Archive for the ‘Jewish Life’ Category

The Capitol Limited

June 1st, 2015 Comments off


aka Amtrak #29 connects Washington DC and Chicago. The journey is supposed to take about 16 hours – give or take. This obviously is not all that high speed (take it from some one who has done this by car) for a distance of about 700 miles. Not being completely stupid, I have a roomette booked. It might be a lot cheaper to travel by straight coach but the smell and noise level can be overwhelming. There always seem to be both those who haven’t had the opportunity for hygiene mixed in with those who think everyone on the train is dying to hear other people’s cell phone conversations. At 0300 in the morning. Not.

I spent this morning touring the National Museum of American Jewish Military History. It’s worth a visit for those who happen to be in the vicinity of 1811 R Street NW. Not open on Sunday just to give you the heads up. Overall, it is well done but seems to have a few significant holes in the collection since I happen to know for a fact that there have been women as well as men serving in the military all the way back to the Civil War…..

The Loop (Yarn Store) 1732 Connecticut NW isn’t open on Monday. Inhabited by staff but not open…

Categories: Jewish Life, military, Travel Tags:

Leaving Uganda

April 3rd, 2015 Comments off

It is after dark and there are some lights shining out between the Cassia Lodge and Lake Victoria. It means that Shabbat has arrived. For that matter – it means that the first night of Passover has arrived as well.


We had finished by noon today, both with lectures and a session in Mengo Hospital Lab. I will not readily  admit how many years it has been since I personally prepared thick&thin slides for malaria diagnosis.  Since the flight times for our group varied from 1830 onwards we had a couple members leave from the lab directly to the airport. The remaining four of us came back to the hotel for the afternoon. Given that there were a number of hours, Silke, Sarah and I split a room so that we could rest, lounge and shower before getting stuck in the lobby for the last couple of hours.

Did I mention that I am returning home on Turkish Airlines via Istanbul?


Well, anyway that is the plan. Lufthansa doesn’t fly directly from here. Nor does Austrian or Swiss Air. So my choice was Ethiopian or Turkish. Having flown on the latter, it was excellent plus I would rather change planes in Istanbul.

But I have not been able to check in on line. As it turns out, they have only the one flight per day coming through on a loop – Istanbul-Kigali-Entebbe-Istanbul which means that the counter might not be open for a while. I will update you….

(Right about midnight – give or take)

We left the hotel about 2030 and hit an insane amount of traffic immediately. So instead of taking 50-55 minutes it turned into almost 100 minutes. It was about when we were at the airport that the trip organizer mentioned about he was glad KLM didn’t leave till midnight. No, the time has been changed to 2330. Ooops. We get to the terminal to hit screening (everything through a huge x-ray that I am not sure had anyone watching the screen. The two on the KLM flight dashed for the counter which was about to close.  Counter->Gate->boarding.

It was about then I found that Turkish Airlines doesn’t open their counters till around midnight…

But I managed to get checked in as soon as they opened, through immigration and to the “one lounge for everyone.”  And everything to eat, other than fruit and chips is either on bread, wrapped in dough or is bakery products.  Fruit is good, and chips are a vegetable, right?


Categories: Jewish Life, Travel Tags:

Pesach winding down

April 22nd, 2014 Comments off


With the current fad of gluten free, it is honestly easy to find food to eat during Peasch. I am not putting down or questioning the reasonable percentage of those who have actually had a diagnosis of Celiac Disease made.  It is however a time of year when I have to seriously consider what I eat and how it is prepared.


My last couple of years have been different than the previous 26. Even deploying, I stuck to a vegetarian diet that included eggs and dairy but not meat in any form. Hint – if it had eyes I didn’t eat it. Now, you can make all the jokes you want about potatoes. I heard them all over the years as well as comments on the “white diet” which were those days when the various dining halls offered cauliflower, mashed potatoes and rice as the only items on the serving line which were warm and uncontaminated with beast du jour.


Part of my decisions during those years were religious, part on ethical grounds and mostly just for health reasons. But then I started cruising more and more. It was impossible to eat a healthy vegetarian diet on ship (enough protein) without more trouble than it was worth. Anything that came out of the deep fat fryer suffered from both intensive fat levels plus having shared a basket with all sorts of things that I just don’t eat nor want in the neighborhood. Kitchen prep on ships is good – no issues with separation of cutting boards and knives between meats and vegetable products. But trying feel comfortable about eating any thing that came off a grill in the morning? Am I really sure that there were no pork products around the pancakes or french toast? How about those scrambled eggs? Are they powdered or real? And a diet of hard boiled eggs, yogurt and oatmeal gets to be extremely boring even when augmented with fruits, veggies and salad when eaten three times a day.


Fish was the first compromise. It happened over Passover a few years ago. If you don’t want any grain products, no meat, no fish this leaves you with fruit, some veggies and hard boiled eggs for eight days. Even I am not that stubborn!


Smoked salmon at breakfast. Protein – check. Fresh fruit – check. Yogurt? Dairy & calcium – check. It seemed to be a bit smarter. No treif, but a greater variety of choices off the menu.  I had to admit to myself that I was enjoying the variety of foods as the days and months started rolling along.


And then it gets to Passover again. I still don’t eat treif during Pesach, but will eat meats from the cloven hoof and chews a cud club. Not dairy and meat together, that is still a step too far for me. Which left me with an interesting dilemma last night after finishing in the gym. It was well after 2100. I hadn’t paid any attention to the closing time in the Windjammer which turns out to be 1800-2030. The main dining room final seating was 2000 and My Time was 2045. Chops and Izumi both stop seating at 2100. Did I mention that I was still in gym clothes which for me leaves out the option of eating anywhere other than Park Cafe in the Solarium.


The Cafe is open for late snacks from 2030 to midnight. It is still Passover. They have wraps (tortillas)  on offer along with panninni all of which are already made. There is pizza and there are burgers. What kind of meat is in the burger? No clue. Beef only? Can’t tell me that for sure. Next to the bin of burgers are buns (not an option) onion, tomato and lettuce along with plastic cheese slices. and a pot of lentil soup. What is the broth for the lentil soup? Vegetarian? Shoulder shrug.


Did you know that room service is quite good? They can provide a steak sandwich without the bread, a salad without dressing or croutons and some veggies and there is no delivery surcharge till after midnight.


Now my only real question becomes…… Do I save the two small squares of cheese cake on the nibbles plate from the kitchen since the chocolate covered strawberries were inhaled immediately. Or do I be a good kid and just get them out of the room since it isn’t sundown yet…….If I cover them up, it should be ok, right?

Categories: Jewish Life, Travel Tags:

Second Night Seder

April 15th, 2014 Comments off

and no, I did not attend a seder last night at the start of Pesach. It fell into the “too hard to do” box. When I was here in Miami last week, I ran a search for community seders. After eliminating all those affiliated with Chabad (we checked that box in 1981 in Charleston on our way to Germany for the first time. More than three hours into the Seder at 2200 and we still had not gotten to the meal. Not a fun time with a 2 1/2 year old) there were actually few options that were in striking distance of where I am staying. Public transportation is not exactly easy to work in Miami. Either I was no tin the right location or the synagogue wasn’t reachable

So anyway, right on the front of the webpage for Temple Beth Or was the information about their community seder to include that it was a vegetarian/fish potluck.

Now, I do potlucks. Have for years in various military communities. Only time it doesn’t work is if someone decides to be more Orthodox than thou. Those games I don’t play. I received a prompt reply from the admin office that I was more than welcome to join them and the fact that I was in a hotel didn’t present a problem, even offered a ride.

Arriving early enough, I was able to help with a bit of the set up –

setting up

setting up

Once everyone arrived I didn’t attempt to take any pictures but it was somewhere around 45 participants. Other than one family, it was pretty much baby boomers with a few of their parents generation. It is an interesting, educated and well traveled group who quietly and without fanfare watch out for each other. That includes pushing chairs, giving way to walkers and making sure that someone gets a helping of their favorite food. The Haggadah on the other hand? You can become so PC that the words stumble in your mouth (?Family Eclectic? or some other such non-sense).

But there was plenty to eat, more than enough Manischewitz wine (it was BOKW) and Kedem grape juice to give everyone heart burn.

deserts, the best part, right?

deserts, the best part, right?

It felt like community – our original military one in Heidelberg, the Seders I spent in Bosnia, Kuwait, Afghanistan where being there was more important than what you knew or your shul or town or family.

Categories: Jewish Life Tags:

What? No Jews?

October 8th, 2013 1 comment

(note, I delayed a few days and thought about it seriously before posting the following)

Whether I attended them or not, all the cruise lines seem to have a slot in the Friday night schedule for self-led services. Occasionally I would be known to drop in, or not as the mood struck. Over major holidays the ships on which I have traveled have made more than a slight effort. (some engaging the services of a cantor or rabbi over the High Holidays) or supporting organized celebrations for Hanukah (somehow a more understandable holiday to the Christian world although of minor importance to most of us on this side of the fence).

But I realized the other morning when I made the mistake of heading early to the Sky lounges ad stumbled into quavery voices raised in off-key hymns that I hadn’t noticed an option on this ship. In fact not for Jewish or Catholic services. Protestant services – there always seems to be a minister, pastor or preachers lurking among the passengers. But the lack options for me or many others was clear once I went looking.

Carmen and I noticed last June on the Constellation that they did not offer Mass. Since we were in a port on Sunday morning and one of the Cathedrals had a Mass who’s time worked there wasn’t as much issue for her in Bergen as there could have been. I am vaguely remembering there might have been an opportunity to attend Friday evening services but didn’t take advantage.  I don’t think there was that option on the Eclipse out of Southhampton and there is certainly nothing on the Solstice. Even Costa with it’s idiocy of scheduling the life boat drill at the same time as Friday night services (2012 out of Singapore) wasn’t this oblivious.

In case you frequent cruisers are wondering – the community bulletin board on this ship is not passenger friendly. If you want something posted, you have to find a member of the Cruise Director’s staff or the event coordinator. If they agree that what you want posted would be of interest to “enough passengers” then they will make up a sign and post it. Nothing (other than Bill W) will make the daily program. Just their policy, don’t argue with us, there is nothing we can (or want) to do.

WHich takes me back to my original assertion. The reason there was a Protestant service on Sunday morning was that someone went  to the staff and requested that they be able to run it along with enough pressure from others on the ship who wanted to attend that it would have been fairly uncomfortable for the staff to turn them down. However since the Cruise Critic meeting was already scheduled at 0945 in the Sky Lounge they were  provided an earlier time than requested with a take it or leave it attitude. I made an initial inquiry about other services and then dropped it as it was obviously not something the staff had heard often before nor did they seem at all interested.

Perhaps “Modern Luxury” means being “modern” in everything and eschewing support for what are assumed to be traditional passenger activities on the ship. Being modern means that Friends of Bill W get a nod, right along with unlimited drinks packages. The staff had difficulty understanding why a meeting place at one of the bars out in public was not an appropriate location.  It means an interesting selection of music (most of which is actively detested by the demographic on board) in all the lounges whether desired or not. It means furniture appropriate for 20s-40s creating challenges for the over 50 & overwieghts who become trapped in the chairs and couches.

There is no chapel on the ship, but the Captain does have the power to perform weddings which just leaves me wondering. This apparently is a cruise line for people who like comfort, style and a nod toward tradition (Tea in the Afternoon) while avoiding the uncomfortable issues of religion, discrimination or politics.

While their advertisements state that Kosher/Hallel meals are available in reality the labeling on the menus or in the Oceanview Cafe is woefully inadequate.  I have no clue why a chef would think that topping Halibut with a strip of crispy bacon was a good idea but there it was lying dead and nasty on top of my fish. It certainly wasn’t on the menu, mentioned by the waitstaff or something I would expect in a restaurant devoted to modern healthy cooking. The serving line personnel in most locations did not know which oils or fats were used for food preparation. Gluten they know, just because of the current fad but on most other issues (to include nuts and seafood) they were clueless.

So all of this might explain why I haven’t seen too many Jews on Celebrity as compared to Royal although both have the same parent corporation.  I think it also might apply to Catholics if they want a line that insures there is a Priests on long repositioning cruises.  Or maybe I am reacting to a slight undertone of distain for passengers that I have picked up across the board on this ship. Sincere efforts are made to insure passengers are getting what they want – not because it makes sense or is great customer service but in an effort to avoid complaints.

The difference is subtle but clear.  My message is less subtle – not rebooking on this ship and likely not on Celebrity again beyond those itineraries on which there are no other viable choices.

Categories: Jewish Life, Travel Tags:

quiet observations

August 3rd, 2013 6 comments

It was about 1900 when I started back toward home. Our Strikktreff had run late since it was so lovely sitting outside Red. Given that I hiked into town it is more than reasonable to assume that a stroll toward was in order.

I try different routes each time; it lets me see more of the city including the warren of little streets that make up the Weststadt. Houses, cafes, people and interesting architecture are mixed with a fine hand scattering smaller neighborhoods like small jewels. After crossing Kurfürstenanlage, strassenbahn tracks and the busbahnhof (which, with no surprise is just off Bahnhofstrasse) I headed down Häusserstraße.

This is dinner time for most families with small children. Since it is summer, the sun will not be down for a few hours. Stomping along the other side of the street from me were four young boys wearing t-shirts, shorts and sturdy shoes. They were pushing, shoving and bumping each other in the manner of small boys every where. A man, obviously their father was a few strides ahead of them with a young girl of about three skipping and swinging from his hand. I couldn’t clearly see faces since the papa and three of the four boys had baseball caps pulled firmly down on the heads. The fourth boy had the standard black velvet yarmulke perched firmly on the back of his head.

I looked up and realized we were a block short of the Jüdische Geimeinde so I think I knew their destination. And so you have the Germany of today where a family can stroll down the sidewalk on a summer’s evening. Headed perhaps to services and Havdalah on Shabbos.

Categories: home, Jewish Life Tags:

Yom Kippur at Sea

September 26th, 2012 1 comment

I am not sure what I expected. Certainly we wound up with the same challenges on boarding day as last spring on Costa. Services with a location posted and the safety/boarding/lifeboat drill effectively at the same time.  By the time I saw the note for Friday evening participation, we were long past the time and on our way to supper.

On the Jewel last spring there was a retired Cantor who happily was up in front of a congregation (the 50 or so who came out of the woodwork to participate on Shabbos).

Now, last night was Erev Yom Kippur and today Yom Kippur. Somewhere in RCI’s literature I thought I remembered that they try to round up a rabbi for the High Holidays. Given that they have 22 ships, it seems like a bit of a stretch to me. OTOH, they managed to have a Catholic Priest on this crossing.

This post is pre placed – so it might yet change after I hit the next port and can give you a slightly more accurate account of actual evens


Categories: Jewish Life, Travel Tags:

Erev Shabbat

May 4th, 2012 4 comments

AKA – you may be on vacation from work, your family and life, but you are not on vacation from yourself.

Just like when I am deployed, I will attempt to locate Friday evening services if I am at sea on Shabbas. Doesn’t mean that I will always attend, but I have been known to show up. Sometimes out of curiosity but mostly for the same reasons as when deployed: my being there may make a difference to someone else. Of course, for many people who need a minyan I am not going to count but I view that as their problem, not mine.

On most cruises, if I am at sea on Friday evening at minimum I will show up. Did I mention that Costa was a Friday cruise start? And that their emergency boat drill ran at exactly the same time as they had listed? And they wonder why no one showed up either week? On the Grandeur this time the first Friday was one of the conference rooms which worked out. The second Friday since the conference rooms were now over run with the cable guys (nothing like doing as much prep as you can which includes wiring) they had moved us to the library which was neither cool or fair to those attempting to have quiet time and read.

Anywho – RCI this time had a signup sheet at the front desk. One of the desk people mentioned they were doing this so that they could book the appropriate size space. I didn’t think anything of it when I noticed that the Windjammer Annex was designated. Finding my way in to the room with three others, there were 35 already present when we arrived. Given Jewish time, it should not surprise you to learn that there were over 50 by the end of services.

Now 50+ Jews, most of whom are over the age of 60 could potentially be a recipe for chaos given all the differences in backgrounds, experiences and expectations. Instead, things were organized: not only were chairs set up, wine and challah on the side table but there appeared to be someone in charge and wiling to lead services. Neil introduced himself, and as a retired Cantor, not one person in the place had any problems with him leading services. It also eliminated any confusion about which melodies would be used. He/she who leads gets to chose.

With a Conservative prayerbook, let me just say that we had a few anxious people with 1800 dinner times since obviously services ran a bit long. Not as much over as it could have been but still ……

Cabin 7002, Jewel OTS

Categories: Jewish Life, Travel Tags:

Bridgetown, Barbados

November 10th, 2011 Comments off

And then there is Bridgetown Barbados. British complete with right hand drive cars and an upper crust accent by those who are educated. According to several locals with whom I spoke, the town is turning more and more to tourism as a key part of the economy. The downstream effects are not insignificant.

For those who are students of American history – it was at Bridgetown, Barbados in 1751 where George Washington became ill with and survived Smallpox. There are statues, there is the former Trafalgar Square.

And there is Nidhe Israel Synagogue. Constructed ~ 1648 it was the first in the New World. Built by Sephardic Jews leaving Portugal (the Inquisition made that land a not particularly nice place to be) and augmented years later by Jews expelled from England at the high point the community numbered close to 700. The community was an interesting mix of Jews, Marranos, and Conversos.

Due to the efforts of the defendants one family of Jewish Polish immigrants (1930s) – the building was rescued from distraction in the 1980s and reconstructed as a Museum. The Mikvah was discovered with the excavation of the car park several years later. The cemetery, dating from the 1600s is still in use.

Categories: Jewish Life, Travel Tags:

traveling on holidays

October 8th, 2011 Comments off

I could have waited till after sundown tonight or tomorrow morning to drive back to Germany. After all, this is the woman who wouldn’t travel on Yom Kippur (remember that was mid-Sept because of the difference between the Hebrew and western calendars) last year. Well, that might be different. Making a point with the military is always worthwhile.

But George leaves for the US in the morning and I wanted to see him.

One of the things I did learn about the ferry is that a set time is not completely set. If there is room, you can travel one ferry ahead of when you have booked. You can also travel on the immediately following ferry from your time slot without paying a penalty. This, of course is if there is space.

I had thought about stopping at Dover Castle. According to everyone, it is well worth visiting but takes at least 4 hours to properly appreciate it. I elected to grab the 1200 ferry instead. My drive home was leisurely, not pushing the speed, not getting lost and – due to low traffic – not being annoyed by all the road construction.

I’ll forgive all transgressions against me and plan on a better year if you will do the same. May you be sealed in the book of life for a good, next year.

Categories: Jewish Life, Travel Tags:

Rosh Hashanah

September 29th, 2011 Comments off

A time of year to think, contemplate and look ahead.

This year the holiday pretty much snuck up on me. With all the changes that have happened in my life these past months, you would think I would have been looking forward to a time of reflection.

Instead, yesterday afternoon I was trying to figure out what time to bail the DH out of the train station because his flight from California was going to be late. Contemplating whether or not I was going to be able to round everyone up for dinner.

Deciding that I was not interested in either the Orthodox Services at the local Gemeinde or driving to Ramstein, I did manage to locate a Taschlich Service as well as several of the holiday prayer books. A bit of reading by myself was more than enough.

The Ramstein Chapel rather than the local one occurred because the local Rabbi is leading services in Afghanistan – which is the right place for him to be. What I don’t care for is his unilateral decision that there will not be services here in Heidelberg. Considering how many years we (the local community) managed just fine without a Rabbi, that appears pretty arbitrary.

So I just might not have the best attitude. Added to that, I seem to have managed to offend everyone in the house all on the same day. Except for the dog. It is really hard to annoy a golden retriever – everyone is their friend, especially someone who brings them a ball from the states.

May you all have a pleasant and sweet New Year’s. May your thoughts be serious, pleasant and your day go without worries or hassles. Enjoy friends, family and your health. Forgive them, as I would ask you to forgive me for all the petty annoyances and focus on the large things – life is good.

Categories: Jewish Life Tags:

Enough Matzoh

April 26th, 2011 12 comments

I think we all start Pesach very up beat and energetic. It is a time of celebration (they tried to kill us – they didn’t succeed, lets eat! Wait a minute – that is describes a significant amount of the Jewish Holidays. Recurring theme here?) All the special foods bring a bit of camaraderie and nostalgia.

Then reality sets in. There is probably a really good reason why we don’t eat this stuff the rest of the year. Yes, I like Tsmimmis and probably should make it. Most of the soups that I make are fine for any time of the year (I don’t do Matzoh Balls – I make them but don’t eat them. Even light and fluffy – I. don’t. like. them.)

The days start to pass. There are just so many ways that you can disguise matzoh and I get really, really bored with low fat mozzarella and tomatoes. All those things which I never eat start to look good. I start carefully reading food labels – scrutinising all the ingredients with care in the hopes of being able to declare it ok and add it to my pitifully limited intake choices.

And why is tonight different from all other nights (or at least the last eight)?

Real Pizza…..

Categories: Jewish Life Tags:

Mehrgenerationhaus, Heidelberg-Rohrbach

April 19th, 2011 15 comments

It is an interesting movement – the Multigenerational Houses in Germany. Although we have been living in Heidelberg off and on since 1993, this past week was the first time that I learned anything about them. Getting an email from Helena, another member of the US military related Jewish community – she mentioned that the Heidelberg Haus might be the perfect place to hold a community Seder for those of us not inclined to go the orthodox route.

The principle is simple, and honestly obvious once one thinks about it. It is simply a type of house where unrelated people of all ages live and create a family. Own room with bath is the standard. The cooking facilities are in common as are recreational spaces. Many offer community services, such as kindergarten so that you can’t think this is a substitution for the old residential hotels or boarding houses and it really is not a group home. This is essentially a location where people create a family of choice, not limited by age, gender or physical abilities.  Many are Evangelisch sponsored, but not all.

The Haus in Heideleberg was established in 2007. I think Helena found it when she was looking for a child care/kindergarten location for one of her small children. This particular community is an incredibly interesting mix of ages, interests and country of origin back ground.

So there we are – setting up for a Seder of about 45 people of ages from crawling to walking to rolling to ambulating through the children with care, stiffness, and cane. Americans, ex-Russians, Germans, Israelis, Spaniards and probably a couple more countries of origin that I missed.

room full of people

just before the Seder

The Seder itself reminding me in many ways of the one I attended in Budapest – 1998. Scattered tables (only way to fit enough people into the room) and someone sort of leading but a lot of chaos and multiple languages. So I should not have been surprised at a Russian Haggadah being translated in German with most of the songs done in Hebrew (have you ever heard some of them translated into local language? shudder). Lots of introductory remarks, most of the long passages skipped as well as spilling wine for the plagues (all those kids? a chance to drip juice/wine?).

There was more than enough to eat (as always – turkey, chicken, veggies, salads, fruits and more matzoh) and a lot of discussions.

taking time for conversation

taking time for conversation

The Piano became multi-use, serving for both buffet and concluding music.

and music at the end

and music at the end

I think a good time was had by everyone, Carlos and others did the clean up (first Seder in years where I haven’t had the opportunity to spend an hour in soap suds up to my elbows).
The Maus – earlier in the afternoon, after doing the vegetables for the Tsmimmis, helping with the turkeys (which we precooked in our ovens) and helping hem some sheets into table cloths before heading to the kitchen to make the Charoset, announced she was a jewel of a daughter.
Maus - the Jewel

Maus - the Jewel

Categories: Jewish Life, Prose Tags:

First Night

April 18th, 2011 13 comments

Passover has started. Normally met with an infinitely long before meal participatory service in which you tell the story of Pesach about fifteen different ways, discuss plagues, spill some wine/juice and eat too much.

Instead, I spent some time thinking about the current world and the issues of religious freedom.  In audio n the car, I am currently listening to Kenneth C Davis – America’s Hidden History.  With an excellent background provided in the numerous conflicts occurring in Europe from the 15th Century onward, Davis views the early history of exploration and conquest of the New World not from the sweetly painted fiction taught to school children but against the harsh realities of people and their belief systems. What might seem benign becomes rapidly apparent as intrinsically connected to the Protestant/Catholic – conflict in both England and on the Continent. The idea of the French-Indian Wars (the New World side of the European Seven Years War) being started by George Washington due to inexperience and stupidity is clear when viewed from the perspective of “religious freedom.”

The English founders of the New World were looking for freedom to practice their religion. Not for freedom for anyone else to practice theirs…… Which clearly explains the lack of Catholics, Jews and other strangers in the Massachusetts Bay Colonies and the later popularity of Maryland with non-Pilgrim/Puritan settlers.

The book is both interesting and entertaining. I have both paperback and CD and am willing to loan it to anyone who might be interested.

Fast forward to today. As I look back at the historical departure of the Jews from Egypt – I am struck by two things. The first is the stubbornness/refusal of the Jews  to assimilate. The second is that fact that they did not try to impose their beliefs on the Egyptians, rather choosing to leave. I look around the US – fundamentalists want legislate my personal morals. I just want to be left to do my own thing and not force my beliefs on them. There are plenty of faith groups who – while having “the answer for themselves” don’t see a need to restrict/regulate/denigrate those outside their own group. Then there are those who, from religious belief or fear, can only see that I am not part of their group and so am wrong.

Meanwhile, I just spent six months in Afghanistan, trying to support the idea of freedom and choice for many to whom it is completely irrelevant. Those who would have happily executed me as one more infidel and a risk to their belief system. Working along side some quite interesting fundamentalist Catholics and Christians who were very uncomfortable with my religion/belief system. I am not sure which poses more personal danger to me. Probably the later.

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Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

December 4th, 2010 2 comments

We all remember Mr. Rogers. Well, ok, some of us remember Mr. Rogers either as a parent or as a child growing up with his regular TV program. Between being optimistic and being the cardigan wearing type, a few phrases have always stuck in my mind.

“It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood’

And it was today. Sun shining, the birds happily making a racket and the wind which had been whipping around last night at 45+MPH was so well behaved as to be unnoticeable. I slept in, 0200 for a bedtime is just not compatible with getting up at the crack of dawn. There was enough hot water for a shower and the laundry found my bag with only a minim of fuss.

Traffic was light as I made my way to the office feeling rather cheerful. Shortly after arriving, I even got a call from home. I like talking to my husband and son and would have talked longer but for the pesky battery on the phone deciding to die in the middle of the call.

Even the wind coming up this evening filling the sky, the air and my mouth with grit has not shaken my mood. Of course, it would have been nice to have gotten decent photos from the roof of the Korean hospital, but I will try again if there is ever another clear day. Being up there, even fighting the wind, did prove to me that there is actually a world, houses, villages and people outside the fence.

It is the fourth night

Fourth Night

Fourth Night

Photos from Last Night

and I have a few photos from last night –

after candle lighting

after candle lighting

and we kind of did a Pesach type thing – took the historical story and read it while eating, everyone taking a turn at reading so that no one had cold Latkes.

a good and fun crowd

a good and fun crowd

Since I have an 0600 show time, I think it is time to head for bed.

Categories: deployment, Jewish Life Tags:


December 2nd, 2010 5 comments

I am running quite a bit later than usual. For a while I was able to get in early in the morning, get this missive off to everyone and then spend the rest of the day figuring out what I should have said.

Now, since I wanted to include a Chanukka picture

Second Night

Second Night

I have to send it off in the evening. Oh, waahh, poor me.


Anyway, I spent a very interesting few hours attending the theater trauma conference. Initiated a number of years ago and now a weekly VTC run in each theater, the major trauma cases are reviewed with a eye to finding ways to improve care as well as provide feedback to the docs along the route.

The same conference = is run for the Iraq theater of operations. The Brits do the same thing – connecting the receiving hospital in Birmingham with Bastion. I am not sure that any of the other Allies are doing the same, but none of the rest are suffering our level of casualties.

Not all the casualties are reviewed, just the major ones. Major means that you have suffered enough trauma to lose a couple of limbs, or have major open head injury or a gunshot wound to your chest or…. you get the idea.

Trust me, I.E.Ds are extremely lethal. It is only the prompt and forward placement of a lot of medical know-how that is keeping any of the soldiers hit alive to get to the surgeons. Who, in turn, manage to save those who would have died just a few years ago. The level of surgical care in theater is phenomenal.

It also helps, when going over cases with just horrible injuries to hear one of the hospitals on the stateside end say – oh – he has gone home on convalescent leave. Or, even more rarely – he will be returning to duty.

It makes up for those each week who are going back with bilateral leg amputations. And those are some of the luckier ones. The cost to society is well beyond what most of us want to recognize. These are primarily young men – early 20s with a whole changed life ahead of them. Young men who have wives tell them – “I can’t do this’ while they are still on their backs in a hospital bed.

We are facing a lot.

When I lit those candles – I was thinking about religious freedom and perseverance in the face of some pretty challenging odds.

Categories: deployment, Jewish Life Tags:


December 1st, 2010 6 comments

Or Chanuka or Hannuka or Hanukkah or whatever way you want to translate the Hebrew – It really doesn’t matter. Pick the spelling that you like best. You will come up with at least six on any websearch.

First Night - one candle

And, given that I took home a Hanukah in a bag, I had a menorah to light (plus a mini which I can take on the road). Courtsey of Mary in Guildford – I have a quite useful present.

London on a Key Chain

London on a Key Chain

I think she is hoping that this will decrease my chances of losing my key all the time.

1830 was the get together time at the Chapel. Which turned out not to be the Chapel, but back at the Annex where we always meet. Not only did we have supplies, but we are resourceful.

making latkes

making latkes

Where some flat grills, boxes of mix, and a bit of oil turns into Latkes for a whole crowd.

ready for the party

ready for the party

I would have pictures of us lighting candles, but someone forgot to take a badge off. End result is that I had to delete some really great photos and you will have to settle for this –

half of the Shabbat regulars

half of the Shabbat regulars

as about 1/2 of the Friday night regulars. (Hey – Hammer – please notice that I have not forgotten my weapon!). Instead of simply lighting candals and leaving, we had a party.

All of this may explain why I did not attend the Egyptian Hospital Change of Command this evening. It seemed like more fun to go, share an evening, light candles, eat and relax.

And these are the last pictures of me you will see for a long time. I hate being in front of the camera.

more than enough to eat

more than enough to eat

I did mention food, didn’t I?

Categories: deployment, Jewish Life Tags:


November 9th, 2010 6 comments

Frost in the air this morning, breath visible as icy puff while crunching through the thin layer on some standing water. It has gotten cold, enough so that hat, jacket, gloves are needed by the sensible to maintain warmth.

What did they have for protection, those Jews 72 years ago on Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass when dragged from their homes and places of business as their lives were smashed around them. A young man’s pain triggering off retaliation beyond what any could imagine. Most of us were not alive then, prior to WWII when that pogrom propgated throughout Nazi Germany and parts of Austria on November 9–10, 1938 agains the Jewish population.

Tonight we remember with memorial services, politicians speeches, and quiet saying of Kaddish.

Here, on a US base in Afghanistan,  a country with a long and bloody history,  I wonder. “Holy Wars” are still be perpetrated by fanatics, other groups use religion as an excuse to conduct the massacres which they want for economic, political or social reasons. Germany has learned and does not forget. I am not sure that the rest of us can claim the same.

Categories: Jewish Life Tags:

the clock ticks on

November 6th, 2010 4 comments

It is not that I don’t want to admit that the days, weeks, months, and years are passing. (The Clock Ticks on – Blackmore’s Night) I know that time presses on and that I am getting older. It is just that I don’t always like having it be obviously right in my face.

It was one thing to run into an aviation doc and realize that in 1993 she was a medic in my Heidelberg ER or that the BDE Surgeon for the CAV was an ops officer working for me back in Bosnia. It is quite another to be sitting around the table at Friday night services and have to acknowledge that the bald MAJ across the table talking about his children is someone you remember as a 2LT back in Wuerzburg.

It was a night for reflection anyway. I wasn’t the only one straggling in, tired from a long week. Our civilian who usually served as cantor redeployed unexpectedly this week. The resulting lack of melody line was pretty noticeable. Two of our NCOs are redeploying this coming week. It may well affect our ability to field a minyan.

Ah, well.

And then today

A planned couple of hours at my desk turned into most of the day. Catching up on email turned out to be a major deal made even more irritating by not being able to go spend time with my newly arrived paperbacks and audiobooks.

I think I will go wind some wool….

Categories: deployment, Jewish Life Tags:

Ah, computers

October 3rd, 2010 Comments off

I had a lovely, quiet day and thank you all for the birthday greetings. I enjoy getting to the office well before anyone else arrives. And if the attendence so far is any indication, I might well be the only one here today!


The “blog won’t let me leave comments” issue.  From what I can tell, there are two issues:

I am GMT:+4:30. A few reading this are GMT:+1 or GMT:0. The problem comes when you are GMT:-5-8 or so. WordPress does not allow comments to be posted at a date/time prior to when the post was written. Never mind that it is a technical issue of time zones and reality and has absolutely nothing to do what I would want.

The second issue is post naming. Apparently using a number to name the post is fine in the permalinks-but messes up the calls. I have changed the name on yesterday’s post and it is now possible to leave comments.

The archive function is also not functioning; getting to old posts is not an option without paging back. I ask your indulgence. Getting things fixed from here is going to be difficult a best. I am loathe to have any access to HOSTDE from here and risk hackers.


Current routine attendance at Friday night services here seems to be about a dozen, give or take. Civilains, Army and Air Force made up the crew this past Friday. There is a cupboard full of goodies, different shuls and synagogues have been more than generous with their care packages. If I need any munchies, I know where to go.

Categories: computers, Jewish Life, Uncategorized Tags:

Yom Kippur Reflections

September 18th, 2010 4 comments

Being in the military means that I don’t always get a choice about where I am when the High Holidays hit. I have spent more than one away from home. Bosnia (with services at Tuzla Main) and Kuwait with services at Camp Doha come to mind. This year, once again attending with military as my family, at least I did not have to worry about a weapon.

It is easy to be senior in rank and attend services. It is much harder to be in basic and have to ask for an exception. There is always training, exercises, PT tests. One excuse or another for why a young soldier can not be released.

The military preaches religious accommodation but I am not really sure that it happens with all that much frequency. Not when drill sergeants are ordering soldiers to eat and drink. Many of those who attended had one injury or another – it just might be why their units were willing to release them.

Attendance for the Torah service was about 20 – the Rabbi and I being the only two not fitting into the “young, male attending basic training/AIT” category. People drifted in and out over the day. About 40 were present by the time we got to Havdalah including a small contingent from the current OCS class. Even more than the bagels and cream cheese, the Coke was welcomed. New rules prohibit caffeine in basic training. Go figure – I don’t get it.

What I certainly know is that this day is necessary for me – looking back over the past year, figuring out how I can do better. Repeating certain prayers almost endless has them sink in – limiting my ability to avoid issues to which I would rather apply blinders.

Since the day has multiple services and will proceed at its own pace – the absolutely best thing to do is stick the watch in the pocket and not look at it. Not once or twice in frustration at how slowly time seems to be crawling, but not at all. Especially as the sun sinks and there is still part of Neilah to complete.

Categories: Jewish Life, military Tags:

waiting for sunset

September 17th, 2010 6 comments

I have been here for a lifetime – or four days as of this evening. It seems about the same to me. I watched this week’s rotation pack and load all their gear this morning – they are contracted flights this evening.

I did mention that I have my own room, complete with chair, one iron bedstead and a locker so heavy it would take a forklift to move it. Right as I was heading out this morning a couple of nice NCO’s stopped by for a room inspection.

Oh! You are not leaving?

No, sorry about that – see you next week?


So there I was, just before 0900, breakfast eaten, shower taken, load of laundry done (washed the sheets while I was at it – jeans and turtleneck alone just looked pitiful in the washer), looking for a ride up to main post.

Met some nice NCOs at the redeployment section and a reserve COL who is trying to get his paperwork straightened out. Since he had to go to finance, I hitched a ride to the library. Means that I have almost six hours here on the computer. No excuse for not starting my continuing education and a chance to add about six more audio books to the travel collection.

I like a variety in what I listen to. This time I have both Neil Gaiman and Simon Winchester along with a couple of lovely fluff books. I am also being a good kid – having signed up for my last CME module (in order to extend the recert exam) and downloaded most of the materials. Planning, really, to not leave it to the last week of the year and avoid the crisis.

Said crisis might just not be as much fun without my family around to sympathise.

Time is passing, soon the shuttle will take me back to the base. Sundown will come. I will join others, like Jews all over the world, in hearing Kol Nidre and know that every year – although I will try my best – things can always be done better. Plans succeed, promises more than kept.

May your fast be a gentle one.

Categories: Jewish Life, military Tags:

Rosh Hashanah

September 9th, 2010 2 comments

doesn’t feel quite right this year. Perhaps it feels other than the end of a year, although since I have just finished the assignment in the UK – that fits for year end. I will be heading off to something else.

Or maybe it is just my aching arms from immunisations yesterday that has me irritable, crabby and unwilling to get up and go to services.

In any case, this year feels different. There is too much undone, too much remaining to be accomplished in the next couple of weeks. This is not a time of year where I handle change well.

I want things to be stable, to be able to reflect on how my life has been and where I am going next. Not a time where I welcome uncertainty, exhaustion, or major tasks in the immediate future. It is not a time for endurance, unfamiliar places and lots of strangers.

Having said all of that – I will cope. George is good people and will make it through the next six-seven months. Ms Soprano and The Mole are off at University in the US (the one still in MD and the other just started at RIT). The Maus heads into her final year of school and decision time for next year’s studies. The Eldest is gradually expanding her photography business and has a good handle on what she wants to do with her life.

It seems that I am the main one in transition after all these years of getting to be the stable one, the rock. It is not a pleasant thought.

I think I am going to go back to sleep and see if I wake up later in a better mood.

Categories: Jewish Life Tags:

#21 + Food for the Mind

December 18th, 2009 1 comment

On this, the last night of Hanukkah which just happens to fall on the 18th this year,

all alight

all alight

I found food for thought provided in dialog about the difference between spirituality and religion. Although this particular discussion is Judaic in its grounding, I think it may well resonate in several other faiths. It hinges around what is for self and what is for others: self-interest vs obligation. See what you think.

Probably more importantly Ms Soprano

(lifted from her blog)

(lifted from her blog)

turns 21 today. A milestone she celebrated at school last night (along with a sleep in this morning). If you feel like adding greeting to her inbox – you can find her at ninadoyneATt-onlineDOTde. She might not have a clue as to who you are, but she does have a good sense of humor. I get to rescue her from Heathrow on Sunday morning, provide BA does not go on strike or the airport close.

The Mole is home from school. Kent received the brunt of the latest UK Snow storm. The boarding school sent them all out the door three hours early to make sure that they were on their way before the trains stopped running. My phone had completely gone on the fritz, so we were unable to reach each other. As a competent soon to be adult, he managed to get himself home from the train station. Being a guy, he doesn’t seem to need all that much.

ice, trees

ice, trees

and lightly coated

and lightly coated

Minimal knitting progress today, but more planned this evening on the baby cardigan. Yet another day has passed without the little Ms putting in her appearance so it leaves me a bit closer to being finished. Cat, I think does have the right of it. New little ones need their hind-paws as well as their heads kept warm. I have also been admiring the lovely baby things just knit by Lankakomero – see those socks at the end of the post? All those bright Finnish knitters can’t be wrong. Of course, since my ability to figure out a Finnish pattern is almost non-existent, I am grateful for all the wonderful photos. I can figure out the pattern from the photos…

Categories: family, Jewish Life, Knitting Tags:

Ice Fern

December 17th, 2009 3 comments

Beautiful to see, even displaying its art on my car windshield

and on the sides, rear windows and body of the car

Yes, it was cold. Below freezing for more than a few minutes with patches of ice  on the drive, black ice on the road and a few bruises on me for not paying attention.

Seventh Night

Seventh Night

at home, finally after a conference call kept me till close to 2000.

The advantage to conference calls over, let us say, video conferences, should be obvious. Multi-tasking should be possible and progress can be made on baby sweaters. The little dear has not yet arrived, so I might just have a few days.

more than half way

more than half way

I weighed the remaining yarn and have more than enough to finish and make a matching hat. I suppose socks should be in order too?

Categories: home, Jewish Life, Knitting Tags:

Sixth Night

December 16th, 2009 Comments off

Another candle supplying a glow of light while snow continues to drift down outside.

making the world almost black and white

making the world almost black and white

Not much snow, but the reaction here to the faintest breath of snow is similar to what one sees in many of the warm weather locations.  According to the gossip, there has been a major run on Marks & Spencers as well as Tescos for supplies.

In Minnesota terms – that much is nothing.

making progress on the sleeves

making progress on the sleeves

As you can see, work on the cardigan continues. Now that I have heat, I suppose that I no longer have an excuse about sewing the steek. I still have to decide what I want as an edges finishing. Might just go with I cord up the front and around the collar.

Categories: Jewish Life, Knitting Tags:

Fourth Night

December 14th, 2009 1 comment

Not being on line, I am seeing if the scheduling function works.

A much more realistic discussion of the “real world history” behind Hanukah can be found here in a great NYTtime Op-Ed. It is worth while reading and quite thought provoking.

Meanwhile, I am rattling around in the countryside west of Oxford.

Categories: Jewish Life Tags:

Third Night

December 13th, 2009 Comments off

My windowsills in this house are all wooden and too narrow on which to balance a menorah. I am settling for lighting in a safe place and visible at least through the kitchen window.

I am off in a few minutes to a friend’s in Woking. She and her daughter have an early flight to Australia – I volunteered to drop them off at Heathrow. From there, i am headed to RAF Brize Norton for a couple of days of teaching rads medicine. With any luck, I will be back on line Tues evening.


Have not been doing all that much knitting. The mitred squares cardigan needs the front steek cut and the sleeves finished.

1/2 left on each sleeve

1/2 left on each sleeve

I had started one baby jacket, frogged it and started this one –

almost 1/2 way

almost 1/2 way

which I am knitting out of a couple of sock yarns. This garter jacket is modified from one of the Drops-Baby patterns. I loved the one I originally started, but rapidly became dissolutioned when it called for a color change every three rows. With short rowing, I just could not find a feasible way to carry yarns and I am not signing up to weave in a bijillion ends.

and then there are computer games, cleaning, and a lot of work at the office.

Categories: Jewish Life, Knitting Tags:

Second Night

December 12th, 2009 Comments off
two candals

two candals

I never did find the Bookcrossing meet-up in Fleet which leads me to suspect that the auto notice has been forgotten by one and all. Contact person who was supposed to have the details never did get back to me. I had a nice wander around the town anyway…..

Categories: Jewish Life Tags:

First Night

December 11th, 2009 Comments off
First Night of Hanukah

First Night of Hanukah

Categories: Jewish Life Tags:

Heading home

November 1st, 2009 1 comment

It is early in the morning, the girls are asleep while most of the ship seems to be stirring.

Not surprisingly, I was the only person in the fitness room for the first 30 minutes. The guy who then came in is doing a Malta-Malta cruise. Looking our at breakfast, I can see people headed away from the ship with their suitcases wheeling behind.

One of the positives about the cruise; if you are capable of handling your luggage yourself, you are allowed to haul it away at the end unlike other cruise lines that insist you drop suitcases out in the corridor to be hauled off the ship for you and reclaimed in a large arrivals hall. The girls and I will head out about 0900 and make our way slowly to the airport.

The ship is new, only two years old and doesn’t have a bit of worn or musty feeling. Even the low rent rooms are cheerful with nice beds, decent lighting and bathrooms with tiled showers.

At first blush, the idea of being able to go and do whatever you want seems great. I am sure that if you are traveling with young children it would be really key. Even the opportunity to eat all meals in the Garden Café didn’t stop most from hauling unruly children into the formal dining rooms. The shows were good, the musicians, singers and dancers all terrific.

Balance this with the overwhelming hucksterism. Somehow, if you have to buy raffle tickets, I don’t think you are winning a “free” trip to anywhere. Being cynical, I think they easily took in more than the value of what they were proposing to give away. Always things to buy, seminars on those things to buy, and charges for just about everything. Constant interruptions from the overhead speaker about something else on which you could spend your money.

Even on Friday night where the ship had provided three loaves of challah and a bottle of Maneschevitz for a Shabbat Service, it was hard to hear each other over the sales pitch. Interesting collection of attendees: Conneticut now living in Jersusalem cruising with his wife, Russian immigrant to New York, older couple from Tunisia now living in France along with their son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren, another French couple and me. No count of a minyan according to the guys…. but then I don’t think they would have been happy with the prayer books discovered in the closet at the end. Reform is not them.

Over all, I had a good time. Traveling with the two girls was fun. I took photos, knit and did not do much for work….

Categories: Jewish Life, Travel Tags: