Writing

This coming weekend I am going to be involved in two activities that concern writing.  Both are from the Pioneer Valley Writers’ Workshop (PVWW). On Saturday, I  will be attending the workshop, Marketing Your Book Online! The presenter is Fungai Tichawangana.

I wanted to attend this session because, eventually, I will be done with my book and need to market it. I did almost all the marketing for Brewing Battles. That was almost fourteen years ago so I am sure things have changed.

The other event I am attending is on Sunday. It is the orientation for the year long manuscript group. As you may recall, I thought I was going to participate in that the last year, but I decided not to. This year’s group, which I will be part of, is nonfiction, non memoir. I think there will be people in the group who are writing things that are similar to what I am writing.

I am really hoping that the monthly meeting with the whole group as well as accountability buddies that you have during the month will  provide sufficient structure, motivation, and focus so that I can complete my manuscript. It is a big commitment, but I think it will be worth it.

2021 Goals and Resolutions

As I mentioned last week, my main goal for 2020 was to finish my book and I did not achieve that. Completion of the book remains my main goal for  2021. I have been working on the sixth chapter since the fall. When I finish that, I will have four left. I am really going to try to complete it this year.

My goals for 2020 did not include anything about losing weight but i did lose 20 pounds  last year. I know many people gained the COVID 15, but I am glad I went in the other direction. At the beginning of 2020 I tried intermittent fasting which I did for a while. The big change came in June when I joined Noom. Noom is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)  and uses artificial intelligence (AI) in its work with clients.

Although I did not count my calories every day, as the program suggests you do, I did watch my calories and weigh myself everyday.  The other part of Noom is reading articles, answering quizzes and interacting with both a group coach and an individual coach. I am not sure if either of these are real people. They may be bots. I have gained insights about my behavior, eating and otherwise, from Noom.

My resolution for 2021 is to lose the remaining three pounds I have to  lose to get to my original weight goal and to not gain the weight back. I have lost weight before but I have always gained it back. I hope that the lessons I have learned from Noom stay with me even when I am no longer paying for the program.

I plan to continue to tweet every day and post on this site every week. Between politics, the pandemic, beer, and other topics, I am fairly confident I will have plenty to say. Today will be the last Wednesday that I post a blog. I am going to return to Friday as the day I post.  I am hoping this will create a better writing schedule.

See you January 22nd.

Bye Bye 2020

As everyone knows, 2020 was a unique and often terrible year. Like most people, I was glad to see it go. I am very grateful that my family has been safe and not had Covid.

Looking back, my  main goal for 2020 was to finish my book. I didn’t achieve that but I did finish my fifth chapter. I am currently working on the sixth. For most of the year, I attended one of Nerissa Nields writing groups. The group was very helpful with finishing the  fifth chapter.

The best part of the year was my younger son’s wedding. I am so glad that I was able to attend the ceremony despite COVID. Many of my other plans were upended by the pandemic. I did not skate for  five months, we didn’t go to JazzFest in New Orleans,  and I last saw my older son in August at the wedding.

I haven’t really been anywhere since last February.  This could be one of the reasons that I blogged more frequently this year. There were 53 weeks in 2020 and I posted 51 times. I tweeted 594 times which is the same pace as last year.

Beside my writing, my other goal for 2020 was defeating Donald Trump. Along with thousands of other people, I achieved that. Defeating fascism feels really good.

It seems likely that both Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphel Warnock will become Senators. This will give Democrats  a slim margin. I have great hope that people will soon receive $2000 relief checks, unemployment benefits will be extended and there will be an effective and efficient distribution system for the COVID-19 vaccine.

As I am about to post this, insurrectionists have stormed and breached the U.S. Capitol. I will try to write about these events in another post. Let’s pray for a better year with our country being safe, strong and free.

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

Human Rights Shabbat D’Var Torah – Part 3.

This is the final part of the talk I gave, December 12th,  at the Jewish Community of Amherst in honor of Human Rights Shabbat.

The law (Civil Rights Act, 1965) restored the rights the 14th and 15th  Amendments had originally granted to the newly freed slaves. The 1965 Voting Rights Act prohibited literacy tests and required federal oversight of voter registration in areas where less than 50 percent of the non-white population had not registered to vote. The law greatly increased black voting in Southern States. In Mississippi, participation went from 6 percent in 1964 to 59 percent in 1969. The Voting Rights Act provided both the federal courts and the federal government a variety of resources to ensure that there would be no discrimination in voting access.

A 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby County vs. Holder ruled section 4b of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. This section contained a formula to determine which states required federal preclearance before making changes to their voting laws. This ruling led many southern states that had previously required the preclearance to change their voting laws, making them more restrictive. Several states engaged in mass purging of voter rolls, increased identification requirements and reduced the number of polling places. In the last election cycle, we saw many pictures of mostly black and brown people waiting on long lines to vote. One observer has called long voting lines the new poll tax.

As many of you may know there are currently two runoff Senate races in Georgia. The primary and runoff system in that state is itself the product of racist desires to keep black s from voting as a bloc and therefore gaining electoral power.  From 1917 to 1963, George had a county unit system for primaries. This system privileged, in a similar way to the electoral college, rural areas where most black did not live.

In 1963, the Supreme Court ruled this system unconstitutional. A Georgia Congressmen, Denmark Groover, a committed segregationist, stated that he supported the creation of runoff system for elections because it “would again provide protection which … was removed with the death of the county unit system.”

Groover believed the runoff would “prevent the Negro bloc vote from controlling the elections.” Georgia recently announced it was reducing the number of polling places for early voting for the election on Jan. 5. Georgia has never elected an African American Governor, lieutenant governor, senator, or Secretary of State. The first African American Attorney General was elected in 1998. Of course, if the Democrats win, a black man, and a Jew will both become Georgia Senators.  (I know that sounds like the beginning of a joke) Reverend Raphael Warnock would be the first African-American Democratic Senator from the South.

When I read the Joseph story, I wondered why it is in the Torah?  What purpose does his story serve? Joseph’s story gets us to Exodus and places the Israelites in Egypt where the legacy of his accomplishments has disappeared. The sense of fragility that the story conveys has greatly increased among American Jews in the past four years. Although, as an aggregate, wildly successful, American Jews have wondered if that success could be taken away. Could the rise of white nationalism lead to more anti-Semitism and an increase in hate crimes? The short answer is yes.

One of the goals of both the Tikkun Olam Committee and the Tzedek Initiative is to join learning and study with action. The action I am proposing in connection with Human Rights Shabbat is for the JCA to give its support to Fair Fight, one of Stacy Abrams’ voting rights organizations. According to their website, Fair Fight promotes “fair elections in Georgia and around the country, encourages voter participation in elections, and educates voters about elections and their voting rights. Fair Fight brings awareness to the public on election reform, advocates for election reform at all levels, and engages in other voter education programs and communications.”

I recently made calls with Fair Fight. They strictly enforce their non-partisan status and neither of the candidates are mentioned in the call script. We can support them through donations and by helping in their efforts to expand voting access in Georgia and across the county.

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There are  six days left before the Jan 5th election in Georgia. if you have time, please try to make some calls to get out the vote.

Next week, I will provide a review of 2020. Happy New Year!

 

Coming Attractions

This Saturday, December 12th, I will be giving the D’Var Torah at my synagogue, the Jewish Community of Amherst. I am giving the talk in honor of Human Rights Shabbat.  December 10th is Human Rights Day. Every year, the United Nations commemorates the day in 1948 when the UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The UN, in its description of Human Rights Day describes this years  observance as “an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of human rights in re-building the world we want, the need for global solidarity as well as our interconnectedness and shared humanity.”

The town of Amherst, Massachusetts celebrates Human Rights Day every year. This year they will be having a socially distanced ceremony. You can read the proclamation here.

I encourage everyone to read  the full Declaration. My talk concerns Article 21 and voting rights. I will post, at least part of, the talk next week.

Stay tuned. Happy Hanukkah

 

Too Busy

I am too busy to write much. This week I will be making phone calls to various states  on four different days. North Carolina, Maine, Florida and for Joe Biden I called Pennsylvania. There are 20 days left until Election Day. I want to do as much as I can to make sure Donald Trump is defeated and we get a Democratic Senate.

Next week I might try to  make some calls for Jaime Harrison who, as of today, is only one point behind Lindsey Graham. If I believed that lizard people actually existed, I know that Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell, and William Barr would be the epitome of that species.

In the midst  of all this pre-election work, we spent a lovely weekend with my  son and daughter-in-law who came for a visit. On Saturday we  took a very long hike in the Quabbin reservoir. It was beautiful.  I am so glad we got to be outside and experience New England Fall.

I am not sure I will have time for posting again until after the election. We will see. If you have early voting where you live, please Vote Now.

Fall

Tomorrow  will be the first day of October. We have been living with the pandemic for almost seven months. Time is moving both slowly and quickly. Looking back at my post, Goals, from the beginning of this year, I want today’s post to reflect some updates and changes.

The biggest deviation from my stated plans in January is that I did not participate in the year long non- fiction writing group that the Pioneer Valley  Writers’ Workshop offers. I felt that I would be a fish out of water in a sea of memoirists with emotionally challenging life stories. My gut told me not to do it. I have not regretted my decision.

I did two rounds of Nerissa NIelds’ Writing It Up in the Garden. It was really helpful for finishing the fifth chapter of my book. The chapter focuses on the Angell family and its’ many academics. A particular focus is Constance McLaughlin Green, a Pulitzer Prize winning historian

In January, my goals included being part of an adult group number at the Skating Club of Amherst’s annual show. Of course Corona prevented the show from happening. I have only skated five times since March 11th and none of them were at the Mullins Ice Rink.

In January, I said finishing my book was imperative and would require keeping my schedule light. I have had mixed results with that endeavor. As October begins, I am still trying to finish the sixth chapter which deals with two  white middle class, middle aged women who were social justice activists in the 1950s and 60s.

Right now, I am writing about Sarah Patton Boyle, a faculty wife from Charlottesville Virginia who became an early white ally of Martin Luther King, Jr. Her attempts to dismantle  Jim Crow and help American society achieve racial equality have been  very inspiring to me as I have tried, since the murder of George Floyd, to become a more actively anti-racist person.

There are three months left to the year. I hope to finish this chapter, get my skating back to a pre-pandemic level and defeat Donald Trump. What are your plans and goals for the remainder of the year?

 

Phone Banking

As I mentioned last week, since April, I have been phone banking to Maine to defeat Susan Collins. Given Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death last Friday, it is now more important than ever than we take back the Senate and diminish the pernicious impact of Mitch McConnell, who I consider to be the Devil.

Phone calls are one of the most effective ways we must communicate with voters. It is also one of the only safe ways to reach voters during the pandemic. If everyone reading this blog would commit to either 2 hours or 20 calls, you would all be part of reaching many voters.

You can go to https://joebiden.com/natcalls/ to make calls for Joe and Kamala. Last week I started doing this. My plan is to do it once a week until Nov. 3. If you are interested in the Senate, you can go to Ballotpedia,  pick a competitive race and start making calls for the Democratic candidate.

This week I am going to make calls for Mark Kelly in Arizona who is running to defeat Martha McSally in a special election. If Kelly wins, he could be seated as early as Nov. 30. This could provide a critical vote against lame-duck appointment of a reactionary Supreme Court Justice.

I am first vice-chair of the Amherst Democratic Town Committee and we are focusing on three states: Maine, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. North Carolina has a competitive Senate race where Cal Cunningham is running against Thom Tillis, the Republican. Pennsylvania does not have a Senate race but is critical for Biden to win in the electoral college.

The point is Do Something. Two Hours or 20 Calls. Make A Difference.

Skating Camp 2020

Last Friday through Sunday, I attended a virtual skating camp, hosted by Scott Hamilton and Kori Ade. I was a little apprehensive before it started since I didn’t know if I would be able to keep up with all the planned physical activity.

Several years ago, I attended a weekend skating camp in Cromwell CT. That camp mixed on-ice teaching with off-ice training. Last weekend’s camp was obviously all off-ice. The training sessions alternated with webinars on different topics.

Friday began with a welcome talk from Scott and Kori, mostly Scott. Scott Hamilton is a skating legend who has given so much to the sport. It was really thrilling and very entertaining to listen to his anecdotes.

Max Aaron gave the other standout talk. His topic was “Competitive Mindset”. He stressed having rituals to help you get through a competitive program. Max also talked about thinking through what your response to different situations that can occur at a competition will be. He said he even found out, through Google, what the event rink looked like a month ahead of time so he could familiarize himself with the setting.

I have only competed once. I essentially had a panic attack and didn’t really perform my program. It was definitely a learning experience. Reflecting on Max’s talk, I realize I can plan, ahead of  time, what I will say and do to calm my nerves and get oxygen to my jelly legs so I can really feel the ice. Hopefully my next competitive experience, if I ever have one, will  have a better outcome.

Every day at the camp we did between 2 and 3 hours of exercise. It was a lot and I was very sore. I haven’t skated since March 11th. It is possible that I could start skating September 8th, but I have to decide if I think it is safe, given COVID.  I was definitely out of my comfort zone during skating camp. My plan, going forward, is to do the camp exercises for the month I have until I start skating. I will let you know how it goes.

 

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.