December 31st, 2016
Dear Jeremy and Ayla,
It has been several months since my last letter and there are quite a few personal, social, cultural, and current events to talk about, so in this year-end wrap up I’m going to bounce around about a number of things to get you all caught up.
You both were very aware of the political conversations happening in our house as the November 8th election came through. Jeremy was well aware of the choices and showed a particularly piqued interest in the election. He knew the names of the biggest players–Hillary Clinton was a woman who had been in government, Donald Trump was a businessman who hadn’t, Jill Stein was a woman who was a doctor, and Gary Johnson was a former Governor. Ayla was rooting for the women, and Jeremy voted for Hillary and lost in his class election. As it turns out, the class vote was very accurate–and in a stunner Donald Trump won the presidency. Over a month later, Jeremy is quick to say that I voted for Dr. Stein and that he lost by voting for Hillary. Ayla says she voted for Trump and she isn’t worried. I wish I shared that feeling.
The Elephant in the Room
It should surprise nobody that I’m not excited for the looming change in presidential administrations. Donald Trump is not the kind of person that I eagerly hope to see at the helm of our great country. He’s thin-skinned, petulant, and about as anti-intellectual as a politician can be (and yes, he is a politician because he is now the President of the United States). I have great trepidation about the choices he is going to make, or not make, while he sits in the most powerful position in the world and those fears permeate every sphere of influence he has.
- His stance on only taking military intelligence “when the situation changes” is frightful.
- His appointments to the cabinet are mostly farcical; and the ones that aren’t are jingoistic which when coupled with the aforementioned stance on military intelligence makes it downright dangerous.
- His certain and possible appointments to the Supreme Court are at odds with maintaining the progress American labor and civil rights has made over the past 100 plus years.
- His campaign rhetoric and conduct did not reflect any kind of growth from the distasteful actions and statements of his past which lead me to believe they will impact if not define his policy positions. (I can understand people conducting one way in the past and showing growth and change. As an educator and a person also experiencing life as a human I think this should be expected and celebrated–especially when it leads to positive change. I see no evidence of it).
- His idea of building a wall on our border frightens me for a number of reasons, the most paramount being that I feel that a wall is a two way barrier. Eventually it will be used to keep people in, rather than out.
- His position on education as a monopoly is without basis and his nominated Secretary of Education has no experience in the field of public education as a stakeholder of any sort. Any eroding of this important public institution will decrease equity and access in this country for those who really need it, and Betsy DeVos has built her reputation in education on doing exactly that.
- All this and more.
I could continue poking at what I consider to be poor platform points for the incoming administration, but that is not the full point of bringing up the Republican controlled American Government. The elephant in the room (pun intended) is the platform of changes that the administration and Congress are looking to realize. They are airy, rhetorical, and are standing on feet of clay. Will they repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)? If so, how will they account for the millions of people on the insurance it provides? Are they going to roll back Obama’s executive orders and regulations? In what ways will this impact American industry, commercial activity, and the day to day lives of Americans, or the environment? Now that there’s no Obama administration or Democrat opposition, how will the incredibly fractured Republican party move forward?
The next four years may very well frame your childhoods as you are both at the age to remember current events and be impacted by policy. Some of the targeted fields, legislation, and court cases will have a direct impact on our lives in a number of ways. The political spectator in me is anxious to see how the drama plays out, but the person living in the world of consequences of these actions feels an uncertainty not matched by Stock Market’s drive to 20,000 points.
For all of us, school continues to be the central institution in our lives. Your mother is doing a phenomenal job on a daily basis of making sure that everyone leaves the house with a delicious and nutritious bag lunch and snack, with our homework done, and our clothes pressed and neat–myself included. Let it never be said that your mother didn’t bring home the bacon, and fry it in a pan (unless of course they were asking literally—its more like she brings home the scallops and skillfully braises them to perfection while running a home, a small business, a consulting job and looking fabulous all the while).
I am reminded daily that the choice we made to move into this school district was not only smart, but good. The mindset of your school and your school administration is child-focused, and purposed on developing and providing childhood experiences that furnish good kids to become great people. I watch you both grow in leaps and bounds emotionally, socially, academically, and intellectually in ways that make me swell with pride. You’re on the trajectory to become the best possible “yous” you can be; and there’s nothing more that your mother or I could ask for.
Not only are you both performing swimmingly in your day jobs as elementary students, but you are also getting a wonderful Jewish education at the synagogue’s Hebrew School. As we’ve been going to services, congregation activities, and becoming more active in the community I am pleased to know that you will have positive and nurturing experiences in the culture, religion, and history of the Jewish people to make your own decisions about faith, the spiritual world, and what your place in the universe (not just the world) is.
Meanwhile, I am just about 3/4ths done with my course work at Hofstra for my doctorate (one of the major reasons these letters have been so far removed from each other of late). I’m circling closer to the actual idea of what my dissertation might be and the better I have that worked out the sooner I can tell people to call me “Doctor” at the DMV. The process has been very confidence building for me in ways that I didn’t expect. At some point along the line I became a glutton for punishment and I’m already wondering how I can get away with more schooling after I become a doctor–should I become a school administrator? a rabbi? a driving instructor? All I know is that school is 100% a thing that I understand–which makes sense because I’ve never been out of it for any substantial period of time in my life (either as a teacher or a student). I don’t know where this journey takes me next, but I know that the opportunities I seek must and will bring you both better opportunities.
I wouldn’t want a letter to pass by without acknowledging Ayla’s 5th birthday! We had a wonderful pretzel making party for you and its amazing to watch as you develop into this strong, independent, competent, capable, and beautiful woman. Ayla, you know what you want and you know how to get it…and if you don’t, you make it happen anyway. You are as verbose or brief as you want to be and its hard to get the full picture on you—even though you seem to have the full picture on everyone else. I often joke that whoever takes you on your first date has their work cut out for them…but its only a joke until its true.
Also it was Chewy’s birthday this past week. He is also a big boy at 8 years old, but he didn’t have a pretzel party. he had a puppy party and it involved chicken and rice stocks.
Glasses and Soccer Balls!
Jeremy recently got his first pair of glasses and finished his second fall season of soccer. Luckily these two things don’t have to intersect yet. I can’t get over how grown up the little baby who turned into a big boy looks in his fancy spectacles. It seems like every time I turn around you’ve got some sharp question or interesting interpretation of the world to deal with. Now these glasses have given you the visage of a real academic with the stamina of a child olympic athlete.
Chewy did not get glasses.
The Loved and Lost
I would be remiss if I did not mention that our family has experienced some losses this year to the ravages of cancer. Great Grandpa Matt, Cousin Shayndee, and Miss Lily all ended their battles with cancer this year. It’s sobering and sad to remember loved ones when they are at their most humble due to the effects of disease. It is always better to remember their spirit in the fight…the courage with which they faced every day, their humor and wisdom in good health, and the love and joy they brought to our lives. I always take in good heart the traditional passage from Proverbs 10:7 “zekher tzadik livrakha” (May their memory be a blessing) as an approach to dealing with grief and death. It is heavy in the moment, but our lives are forever enriched by the experiences we shared with the ones we love and the memories are indeed a blessing to our lives.
Well…that’s about it. I’m not going to start listing off the numerous names of pop culture figures who have passed on this year along with our dearly departed. There’s a bit of a joke that the year itself is killing people, or that famous people are checking out before the shit hits the fan with the new administration. It’s not like age, lifestyle, and fate have anything to do with it…right? Maybe by the time I’m 50 and Jeremy is 25 we’ll have figured out the secret to solving all the problems, but for now I’m contented that my family is prospering and that we can play the fiddle while Rome burns. I’m digging my feet into the sand and getting ready to advocate for the best–for my children, for my family, for my students, for my country, and for my world. We don’t have the luxury to wait and see until you’re 25/26 and I’m 50/51. I’m eager to help you get there, and not be a bag in the wind.
PS: As we wait for night to fall and the ball to drop, I’d like to take this moment to address what a great Winter Break I’ve had with you. You’ve seen all your grandparents, gone to the movies, to the botanical gardens, baked cookies, and had a generally good time (except for the one day I had to spend in the emergency room with an elevated heart rate and a bad fever–#teacherlife). This year, with the exception of a brief outing and a few visits, is the first year we’re ever nestling in and spending it together. I’m excited. The world is full of greatness and possibility–let’s get them together! Excelsior.