The Business of Living is the Best Defense Against Death – Just ask my 101 year old brother

My 101 year old brother sent me this photo of his latest achievement, the completion of this model of the airplane Charles Lindbergh flew from New York to Paris in 1927.  

I am bowled over in awe, which doesn’t come often for me. For one thing, he doesn’t look like any 101 year old person I know.  True, I don’t know many 101 year old people. I don’t think there are many 101 year old people and certainly fewer who work on and complete a detailed model airplane, which requires dexterity, concentration, and abilities that many younger folk might  be stymied by.

I emailed the photo to family and friends. I received in return an email from a nephew with a copy of a 2001 Flying Models Magazine with a feature on my brother. 

My brother turned 80 in 2000 There was a celebration in Los Angeles.  He had moved to California from New York many years prior. Personally, I think that saved his creative life. After all, without the impeding judgment of nearby family  life can be more free and easy, right? 

 A little backstory, I was the seventh in a family of eight.  It was actually two families. Let me explain. My oldest brother, miracle man here, was born in 1920.  After him in fairly quick succession came four more children. The first five of what I call the “older part” of the family.  Then came a couple of birthing break years due to miscarriages and other problems.  As the depression started to heat up, out pops three more… The “younger part” of the family.  I was born in 1933.  Older brother in 1920, so there was enough of a gap that in no way did we have any real contact.  By the time I was in elementary school, he was eloping and going off to war.  He won’t talk about any of his time in Europe during World War II other than to say he was in the Battle of the Bulge.  A battle I have read about and understand why he won’t talk about it.  My only real contact with him after he returned from the war was after we began our Heit Family get togethers. And that was cursory at best with a quick peck and an even quicker “how are you?”, which really should have been, “who are you?”.  

I had no idea who my oldest brother was and visa versa. Each of us had what I call a family myth. His was his genius in designing model airplanes.  At 17 he sold the first of many of his designs.  Since that had nothing to do with my wanting to be Shirley Temple … who cared?

We arrive now to the year 2,000 and an invitation to attend his 80th birthday party in Los Angeles. For your perspective, I was 67 years old. 

By this time, I had already lost one brother from the older part of the family. I didn’t know who he was either. I knew my three sisters a little more because somehow I think we bonded purely along male/female battle lines… four girls, four boys. It was us against them and it made for a little closer harmony. Not necessarily more intimate, but more in the spirit of camaraderie. Probably because girls, even with rampant sibling rivalry, tend to be closer in relationships.  

All to say, I was going to try and find out who he was before attending the celebration. It’s the decent thing to do, right? Even then, I devoured mystery books and detective novels. So, now was the time to put what tools I acquired into practice. I began by buying every airplane model magazine I could find. I discovered the model airplane industry is alive and well. He sold his first design in 1937 or 1938. There was no way to research magazines of that era because microfilming and digital articles didn’t exist. What to do? Light bulb! I looked in the classified ads in the back of the magazine. In a section titled Antique Models was a list of individuals who sold kits of older model airplanes. I started calling around and asking if anyone knew of a Raymond Heit model airplane kit. The nays had it. At last, one man I called responded in what I heard as excited abandonment. He yelled, ”Ray?? Ray Heit??? I said, “Yes”. He said, “That is so interesting! I flew his Bayridge Mike in a competition last weekend and I won!” 

Initially, it was Greek to me but he finally translated. Bayridge Mike is my brother’s first design and this man won a recent competition with his model of that design. 

His name was Jim Alaback and he was out of his mind with joy when I told him Ray Heit was still alive. I explained I was Raymond Heit’s sister. I wanted to give him a gift of some of his old model plane kits for his 80th birthday. He put me in touch with a man in Oregon who sells antique kits. I thanked him and called the Oregonian. He had two of my brother’s designs from the late 1930’s and sent them to me. He, too, was glad to know Ray Heit was still alive and kicking. He had recently competed with his own model of Bayridge Mike and won. 

Jim Alaback called me back. Among other things, he was a stringer for Flying Models Magazine. He lived in San Diego and now that he knew Raymond was in California as well, he wondered if he could get in touch with Raymond to interview him for the magazine. 

Start the drum roll now. Hey, we all know I am a performer and at 67 I was still tripping the boards. Lest we forget all my siblings were present, minus one. In the family, I was known disparagingly as “the actress”. I was not about to let this opportunity go, to show my siblings that I was more than “just an actress”. And I didn’t. 

Most importantly, my oldest brother, who typically maintains “cool” as his permanent temperature, was singularly not cool. I was moved by personal revelations about a brother I did not know. The cherry on the cake was a planned interview with Alaback for the magazine.

And that is the one with the article my nephew recently sent to me.

Following the party, there was a meeting of minds and sensitivities of brother #1 with sister #7. A deepening of the connection which has everything to do with family and nothing to do with family. We had discovered each other and to this day maintain a growing and affectionate relationship. He has a passion that won’t quit. I believe it is that passion that gives his life the best defense against death.

Sending me a photo of himself at 101, 21 years after his 80th party, stirred the memory pot. As to that, I am of two different minds… so what else is new? Too much memory mucking around is not good, for it takes me out of the present where I need to be to keep my anxious tendencies tampered down. And yet, how important it is to keep those memories alive, both the yin and yang. They add texture and depth to a life lived. 

The Original Heits c.1938 in Atlantic City
The Seven Heits at Raymond’s 80th Birthday Party in 2000

Blending memories and realities is key to keeping my balance. For me, this photo has elements of the past, the present and the future. This my friends is Golden. Pure Gold.

Right??? Of course, right!!!

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

Will You Be My Valentine?

In 1929, Cole Porter asked a musical question, “What is this thing called Love?“.

I think I could guarantee he was far from the first and definitely not the last to ask that question.  A question that in my book is impossible to answer and always rhetorical. 

This is our 3rd Valentine’s Day in the time of Covid and its accompanying sagas of vaccinations, variants and variables.  It makes that question more relevant and difficult than ever before.

When I was in elementary school it was easy.   I went to the five and dime store (‘member those) bought sheets of valentines with small white envelopes.  Covering all my bases, hedging my bets, whatever you want to call it, I left a Valentine on everyone’s desk, including the goody two-shoers and snitches.  In my dreams, everyone loved me.  NOT!

No matter how I counted, I never got more than 10 or 12 cards out of a class of 25.  The Florida recount for Gore vs. Bush was chicken feed. My life, my breath hung on that count.  

Back then, I knew what love was.  It was those crazy little pieces of colored paper in small white envelopes.  It sounds crazy.  It is crazy.  However, I believe the lack of love, the need of it, the any and the all of it, makes the world go ‘round or stops it dead.

Loves begins in the womb.

Alice Miller, a German psychologist, 1923-2010, wrote many brilliant books:  The Drama of the Gifted Child, For Your Own Good, Thou Shalt Not Be Aware, among others. All of her books take on the challenge of nature vs. nurture. Her major premise is the damage, some intentional, most unintentional, that is done by parents and families.  Many villains of the world, past and present, were in many cases born with inherited characteristics predetermining them to a life of crime and violence: nature. However, most were created by families: nurture. Miller makes a fascinating case about Adolph Hitler and the abusive violence of his father and its lasting effect on his developing personality.  More often, parental unconsciousness knows not what it does when it holds a child accountable to adult standards.  

Think about it.  It has to be very confusing to a child… so small… next to an adult… so big… smacking him or her saying, “I am doing this for your own good” and clinching that confusing message with an “I LOVE YOU”.  From that point on, the child’s idea of love is askew.  

Love is pain.  Love is punishment.  

In the romantic world of the adult, breaking hearts is a rite of passage. In a child’s world, love that is pain and punishment is tragic and can follow you everywhere if you let it.

This is all too familiar to me.  I realize I have made a career from my childhood love experiences.  Much that I have written or performed has its roots in this confusion.

Child rearing has run the gamut from spare the rod, spoil the child, to unparalleled permissiveness.  All in the name of love.

However, recent movies shine a light on changing attitudes. 

Belfast, The Tender Bar and C’mon, C’mon, each in its own way, continue the struggle to define a no less complex but much kinder version of love in the time of childhood.  This is good.

The conundrum for me is how do I take my childhood experiences and make it lovingly compatible with the so called adult I call me.  ‘Tis a puzzlement!

I will continue to explore Mr. Porter’s question, what is this thing called love.

Though I realize love is not about definitions.  It’s not about rules and regulations.  It is not about achievement, approval or accommodation.  Real love has no requirements. 

It is unconditional.

For an opinionated, over-righteous, ancient personality (no names), is this maybe asking too much???

Can I just go back to counting Valentines, please?

Intellectually I know that love is not about loving another person.

How can I love another person if I don’t love me, zits, warts, et al?

Simple answer.  I can’t.

Like a dream it came to me.

At least 100 years ago (some days it just feels like that), I was rehearsing with my friend, musical director/composer, Robert Bendorf (another unknown genius).  Once again I was in a confusion of love – the pain and punishment kind.  What a surprise! 

Poor Bob.  I remember whining to him about the same ‘ole, same ‘ole. 

“So tell me, Bob, what should I do?  He says he loves me.  I say I love him.  And then we do and say the most unloving things to each other.  It’s crazy.  In or out of a relationship why can’t we just love one another.  Love just is.  Isn’t it?”

He came back the next day with the gift of this song. I wish I could say it was Valentine’s Day.  It wasn’t.

But it is my Valentine to you.
Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

Did You Make A Resolution?

Did anyone you know make a resolution?

What is a New Years’ Resolution?

Is it a wish?

Is it a prayer?

Is it a confession?

Is it none of the above?

Is it all of the above?

Maybe resolutions are out of fashion because they open you to judgement and criticism?  

What am I talking about, you ask? Look guys… sit back and relax and let me try to explain not only to you, but to myself how my circuitous mind works.

I find it interesting that in conversations today, most particularly after you’ve opened yourself to how you think and feel with someone, their response to you can be something really hurtful and on occasion, downright cruel. This usually is followed by a coward’s cover-up of, “nothing personal”.
Oh yeah, right!!!

As the world divides (and the divisions are growing like viruses in a petri dish), there are fewer and fewer conversations without the “nothing personal” caveat.  This caveat allows us humans to judge, criticize, and obliterate the others.  

Definition of The Others:  They don’t look like you.  The don’t think like you.  They don’t talk like you.  You get the idea.  

This makes me aware of the loss of our moral muscles.  Muscles I took for granted would always be there.  Like everything else worth holding onto, if you don’t practice, if you don’t use those muscles, you lose those muscles.  I never thought I would witness such a profound and growing loss.  And it’s not just here… it is worldwide. When 9/11 happened, there was a moment, literally just a moment, where the world came together in shock, pain… a global sense of the outrage, the grief, the loss. That moment, unfortunately, was squandered and I believe we continue our downward spiral culminating in the current divisive incivility.

In this environment, it is difficult to make any resolutions.

And yet, I believe these once a year resolutions, particularly in times of stress, sturm and drang, have a special purpose.  They take us out of ourselves into a world of others.  Think about it.  Isn’t it a kind of ritual (only after the family geshtangananga, of course), when you sit down at a Thanksgiving table to go around and have each person give their thanks for whatever?  Well, New Years’ Eve or New Years Day is the time to look over the year and resolve ways and habits to give you not a face lift but a life lift.  Right?

Phew!  We finally got to where I wanted to go from the beginning. Like I said before a circuitous route.

MY RESOLUTIONS:  

As an 88 year old woman living in the Pandemic of Covid, circa year two going into year three, I am on my knees in gratitude for my vaccinations and booster, my masks, provision of clean water for drinking and washing, good food, shelter, clothing.  I resolve to not take any of this for granted.  I further resolve to hold any whining about any inconvenience in my life to an in-my-closet-stifled-silent-scream.

The Scream
Edvard Munch

I resolve to contribute to certified organizations that bring health, cleanliness, food, and shelter to peoples in need.  (The link above is not a recommendation, simply a list.)

And most importantly, I resolve to take myself out of myself.  It can really get so boring in there. Let me tell you… nothing leads to depression more than boredom.  Depression is not a good thing for anyone.  For the elderly it is a disaster.  You hear me?  A disaster.  So stop already. 

 I can just hear you, guys…. ”Oh, sure.  That’s easy for you to say.”

A lot you know.  

Nothing is easy for anyone who once was able to do or be or say anything and now cannot, whether due to age or money or health or any change.  Even though it is the only constant, humans don’t do change very well. It takes us forever to figure out the obvious.  Dare I write the words Climate Change… oops, I just did.  

You already know that laughing lowers blood pressure and raises spirits.  Here is something else you can try.  And remember you don’t have to sing or dance.  Just look as this guy.  He can’t do either and they love HIM…

 Right???  Of course, right!!!

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

What Is Past Is Prologue

My Dear Friends and Family,

Your first quiz, for a free pass and tour of the National Archive Building:

What Federal Building in Washington, D.C. has that statement inscribed on it?

You are just too smart for me. You are right!

Northeast corner of the National Archives  Building in Washington, D.C.

Sooo…. What has any of this to do with anything? You always know the right question to ask. 

The news of the world at the present time gives me very little pleasure.  I really do try to limit the news media of the day, but somehow it creeps in, not on little cat paws, but earthquaking Shrek-sized feet.  I have lost my Pollyanna credentials, but still keep an optimist’s eye, even if it is a little cockeyed, on what I read and experience.  I don’t know about you but for me it is getting harder and harder to join Candide (by my dear friend Voltaire’s character) in his famous exclamation,

“This is the best of all possible worlds.”  

Really???  I don’t think so!!! Maybe instead he should exclaim along with the rest of us as we struggle with the ways of the world,

“Wha’ happened?”

How many times can I quote Voltaire again?  “History doesn’t repeat itself.  People do.”

If something still bites me, I shall of course put my Five Hundred Dollars in.  It used to be two cents but with inflation…

So I am going to go back into my memories to write about them.  Not to worry family and friends, no names.  And the only fool you will find in my stories? C’est moi.

Here’s a sample…

Even if I need fingers and toes to count, I think I can figure it out.  I just turned 88, right?  So if this wedding took place when I was 8, then that was 80 years ago.  Get out!  80 years ago… Yikes… we are talking 1941.  On October 19, 1941 my eldest sister got married. 

I was there and I loved every minute of it.  Against parental sturm and drang, the lovers persevered.  Like every World War II movie you ever saw.  The parents said wait until the war was over.  Unequivocally, my sister said, NO!  (You must have heard that word from her a million times)  Well, having missed out on my eldest brother’s wedding because they had eloped (which they were never forgiven for), Nana surrendered and told Pop to surrender too.  (That’s the kind of marriage they had)  Here comes the juicy stuff.

It was to be a home wedding… 

~ SJ Heit October 19, 2021

Stories like that one give me a sense of peace and continuity. As I begin to write some memories, there are many thoughts that crowd into an already overcrowded mindball.  I think the most important thought for me is this…

When does my memory meet with a perspective that will allow me to remember the memory and at the same time, give it enough air to be able to see it in a perspective of whatever smarts I have gleaned over these many years? 

Not many, I can assure you.  

My favorite Three Little Words have always been, I LOVE YOU. Abused, misused, and ultimately, on good days with great humility, expanded to include the judged, and found wanting persons who brought grief to my person;  a real achievement for this Master of Judgement.  Today those 3 words are neck and neck with these 3 words, I DON’T KNOW (for every control freak I have ever known, including yours truly, this is yet another miracle).

The Heit Family on the Atlantic City Boardwalk Circa 1938

There will be some memories that I shall want to share with you and some I shall not.  Not because of shame or guilt. Come on guys, we have all lived with those emotions forever, so as not helpful as they are, they are very familiar.  And in this case, familiarity really does breed contempt.  Most importantly, hopefully, there is a way to acknowledge their presence and yet fold them into my life.  

Oi vey, who asked me to do this?  No one, that’s who.

Not true.  I am asking me to do this.  

Today, this is the phrase I trot out for all important occasions and decisions, IF NOT NOW, WHEN???!!!

Right??  Of course, right!!!!

Love, Sally-Jane

The Making of a Millennial

You know how I love to tell a story.  So, sit back and relax.

My driver’s license is about to expire, just in time to get the new real identity card that everyone will need to have by 2023. I needed several different forms of identification.  I was going through my files to locate them when I came across a letter you wrote to your teacher when you were 11 years old… 

It was a letter explaining in exquisite literary detail exactly who you are, and amazingly, still are.  I marveled at your self knowledge and awareness… and you were only 11!  I realized you have always known the essential you… always.  It is a sad but real truth that at 11, who is going to listen to you, no less, believe you, I ask you… WHO?  No one, that’s who.  And rather than confront the powers that be, and that includes me, I am ashamed to say, (confrontation is truly alien to you) you chose to hide behind your books and for lack of better words your attitude, sometimes explosive, sometimes silent.

I feel like you should print this letter you wrote onto a sandwich board and when the next therapist, parent, sibling, friend or grandparent exclaims who you are and what you need, please walk onto the runway of your life wearing your board of definition and ask them politely to read your Declaration of Independence.  

I totally relate.  I always knew who I was and what I wanted but as in every generation, fighting society and family rules and society and family ethnics and ethics is a losing battle for an 11 year old.  “You’re a kid.  What do you know?”  Grrrrrrrr.

Well, you’re not 11 anymore, and I believe, now is your time TO BE.

I know it is very difficult to take any action no matter what the age or the direction.  Fear is a deadly paralyzer and the longer we wait the harder it is to move.  Late blooming is a universal perennial pattern of life.  It took me years to catch up to me.  I used to be much younger.  You should see my 8×10 glossy.

I  was the only one who held me back.  I listened to everyone tell me who I was and what I needed to do.  I was always a good actress, so what I did was act as if because I believed even though I knew I was moving in the wrong direction, I needed their support and approval. I blame no one but myself.  And I don’t even blame myself anymore.  Believe me, blame never repaired a flat tire.  Early on, unconsciously, I knew I did not have the courage to do the salmon thing.  You know swimming upstream against the current.  Of course, now I’m so old I don’t really have the energy to do that upstream stuff anymore.  That’s O.K.!  Along the way, life has had a strange way of giving me what I need when I needed it.  Sometimes it appeared a little early, when I didn’t know what to do, and sometimes a little late, when I knew what to do but didn’t.  Life’s a bitch.

A life disclaimer: Sometimes no matter how well you know yourself, your limited experiences (unfortunately mostly suffered by the young) prevents you from understanding what is important to you.  Our values are informed by our experiences… and ‘dats ‘da trut!  It took a long time to figure out what was important in my life.  Early traumatic beginnings fostered a need for control that almost spoiled the game of life in all its bountiful relationships, human and natural.  The day I realized my true life size… just a speck in the universe… meaning I did not need to raise the sun every day… oi vey so very heavy… my L5 healed, my chiropractor lost his job, and I found peace.  Not consistently, but enough of the time to give me the joyful along with the painful noise of life.

I can’t erase the fear for you and I don’t care how many cannabis stores there are in this country, I cannot create a no-risk-courage-gummy to help with decisions.  But I can assure you; you cannot make a mistake.  Every actor, artist, inventor, athlete, in fact, every creative person worth his or her or their  salt values the so-called “wrong turn” in their life, as a right turn into their enlightenment.

Try calling mistakes by its real name:  EXPERIENCE!  Wowie!  Zowie!

Of course, from my DNA and heritage, I want to remove the obstacles in your path and do it all for you.  This action, were it possible, would limit your experience and your growth.  Maybe it’s a good thing we don’t live near each other.  I can pretend I would never do such a thing.

Here’s the best thing my miraculous millennials and I will never know whether you do or you don’t…

TAKE WHAT YOU WANT AND LEAVE THE REST

If you decide to take nothing, that works for me too.  You can do what computers allow us to do… DELETE. Then call me and say, “What email?!”

That’s good for me!  Was it good for you??

❤️ Love, Sally-Jane

Congress: Has it always been this way??

My Dear Friends and Family,

“So what is she talking about, now?”

So glad you asked. And if you thought you’d get a direct answer…fuggetaboutit!

Most know I am the 7th of 8 siblings. Of the 8 only 4 remain. The three youngest (oh, to be called youngest at 90, 88, 85) and the oldest brother of the whole clan… 101 years young with all his marbles intact.  Periodically, we check in with each other. 

A sample check in:

Sally-Jane:  Hi, Raymond, how are you?

Raymond:  Still here.

Sally-Jane:  This is a good thing.

Raymond:  It’ll do until something better comes along.

Sally-Jane:  That’s why you are still here. There is nothing better.

Raymond:  I’ll take your word for it.

Sally-Jane:  So what are you reading?

Raymond: For Liberty and Glory by James R. Gaines.  It’s about Washington, Lafayette and their Revolutions.  I am really enjoying it.

Sally-Jane:  Oh, yes, I read about it. I’d like to read it.

Raymond:  Well, I’ll send it to you when I finish it. 

Sally-Jane:  Great!

Raymond:  On second thought you better get your own copy.  At the rate I read, maybe you’ll get it before I die, maybe you won’t. 

I got my own copy. Reading it provoked the above question, “Congress. Has it always been thus?”

The Continental Congress in July of 1776, adopted the Declaration of Independence proclaiming the former colonies of Great Britain to be independent sovereign states, declaring war on Great Britain . 

There were no political parties at the 1776 Congress. There were just 13 SOVEREIGN STATES… maybe like 13 political parties.  How were  the representatives of Massachusetts going to agree with representatives of New York, no less with representatives of South Carolina; issues of culture, geography, climate, to put self interest before common interest.  All issues combined to make their individual State legislatures vastly more important than any central government.  

Indeed, the first several Congresses after the Second Continental Congress, which was the Congress of the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War were all Unicameral, That is, no political parties… just sovereign states, each one pulling in their own direction to fulfill their duties as representatives of their States.  Most representatives of the original 13 states wanted a weak Central Government allowing them to deal directly with their own local issues as they saw fit. There were only a few who thought a strong Central Government would be much better for the nascent nation; better for issues of economics and foreign intervention. There is strength in numbers. Even I, who needs all my fingers and toes to count, know that 13 against 1 or 2 has a better chance of succeeding. Let’s face it, if all 13 didn’t agree to sign the Declaration of Independence which was a declaration of war against Great Britain, we would all be having tea with milk, fish and chips in an old newspaper, and singing God Save The Queen instead of God Bless America. I realize for some this would not be a bad thing.  I am totally aware how this country is bonkers over British Royalty.  Diana is more celebrated today than she was over twenty years ago. For that matter so is Victoria, Elizabeth I, and dare I even mention the Royal Soap Opera for all time, Downton Abbey.  But I digress…so what else is new?

OK back to Congress. The divide in the United States that I find so disturbing today had its beginning in the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia 1787. The Constitution was a plan developed for a stronger federal government with three branches – executive, legislative and judicial – along with a system of checks and balances to ensure no single branch would have too much power.

From that moment, this country has always been divided between States Righters and Federalists.  A really interesting not so side fact is that prior to Woodrow Wilson’s Presidency, all Senators were appointed by the Governors and Legislatures of the individual states. Under Wilson’s term in 1913, the 17th Amendment to the Constitution changed the words, “chosen by the legislatures thereof” to “elected by the people, thereof”.  Make of that what you will. Personally, I think it was supposed to open the Senatorial selections away from State Politics (aka legislature) to the State’s population. However, if the state’s population is as divided as the legislature… what’s the difference?

I’m sorry, my dear friends. I get carried away by the history involved in birthing this country and in doing so lose my way.  Get to the point, already, for goodness sake. 

In reading this book about the struggle George Washington had in winning the  American Revolution, I see that the albatross around his neck was the Second Continental Congress. They signed the Declaration of Independence, which was a very brave and courageous thing to do, and then ignored most of the requests and pleas and beggings of George Washington to fortify and supply the Army that was fighting for Independence. This Congress did everything in its power to focus on their own and their state’s individual needs and ignore the battles for Liberty and Freedom that were going on all around them. (brilliantly depicted in the movie 1776)

OK here’s the question for you to answer… is it in the nature of the beast (aka Congress and humans)  wherein self and local issues will always outweigh the common good and as the world turns, is it harder for the individual of good purpose to make a difference, no less get elected?  And the biggest question of all, HAS IT ALWAYS BEEN THIS WAY?  Whatcha think?   

Hey guys, before you think… I have an important recommendation for you.  For the most wonderful and powerful depiction of this Second Continental Congress please see the movie musical 1776. It is brilliant and written with historic accuracy.  I promise you. You will love it.

As a matter of fact, it is in that movie the seeds of my question about the ultimate fate of Congress is first planted.  

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

A BOX OF MEMORIES ARRIVES…

What occurred that precipitated the arrival?

I am so glad you asked.

The weekend before, the family celebrated the Bat Mitzvah of my daughter.

Please, do not panic. I am not Abraham’s wife, Sarah from the Bible.  

I am the 87 year old mother of a 57 year old daughter who made a decision to join her husband and three children in her quest for her official place in the Jewish Community.  She has studied and worked for the last two years towards this ceremony and the family gathered. The first post-pandemic gathering at an outdoor Synagogue service with Zoom accessibility for friends and family across the time zones of the world.  

It was a heart and soul event that was an antidote of good will, good cheer, intellectual and spiritual edification, and a beautiful outpouring of love, displacing, at least for a moment, the Covid/Pandemic scenario. Proving that with vaccinations and careful preparations life as some of us have known it continues.

The weekend brought my family together. My immediate family consists of 3 daughters, Dianne, Lori, Pamela. After the event Dianne and her family, who have been in Barcelona for the past 2 years, drove me back to my home in Great Barrington to visit. From the age of 13 she has always had a keen culinary interest (Lori, as well. Pammy inherited my reticence in the kitchen).  One evening gifted me with a great and very complicated dinner.  She shopped for all her ingredients.  I think she used every pot and utensil my kitchen possessed.  There was no room for me in the kitchen.  It was overloaded with all the food she bought and the equipment and my daughter. I was excited and I might add, a little curious.  Since Humpty Dumpty was nowhere to be found, who was going to put the kitchen back together again?  We’ll get to that later.  Best not to disturb the creative genius at work.

A triumph. The dinner was brilliant. So delicious. Each dish in itself was tasty and unique. It didn’t matter that all together they didn’t quite go together.  She has a very natural culinary talent.

In an instant, my memory was jostled back to a Christmas years ago when she was 13 and her sisters 11 and 9.  They had asked what I wanted for Christmas.  I asked them if they would each prepare their own dinner for the family.  Her sisters prepared age appropriate menus… hot dogs and beans, hamburgers and chips.  However, at 13, Dianne decided to challenge Julia Child to a food duel in my kitchen. The same result. Even if nothing went with anything, each dish, in itself was excellent.  

Back to the present… As she put the kitchen back in order, I reminded her of that long ago Christmas gift. She remembered. We laughed.  She left the next day to travel to visit friends and family and her storage unit in Baltimore.  She was in a cleaning out mode before heading back to Barcelona.  

A day or so later, she called and said she found the Christmas gift menu of when she was 13.  I couldn’t believe it.  Serendipity, synchronicity …

Here is her menu. 

Like I said.  Everything had great taste…then and now.

There are so many questions that have occurred to me from this memory box.

Why did I ask my children to learn to use the kitchen at 13, 11 and 9?

At the time we were living in Washington, D.C. Somewhere deep in my subconscious… I wanted to return to New York City, pound the pavements of Broadway to become a STARRRRR.   I had to wait until the children were at an age where they would be able to care for themselves and to understand why I needed to go.  To assuage the guilt for even thinking about  such a “bad mommy” idea, I thought of it as just a practical application of life… kind of an at-home home economics course .  Oh, my dears, I don’t know about you, but my ability to block my subconscious tends toward genius.

The other part of this memory that brings an appropriate question to mind is why is a Jewish family celebrating Christmas.  It actually comes from my family tradition.  I am one of 7 brothers and sisters.  We all went to Sunday School.  The 4 boys all had a Bar Mitzvah.  The 4 girls Confirmed.  We were Reform Jews and back then, girls did not have a Bat Mitzvah (that’s how old I am!).  Most importantly we did celebrate all the Jewish Holidays which included Hanukah, but my mother loved Christmas.  She loved the spirit of joy and peace.  She loved the music. And most of all she loved SHOPPING.  Even through the depression, she opened a Christmas Savings Account to put money away every week to buy all of us presents.  And my father who had always wanted to be an actor played his starring role of the year, Santa Claus. 

I will say that his costume was a bit bizarre.  He had a great Santa mask with beard and a gorgeous Mandarin Silk Robe as his suit.  Please don’t ask me.  I have no idea where this combination came from.  It occurs to me that perhaps as a Jew this was his “not going all the way” in the Christian mode.  It was, to say the least, memorable.  I continued this tradition.  Unfortunately, my former husband had no theatrical ambitions so we did it without a Santa.  I wonder… was our Christmas celebrations of the past an unlit spark in my daughter who was just Bat Mitzvahed?

So many questions and any answer I might have just brings up another question.

That’s life, right guys?? I don’t know about you, but I, for one, am happy to live with another question.

Right????  Of course, right!!!

Love, Sally-Jane

P.S. I don’t remember looking this good.

Gratified and Satisfied…

My Dear Friends,

We have all heard it a million times… writing is such a lonely craft. No matter how writers try to distract themselves from themselves, eventually they must succumb and begin the lonely climb from sub to conscious thought, from pen to paper or fingers to computer. Yes, I am describing my own journey. And then the thoughts are dispersed to the person or in this case, the “list” of those brave souls that signed on to accept and read my blog. All to say, I thankfully, always get some response to what I write.

So that even if I write in the wilderness, eventually after sending the blog out, someone or someones rescue me from my solitude and brings me into their thoughts and responses and I am profoundly gratified and satisfied.

Hey, let us not forget my friends… I began my game of life as a performer. My passion was in putting myself before an audience and hoping I gave them pleasure or challenge or both. That give and take audience response was my initial lifeline from dysfunctional family life to dysfunctional married life. My ever growing, developing, nurturing, constantly challenging, and most loving relationship with my daughters was and always will be my raison d’être, but performing was definitely my second choice.

So writing in the wilderness is very difficult for me. And without response… OI VEY! … you’ve got to be kidding… a killer… an absolutely killer. I’ve been told to not be bothered by the lack of response… blog readers don’t usually respond. Well, in this last Blog about the Netflix movie, I Care A Lot…. I specifically asked for a response… and I got it.

I’m going to try and figure out how to rework my blog so I can keep this “audience” response going. In the meantime, I want to share some of the responses I received.

From Jim:
In my reading lately I’ve come across the concept referred to as the attention economy. Mostly in reference to social media like Facebook, Twitter,  etc. it is the idea that our attention is finite and of value and we should pay attention to how we ‘spend’ it.

These dark, ironic ‘humor’ movies and shows make me feel like I’ve not only wasted my time but been ripped off in terms of my attention. And since everything is tracked these days I am starting to be much more circumspect in how I allocate my attention. 

Here is the original article which introduced the phrase attention economy into my brain… I Talked to the Cassandra from the Internet Age (NY Times)

From Donna:
I saw the trailer for “I Care A Lot”. Half way through the trailer, it ’sceeved’ me out and I moved on. What a horrible plot!!!… The world is frightening enough these days without adding to it.

From Pamela:
I was afraid of that. I saw the blurb and could feel the ickiness. Glad you STOPPED WATCHING!!! Your senses are too precious to fill with such a vile version of humanity!

From Paula:
In CA almost impossible to have someone declared incapacitated in the courts.  Court also sends out its own independent investigator.  Anyway wanted you to know this so that you can sleep again…

FYI, I never watch movies like this anymore (even in the past I rarely watched) – no matter what the reviews.  Too much ugliness in the world already. I need an escape.

From Vel:
Just read your blog and SO glad I decided to pass on that film! But here’s a bit of news that gives that swindling racket a ‘Hooray for you, Girl’ upbeat twist: At 93, She Waged War on JPMorgan—and Her Own Grandsons

From Dianne:
I read your blog.  That movie sounds horrible.  Glad you switched over to reliable Agatha. 

From Lana:
Ugh. I watched that movie last night. I wanted to quit part way through it — I actually found it very uncomfortable and a little bit horrifying. I also wanted to see if it had a satisfying end (yes, sort of). But I went to bed with a flutter in my throat, kind of wishing I hadn’t watched it. But it made me wonder if, during the Trump era, producers made more movies like that — characters derelict of conscience or humanity

In reading up on the backstory of the movie, I see an article in The New Yorker was part inspiration: 
The Takeover
The whole thing scared the be-jesus out of me. 

From Ron: 
This came from reading your blog …

Now if you have any responses to these responses… write on MacDuff!  

While there have been shows where some audience members left before I did, (I’ve been in a few “turkeys” in my time), but as Laurence Olivier said, “If you haven’t had any bad reviews, you can’t call yourself an actor”.  

You see this is the kind of digression that counts as a distraction when I am trying to write. All I meant to say is… if you want to respond to any of the responses my machines are always open.   

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

Switching Gears… but first….

My Dear Friends and Family,

I feel a little bit like Peter Finch in the film Network. Remember he played a television broadcaster who amidst the pressure of his work world and the world around him, had a mental breakdown on television screaming, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!!!”

Well, as I watch the media play into the hands of Trump as they did in 2016… not realizing, or maybe conspiratorially they are aware that by their incessant Trump coverage bad, good or indifferent, they are going to get him elected.  In this day and age, the PR pundits from P.T. Barnum to Rush Limbaugh, are right:  There is no such thing as bad publicity.  

I cannot hear or see about anyone except Trump. If I were someone who watched a great deal of television and I wasn’t sure about my vote I wouldn’t even remember who the other guy was so, “what the hell…”.  For those who think I am exaggerating, I AM NOT!  And  at the same time, OMG! I hope and pray I am wrong.  

But like Howard Beale, Peter Finch’s character in Network, I can’t take this anymore!! 

So I’m going in another direction where the human experience offers an opportunity to alter a self destructive path to planet annihilation.  And you thought I was going to make a funny.

Well, in the hopes of the return of my sense of humor, I want to offer for your consideration, two fantastical documentaries on Netflix:

This is about Craig Foster, a videographer living in South Africa, fast approaching a Howard Beale-esque burnout and how he saves his life, by making a 180 degree turn, removing himself to a hut on the Atlantic Ocean near the Cape of Good Hope. He begins a daily swim and dive in the cold and stormy Atlantic. \He encounters an Octopus. He makes this discovery the center of his daily dives for almost a year.  

OK, my only experience is watching other people eat the poor animal.  Not an animal I would consider pet worthy. But I’m a Brooklyn girl and not too many pet Octopuses in my experience.

This is not about pets.  This is about our relationships in what is left of the world we live in and I promise you… in a time of  pervasive meaninglessness you will find meaning and purpose in his journey.  And here is the best part: You can apply his journey to your life.  Of course it’ll be different because we all are different. Basic human geshrai is basic… and it needs to be visited… NOW!

This gentleman… and literally he is a gentle man… at 93, takes us painfully through the decimation of our planet from the year of his birth through today. When he was born, 1927, our world was in what was called the Holocene Era where there appeared to be a balance between wild places (aka nature) and modern civilization (the industrial revolution gone mad).

For me, it was extremely painful to watch the not so-slow-destruction of our planet because during most of my particular generation we gave very little thought to other geographic spaces that held the natural balance. Oh, yes, we wanted to travel to foreign, distant and unique places around the globe, but never thought about what was happening in these habitats; the flora, the fauna, the air. 

For those who want to see what and how it happened and most importantly what we can do to reverse the death of earth planet, David Attenborough gives a balanced, measured and simple accounting. It’s not about climate change. Although, that is in it. It’s not about blame. Although, it’s impossible for you and I and all us humans not to acknowledge our responsibility. He explains how we are losing the battle to save the planet and at the same time, he gives us hope.  I’ll run with that. Actually at 87, I shall walk with that.  Join me!

I chose these two documentaries because in each we have an opportunity to correct some negative, hopeless, scenarios. I don’t want to feel shamed in front of my children and grandchildren that I left them such a crappy place to live.

This is my response to a special feeling of being pelted by media negativity. As a mere mortal, I have a limited ability to withstand the slings and arrows of the outrageous fortunes of their depressing onslaught.  

Repeat with me what Howard Beale of the Network said: 

“I’M AS MAD AS HELL AND I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!

And then go outside and PLANT A TREE!!!

My Love, Sally-Jane

Plant a tree for a better tomorrow…

A Young Artist In and Of and By and For the Modern World

My Dear Friends,

When was it???   

Historically, logically even, enlightenment followed the Dark Ages.  First the Dark Ages after which follows the Age of Enlightenment… dark and then light… get it?!

I’m not talking about those kind of ages… eras… I am talking chronological ages.  Like I’m 86. Really????  Reallly!!!! That kind of age. 

I am at the age/stage when occasionally I actually peek out of my navel long enough to think – as the song of the same name goes, what’s going to happen,  AFTER I’M GONE.  Listen my  friends, since 2016,  I don’t hold too much hope for the last and coming years.

How many times have we heard these phrases?

The children are the hope of the future.

We will create a better world for our children.

 The  Children shall lead us out of the dark into the light.

How is that possible?

Leading the future towards a better world is out of the question. The children sit, walk, ride, bounce with their faces glued to their electronic instruments.

I think we would  call that the blind leading the blind. So am I just another olden person intolerant of the youngen person.

My granddaughter Ellie Maza is 18 and a budding artist. She is bothered by the direction the world seems to be taking her and her “bother” takes the form of collages, photographs, recycled furniture and clothing depicting a world gone mad in its excesses.

I shall stop here and simply exhibit her photographs for your perusal.



I am inspired by her depiction of the world going mad. She is young. She is witness to the excess. She notes it to help others to see it. If enough people see it, might it curb our appetites and slow the disintegration.

What do you think????

Love, Sally-Jane