August 14th, 2014 by Suzanne | 1 Comment | Filed in family, hilarity, Jewishness

Look closely

I love this photo of my grandfather at B’Nai Jacob on Artesian in 1987. At first glance, it seems like a man praying with his peers, probably as a minyan. But then you look closely… and it so perfectly captures who my grandpa was and his relationship with Judaism.

I thought about this picture out of the blue this evening. I was suddenly struck by how much I would love to talk to him again, just one last time. Generally when that mood strikes, I feel like I’d use an opportunity for another conversation to ask him about his past. This evening, I just wanted to hear him tell one of his jokes.

Man, it is hard sometimes.

SCOTUS Gives Hobby Lobby & Other Employers Right to Kill Me

June 30th, 2014 by Suzanne | No Comments | Filed in Asshole idiots, Damn, evil, fuck

Back some time in the early 2000s, I was diagnosed with a condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). It’s a pretty common ailment these days, unfortunately. In my case, both my ovaries are covered with little cysts. These bastards secret their own androgens that fuck with the rest of me. For example, I have a chin full of lovely whiskers, have to watch my weight like a sentry at a max security prison, and am prone to depression.

The bigger problem is that people with PCOS have increased risks of various types of cancer. According to the National Institute for Health, “The risk of cancer of the endometrium… the inside lining of the uterus, is three times as high for women with PCOS as it is for other women… Women with PCOS also may be at higher risk for breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Small studies have suggested that a lack of ovulation (anovulation), as occurs with PCOS, is linked with a risk of breast cancer that is three to four times that of women without anovulation. In other research, results showed more than a doubling of the risk of ovarian cancer in women with PCOS, but scientists have not confirmed these links in large population studies.”

One of the reasons, as cited above, for these risks is a lack of ovulation and menstruation, which was a problem I have because of the cysts and their damn androgens. Fortunately, birth control is available to resolve that. When I was on the Pill, I got my period more regularly than when I was not. My risk of cancer decreased dramatically. Yay!

However, studies also show that it’s not really great to be on the Pill indefinitely. When I turned 35, I’d been on the Pill to combat my PCOS for over 10 years. My doctor suggested that I consider switching to an IUD. I wasn’t crazy about the idea (*cough*Dalkon Shield*cough*), but eventually it made sense. After a farcical failed attempt to have one inserted in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy (let’s just say my cervix does not like shit being pushed through it, and I thought I might understand what an abortion done with knitting needles might feel like), I finally got one in June 2013. My insurance covered it. And it’s been great.

The problem is that certain employers, thanks to the Supreme Court, are now considered people with religious beliefs. It seems that these non-human people were upset that they may have to allow their employees to have certain kinds of birth control on their company insurance that offended the company’s religion. The Supreme Court today decided that my potentially life-saving contraceptive device violated the non-human person’s First Amendment rights. Therefore, in four years when I need a new IUD, I better not work for a non-human company with religious beliefs that conflict with my medical needs, or I could be denied an IUD with insurance.

So people have gone pretty crazy about this, insisting that I can just “skip a few cups of Starbucks and buy contraceptives for $20 from Wal-Mart.” (This is an actual quote.) Who cares that the decision is so narrow that Jehovah’s Witness non-human people are still forced to cover blood transfusions against their religious beliefs? I’m just being a whiny, feminist bitch who doesn’t want to get cancer. (How demanding!) Any woman can just wander into 7-11, according to that loving defender of priests who molest children, Cardinal Dolan, and get one. (Yes, he seriously said that.) Who cares that an IUD is actually a few hundred dollars and then the cost of the insertion?

An IUD can save my life. It’s nice that my potential future employer might be forced to cover it if I sit down with them and explain to them why I need it. Just like men are forced to do when they want vasectomies. Wait – they aren’t? Oh rats. I’m just being a demanding, whiny bitch again. It’s so wrong of me to be upset that these companies that claim their religions value life so much that I can’t have a contraceptive that will possibly save my life unless I beg and plead!

The best part is that when I mentioned this on twitter, the delightful NY Post columnist Jon Podhoretz responded, “aaaand scene.”

Yep. It sure could be.

Tags: , , ,

Passing Over Passover?

April 16th, 2014 by Suzanne | No Comments | Filed in Jewishness, mortification

Passover began on Monday night. I celebrated it the usual way, inviting family and friends over for a feast. Let me be clear not a Seder, but a feast. I don’t think I’ve ever done an actual, full Seder. In recent years, we’ve gathered and cracked out some Haggadahs (sadly, not the Maxwell House ones from my youth), read a few pages in English, made the blessing over the wine and the matzo, and mocked my brother-in-law as he fumbled through the four questions.

This year, we forgot that we don’t have Haggadahs, and forgot to ask Husband’s parents to bring some. Instead of printing some up on the spot, we decided to forgo even that small ritual. We said the prayer over the wine, I googled the prayer over the matzo since we couldn’t remember it in full, and we ate traditional Ashkenazi Passover foods. I got all emotional while eating gefilte fish and Husband’s homemade matzo balls (no, this is not a pun or double entendre) because it reminded me of what I loved about Passover when I grew up.

I write all of this because I had a conversation the previous week with someone about Passover. When I asked her what she was planning, she told me that she wasn’t doing anything because she didn’t feel there was anything that would be meaningful to her kids. I was horrified. This is a person who works in public service. Even if you don’t have the religious fervor, even if you don’t have fond cultural associations, even if you don’t want to forge memories of family togetherness, Passover is at its heart a story about freedom and social justice. To not see that – or think that young people today find any meaning it in – just left me dumbstruck.

As always, I ate too much at my Passover dinner. We didn’t explicitly talk about the value of freedom or explore its parallels in modern society, but we knew it was there. I don’t believe that there was a baby named Moses lifted from the river by an Egytian princess who later spoke to God through a burning bush (and yes, the double entendre is cracking me up), then unleashed ten plagues upon the land, and then guided people through a parted Red Sea, but I value that family time, that tradition, and that opportunity to reflect on things bigger than me. I hope that everyone who celebrated had a lovely holiday as well.

Rollin’ in the Deep

March 25th, 2014 by Suzanne | 1 Comment | Filed in I love New York

Husband and I returned from my granny’s funeral last night. It wasn’t late, so to save money, we took the dreaded M60 bus home. (I almost always have some sort of horrific experience on this route, whether due to traffic, overcrowding, or more dramatically, a woman insisting that the man sitting next to her on the bus is sexually harassing her and thus calls 911, and put the call on speaker phone so the overcrowded bus can hear as we sit in traffic.) The bus was a little crowded, but not awful.

A middle-aged man sat across the aisle from me, chatting loudly with a young girl I assumed was his daughter. Mostly I paid no attention to them. However, as we approached the Astoria-Ditmas stop, the man swirled around in his seat, and flailed his arms. “Is this where we get off to take the N train to midtown so we can transfer at Times Square to go uptown?” he asked no one in particular. I looked at him. It was Richard Kind:
Yes, the guy my granny would have enjoyed on “The Carole Burnett Show,” who she may have watched on “Mad About You,” and also on “Spin City.” He actually lives in my neighborhood. I have seen him wandering around in a clueless manner on several occasions. It was just funny to see him on the dreaded M60 bus, also clueless. I thought that Granny would have gotten a kick out of it.

I debated telling him that he could stay on the bus to 125th and take the 2 or 3 downtown, but I worried that I would seem like a stalker, and he got off before I could say anything once I decided that I would just seem like a helpful, not scary fellow bus rider. This is too bad because the second part of our adventure took place on the subway train. Once the train pulled out of the station, some (drunk?) ornery fellow at the end of the car began yelling randomly. Then a station or two later, a young woman stepped into the car.

“Hello everyone,” she announced. “I’m struggling right now, and pregnant, so I am going to sing you a song and if you like it, you can give me a contribution. I’ll also take clapping and smiles if you don’t have money to give.”

I braced myself – she looked like she was going to be a horrible screecher. She took a deep breath, and the first notes came out. I was floored: it was like Adele was standing right in front of me. Everyone in the train was quiet while she belted out “Rollin’ in the Deep,” even the shouter at the end. When she finished, there were a few seconds of silence. then the shouter yelled, “BOOOOOOO!” but was immediately drown out by applause. She collected some dollar bills from appreciative riders. (I considered asking her if she wanted to be pregnant, and if not, giving her the number to the New York Abortion Access Fund, but she got off the train before I had a chance.)

The whole commute was one of those times when my faith in humanity was, temporarily, restored.

Grandma Bernice

March 18th, 2014 by Suzanne | 3 Comments | Filed in Uncategorized

This is my grandmother, Bernice (Kolichman) Cohen in South Haven, MI on her 19th birthday. I particularly like this picture today because she passed away earlier this morning, a few months shy of her 91st birthday. Even at the end, she was just like the spunky woman in this photo.

My grandmother had a difficult childhood. Her mother was nine months pregnant with what would have been my grandmother’s second sibling when she caught the flu and died. The fetus died, too. Her father, an immigrant from Kishniev, Moldova, eventually was sent to a sanitarium. When he recovered, he married a woman who did not treat my grandmother and her brother well. Then her father died, too, and her stepmother cast my granny and great uncle out. They lived with different cousins, forging a close bond. (I guess that’s the silver lining.)

The cousins called themselves the Nisht Mit Allem Club, which is Yiddish for “Not All There.” (I always forget that my grandmother grew up speaking Yiddish – or as she said, Jewish – because she was born in America, unlike my father’s parents, and so I always thought of her as my American, English-speaking only grandma.) The Nisht Mit Allem Club, though, is a good insight into who she was. She had a rocking sense of humor, often a ribald one. Once, my mom told me, she went to visit my mom at the school she taught it. When my mother introduced Granny to the principal, my granny asked if he liked fruit. “Sure,” the prinicipal said. My granny smiled. “Then take a bite of my ass – it’s a peach!” she replied.

My sister and I spent a lot of time with our grandma when we were kids. Running a few simple errands – going to the bank, post office, and grocery store – turned into an all day adventure. Most kids do not look forward to going to the eye doctor, but our annual visit was always exciting for me. We picked Grandma up early in the morning, drove to the Skokie Swift, and took the L downtown. After we each had our eyes inspected, we had lunch at the Marquette restaurant. This may have been where I uncovered my unfortunate love of cheesecake. (Even if Grandma did not introduce me to that treat, she definitely got me hooked on root beer, but I digress…) Once we returned during rush hour, and the trains were packed. My (maybe) five foot tall granny elbowed past hordes of people and smushed us onto the packed train. Later, my mom described her with wonder as “brutal – just brutal.”

She wasn’t brutal, though, when she took us to Marshall Field’s for lunch every year and then bought us Easter baskets. My bubby disapproved, but I couldn’t understand why. It wasn’t until I made a Catholic friend at 4th grade that I learned that Easter was actually a Christian holiday! With Granny, I just thought it involved cute bunnies, fuzzy chicks, and a lot of chocolate. She was fun like that.

Grandma was also super fun at Cubs games. Whether we were all the way up in the nose bleed seats along the 3rd baseline during the epic 1984 season, cheering for the Cubs with all the camp groups, or just a few rows behind the dugout, where she yelled “I love you (insert name of Cubs player here),” we had an awesome time.

In 1995, Granny came with my mom and bubby to visit me in New York. Needless to say, adventures were had! The best night, hands down, was when the fire alarm went off in my dorm, and my friends and I descended on their hotel room. We ate cookies, and of course, Grandma had everyone busting up with her jokes.

The thing about Grandma, though, is that she didn’t just love me, Dana, and my cousin. Any of our friends who didn’t have grandparents were “adopted” by her. When my friend Nancy heard that Granny had passed, she said that she always loved Granny’s sense of humor. My friend Julie, her voice cracking, said she was the sweetest woman in the world – much nicer than her own grandmother. My mom’s former student Rachel said she was a real classy lady (although this makes me wonder a bit if Rachel is confusing her for someone else…). Dana’s friend Sara said, “Your Grandma was wonderful. She will be missed.”

She is. She already is.

The Creepy (Plush) Cat lady

January 12th, 2014 by Suzanne | No Comments | Filed in family, fun trips

At the end of December, I was fortunate to be able to go on vacation with my husband, my sister, my nephew, my husband’s brother, my husband’s brother’s wife, and his niece. The mispokha converged on the Los Angeles area for six days of fun. We spent one of those days at Noah’s Ark, which sounds like a horrendous religious zealot place, but was actually a phenomenal exhibit of 350 animals made from various materials, climbing opportunities, and all sorts of other neat things. (The theme is making the world a better place.)

Me and my little friends

As we entered the exhibit, we passed through the gift shop. These adorable little plush possums, hanging from their tails, immediately caught my eye. I thought they would make fun souvenirs for the kids (plus one for my nephew’s friend), and planned to buy them on my way out. And of course, one for me, because damn it, they are so stupid cute!!!

As you can see from the picture, I only bought three. This was because they were offensively expensive at $9.79 each. (Although the next week, while I was in Berlin, these seemed a relative bargain compared to the plush possum I saw at a department store for 19.99 euros.) It seemed not right to buy one for myself, although I was very sad about it. Still, I was super excited to present them to the kiddies. I mean, seriously, they are fucking adorable. Who wouldn’t be excited to have a plush possum you can hang by its tail and use as a finger puppet?

After telling all of this to my sister, she looked at me with concern. “You are going to be one of those creepy cat ladies when you get old, except that you don’t really like live cats, you like stuffed animals. Your house is going to be filled with stuffed animals that you talk to, sit at the table with you, and watch TV with, and all of the kids in the neighborhood will find you weird.”

We looked at each other. Since it is totally true (please, I’m halfway there already), we burst out laughing.


December 26th, 2013 by Suzanne | No Comments | Filed in Damn

I had the pleasure of spending the past five days in the Los Angeles/Disneyland area with my family. However, all of the rest and relaxation was nearly undone this morning when dropping off my sister and nephew for their return flight. The Delta terminal at LAX looked like a scene from the news after the airport has been closed for three days due to volcanic ash or a blizzard. We could not even find the end of the line to drop off baggage in the terminal, so we went outside and waited for a skycap. Literally. A skycap. There was only one dude working.

This dude not only printed boarding passes and checked baggage, but he also loaded all of the piles of bags onto various carts that were intermittently picked up by people wearing Delta attire. (I offered to load the bags so he could concentrate on checking people in and printing labels, but said that was a liability.) He also had to answer questions from dumbfounded people who could not find any other Delta employees to answer their questions, which tended to be along the lines of, “What the FUCK IS GOING ON HERE?” His other duty was informing people who waited in line for an hour that he was unable to accept bags if people’s flights were less than 45 minutes from the time they arrived at his counter. This was a very unfortunate thing for many people to learn.

It was especially unfortunate to the guy who appeared to not speak English who kept running around in a circle at 7:55 am pointing to his 8:00 am boarding pass. We people in line tried to direct him to the Special Services desk (as we had heard the skycap do many times), and he ran in. A few minutes later, he frantically re-emerged on the sidewalk. He took his bags, which had not been checked in, threw them on top of one of the carts of checked bags waiting for a Delta attendant, and pushed it into the terminal. Yes. The entire cart, with about 20 or 30 bags on it. The skycap was so overwhelmed with his work that he did not notice.

The people in line stared, dumbfounded. I can’t decide if it was in shock, a selfish desire to not distract the skycap and lose precious time waiting while he chased the guy down, or both. (In my case, it was both.) No one said a word. The skycap checked Dana’s bag and Marcus’s car seat, and we dashed in so they could get through security, as their plane boarded in 25 minutes. We never saw the man or the cart of baggage again.

So if you flew Delta this morning from LAX, and your bag is lost, now you know why. Beware that crazed tourist!

Yarn. Vagina. No.

December 1st, 2013 by Suzanne | 6 Comments | Filed in mortification, unshaved snatch

My friend Nancy sent me a link to a post about a woman in Australia who is shoving yarn up her vagina and knitting a scarf from it. I watched the video. I was mostly grossed out by it.

Yarn seems like a horrible thing to shove into a vagina (or any body cavity for that matter). It’s not even the part about getting her period on the yarn that bothers me most, although bloody yarn also seems icky, no matter what the blood source is. No. What I keep fixating on all the flyaway threats that come off various yarns and how she is going to get an infection. Seriously, how is that not going to happen? Whenever I wear a scarf, there is always some sort of fluffy cast off. I am worried for this woman’s health.

Why, people? Why must we engage in creepy weird projects to in some convoluted effort to make vulvas “not scary?” Because I actually think that shoving things up your cooter to show that it is not scary is, in fact, pretty scary. We don’t seem to do this with other body parts. Eye sockets, for example, are a little creepy. I don’t (fortunately) see people randomly insert things into their eye sockets in some effort to make them less ooky.

On the flip side, I thought I caught a glimpse of some pubic hair, so good for her for keeping the natural wool while utilizing other wool for her scarf. But still. I think this definitely ranks as a don’t-try-this-at-home idea. *shudder*

Tags: ,

Veteran’s Day and Grandpa Ruby

November 11th, 2013 by Suzanne | 1 Comment | Filed in family

Grandpa Ruby's Army Portrait

Grandpa Ruby's Army Portrait

In the last few years, I have written extensively about my dad’s father, my grandpa Mike. I spent a lot of time with him when I was growing up, and the mystery around his missing family and his piece of a larger piece of history always made me feel closer to him. I have traveled back to his hometown, spent money on genealogical researchers to dig through the archives, and attempted to do my own research. I wrote essays, a chapbook, and a novel in progress about him.

But I had another grandfather.

Grandpa Ruby was an interesting person, but overshadowed by my other grandfather’s outsized charisma and the sense of unknown. His mother came from somewhere in Russia (I have tried to figure this out with not much luck, but there are some wonderful photos of her as a young woman), and Grandpa Ruby and his brother Mac were first generation Americans. Like any striving immigrant, my great grandma wanted her sons to be educated. However, right before he graduated from high school, Grandpa Ruby dropped out to become a bicycle racer. This did not go over well with his parents, but he persisted.

Anyway, not long after that, the US entered World War II, and of course my grandpa joined the army. He was sent down to Biloxi for training. Many of the men in his unit had never met a Jewish person before. Some of them were not very interested in meeting Jews, either. Grandpa and the other Jewish guys stuck together, though. And of course, not every non-Jew was an anti-Semitic piece of shit.

They went over to Europe and eventually my grandfather was wounded in battle. I don’t know all of the details (and if I get them wrong, I am sure that my mom and aunt will present the facts in the comments – thanks in advance!), but I believe he had shrapnel in his legs. He was sent to England to recuperate. He was also awarded a Purple Heart.

When he returned to the US, Grandpa Ruby became a glazier. He eventually owned his own glass shop, and installed glass at some very fancy hotels and homes. He was extremely generous, helping friends, family, and neighbors without every expecting anything in return. Unfortunately, that is more or less what he got, but he was not bitter.

Eventually Grandpa Ruby developed multiple sclerosis, and by the time I was old enough to really know him, he was confined to a wheelchair and understandably not so happy about the circumstances. My aunt and my mother always tell me that they wished I could have known him before that. I can see from his photos and home movies what an amazing person he was – his smile demonstrates a zest for life.

Grandpa Ruby passed away in 2001. This Veteran’s Day, I am honoring him, and thanking him for everything he did for our family and for his country. He is always missed.


Synopsis: This Eden Called Warsaw

October 27th, 2013 by Suzanne | 3 Comments | Filed in Jewishness, writing

Motel Rajsman is a young Jewish man in Warsaw in the 1930s, torn between his desire to live a broader life and the traditions of his Hasidic family. Balancing the two worlds is an ongoing struggle. After he sacrifices love with disastrous results, he finally begins to understand where he belongs, only to lose his world when the Nazis arrive.