Welcome, 5776

Greetings, those of all religions and those of no religion. I guess I'm both, though I observe some holidays. Rosh Hashanah began Sunday night--so Sunday night was our new year's eve. We don't set off firework but we do eat. Of course. In our Ashkenazi (European) tradition, we eat apples and honey, because that's what you could get in early fall in Europe, from Russia to Great Britain. Those in the Sephardic tradition eat dates, beans, leeks, beets, pomegranates, as well as apples. They also hold up the head of a ram or fish and say, May I be a head and not a tail. Raise your hand if you do that. I would do it if I could borrow a ram, head still connected to its neck. But I don't think that's the point. Maybe vegetarians could hold up a head of lettuce. At least that's something positive that you could do with iceberg. It has no other function--contains a bit of crunch, is devoid of nutrients.
[What, me worry?]

But let us continue. An important aside: You will read that Ashkenzi Jews are those from Eastern Europe. This is usually wrong, and it matters when you're talking about diseases we Ashkenazim are more prone to because of all the inbreeding. The Sephardim are from Spain and Portugal, which outlawed Jews and Judaism just as Christopher Columbus (whom some claim was Jewish; why that first name? Trying too hard?) was sailing the ocean blue. (In 1492/ Isabella said, Get out, O Jew!) Those who did not leave either converted sincerely or insincerely. Just for good measure, the Crown and Church launched an Inquisition. In his photography book on Sarajevo, Edward Serotta has a photo of Sarajevo Jews holding aloft their keys from Spain. They kept them in the family all these years. Which is a good thing, because now Spain says that if you can prove that your Jewish family was forced to leave, you can claim Spanish citizenship. Which opens up the whole of Europe for you. Perhaps that's the best route to go for Syrian refugees.

Sephardic Jews speak or spoke Ladino as a lingua franca. Ladino is to Spanish as Yiddish is to German. (Memorize that, it will be on the GRE.)  Both written with Hebrew letters. Some German Jews will tell you that they are not Ashkenazi, and if they can trace their roots to Spain, they're correct. But often they're just ignorant. They think that Ashkenazi means Eastern European, which in the 19th century especially meant poor, immigrant religious Jew who embarrassed the cultivated Goethe-spouting German Jew. If your family spoke Yiddish, no matter how many generations back, then Congratulations, you have breast cancer. Not definitely. But you have a greater chance of carrying the BRCA gene mutations. If you just clicked on BRCA, you will see that the Breast Cancer Resource Directory of North Carolina* refers to Ashkenazim as Eastern European in the title of the BRCA entry. It does clarify: mostly Jews from Germany, Poland, Russia. And the North Carolinians are correct in saying that 90 percent of US Jews are Ashkenazim. The rest are Sephardic, originally from Spain, France, Italy, North Africa, according to NC. I would add: Turkey, Greece (any who remained after Kurt Waldheim helped murder most of the Salonikan Jews), Holland, West Indies, Bulgaria (who saved its Jews, while throwing those from Macedonia and Thrace to the wolves), parts of the former Yugoslavia. Britain, friendly Britain, did not let us in for centuries. And then when Jewish war refugees started coming across the channel from Germany and Austria, the kindly Brits put them in camps alongside Nazis. Ach, they all sound alike, no?  Perhaps the Brits should be forgiven, since so many German Jews identified with Germany over Judaism. Which gave rise to this joke: Two German Jews have escaped the Nazis and are in exile in Paris. It's early 1940 and they're watching the French army go through maneuvers. One says to the other: Ach, our army is so much better. 

Meaning the German army. 

Get it?

But the point. The point is that I went to services Monday and then to the lake for tashlich, where we throw our sins into the water symbolically. 
We used to look like this:

but now we look like this:

People usually throw in crumbs or pocket lint (there was a discussion Monday of belly-button lint)  I threw in weeds. I narrowed my sins to two: grasping and complaining. I chanted to myself that I was giving them up. No grasping, no complaining.

And so I could not complain, about people or situations. It has been very difficult. (I am stating a fact, not complaining.) I really really wanted to tell L. about a conversation I had with someone who is more neurotic than I am, and kept repeating himself, and worrying about a teeny tiny thing, and the point would be that deep down I'm saying, I'm not so bad, look at him, and there would be ever-so- slight contempt in my gut and face. But because I couldn't tell him, I didn't have that patronizing feeling. O, I had it for a moment, but it kept disintegrating. Which is a good thing. As for the grasping--that is more abstract, and I find that it is harder to avoid.

*Why pick on North Carolinians? Because their site came up when I googled the key words.

The Bitch Laments

Sometimes you just hate yourself and there’s no escape.
You do something that you know how to do but you’re distracted. You’re sick you go to the doctor get the official diagnosis the official antibiotics but still a piece of writing is due. You’re not exactly sure when. You turn it in late. You don’t know this editor and he doesn’t know you and it was a chase, and not a merry one, to even find out if he wanted you to write this. And the ifs start piling up—if he had gotten back to you even a week after you first contacted him, you would have had maybe three times as much time to work on it. If you hadn’t gotten sick. You didn’t have fever, so you can’t say you couldn’t pull yourself out of bed. You didn’t have that fever headache nightmare feeling that’s such a relief to lose when your temperature falls. Then you leave town to see someone who is sick, and you are worried and hysterical and it is partly because you didn’t have enough sleep, and you’re hoarse and is that from coffee in the morning or something as common and coarse-sounding as post-nasal drip? If so then what’s the good of those two nasal sprays, isn’t that what they’re supposed to cure. You have too much coffee and not enough sleep and the person you came to see is worried, upset, very upset and frightened and you try to be reassuring you try to acknowledge the fear the apprehension and to hold back your hysteria. And before and in between all this you get the piece of writing back and it’s in Track Changes, which you hate. Your eyes can’t focus on something that’s there but you’re supposed to ignore, if you’re supposed to ignore it, why is It still there, in some stupid color that isn’t even a real color, like cyan. When did the color spectrum suddenly produce cyan? What’s next, what other half-poison word is sniffing around on the horizon? Merc? Arsen? What poison suits you today? All poisons suit you today, you would snuff yourself out if you were the self-snuffing-out kind. The piece comes back with 71 or 98 comments in those balloons, and there are paragraphs in all kind of colors and when you print out only the black font shows up. All the colors become white, like secret script you wrote in lemon juice when you were little, which become visible when you hold the paper over and candle and don’t set everything afire.

There are many questions and many comments and there are the same comments over and over on the right margin. And you can’t make changes in the piece itself, you don’t know how it’s done, so you make the changes inside the little comment balloons, as answers then at some point you realize you can write just on the piece itself. It turns out you are writing in a shade of maroon or brown-pink and half the time it’s stricken out and it’s tedious and exacting to get rid of the line-thrus. Then you end up rewriting what’s in sentences already because they have the line straight through them. And the comments, oh the comments in the little balloons are, This is strange. And: non sequitur. And where are we? And, This is very strange. No it’s not strange. And you know you can be sloppy you are sloppy right now and there are pages and pages of interviews you much go over in order to double-check, you have the pages in file folders you brought on your trip. You send the whole thing back and you don’t take out the comments that are really changes and substitutions though they appear in the little comment balloons on the side, you figure in the interest of time, you must send it back. Then there’s the phone call from the person you never met who says, I wrote 98 comments and you didn’t make changes and you say like what, like what didn’t I change? And he says, like this, and you say, oh yes, I did make changes this is what I said, only I wrote it in the little balloon because I couldn’t write it exactly onto the piece. And he tells you you can write it exactly on the piece, and you say I know now I got it to work but because there was not much time left I didn’t go through it again and move the comments from the word balloons onto the piece itself. And he says you write it right on the piece itself and you say I know I got it to work but not till part-way through it. He spent all this time, I spent all this time he says writing comments in the little balloons and you didn’t make changes. Then you kind of yell for a few sentences because you are out of town and trying to provide succor for the sick and you say I’m not trying to fuck with you and I didn’t make up that I had bronchitis last week and I am away this week, it sounds like what a person could make up but I didn’t. He is miffed, his ego is bruised it is battered, he spent all this time!! on the comments and you didn’t make changes on the piece itself. Which you can do—right on the piece. I know you said again again again but it didn’t always work and he said all you do is and you say again And you say you created error in some of your edits and you say I like to get edits back from editors I like to find ways to improve but you are sure he thinks you are lying. He says did you open it in Word? You did but the first time you opened it in Word it had a whole margin of the same same comments, a zoo of comments. You say to make it simple I can just cut it to 800 or 1,000 words and it can be clean and neat and he says no there are some good things and I spent time on the comments I spent time writing the edits but the truth is he spent too much time, to write comments in the little balloons is inefficient you hate Track Changes you just write comments in caps. Or by hand and then scan and send. Time is running out you are waiting for the valet to return with your rental car and you have to stop at whole foods for provisions for the ill. He says it’s up to you to do what you want with it and he is about to throw up his hands he is losing hope is that what he said? He is losing hope in the piece. You have lost hope in yourself. You feel as if you are 16 and have never been paid for your writing, you didn’t feel this bad when you were just starting out with this self-same publication with a gruff editor back in the days when you would take your file folders in a box to the office and go over your story together. And the old editor said, What is this about the Continental Congress? And he was right, that’s not what you meant.
                                 [I make big money on royalties. This is from my Cancer Bitch book.]

Why do you try to do journalism after all and what other way is there to make money from writing, and besides it’s less money way less money than it used to be. Fie fie on you Craigslist who eviscerated classified ad sections around the world the entire world or at least the Earth. Writing book reviews makes you nervous, even more so than journalism and you are thinking of getting back to writing book reviews and you have a personal essay with another editor who will never ever get back to you he is fighting a war of attrition he is hoping for your attrition. That you will fall away like an outer leaf and outer sepal. Because you were hoping to make some money and so your wrote an essay that seemed mainstream to you and he this other editor is afraid of it, what is it, is it standup are the little segments too surprising for his gentle reader. Despair this is. And go back to writing for nothing being published in what used to be called the little magazines, you publish in them for nothing and you make no money from the books you write but after you write them there are universities that pay you a thousand dollars and travel expenses so that you will talk about this writing that makes no money to students paying thousands. How can you sustain. How can anyone. How can you be so fat if you’ve lost five pounds. How much did that breast weigh anyway? Shylock’s pound of flesh. Like death and more death. Mortification. Mortify and mortified.
The pieces I wrote, for the Progressive online and Chicago Reader online. 

For metastatic breast cancer survivors

There are not that many perks that come with having metastatic breast cancer. This is one of them: You can learn to row and have a free lunch. If you like rowing, you can join Recovery on Water, my rowing team in Chicago.

Metastatic Breast Cancer Learn to ROW @ LPBC

Sunday, August 23, 10 am to noon, free lunch to follow

A FREE learn to ROW event for Metastatic Breast Cancer thrivers hosted by the Lincoln Park Boat Club, 2341 N Cannon Dr, Chicago, IL 60614

Metastatic breast cancer, also known as mbc, stage IV or Advanced Breast Cancer, is cancer that has spread beyond the breast and lymph nodes under the arm. The most common sites of metastases are the bones, lungs, liver and brain.

Given that the metastatic breast cancer community is smaller than the larger and more general breast cancer community, this event is SPECIFICALLY for survivors, thrivers, patients, and fighters of metastatic breast cancer.

We will teach you how to row at the Lincoln Park Lagoon from 10 am to noon, followed by a free lunch provided by Recovery on Water (ROW), a rowing team for those treated for any kind breast cancer.

Sign up here.

Guest post: How breast cancer survivors transcend Middle East conflict

by Ruth Ebenstein
 Ruth Ebenstein, Oak Park Temple, July 12, 2015              photo by Matt Baron

I never thought something so good would come out of something so bad.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 42 while nursing my baby, I thought, I'm going to die. I had buried two other friends to the disease. Was there any other trajectory?
The pathology report on the lymph nodes scooped out of my armpit confirmed that the cancer had NOT spread. Though blessed, I lumbered around, all dark and down, in my apartment in Jerusalem. While my lumpectomy scars were still healing, I gritted my teeth and walked my fingers up the wall, stretching the scar tissue under my armpit.
Then, on a rainy Wednesday in January some four and a half years ago, I took a break from my exercises to check my email. There, I found a query that radiated a glint of light.
"Do you want to join an Israeli-Palestinian breast cancer support group?"
Walking into the first meeting, I wondered, Was something good going to come out of cancer?
The answer turned out to be No. Something wonderful was going to come out of cancer: friendship that grew to love, between me and Ibtisam Erekat, a bold, captivating Muslim Palestinian woman from Abu Dis, whose home was about fifteen miles away from mine.

                  Ibtisam & Ruth

Now we are like sisters. our feelings of family have extended to our kin. Our children play together, and we've befriended each other's siblings and parents. All this, even though we live on opposite sides of the concrete separation wall and a checkpoint that separate Israel and Palestine.
Over the next two weeks, I will share this story--of transcending the divide, of discovering hope, peace and love in cancer-- in Boston and Detroit.
Wednesday, July 15, 6:30 p.m. at Misselwood Estate, Beverly, Massachusetts, sponsored by CJP's Women's Philanthropy
Monday, July 20, 12 p.m. at Temple Israel, West Bloomfield, Michigan
Thursday, July 23, 7 p.m., at Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue, sponsored by Detroit Interfaith Outreach Network
Come join me! I promise to feed your heart and your mind.
 You can read more of Ruth’s story here:
About a trip that a delegation of her group took to Bosnia and Herzegovina to meet local women who are also survivors and look past their ethnic and religious differences to support each other, in Tablet.  http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/113749/brought-together-by-cancer
 About a family visit to East Jerusalem, in the Atlantic.
She is writing a memoir called  Ibtisam and I: An unexpected friendship across the Israeli-Palestinian divide (www.laughthroughbreastcancer.com).
 And, you can "like" the Facebook page that she’s set up for her memoir-in-progress. 
For more info, check out her website.

Bloody Blood Cancer Bitch: Jakafi hath arrived/Cancer Bitch hath, too, in Tampa.

My hematologist filled out the forms and Walgreens filled out the forms and on Monday L rode his bike to Fancy Hospital Walgreens and picked up the goods. Today is day 2 on Jakafi and I just arrived, Jakafi in hand, in Tampa. I'm doing a craft seminar and reading today at 4pm, Reeves Theater in Vaughn Center, University of Tampa, for the low-rez MFA program. Free to the public.


OMG OMG. There is a goddess who watches over people with rare chronic blood cancers. Co-pay for a month's worth of Jakafi is two sawbucks, or one Andrew "I killed Native Americans" Jackson, or 2000 pennies. Quite doable and $10,080 less than I thought it would be!
Trail of Tears, brought to you by the US government/Andrew Jackson

Sticker shock shock shock

Jakafi costs

$11,000 for a month's supply! My insurance company is supposed to call me. We shall see.