Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

“I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.” Jon Stewart

On Thanksgiving Day, I would ask my family what they were thankful for. My mother used to do that. It was a tradition – something I wanted to carry on from my childhood.  Thanksgiving is a day to remember to be grateful. We never prayed before a meal but one day a year we said thank you. 

I hadn’t spent Thanksgiving with my mother in many years. Our families lived back East and Thanksgiving was the holiday that my in-laws came to visit.  My sister-in-law loved to cook Thanksgiving dinner and we had it at their house. Since we were not cooking, we had Thanksgiving movie before going to dinner. There are always big movies that open on Thanksgiving. That was our family holiday tradition.  

When our life changed, Thanksgiving became one of those days that we didn’t know what do with.  We didn’t have a tradition anymore. There are so many expectations and family issues that come up with holidays. It is hard for me not to have a plan but I try to let go of that now.  Sometimes I do it at the house and sometimes we go somewhere.  We spend it with other people’s families or we do something by ourselves.  I miss the security of having a tradition but I have learned to go with the flow. Whatever we do, it always turns out to be fun and delicious – different, but fun. 

My mother died on the weekend before Thanksgiving so I am always a little sad now around the holidays.  Wherever I am celebrating, in my head, I hear my mother’s voice asking, what are you thankful for today?

Here is my list.

Sunsets. I can see the sunset on the beach every night.

The way the light hits my house in the morning.

My dog – even though he is not the same as my first dog.

My kids are happy, healthy and doing well.

 Morning coffee.

I’m still traveling.

Having an amazing day in a country not your own.

A great walk through the Venice Beach canals to have lunch.

Opening a beautifully wrapped present.

An interesting conversation.

The feeling I have in an airport.

Someone who makes me laugh.

A good hair day.

Fun with my friends.

A great movie,  museum, play, ballet or TV show.

Dessert.

Kindness.

Walking or driving by a beautiful street art mural.

Having an amazing meal.

Pizza night.

Great music and  rock concerts.

Getting lost in a book.

Healthyish.

Writing something that I’m proud of.

My favorite jeans.

Shoes that do not hurt.

The endorphin rush after exercise.

Still able to have some of my photographs and art.

Hitting every green light on Venice Blvd on the way home (especially at Lincoln Blvd – the world’s longest red light)

Happy Thanksgiving.

JAZ

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Staying Sane In An Insane World

“The most insane things can become normal if you have them around you long enough. A mind can’t seem to hold anything too crazy for too long without finding a way to make it seem normal.” Deb Caletti

You can get used to anything. You think you can’t but you can. When I came home from New Zealand I had horrible anxiety every time I turned on the TV. There was another Presidential order that was always badly rolled out and more protests. There is way too much bad news bombarding us twenty-four hours a day.

A few weeks later, I just feel numb. I am becoming desensitized. Things were said today  that went almost unnoticed. A month ago they would have been front page news. What is going on in America is wrong and it takes all my sanity to get through the day. In the midst of all this I am trying to live a conscious life of kindness and intelligence. Just because America is going insane does not mean that I have to follow.

The cause of these external events have been a long time in the making. They did not just happen. There are no simple answers. Finding a scapegoat to blame sounds very fascist to me. It’s the Muslims. It’s the Feminists. It’s the Immigrants. It’s the Jews. It’s the NRA.  It’s the Whites. It’s the Blacks. It’s ISIS. It’s the Environmentalists. It’s the Left. It’s the RIght. It is so convenient to have someone to blame – especially when said in a confident, authoritative voice. It’s becoming really hard to separate the real threats from the manufactured ones.

Here are some real threats. There are 117 suicides in the U.S. each day compared to 43 murders. There are 129 deaths from accidental drug overdoses. Ninety six  people a day die  in automobile accidents (27 of whom aren’t wearing seat belts)There are 1,315 deaths each day due to smoking, and 890 related to obesity, and all the other preventable deaths from strokes, heart attacks and liver disease.

I need meditation and yoga in my life now.  I can’t exhale this out. Beaches and travel help. I allow a short time period to watch the news and take days off. It looks to me like all this fear mongering is illogical. We are the biggest threat to ourselves.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Dying Around Thanksgiving

Dying Around Thanksgiving

“There is no death. People only die when we forget them,” my mother explained shortly before she left me. “If you can remember me, I will be with you always.” Isabel Allende

My mother died the weekend before Thanksgiving. Now I always associate the planning for Thanksgiving with the helplessness I felt knowing that my mother was dying. I need a constructive way to get through the day.  It involves lighting a memorial candle,  going to temple and saying the prayer honoring the dead.  I do something she loved in nature or in culture and I talk to her in my head.

I was supposed to be ready when my mother died. She was ninety-one when she went into the hospital for the first time since the birth of her children. She had a long life.  “Who is the president?,” they ask to check her mental capacity. The correct answer was Bush. Her answer was “Don’t get me started.” I should have been ready, but I wasn’t.

When we lose a parent as an adult, we are supposed to be prepared for this normal life passage, or at least be  more ready to accept it when it does happen. We are expected to pick ourselves up, close the wound quickly and move on. We should not require so much time to “get over it.” This loss is expected and in the natural order of things.

Losing a parent is extremely difficult for most adult children if you have had a good relationship with your parent and even if you haven’t. (That is harder) My husband had left a couple of years before that so loss was becoming a theme in my life. My mother was my best friend and my support system throughout that time.

She was not religious.  But she went to temple one day a year to say the Prayer of Remembrance for her parents. When I was twelve I started offering to go with her. She replied that  she didn’t need company. She was going to say  “Yiska”.  It sounded very mysterious. Yizkor is the Jewish memorial prayer for the dead. The word means remember.

My mother  didn’t believe in celebrating death. She would say, “Do for people while they are alive.” She had stopped going to funerals  for her dying friends many years before. She must have done a lot because one hundred and fifty people who I did not know showed up for her memorial service and many spoke. They were her theatre community.  They were the people she had met and given theatre tickets to throughout her life. She opened their world or she shared their love for the arts right up to the end. They became her friends and ranged in age from thirty five to a hundred. 

My mother had requested that her ashes be spread over Lincoln Center and Broadway, so she did not miss anything. ‘When you come and visit me, see a play, ballet or an opera”, she said. None of us knew when we said yes, that it was illegal, but we did it.

I sit in temple feeling a weird kind of peace.  “Who is in the first seven days of mourning?”, asks the rabbi.   “Who is in the first eleven months of mourning?  Who is celebrating a yortzheit today?” I stand and say her name.  The ritual seems to help me. As we start the prayer, “yit gadal va yit gadash….  I struggle to keep up with the words in Aramaic. I have the same conversation with my mom every time I say the prayer.  “What are you doing in temple on such a beautiful day?” she asks.

I leave the temple thinking of  a conversation that I recently had with my children. “Can you get us Hamilton tickets in NY?” asks my son. “No,” I reply.  “If Nana was alive, we would have seen it already,“ said my daughter. “If Nana was alive, we would have seen it in preview, at the Public Theatre for half price,” he answered. My son said that he would try for the day of show ticket lottery when he is in New York. The legacy lives on. 

Happy Thanksgiving and Fly Safe Mom

JAZ

I Know This Is A Travel Blog But My Dog Died

I Know This Is A Travel Blog But My Dog Died

“Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them, Filling an emptiness we don’t even know we have.” Thom Jones

I know that this is a travel blog but Basquiat was my first dog. He was black, part French, slept in a box for a minute, and looked like he had short dreadlocks. He reminded me of an artist I liked, Jean Michel Basquiat during his short dreadlock, sleep in a box period. He was my empty nest dog. I was having lunch near a pet store and walked in and a little black puppy came up to me. I thought he was saying “Hi I’d like you to be my owner,“ so I bought him. What I now know was that he was saying ”Hi, I’m in charge here.“ And that has been our relationship for the past nine and a half years. I thought dogs were supposed to live longer than that.

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He seemed to be everything a dog should be – loyal, friendly, good-tempered, grateful and smart – very smart. He understood a lot of words. I think he got my jokes. Though like my kids, he appeared to be deaf when he did something wrong.

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He was affectionate and a hugger. When you took him in the car, the first thing he did was hug the driver (whether it was me or someone we didn’t know) He would put his paws around your neck and say thank you for taking me in your car. He would bark when he had something to say. He believed he could talk.

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My son had just moved back from college when I got him and so he adopted the lifestyle of a 21-year-old. He woke up between eight thirty and ten thirty AM. He had his first meal at three and his second at 11pm and went to bed around two. I could never break him of that long after my son moved out. He was not an eater. He preferred to be hand fed or eat people food. Basquiat would go on a hunger strike like Gandhi but with a lot more drama till he got what he wanted to eat. I always caved first. He liked fresh water. If it wasn’t fresh he would stand at the bowl and bark. He was afraid of drowning. If a water bowl was too big he wouldn’t drink from it or he would stand too far away to get any water. Basq’s best friend was Ernie next door. I never saw him play with another dog the way he played with Ernie. They had a real bond. I didn’t know animals could be best friends. I thought that was only in Disney movies.

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Dogs love you unconditionally. They don’t see your neuroses, flaws, disabilities or any of the other things that cause the judgment that the human brain does. I think that dogs see into your heart and make their decisions from there. My dog’s love and support has gotten me through a lot of tough times. It will be difficult to get through loss without him. He was around for a lot of changes in my life.

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The hardest thing about loving a dog is his life span. In that short time they live in the moment, always give a hundred per cent and make you feel that you are their reason for being. I will miss him terribly. I will miss his dramatics of acting like he will never see me again every time I leave the house without him. I will miss him coming to greet me at the door every time I come home like I have been away for weeks. I will miss our imaginary conversations. I have a good dog voice for him. I will miss being the focus of his love, faith and trust. His only fault was that he lived too short of a time.

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He had a great life. He was a bit spoiled and well taken of especially when his heart began to fail. When I die, I want to come back as the first dog of a woman who’s youngest child has just gone off to college.

Fly safe Basq

JAZ

Tell Me How Much You Have Traveled

“Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have traveled.” — Mohammed

I’m sorry to start this blog on a sad note but one of my close friends died this morning unexpectedly.  He was a world renowned geneticist .  His vocation  gave him the ability to do what he loved  –  do good work and see the world.

Besides medical questions,  you could go to David with any travel question you had and he  probably had the answer.  He was his own travel agent. He was an expert in the field of airline savings (his specialty was business and first class) and was a mileage savant . His area of expertise was finding the best websites  for travel deals. His  forte was five star hotels.

He lectured and treated patients all over the world,.  His patients and colleagues became his friends.  Therefore his own travelogues  were filled with personal recommendations and interesting people.  I’m particularly jealous of his trip to India.  ( where he was treating one of the princesses)

I’m also in awe of the packing skills of David and his beautiful wife Ann. I happened to be staying at their house on the morning they were leaving for India for a few weeks.  It was their first trip  to that country.  They hadn’t started thinking about packing till the night before. They were still packing  in the morning as the car pulled up to take them to the airport.   I am not that casual   a traveler.

David loved to tell his travel stories and I loved hearing them.   Whether he was driving through Yugoslavia, trying to get to the airport in China, seeing the cremations at Varinasi,  meeting friends in Red Square, or  visiting Annie in Africa, it always sounded like an adventure.  He went to more places than most of us will ever go in our lifetime.  Ann, Lauren and Michael were always ready to join him.

My last travel question to him was two weeks ago. (My last medical question was one week ago) Should my son stay on the Hong Kong or Kowloon side?  Of course David had been to that country  many times and had the answer.  I will miss him. Fly safe David.

JAZ