The dressing comes on it.

If you are one of those people who are voting for Trump because of his economic policy, but admit that you don’t agree with his stance on most social issues, please remember:

It’s not like ordering a salad.  You can’t ask for those things to be “on the side.”  When you vote for Trump, it’s all mixed in together. There’s nothing you can do about it once it’s served.  You can’t send it back.
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Top 10 Things I Can’t Do Anymore Now That I’m Almost 45.

There are many, many things I can’t do anymore now that I am 2 1/2 months away from turning 45.  Too many to write, so I narrowed it down to the top ten things that I Just Can’t Do:

I can’t: 
1. Talk on the phone while grocery shopping. I can no longer multi-task. I will definitely forget to buy something if I’m chatting on the phone walking through the frozen foods aisle.

2. Drive in the dark: At night, unless a street is illuminated by a flood of lights, I just can’t see where I am going. Without lights, driving in the dark, I get disoriented and forget where I was going in the first place, or why I was going there.

3. Drink and drive: This does not mean that I cannot drink alcohol and get behind the wheel of a car. It means I literally cannot take a sip of a drink, any drink, while I am driving. This must be because my mouth is drooping, and has moved lower down my face. But I have to wait for a light and come to a complete stop to attempt to take a sip from my water bottle or I will simply spill it everywhere.

4. Recognize anyone: If you run into me and we haven’t seen each other in a while, I’m very sorry. I just don’t know who you are. (Although I will have a running checklist in my head for the rest of the day- do I know her from school?  work? children’s after school activities? was she a client? is she my child’s doctor?  Is she my neighbor? Was she my neighbor? Is that our vet? My dental hygienist?)

5. Park in a multi-level structure: I will never find my car again. Ever. Even if I write down the spot where I parked. Because most likely, I will forget where I wrote that information down.

6. Loud restaurants: I’d rather just stay home. I can’t hear you anyway.

7. Remember who I am calling or why I called them until they answer the phone: And then I’m still not totally sure, so I’ll look at my cell phone and pray that the name of the person that I called is programmed into my phone.

8. Understand today’s music lyrics: I can’t figure out who shawty is and why so many people sing about him or her.

9. Handle people who complain about problems they created. Or people who are constantly unhappy or negative. Or those who must put others down or to embarrass others simply to make themselves feel better. Or men going through mid-life crises. Or men who cheer on men who are having mid-life crises. Or shitty, absentee parents who choose their own selfish wants over their children’s basic needs.  Or women with no backbones.  Or millionaires who don’t pay taxes.  Or those who don’t believe in climate change or stem cell research. Or adults who act like children when they don’t get their way. Or those who think the world owes them something. Or those who have just absolutely fallen in love.. with themselves. Or people who don’t understand the meaning of the words ‘respect” or “kindness” or what it means to have “class.”

Ya know, now that I think about it, I think I just can’t handle most of the people anymore.

10. This election. This country. This male candidate who may be the face of our country for the next 4 years who is a proven racist bigot who hates women and mocks people with disabilities and who will have the power to appoint Supreme Court Justices who will most definitely overturn “Roe v. Wade,” and who will deregulate gun control, refuse to increase the minimum wage nationally, mess with gay rights somehow, and who will never go away, even when he is done with his term in office. Remember: even when Trump is out of office, we will be stuck with those anti-women, anti-gay, anti-minority Supreme Court Justices for the REST OF THEIR LIVES.

I JUST CAN’T.

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The Amazing Race

Donald Trump and I agree on one thing: this country is a disaster. But the rationale behind our opinions differ greatly.

We are a country that revels in other people’s miserable lives. We watch shows like “Honey Boo Boo” and “Hoarders” and eat up every moment of the pain and tragedy that consume the lives of the people that are featured on these shows. We are not content with reality t.v. that portrays “real life.” Instead, we want to sit back and observe and laugh at those who are in awful “realities.”

We cheer for the “Dance Moms” and “Toddlers and Tiaras” where children are humiliated for higher ratings. We watch “The Bachelor” not to see who lives happily ever after. We really watch to see who has an embarrassing skeleton in their closet. We watch to see which contestant fights with others the most, or which contestant makes a drunken fool of themselves on national t.v.

We love tabloid drama. We love the Real Housewives, Duck Dynasty, the Duggars and the Kardashians. But we are not content to watch them be content. We want the bad stuff. We crave the scandals.

I am in no way implying that I am not part of this culture. In fact, I am absolutely, 100 percent guilty of contributing to it.

However, when people ask me how outraged I am at the latest Trump allegations, I have found myself saying no. What I’m more upset about is the outrage about the outrage.

The things Trump said and allegedly did are revolting. But let’s be honest: it can’t be surprising to anyone.

The most upsetting thing he said (to me, at least) was that he could shoot people on the street and he’d still get elected. Anything new or upsetting that may come out at this point doesn’t make me dislike him any more. I arrived at my own opinion a long time ago. Anyone who says that this Billy Bush tape suddenly has changed their minds about him has been in denial for a long time.

This election has never been about the issues. Instead, it has been about digging up the most horrible, disgusting things about the candidates and their families. It is an amazing race of who can find out the most dirt at the fastest pace humanly possible. It’s entertainment.

But that’s exactly what it should be here in the U.S.A. That’s what we, as a society, demand. It’s good t.v. It’s 24/7, around the clock, shock and awe. There’s a new scandalous revelation, comment, or theory every hour.

The Clinton email scandal was interesting and political. But it wasn’t sexy. Trump’s failed Trump University was controversial. But no one said pussy during the coverage of that particular issue.

None of us are watching the debates to hear about the candidate’s stances on the energy crisis. No one is glued to their couches to hear them discuss their views on global economics.

We want to watch them both look like idiots. We want to hear Donald shout out and interrupt Hilary. We want to watch Hilary roll her eyes at the camera. We want to watch rude, crude, offensive behavior. We want to watch a disaster in real-time.

So please, America: just stop. Stop feeding into the drama-on either side. No one is changing their minds now. No one is really undecided. We are all just feeding into the machines that re-affirm the support or hatred for one candidate or another.

You want to do something really shocking? Turn off your t.v.s when the angry rhetoric comes on. Try not to share the endless parade of idiotic news cycles. Stop cheering and clapping for the absolute degradation of a human being who for some reason really wants the thankless job of leading this nation.

And please- don’t pretend that you are watching the coverage or the debates to get more information on these two candidates to decide who to vote for. If you are really undecided, go read up on their political positions. Find out what their specific plans are on all of the important issues. Stop discussing groping and cheating and start discussing which of these candidates wants to help our soldiers or which one wants to help improve the state of education in this country.

One of these two contestants will get the final rose, and one of these two will get voted out by the tribal council.

If you really want to have your 15 minutes of t.v. fame- you have your chance.
On Election Day, get up and vote. Then go home and watch the returns. That’s reality t.v.

Because one of these people, regardless of how you feel, will be our next American Idol.

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Chrysanthemum

The assignment for the teachers was simple: teach a unit to your students about bullying. We were given some standard slides to show our class (or power points. Whatever. I know, I’m stuck in the ‘80s.) And then we were told that we could add our own personal stories.

Lucky for me, I was a somewhat overweight child with a maiden name that could be pronounced “Ox.” I was a “smarty pants kid “that skipped Kindergarten and wore giant large-rimmed glasses that were later made famous by Mrs. Doubtfire.  I was going to totally nail this teaching assignment.

During a brainstorming session with the other teachers, one suggested we read a book called “Chrysanthemum” to our students. “Chrysanthemum” is the story of a young mouse (named Chrysanthemum) who gets teased about her name. Before reading the book, she suggested that we have the students each cut out a paper heart. While reading the story, each time Chrysanthemum is bullied, we would have the children crumple up the heart and then try to smooth it out again. By the end of the story, the heart is crumpled several times, and the paper is never as smooth as it once was. The lesson, she said, is that being mean to a person can have lasting effects, and that even with an apology, a heart may never recover.

“Um, I’m sorry,” I said. “I think that’s a lovely lesson and all, and perhaps I’m overthinking this a bit, but isn’t that sort of overdramatic? I mean, shouldn’t we really be teaching these kids about getting over bad shit that happens to them and not dragging around their childhood pain forever?”

Silence.  Crickets.  And then, “Alrighty.  Well,  is everyone else o.k. with this project?”

That’s me. The rebel teacher of the 4th grade.

Perhaps it’s because it’s that time of year where Jews have to feel bad about the pain they caused everyone during the past year. Perhaps it’s because we are in the middle of a political season where the candidates spend most of their time drudging up their opponents’ past mistakes. Or perhaps it’s because I have not personally had the greatest year of my own life.

Whatever it is, I’m feeling like it’s time to move on. The air is much more polluted with negativity and anger in this country than whatever it is that is eating away at our earth’s core. We wear our hatred for each other like it’s the latest fashion trend. We seem to be proud to show it off.

Our Temple has issued a challenge to it’s members this Rosh Hashanah season. Our rabbis gave each of us a rubber bracelet to wear this week. We have been told to start out in the morning by putting it on one wrist. Each time we complain about anything throughout the day, we have to switch it to the other wrist. The rabbis want us to be consciously aware of how many times we change that bracelet back and forth each day.  In this country, they said, we complain way too much.  In order to make things better here,  we need to try and stop it.

I know I’m part of the problem. I have changed my bracelet back and forth 25 times since 11:00 a.m. (Sample hour of my life: Why do people take so long in the g-damned bathroom at Starbucks? Are they taking a shower in there? How do I always manage to pick the longest check-out line at the grocery store? How is she so skinny? Doesn’t she eat? This traffic is so slow. I’m swear, I’m going to ram into the driver in front of me if she doesn’t just f*cking move.)

But rebel teacher or not, I feel that it’s better to teach these 9 year olds to deal with the bad stuff now so that they don’t carry around their anger forever. As my Rabbi told us this morning, the less we complain, the less toxic energy we are throwing into the universe. Focus on what you have, instead of obsessing about what you don’t. Focus on the good things in your life, however small, instead of incessantly talking about the bad.

So, I did my own little lesson on bullying instead of the Chrysanthemum lesson. Through role play, I gave the students scenarios in which someone was super disrespectful or obnoxious to someone else. The class had to decide how a situation could have been handled better. And at the end of each scenario, they had to look each other in the eye, apologize to each other, accept the apology, and move the hell on with their lives with the hope that the next person they interact with that day would be a little less of an asshole than the previous person. (or some nicer version of that.)

The lesson? Even with a crumpled heart, we have got to learn to stop complaining about the past. We have got to stop letting the hurt and anger consume us.

Move on. Get over it. Enjoy life. Move forward. Be happy. Stop complaining. To me, that is the lesson that we really want to teach our next generation.

And as for me?  I’m going to really, really try and keep my bracelet on one wrist as much as possible.

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In The Right

This past week, I told my students that they would be having a substitute teacher on Monday, October 3. “It’s Rosh Hashanah,” I told my class. “It’s the Jewish New Year and I will be going to temple that day. There’s only one student in this our class who is Jewish, so I assume that both Max and I will be gone that day.”

“I’m Jewish too!” shouted a boy from the back of the class.

“No you are not,” I said to the boy, confident in my response. After all, he has an adorable blonde buzzcut and blue eyes. He looks like an 8 year old version of Chris Pine. And also, his name is Brody. So, naturally, I assumed I was right.

There is quite a controversy swirling here in Arizona, and it all centers on the casting of the musical “In The Heights.” “In The Heights”centers on a variety of characters living in the neighborhood of Washington Heights, on the northern tip of Manhattan. At the center of the show is Usnavi, a bodega owner who looks after the aging Cuban lady next door, pines for the gorgeous girl working in the neighboring beauty salon and dreams of winning the lottery and escaping to the shores of his native Dominican Republic. Meanwhile, Nina, a childhood friend of Usnavi’s, has returned to the neighborhood from her first year at college with surprising news for her parents, who have spent their life savings on building a better life for their daughter. Ultimately, Usnavi and the residents of the close-knit neighborhood get a dose of what it means to be home. The show was written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and has a similar vibe and hip-hop score as it’s more famous sibling, “Hamilton.”

I first saw this musical when my son Sam was in it at Stagedoor Manor. I had seen it while it was on tour in 2009, and it just didn’t resonate with me. Perhaps it was because of the theatre’s crappy acoustics (yeah, yeah, I know, the Gammage has improved it’s sound system), or maybe it didn’t say anything to me personally at the time.

Several years later, I watched my son Sam and his multi-cultural cast tell the story of a girl who was worried about disappointing her parents, a family sacrificing everything for their daughter’s future, and a parental figure facing her death. This time, I got it, and I loved it.

“In The Heights” has now hit the local theatre circuit, and two theatres in Arizona are producing their own versions of the show. One is Phoenix Theatre, which features a professional acting company, and the other is a combined cast of actors from Xavier College Preparatory and Brophy,College Preparatory, both of which are Catholic, Jesuit High Schools.

Chicago’s Porchlight Music Theatre’s production of “In the Heights” was surrounded with controversy because of its casting a white man in the lead role of Usnavi, originated on Broadway by composer/lyricist Miranda. The character of Usnavi came to American from the Dominican Republic. Phoenix Theatre’s production of IN THE HEIGHTS, cast an Iranian-born actor as Usnavi, stirring up dissent from the Phoenix Latin community. And now, The Xavier/Brophy production has become a hot topic of online teenage controversy in the Phoenix community.

Recently, a Phoenix student who attends Arizona School For The Arts published an article in one of our Phoenix newspapers about how upset he is about the casting of this show at Brophy high school. It was called “Why Do White People Keep Putting On In The Heights?” He states that “only 3 of the 12 leads are being played by Latin actors” even though he acknowledges that the population of these schools does not lend itself to the casting of an all Latino production.

I was surprised by this article for two reasons: (1) because he can get published in the “Phoenix New Times” and I have never been able to accomplish this feat and (2) because he’s an actor.

I would like to respond to this young man with a response entitled, “I’m ok with the fact that non-Jews keep playing Jews even though there are a shit-load of Jews out there that could play these roles.”

I am Jewish. I love my Jewish heritage and the story of my people. Our story is most notably told in theatrical form in “Fiddler On The Roof.” This show has been staged too many times to count, but in the many productions I have seen, the majority of the cast has played by non-Jews. And while we can argue that there is unfortunately a shortage of many ethnicities in the acting world, we cannot say that there are a shortage of Jewish actors.

The hit show “The Goldbergs” on ABC, is a show about a Jewish family in the 1980s. Out of all of the actors in the world who could have played a Jewish mom, dad, two sons and a daughter, they cast only one Jewish actor. The rest are played by non-Jews.

Jason Biggs is not Jewish, although he plays one onscreen four times in the “American Pie” movies. The list of non-Jews who played Jewish characters is lengthy: Christian Bale played Jew Irving Rosenfeld In “American Hustle.” Charlton Heston played Moses. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Jewish Jordan Belfort in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” In “Schindler’s List,” Ben Kingsley played Schindler’s Jewish accountant Itzhak Stern.

I could go on for hours. I mean, for god’s sake, John Travolta just played Robert Shapiro in the O.J. miniseries.

However, I have never found myself watching one of these actors and shouting “They are not Jewish enough!” My ethnicity is rich and layered and deep and I would never balk at an actor who wanted to learn the story of my people.

And if, for example, a Roman Catholic High School located inside a Roman Catholic Diocese in Phoenix wanted to put on a production of “Fiddler On The Roof,” I would never scream about the lack of Jews in the performance. And that’s a good thing for Brophy High School, because they have put on two productions of “Fiddler” in the last few years.

Turns out my student Brody is Jewish. I felt like an idiot for assuming that he wasn’t one just because he didn’t look like the ones I grew up with. And even if he wasn’t Jewish, I should have been glad that a kid today would want to be one.

Life wasn’t always that way for us. The celebration and acceptance of my people can be attributed to many factors: but I would say that the universal love of “Fiddler On The Roof” is on top of that list.

I recently vacationed in the Dominican Republic. And while I enjoyed the beaches and food of the Dominican, I learned very little about the culture of the people beyond the resort walls. “In The Heights” has taught me that they are a people who fiercely love their families and their culture, and protect both these things at all costs.

Visiting the country did not teach me these things. Theatre did. And for that reason, I celebrate the people and the country more than I ever would have had I not seen this show.

We have so much to argue about right now in this country. Let’s not argue about something so good in a world that can feel so bad.

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You Can Call Me Al

I’m voting for Hilary. And it’s not just because of her views, or her beliefs, or her experience (although those things are very helpful.) But to be honest: It’s because of Bill. I really, really want to know what they will call him. Many titles have been thrown around for the first male presidential spouse: The First Gentleman? The First Dude? The First Fella? I suppose it doesn’t really matter what he’s called- he will be the first one in history to have that title. He can create it or define it however he wants to.

I just completed my first month taking on my new job title: teacher. After 15 years as an attorney, I am enjoying my new role for many reasons, but I’m pretty sure it’s mostly because I have an actual captive audience. And they think I’m hilarious. They may be nine years old, but they have an excellent sense of humor. I have realized that there’s not a whole lot of difference between my DUI clients and my 4th graders. Both insist that everyone is against them, but after a brief time-out, it’s pretty easy to get them both to say that they are sorry.

Life is all about our changing titles. We go from being a baby to a child to a teenager to an adult. We are “middle schoolers” or “high schoolers.” At one point or another, we are freshman, sophomores, juniors, or seniors. Finishing school makes you a “graduate.” Taking that job makes you an accountant or a stockbroker or a dancer. Getting married makes you a spouse, having a child makes you a parent.

This week, in preparation for another round of unnecessary state testing, I had to teach my students the art of filling in a bubble sheet (or, as I keep calling it, a “scantron.”) While kids today don’t have to do this very often, my entire life seems to have consisted of filling in that circle. My January 23 birthday was always the most fun to fill out on that form (it was an easy 1-2-3.) For women, that bubble in front of our names always had three choices: “Miss,” “Ms.” or “Mrs. “Miss” sounded young and innocent, “Mrs.” sounded old and serious. “Ms.” just sounded like an over-zealous feminist.

In preparation for school this fall, the administration wanted to know which one of those options to call me. I wasn’t sure. When school started, the kids needed to know what to call me. I offered fun options such as “Teach,” or a throwback name “Mr. Kotter,” but for some reason, the head of school felt those to be inappropriate.

For reasons that are not necessary to be discussed at this juncture, but will at some point make for a great sequel to my book, I have entered a gray area in my life on that bubble sheet.

I guess I could technically be called “Dr.” Having a law degree allows one to do that, I suppose, although doing so makes any lawyer sound absolutely ridiculous. Anyone with a doctorate degree does have that right. I’m still not sure why that never seemed to make sense for us attorneys.

According to the scantrons and magazine subscription forms of the past, I guess I have gone from a Mrs. to a Ms. When things get finalized, I’m legally no longer a Mrs. I guess I could go back to being a Miss, although at my age and frankly with my particular life at this point, that seems very wrong. And the Ms., well, I think that still sounds a little Gloria Steinem-ish.

For now, I still love the title of mom, and sister and daughter and friend. And for my students, when they want to get my attention or to tell me about a scratch on their arm, or to ask me to go to the bathroom or to get a drink of water or to tell me about a dream they had or a fight they had with their little brother, they call me “Ms. Primack.”

Like Bill, I’ll take the time to figure out what I want to be called. I’ll test the waters and see what title feels right. There’s no rush. This year, I can create it or define it however I want to.

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Her Name is Rio

Every Sunday night, I get hungry for Chinese food.  Perhaps that is because that was how we spent Sunday evenings growing up.  Rain or shine, every Sunday night, we would jump into the car and head to our local suburban Detroit Chinese restaurant.  It was our weekly ritual. It was also, sadly, the most “ethnic” experience I had growing up in the ‘burbs.

Growing up, the suburbs of big cities like Detroit were mostly similar to the fictional town featured in my all-time favorite movie “Pleasantville.” For the most part, the streets and stores in our town were filled with lots and lots of white people.

Looking back, I’m not even sure that it was actually Chinese food.  In reality, it was more like “Jewish Chinese food.”  I’m pretty sure they don’t serve dishes like “almond boneless chicken” in China.

Then in my 20s, I moved to Arizona, and my white world became filled with color.  The city of Phoenix, where I practiced law for many years, has a very large Hispanic population.  This was an ethnic group that new for me.  On my first day of work, I was handed the file for my very first client.  I proudly took my file and went to the courtroom to introduce myself to him.  “Jesus!” I called out, over and over, like a Catholic priest on Easter morning.  No one responded.

The madness was put to an end when my embarrassed co-worker tapped me on the shoulder and whispered quietly in my ear, “It’s pronounced HEH-soos.”

And thus began “The education of Allyson.”  Arizona is the melting pot into which everyone has relocated.  (I lovingly refer to this state as “the witness protection program” because I’m convinced that every single person who moves here is running away from something.)  But that’s why I love it here. My world has expanded so much in the 18 years I have lived here.

My youngest son Aidan has been in a self-contained gifted classroom for the last few years.  On his first day of Kindergarten, he got into the car and declared” “Well, I’m the only white kid in my class.”  And it was mostly true.  Almost every other student in his class for the last 3 years has been Indian or Hindu or Buddhist or Japanese.  My little blonde haired curly kid stands out quite prominently.  I used to call him the Carrie Mathison of his classroom.  (And if you got that reference, I applaud you.)

It has been pretty amazing to watch my son interact with so many different ethnicities.  The highlight every year are the holiday celebrations.  The kids each have an opportunity to bring their parents in to school to explain their holiday traditions to the class. Aidan loves learning about these fascinating holiday celebrations and sampling their traditional foods. I love learning about it too.  They are all so interesting and fun. I must say, when the time came for Aidan and I to present Hanukkah to the class, it was really quite depressing.  There is no fun way to tell that holiday story, and the dreidel game gets old very fast when played by children with high IQs.

This year, I am embarking on a teaching adventure in a school that is much like Aidan’s multi-cultural classroom.  My class list is filled with names that I cannot pronounce.  I hope I can learn their names soon, but I am really worried that there is no more room in my brain to learn anything new.

As I watched the Olympic opening ceremony on Friday night, I was awe-struck watching so many unique cultures and ethnicities coming together to celebrate as one.   And even though the USA looked like the cast of “Cruel Intentions” in our uniforms, our country is unique and special too. We have to remind ourselves that building walls around our country won’t make us stronger or better.  We can learn so much from one another if we just let each other in. That’s what will make this country great again, Mr. Presidential Candidate whose last name rhymes with Bump.

A few years ago, a friend of mine here in AZ recommended a tailor to me.  I needed a dress to be hemmed, and she told me that her guy, Joe, was the best in town.  This friend prided herself on knowing everything about everything.  “Just go to his store and tell him I sent you,” she said. “I’ve been going to him for years.” “Joe’s your tailor,” she told me, was the name of his store.  And so, I took her advice and headed to his shop.  I drove around the shopping center for a half hour, unable to locate his store.  When I called her, she assured me I was in the right place.

I parked my car and started walking, determined to find it on foot. I walked a few steps, and then I looked up.  I found the store alright, and I realized that I wasn’t the only one in this town who needed a lesson in cultural sensitivity.  Later that day, I called her and told her that she was right- he is the best tailor in town.  She was smug in her acceptance, until I told her she was very wrong about the one thing that was really the most important-his name.

We all have room in our brains, no matter how smart we are or old we are, to learn something new.  The only difference between those who learn and those who don’t is whether or not they want to.

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