away from the tacky, it’s crucial to use a LOT of imagination!  The traditional foods might be the best part; anything cooked in oil to remind us of the miracle of the oil lamp that burned for eight nights, rather than for just one, is on the menu.  Jelly donuts and potato pancakes are a highlight.  It’s enough to make any nice Jewish girl yell, “Oy!” and, “Bah, Chumbug!”  (Imagine that in Dr. Ruth Westheimer’s voice and you’ll get the picture). 

Every year I try to write something meaningful, spiritual and educational about my Jewish traditions.  There are, after all, a lot of lessons to be learned about bravery, perseverance and hope in the Hanukah story.  During the darkest days of the year the candles we light encourage us to look for the light in our hearts and our souls.  But this year has felt like one long, dark night.  Much has been lost to all of us.  My usual sunny disposition has felt clouded by fear and sadness.  Can eight little multi-colored candles really do much to lift my spirits?  Can they do more than a 10-foot, pine smelling, Christmas tree filled with sparkly ornaments and blazing lights?  (I’m not suggesting I’d get a tree lest my parents rise up from their graves in a hellish nightmare of a, “Goldie’s Dream,” from, “Fiddler on the Roof.”).  It’s no wonder Jews of all ages sometimes feel a touch of envy at the glorious, festive and public spirit of Christmas. 

But, and here’s the deal, the fried potatoes, the jelly donuts, the chintzy homemade decorations and the simple candles, are all part of MY tradition.  They are the outward expression of thousands of years of suffering, courage and survival.  This has been a year like no other in recent memory, for sure.  But my people are no strangers to coping with tough times.  Jews comprise less than one-quarter percent of the world’s population and yet, our numbers are increasing, albeit slowly.  Perhaps this is due to better health outcomes and longer life spans.  But perhaps it is also due to the observance of traditions like lighting Hanukah candles and singing in a minor key.  In the midst of chaos, illness, death and fear, holding onto familiar rituals helps us all, regardless of religion, remain standing.  Tacky paper decorations and greasy food marks the passage of time and serves to remind us that this, too, shall pass.  My December holiday may not be flashy or glamorous, but the memories it evokes do lift my spirits and carry me both back in time to happier days and spin me forward into an unknown, but surely different, future. 

I still sometimes feel like a kid looking in the window of a toy store, just able to look but not go inside.  Thankfully I can appreciate the music, I can visit places with lights and a tree, and I can celebrate another year surviving the darkness that has surrounded mankind.  I can also take comfort and pride in a jelly donut or a paper chain and know that I come from a people who survived the worst of times and still manages to celebrate eight crazy nights with some little colored candles.

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner.  Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world.  The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at www.jewishobservernashville.org .

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VOTE 2020

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The women of HerSavvy got together recently for an outside, socially distant, in person visit. The idea was to talk about our writing, any ideas for the blog and to just generally catch up. There were, of course, snacks and we sat on my heated porch and for a while, it felt pretty normal. The conversation quickly turned to the election and we were off! The four of us are a pretty diverse bunch, each from a different place, with different backgrounds and professions. And let’s just say, it was lively, respectful and honest. The one thing we all agreed on: we want this all to be over! And while we may not have definitive results tonight, maybe not for many nights to come, it is critical that everyone exercise their right as an American to vote.

This year’s election, for me, is a déjà vu of the 2000 Bush/Gore race. I was the News Director of a local public radio station and had the task of setting the day’s news coverage for the evening newscast. For three weeks, we watched, we waited, and we debated how best to move the story of the hanging chads forward. There was coverage of the balloting process, the possible scenarios if a winner was not declared by inauguration day, the relevance and value of the Electoral College. And then came the legal challenges. Sound familiar?

So today, it’s important to remember that in all likelihood we won’t know the winner for several weeks. We will have a President on inauguration day. We will have a future, however challenging that future may be. And in four more years, we get to do this all again. Fun times.

So, if you have not already voted, for God’s sake, stop reading this and go out at VOTE!!!

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner.  Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world.  The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at www.jewishobservernashville.org .

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Be the Change

Okay, I did the one thing that, as a professional journalist, I swear never to do: I missed my deadline.  Yep, my day to post on this blog is the first Tuesday of each month.  I have almost never missed, but this week, I just can’t remember what day it is.  And while for the average reader it is surely not a major issue, for me it represents just how disoriented I am these days.  I’ve written about it before, but as the season is changing again, I am reminded of just how long we have all been dealing with the current pandemic.  The light through my window is different, the air feels crisper and when I run the few errands I must these days, the décor is focused on Thanksgiving and even Christmas!  How is that even happening again? 

There are other events that have served to keep me off kilter, as well.  The recent death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, has triggered so many memories of my own mother.  The two women were born just a year apart.  Like RBG, my mother wanted to become a lawyer.  But while Ruth was cheered on by her parents and later, her husband, breaking down the barriers in her path, my mom was discouraged from following that path.  My grandfather, himself a judge and state legislator, felt the law would be a difficult profession for a woman of that time.  He wanted to protect my mother from the mistreatment he knew would come her way.  “Be a teacher,” he told her, “That’s a good profession for a nice Jewish girl.”  And so it was. 

My mother was a brilliant person and a gifted teacher.  She was a devoted wife and as a mother, well, there are no words to describe the depth and breadth of her love for her children.  And yet, I have always wondered if she didn’t harbor some regret about the path not taken.  In fact, one of her favorite poems was Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken.”  She used to recite it to me, write it in birthday cards and reference it often.  When I would ask if she wished for some other life, some other story, her answer was always the same.  She was happy in her choice and dedicated to using her abilities to better her family and our community.  And she did amazing, wonderful things. She inspired not only her children at home, but countless children in her third grade classroom. 

Perhaps the question I should be considering is not whether she had regret, but rather whether she was fulfilled.  And whether fulfillment is not tied to any one thing but is a feeling that comes from satisfying one’s inner sense of purpose.  I believe my mother was wholly herself regardless of the task at hand or the job title.  She never wavered from living her values and sharing them with the world around her.  And while she didn’t change the world in big, revolutionary ways, she changed those in her sphere by being herself.

There is a famous quote, often attributed to Mahatma Ghandi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  That was my mother. 

Oh, and make sure to wash your hands, wear a mask and VOTE!!!

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner.  Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world.  The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at www.jewishobservernashville.org .

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If it’s Tuesday, it Must be…

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When I was a kid, my dad used to love to take us all to the drive-in movies. There was one that stands out called, “If it’s Tuesday, This Must be Belgium.” I don’t remember the details, but it had something to do with tourists running all over Europe, different cities, different days, until they lost track of time. The film title became our family’s code for describing that feeling of being disoriented or off kilter. That’s exactly how I feel! This week, I’ve been at least one, if not two, days off, and I missed my deadline for this blog post. If it’s COVID, this must be…who even knows what day it is anymore?

Okay, so here it is, Thursday…again. I think this weekend is the Labor Day holiday? Yes, I’m sure it is. I’m just not sure where summer went. I’ve experienced most of it from inside my house, which means it feels the same as Spring and most likely Fall will feel the same. I guess I’ll need to change my wardrobe just to keep track of the passing of time. If it’s Tuesday, it must be…

Last month I shared my Whole30 journey. I’m happy to report I’m still on the journey. I’ve learned more about how my body experiences different foods. So far, I do well with most food groups. I have noticed that alcohol consumption affects my sleep, so I can decide if that glass of wine at dinner is worth losing some sleep over. My cravings for sweets and snacks have mostly disappeared, although some days I just need a little something in between meals, especially if I haven’t eaten enough protein. Overall, some good lessons and some new, healthier, habits are being formed.

In a little over a week, my middle son will come for a visit. We haven’t seen him since mid-February and while I’m very excited, I’m also a bit nervous and apprehensive about the health risk – for all of us. Crazy times. What used to be a routine trip now feels like a treacherous journey. If it’s Tuesday, it must be…

And to add to the fun the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, is just around the corner. This year our congregation will hold services virtually with a combination of pre-recorded segments and live streaming from the synagogue where the Rabbi and Cantor will be present in the sanctuary. Disorienting? You bet! Bittersweet? Yep! There is so much to miss this year, most important for me is the feeling of being in my community, physically present together to usher in a new year (yes, we Jews get to celebrate the New Year twice). Yes, I’m grateful to be healthy and to be with my family. But this thing, this plague, started just before the Spring holiday of Passover and here we still are. If it’s Tuesday, it must be…

So, I’ll just close with a traditional Jewish New Year’s blessing and wish everyone a Happy, Healthy, Sweet New Year (whether you observe or not, what the heck!). Here’s hoping next month I’ll know what day it is…

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner.  Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world.  The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at www.jewishobservernashville.org .

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please… Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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It’s the End of the World as we Know it

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For the first time in a long time, I’m out of words. Not actually unable to speak (God forbid!), but out of pithy, insightful, tightly woven phrases. I’ve cried, I’ve ranted, I’ve shared, and I’ve bared my soul to anyone and everyone who would listen. Which means to say, mostly my family who are captive with me in our little home shelter and a few close friends. And now, I’m just done. I’m done railing against the unfairness of it all. I’m done focusing on the grief. I’m done being angry about canceled plans and missed opportunities. What remains for me is sadness and the realization that the life I had, the life we all had, or hoped to have, is gone.

But, and here comes my cockeyed optimism (thanks Mom), I do believe that the crises facing humankind are offering us an opportunity. Personally, I’m refocusing my thoughts and energy on self-improvement; mental, physical and spiritual. I’m taking on challenges and setting goals for myself that I don’t think I would have even thought about before. The time I used to spend in the car or running endless errands is now mine to spend in new ways. The distractions of modern life have been stripped away leaving a void. Filling that void in meaningful ways is what I’m working on. Because the thing is, at some point still to be determined, we will emerge from this isolation into a new world. I don’t want to feel that I’ve squandered the opportunity to be fully present and to find meaning in this experience.

So, here are some things I’m tackling. On the physical front my family and I are embarking on a health experiment, one designed to help us fine tune our nutritional needs. I’m also building strength with a personal trainer. Yes, I’ve been working with her for a couple of years now, but I’m pushing myself harder, working out on our porch and getting a hard sweat. Mentally I’m working more on my professional writing, pushing myself to dig deeper in the stories I write for the newspaper I edit. Spiritually I’m reading more about things that make me uncomfortable and challenge some old assumptions that have limited my thinking. I’m working on quieting my mind through meditation. And with much of my family all home, some old roles and behaviors are evolving as we navigate living and working together. And once again, I have my summer vegetable garden, but this year expanded to a larger space and some new experiments.

Well, I guess I did have a lot to say this month. Who knew? I will close with one last thing. Tomorrow my husband and I will celebrate our 41st wedding anniversary. I know, that makes us seem ancient. We have lived a lifetime together, beginning on that very first day of freshman orientation. We were so young, still just teenagers. The fact is, we finished raising each other. Last year we vacationed with our children in Hawaii. One evening after dinner, standing under a canopy overlooking the beach, out of the rain, my husband pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket on which he’d written his thoughts about our years together. Yes, this reserved, quiet guy who doesn’t communicate his feelings well, wrote the following (excerpted): “As one should expect, our life together has not been a bed of roses. We’ve had successes and setbacks and weathered a good many storms. We have learned that when you love someone, you do not love them all the time in exactly the same way. Some of the things we worried about turned out not to matter at all. What really mattered was our love. This one constant in our lives has grown stronger and I thank you for the joy you’ve given me during these 40 years together. Whatever the future may hold for us, we will always have our love. It is enough.” Yes, my darling husband, even during this sad, frightening, garbage fire of a year, our love is enough. Happy Anniversary.

Stay safe, wash your hands, wear a mask.

 

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner.  Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world.  The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at www.jewishobservernashville.org .

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please… Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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Choose Love

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Last month I unloaded my grief and frustration at our current pandemic on this page. Today, I have grief and frustration of a different kind. I am grief stricken and heartbroken over the continuing racism in this country which has led to more murder at the hands of those we trust to protect all citizens. I am frustrated by the responses of some people I know, and some I do not know. They are the folks who claim not to see color, who declare their discomfort at wearing a mask to protect those around them from an insidious, mysterious virus that is also killing people of color at a disproportionate rate.

I will not pretend to know all there is to know about racism. I don’t know even a fraction of what it is to be afraid to walk or jog or eat an ice cream cone or drive my car in traffic or any other normal, everyday task of life. But I do know that being afraid of doing those simple things is just wrong. I also know that it is wrong for large groups of people to be at a higher risk of infection with COVID-19 simply because of the color of their skin. And it is wrong to say you don’t see color and believe that makes you, “not a racist.” In fact, it is just the opposite.

This country has a long, complicated and ugly history when it comes to the treatment of people of color. That history must be acknowledged and recognized for what it is. And that begins first with, “seeing color.” We must see that which is in front of us. We must see that, while we should all be entitled to equal protection under the law, that simply is not the case for anyone who is not white. Surely this current pandemic has proven that to be true. And yet, there are those who will deny that truth and who will continue to move about their lives without wearing a mask, without concern for those around them, all in the name of freedom. Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom to do whatever makes them comfortable.

But real freedom comes with responsibility. We are not free to yell, “fire,” in a crowded theater. We are not free to fly on an airplane without passing through security. We are not free to drive in our cars without wearing a seat belt. And we should not be free to treat some people as less than and deny them basic protections because of the color of their skin.

Yesterday morning on The Today Show, I watched an interview with Reverend Michael Curry, presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, and I found some comfort there. He stressed the importance of recognizing that all people are, “children of God.” Regardless of individual spiritual tradition, or no tradition, I believe his meaning is that each of us is linked together as members of the human family. He invoked the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or perish together as fools. The choice is chaos or community.” Bishop Curry said the way forward is through love and through working together for the good of each of us. And, he finished by showing his idea of a symbol for love. The symbol: a mask. He said, “I wear it to protect you, and you wear it to protect me. And when we do that, we all win.” I choose love. I choose community. I choose to wear a mask.

 

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the current Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner.  Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world.  The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at www.jewishobservernashville.org .

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please… Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

 

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Pandemic Overload

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Okay everyone, I am about to unleash a whole pile of emotions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and the new “Safe-at-home,” lifestyle we’re all now living. I say, “lifestyle,” because as far as I can see, life as I knew it is officially over. Yes, we will eventually leave our homes and go back to work, to shop, to gather in small groups and maybe even larger ones. But honestly, can anyone imagine that our pre-pandemic life is out there somewhere, waiting for us? Will we ever think the same way about a cough, a sneeze, a fever? Will we ever not think that the stranger next to us in line at Starbucks might be carrying a virus? Will we ever hug someone who does not live in our house without asking for permission? Will we ever forget that for a time we were confined to our homes, isolated from our children, grandchildren, siblings, friends and extended family? Will I ever erase the images of people dying alone in a hospital with only a doctor or nurse for comfort?

For most of the last couple of months, I have cycled through the stages of grief over and over. From shock, to denial, to bargaining, anger and acceptance and back again, sometimes not even in that order. I’ve observed the social media accounts of people I know, and don’t know, who seem to be enjoying this time as some sort of staycation. And yes, everyone copes differently. I suppose if my children were young and needed to be schooled, entertained and otherwise taught the lessons that are part and parcel of this historic time, I’d also find the wherewithal to be a good model. But honestly, I just can’t seem to shake the grief and despair that I carry all day and most of the night. My usual exuberant energy feels dampened, my sunny outlook is overshadowed by sadness and my heart literally feels heavy.

I read once that trauma can be characterized as splitting life into two parts: life before the occurrence and life after. I believe our world is experiencing one giant collective trauma that will forever divide our lives in two. There will undoubtedly be other traumas that come along and supersede this one, much like my parents’ generation defined life before the Great Depression and life after and then, life before World War II and life after. And on and on and on…I. Hate. It.

Are there lessons to be learned from this crisis? Good that will come from all the deaths, the risks on the part of first responders and others who face danger everyday delivering essential goods and services? Who knows? There are those who believe this is some sort of cosmic payback for our collective bad behavior and disrespect of each other and our planet. Some believe this is nature’s way of thinning the herd and cleansing our overpopulated world. Some even believe this is all a hoax perpetrated by one political party or the other, one government or another, this or that corporate giant. I have become distrustful of most of the information I hear or read. There are a few sources I rely on, but I’m often skeptical of even those.

So how does all of this stack up for me? I still don’t know. Every day is different. I’m working on finding some peace, but it’s a struggle. I dread leaving my house, but when I do, I feel a bit better. As for some sort of deeper meaning, I just can’t see it, but maybe in time I will. Maybe it’s all just a senseless tragedy with no explanation or meaning to be found. I do hope that I can learn to be more patient, more compassionate, more accepting of things I can’t control. Mostly I hope someday to again feel safe in the world.

 

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the current Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner.  Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world.  The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at www.jewishobservernashville.org .

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please… Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

 

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Why is This Year Different?

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This Wednesday evening marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover.  It is a well-known fact that it is also the most celebrated of all the holidays.  The observance lasts eight days during which we focus on the theme of our people’s exodus from slavery in Egypt, crossing the Red Sea in a hurry with little time to prepare.  The first night consists of a festive meal, or Seder, when we retell the story through questions and answers, singing, eating and drinking four cups of wine.  The point of this exercise is to both remind us that freedom is precious, and to teach the younger generations about our story.

One of the highlights of every Seder is the asking of The Four Questions.  These questions are designed to provoke discussion and thought around the significance of the holiday.  Usually asked by the youngest person at the table, the refrain is always, “Why is this night different from all other nights.”  The answers to the four questions are the heart of the rest of the Seder.  But the overarching theme is always: freedom.

 

Over the last couple of weeks, I admit I’ve engaged in bouts of self-pity.  I have felt afraid for myself and my family.  I have been depressed about the changes in my life.  I have been angry, too, that those in leadership who could have mitigated some of the damage, did nothing.  And I have felt sad and helpless.  These negative thoughts and feelings are foreign to me.  I am usually an optimistic person who can find fun and joy in most places.  But our current state of affairs has been really tough for me to accept.

A therapist would probably say I’m moving through the stages of grief, and that’s likely the case.  I know from grief.  My people know from grief.  Generation after generation of Jewish people have been chased around the globe, experiencing plagues, famine, Holocaust and antisemitism.  And we are not alone in this.  Other cultures and peoples have faced similar obstacles and discrimination.  I can’t speak for the others, but I can speak for myself and my people.  The one thing we do to defend ourselves against the darkness is to survive.  We survive by carrying on our traditions.  We survive by being joyful.  We survive by telling the stories.  We survive by holding tight to each other, even if it is only in memory.

Most years we host a large group of friends and family to join our Seder.  I spend weeks planning and preparing the ritual foods and the traditional festive delicacies.  This year, obviously, the usual crowd will not be joining us live in our home.  It was with a heavy heart that a couple of weeks ago I emailed everyone to cancel.  And it was at that point that I really felt the enormity of what we are dealing with today.  I was also able to relate to the story of my ancestors and the challenges they faced.  Personally, my world has become pretty small and my life has slowed to a pace way out of my comfort zone.  But we will have our Seder.  We will include my son in California via Zoom.  I will make my chicken soup the way my mother taught me.  My husband, who will now be home, will make the brisket.  We will drink four cups of wine (really, the best part).  And, we will retell the story of our exodus and our journey to freedom.

The final prayer of the Seder meal is one in which we express our hope that next year we will celebrate in Jerusalem.  For me, the meaning is not to literally be in Jerusalem, although that would be amazing.  I think of Jerusalem as my spiritual home, the place where I can feel free to express my faith and tradition.  But my actual home, here in Nashville, is also a place where I can feel free to be myself and to enjoy life with my family and friends.  So, this year when we say the prayer, I will be thinking ahead to next Passover, when I can once again open my home and share the story of our survival and freedom with 30 of our nearest and dearest.  In the meantime, stay healthy, stay home and wash your hands.  xo

 

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the current Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner.  Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world.  The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at www.jewishobservernashville.org .

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please… Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

 

 

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