The shortest way I can think of to explain Passover is to say: it’s about freedom. About slaves becoming free, liberation from tyranny and awfulness. To celebrate, we tell the story of Passover and eat a variety of foods which take a lifetime to get used to, but if you start with matzoh ball soup, and go easy on the matzoh, you’ll be fine.
As we tell a story from so long ago, we also connect it to struggles of today.
From Garden State Equality posted yesterday (3/25/13) on Facebook:
“Passover begins tonight, and we wish our Jewish brothers and sisters a Pesach Sameach! We know that those celebrating will not be able to attend the marriage equality rallies at the Supreme Court tomorrow, but we ask as you are conducting your Seders and retelling the struggle for freedom, that you include a prayer for the Supreme Court Justices to hear our plea to be free from second class status and grant all citizens the freedom to marry those they love.”
Channeling my yenta Jewish lady character with a bissel Yiddish: “I’m kvelling over our family. Who are these meshuganaputzs who don’t want equality? Meh. Everyone should just be happy and healthy. Love is love. Who needs this shpilkes? Let everyone get married who wants to. Everyone should have the same rights. Plus that IRS married filing jointly deduction. I tell you. No joke. So, people against marriage equality are fakakta and should keep their narishkeit and hateful punims away. Oy! Pass the wine. We need to keep schlepping along.
Today was a big day at the U.S. Supreme Court. You can read more about it here.
Our cousins Jeff, Andrew, and Josh inspire me with their love of life and family and their ongoing, tireless work for justice. Equality should be theirs, too. You can read more about their story here and here.
I’m proud to stand up for my friends and family, for Marriage Equality for ALL. I hope the Supreme Court makes the right decision about Prop 8. and DOMA.
Lastly, check out this very short video from the ADL. Imagine.
Hi. It’s been too long. Rather than tell you a lot about January and February (nutshell: there’s been sickness, all non life threatening, yet relentless), I’ll jump in with right now.
Looking outside my window at the tree which has started to bud and rain that hasn’t stopped since this morning. The droplets of water on the tree branches are shiny crystals.
I hear the drizzle of the rain
Like a memory it falls
Soft and warm continuing
Tapping on my roof and walls
—“Kathy’s Song, Simon & Garfunkel.
It’s a quiet, grey day. It reminds of a day when I helped my father with a photography project in Northern Israel (late 1980s). There were olive tree groves we walked through after it rained, cows munching on grass, wildflowers growing like crazy in the green fields (red, purple, yellow), and people. We took pictures of the trees, cows, wildflowers, and people. My view is different today, but a rainy day like this brings back memories. Is the field still there? The people?
I’m sending you hearts, because I’ve got files of posts I wrote and abandoned. I figure since it’s been so long I’ll start by sending love to you for reading this and for being out there, for doing whatever it is you’re doing.
Maybe you’re digging out from under your own piles or sickness or winter or memories? Maybe you’re looking out a window and you’re remembering something from long ago, and you don’t have pictures, just fragments of color, the scent of rain and dirt, flashes that come to your brain when you’re alone. When you’re alone and you face your window or your mirror or the page.
The piles are in every room; toys, clothes, shoes. I could easily spend my day just opening old mail which needs to be shredded, recycled, or tossed. Time passes too quickly so that isn’t happening today.
Not saying much, just recovering after a few deaths of people I knew and loved (in particular, my friend’s mother in Israel, my far away, always and forever friends, like family. Is 36 years a long time? It’s gone so fast). And also birthdays, mine, and many others in my family. What do they call this? Transitions. I call it, people die and it hurts. We’re one year older. Things are always changing and staying the same.
Max said this about death recently:
“When someone you love dies, a piece of your soul dies.”
Inspiration is slow finding it’s way to me. It’s being unpacked, uncovered, dusted off. Yes, there’s the occasional shred-fest, clean up, and wonderful throwing out of nonsense, old, old, stuff that doesn’t do anything but clutter (in the rooms and in my mind). But not today. Not in any big rush, barely slivers of tiny moments of noticing, being, like fog clearing. From, “I can’t see the forest for the trees ” to “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel” to: the light is dim but it’s there and watch for other things that sparkle and shine, because they do exist, and yes they’re there even on the grey days but it’s also true that sometimes you can’t see bright light. I imagine if every day was bright, we’d get blinded by it, or we’d complain it’s way too hot. Or too bright. I do love a rainy day with muted colors and flashes of sparkle on the trees.
To wake up from a winter hibernation of sorts (but with not nearly enough napping), a hungry bear, ready to work.
The Man Who Has Many Answers from A Thousand Mornings Poems by Mary Oliver
“The man who has many answers
is often found
in the theaters of information
where he offers, graciously,
his deep findings.
While the man who has only questions,
to comfort himself, makes music.”
Deciding to write and then actually writing. Planning to paint and then actually painting, and all without knowing how any of it will turn out. This carving out, claiming time for the work. I will write and/or paint today between 10am-2pm and I’ll be happy if it ends up being two hours or one hour, or ten minutes as long as the words get out of my head and some paint comes out of the tube and ends up on a surface because I have sat at the computer and typed and saved, written in the notebook, or lifted my brushes and dipped them in paint and made a mark on the canvas or paper— not just wished I was doing that, but in fact did that. Creating the time in little bits requires stopping the outside noise, radio, TV, going offline, ringers must be turned down or off, doors closed, window blinds open.
Gathering the supplies, ink, brushes, tubes, rags, paper, notes written on scraps and stickies and ideas posted on my wall. Pick one idea. Do it. Today, not tomorrow. Start small. One tiny thing.
I’ve started writing a children’s book. Daffodils are coming up. Max made this and called it “Spring.”
Everything is terrifying. Everything is wonderful. Everything is in between.
I hope you’re well.
Back again soon.
all words and images by Elana A. Halberstadt except where noted otherwise.
Again, in the unfolding of yet another epic tragedy this day, Friday, December 14, 2012. Reading in tiny bits, because I can’t tolerate and function as a good mother if I allow myself to read or watch or see too much and my job is to protect and take care of my son first, before everything or anything else. Max is home sick today. Were he at school, I might have driven over there to take him home upon hearing the news. Or I’d have resisted, telling myself, but he’s safe there. But, he’s here, so I’ve got the good fortune to know he’s OK. I’m considering homeschooling at this moment. The information isn’t palatable, it isn’t acceptable, it is too awful, too heartbreaking, too senseless, beyond understanding—-the horrifying news about Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, today. My heart goes out to everyone affected by this monumental tragedy today.
My current Facebook status:
“Our country must find a way to stop the gun insanity now. I feel like a broken record along with many other voices screaming into the wind about this for ages now. How many more of these insane, senseless, heartbreaking tragedies will occur before we stop this? This country is on a killing spree. Apparently, there is a green light and OK to gun down wolves and other helpless animals. It is apparently also acceptable in our country to gun down children in schools. The mentality and warped thinking behind both the reckless treatment of wildlife and abuse of the environment here and our citizens — is one and the same. Approximately 32 people die daily from gun violence. They die in places that never make the national news. We have to make it NOT BE OK ANYMORE FOR THIS TO HAPPEN ANYWHERE. It has to stop. The violent gun culture and bullying from the NRA and all those who are beholden to the money and greed and who have twisted the “Right to bear arms” into something completely insane, must be taken down and stopped. Our children deserve better than this. We all deserve better. And we can do better and we simply have to. But it will take large numbers of MORE people speaking up and protesting and writing letters and holding our leaders accountable. Please help be the change on this.”
Mothers and fathers holding their breath and waiting and finding out something that one doesn’t wish on an enemy; the loss of a child. The murder of children. Children. At school. The words, multiple victims. 100 rounds. Maybe more. The complete and utter insanity of our country’s gun laws; weapons of war with ridiculously easy access to anyone; the criminal, the insane, the hopeless, the angry, the mentally unstable, the killer, the one who fell through the cracks of the system. Anyone. The screaming into the wind of advocates and activists and mayors and teachers and doctors and nurses and citizens, parents and children –—screaming into the cold wind today, falling on knees, lost in grief today. Today, yesterday, and what will tomorrow bring? Monday? How does one go about breathing after this? My heart breaks and aches for the families, the community, the school, the friends and children. It is enough. It is more than enough. Can the lessons please be learned now? I demand answers from our government. I demand change. We must rise up and scream loudly together, please, it must change. It is the seventh night of Chanukah tonight. I want GUN CONTROL. Speaking of light, can our leaders please WAKE UP and see the LIGHT? It is 10 days before Christmas Eve. How about GUN CONTROL for Christmas?
Make no mistake. There is no safe place for our children in America today. There is no school or movie theater or mall or space anywhere that is safe as long as there are weapons and ammunition flowing like milk, every day, everywhere. There is a war in America. There is a war on our children in America. There is a failing mental health system. There is a glorified culture of violence, greed, power, and abuse. There are also wolves being hunted down, innocent, beautiful creatures, gunned down for no reason. It is the same mentality behind the gun control issue and the destruction of our environment and the killing of innocents—wildlife, children. It is the same forces behind both that are evil and power hungry and thoughtless and harmful to all living beings. This is the source of our downfall. It must change. We are all connected. We will all fall down together.
Mothers know that if a child is lost the mother will never recover even if she appears to. Even if “time passes.” Even if “she heals.” Mothers know that losing one’s child is likely the single worst thing that can possibly befall a human being and every mother lives with the fear that something could happen to her child for her entire life and every mother prays that she be the one to go first, as is the natural order of things. And every day, mothers send their children to school, even knowing this. But no one knows the pain of it until it happens to you, the specific mother, for whom life is over in ways that no one understands; each individual loss being unique and irreplaceable and impossible to know. A grief which makes one wish the sun could stop shining, and the moon not rise, or stars evaporate, because your world has become something that cannot be lived in anymore. To live in the pain of that loss is something every mother hopes she never has to face. How does one go on breathing after losing a child? And in this way? I don’t know. This was an elementary school. I don’t know anything anymore.
Every mother is feeling the pain and loss from afar, but the mothers who lost, we can’t even hold or comfort because they’ve just all entered into a different dimension and are on another planet now, even though here on earth, wishing perhaps to be swallowed up, wishing for death, because the pain of the loss is too great to bear.
Would there be a grace to come upon the families, the mothers of the children who have been murdered today. Oh, but we cannot take away what has been done. There is no comfort. There is no grace.
Mothers know that one child lost is too many. Mothers know that if a mother somewhere else is grieving, a mother across the planet will feel her pain and cry real tears of loss with her, a complete stranger, across the world, or next door. But we cannot stand in her place, imagining, heaven forbid, saying that, oh, there but for the grace of God go I, that it could be, heaven forbid, in my child’s school. Whether you believe in God or heaven or not, only imagining for a few minutes at a time, or we’d be collapsed on the floor and we have children we must care for. I don’t believe God has a hand in this. I believe guns and ammunition and gun laws that make no sense and a lack of mental health services are the hand in this. A shooter has a hand in this. The ones he got the guns from have a hand in this. The NRA has a hand in this. The government that won’t change the laws has a hand in this.
So we will reserve our cries for later, in bed, to cry into our pillows over the lives lost and the parents mourning their children. And, if only. If only. Maybe in the future, but that is too late for the people suffering today. All the lives shattered. When can it be enough? The pain is too great, today. It is too great the pain that has taken children away from their mothers and fathers today. And every single one of us must think of the lost children today and their parents’ suffering and imagine standing in their shoes. Then take action. Because we are all potential targets of madmen with guns and it is on all of us to demand change. If ever there was a national crisis, and a moment of reckoning, this is it.
There is no time to wait; this is not political for the sake of politics or party,
This is human survival time. This is the time to demand justice for our children and our wildlife because it is one and the same –behind the killing of children and helpless animals and the ruination of our planet —- allowing that to happen and not stopping it—it is all different shades of murder. Children and our wildlife are innocents. They are to be protected. Not gunned down. Not gunned down in fields or at school. Elementary school. Where is the mercy and the clarity and the wisdom we mothers (and so many fathers) know already? Why are our voices not heard? Who are the men who hate children so much that they must clutch their automatic weapons designed as killing machines for war and tell us they have the right to bear arms in this way? Who does this? Why the guns? When we will our nation say it must stop now? Now. Not next year. Not in six months. Now. Today. Can this be the last time? I’ve asked that before. Countless others have asked it. I doubt it will be the way things are going, even as flags are lowered, as candles are lit, as vigils held, prayers offered in the dark, circles of grief expanding. But I have this deeply held wish that it will change if we all just make enough noise about it. Or is time to leave? Is that the answer? I don’t know anymore. Other countries seem to have this worked out a lot better than we do.
This is the exact time (we are long overdue, but, oh, please, let it be NOW) for a radical change in our gun control laws. It can be done. It can be done. Let’s make it done.
Because a six year old says things like this:
“Drawing is like making your dreams come true. It’s like you’re making a story without words.”
And creates work like this:
And believes that there are safe places.
And believes home and school and the street are safe places.
I hope you’re all safe and sound after the storm. We’re OK.
I just started writing a post about the storm and after the storm. Then I saw a post and pic (see below) on Sesame Street’s Facebook page today. Since this show airs tomorrow –in the NY area, on WNET-13, it’s on at 7:00am—I’m sending this out now.
I highly recommend it for anyone with young children; anyone who may have been impacted by Hurricane Sandy or who knows someone who’s been affected; or for anyone who’s human with access to power and a TV.
As with everything Sesame Street produces, this special episode is helpful for children and grown ups alike. It touches on a range of emotions experienced by so many, but that are often difficult to express, understand, or cope with.
“On Friday, we’ll be airing a very special episode of Sesame Street.
A hurricane has swept through Sesame Street and everyone is working together to clean up the neighborhood. When Big Bird checks on his home, he is heartbroken to find that the storm has destroyed his nest. Big Bird’s friends and neighbors gather to show their support and let him know they can fix his home, but it will take time. While everyone on Sesame Street spends the next few days cleaning up and making repairs, Big Bird still has moments where he is sad, angry, and confused. His friends help him cope with his emotions by talking about what happened, drawing pictures together, and giving him lots of hugs. They also comfort Big Bird by offering him temporary places he can eat, sleep, and play. Big Bird remembers all the good times he had at his nest and realizes that once it is rebuilt, there are more good times and memories to come. Finally the day has come where most of the repairs to Big Bird’s home are done and his nest is complete. As he is about to try it out, though, the city nest inspector says it not safe, yet, because the mud isn’t dry. Big Bird is sad that he has to wait another day, but Snuffy comes to the rescue and blows the nest dry and he passes the test! Big Bird thanks everyone for being his friend and helping to rebuild his nest and his home.”
Please check your local listingsto see what time the episode “Sesame Street Gets Through a Storm” will air on PBS, at
I’m wishing everyone well: All people, animal creatures great and small, trees, homes, businesses, bridges, tunnels — everything. To all those who are working hard to keep us safe, emergency workers, police departments, hospitals, mayors, governors, electric and power companies, reporters, journalists, everyone –thank you for everything you’re doing to keep us safe up and down the East Coast.
This was the sky here yesterday afternoon. It’s getting a bit windy but is still relatively calm-ish. Birds are circling and tweeting and squirrels are scurrying about. The hatches are battened down. We’re as ready as we can be.
This is a big oak that’s on our neighbor’s property that we love and enjoy.
Max helped us set up a Command Central on our kitchen table. He’s actually quite excited and is looking forward to the potential power outage so he can use his flashlight(s). I don’t exactly share his enthusiasm for power outages, but we should be fine if we do have one.
Oy, it’s been too long! Things have been kinda nuts. Max was sick. I was sick. Work. Life. Ah, there’s never enough time in the day, never a dull moment. I’ve got a lot of ground to cover and my brain is swirling, trying to get through my daily to-do list.
I’m thinking about the campaigning, debates, and the upcoming election; how facts don’t matter but eye contact and sound bytes do; that I’m bombarded with daily emails from the PTA. I can’t keep up! I need to breathe into a paper bag. This is going out long so I hope you’ll bear with me, because I’ve got a backlog of stuff I’ve written, and I gotta hit “publish.”
In the next few weeks leading up to the election, I’ll be posting as much as I can. I’m an athieist, yet I find myself saying daily prayers as I go about my business. I figure, what can it hurt? Maybe it’ll help. I say silent ones inside my head if I’m in public. Out loud if I’m at home alone. I reference God, Allah, Jesus, and Buddha. I read books. I look up sources of reason, logic, science, art. I ask questions, attempting to discern fact from fiction. I think of higher powers. I think of the Universe. Stars. I look at trees with their multi-colored leaves falling and their strong bark trunks, in an effort to find hope there, too. I make sure the bird feeder is filled. The birds just sing, oblivious. I’m out of my mind with worry. The stakes are incredibly high.
I’m a proud bleeding heart liberal democrat. During these days, as with all stressful times, our cat, Ringo is my blood pressure reducer and general comforter. There is a creature who is alive, who gives and receives love. We take care of each other. We’re all creatures who are born here on this planet Earth first and foremost, to receive and give love.
There are, and always have been, evil forces at work. It has been so since the beginning of time. History is filled with examples of horrors inflicted by one nation or group upon others, by dictators, by men without souls. Mr. Romney (and his running mate Paul Ryan) are about as evil and scary as they come. I’m petrified for myself, my family, our country, and the world if, heaven forbid, they win. I’m waking up in cold sweats from nightmares. During the day, I get rolling chills or nausea. I’m raiding the Halloween candy daily and drinking way too much coffee.
Little side note: While helping Max fall asleep on Sunday, he was going on and on with a case for why I needed to stay with him all night and how much he loves me. He ended it with: “Ok, comment on that.” Maybe he’s watching too much MSNBC with me.
This is what I wrote following the final presidential debate on foreign policy on Monday, October 22, 2012. Thank you for reading. Stay sane by any means necessary and VOTE like your life depends on it. It does.
After the last presidential debate and last few days:
Let me see if I got this straight: According to smirk, smile, quiver, shift, stare, fake smile, shift, sweat, squirm-Romney, President Obama is responsible for the turmoil and tumult in the Middle East. Never mind thousands of years of complex history. Iran is the scariest one. Israel is a best friend forever. But there’s daylight between us.
Terror needs to be stopped and should never happen again anywhere but if it does, it’s Obama’s fault. Egypt, Syria, Libya, Lebanon–we need to make sure their Arab Spring finally blooms. Why is it taking so long over there to become “civilized?”
We don’t want to drive down a road or path to Greece (which is good because you need to fly or travel by boat to get there from here). China is a currency manipulator. Hello, Sensata, Freehold, IL, Bain-outsourcing much? Devastating more lives and yet another American town as we watch helplessly. But he’ll be tough on China.
On DAY ONE, just as soon as Romney finishes his morning coffee, er, herbal tea party blend, he’s gonna overturn The Affordable Health Care Act aka Obamacare, Roe v. Wade, “get rid of that” Planned Parenthood, and send Big Bird packing up his nest. Then he’ll call China and tell them, no more stealing patents and technology! It’s not nice to steal. Russia and Iran need a proper talking to so they know who’s boss around these here world parts. But, nevermind everything he’s ever said or voted for to date, now he’s for everything President Obama said. Really! It’s all about the moment of now. Wait a minute…now! See how that works? Ya gotta move fast to keep up with his forward /backwards / I didn’t say that /Yes, I did/ No, I didn’t – shell game.
Someone memorized names of cities, terror groups, and even pronounced Ahmadinejad’s name, but Romney sweated profusely throughout, a sure sign of a calm, collected, thoughtful public servant or commander-in-chief to be who speaks the truth. All that lying, flip-flopping, and fake condescending smiling is exhausting. This foreign policy business is hard. You try it.
Gender Equality — ooh, isn’t it exciting when Romney learns a new phrase? It’s a good idea overseas, especially for the Middle East, but here in America, we’ll implement The Whole Binders Full of Women Act which makes much more sense in that most American women would prefer to return to the 1950s, or perhaps even go back farther in time (pick your own favorite oppressive /repressive century). Life was infinitely better for everyone back then, especially for women, who loved baking apple pies all day long, dying in childbirth, tending to their God-given rape and incest children, barely surviving or not surviving their back alley abortions, or dying from cervical or breast cancer due to lack of healthcare and technology like mammograms or pap smears.
Also, women earning less or no money is great for the economy, self-esteem, and equality! That’s why so many American women are trying desperately to move to places like the Congo or Taliban ruled areas where they can be free of such things like rape, murder or Sharia law and finally can become self actualized independent human beings while washing their ragged clothing down by the banks of the blood filled, Malaria contaminated, yet also drought ridden, used to be a river shores.
At the soonest possible opportunity, we’ll get the entire Community of Nations to sit in a drum circle and sing Kumbaya for Peace. Because Peace is a good thing and Mitt really likes peace! He would really like to be President—like, a lot! Iraq was a good war. No it wasn’t. Yes, it was. We need to stay in Afghanistan indefinitely but we’ll be outta there on December 31, 2014, mark his words.
Also, climate change and energy was once again mysteriously not mentioned along with Europe, which apparently also doesn’t exist. Remember, we don’t want to become Greece, but maybe it’s OK to vacation there. Other options include buying an island (using money stolen from the Middle Class, poor and working poor, seniors, people with disabilities, and brave veterans who will not ever be mentioned out loud, but please know they’re in our hearts and prayers). Or you can keep your untaxed money (because you built it) someplace warm and sunny, like the Cayman Islands, which has beautiful marine life, too. That can be destroyed some day. Maybe start blasting or fracking there on DAY TWO. But first, the Tar Sands XL Pipeline will be fully implemented because we need to decimate that side of the continent ASAP.
Luckily, the arctic is well on it’s way to a spectacular demise so we’ve got that going for us. Polar Bears, while white and super cute on holiday greeting cards, just aren’t necessary for the growth of the economy. Also, if it takes killing a bunch of birds or irreversibly damaging our planet to get more Chinese workers earning a dollar a day, then that’s what needs to be done. It’s all about priorities. Please, people: birds, air, water, food, mountains, trees. Really? That is all extraneous fluff and there’s no line in the budget for that. Everyone knows that President Obama and all the Democrats single-handedly destroyed the economy which was in perfectly fine shape from 2000-2008. And that is why both Presidents Bush 1 and 2 are out stumping for Romney every day. They know what really happened.
Again, the economy is the number one focus and the economy stands alone and isn’t connected to any other realm, such as social or environmental justice, the needs of the people, or the health of the planet and all it’s inhabitants. Humanity and nature are entirely overrated and have no connection or interdependence! Science and math are also silly. Fact checking is a waste of time and energy. Truth is subjective and perception is reality. Souls are fully refundable and exchangeable if you’ve got a receipt. People know that the Earth is flat and God created Heaven and Earth and everything in it in a mere seven days! God built it! It says so in the Bible and that’s the truth.
Jobs, jobs, jobs! Better to ship the jobs to China like Sensata which is happening right now and is a perfect example of how Romney will lead this glorious country into the next era, which isn’t to be named yet, because it’s so bright, brimming with hope, possibility, and prosperity for him and his BFFs, that there’s no word in the vocabulary for his vision of America. It’s literally that great! Seriously, you know he was born in America, right? And he loves cars! Do you love cars? He also loves car elevators; they’re super awesome.
Bayonets, horses, and AK-47 Assault rifles are going on sale any minute now. Better stock up for the holidays! What better way to say, “I love you!” You don’t need a permit or mental health background check, just walk on up, choose your weapon, and stand your ground! You can target your fellow citizens anywhere; Schools, office buildings, movie theaters, day spas—you choose your favorite weapon and place. Now, that’s undeniable, red-blooded, American freedom, people! That’s what I call CHOICE!
Presidential lessons, voting machines, and access to the red button are now available for purchase by SuperPacs for only 1 Billion dollars! Such a bargain, considering how many people we could feed and house for that amount. Heck, you could even give Big Bird a break and let him stay around. But, never mind all that nonsense about people! Just remember, it’s all about the economy. The Romney-Ryan economy. And their plan (which we’re not privy to knowing, or hearing about in any reasonable detail), doesn’t include 99% of America. 47% of America. Just the 1% gosh darn lucky, extra hard-working, ever-sacrificing “job creators” who built this: 1%.
All words and images are copyright Elana Halberstadt 2012, except for the political memes, charts, and graphs gathered from the internet— All copyrights belong to the associated owners. The Polar Bear greeting card is copyright Kennan Ward Photography.
Then yesterday, the news that Neil Armstrong had also died.
I stopped trying to write and let it all sink in. I tried to focus on the good.
Two great men. Two kinds of heroes. Both figures that entered my world when I was just a toddler and have been around my whole life. Gone.
Jerry Nelson was immensely talented. He brought joy and learning to countless children and grown ups over his long and marvelous career.
I thought about watching Sesame Street as a child in 1969 when it first aired.
I found myself furiously sketching this:
Then I reached for a book, Sesame Street Unpaved, scripts, stories, secrets and songs by David Borgenicht
I thought of my friends who work at Sesame Street and how sad they must be.
I thought about how incredibly fortunate I was to work there (on and off) in a variety of jobs for over 20 years. I first started working there in the early 90’s, just a few weeks before the late, great Jim Henson died. At that time, I was an intern, answering viewer mail. I’d never seen so many condolences letters. So many lives were touched and changed by his work. And we continue to enjoy his greatness even though he’s long gone from the planet. I think Jerry Nelson will also be remembered for a very long time, especially through his remarkable body of work as a masterful puppeteer, most notably as the creator and original performer of The Count, among many other characters.
How do you quantify or measure that?
I’m reminded of a quote attributed to Albert Einstein:
“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”
Jerry Nelson’s work and legacy lives on in the many characters he created; immortalized on film and video. It’s all there for us to enjoy for years to come. What a great gift we’ve been left with.
I thought about relationships and work colleagues. I met my husband at a party on the set of Sesame Street in 1995. Tomorrow, we’re celebrating our 12th wedding anniversary. I couldn’t be more grateful for that life changing moment when my friend, a writer for the show, introduced us. I love and admire her for many reasons. That moment, which has led us to 17 years together, is certainly one of the biggest reasons. That isn’t something I can quantify. It’s immeasureable. At the same time, it counts as a HUGE moment that altered my life for the better and in ways which I could not have imagined for myself.
Makes me think of when Andy plays the Elton John song so beautifully on piano, “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” (Lyrics, Bernie Taupin):
“And I thank the Lord for the people I have found.”
Oh, yes, minus the Lord, for me, but yes, deeply thankful for the people I have found. And what a beautiful song that is.
I thought about how when loved ones die and leave behind a family, friends, colleagues, those people will never celebrate another living anniversary or milestone or ordinary day together ever again. Life can be gone in an instant. I’m grateful daily for the people in my life. Gratitude helps with my sadness. It grounds me in what is here now and it lives along with the sadness. It isn’t one instead of the other. It is both. Sadness and gratitude holding hands.
I thought about respect, talent, and a love of children. And a belief that all children have a right to a decent, good education that is free from war, violence, and sorrow. They have a right that we do our best to provide that. They deserve that we don’t stop working towards that.
Here, two great men, one from the arts, one from science–both made remarkable contributions to our country and the world. I think about science and the arts and that they’re equally important and they’re both connected by imagination, exploration, and discovery, by hard work and requiring an attitude of humility, and open minds that creates a pursuit of life long learning, which in turn creates progress. I want Max to have role models and heroes in every area of life. And I want him (and all the other children in this country and beyond) to grow up in a place where both science and the arts are recognized as being of value.
And where they intersect–in places like Sesame Street, counting, numbers, and math delivered in a fun, playful, accessible way. Art, math, and music together! Do you remember that Slimey the Worm also went into space? Sesame Street pretty much covers it all. Then there is flight, courage, space exploration, walking on the moon, and from that we have heard and seen some of the most poetic words and images. There was an opening up of imagination and expanding limits beyond what was possible that still inspires today:
“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
–Neil Armstrong, First man to walk on the moon
I get goosebumps every time I see that footage. I was three when I saw it happen live for the first time. It never gets old.
I thought about a disgruntled worker, killing another. Someone lost their job a year ago, and on Friday, killed a man, and created panic and fear in the heart of NYC. The news says what it says. The same story spins around again.
I thought about guns and why our country is hell-bent on self-destruction, so heartbroken, fearful, and angry. Quick to pull the trigger. So desperately sad. I watch neighborhood children with their toy guns and their water guns, and I wonder why their parents can’t (or won’t) find them something else to do with their natural, human aggression? Why the guns?
Then I thought about people like Jerry Nelson who brought light and laughter into the world. Our world needs people in it who bring fun, light, color, movement, creativity, and music. Then I think about those who suggest the arts, physical education, foreign language, libraries, and classroom aides are lines that should (and are) cut from the budgets. They are deemed unnecessary. Really? Imagine a world without art, music, film, tv, theater, or books.
We need to give children a fighting chance to grow up by making our country safer and healthier. We need people who inspire learning and play. We need science and math and ALL of it. We need people to end hunger. We need people to fight poverty. We need people to teach in ways that support and nuture children, not just test them into oblivion. We need business, too, of course, but not instead of people and their basic welfare and health. There’s a way to have both. Not all businesses are evil, far from it. But priorities must shift. Maybe remembering these two men will remind us all what people can become and accomplish if they’re nurtured, educated, and fed both literally and figuratively.
I see people are incredibly unkind to one another. The anger is spraying bullets through easily purchased guns. I came across this:
“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
I can’t say I’ve never been unkind, I know I’ve been unkind, and I know I’ll likely be unkind again, because I’m human, and sometimes people are unkind. But what if we made this our goal? Something that we work towards. At least something we attempt to do with our children. Each other. Our city. Our town. Our country. Our planet. The only thing I can come up with for today: to the news of the violence, to the news of death, to the news of endings–is to send out words, colors, love, and wishes for peace.
I choose a rainbow of colors, fur, monsters that don’t hurt, but teach us how to be human.
I choose marveling at the moon and the men who walked on it.
Thank you, Jerry Nelson for the years of amazing characters, voices, and songs. I hope you rest in peace. You have made a difference in so many lives, including mine.
I love this quote from him I found in Sesame Street Unpaved:
“Don’t give up, no matter how far away you are from the mark.”
For my friends who knew Jerry Nelson personally, and who worked with him, some over a lifetime, you have my deepest sympathy and I’m sorry for your loss.
For Neil Armstrong, American Hero, I’ll see you in the moon, there to remind me what is possible when dedicated people work together for the greater good.
A long time ago, a little girl saw images on TV and they lit a spark that continues to inspire today. Thank you.
all words and images copyright 2012 Elana Halberstadt except where noted otherwise.
Just had a technical problem. I published this earlier today. Just a few minutes ago, I was fixing a typo I’d missed. I somehow messed things up…the piece I had posted just disappeared…Long story short, I managed to restore my earlier draft, and I’m publishing it again here. Unfortunately, some of the comments and likes I’d received already seemed to have gone missing also. So sorry, folks!
Today, I’m celebrating one year of this blog. Cue the confetti and balloons.
Nah. But I did check my stats and was stunned and amazed to learn that people from at least 47 countries have visited this blog. Many are places I might never get the chance to visit. Some I’ve been to. I know people here in the US who are from some of the countries on this list. Others, I’ve lived in; the United States, Israel, and Ireland.
It is humbling and wonderful to take a minute and be excited about how great some things in life are. Being able to connect with people all over the world is really a GREAT thing. I’m happy to be a part of a community of bloggers who are reading and writing in all corners of the world. I follow quite a few and while I never get to read as much as I’d like to, I’m inspired when I do and am happy this forum exists for all of us.
I realize this is a long list, but I want to thank every single one of you who’ve visited me here from:
Afghanistan, Algeria, Argentina, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Bermuda, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, Netherlands, Panama, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Serbia, Singapore, Spain, Slovenia, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Viet Nam.
Some flowers for you:
I just reread my first post. It seems like it was yesterday. Much has changed. Much remained the same.
Thank you for signing up, reading, commenting, and sharing this.
I’d also like to welcome and thank the newest subscribers and likers!
Many of you have encouraged me and lent an ear or kind word. Your support and kindness often arrived at the exact moments of my self-doubt, exactly when I needed them most. I’m sending virtual hugs and more flowers and hope you’ll like what’s coming in the next year, too. Things will probably change a bit. I’m not sure exactly how.
I’ve been playing around with the themes and design, trying different things. I haven’t written my ABOUT section yet. It’s on my list to do this year. And I still don’t have a nifty, catchy title for this blog. I can rename it. I’m thinking about it. This is an ongoing work in progress.
I recently upgraded to no-ads on my site, so you shouldn’t be seeing any more. If you do, kindly let me know. By the way, I’ve been very happy here at WordPress. When I’ve got a question or need help, the support staff is responsive and helpful.
When I look back, I see that the main topics I wrote about were: Max, our relationship, things we learned from each other and our experiences, feelings, a variety of social and environmental justice concerns, bullying, violence and gun control, art, writing, creativity and other life stuff about getting along in the world.
A dear friend and fellow writer shared this with me way back at the beginning of this blog. I use it as a kind of mantra when I get stuck:
“Stop worrying if your vision is new
Let others make that decision
They usually do
Just keep moving on.”
—Sondheim, Sunday in the Park with George
Just keep moving on.
I’ve been watching out for color (it helps when I get discouraged). I watch in awe as Max gets bigger and brighter. There is wonder everywhere I go with him. I’m thankful to be able to see the world through his eyes. It is both scary and safe. Dark and colorful. Fast and slow. We share a deep love for ice cream sundaes.
I’ve been thinking about this new phase we’re going into; Kindergarten and public school. The other day, I bumped into the parents of one of Max’s preschool friends and we had one of those on-the-run-morning-chats. The dad looked at me and blurted out, “Honestly, I’m afraid of Kindergarten. Afraid of the whole thing.” I was delighted to hear this, and said, “Yes, me, too. Let’s be scared together!” Then we laughed and the fear evaporated for that moment. I love moments like that. YES! You’re not alone. I’m not alone. We’re laughing.
I truly believe that the connections / friendships / relationships we have with each other are what make life worth living, worth fighting for, worth “Just keep moving on” for.
So, thank you to my family and friends, both near and far. And to you, Dear Reader, wherever you are, thank you!
Love & peace,
“The thing that is important is the thing that is not seen…”
—The Little Prince, Antoine De Saint-Exupery
All words and images copyright 2012 Elana Halberstadt except where noted.