Mental Health Highlighted, Thank You Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka, photo source cnn.com

I recently told a relative that after my mom died, I sought the help of a therapist to work through the grief. I’m not ashamed to say that as a young newlywed and mom of triplets and a younger daughter, I’ve worked on my mental health, gaining tools, techniques, and strategies to recognize my hot buttons and ways in which I can improve parenting, marriage, and relationships.

Goals? To a) better understand myself, b) live a purposeful life, c) direct my energy towards personal and professional pursuits that bring me joy, and d) find inner peace in our short time on Earth. Working through issues isn’t for everyone, but it has helped me tremendously.

So I was taken aback when that same relative threw the conversation back in my face…twice! “Did you say you saw a—-pause for effect—-PSYCHIATRIST?”

The first time, I calmly responded that, no, she’s a social worker and reminded her that, by the way, so are my sister, niece, and several friends. The second time, I was not calm. I jumped down her throat and said, “We’ve already discussed this and we live in the 21st century!” BUTTON PUSHED!

Why? Why was I so upset that the only takeaway from a prior heartfelt conversation were questions that felt like she had asked, “Did you say you’ve decided to become a real-life mermaid by undergoing surgery to remove your legs and attach a tail?!”

Hon, seriously! That’s about the only news that would warrant her titter-worthy tone!

A few reasons I was annoyed:

  • If someone has a medical problem, is it noteworthy if he/she seeks medical help? Of course not! So, why the stigma about treating our emotional selves?
  • Are there aisles of Self Help books and a podcast industry born out of the desire to improve our emotional lives? Yes!
  • Are we neanderthals who existed as hunters and gatherers? No, we’ve evolved into hunters, gatherers and listeners.

Upon further research, I discovered that counseling goes back to ancient Egypt:

Even before the written language, people told stories and parables. It’s an ancient tradition that often served as a kind of therapy, helping others heal while passing on indelible wisdom to support others. More than 3,500 years ago, references to “healing through words” appeared in ancient Egyptian and Greek writings. The word “counseling” found its way into Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Wife of Bath’s Tale in 1386.

The more formal term “psychotherapy” was coined in the late 1800s, which the Mayo Clinic defines as a “general term for treating mental health problems by talking with a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health provider.” It’s during psychotherapy where participants examine their moods, feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, while learning how to take control and respond to challenging situations in a healthy way.

Talkspace.com

And. And for someone who watched the 2021 Olympics and as much as I did, knowledge of Olympic gymnast Simone Biles’ need to take a step back, which called to mind professional tennis player Naomi Osaka’s own mental health journey, the questions were anachronistic and insulting.

The day after Simone decided not to compete in the individual all-around competition after withdrawing from the team finals, Better Up, a coaching resource [“helps your people identify their strengths, achieve their goals, and reach their full potential. The results? A high-performing workforce ready to tackle whatever comes their way] ran a full page ad in The New York Times.

I love it for its clever wording and for its message.


Thank you Simone.

Thank you for raising the bar without touching one.

For showing your strength without moving a muscle.

And for showing the world that taking care of yourself is never selfish.

It’s human.

Thank you for trusting your instincts as much as you trust your teammates.

Thank you for using your voice to give others one.

And for teaching us all that leaving a legacy isn’t always about sticking the landing.

Sometimes it’s about helping others just get off the ground.

You’ve shown us once again

That mental health and physical health are one and the same.

And that your courage is one of a kind.

Thank you, Simone.

Thank you, Naomi.

And all who have helped us see that everyone is going through something.

But no one has to do it alone.

As a small gesture to show our tremendous gratitude, we’re gifting athletes, coaches, and anyone else inspired to start their mental fitness journey, free BetterUp coaching. We hope that this moment turns into momentum, and we can continue to empower the next generation of GOATs.

Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit, Part 2

At the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit New York on Pier 36, when you exit the rooms with videos, you come across the quote, “What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” This quote, and the fact that Van Gogh only sold one painting during his lifetime, spoke to me and my writing journey. Thank you, Vincent, I am brave!

I recently Tweeted a comment from a friend. Upon hearing how hard it is to break into Kidlit, she said, “A lot of people get famous after they die.” Ummm…WHAT?! First of all, I don’t write Kidlit to become famous and, secondly, WHAT?! Was that meant as encouragement? Was she volunteering to be my “manuscript historian” and, once I depart this Earth, make sure my stories and characters see the light of day and laps of children?

Back to Vincent. Turn the corner from his quote and you see mannequins adorned in interpretive fashion. I disagree with Jason Farago, whose review “Submerged in van Gogh: Would Absinthe Make the Art Grow Fonder? in The New York Times said that the mannequins were wearing “shockingly tacky van Gogh-inspired clothing. (Where might these dresses festooned with wheat and sunflowers be appropriate? The Miss Provence pageant? Is there a Saint-Rémy drag night I don’t know about?)” Funny, but as a former student of fashion history, I enjoy seeing how designers create clothes, even if they’re made from unwearable material. A fashion exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art comes to mind; dresses made of blue and white Chinoiserie were extraordinary.

One more thing to try before you leave the exhibit is a booth where you can “hear” color. I didn’t know Van Gogh experienced chromesthesia, a condition where sound evokes different colors.

Hon, still thinking about the “better off dead” comment? Me, too. And still shaking my head.

Double Digit Doggie!

Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds aka Lulu aka Loose aka Loopy Lou aka Muppy.

Happy 10th birthday to the sweetest, softest, fluffiest, barkiest, fastest dog, Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds.

Aside from her usual walks, treats and people-food-added-to-her-dinner, Lucy didn’t have specific plans to celebrate her birthday. Then, a surprise package addressed to Lucy arrived in the mail! In it were an adorable, sparkly birthday hat and pink, unicorn kerchief. Our family had no idea who’d ordered the “doggie decorations” until Morgan’s bf Adam, fessed up. Shout out to another dog lover!

In honor of the best “person” in our family, I’m re-posting the humorous New York Times article Things People Say to Their Dogs, in which Alexandra Horowitz explores this topic with much humor.  a cognitive scientist who studies dogs–doesn’t that sound fantastic?!

Horowitz’s article, lightly edited, is below.

We talk to dogs. Happily so, for there is little bleaker than seeing a person texting while dragging a dog by her leash. It’s so natural to talk to dogs that for a long time I wasn’t even aware when I did it. But now I have evidence that I — that we all — talk to our dogs. For now, I’m listening.

Everywhere I go I encounter dogs: on the sidewalk, in the parks, in stores and airports, at readings, at my dog cognition lab. Most of the dogs are with people. Consequently, it is not long before I hear people talking to their dogs. Sure, much of what we say to dogs is request or command, exclamation points implied: Sit; Come; Go Get Your Ball. Once I began really listening, though, what surprised me was how much is not mere directive.

Heading down a city sidewalk one morning, when sleepy dogs and people stumble out for the dog’s morning micturition, I saw a woman with two small dogs, both in sweaters, one of whom had lifted a rear leg to aim directly onto a scaffolding pole. “You’re going first: excellente! Awesome job!” The dog’s owner crooned. I pulled an envelope out of my bag and scribbled down her words. Thus began my long foray into public eavesdropping on the dog-human dyad.

Once I began listening for other owners’ dog-directed soliloquies, I found that they were ubiquitous. I might catch two or three conversational snippets on a long block. It began to seem as though the act of a person walking by sometimes prompted an owner’s conversational opening to her dog — as though to emphasize how not-walking-slowly-down-the-sidewalk-alone she is. Not at all alone: She is with someone.

As every “Hi, puppy!” directed dogward demonstrates, the way we talk to dogs overlaps with the way we talk to babies. A Harris poll found that 95 percent of us consider dogs our family — so are we simply talking to them as if they were our children? “Pet-directed speech” certainly shares many features with baby talk: We raise the pitch of our voice and make it singsongy. We use a fairly limited vocabulary with infants, and with dogs too: more “You’ve been bad” than “What you did was morally indefensible.” Language is telegraphed: We tend to repeat words, slow our speech, shorten phrases and drop some categories of words, like articles.

On the other hand, when speaking to infants, we hyperarticulate our vowels: exaggeratedly saying Look at the doggeeeeee! to babies — but not nearly as much to dogs. It’s a subtle but key difference that marks a rift in our ways of thinking about kids and pups. Hyperarticulation is didactic, a way of teaching a growing human our language. When we are talking to dogs, we are under no illusion that they will grow up to use the language themselves.

Still, we do talk to dogs as though we are in a running conversation. After several hundred scribbled overhears, I began to notice some patterns in the dog-speech. One category of utterances is pure enthusiasm, the Cheering Squad:

“Good stop! I really liked that halt, guys.”

There’s the Mom Commentary on behavior. Eyes on the dog, she sees everything. And she’s gotta talk about it.

Appropriately (for the category), most of these speakers are women. In fact, among my notebook scribblings, the speakers were women about six times as often as they were men. Women speak more often, more quickly and speak longer than men — on the sidewalk and in scientific studies of dog talkers. They repeat words more and are not shy about dropping in a term of endearment. This is not to say that men are immune from the Mom Commentary:

In addition to the quotidian “Sit” and “Stay,” there are also the Perfectly Implausible Instructions:

In the spirit of conversation that doesn’t need an answer, we turn question marks toward our pups, engaging them as if they might respond — and then waiting a beat to give them due time to so reply. This is the Rhetorical Realm:

Behind every unanswered question is the feeling that we might know the answer, given that we and our dogs live together, see each other naked, and obviously know everything about each other. Hence the reliable appearance of the We’ve Discussed This utterances (dog’s full family name implied):

Most talk I hear is overheard, seemingly not intended for my ears. But when we talk to dogs around others, it serves as a social lubricant, a way to open up the possibility of talking to each other. “What’s your name?” said dog-ward is never answered — except, obligingly, by a dog’s owner. Dogs are not only reflections of us, they are social intermediaries for us. Any hesitation I may have about a person approaching me on the street is deflected by my dog Finnegan’s smiling, wag-filled greeting of them; in response, they talk not to me, but to the dog.

It’s not only strangers who can be looped in by dog-talk. We talk to our relatives — our human relatives — via our dogs as well. The linguist Deborah Tannen writes of a couple mid-argument: “The man suddenly turns to their pet dog and says in a high-pitched baby-talk register, ‘Mommy’s so mean tonight. You better sit over here and protect me.’” The dogs enable the speaking; they are not really the spoken-to.

Of course, through all our talking, dogs are more or less silent. Researchers keep looking for the language-using dog, though. Some dogs — like the Border collies Rico and Chaser, who died last week — have learned hundreds upon hundreds of words. Dogs in fMRI studies both distinguish familiar from nonsense words and process the emotional content of words. Nonetheless, dogs are not talking back. Some scholars think dog-human communication represents a “human fantasy” of how communication might go: all listening, no responding. “We like our pets’ silence,” the animal studies researcher Erica Fudge suggests, “because it allows us to write their words for them.” I do think this begins to explain our nonstop chatter with dogs. When we talk to dogs, it’s as if our private speech, the conversation we’re having in our heads, has slipped out.

The Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky, formulating his theories of child development, described a stage of children internalizing conversations with those around them — social speech — into a conversation in their own heads. He called it “inner speech” and thought it enabled children to use language to reflect on and consider their own behavior. We continue that monologue with ourselves as we age into adults. It’s not quite the way we’d talk to those around us, though, with its cropped syntax and a “note-form” shorthand that represents your familiarity with your own thoughts. But it’s just like what we’re saying to our dogs — as if they were in our heads.

Dogs are, of course, the preoccupation of our minds: we hope for them, care for them, love them. We narrate our thoughts while we watch them, and their thoughts while they accompany us.

One of the things we say to our dogs daily — two-thirds of us, according to one survey of North American pet owners — is I love you. Even the simple sound of our voice is an expression of that love, regardless of the content of the words we say. Through talking to them, we let them into an intimacy with us. They hear our secrets, our private thoughts.

So now you know: Pass me on the sidewalk, and I may be listening. Please don’t let it stop you from talking. It makes me feel optimistic about humans to hear us talk to other animals. We are at our best in those moments when we extend the circle we’ve drawn around ourselves to include them.

 
Continue reading “Double Digit Doggie!”

Cicada Party

Wonderlab.org

The cicadas are coming! 2013 was the last year they covered the Garden State’s trees, grass and sidewalks. This excellent article by Eleanor Lutz for The New York Times “invites” us to the Cicada Party.

Hon, I’m kinda grossed out and a lot fascinated! How about you?!

An Invitation to the Cicada Party

Any day now, our insect neighbors will host a once-in-a-cicada-lifetime party. Billions of cicadas, part of a cohort called Brood X, will emerge from underground tunnels to sing, mate and die across the eastern United States. Like any good party, the emergence will be loud. It will be crowded. And everyone’s invited.

The Activities

SINGING–The party will be announced by a cacophony of cicada song, as the males begin to gather in a treetop chorus to call for mates.

MATING–The Brood X females won’t sing in the chorus, but they have plenty of other activities to keep them occupied. After mating, a female cicada needs to choose a tree that will safely harbor her offspring for the next seventeen years. Then she will use a saw-like appendage called an ovipositor to insert her eggs into a young branch.

DYING–The frenzy of singing, mating and egg laying will last just four to six weeks. Then the adult cicadas will die and fall to the ground, creating piles of brown carcasses underneath the trees.

The Soundtrack

The Brood X cohort actually consists of three different cicada species. The males of each species sing a distinctive song to attract others to their chorus. Males also have additional songs for courting nearby females, and they can make a rough, buzzing alarm if they’re picked up or handled.

Male cicadas sing by using their muscles to flex ribbed structures called tymbals. A hollow air chamber inside the abdomen is thought to amplify their song. Females don’t have tymbals and can’t sing, but they respond to males by flicking their wings to make a faint clicking sound. TymbalAir chamber0.25 inches

Directions

Brood X — or the “Great Eastern Brood” — is one of the largest periodical cicada broods in the United States. The insects are expected to emerge this year in at least 15 states, including in cities like Baltimore, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Washington, D.C.

Periodical cicadas occur throughout the eastern United States but are relatively rare across the world. Outside of North America, there are eight year periodical cicadas in Fiji and four year cicadas in India.

Source: U.S.D.A. Forest Service·Note: Published in 2013. Brood distributions can change or even disappear completely if environment conditions become unsuitable. Some cicadas emerge several years early or late.

Throughout history, periodical cicadas have been carefully tracked and mapped by agencies like the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Today, many scientists use community science projects like the Cicada Safari phone app to track the broods. Anyone using the app can take a photo of their neighborhood cicadas to contribute to the mapping effort.

The Menu

Thousands of Brood X cicadas will be eaten by hungry predators ranging from birds to small mammals — likely even some household pets. These cicadas have few defenses. They don’t bite or sting, and they aren’t toxic or poisonous. Instead, their survival strategy seems to consist of emerging in such overwhelming numbers that the area’s predators can’t possibly eat them all. As for the cicadas themselves, they feed by drinking a watery fluid inside the xylem of trees and plants.

Attire

As Brood X begins to emerge, you may see brown, cicada-shaped suits attached to trees or on the ground. These are leftover casings shed by the immature cicadas as they become adults.

During their 17 years in the ground, Brood X cicadas shed their skin four times as they move through their life cycle. The immature underground cicadas, called nymphs, also leave behind tunnels from their journey to the surface, which you may notice as tiny holes in the ground.

When they first crawl out of their nymphal skin, adult cicadas are the color of a slightly green toasted marshmallow. As they complete their transition into adults, their bodies will gradually harden and turn black. Brood X cicadas are known for their charismatic red eyes, though a rare few may have other colors, like blue or white.Newly emerged adultShednymphalskin0.5 inches

R.S.V.P.

The Brood X cicadas are due to appear aboveground from early May into June, depending on the weather. Although some stragglers can emerge early, the mass emergence usually begins after the soil temperature warms to 64 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you miss this party, the next one won’t be until 2024, when Broods XIII and XIX emerge throughout Illinois, other parts of the Midwest as well as the southern United States.

Eleanor Lutz, The New York Times, May 19, 2021
Reference images and information from: Chris Simon; “Insects, their ways and means of living” by Robert Snodgrass; “Periodical Cicadas: The Brood X Edition” by Gene Kritsky.

Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies

merlin_150672999_92f7eb0d-5f5c-4fe0-baa4-8935414e67d2-articleLarge
Image c/o Julia Gartland for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Liza Jernow.

Does the world need more Chocolate Chip Cookie recipes? Yes, yes, it does! 

“Our 11 Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipes,” a compilation by Margaux Laskey for the The New York Times, is now saved on my computer because, Hon, you can bet I’ll be working my way down the list. I tried the Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, attributed to Ruth Wakefield, the 1930’s inventor of the chocolate chip cookie, who ran the Toll House Inn, a popular restaurant in eastern Massachusetts, with her husband.

Using an ice pick, Wakefield broke a semisweet chocolate bar into little bits, mixed them into brown-sugar dough, and the chocolate chip cookie was born. In 1939, she sold Nestlé the rights to reproduce her recipe on its packages (reportedly for only $1) and was hired to write recipes for the company, which supposedly supplied her with free chocolate for life. This recipe is very close to Mrs. Wakefield’s original (hers called for a teaspoon of hot water and 1/2-teaspoon-sized cookies), and the one you’ll still find on the back of every yellow bag of Nestlé chocolate chips.

Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies 

Ingredients:

  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups/12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Directions:

  1. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl.
  2. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixing bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  3. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts, if using. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
  4. Refrigerate for about an hour.
  5. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Yield:  approximately 5 dozen

Powerful Pandemic Perspective

Cecile, left, the matriarch of our family.
Grandma with her youngest granddaughter.

I was intensely moved by Toby Levy’s January 3, 2021 Op Ed article in The New York Times. Apparently, so were 621 people who commented on her piece. Coincidentally, me and my niece Talia left also comments. Ms. Levy’s article reminded us of our own family’s matriarch, Cecile. My husband’s mom survived the Holocaust, as did his dad, by being shipped to Siberia with their families. Hunted every step of their journeys across Europe, their childhoods were harrowing and horrific. According to Cecile, dealing with the pandemic is isolating, lonely, worrisome, and inconvenient. But terrifying? No. Cecile is in better spirits than a lot of my contemporaries. I listen to her for perspective and wisdom, just like Ms. Levy.

A Holocaust survivor reflects on what it means to survive the pandemic.

By Toby Levy, a retired accountant and a volunteer docent for the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Jan. 3, 2021

These days, I’m a little bored.

The boardwalk is my lifesaver. I’m two blocks from the boardwalk. I can walk to Coney Island if I want to. I go alone. I have some friends here. We used to play canasta once a week. But when Covid arrived, my daughter insisted, “You can’t sit in one room!” So I talk on the phone. I read. The grandkids call in by Zoom. I also do a little bit of Zoom lecturing for the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

I keep very busy, and it helps me a lot. I am trying not to give up. But what is getting me down is that I am losing a year. And this bothers me terribly. I’m 87 years old, and I lost almost a full year.

I’m doing everything I can to stay connected, to make an impact. So even now, amid Covid, I tell my story to schools and to audiences the museum organizes for me, by Zoom.

Here’s what I say: I was born in 1933 in a small town called Chodorow, now Khodoriv, about 30 minutes by car from Lvov, now Lviv, in what was then Poland and is now Ukraine. We lived in the center of town in my grandfather’s house. The Russians occupied the town from 1939 to 1941, then the Germans from 1941 to 1944. My father was well liked in town by Jews and non-Jews. One day in early 1942, one of the guys came to him and said, “Moshe, it’s going to be a big killing. Better find a hiding place.” So my father built a place to hide in the cellar. My grandfather didn’t want to go. He was shot in the kitchen; we heard it.

Not long after that, the Germans said they were going to relocate the remaining Jews to the ghetto in Lvov, so my father and my aunt searched for someone to hide them more permanently. They found Stephanie, who had a house on the main street with a garden and a barn. She had known my parents their whole life. My father built a wall inside the barn and a hiding place for nine people, where we slept like herrings. It was just four feet by five feet. Pigs and chickens were on one side, and we were on the other: my parents, my aunt and uncle, my maternal grandmother and four children, ages 4, 6, 8 and 12.

Eventually, with the help of Stephanie’s 16-year-old son, they expanded the space a bit and added a way for the kids to look out. That is where I spent the next two years. I always think of the son when I get down, because when Stephanie was scared to keep hiding us, he insisted we stay.

We had lice. We had rats. But every day in the barn was a miracle. I’m not a regular person. I’m a miracle child. Most of the Jews of Chodorow never returned.

So when the coronavirus came, I thought, “I’m a miracle. I will make it. I have to make it.”

During the war, we didn’t know if we would make a day. I didn’t have any freedom. I couldn’t speak loudly, I couldn’t laugh, I couldn’t cry.

But now, I can feel freedom. I stay by the window and look out. The first thing I do in the morning is look out and see the world. I am alive. I have food, I go out, I go for walks, I do some shopping. And I remember: No one wants to kill me. So, still, I read. I cook a little bit. I shop a little bit. I learned the computer. I do puzzles.

I still sometimes feel that I am missing out. A full year is gone. I lost my childhood, I never had my teenage years. And now, in my old age, this is shortening my life by a year. I don’t have that many years left. The way we have lived this year means I have lost many opportunities to lecture, to tell more people my story, to let them see me and know the Holocaust happened to a real person, who stands in front of them today. It’s important.

I am scared that I am not going to be in the shape I was a year ago. When this started in March, one of my grandchildren, who lives in New Jersey, went to Maine with his wife; they never came back. They have a baby boy now, and I have only seen him on Zoom. This child will never know me. That’s a loss.

Some of what I’m missing is so simple. I have a male friend I know from synagogue. We would take a trip, if we could, by car. To anyplace! I would go to Florida. Maybe even go to Israel for a couple of weeks. But not now. So, again, this has shortened my life. That is my biggest complaint.

I understand the fear people have, and I understand you have to take care.

But there is no comparison of anxiety, of the coronavirus, to the terror I felt when I was a child. That was a fear with no boundary. This is going to end, and I am already thinking, planning where I am going first, what I will do first, when this ends.

Toby Levy for The New York Times

Top Ten Unexpected Positives in 2020

Happy New Year Hon!

Thinking about the holiday events we’d be attending and hosting if we weren’t in the midst of a global pandemic, my mind turned to silver linings. In 2020, believe it or not, there was actually amazing news (Polio has been eradicated in Africa) as well as mundane news (Flour was in high demand.). Focusing on how the pandemic effected everyday life and in no particular order, here are the…

Top Ten Unexpected Positives of 2020

  1. Dogs were happy. Very happy. “Shelters, rescues and breeders report increased demand as Americans try to fill voids with canine companion” (Washington Post)
  2. Kids rode bikes to socialize. “How the pandemic has inspired some teens to get off their laptops and go outside” (Washington Post)
  3. Walking was a pastime. “Why Walking is the Ideal Pandemic Activity” (National Geographic)
  4. People stayed outside, even in the cold and rain. “Why You Should Brave the ‘Bad’ Weather” (The New York Times)
  5. Books sales increased. “A Surprisingly Strong Year of Book Sales Continues” (Publisher’s Weekly)
  6. Comfy clothes took over closets. “Dressing for success these days means ‘Athleisure'” (CBS News)
  7. Home cooked meals promoted healthier eating. “Home cooking is the new normal.” (Smart Brief)
  8. Families sat down to dinner together. “The return of family dinner” The Boston Globe
  9. Exercise classes were more accessible than ever. “Virtual workouts have exploded in popularity—and they’re here to stay.” (MindBody Business) And…
  10. Grandparents learned how to FaceTime! “Grandparents, thank you for FaceTiming and learning how to use Zoom during this quarantine” (Motherly)

RIP RBG, “Brooklyn Lost a Native Daughter”

Image source: Voices of Labor on Etsy

The New York Times’ Metro reporter, John Leland wrote about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s ties to her hometown in:

The Nation Lost a Titan. Brooklyn Lost a Native Daughter.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg — “Kiki” to her Brooklyn family — was a product of the borough’s public schools and synagogues. She is revered on her home ground.

 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a child of Brooklyn long before she was Notorious — daughter of Jewish immigrants, graduate of P.S. 238 and James Madison High School (class of 1950), cheerleader known as Kiki Bader, member of the East Midwood Jewish Center.

She lived on the first floor of a two-story house on East Ninth Street in the multiethnic Midwood neighborhood and fed her mind at the local public library branch, upstairs from a Chinese restaurant and a beauty parlor.

“She’s part of the folklore of the community,” said Joseph Dorinson, who lives in the neighborhood and has taught at James Madison. “My neighbor’s brother dated her.”

Howard Teich, founding chairman of the Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative, said Justice Ginsburg resonated so profoundly with Brooklynites — the elders who followed her judicial career and the young people who loved the pop icon — because she represented the values of her block.

“It’s a place that lends itself to the values of modesty and people living with each other, and that has lasted her through her lifetime,” he said. As an emblem of pride, he added, “She’s singular in terms of who she was.”

Over the weekend, as news spread of Justice Ginsburg’s death on Friday, makeshift memorials of candles, signs, flowers and even an R.B.G. action figure went up outside James Madison High School and her childhood home. Hundreds gathered Saturday night outside the courthouse in Foley Square in Manhattan, holding candles and singing the civil rights anthem “Woke Up This Morning With My Mind Stayed on Freedom,” and a vigil was also held outside Kings County Supreme Court. Handwritten signs in different parts of Brooklyn urged neighbors to honor her legacy by voting.

“They’ve been coming and going all weekend to pay their respects,” said Diana Brenneisen, who has lived in the justice’s old house since 1969. “They’re outside now.”

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the state would erect a statue in her honor in Brooklyn. It will be only the fifth statue Mr. Cuomo’s administration has created since he took office in 2011.

“NY’s heart breaks with the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” Mr. Cuomo said on Twitter.

Over the weekend, state monuments were bathed in blue light, her favorite color.

Enterprising New Yorkers altered a subway mosaic at 50th Street to read “RUth St.” and added her initials to a street sign commemorating the rapper Notorious B.I.G.

At the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the display board posted her encouragement: “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

As national politicians spent the weekend debating whether to fill her seat on the Supreme Court before Election Day, Mayor Bill de Blasio honored her as a native daughter, saying, “I’m crushed that we lost an incomparable icon. A daughter of Brooklyn. A tenacious spirit who moved this country forward in fairness, equality and morality. She was Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She never backed down from a fight. Tonight her hometown and world mourn.” Flags around the city flew at half-staff.

 

 

 

RIP RBG, “Her Black Coffee Always Brewed Strong”

Image source: NvaArt on Etsy

I still have books to review and photos to share, but this week is all about RBG.

Opinion piece by Abbe R. Gluck and

 

There was our justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg: “At the end of the day, the government is throwing to the wind the women’s entitlement. …” She was forcefully intervening at oral argument in the last months of her life, in a case about access to contraception under the Affordable Care Act. Her dissent, issued in July, condemned the majority for leaving potentially half a million women to “fend for themselves.”

It was her last opinion about gender equality after a lifetime of advocacy and leadership on the court. She was keenly aware, as she always was, of how the law affects real women in real life. And as always, nothing could stop her from speaking up.

We clerked for Justice Ginsburg in the 1997 and 2003 terms. She was a role model for us in law and in life; how to work, how to write, how to advocate, how to partner, how to mentor. She was already famous when we clerked for her. But that she later became a feminist icon in her octogenarian years for millions of little girls around the world is nothing short of extraordinary.

This didn’t happen through loudness of voice, harshness of words or a biting cynicism about the world. It was through a remarkable legal intellect, an incomparable work ethic and a powerful vision of what justice and equal treatment for men and women mean in reality. Her once-radical vision of gender equality penetrated the law in countless areas, not just reproductive rights but also workplace discrimination, class-action law, criminal procedure — in every aspect of how women interact with the world. And she lived that vision through every aspect of her personal life, too.

Justice Ginsburg was the last justice on the court to have spent time before the bench as a legal advocate for equality. (Justice Thurgood Marshall was the last before her.) Today we take for granted her vision of gender equality. But we should never forget that it was not until 1971 that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for the first time that the Constitution prohibits discrimination based on sex. That was Justice Ginsburg’s case — Reed v. Reed, which challenged the rule that men were the preferred administrators of estates of deceased persons, and that gave a grieving mother the right to administer the estate of the son she lost.

For Justice Ginsburg, equality did not mean special­ — she would say “pedestal” — treatment for women. Equality meant the same treatment for women and men. Stories from her childhood — as when she complained it was unfair that boys had wood shop while girls had sewing — are renowned. As an advocate, her litigation strategy zeroed in on that radical vision and realized it for all of us.

She often used male instead of female plaintiffs to show sex discrimination prevents all people from realizing their full potential. Why shouldn’t a man, for example, receive the same Social Security benefits a woman would receive, so he could stay home to care for his child after his spouse died? She successfully brought that question to the court in the 1975 case Weinberger v. Weisenfeld. She has said in interviews: “The aim was to break down the stereotypical view of men’s roles and women’s roles.”

Over the next 45 years, Justice Ginsburg would extend that vision into every corner of American life. In 1996, she wrote a pathbreaking opinion striking down Virginia’s provision of single-sex public education for men only (at a military institute), giving us both the law and the vocabulary to describe her vision. She eschewed the term “women’s rights.” Instead, equal protection demanded that both women and men be given “full citizenship stature — equal opportunity to aspire, achieve, participate in and contribute to society.”

Then there were the dissents — they had an extraordinary impact even before she became the leader of the court’s liberal wing and gained the moniker “notorious R.B.G.” In 2006, with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s retirement, Justice Ginsburg became the only woman on the court. She spoke ever louder. In a case upholding a federal ban on late-term abortions, Justice Ginsburg’s dissentattacked the majority for its paternalistic concern that women could not be trusted to make decisions they would not regret: “The Court invokes an anti-abortion shibboleth for which it concededly has no reliable evidence,” she wrote. “This way of thinking reflects ancient notions about women’s place in the family and under the Constitution — ideas that have long since been discredited.”

In a criminal procedure case about a strip search of a 13-year-old girl for ibuprofen, the justice reacted to a male colleague’s asking why stripping in the gym was “a major thing.” Shaking out one’s bra and underwear and then being forced to sit in the hallway for two hours, she said, was not mere locker-room play. It was an “abuse of authority.”

In a 2007 equal pay case, Justice Ginsburg — herself a victim of early-career workplace discrimination — chided her colleagues for deciding that a woman who does not file a claim immediately can never file at all. This ignored the actual “characteristics of pay discrimination.” “Small initial discrepancies,” she wrote, “may not be seen as meat for a federal case, particularly when the employee, trying to succeed in a nontraditional environment, is averse to making waves.”

In a 2011 employment discrimination class action, she faultedcolleagues for overlooking how “subjective decision making can be a vehicle for discrimination.” She referenced a favorite example from a favorite pastime: Orchestras with blind auditions hire more women.

The magnitude of her legal legacy cannot be overstated. But her impact was even greater because she modeled for us and for women and girls around the world how to live a life that reflected her legal vision. She demanded a lot from her law clerks, but demanded even more from herself. She was the hardest working, most deliberate person either one of us has ever worked for. She taught us to be strong and to stand behind our work. She gave countless women and men opportunities and support in the life of the law. She got to know all of our children. Her famous faxes came across the channels at all hours of the night. Her black coffee always brewed strong.

In her home life, she modeled to us how to translate the radical legal change she worked to the personal. She and her husband, Martin, were insistently equal co-partners in marriage and parenting and had a marriage for the ages.

Her commitments were always the same and grew ever louder. Even at the very end, she reminded us how much more work there is left to do.

Abbe R. Gluck is a law professor and faculty director of the Solomon Center for Health Law and Policy at Yale Law School. Gillian E. Metzger is a law professor and faculty co-director of the Center for Constitutional Governance at Columbia Law School.