Retreat

Last week I attended a virtual four day Jewish Women’s silent retreat. It was sponsored by Awakened Heart Project and Or HaLev. The  leaders were Sheila Katz, Rebecca Schisler and Rabbi Batsheva Meiri. Paige Lincenberg was the retreat manager.

Because it was a mindfulness retreat, there were many opportunities for meditation throughout the day. You can do a formal mindful practice in a variety of postures including walking, sitting, lying down and standing. Yoga can also be a mindful activity. The last day of the retreat, Rebecca led us in a practice, The Five Rhythms, which is contemplative dance. I really enjoyed that.

During the retreat I mostly sat which I found difficult. When one of the leaders guided us and we were all sitting together (via Zoom), I could calm my mind for a more extended period of time. It was harder to sit by myself without any guidance. Now that I am “home”, I am trying to sit for thirty minutes, first thing in the morning.

Overall, the retreat made me want to be more mindful and less reactive in my relationships and in how I lead my life. One of the most liberating  and revelatory aspects of the retreat was how it felt to not look at my phone or anywhere on the Internet, except for Zoom for four full days. It was a tremendous relief to not have to deal with email for that period of time.

The sense of relief and ease I experienced not being connected to my phone, the Web or social media has made me rethink my relationship to those platforms. For the first time in over three years, this past month I did not tweet every day. You won’t be surprised to learn the world didn’t fall apart.

Connected to cutting the cord is another aspect of the retreat I am trying to bring into my daily life. A meal should just be a meal without any multitasking, looking up things  on the internet or reading  things on the phone. Eating silently is actually a lovely way to concentrate. I enjoyed the silence of the retreat and I hope to have more quiet, peaceful time in my day.

My favorite parts of the retreat were the ones with Jewish content. Every morning at 9:30, there was a chanting service which was a beautiful blend of traditional Jewish ritual and contemplative practice. Wednesday night into Thursday was the Jewish holiday Tisha B’Av, the low point of the Jewish year. It commemorates the sacking of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Second Temple. Over the years, the holiday has also become associated with other Jewish tragedies including the Holocaust.

To observe Tisha B’Av, we chant from Lamentations, one of the books of the Jewish bible. Rabbi Batsheva led the service and Paige, who is a rabbinical student, chanted. Her chanting was beautiful and deeply soulful. I had never really read Lamentations before. It is a raw expression of acute pain and sorrow. The complete bewilderment of the Jewish people about what would come next following the tragedy evoked in me the feeling I have about the pandemic and the situation our country is in.

Observing Jewish rituals throughout the retreat made me grateful that I am a Jew. I came away with a commitment to be more Jewish, which feels like a funny thing to say. The retreat ended on Thursday; I was really excited that the next evening was Shabbat. Built into the Jewish religion is a time every week to be more contemplative and peaceful. Attending a four day silent retreat was a very powerful experience; the power is actually increasing as I process and live with the experience.

Summer Vacation – Sort Of

I will not be posting next week. Unlike previous summer where we would probably be taking a summer vacation, I am staying home. I will be attending, virtually,  a Jewish women’s silent retreat.

I have always wanted to attend such a retreat but I have never had the chance. I am curious to see if I will be able to keep silent during most of the day, given that I live with someone.

I am going to be social media, email, and internet free for  at least the four days of the retreat. You are also supposed avoid reading materials, so no books. I might extend the device free time from the Friday evening before the retreat, which begins on a Monday, to the following Monday morning. That is the part that feels most like a vacation.

I  will let you know how it went when I resume posting on August 5th. Have a nice two weeks.

Maine, last summer.

Shirtless Men

This summer, partly because of Covid-19, I have been walking a lot. Sometimes I walk with my husband, sometimes by myself. Recently, we were walking in our neighborhood when a shirtless male in a Speedo style bottom ran past us. My reaction to this somewhat startling sight was that woman could never expose herself in the same way. It seemed a revealing example of the way society polices women’s bodies.

The man was neither young or particularly fit. A woman of similar age and fitness, maybe me, would never go out looking like that because she would think that she was too fat. Of course, women cannot or do not run topless down your average street. I guarantee you if I were walking or running with no shirt on and a bikini bottom, somebody would be notice and the police might get called. Women can probably get away with wearing a sports bra and shirt – the kind of uniform female beach volleyball players wear.

However, in most cities, a scantily dressed woman would be subjected to catcalls. I don’t know if most men, in any stage of dress or undress, ever face that. In response to this eye opening display of male privilege and patriarchy, I have decided to stop shaving my legs. This is a fairly easy act of resistance since, because of Covid-19, waxing salons are not open. Not that I would go right now anyway. Both men and women have hair on their legs. Why are men allowed men to have their hairy legs while standards of female beauty require women to be clean shaven? It is another example of the policing of women’s bodies.

In another context, I have been reading about forms of oppression which can be institutional, ideological, interpersonal, and internalized. Many women including me have internalized patriarchal notions of female beauty. It can be tough to try to change such ingrained misogynistic habits. The test will be whether or not I shave my legs for my son’s wedding next month.

 

Magic Hat

Last month, the owners of Vermont’s Magic Hat Brewery, FIFCO USA, a subsidiary of Florida Ice and Farm Co. announced it was moving all Magic Hat production to the Genesee Brewing headquarters in Rochester, N.Y. This move, during COVID-19, meant that forty-three people lost their jobs. Magic Hat had employed forty-six people in Vermont.

Bob Johnson, the original brewer, and Alan Newman co-founded the brewery in 1994. Newman sold the company to North American Breweries in 2010. He feels that was the end of Magic Hat as an innovating craft brewery. KPS Capital Partners formed North American Breweries to manage its beer investments.

Companies like KPS buy breweries as an investment; they do not really have any interest in running the company or building the business. They cut expenses, which usually involves cutting jobs, extract value and then sell the company. That is what happened to Magic Hat. In 2012, Magic Hat and the brewing investments were sold to FIFCO for $388 million dollars.

In 1994, at the time of Magic Hat’s founding, there were only a few other breweries and a few brew pubs in the state. Greg Noonan founded Vermont’s first brewpub in 1988. Today, Vermont has 61 breweries. In 2018, Vermont breweries produced 350,000 barrels (61 gallons per barrel) which had a value of $362 million dollars.

Magic Hat’s story of being a pioneer in craft brewing, seeking to expand and then being sold for investment value could be the tale of many of the country’s over 7,000 brewers as they faced the economic consequences of COVID-19.

For more information about Magic Hat’s move, click here

 

 

Book Review: Such A Fun Age

I recently read Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid. The reason I read it is because I had seen an excerpt of a review of the book by JoJo Moyes which said “An amazing debut…A sort of modern Austen-esque take on racism and modern liberal sensibilities…except that description makes it sound far more serious and less clever than it is. [Kiley Reid] has a forensic eye.” 

Because I am a sucker for anything to do with Jane Austen, I decided to read the book. The joke was on me because Such a Fun Age has nothing to do with Jane Austen, neither the style of writing nor the topic of the book.

Such A Fun Age is, on one level, the story of a clash between a 35-year-old white woman, Alix, and a 25-year-old  black woman, Emira. Alix is an influencer, although the writer doesn’t use that word about her, while Emira is, to some extent, the stereotypical aimless college graduate. Emira works for Alix as a babysitter.

The author portrays the differences between the two women as stemming from class and race. Alix is established in her career, with a book deal, a husband, a home and two children. Emira has no idea what she wants to do and is worried about losing her health insurance when she turns 26.

One evening while Emira is at a party, Alix calls her to take her older daughter out of the house because there has been an incident and the police are coming. Emira and a friend go and get the child and bring her to a local convenience store. A white woman, a Karen, thinks it is odd that Emira, all dressed up, is with a white child and alerts security.

A confrontation ensues, a bystander is filming it and it is only resolved when the child’s father, Peter, appears and vouches for Emira. This is the beginning of the book and it is certainly a timely scene.

Once Alix heards of this incident she is determined to show Emira that she is a good person. She does not articulate to herself that she wants it proven that she is not a racist. Alix becomes almost obsessive about Emira.

Emira, on the other hand is disinterested in Alix and her life. She doesn’t even google Alix to find out about her. Peter is a local tv news anchor but Emira seems unaware of this as well. She is not savvy about social media or the internet. This seemed implausible, given her age.

Although the book had nothing to do with Austen, I enjoyed reading it, especially in these fraught times. For me, the book reveals how problematic transactional relations in intimate settings can be, especially when there is disparity between the two parties involving race and class.

 

 

Black is Beautiful

Since George Floyd’s murder and the ensuing demonstrations, industry has responded with statements of support, many stating Black Lives Matter. The craft beer industry, at least its trade organization, the Brewers Association, has been an exception.

The BA’s website has no formal statement about police brutality and systemic racism. It does have a link to a project, Black is Beautiful, that Weathered Souls Brewery initiated. The black-owned brewery created a stout base and is encouraging other brewers to produce a beer from it.

Over 800 breweries are participating, from all fifty states and fifteen countries. According to the BA, there are over eight thousand brewers in the United States. Weathered Souls Brewery is asking the brewers who participate in the Black is Beautiful initiative to do three things:

  • Donate 100% of the beer’s proceeds to local foundations that support police brutality reform and legal defenses for those who have been wronged
  • Choose their own entity to donate to local organizations that support equality and inclusion
  • Commit to the long-term work of equality

The brewery, as part of its fundraising efforts, is also sponsoring a virtual 5k.

The craft beer industry is overwhelmingly white and male. Lees than one percent of brewers are black. Craft brewers market their product as authentic, local, and having roots in the community. The lack of diversity in the industry belies that claim.

Black is Beautiful is a project worth supporting. I plan to drink one of the beers produced if I can find it.  I can’t run a 5k, but I can walk three miles and Weathered Souls gets the $35 either way.

For more information on this topic, you can read this and this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memories

A few weeks ago, in my writing group, Nerissa, the group leader, read, as a prompt, a portion of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, where she talked about the execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, in 1953. Being a red diaper baby, I grew up believing that the couple killed could have just as easily been my parents. Of course, the Rosenbergs were innocent; for my parents and their friends there was no other truth.

March 6, 2020 was the fiftieth anniversary of a townhouse in Greenwich Village, New York City, blowing up, killing three members of the Weather Underground. I knew one of the people killed – Ted Gold. I grew up with him. He was the youngest son of one of my mother’s closest friends.

The chapter of my book on faculty wives that I am currently working is about activism in the 1950s and 60s. I focus on two women – Sarah Patton Boyle and Anne Bennett. Boyle was an early white supporter of civil rights in Virginia while Bennett worked to end the Vietnam War.

My mother was a part of this activist history. As a baby, I was wheeled to Ban the Bomb demonstrations. She was a member of Women Strike for Peace. In the chapter, I describe a demonstration in Washington, DC that WSP organized. It is very possible that my mother was there.

The arc of history from the Rosenbergs to the Weather Underground is, in a simple way, the story of the Old Left morphing into the New Left; a generational shift that I was a part of. I have often wondered what my politics would have been if I had grown up in a different household. In my house, noisy discussion about politics were an everyday occurrence. Most of my parent’s friends had also been in the Communist Party. Whenever they came over, it got even louder. Being on the left is probably in my DNA.

 

 

Belgian Beer

A few years ago, we visited both Bruges and Brussels in Belgium. When I started seeing some articles about Belgian brewing and Covid-19 I was interested.

During this pandemic, things have changed quickly. A good example is the Belgian brewers. When Corona first hit and businesses closed, Belgian craft brewers were doing well. Later, the situation changed.

In April, about month into the pandemic, the New York Post had an article about Belgian brewers developing a delivery process because all the bars were closed. It highlighted one craft brewer whose business was expanding due to delivery sales. At this point the picture might have looked rosy.

By May, the situation ad changed. The Belgian Brewers Federation announced that production of beer had dropped 50 percent in April.  The drop in production affected small brewers the most and one third of brewers had ceased producing any beer.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Eoghan Walsh who has a blog, Brussels Beer City, stated a podcast, Cabin Fever. On the podcast where he and other people involved in aspects of the craft brewing industry talk about what they are doing during the pandemic and what they are drinking. I have enjoyed listening to it because it is an easy going way to learn about how the pandemic is affecting the beer industry.

Brussels, 2017

The Fierce Urgency of Now

Since the murder of George Floyd, I have been obsessed with exploring how I can more actively confront systemic racism. If you are not actively confronting racial injustice you become complicit.

Although I have been committed to civil rights all of my life, I have been questioning how strong that commitment is. In my comfortable life in Amherst, Massachusetts, how do I confront racism and combat it on a daily basis? The answer is I don’t.

On Sunday, I went to an inter-faith vigil on the Amherst common. Although it felt courageous; that was because of the pandemic and not because attending would threaten my physical safety.

The phrase, “the urgency of now,” which I knew was something Martin Luther King had said, has been rumbling around in my head this last week. Yesterday I googled it. Here is the full quote:

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there “is” such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”

I can never know what it feels like to be a black person, but I can learn how to be a white ally in their struggle for equality and racial justice. It is imperative that I start the learning process immediately.

 

Florence Nightingale, Part 3

This is part three of my three part post of a paper I wrote in 1994 about Florence Nightingale. You can read part one here and part two here. I had a good time revisiting this paper from almost thirty years ago.

Amy Mittelman ©2020, Professional Nursing I,                                                           Fall 1994

FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE

Lauren Smith used the Nightingale concept of management to frame her discussion of clinical nurse specialist (CNS) managed care for the chronically ill child.  In myelomeningocele clinics in Ohio, clinical nurse specialists provide case management.  Smith argues that this case management has provided early identification and intervention, continuity of care, increased parental advocacy skills, improved social and development skills for the children as well as professional growth and interdisciplinary collegiality for the nurses. She feels this work has carried out Nightingale’s directive of knowing that “what you do when you are there shall be done when you are not there.”[1]

Smith’s article was part of two in a recent issue of Clinical Nurse Specialist presented under the heading “Florence Nightingale: A CNS Role Model.”[2] The other article, “CNS Roles in Implementation of a Differentiated Case Management Model,” did not mention Nightingale.[3]

In doing research for this paper, I found many references to Nightingale, particularly in Japanese nursing literature. I disagree with the opinion expressed a few weeks ago that modern nursing views Nightingale as outdated. She remains a starting point for many nurse scholars and many nurses are eager to link their work with hers.  This may explain why that article appeared under the rubric “Florence Nightingale: A CNS Role Model” even though it did not mention Nightingale. Other examples of this are an article in Nurse Educator that is a letter by a nursing student to Nightingale and a response written by a Nightingale scholar, an article by Elise Gropper that claims Nightingale as “Nursing’s First Environmental Theorist,” and the work by Giger, Davidhizar and Miller that links Roy and Nightingale.[4]

Smith is an example of clinical use of an aspect of Nightingale’s theory. However, there are not that many explicit clinical examples because many of her themes – particularly asepsis – are an integral and unquestioned part of nursing today.  A Nightingale nurse caring for an ill hospitalized patient would not focus on the medical aspects of the patient’s condition. Nightingale did not consider that part of the nurse’s domain. As a Nightingale nurse you would assess the environment of the patient, paying particular attention to sanitary issues. You would draw your diagnoses from those functional health patterns that are environmentally oriented including Activity-Exercise, Sleep-Rest, Role-Relationship and Nutritional. Decreased Cardiac Output would not be an appropriate Nightingale diagnosis, but Impaired Physical Mobility or Impaired Skin Integrity would be. Your goals for the patient would focus on preventing illness from environmental conditions. Thus, your interventions would involve repositioning if the patient was bedridden, providing a restful, clean atmosphere and keeping the patient’s skin clean and dry to prevent skin breakdown.

Florence Nightingale had a tremendous impact on the history and development of nursing as a profession. I found it interesting and informative to read her work.  Many of her practical suggestions are still applicable today. Perhaps her claim that “observation, ingenuity and perseverance … really constitute the nurse” says it all.[5]

[1] Smith, Lauren D. 1994. Continuity of care through nursing: Case management of the chronically ill child. Clinical Nurse Specialist 8 (2), p. 68.

[2] Sparacino, Patricia S.A. 1994. Florence Nightingale: A CNS role model. Clinical Nurse Specialist 8 (2): 64.

[3] Brubakken, Karen, Wendy R. Janssen, and Diane L. Ruppel. 1994. CNS roles in implementation of a differentiated case management model. Clinical Nurse Specialist 8 (2): 69-73.

[4] Decker, Bernita, and Joanne K. Farley. 1991. What would Nightingale say? Nurse Educator 16 (May/June): 12-13; Gropper, Elise I. 1990. Florence Nightingale: Nursing’s first environmental theorist. Nursing Forum 25: 30-33; Giger, Joyce N., Ruth Davidhizar, and Scott Wilson Miller. 1990. Nightingale and Roy: A comparison of nursing models. Today’s OR Nurse (April): 25-30.

[5] Nightingale, Florence. 1860. Notes on nursing. New York: D. Appleton and Company, p. 65.