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Monday, March 28, 2016

Getting Ready March 28, 2016

I guess I have been getting ready for my visit to Cuba since last September when the decision was made. I am looking forward to seeing the 1950's cars, still on the road. I admire the people and their music, their spirit and their positive attitude. The details of our trip began to accumulate as I learned more about the group with which we will be traveling and the actual itinerary.

My husband and I travelled to China in 1999 before China was open to American tourists. Just as is now with Cuba, we had to be accompanied by a government guide and we had to adhere to previously established routes and routines with no independent travel. We will travel again with People to People Ambassador Program, an attempt begun by President Eisenhower to establish relationships with Communist countries. In China we were with 15 other couples, one partner of each group was a health care professional. The professional was required to attend meetings with our Chinese counterparts. We exchanged information about autistic children's education and generally we all learned from each other. Our spouses went on tourist destinations --I was envious of some of their trips and one day I played Hookey and went along on the spouses' trip. There was some free time to enjoy higher quality meals than the group provided and the health care professionals also did much sightseeing along the way. It was a memorable trip and a rewarding experience.

So I am looking forward to a bit of the same, although this group will have only 20 participants and will have no specific agenda. Except of course for Cuba to show us Americans ( by the way, they insist on calling us the United States, saying they are Americans, which of course is true.)the best of what their Communist country provides its citizens. We will be presented with a dance program, a music program and we will visit both a school and a tobacco plantation before arriving in Havana. 

Anthony Bourdain had a culinary visit to Cuba this past year which we all watched on television. I began to worry I will not be able to eat much of the food. We will not eat at high end restaurants and at the family-run establishments just about everything is made with some part of the pig. On the show, we saw how they boil the pig's head and use the broth to simmer vegetables. Yum for some, but not for me.  So I will bring tinfoil packed servings of tuna and salmon, order rice and make my own dinner whenever grilled chicken is not on the menu!! I also have lots of peanut butter crackers and Kind bars, even a can of sardines and one of herring!!! I am anxious, but I will not starve!

Lest you think I am really being shallow, I will share one more bit of preparation for this trip. We have been asked to bring gifts for the children and adolescents who will be performing for us. We are asked to bring toiletries and school supplies. I mentioned this fact to my neighbors in my yoga class. One woman exclaimed, "I am a retired teacher. I have lots of school supplies." Another woman said she donates to homeless people all the time and she has toiletries to share. Each woman brought me a box of gifts which are now stuffed into my suitcases. The larger one weighs exactly 44 pounds which is the limit for taking into Cuba. I hope they don't count my overly crowded carry-on!!!!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Willpower March 24, 2016

We all talk about will power. How we can limit or structure our actions to fit our goals. Mostly we talk about it in January or in the fall when we make new year resolutions. Not only does the Jewish new year begin in the fall, but school starts and it has always felt like a new beginning for me as I entered a new school year.
I use willpower well when I decided to walk around the lake after my yoga classes 5 monnings each week. The weather right now is perfect for a walk and I am encouraged by my new Fitbit device that sits on my wrist reminding me of the number of steps I need to walk to meet my daily goal.

I thought I was using willpower well as I attempt to reduce my food portions to lose the 5 pounds I gained during the winter months when I was not feeling well. When I had so little energy, I kept thinking I would feel more lively if I ate something. Only time made my lungs stronger, the extra food was mainly, I  see now, for comfort along the way. It is so hard to lose those few pounds once again! I lose 2 and regain them the following day.

So now I am leaving on an educational group trip to Cuba where there will be little I will be able to eat--or want to eat. I am allergic to foods that contain milk and I never eat anything made with pork--or beef. Well, once in a while I have some form of brisket, either for a holiday meal or in the form of a half of a corned beef or pastrami sandwich! So I figured if I get myself used to eating less, I will be less hungry on this trip. No matter what the scale reads, I was doing so well, until....

My friend and I had lunch at a Persian restaurant yesterday. We ordered 2 dishes we shared. One was a vegetarian sampler and the other was a soup-like mixture with pieces of chicken. It was accompanied by delicious basmati rice. We left a third of the meal which my friend had boxed to go. I was happy. Then the waitress brought us to a lovely well decorated table with snacks displayed and annotated for the Persian New year celebration which just passed.  And before I was even aware, a piece of caramel candy (tastes just like peanut brittle my friend said) was in my mouth getting stuck in my teeth!! 
So much for will power.
We give in to urges of the moment with no thought involved. A piece of candy is not much for me to worry about, but others accept "just that one" drink or cigarette. I understand and I wish I had shared my intention with my friend. I could have asked her for help in keeping to my goals. And not trust "willpower."

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Ides of March Sunday, March 13, 2016

As a young bride, the 15th of March and the days leading up to it were always a source of stress. I give birth to my firstborn son on March 15 for whom I was and am still grateful and delighted that he was perfect in every way. My husband was relieved; he wanted a son so badly and we had no way of knowing beforehand 57 years ago.
My father, although pleased to have a grandson and happy that I had come through the experience well and happy, was kind of wistful as he said that I had achieved a goal that eluded him. I was the first of his three daughters.He, too, always wished for a son.
But it was not birthday celebrations that made me anxious then and now. It was my discomfort at hav ing to get my financial life in order to present my bookkeeping first to my husband and then to the accountant. March 15th used to be income tax day until it was moved to April 15.
Now I set March 15 still as the day I have to get the tax prep done.
I confess publicly here and now that I procrastinate endlessly. Even writing this blog at 10:25 in the morning is stalling. I should be at the kitchen table organizing the piles of papers set up there. They have been waiting for me all week!
When I sum up the year's expenditures, it feels like a report card to me. I weigh how much I have spent  on editing and publishing my newest book and how little revenue has come in. I see what the ratio is of what I see now as self-indulgent expenses to the charitable donations I made.during the year. I could have done more, perhaps.
And this is the last year that my husband's name will come first on the tax forms. I review the expenses for his funeral and for the family to gather in New Jersey to accompany him to his final resting place.

Before the High Holidays each year, I judge myself and my accomplishments during the year. Then I am more lenient with myself and I feel rewarded by the time I spend with my family, my wonderful friends and with the folks at the various groups I lead during the year. I am delighted with the positive reception my book has had, with family and with strangers to the Holcaust experience.I am pleased that I attend lectures and concerts and support the artistic community as well as the synagogue community, not judging myself by monetary standards as I do before the Ides of March. 

Each year I think "Next year I will take no deductions, file the short form and leave all of these papers in the lateral file."