Fellow author Jennifer Eaton was about to reach her blog #666 (or, as she puts it, 665+1). Being superstitious (or cautious), she asked me, as a skeptic and cynic, to write the blog for her. You can read “Post #662, 663, 664, 665… Oh No! What blog post is this? Nope Not gonna do it. Quick! Call in the Rabbi!” here: http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Q7
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A friend’s dog recently died. Her son, in his early 20s, is on the autism spectrum and missing the dog a lot. She wrote in an email: “[He] is able to verbalize a bit. Not much but a bit. He did say he was trying to keep the tears back, but I told him it was all right to cry. [He] has lost a companion and he’s grieving. It’s kind of like they were brothers growing up together.”
In response, I sent her a copy of the reading for the online memorial service fellow author Barb Goffman had requested I write for her dog, Scout: “Two thousand years ago, the sage ben Sira wrote: ‘Bewail the dead, hide not your grief, do not restrain your mourning. But remember that continuing sorrow is worse than death. . . . Death is better than a life of pain, and eternal rest than constant sickness.’
“He was talking about our human loved ones, but the same can be applied to our animal companions. What do we want from a loved one? Loyalty, affection, empathy, companionship; we want someone who will love us unconditionally and make us laugh, someone who comforts us and keeps us from feeling alone. Those attributes can apply to our pets as well as our human families. And pets are part of our families.
“In Judaism, there is a lot of respect for animals. We are forbidden from harming them or causing them pain. They are not allowed to work on the Sabbath. We must feed them before ourselves.
“Each ‘dog year’ is supposedly equivalent to seven human ones. The number seven is significant in Judaism: the seven days of the week, the seven weeks between Pesach and Shavuot, the seventh year during which fields lie fallow, the seven circuits a bride makes around her groom in a traditional wedding ceremony. Seven is the number of completion and renewal. After six days of work, God rested; we, too, work six days and rest on the Sabbath. But then the cycle begins again, just as the cycle of life renews itself.
“I’ll end with a quote from Proverbs 12:10: ‘A righteous man knows the soul of his animal.’ Barb, you knew Scout’s soul. He completed you, and you completed him.”
Corresponding with my friend reminded me of something strange that happened many years ago. Just before he turned 4 (or maybe 5) my younger son, then diagnosed as being on the Spectrum, started to cry for no reason. I asked him what was wrong and he said, “I want our cat to come back.” Our cat had died exactly a year earlier – not figuratively but on the exact day. My son had not reacted at all at that time. But he did know and did mourn – he just didn’t have the words to express his feelings. Yet he instinctively remembered the date.
I told my friend to let her son know that it is fine to cry. I was about 50 when our cat died, and fell apart in the vet’s office when I brought our cat’s body (wrapped in a large towel) there.
I had been planning to take our cat in to be “put to sleep” that day. I didn’t do it sooner because my older son and my husband had gone away for a few days, and I didn’t want my son to come home and find out our cat had died. They came home the night before, and my son went to the vet with me. He said, “He waited for me to come home to say goodbye.” The night before, I had carried our cat into the powder room where his litter box, food, and water were. In the morning, I got up at 6AM, having a premonition and wanting to check on our cat before the boys got up. Our cat had managed to drag himself up 2 steps – his back legs had collapsed the night before - and across a 14′-wide family room to lie down in front of his favorite spot in front of the sliding glass door, where he died. I’m getting teary-eyed now remembering it.
So, my friends, if a beloved pet dies, don’t let people try to comfort you by saying, “It was only a pet.” They mean well, but you know there’s no such thing as “just a pet.”
Every now and then (more then than now), I run a Google search on myself. Sometimes, I’ll even find a mention I hadn’t seen before. Today, I discovered a nice mention of CHANUKAH GUILT (with a side mention of UNLEAVENED DEAD) in an article about recommended Chanukah books in the November 2013 edition of The NEW HAMPSHIRE JEWISH REPORTER
(www.jewishnh.org/reporter/2013/Nov-2013.pdf, p. 10). My thanks to reviewer Merle Carrus. She wrote in part:
Chanukah is the jumping off point for Chanukah Guilt … [The author's], mysteries are similar to the popular Rabbi Small series by Harry Kemelman, “The Day the Rabbi….”
These light, entertaining mysteries are solved by a local small town rabbi, while also introducing the members of the rabbi’s congregation and teaching a little bit about a Jewish holiday …. If you enjoy this book, look for another by Rabbi Schneider: Unleavened Dead, a Passover-based mystery.
Here’s the full quote from “The Jury Box” (now online at http://www.themysteryplace.com/eqmm) by reviewer Steve Steinbock:
“Far more good books arrive on my desk than I’m able to adequately review….Unleavened Dead (Dark Oak Mysteries, $16.95) by Rabbi Ilene Schneider about South Jersey Rabbi Aviva Cohen, is a solid, funny mystery that provides an insider’s look at Jewish life.”
Billie Johnson, my publisher at Oak Tree Press, is still trying to get the Amazon problem solved. It makes no sense that the out-of-print edition is still being listed, while the 2nd edition, with a new publisher, ISBN, and copyright date, is not.
In the meantime, however, there is a way other than Amazon to order not only the trade paperback of the second edition, but also a large print edition. Just go to http://tinyurl.com/kuhchcw and scroll down to CHANUKAH GUILT. (And it’s at a discount!)
Not much. But, in all fairness, it has been only just over two weeks, including days I would have been off anyway (New Years, weekends) and bad weather days when I would have worked from home.
When people ask me how I’m enjoying being retired, I answer with a grin. Although, I am still in a period of adjustment.
I’m having no problem with not going to work, but I’m still not used to having flexibility with my time. I don’t have to wait for a weekend or day off to wash my hair, do my nails, fill my birdfeeders, do laundry. I still put off the laundry until my underwear drawer is almost empty and the hamper is overflowing, but I don’t have to; it’s now out of choice (sounds better than “procrastination”), not lack of time. I don’t have to make appointments for haircuts or doctors in the early morning or late afternoons; I can take the first available opening. I can visit my parents in Florida (heading down there next week) without counting how much paid time off I have accumulated. Even better, if my return flight is canceled because of a blizzard, I can delay returning until the snow melts, maybe in April.
It’s weird to drive past a nursing home facility and realize I don’t need to make visits there. And it’s nice to be able do errands whenever I feel like it rather than when I’m going to be visiting patients who live near the stores I want to go to. And I’ve been able to take care of minor errands I’d been putting off because I didn’t want to take the time while working to go, for example, to a craft shop to pick up jewelry glue to fix a ring. Or to get the tire pressure checked.
I have even (blasphemy!) joined a gym so I can use the stationary bike. My goal is to be able to stand up from the low couch with the broken down cushions without having to rock back and forth to build up some momentum. And to walk upstairs without pulling myself up with both hands on the railing. (It’s either exercise or buy a new couch and a new house on one floor. Neither is an option until I hit the lottery or sign a seven-figure book contract, both of which have an equal chance of happening. And I never buy lottery tickets.)
Other retirement plans include scanning our thousands of pictures into the computer. First, I need to organize the two huge boxes of pictures that have been in our family room for almost two years. No more excuses that I haven’t the time or energy to sort through them and get rid of multiple wallet-sized school pictures. I have taken the first step: the photo scanner is on the family room coffee table.
I’m also going to clear out the coat closet. And the desk. And make a list of all the DVDs we own. And … well, you get the idea.
I volunteered to be treasurer of the Burlington County Natural Sciences Club. I’m going to call the Rancocas Nature Center, where I used to work, to see if they have an open shift in the bookstore.
I think I’ve finally sorted through all my emails. Now I have to see if those who wrote me about my doing guest blogs for them are still interested. And I need to continue with my book promos and writing the Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mystery #3, Yom Killer.
Yesterday, my younger son called in the mid-afternoon to let me know he was home. I said I probably wouldn’t see him until I got home after the board meeting of the Friends of the Library. His response: “I thought you were retired.”
I am. But, as one of my friends said, “You’re not retired. You’re re-tired. You had new tires put on.”
Yup, and enjoying the smoother ride
WARNING: Okay, it’s not catastrophic; just info. But I wanted to get your attention.
For some reason, a few days ago, Amazon decided not to list the new edition of CHANUKAH GUILT. Not sure why; maybe because they still have 1 copy of the original for sale. But they also deleted the Kindle version of the original. The 2nd edition will be uploaded to Kindle soon. OTP is working with their Amazon rep to figure out why only the original edition (all 1 copy of it) is still there and the new one isn’t. Please be patient. (And no, you can’t read the new alternative solution without re-reading the book; I rewrote sections so the alternative and the original endings would both make sense. Sorry.)