PEDIATRIC RELIGION – Marilyn Armstrong

When my first husband and I were getting married, he was something vaguely Protestant, though no one in his family knew what. They never attended church and while they were wild about Christmas, it was a very non-Christian version of it.

I’m not even sure they were Christian, but they weren’t anything else, either. I think it’s possible on the paternal side of the family, they might have been Jewish several generations back, then drifted into Christianity because they weren’t Jewish enough to hang with it.

Thus when my granddaughter was hitting eight or nine and Passover/Easter was approaching, I asked Kaity what Easter was about. She had never heard of Jesus or Christianity — or for that matter, Judaism.  She was sure that Easter was about baskets of sweets. She didn’t love chocolate (who doesn’t love chocolate?) — but always preferred the hard-boiled eggs. Funny kid.

In a Jewish family, religion comes through mom, but in Christianity, it devolves from dad. In theory, she could have swung either way.

Owen was Jewish because he had a Bar Mitzvah in Jerusalem. In Israel, it was the natural thing to do.

Here, in a very Christian valley with dozens of churches and not a single synagogue, it made more sense to find her a Protestant niche. Later, if life took her into “choices of religion,” she could make up her own mind.

I didn’t feel, without any backup, that I could raise her as a Jew. I don’t practice Judaism. I like Jewish food, Jewish people, and deeply appreciate Jewish law and how far ahead most of most kind of law it is (and was).

I studied in Yeshiva in Jerusalem because I needed to know more, but I knew I would never be Orthodox. This was a big disappointment to my teachers who thought my interest and intellectual involvement preceded a religious commitment. They didn’t “get”(most people don’t) that I love learning for its own sake, but it doesn’t presage any follow-up.

A couple of “studies” have evolved from “learning” to hobbies. Photography. History. Literature. Ecology. Music. Some kinds of art. Technology. Other stuff.

Thus I knew a lot ABOUT Judaism, but not much about how to actually “be” a Jew. I also know a lot about Christianity, because I studied that too and even converted to it, though I practice it to the exact same degree that I practice Judaism — which is to say, I don’t.

Happy birthday at 15!

I am religiously non-dogmatic. I am pretty sure I believe in something, but I don’t know what. Not nothing, though.

Meanwhile, Garry and I felt some pediatric religion was necessary. I didn’t expect Kaitlin to make religion her life, but I thought she needed to know that Christ was not a chocolate bunny and Judaism is a religion, not a bad word you call someone.

You can’t make a choice if you don’t know anything.

To my great relief, she is happily practicing nothing, considers herself vaguely protestant — and prefers eggs to chocolate.

THE EASTER BOUQUET – Marilyn Armstrong

The Easter Bouquet – FOTD – 04/24/2019

It was Easter. We weren’t going anywhere or doing anything. No one seemed to be doing anything and to be fair, I was just grateful I didn’t have to cook a huge meal that I couldn’t eat anyway.

I have to say that when you can’t really eat, cooking loses a lot of its attraction. And after cooking for a husband and kids and other people since I was 18 (was I really ever 18?), I could do without ever cooking for anyone ever again.

But I do because Garry doesn’t cook and if I don’t cook, he won’t eat. He might go so far as to open a can of soup, but that’s pretty much it. These days, though, cooking for a crowd is not on my agenda. I occasionally get enthusiastic about trying out a new dish. Mostly I do a lot of sighing while saying: “I suppose I have to COOK.”

Meanwhile, I am waiting for Garry to say those magic words: “Don’t worry Sweetheart. I’ve got this.”

The closest I get to that is (1) he will put a frozen pizza in the oven, and (2) he’ll drive to Mickey D’s and buy el cheapo chicken sandwiches.

If there was a good take-out joint in this town, we could occasionally work something out, but we don’t have anyplace worth going. Even when we can afford it, it isn’t worth the effort much less the money.

But I get flowers.

Sometimes, he brings home amazing bouquets and I don’t dare ask how much they cost. He no longer buys them in the grocery store, either. He goes to The Flower Lady who does all kinds of really fancy arrangements. He won’t cook, but he buys me flowers.

And he has gotten really into our birds. He watches the feeders and as soon as they get a little bit low, he’s out there filling them.

“Big group for dinner tonight,” he says, staring out the window. Like me, the first thing he does when he gets up — even if it is just to go to the bathroom — he has to look out the window and see who’s there.

We get pixellated by the birds. You go into the kitchen for something, but instead of whatever you were doing, you just stand there, watching the birds. “I see the pigeons have done a good job cleaning up the deck,” he adds. “You know, while I was feeding them, there were a few on the rail giving me a look which says ‘Get out of the way, fool. We’re hungry.’

“We didn’t get any squirrels today, ” he comments. I assure him we did. Between flocks of birds.

So I guess I’ll keep him.

Garry, I mean. The birds belong to the woods.

DON’T BITE! – Rich Paschall

If you are a fisherman, and perhaps even if you are not, you can understand the frustration that comes with the sport. That is, you go out knowing fish are swimming all around you. Maybe a lot of them and you are ready to reel them in.  You bait the hook and drop it in amongst all those lovely fish and you wait … and wait.

Nothing happens.

It is as if Charlie Tuna or some holy mackerel was there, warning the other fish to avoid your bait.

“This is good bait,” you may think.  “It is big and tempting and the sea creatures should flock to it,” but they just smirk and swim off to visit other old timers to see if their little fishes are off in schools somewhere else.

Avoid the bait

This is how we should be too.  We should stop taking the bait, but sometimes we do it anyway because we can’t help it.

I am talking about social media and consequent conversation.  The rants and bitterness that follow. There’s always someone tossing bait in the water.

We have to keep swimming because no good comes from getting hooked.

It would appear that many throw out bait on Facebook or Twitter, though it could be any media and there are many more. They aren’t trying to have a conversation. They are trying to start a fight by luring in friends and acquaintances.

In this politically charged “us versus them” environment fostered and encouraged by 45 and his ilk — not to mention the social media companies and the Russians, Chinese and who knows who else — there are always enough snapping jaws waiting for someone to snap up the bait.

No matter what political arguments fill their entries, none are worthy of our time. Trolls do this for sport. They think it’s fun. Most of us don’t think it’s fun at all.

It is like taking your boat out on Lake Michigan hoping to land a big one.  You are likely to end up with carp or alewives, of course. Because that’s what lives there.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Whether you are posting something in favor of POTUS or against, there is someone ready to take the bait and tug on the line.  While an astounding number of people are not in favor of the current pretender to the throne, he still has rabid supporters willing to dangle the bait– or take it themselves. The battle is on.

These battles of back and forth with fish can get rowdy and ugly.

Soon after the terrible display of hate in Charlottesville, I posted a brief piece I saw about how the USA helped defeat the Nazis in World War 2.  I thought it was important to remember (or to learn) what that was all about.  I know exactly what my parents would have thought of recent events.

My father fought in World War II.  It is terrible, in my opinion, that people would carry the Nazi flags on our streets but maybe some forgot.  I had no idea I was dangling bait for the alt-right.

What followed my post was a long series of comments by a few people who conducted a mean-spirited, name-calling “debate.”  I could not keep up with it or monitor the frequent comments, which apparently turned threatening.  After someone complained, Facebook stepped in and removed the most egregious comments.  At my first opportunity, I removed the post completely.

History really is not debatable or worth threatening someone, but that’s the road we’ve gone down.

Due to my stance on some topics, or my willingness to take the bait on a few occasions, I guess I’ve lost a few friends.  I can’t say it bothers me. If you are that bigoted, whether your opinion is based on some misinterpretation of history, the Bible, or some other religion, it’s best I swim on and miss the fight. I’m too old to have this level of stress.

Be careful. You never know when a big fish might pull you into the water.

Until recently, I used to get together a few times a month with someone I have known since childhood. He’s a bit right of center politically, but we had mostly avoided political arguments. That changed in the current social climate.

He has taken the dangling bait.  I was playing along for a while, but I now see the futility of it.

It will start with my friend saying something about 45 or other right-wing topics.  I might respond, “As a former military man, how do you feel about 45 making comments about North Korea which also seem to give up military secrets?”  It is a reasonable question, I think … but it only proves I’ve taken the bait.

“What about Obama?” he might reply.  “You never said anything about Obama when he was in office.”

“Yes, I did,” I usually point out.

“I never heard it.”

“You never listen to me.”

“And what about Rahm (Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago)? What about that?” He will say in a voice somewhat louder.

“What does this have to do with 45 and North Korea?” I inquire to try to steer the conversation back around, but it’s too late.  I am already hooked.