Category Archives: Relationships

Ghosts of Christmas Past…

Hello my dear friends…a holiday update!

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On Sunday, December 3rd, at Storrowton Village in Springfield, Massachusetts, I shall perform a holiday reading from Charles Dickens’, The Christmas Carol as part of their annual Yuletide Festivities. I have chosen to read the chapter, The Ghost of Christmas Past.

Did someone just ask why I chose this chapter? Thank you. I was hoping someone would.

This is not to say I have anything against the present. I don’t. The present is filled with wonders. Sitting at my computer composing this missile…absolutely marvelous.

The wonder that I can put thought to page makes the present brilliant. In the present I am clothed, fed and sheltered. Fantastic!

So why not choose The Ghost of Christmas Present? Well, honey-bun, because I would have to wait until Christmas. But most of all because at this stage of my life, thoughts about Christmas from my past waft in and out of my present and I remember.

What a sentence. I remember.

Oh, yes, how great is that. In the present, I put one foot in front of another. In the past, I sit back and I remember. And this is what I remember…

A very long, long, time ago, I grew up in Boro Park, Brooklyn. It was a very mixed neighborhood. There were Christmas lights on one house and next door there were Chanukah candles.

I was raised in the Jewish faith. My family celebrated Christmas and Chanukah. Do not ask me why. I do not know. When I was younger, I thought everyone celebrated everything. Why not? I wanted to be on whatever line there was that was giving out the presents. Wouldn’t you?

Family Christmas

And then, one year, I received a rude awakening. I think I was in 6th or 7th grade. Before the holiday school break, the class Christmas tree was raffled off. I won! I was so excited.

I remember pulling the tree behind me from school all the way to my house. I ran up the stairs. Yelling for my mother to come and see what I had won. I dragged the tree into the living room. I should have known something was wrong. My mother was sitting in a chair. My mother never sat down in any chair. I was the seventh of eight and believe me when I tell you I never saw my mother sitting down…including meal times.

But there she was sitting in a chair in the living room. Our Rabbi sat in another chair.

That was the year I discovered Jews don’t have Christmas trees. To save face, my mother asked me to throw the tree into the garbage. Heartbroken, I did as she asked. The Rabbi left.

My mother went out to the garbage and rescued the tree. Brought it back into the house and into the living room. I was loaded down with many of the mixed messages parents impart to their children. This was one mixed message that did not add to my growing list of neurotic complexes.

Along with so many of my memories of Christmas past, this one is favorite. It is right next to the vision I have of Christmas mornings…

On the staircase, all eight of us lined up one behind the other, according to age, the youngest first waiting for Santa to call us onto his lap to take us to our nest of gifts.

Kimono Blue
Santa Claus, aka my father, 6 foot 2 inches tall (how did he make it down the chimney!?) dressed with a Santa mask that had seen better days, and a gorgeous blue silk embroidered Chinese kimono… did I say CHINESE kimono?… I did say CHINESE kimono. That was his Santa Suit.

Did I believe this 6-foot 2-inch kimonoed vision was Santa Claus? You bet I did! Like I said before if he was the keeper of my presents, I was a believer.

In the present and the approaching season to be jolly, I want to tell you that the world of possibilities still exists for me. Though, a 6-foot 2-inch kimonoed Santa might strain my credulity. But what is a belief about if it is not about being tested?

I believe. Now, where are my presents?

Love, Sally-Jane

YULETIDE AT STORROWTON – Sunday, December 3 at 2:30pm

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No ZOMBIES, please!

OK…I  need help.  And I am not ashamed to ask for it.

HEEEELLLLLPPPP!

Since last November, I have been trying to put a hopeful grass roots spin on events, attempting to find my way through the disappointments, disapprovals, and just plain disbeliefs that have occurred daily since the election.

I thought I was succeeding. And then came what I now call Black Thursday.

Let’s start with the little things

  • A water delivery that wasn’t delivered.
  • An express mail package that expressly said no signature required that needed to have a signature before it could be delivered.
  • A pre-arranged appointment to buy and align four new tires and the tires were delivered to the wrong garage.
  • A print-out from my computer of my bills and purchased tickets that was ordered from a copy and print shop that could not be found.

All minor, right?  All one right after the other, right?  That’s when minor begins to feel major. And then we come to the biggie…

I  am a supporter of the arts…in many different ways.  But for years I have my favorites and for years I receive my yearly phone call and chat from the development person of one of my favorites updating me with what is going on and concluding with my donation.

On Black Thursday, when I answered the call, someone from the development office… dare I say first day on the job… any job, anywhere, ever… said “Hello!”  Reading from a badly written script, proceeded to remind me it was time to renew my membership.

Having never been approached for money for an artistic endeavor as if it was a renewal to a fitness center membership, I balked.

I did the Lily Tomlin thing and asked to speak to her supervisor.

The supervisor was smart enough to read from a different script. Not better, just different.  One that is probably titled: READ THIS AFTER THEY ASK TO SPEAK TO THE SUPERVISOR.

We all receive these phone calls where placating the irate customer is reduced to repetitions. There is no response to what you are saying.  They cannot and do not deviate from the script. That would actually involve listening to what you are saying and thinking about what you are saying and then responding to what you are saying.

Not happening!

So after a restless night, I have come to a sad conclusion.  My Black Thursday is a symptom of the times we are living in. Of course, you can put it down to the ongoing electronic communication take over that is wiping out personal… whether on the telephone or in person… interaction. That is certainly a factor. But I am going further.

I think the country and the people in this country are suffering.  I don’t care who you voted for or didn’t vote for…we are all suffering from Battered Voters Syndrome.

We are being bombarded by the vitriol of all sides and people are doing the one thing they cannot do… they mustn’t do!  They are turning off.

And so we get a Black Thursday or a Muddy Monday or whatever dooms-like day where it just gets to be too much.  We begin to disconnect and no one hears anyone, even those of us on the same side like my development person.

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No ZOMBIES, please.

Even if we don’t agree, stay with me, hear me and  I shall listen to you, I promise. I need my people fix! We are nothing without each other.

Wanna meet for coffee??????

Love, Sally-Jane

FINDING MY FAMILY ROOTS (grass not hair)

Yes!  I am still recovering.  No!  I am not giving up.

How do I become part of a  grass  roots movement to help effect a positive change?  ‘Tis a conundrum!  Or I should say it was a conundrum.

Two days ago I attended a circle conversation with Annie Leibovitz and Gloria Steinem and a hundred other women, including my own daughter.  Below you will read the takeaway from each of us.

MOTHER’S TAKE:

What is a circle conversation?  Exactly what it sounds like.

People, and in this case, people being mostly women, sat in a circle, in the Women’s Building in NYC, formerly Bayview Correctional Prison for Women.  Gloria Steinem and the NoVo Foundation in collaboration with the Goren Group are establishing this building as a place for women’s rights groups, a performance space, space for service providers for all and the community, workshops to help change and charge your batteries.  The purpose is to create a world free from violence, poverty and injustice.

Is this just another pie in the sky scheme?   I don’t think so.

As we sat in this circle, surrounded by Annie Leibovitz’s  brilliant new Pop-Up Show, WOMEN:  NEW PORTRAITS, all I could think was, what a match –  the venue, the portraits, Annie, Gloria, over one hundred women of every ethnicity and color and class, including some graduates of the prison.

And what were we all seeking?  Solace, yes! But answers, too.  I am never far away from, “Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it”.

Indefatigable Gloria stood for over two hours taking questions and telling so clearly what this circle conversation was for.

She repeated it enough that I think I may have gotten it!  She had no answers for anyone.  How’s that for a new thought.  Instead, she asked us to stop looking up.  Good suggestion.  Because if you look up in NYC, sure as shooting’ someone will run over you (car, bus, bike).  I think what she meant is, the answer isn’t up or out, it’s inside.

If I give it time and consideration, I will know what it is I have to do to make life better.  Remember, in a plane, you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself first if you are going to help anyone.

She invited us to be part of the problem, but also part of the solution.

Oops, did I forget to tell you what the circle was all about?  She reminded us the circle goes back to our roots… in the cave, in the tent, in a circle, to share our stories… to connect.

My friends, my time with Annie (OMG what a show!) and Gloria and my new best one hundred friends, that’s what I came back with… that is my grass roots.  Being with each other… not texting, not emailing, not calling, but finding the time the place (The Women’s Building is just one example) to meet with each other.  To agree and disagree, yes, but to connect personally.  Shake a hand, a little kiss, a big hug, an arm around my shoulder.  We all need it.  And if you don’t, then come together anyway… someone is bound to cook something good.

Two fabulous women called on all fabulous women (and never forget we are all fabulous!) to do a little world cleaning.  Honestly, if we do it together, it won’t take that long.  Promise!!!

If only I had let her get a word in, it would have been perfect!

Love ~ Sally-Jane

Annie Leibovitz’s “Women: New Portraits” exhibit is showing from November 18 – December 11, 2016, at the Former Bayview Correctional Facility, 550 West 20th Street (between 10th and West Streets), Saturday – Wednesday 10 am – 7 pm; Thursday and Friday 10 am – 8 pm. It is open to the public free of charge, courtesy of the exhibit’s sponsor UBS.

DAUGHTER’S TAKE:

On art and hope and endurance  ~ By Pamela Schwartz

I had the privilege of attending photographer Annie Leibovitz’s opening of her photo exhibit in New York City titled “Women: New Portraits.”  The exhibit is in the prison gymnasium of the former Bayview Correctional Facility, a women’s prison until just 4 years ago, which is now on its way to becoming a Women’s Building of New York City. We shared the space with former inmates who attended as guests. Immediately inspiring.

And there was more: Annie partnered with Gloria Steinem in this 10 city, 3 continent tour, and the opening events include a “talking circle,” or opportunity to have a free-wheeling conversation. This one, occurring just a week after the election, kept returning to the question of where to from here.

The discussion was good. The words from the former inmates were powerful. But what inspires me to write are Gloria’s closing words. I want everyone to hear them.

So I paraphrase liberally:

This difficult moment is actually a reflection of our progress.  Gloria used to be one of 12 women screaming from the back of the room. Now Hillary will win the popular vote by close to 2 million votes. For women (and people of color and LGBTQ), possibilities are now immeasurably (and measurably) greater. That is a whole lot of progress.

She continued: Trump’s candidacy and now near presidency has given permission to a small but terrifying portion of our population who are haters of immigrants, people of color, gays and lesbians, women, people with disabilities, all who are defined as “other” from those who hate. This scares us a lot.  To help manage the fear, Gloria offered an analogy:

In a domestic abuse situation, the most dangerous time is when the victim is at the threshold of leaving the abuser. The abuser senses the loss of control and lashes out in a desperate attempt to regain it.  For the haters in our midst, we as a nation are leaving them. Our country’s color and cultures have changed and will keep changing. There is fear and resistance in response, which also makes for real danger. We must be extremely vigilant and protective as the change continues.

And to complete the analogy with vigilance in tow: next up is newfound freedom. And safety.

I love that vision for the hope it contains, the endurance it inspires.

Let us cultivate leaders who represent our multi-cultural and multi-gender reality – our freedom embodied – and couple that with the populist message that resonated for millions of Bernie Sanders’ (and Trump) supporters.

Perhaps then we can reach the vast number of voters who seek the change they deserve in a nation they can rightfully call their own.

We are on our way. It is scary and deeply promising all at the same time.

Both of these truths require the same thing: action. And that action is happening every day, everywhere, by millions.

As Gloria also said, protest matters.  As we show up, determined to protect each other and the ideals on which this country was founded, we can actually afford to feel hopeful and optimistic. We are on the path to greater freedom.

Thank you, Annie Leibovitz, for bringing us the visceral power of women.

Thank you, Gloria Steinem, for providing us the living history that strengthens all of our faith and resolve to make the change that lies ahead.

Annie Leibovitz’s “Women: New Portraits” exhibit is showing from November 18 – December 11, 2016, at the Former Bayview Correctional Facility, 550 West 20th Street (between 10th and West Streets), Saturday – Wednesday 10 am – 7 pm; Thursday and Friday 10 am – 8 pm. It is open to the public free of charge, courtesy of the exhibit’s sponsor UBS.

This article will be published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette on December 7, 2016.

Love Is…

I want to say I’m surprised.

I want to blame every Trump supporter for making this country the laughing-stock of the world and for the damage it has done to our civil liberties.

I want to tell everyone it was because Hillary is a woman.

I want to pretend yesterday was a dream and today we are going to have the real vote.

I  CAN’T.

For me all, some, none of the above really resonate.  I don’t know how you spent the last few months but I spent mine in terror.  Can what is happening be really happening. Voltaire said it: History doesn’t repeat itself, people do.

Will we be going the route of Germany after World War I?

If this election has proven anything to me that situation is a crapshoot.  How could one day I write in my blog to be guided by the best of who we are and the next day begin calling people names, blaming them for what they know not what they did,  lowering  my self respect, dignity.

Oh, God knows I want to do that. But I want to be part of a different world, as well.                I am no angel. Ask anyone who knows me. that position is filled by people who have an understanding and perspective I lack.  But if anything this election has brought home to me it is the possibility of doing things differently.

If I didn’t like the outcome, I can try to understand how and why it happened. Oh yes, there was the usual political skullduggery (Timing is everything, Mr. FBI).  Oops!  Look at me, I am already slipping back to my 3 year old.

forward2Honestly my friends, it’s in my hands, brain, and lips not to go back.  And I guess this long diatribe is all about going forward.  Not for or against, but with each other, hopefully proving that we the peoples don’t have to repeat mistakes.  We the peoples can change.  Recall Voltaire, my almost new best friend, and tell him that’s the way we used to be… not anymore.

And always remember…  LOVE IS! 

~ Sally-Jane

The Road Less Traveled: aka Life Without a GPS

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How old do you have to be before you are too old to run away?  Well, don’t ask me.  I was born with the urge to run away and I have a feeling I shall die wanting to run.  It’s in my DNA.

I think it might have something to do with my immigrant grandparentage. “The Cossacks are coming!  Everyone out of the shtetl.”  That’s another Blah Blah Blog.

With this election there has been a lot of talk,”If so and so is elected I am leaving the country”.  I sympathize.  Interesting though, wherever I run I take me with me.

My first adult run away was in 1996.  I was 63.  I was divorced.  That had happened years before.  As divorces go, it was not acrimonious.  We were married 27 years.  The “use by” date on the marriage had expired.  I am not being glib.  There was pain, disillusion, disappointment and most of all a surprising deep love.  I think most of us have learned, usually the hard way, that love is not all.

Then, I had a very intense love affair with a man for 13 years and in 1991, after a long illness in which I was his caretaker, he passed away.  Why didn’t we ever marry?  I could try to give you an answer but since I make it up as I go along my answer would depend on which day you asked the question.  Relationships… can’t live with them, can’t live without them. The last year of his life was important as I was confronted with something that most of us do our best to avoid…Death!

And my most important urge to run came in 1996, when the last of my three daughters married.  I think it is only human as long as the child is not married you are still the “Mommy”.  You have some place to go, something to do, and mostly something to say.  Empty nest? Shmempty-nest!  That too is another blog.

The divorce, the death, the last one married – it was time to run away.  With the help of friends, I rented a house for the month of August in Gascony (Southwest France) and a flat in London for September.  Did I want to be an American in France or an American in England?  Wherever I went, it was clear, I was always going to be an American.  I ask too many questions.  I am too direct.  I am emotional.  I explain how I feel.  Years of therapy can do wonders in some places and make you a pariah in others.

I loved my time in France and on August 31st as I was flying from Toulouse to London, Princess Diana’s car crashed and all in the car died.  I arrived in London as Princess Diana’s death rivaled coronations, weddings, and Edward’s giving up the throne for the woman he loved.

As an American, I watched as a country we think of as quiet and reserved, erupted into an emotional frenzy.  I began to keep a diary.

It is now 20 years later,  I am still divorced, without male accoutrement, all daughters still married with children.  And, TADA!! I’M STILL HERE!

In a recent move, I found the diary.  Moving has to be good for something.  I read it.  Don’t ask me how… yet… but the Princess Diana tragedy was strangely linked with my own journey.  I am still trying to puzzle out just what that connection was and is.

So what has this Blah-Blah to do with the title:  The Road Less Traveled aka Life Without A GPS?  Well, my dears, I am going to take the time to edit and write this story and what form it will take, I know not.  The road is unfamiliar and unknown.  I want to give it my full focus and attention.  This means I am going to step away from performing my shows, dare I say, “for now”.

I have been performing since I was in the womb.  My mother was exhausted after delivering.  It difficult for me to say this, but my performance at Edith Wharton’s The Mount in Lenox on May 12th is my final East Coast appearance.   (There’s a Santa Fe show in early September).

Sketch crowd (2)

Please, no weeping and tearing of clothes.  As a Diva, I have the privilege of doing as many farewell performances as custom allows.

And I shall always be available for special weddings, funerals, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs.

In the mean time, I am waiting to hear from Donald Trump about doing a show for his final rant before he leaves the political arena….FOREVER…please!

Love ~ Sally-Jane

P.S.  CD’s and DVD’s of past shows are available at a discount rate.  They are sold out on Amazon.

 

 

 

 

Women Against Women?

Rilke QuoteFor someone who has not created any legislation concerning anything particularly economic financial issues, Bernie Sanders is “talking… and only talking”… about what he’d like to see happen.  He has been in the congress many years and has never proposed anything in terms of how he sees a more equal America.  We have all heard the “if elected President” proposals of the candidates.  He has had many chances in his years in congress to show some of that grit.  Nada.  What was the big line in Jerry McGuire?  “Show me the money.”  And by money, I mean, “Bernie, show me actions you’ve taken that tells me you know what you are talking about?”  I think he means well.  I hope he does.  But I want someone who really does know what SHE is talking about.  And yes even if she has to make the political compromises that everyone has to make (Bernie and his gun control) she really does have the domestic and international experience necessary in this globalized planet we live in now to make more considered and knowledgeable choices.  She did a pretty fantastic job as Secretary of State.  And she did it as a woman in a man’s world.  You bet she had to make compromises.  What woman doesn’t?  But in the political arena it’s not only a man’s world, it’s a women who forget they are women’s world. And I for one know she is NOT one of them.  I understand so well why the ERA was defeated by women. We are and always have been our own worst enemy. Maybe it has something to do with our being second class citizens for so long.

Her armor comes to her honestly because from the get-go of her years in the White House  to the present day she is still being battered.  And when I see it is women doing the battering, it  drives me crazy.  Because she stayed with the man she loves?  And make no mistake honey, with all his zits and warts.  She does love him.

Rilke wrote the passage below as part of a series of letters in a book called, Letters to a Young Poet and this particular letter was written in 1904.

In this one, he expresses the hopes I have for men and women in the future.  It is very relevant to this election for me because if we ever needed a female in the White House it is now…and we have one who is qualified…not just qualified, but really qualified.

The girl and the woman in their own new unfolding will only temporarily be imitators of male incivilities, of men’s ways, and repeaters of men’s careers.  After the insecurity of this transition has passed, it will be shown that women, through their wealth of (often ridiculous) disguises and many changes, have continued their quest only in order to purify their own beings of the distorting influences of the other sex.  The woman, within whom life dwells in a more direct, fruitful, and trusting way, must, after all, have become basically more mature, more human than the man.  For he is easily pulled down by the weight of the lack of physical fruitfulness, pulled down under the surface of life; he professes to love that which he arrogantly and rashly underrates.

The simple humanity of woman, brought about through pain and abasement, shall then come to light when the convention of her ultra-feminism will have been stripped off, transforming her status in the world.  The men, who today cannot yet feel it coming, shall be surprised and defeated by it.   

…It shall not bring to mind complement or limitation – only life and being:  the feminine human being.

…It shall thoroughly change the love experience… between man and woman.  …it shall resemble that love… which will be comprised of two lonelinesses protecting one another, setting limits, and acknowledging one another.

When I read this some 30 years ago, I went looking for just such a complement to my own being.  Many men paid lip service to what I was I was seeking but not one of them really understood because they were too busy being “the male”.   As well, I was too busy being “the female” that was expected.

All to say this struggle is ongoing.  My own such experience is mirrored in the title of my show, Everything Old is New Again.  The Sermon is ended… on The Mount.

Love ~ Sally-Jane

P.S. You don’t have to agree with me, even though I am right.  I will love you anyway.

Writing the Pain

What do you do with a painful memory?

There is no way to get around a memoir bringing up the pain and shame and humiliation of our lives. It is so boring to say “no pain, no gain”.  Have you gone through labor?  Have you ever have a tooth pulled to make room for a new tooth breaking through the gums?  It hurts! It really hurts!!  Is it worth it?  Your call.  You either like the baby or new tooth, or you don’t…

IMG_0857This part for me is embracing the fear and the pain and opening the door to discover what is behind it.  What about you?

 

Love ~ SJ