Erev 2023

I got to see the family again yesterday, after what seems like weeks.  I did a few small jobs around the house, and then we had our erev Shabbat meal by J&C, good as usual.  The day seemed almost springlike, compared to last week.  I actually took photos of spring bulbs starting to sprout up, while ice melted in the drainage stream behind the house.

I’ll be home alone for NYE, which is the way I like it these days.  Others can go freeze and spread viruses in drunken mobs, while I hibernate in my cozy apartment like a sane animal, and wait for the true new year in spring.  To those who celebrate, Happy New Year!

A Long Cold Week

It’s been a long, cold week.  Spectrum internet was down across the country for days, so I couldn’t access this site or even watch videos.  The family is either out of town or doing their thing for xmas, which is fine.  I don’t mind the solitude, and I got a lot of reading done!  No way you could get me out in that arctic.  The historical record deep freeze was alarming, not so much for me with my power still on, thankfully, but  for millions of people without power, causing many deaths due to extreme cold and wind chills way below zero.  The snow here was minimal, but in other states the blizzards also set new records.  I worried about those poor technicians out getting frostbite or hypothermia restoring internet, so others could work, or just resume the convenience of streaming games or shows for xmas weekend.  Internet connection is one more thing I will never take for granted again.

Meanwhile, I spent Chanukah happily hibernating.  I felt sorry for all the people having to be out rushing around in the freezing cold, gearing up for their holiday.  Xmas is a non-event for many of us, so I’m just as happy to let it pass uneventfully and get on with life.  However, Jess wouldn’t hear of it, and finally persuaded me resistance was futile, and got me to spend a pleasant, quiet day with her family.  They even gave me generous and thoughtful gifts.  Eric was cooking up his usual delicious storm, in this case perfect homemade cinnamon buns, and later excellent gnocchi.  There were fine wines to drink, and a really good scotch to be opened and tested.  There were cats to be played with!  Little Pixie even came out and joined Odin and me much of the day.  And there was the Jigsaw Puzzle From Hell!  Who can forget it!

Jess gave me a more thorough tour of Narnia, which is what I call the old house’s mysterious nooks and crannies!  The attic is the proverbial quintessential attic stuffed to the ceiling with storage, including old paintings by relatives, a couple of which she generously gave me.  She also lent me her laminator so I could make better bookmarks, etc.  Last but not least, I got to make off with frozen turkey leftovers from TG.  Jess and Eric and I sat in the kitchen and talked about our backgrounds and lives.  It turned out to be a very fine and worthwhile day!

One of the gifts was a generous gift card, which I’ve wasted no time spending on most of the basic necessities on my wishlist!

All this time, Avdi and K have been away in PA visiting the other kids for the holidays.  Meanwhile, due to the record-breaking storm across the country, and a systems meltdown, Southwest Airlines completely shut down and canceled most flights for most of the week, so he was stranded along with thousands of other travelers.  Fortunately, he was able to rent a car and is now driving all the way back in one day.

Here is a photo timeline of my Chanukah week.  Most of it was home alone, which I really didn’t mind at all.  My life and role are going to change drastically once all the kids are living here starting this summer, so I’m soaking up all the luxury while I can.




Consider the Unhoused

As a relatively new member of the below-poverty line club, I still catch myself thinking like my old privileged self.  I still assume there are certain basic necessities one “must” have at all times to be “secure”, and spend too much mental time strategizing how to maintain adequate stores of those items to get me through.

I can’t just jump in a car and go to stores, even if I had much discretionary spending money.  Once I’ve paid the rent and whatever utilities I’m not (thankfully) getting assistance for, I have to conserve the small remainder until next month’s limited income deposits.  And hope no unforeseen emergencies come up.

I’ve gotten very good at salvaging, reusing, and stretching every last thing.  I don’t need entertainment, other than reading, watching shows on my laptop (courtesy of family memberships), and creating gifts out of almost thin air.  Oh, and watching my indoor plants grow.  (Hort/Bot folks will get it.)

Then I remind myself just how privileged I still am, as we head into a scary winter deep freeze, with temps and wind chills falling to Antarctica.  As deathly afraid I am of winter and freezing, I have a roof over my head, heat and hot water (so far), food, water, and clothing to get me through it, and a few family and friends not out of town for the holidays I could call in an emergency.  Unlike the many unhoused in STL.

I worry about the unhoused under the best of weather conditions, but to be out there in sub-zero temps with wind chills of minus 25° or more, and snow or ice, is dangerous and potentially lethal.  The good non-profits here in STL and elsewhere are working their hardest to address the lack of shelters and assistance, which the city is failing to provide, but it’s never enough.  No human should be subjected to such sub-human conditions, no matter how they got there.

If I had extra money to share, it would start with the unhoused, because I know just how easily anyone can find themself there.  It frustrates me that though I can just about take care of myself, with some appreciated help, I can’t help others.  Then I watch people take everything for granted, assuming there’s more where that came from.  It’s understandable from my old POV, when I didn’t worry too much about money, but now it baffles and concerns me.

If you’re reading this and have extra funds to donate to a good cause this winter, please consider reputable local non-profits in your area providing shelter and relief to unhoused people.  Imagine yourself out there, through no fault of your own, and no one to turn to for basic human survival.  If I knew one person was moved to help other humans because of something I said, it would be the best gift ever.  If you have done so already, and I know some of you who have, thank you!





My First Homegrown Apartment Salad

Who says you can’t grow food in an apartment?

Today my assorted salad greens got their first haircut and, along with some homegrown basil and chives, made a nice salad to go with my Italian pasta with homemade white cheese herb sauce.  The herbs, oregano, rosemary, and sage, are also homegrown.  Salad dressing was a simple olive oil/balsamic/cracked pepper vinaigrette.  A little red wine on the side.  The whole meal may have cost $1 at most.  Low-income living at its finest.  Here are some before and after shots.

Happy third light (and erev Solstice)!



Second Light STL

Today I got to go shopping for groceries, thanks to J&C!  I should be all provisioned up to get through the coming Deep Freeze.

Later, we all (Avdi, Jess, J&C, K, and I) lit the second light on four different menorahs!  We ate a delicious dinner by J&C, and everyone spun dreidels.  J and A opened their gifts from me ahead, while Avdi and K will be taking most of the other gifts with them to PA.  Avdi and I watched a video of Ikar (The Bobs’ synagogue in LA) Kabbalat Shabbat with Curt Smith of Tears for Fears performing “Mad World” and other songs with Hazzan (Cantor) Hillel Tigay.  Later I went home and lit my own menorah.


First Chanukah Light in STL

For the first light of Chanukah, I had a latke party with Avdi, J&C, and K–his first time here–at my apartment.  Actually it was the first time all of us have been in my apartment together.  It was like a housewarming.  I made two kinds of latkes, Sephardic-spiced ones from scratch, and traditional Ashkenazic ones from a mix, served with yogurt and sautéd sweet cinnamon apples.  I almost forgot to take latke photos, they went so fast!  For dessert we had tea and See’s Marshmints, courtesy of The Bobs, with mixed reviews–more for me!

Tomorrow I’ll go to their house for second light, and gift-giving.


Modah Ani

I am thankful…for a very significant STL first–my first in-person Shabbat at CRC, with Avdi.  Not only are my photos firsthand, not screenshots, but I got to see all the people–Rabbis Karen and Daniel, Andrew on guitar, Leslie on vocals, and congregants, live!  I got to see and touch a Torah scroll up close, sing all the tunes I’ve learned online, express my thanks for being there with my son, and ask for r’fuah shlemah (full healing) for my brother not just on the streaming chat.  I even got to pet someone’s actual tiny dog, who was also singing along.  And I saw where my clothes for the unhoused have been delivered for me by a kind CRC member.  I’m mostly thankful for my son, who is going through some difficult stuff, but still invited me to join him.

Here are the iconic lobby and artwork, the sanctuary, and Andrew and R. Daniel tuning up for the service.

Here are scenes from erev Shabbat–my apartment, Avdi’s house, and J&C’s latest bread.

RIP “Boyfriend” the Cat?

I just learned that the cat nicknamed “Boyfriend” in my profile photos was probably killed by a car recently.  I felt so sad.  One more plug for keeping your cats indoors if at all possible.  Humans, even unintentionally, are the biggest danger to pet cats.  I miss my cat Misu, but at least I know she’s kept safe inside.

I haven’t had much to write, even typical boring stuff, thus the silent space.  There was an interesting event at CRC Shabbat service wherein a Palestinian Muslim woman and Canadian Jewish Israeli woman spoke about their program in Israel that educates children from both cultures in integrated schools, and brings Palestinians and Jews together, especially rare in the current political situation.  Hopefully these kids will go on to eventually change the whole hateful system.  It was inspiring.

Also through reaching out to CRC, I found someone in the community who can pick up my load of winter clothing for the unhoused and deliver it to CRC’s drop off place, so that’s a relief.  The unhoused situation in STL is pretty dire, as in most cities, with inadequate city gov assistance or funding, so many local nonprofits join efforts to house and provide services to the unhoused.

My son took me to brunch at Cyrano’s Café in WG early in the week, a lovely place with lovelier grilled cheese sandwiches.  That’s a big event for me!  We even shared an ice cream!

As with TG, everyone in my family will be gone or unavailable during most of the holidays, so I’ve been kindly invited to Jess’s family’s for a low-key xmas day.  She also took me to her kid’s school band concert last night, which was nice.  The school, like many institutions in STL, goes back to 1889.  The auditorium and building, with many newer additions and offerings, is impressive.  It was pouring down rain, so I couldn’t get any exterior photos.

In other news, by some miracle or accident, I was approved for a generous amount of energy assistance, by the same exact state DSS that denied me other assistance I qualified for, due to their dysfunction, but who’s keeping track!  That, and my decent SSA cost of living adjustment (raise) for 2023 due to inflation, will allow me to pay my rent and basic expenses without help, assuming no major medical or other expenses.  I don’t take any of this for granted, knowing many  seniors and marginalized people can’t even afford to live or keep a roof over their heads, through no fault of their own.  I’m very fortunate.






Groceries, Woo!

Yep, that’s what excites me nowadays, an actual trip to grocery stores.  It’s a rare, fun occasion!  Thanks to J&C, I got to go to not just one, but three stores!  It’s been like months!  It’s an event.  I’ll freeze most of it, so I can go another month or two.

This is a challenging time of year, trying to get creative with gift-buying on a tight budget, but I’m almost there.  I won’t actually see most of the giftees, as usual, but they’ll get something from me, at least.

Some household items I’m able to order online and have shipped, so today my potting soil arrived, and I potted up some rooted cuttings and performed triage on my son’s ailing orchid in my mini-plant clinic.  I treat them like pets, since I can’t have any.

Here are some of my patients, and a minty drink resulting from pruning.


Home Ec 101

Here’s what happens when I lie awake worrying about food insecurity (a common condition of low-income seniors with limited access to fresh food)–I get industrious in the kitchen with what I have.  Thus this multi-grain crusty bread, and this Indian lemon/lime pickle.  Not to brag, but they came out quite nicely, with a few simple ingredients.

Then I found out that due to inflation, my SSA cost of living adjustment went up for next year by 8.7%!  One good benefit of inflation.  For some it would seem minuscule, but when every cent counts, it’s a big deal.  It means barring catastrophic events (like medical issues) I can pay my rent and utilities, and even have some left over for groceries!  Maybe even afford food deliveries!  (Or at least spare change for the bus.)

Meanwhile, I got on CRC’s social media site and have begun to meet a few people from the online community, just to say hi or maybe even meet up some time.  I’ve been isolated from humans for way too long.  Now if only this gorgeous relic of the last century were mine, I’d be all set out here on Route 66!  I want to eat it, it looks so appetizing.