My Calistoga in the Age of Covid

We did not know what to expect. This was our first post-Corona hotel stay and we were apprehensive. We had booked two nights in our favorite go-to place, the Calistoga Spa. Calistoga, a little town, nestled in the Napa Valley holds a huge place in my heart. Calistoga  is rich with  memories of my youth. It is the only place we went to for family vacations when we were kids. For my parents, it was not far from San Francisco (around two hours depending if my father got lost), and we were guaranteed wonderful, usually hot summer weather. My mother’s goal was to get her little brood out of the fog belt of San Francisco, and we would get tan like browned chickens

We stayed at a no-frills resort, then called Little Village, for around $60 a week, running in to the same families every year. My mom did all the cooking and  managed to make the best meals for us. The kids had a ball playing hide and seek and shuffleboard. We entertained ourselves with comic books and cut out dolls. The highlight of every afternoon was swimming in the huge geyser-heated public pool, Patchateau’s. We would trek over there through a  field with prickly weeds holding our inner tubes. When we got to the pool,  my mom paid the maybe fifty cent admission. She would coat us with Sea and Ski, and then we were off for a glorious afternoon playing and splashing in the tepid water. My dad would join us on weekends driving up from San Francisco on Friday afternoons. Those weekends were rejuvenating for him. He could look forward to taking a hot mineral bath in our own cabin. The sulphur in the water smelled like rotten eggs.  In later years, Little Village put in their own pool which had cold water so we preferred swimming there in the heat which could reach over 100 degrees.

 Jeff and I continued our family tradition and brought our children to Calistoga as well. We have also had some terrific times with our grandchildren there too. The magic is the same, lazy days in the swimming pool. Patchateau’s now is Indian Springs, very upscale and not open to the public as it once was,  when it was a veritable international swim party on Sunday afternoons. We currently go to the Calistoga Spa, bring our own little barbeque and I manage to whip up great food in the tiny kitchen. When my grandchildren are there, I am like a short order cook making five different breakfasts from French toast to omlettes, to scrambled eggs.

at the Patchateau’s pool with my sister, around 1960

This time when we had made the reservation for the spa, we were almost reluctant to go with the new rules and restrictions. We could not arrive until 3pm where we had always been able to use the pool early in the day. We had to check out at 11AM where we had hung around the next day until maybe 2PM. Masks were required to walk around the resort though we did not need them in the pool area if we were sitting at a lounge chair. The rooms would be rather bare and no maid service available. The chairs around the pool would be spaced, and the rooms would be vacant the day before we came and the day after we left. Of course, the spa would be closed so no massages. We never did mud baths anyway, but an occasional massage was a special treat. Whew…this was the new reality, take it our leave it.

Initially we canceled then thought about it and said if we stay for two nights and bring most of our own food we will avoid the grocery store. We decided to give it a try. It was sad to see how many restaurants  and businesses had closed in town. In some cases a favorite restaurant had moved out, and a new name had taken over the space.  Calistoga had previously suffered the effects of the huge Napa Valley fires which spared the town thankfully but had also affected the tourist business. We walked around wearing our masks which was really strange and felt suffocating. We had dinner one warm night out at a patio restaurant with masked servers. It was a lovely creekside setting so it was pleasant.

One of our mornings I was out at 7AM getting us coffee and slipped off my mask. I breathed in the delicious air. This was the Calistoga I remembered. How do you describe the smell of a place? I don’t even know the right words, but that early morning took me back to how  it had always been. We really enjoyed our two days there… lazily floating around in our noodles in the pools, reading and relaxing. It was good to get away from the constant barrage of scary news. The best parts of Calistoga are still the same, the sweet air, the total relaxation, the warm sun. We will go back again and pray for when we can be there without masks.

the upside down sign at this restaurant which was closed somehow felt like a metaphor for everything else…


Morocco, Part 2-Covid, Our Thanksgiving Covid Tsunami

When we left on our long-awaited tour of Morocco we brought Covid tests along and even had cajoled our doctors in to giving us Paxlovid to take along just in case. We prayed of course we would not get Covid but unfortunately we did. Jeff probably started first though we did not test him in the beginning. He had a cough and cold symptoms, but it did not stop him from enjoying the tour. He thought it was just a cold and he did not feel bad. The only other problem was a funky stomach and not much appetite, but I had that too blaming it on the water or whatever bug we managed to pick up. We tried to only drink bottled water and were careful but many on our tour had similar upset stomachs so we just ate carefully and relied on Pepto bismol or Imodium.

               We had taken it all in; the beauty of this  fascinating country, learning about what was left of a once thriving Jewish population,  visiting the old Jewish cemeteries and  marketplaces, Roman ruins, craft workshops and a leather tannery in the Medina, and a workshop where ancient fossils were incorporated in to tables and other furniture. I enjoyed seeing the modern Arab women in colorful hijabs, with some women not wearing hijabs at all, hip and modern, but tolerated in this moderate country. Before I came I did not know how I would feel being in an Arab country, but I found the people we met were welcoming. There were wonderful contrasts in beautiful mosques with classic mosaics, as well as modern skyscrapers,  a variety of boutiques and shopping malls, well kept roads and infrastructure. Perhaps the highlight for us was sleeping in a camp in the desert. It was definitely “glam” camping in a comfortable tent  with electricity and a shower. For me, that was my perfect kind of “camping!”

               We got to ride a camel, a one-hump dromedary if I am to be accurate. The camels politely bent  to let us get up then with a whoosh stood up (I was holding on for dear life and making deals with my camel).   Then we plodded along to a flat area near the dunes. We got off the camels and climbed up a sandy ridge in our bare feet where we watched the sky changing with sunset approaching. We sat on the ridge, posed for photos, as sunset overtook the skies. Unbelievably in the middle of nowhere I posted photos of the desert on Facebook! The golds of the sands, the purples of the changing horizon were unforgettable. Then we lumbered back on our camels back down to our tent camp. We gathered around a fire pit for a relaxing glass of wine then went to a tent for dinner and entertainment by local tribesmen with drums and chanting that got us up dancing.

               Our days were filled with site seeing, also long bus rides some days, but we were always  learning from our very knowledgeable guides while traversing the country from Casablanca to Rabat and Fez,  through valleys and mountains to our final destination, Marrakech , a hip, modern city,  with a massive public market with snake charmers and much to see. Friday evening in Marrakech we visited a packed synagogue filled with tourists, many Israelis,  and had a lovely Shabbat dinner there just for our group.  Jeff and I were both not eating much at the dinner with our yucky stomachs. We were doing OK though not feeling great.  Little did I know the ordeal that was ahead of us.

               The next day, I was really not feeling well and decided to leave the tour. Jeff had stayed with the group while I went back to the hotel and spent the day in and out of bed not knowing at first what was going on. I decided to use one of the Covid tests I had brought and test myself. I almost could not believe my eyes when I saw the telltale two lines. I called our tour guide who pulled Jeff aside and told him I had Covid.  

               This was the start of a very unpleasant bout with that nasty virus. The first thing we did was make arrangements to stay longer in Marrakech. We knew we could not leave when we were supposed to on Monday so we quarantined in the hotel. Jeff was also showing a positive test albeit his line was faint but we assumed he had Covid as well. My version of Covid was strange. I had no fever, body aches, very little cough. What I did have was extreme thirst on many days, fatigue, and the continuation of a funky stomach. All in all I felt really crappy. I felt so ill that I was sure I needed an IV for hydration. We decided to go to the emergency room at an international hospital in Marrakech luckily not far from our hotel. By the way, I had started the Paxlovid after calling my doctor in Oakland. However, I thought that it was making me feel  even worse so I stopped taking it after a couple of days.

               You can imagine how bad I had to feel  that I wanted to go to the hospital. It was scary and intense but as soon as we walked in a young doctor who spoke passable English and was very sweet to me got me in a private room rather quickly. He ordered blood work to be done and concluded I was not de-hydrated despite my intense thirst. He gave me something for my stomach and after he looked at the blood work said we could leave. I was so grateful I did not have to stay in a foreign hospital. We stopped at a little store and bought a ton of drinks and went back to the hotel.

               The next few days we stayed away from everyone in the hotel, sat by the pool in a lovely garden area. There was even a Kosher restaurant in the hotel, and we managed to share one dinner. Breakfast was always a buffet and we could sit outside, but I could barely eat anything or even stay long enough to eat.  There were some moments I felt better and we would take a little walk outside. I had never felt so out of sorts except for my post chemo days. This was how I described to Jeff how I felt. Not good.

               After five days of quarantining, we knew we had to get out of Marrakech and go home to finish convalescing. I had changed our flights to leave Thursday morning.  I had to pay for flight changes but fortunately Air Maroc was able to get us on a different flight as did Jet Blue. Originally we were staying New York for three days after the tour, but that was of course was canceled. I decided we needed to stay in New York at least one night and break up the flight which turned out to be a godsend. Jeff was very worried about me on the long flight home, and I barely held it together not feeling well and drinking constantly. We spent the night at the Crowne Plaza near the airport which was very comfortable, and I really felt better on Friday morning for the last leg home. I thought I might be on the mend at last. I was fooled by this sneaky virus with its ups and downs and twists and turns.

               We thankfully made it home Friday, but by Sunday I felt really bad again. We had called our doctor and decided I should go to the ER to be checked which I did. They gave me blood work and an EKG, and a chest Xray but I checked out OK. This time I did get an IV though technically I was not dehydrated. The kind ER doctor (I’ll talk more about him shortly) told me what I was going through was not atypical. We went home and by around the tenth day I tested negative. Jeff had already tested negative. I was still feeling out of sorts, anxious, some days thirsty, vulnerable, weak, not myself. I had moments when I thought I would not recover.  This was not a good feeling. I refused to entertain the thought I had long Covid

               Poor Jeff. I really put him through the ringer. He did not have to ask how I felt. He saw me looking strained and white.  He fortunately was doing OK and returned to his volunteer work schedule. Everyone in the family was worried about me. My kids had brought over bone soup and chicken soup, and I tried various homeopathic remedies. I also took Advil off and on for inflammation.  I think it helped somewhat. I felt well enough to go to shul one Shabbat. However by the afternoon that day I was yucky again. My stomach was not good. I even threw up. By the next morning we decided to go the ER again.

               I turned out to have the same kind doctor as my previous Sunday visit. Once again I got an IV, blood work, and he even tested me for a blood clot. Again, he reassured me that what I was feeling was not unusual and I should just take advantage when I felt better to do things and when I needed to rest I should do that. He had seen on my records somehow that I had kids in Israel which launched a discussion about my kids there and his connection to Israel. Then on a whim I asked him if he was related to a dear friend of mine. I remembered she had a cousin who was an ER doctor. It was him!  Then we were like cousins, and he told me I could text him with questions. The next day he called me to see how I was. I can’t express how his kindness and concern meant so much to me. A couple of times I texted him and he always reassured me.

               Originally I was going to host twenty one for Thanksgiving and when I do this holiday, I go all out. I decorate my table with my collection of Thanksgiving tchotchkes, whip up my tried and true recipes and always add a few new ones I’ve found from perusing the internet. I make a lavish meal with all the trimmings, including two kinds of homemade cranberry sauce.  My mom also embraced this holiday and this makes me think of her, and it is also my favorite also because it is right around my birthday.This year obviously there was no way I could host or do much of anything. I was so looking forward to my nephew Marcus who was coming from Philadelphia  especially to hang with his cousins. He was going to stay at our house and he wanted to celebrate my birthday on Saturday. My brother was also coming in from LA to stay with us. Then all the plans shifted. My dear sister took over preparing Thanksgiving and we divided the group. Elana also hosted and had twelve at her house with Laurie and her family. I was able to help Linda with a few dishes. I was very grateful I could go and participate and felt pretty well.

               Some of the group gathered at my house for a small birthday celebration on Saturday. I managed to do a lunch and we had cake and ice cream. Not everyone was there but we had a nice group. I was feeling relatively well, not completely myself but hopeful I was making  real progress. It was a phone call on Saturday night when we started to get the news of the first Covid case in the family. Then the tsunami hit!  By Monday, six members of the family had come down with Covid then two more later in the week.

                OY vey! Just hearing that so many were sick was literally making me feel sick and really anxious. This nervous, vulnerable feeling was not like me.  The good news was that my family took it all in stride and mostly had mild cases ranging from very light cold symptoms to some coughs. They started a hilarious Whats App group with cartoons, tips, commiserating with each other and, and  kept everyone’s spirits up. There was a humorous discussion on the merit of jello molds which my sister makes (like my mom did) and my husband (maybe the only one in the family) really loves. My nephew put in a hilarious cartoon entitled, Thanksgiving 2023 with a man wearing a Hasmat suit.

                           This was all funny but maybe not so funny. Is this our destiny to be beleaguered by Covid with its new strains year after year? My brother in law came down with the flu so we had Covid and flu. Of course we don’t know where our family Covid originated. We thought perhaps from the Warrior game where some of the group went the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. My brother had flown in from LA. Who really knows? What we did learn is how contagious this virus is.

               Finally, almost five weeks from starting Covid on a Tuesday, I started to feel like myself.  It was almost like a switch was turned on. It is hard to explain feeling almost normal again but that day was a turning point for me. I felt less anxious and returned to exercising. Every day now  I am still filled with gratitude remembering too well what I just endured. All we pray for is good health for 2023.  

Rules for the new normal

 for old school folks who still write down dates in a calendar book

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Put your pens away

find a broken pencil in the back of your kitchen drawer

with hopefully some eraser on the end

write your dates in said pencil, appointments, flights, parties

or your calendar book will be a scratched out mess like mine

wedding in Nashville, canceled

baby shower canceled

appointment with lawyer who now has Covid, canceled

Drs. appointments re-scheduled

parties , get-togethers on hold

memorial services put off for another time

really will there be another time, ever?

services, events, piled up behind one another

like a mass collision on the freeway

life has twisted, turned, flexed again

we are at the mercy again of that sneaky virus

we thought we had the upper hand with vaccinations and boosters

numbers going down at last, kids back to school

then my grandson gets Covid and the cycle starts

family quarantine, Poppa gets a test

and why can’t I find Special K

food shortages, delays, it’s the new way

get used to it, accept it, don’t be rigid I tell myself

settle on Cheerios, get on with your life,

 don’t let fear take hold

adapt, you are a pencil too

Just Ordinary People

In their puffy parkas, knit hats,
Babies bundled in strollers, bewildered toddlers in tow.
Just ordinary people like you and me,
Parents and old folk, neighbors and strangers,
Teachers and plumbers, students and programmers.
Gathered at train stations, huddled in subways, piling on buses,
Clutching hastily-packed bags and wheelie suitcases, cellphones in hand.
Did they think to grab a few family photos?
Did they leave dinners on the stove, milk in the Frig?
Laundry unfolded, beds unmade, pianos un-played,
Half-finished math assignments scattered on kitchen tables?
Birthdays not celebrated, weddings left undone,
Normal pieces of life torn and scattered in the wind like confetti.
Lives dismembered with each missile, each bomb,
Wanton destruction of schools, hospitals and apartments
Lives heaved and roiled, upended and destroyed,
While the line of tanks keeps rolling, rolling,
And the fathers kiss wives and babies,
And the lovers leave behind hearts broken.
Millions of souls becoming refugees,
Labels they never dreamed they’d wear.
And why, tell me why, someone tell me why?
Who will answer for this latest aberration?
Who will answer to the ordinary people
in their puffy parkas?

The Tale of a Fat Ugly Crow on a May Afternoon

In front of my living room window,
on a splendid, sunny May afternoon,
fat crow rapturously caws over its good fortune.
I watch in morbid fascination
as it tears apart a rodent.
Can’t fault the crow, a natural predator.
It studiously picks away at that small, hapless animal,
guts torn, splayed.
The next morning, not a morsel left,
not even a bloodstain, I checked the street.
Russia is tearing apart Ukraine without remorse,
destroying homes, churches, schools, hospitals,
disrupting millions, traumatizing the children,
injuring and killing civilians,
decimating infrastructure piece by piece,
ripping away the guts and sinew
of a once proud sovereign nation.
Soon it too will be left without a morsel
while the world watches from the window.

Morocco Adventure, 10-19 to 11-4, 2022

                We had looked forward to our tour of Morocco for months. It was sponsored by Tiyul, a Jewish tour company in partnership with Lehrhaus Judaica, a wonderful educational institution which has been in Berkeley for years. We would be crisscrossing the country traveling long distances on our bus. I was excited about being somewhere totally different and immersed in the culture of an Arab nation, very different than our many comfortable trips to Israel.

Our group was made up of seniors like us, everyone very friendly. The group was prompt, courteous and we enjoyed getting to know each other when we sat at tables for meals and since most of the meals were included there was ample opportunity. Of course we played Jewish geography finding unexpected connections like a lovely woman I met who turned out to be the childhood neighbor of my son in law’s mom! We were fortunate to have Rabbi  Peretz Wolf-Prusan and his wife Becki as participants. Peretz gave us insights throughout the trip which added to our perspective. Our tour leader was Ariel Goldstein who lives in Berkeley. He has led tours for years, several in Morocco, others all over the world from China, to Europe, to Uruguay, where he grew up, visiting more than thirty countries. Of course during the height of Covid he was not able to lead tours so he was glad to be back. Ariel speaks probably five languages.

  Our native Moroccan guide, Aziz, also spoke five or six languages. (I was in awe hearing him change languages so effortlessly.) Aziz is a scholar and was able to frame the Jewish history of Morocco which goes back hundreds of years. He was a Berber, an indigenous group within Morocco with its own language and cultural traditions. I wish I could remember all the things he taught us. He was so informative and constantly spoke to us as we went along in the bus. He also helped get us the best deals when we bought stuff such as the carpet store or jewelry.  Our tour started in Casablanca and continued on for miles through the country. There were several days of really long bus rides but there was no way to avoid that. The bus was comfortable and the scenery ever changing from flat lands  to the Atlas mountains, passing vast river gorges, to a Swiss-like mountain resort, Ifrane,  to exploring Roman ruins in Volubilis.

          Our favorite stop was the Sahara Desert where we stayed in a fancy tent camp. To get to the camp, we went  off-road for an unpaved stretch which was bumpy and rough. When we got to the camp, the individual tents were scattered around. The dunes, rust and orange, stretched out in the distance, endless and magnificent. The tents were my kind of camping, with a shower, electricity and mostly comfortable bed. We gathered for our camel ride. Our camels, were with a handler, holding the camel who was tamely kneeling down ready for us to climb up.  I did an appropriate “prayer” for getting on a camel and not falling off. The trick was to hold on tight for the big forward dip  when the camel stood up. It was a little scary.  Then our handler led us up a hill for about a twenty minute plodding ride.

                I told my camel to behave and he did. The camel was a dromedary with one hump. After we reached the top of a sand ridge, we lumbered off and climbed further up a low hill in the sand to top of a rise. We were able to see the sun and sky changing to golden hues as twilight approached. It was a moment I’ll never forget. We then went back down to the camp, gathered around a cozy fire with drinks, then went to a central dining room for dinner.  After dinner there was entertainment by drummers who got us up to dance.

                Some of the other highlights were going to the medina to see the leather dying vats and learn the process of producing leather goods. I bought a snazzy pink leather jacket. It was so unique, I could not resist!  During the week we saw other workshops, a carpet store, a pottery workshop where  mosaics were put together, a date market, and a cooperative where women made products containing Argan. We went to a site where ancient fossils are mined and used in tables. These fossils are 400 million years old. I brought an embedded fossil home for my grandsons.

We saw very old Jewish cemeteries in Fes, the remnants of synagogues, and Jewish schools. We had a lovely Shabbat dinner at a synagogue in Marrakech which was packed on Friday nights with tourists who knew distinct Shabbat melodies.  I was fascinated by the fact there were busloads of tourists from Israel. Since the Abraham accords, many Israelies are going to Morocco. In some instances, it is a kind of heritage tour since their families came from Morocco. Before the trip, I wondered how I would feel in an Arab country and was pleased to feel very comfortable. The people I came across were friendly. The women were attractive, many in colorful hijabs. Some women did not wear hijabs at all. It seems like there was tolerance for different expressions of religiosity. I did not see too many women totally covered in black. I often heard the call to prayer. Our tour guide explained the key precepts of Islam which was fascinating to me.

                In general, the roads were well paved and litter free. The infrastructure seemed to be in good condition. I did not see homeless and there were few beggars. There is a fascinating blend of ancient and modern. We saw old Mellahs, the  remnants of the Jewish quarter. Mellah means “salt and it was where the Jews lived and traded centuries ago. We were in Fes, Rabat, Meknes, and other stops.  Our last stop was Marrakech, really a beautiful, elegant world-class city. We were in a lovely hotel, the nicest of any we had stayed in with a beautiful pool area. There was even a kosher restaurant in the hotel which was fun for me to see and Shabbat services. I loved seeing the acceptance and welcoming of observant Jews in a Muslim country.  It shows me that there can be coexistence between Arabs and Jews.


                Marrakech is where things got interesting. Despite being up to date in our Covid vaccines, we got sick at the end of the trip. Jeff’s version was a cold and cough. I started to feel unwell on the last Saturday and did not do anything with the group. By the evening, I was feeling really crappy and tested. We had brought tests and even Paxlovid. I tested positive for Covid. We weren’t sure about Jeff, but he did have it. Oy vey, what we really had not wanted to happen when we were away had become a reality.

                We knew immediately we would have to stay longer in Marrakech. I managed to change our reservations to leave after a five day quarantine. The hotel was a nice place if you had to stay inside. I could take the stairs to get down to the pool area. Breakfast was outside so I wasn’t near anyone.  One of our symptoms was having no appetite. We could barely eat for days. I learned everyone’s version of Covid can be different. Jeff had the cold and cough. I felt sick, really sick with an unquenchable thirst. I took Paxlovid but I felt it was making me feel awful and stopped taking it. I felt so bad we even went to the local hospital. That was an experience, but they took good care of me. The doctor spoke passable English and gave me basic blood work. I was OK, and though I was sure needed an IV, he did not want to do it. 

                Somehow masked, we made it home, spending the night in New York after our flight from Casablanca which was a lifesaver. I actually felt better on the last leg of this long journey. Covid has been difficult and tricky for me. I have had several days of feeling better only to be down the next day. I have been to the ER twice. OY. However, thankfully I finally feel I am on the road to recovery.

                Despite the not ideal ending of our trip, I want to remember all the good parts; what we learned and observed, the friendly people we met on our tour, the beauty of the country and the unforgettable camel ride and desert experience.

Impressions of Jerusalem, March 14-20, 2022

May be an image of 3 people, people standing, balloon and outdoors
Visiting Shalva, a wonderful place

Having been in Jerusalem for almost a week, I wanted to jot down some of my impressions of this pulsing, vibrant city, probably one of the most unique cities in the entire world where modern life strives against ancient history and often crumbling infrastructure. Now in 2022, there is construction visible everywhere in Jerusalem, big cranes, workmen on scaffolding, hammering, trucks passing with building materials. My son in law, Andy, told me about some of the current big projects like extending and expanding the current light rail, and adding new light rail lines. It feels like one big construction project everywhere you look. Thousands of apartments are being added as there is a major housing shortage they are addressing. Some are new buildings, others are projects adding floors to existing buildings. My family and their neighbors are holding out that they can keep their building as is, but all around them there are pending projects and developers would like to take their building and remodel it.

We arrived here before Purim, a fun holiday of wearing costumes, sending gifts of food to friends and neighbors (think Halloween times twenty), hearing the Purim story in synagogues and many parties with lots of drinking (part of the Purim tradition!) The country really lets loose on this holiday. Jeff and I had a ball going to the shuk, the open air market in Mahane Yehudah on Purim. You could see costumes worn by children and adults, and we wore the costumes we brought in our suitcases which were playing cards, the King and Queen of Hearts. For some reason, these costumes are a huge hit in Israel (we wore them previously here), and we were surrounded by photographers taking our picture (our fifteen minutes of fame!!)  We were stopped along the street where people wanted to pose with us and  take our picture, and it was so much fun. I had to buy my favorite halvah in the shuk, and as usual bought way too much. When they cut a wedge for you, you don’t realize that it is huge. The good news is that it lasts forever so I ration out a little piece every day.

Two other unexpected events happened. First when we arrived we found out our middle, sweet granddaughter had just tested positive for Covid. OY….that was news we did not expect to hear at the airport when our son in law picked us up. The good news is that she has been virtually symptom free, and we were fortunate we had booked a close by Air B and B so we were not in their place. That was really crucial, as as hard as it was, we had to keep our distance. She is doing better and testing negative in time for us to go to Eilat together tomorrow.

The other unusual event is that the weather has been unusually COLD, in the thirties and forties. We had been following the weather before we came and threw in warm jackets which we really needed and hats, gloves and scarves. This has been a once in a hundred year cold spell. (Just our luck!!) Even when we go to Eilat tomorrow, it will be warmer, but not the usual very warm weather we were hoping for. We have come to realize that we have to go with the flow and can’t control Covid or the weather.

The place we have been renting has been comfortable and convenient. There are always a few glitches to understand the Israeli systems for heat, hot water, getting the TV to work, etc. However, we would definitely stay here again.

We have been able to see old friends, Joel and Ruthi Ackerman, Bill Taeusch, and Marilyn Neril.  We saw my cousins Nat and Rachel who have created a dynasty here, with seven sons now all married and have THIRTY grandchildren and recently three great grandchildren. Could your remember the names of thirty grandchildren?? That would be a test for me not to mention keeping track of birthdays.

I have spent some precious time with my adorable niece Julie and her beautiful family. Julie and Rusty were going to be here for a year, and now they are going on year three. Their four kids are thriving and have adapted to Israeli life like troopers despite all the turmoil with the pandemic. The best part of their time here is that Julie and Rusty had a baby, their fifth, Miri, who is a little doll. Julie and I spent a wonderful morning having brunch while Miri slept like an angel.

We have been to the Kotel, (the Wailing Wall) which is always an emotional experience. It was crowded with tourists. We had a great tour at the Shalva building which provides care for children and adults with disabilities. It is an amazing place, so colorful with two swimming pools, a gym, art studios, a café where disabled adults work. One of the special features is that children who go there after their regular school programs participate in a weekly overnight at the facility. This teaches the children independence and they learn life skills. It provides a much needed respite for the parents as well. We are proud to be supporters of this wonderful organization and appreciated the tour we received.

We are looking forward to catching up more with our grandchildren in Eilat. Israel is so great for children. They learn to be independent, have more freedom, wonderful opportunities, youth groups and great programs, can take a bus at night to go somewhere (yes, that is hard to believe). This is a country dedicated to their children. Our oldest granddaughter is in a boarding school in Jerusalem, takes college classes in high school, volunteers in a special organization which helps disabled kids, rides an ambulance. That’s just for starters. She is very busy. Eliana, our middle granddaughter, will go away to school for high school also boarding, but her school will away from Jerusalem. She will take a bus to her school (an hour and a half out of Jerusalem) spend four nights a week there and three at home.  Our youngest grandson really likes his youth group as well and starts a new school next year (fortunately close by.)

Jerusalem is amazing as always, unique, stressful; all of the above. We are very comfortable here enjoying the hospitality of our kids despite the unplanned Covid stuff. We are now pros at using the light rail which is very convenient to where we are staying. Sometimes it is frustrating to locate an ATM machine. Spending shekels is still like funny money to me. You can buy everything you need, and there are many yummy bakeries including French bakeries.

 Next stop Eilat… looking for a little sun for the next few days!!

A Letter From Kitty

This essay appeared in Burningword Literarary Journal, Issue 101, Jan. 2022

Dear Mrs.,

This is a note to say I’m really sorry I peed on your green suede boots, your favorites.  I hope you’re not still mad. I know you had to throw them in the trash because the smell doesn’t go away, and I’m in real big trouble.

I’ve decided to come clean, tell you the truth why I did it. I just hate when you take me to the vet. First you put me in that tight cardboard carrier and it makes me very nervous. I get carsick on the way to the vet and that’s not fun at all.  And Dr. Braun always wants to check me, and he has bad breath. And the food…It is really yucky there. They don’t have my favorite albacore tuna, and I feel very confined and my claustrophobia acts up something fierce. You know I get anxious when I hear the dogs barking in the other part of the building.

I need my space to roam in the yard and cruise in the house. After all, I have my favorite places where I take my beauty naps. I love when the sun shines through the patio door and warms me up on the red velvet sofa. I have my scratching chair and I have to watch the neighbors from the living room window. Somebody’s got to do it. I love being able to jump on your bed and cuddle in the morning until you get up and get me my breakfast.

You’re right. These are all excuses and I should not have peed, but the truth is I get really sad when you and Mister go away. As soon as I see your suitcases coming out of the closet, I start to hyperventilate. I know Dr. Braun suggested Valium for me but I agree it might be better if he prescribed it for you.

I resolved to take an anger management class and I promise, promise, promise, I’ll be a much better kitty. Please give me another chance, but promise you won’t go away and leave me at the vet any more. And just for future reference, I prefer Chicken of the Sea Albacore.



Love is…

Love is…Walkin’ together, Talkin’ together, Singin’ together, Prayin’ together… Talkin’ about the power   Al Green

In the immortal words of Al Green, in his sexy song, Love and Happiness, he talks about love. What is love anyway? Forever through all ages, philosophers and poets, writers and artists have been trying to define love. I’m going to go out on a limb and say I’m a bit of an authority and can write about love with some measure of confidence. Why? Summer, 2021 marks my fiftieth wedding anniversary. Just think of it. Fifty years married to the same person, and we still love each other deeply. That is a milestone not too many couples reach, especially these days. How did we do it? How did we get this far? We traversed a long road with its share of detours, bumps, and obstacles, but we managed to navigate through all of it. Maybe the key in the words of Al Green is getting through it all   “together.”

                So let’s go back to the June night we met. It was at a Jewish singles party, a Blue Monday event in San Francisco at a club in North Beach. I bugged my older brother to take me. I was supposed to be twenty one, but I was only nineteen. I liked “older” guys. I was a junior at UC Berkeley, but I could pass for twenty one. I had ashy blonde hair to my shoulders, wore a polyester black and white pants outfit (polyester was big in 1970) and looked pretty cute. I was tall and hated dancing with shrimpy guys whose nose came up to my boobs.

                Somehow I turned around, and there was a tall guy (OK check that off my list). He had black glasses, dark brown curly hair, and I noticed his sweater had a tear on the sleeve. (Hmmm…) He asked me to dance, and of course I said yes, torn sweater and all. I think it was to the Youngbloods. Turned out he did not want come that night and had been coerced by his friend with dinner in Chinatown at their favorite restaurant. He borrowed money from him to buy me a drink. Despite this somewhat inauspicious first impression, we hung out, danced and talked, and he arranged for his friend to drive me home. When he walked me up the stairs at my parents’ home, we ran right in to my father just coming home from a synagogue board meeting. They shook hands. Somehow they liked each other from that brief encounter.

                That night was the beginning for us and in retrospect it was “bashert” or destined. We started dating but then after just a few dates I went away to a summer leadership institute, and he went to his Army reserve training. This was during Vietnam and as a reservist, he had to go for training in the summer. We wrote during our six week separation. These were the days of no email of course. Those silly cards and sweet letters kept the fire we had just ignited burning, and we got back together as soon as we returned. It did not take long. We dated, met each other’s families, and got to know each other all rather quickly.

What was it that made us “fall in love” and get engaged by September after being together for just a few months? I think of the words of a favorite educator of mine who used to say, “You don’t Fall in love, you Rise in love.” I believe that sentiment is still so true. It did not take long, and he was all I thought about. We were crazy about each other. We went out with his parents to see a musical, Promises Promises. He brought me home to my apartment in Berkeley, and before I knew what was happening we made our own promises to each other to spend our lives together and we got engaged that Saturday night.

                What drew us together? First there was physical attraction, an important ingredient. You have to find each other sexy and be compatible in that department. Sexual attraction is the cherry on top of the sundae. It is certainly not enough to sustain a relationship but it is very important.

 Then there was an underpinning of important values we both shared. Shared values are like a foundation of a building. It is what you build on. We shared the same religion, and though my background was more observant it didn’t matter.  We were both close to our families and honored our parents. Trust and honesty were a given, and we never wavered in believing in each other. We were and still are best friends.

 We loved to laugh and have fun together. We have not stopped doing that over all these years. We were kind to each other. We never said mean, hurtful words. Those are words you can never take back. It’s not to say we don’t have disagreements and know how to push each other’s buttons. For example, he gets annoyed when I buy food that we already have in the pantry. He always says, “take inventory.” I can’t stand when he leaves cabinet doors open like a trail after himself.  That’s all little  stupid stuff. The bottom line is, we respect one another and build each other up. We admire each other for our strengths, and accept our weaknesses and shortcomings.  We each have our interests and don’t have to be together all the time.

Love is so many things. Love is when he stayed by my side through my cancer diagnosis and treatment, bringing me to every chemo session. Love is when I never left his side  for the six weeks he spent in the  hospital when he was recuperating from complications from bypass surgery. Other couples might have cracked and faltered. We got stronger. Love is sharing the joy of our children and grandchildren.  We still say “I love you” at night before we go to bed. We still kiss and hold hands. He still tells me I am beautiful, despite my lines and gray hair which he apparently doesn’t see. We don’t make each other wait if we are meeting at a certain time . I am still excited to see him.  Al Green got it right. “Love is…” the power. 

I Would have Called you Oma

I would have called you “Oma”

You would have called me “Little Doll”

I would have cuddled in your lap

You would have told me your stories

I would have gone to you when I was hurt

You would have kissed away my tears.

I would have looked like you

You would have laughed when people said that

I would have slept on your shoulder

You would have sung to me about geese and rabbits

I would have made cut out cookies with you

You would have taught me your recipes

I would have run to you with my report cards

You would have been beaming at my graduations

I would have helped you when you were sick

You would have held me when I had the chicken pox

I would have told you my secrets

You would have kept them forever

I would have brought around my sweetheart

You would have welcomed him into your arms

I would have stood under the chuppah

You would have wept tears of joy

But they shipped you on the train to Auschwitz

our precious spirit extinguished forever

And when I hold my own sweet grandchild

I think about you… I would have called you “Oma”

My grandmother Ethel Bernstein with two of her five sons, Marcus on the left and Leon on the right who were twins. She perished in Auschwitz.

Cardboard Cemetery

“someone’s empty place at a family dinner”

excised by the cruel scalpel of racial injustice

their hollow voices cry out

to not be forgotten

Oskar Grant, Elijah McLain, Botham Jean, Alton Sterling, Brayla Stone

someone’s lost child,

someone’s missing lover,

someone’s empty place at a family dinner

their legacy deserves to be  so much more

than signs that will wash out

when the  first rains come

I stop my car and pull over for a moment

drawn to this ersatz cardboard cemetery

a curious squirrel scampers among the “graves”

I pay my respects, say a silent prayer

sad for young lives cut short

and sad for our country