In a couple of weeks and no, I do NOT HAVE A DATE YET, which is of course frustrating for me and all those who keep asking, my life will be changing dramatically.
My first and probably only restaurant will be opening in the beautiful little hamlet of Historic West Middletown PA. Along with Poor Johnny’s and Pour Johnny’s, I am starting a business revolution in this amazing space.
The last 7 to 8 months have been all about planning, purchasing, curating in my mind, cajoling people to sell me antique furniture at a good deal, charming bankers for credit and loans and designing, planning, creating, producing, lifting and storing and more. It has been an exciting and nerve-wracking journey and a terrific learning experience. I have a feeling the learning is only beginning.
I honestly have no idea how to run a restaurant. I feel like I am faking this and could end up feeling like a complete fraud. Who am I to open a restaurant while we are still dealing with a pandemic, when the economy is seemingly hurtling to a recession and the cost of goods is sky rocketing?
Then the other part of me says hell yeah, I CAN DO THIS!!! So, as you see, I am waffling back ‘n forth on the confidence wagon. I believe if I wasn’t a little terrified, I would be foolish, so hoping my self-doubt and worry is all just normal human stuff. I am naturally an over-achiever, only child who doesn’t like to ask for help and someone who always wants to do her best. I will be fine. I will be exhausted, but fine.
For the past few years, I have really made my own schedule. I have woken up, fed all the animals, made Mitch coffee and gently woken him most of the time. I usually am up first and like the routine of my early morning rituals.
After all the animals are fed, I make my decaf coffee and start doing the million things that need done. I usually exercise too, run errands, hike and swim the dogs, then start on the other million things that need done. Then I make us something to eat, we have some “TV time” to cuddle and enjoy togetherness, then we sleep after loving up all the animals, cleaning the kitchen, whatever honestly.
Often, I like to joke that the only time I sit down during the day is when I have to go to the potty and even then, I mostly just hover. There is SO much to do. That hovering is a great exercise too by the way.
Anyway, so the garden looks like S*#t this season and won’t be producing nearly anything for me to take to the restaurant, but I am looking for help for that for next year. There has got to be an Ag program or FFA group who would like to farm 14000 feet of amazing garden space for me for a fee and for learning about sustainable agriculture and maybe get some credits. I did this myself with a job in college and turned it into 3 credits by writing a paper on what I learned. BRILLIANT! 😊
I have not been able to successfully clone myself, so something had to give. This year it was the garden,
In good news though, the berries are MAGNIFICENT this year and I am taking every available minute to pick and freeze berries that I can make into delectable pies soon. We are currently into blackberries and elders are on deck. WOOHOO! Next year, I WILL be harvesting elder flower though from the top of the bushes as the birds have totally eaten every visible berry while they are still green. The underneath berries will be able to be harvested, but those darn birds, have really devastated anything on top.
The Department of Agriculture put the cabosh on our using seeds we saved from a previous crop to grow this year’s hemp, so we have to destroy all that we planted. Lots of bureaucracy. I won’t say anything else about that, but I am making great batches of my homemade CBD products and spent real money on fancy labels and will be selling all those fabulous natural skincare products in the retail portion of my store. We grew lots of high-quality hemp and my products are all natural and sooooo awesome. I love them all. Not all of my products have hemp in them. I have two last items to produce; a facial scrub and an itch soap which is terrific for all bug bites and contact dermatitis caused by weeds that irritate the skin like poison ivy and oak, stinging nettles, bug bites etc. Nature was the original healer!!!!
So, the title of this blog is prisoner of my own making and I have been thinking about this idea a lot.
I have blogged about my unhappiness with working for 7 years at Merrill Lynch after college. I feel a little bad about saying that as so many lovely people who worked there then, STILL work there now and LOVE it. It just wasn’t my cup of tea, but I am GRATEFUL for what I learned there. For the entire time I worked there, I did really feel like a prisoner because I HAD TO BE THERE at my desk, and I really didn’t like that.
From that job on, even with the hardware store, I was able to make my own schedule and come and go as I pleased, or my schedule allowed. I like that kind of work A LOT!
So here I am again at 54, chaining myself to a place where I will probably be 10 hours a day 4 ½ days a week. Will I LOVE it because it is mine? Will it not feel like work because I am living my dream?
As I go about my usual errands and chores, I am consciously aware that in a few weeks’ time, I will be handling things differently. Perhaps I will rely on Chewy.com to bring the voluminous amounts of pet products to the house. I will save those boxes to carpet the garden next spring.
I will have to alter my workouts to be quicker, the dogs will be hiked earlier and then I will be gone for most of the day.
We have talked about Mitch working from the restaurant either inside or outside so we can be near each other, and he can have faster, more reliable internet. I have installed fiber optic WIFI that is still not available at the farm 4 miles away. I really do like being near my man. When we both work from home, it is sweet.
We will have dinner at the restaurant then head home to love up the fur babies and settle down to our truncated “TV time”.
It is all going to be fine. I keep telling myself that!!!
Thoughts from my loved ones and readers???? #selfmadewoman, #restauranteur #renaissancewoman, #newrestaurant, #historictowns, #fearoffailure, #eatrealfood
I live my life as a busy little girl. I like DOING, GOING, running like I dare say, a chicken with its head cut off, (and I have seen this first hand and can lament), going at this speed actually keeps me happy. I am truly not happy only doing one thing at a time. If I sit too long like I did at the farm inspection that I endured last week, I literally can fall asleep. I am not good sitting, but I am an energizer bunny all day long while on my two feet. I am a WOMAN and I would bet most women agree, we multitask all day long. It is simply in our nature and we find it really annoying that many others do not. I mean we get a lot of sh#$ done.
At the moment, I am caring for my two hospice chickens which surprise me every day. What I thought would be a week or two experience for Emma before she entered the great henhouse in the sky became a totally different experience. Whatever illness or malady she had, she is fully recovered and tried to re-enter gen pop but the other girls in their hierarchy said NO WAY and pecked the living daylights out of her so I brought her back to the hospice condo. She was bullied and told “you are now a reject and must reside with Ellie by the house.” So, she continues to try and challenge the current regime and moves between both political sides leaving her lame sister Ellie wondering where she is sometimes. It is a really interesting scenario. This morning no one was home for corn, yogurt and scraps. I have no idea what they are doing honestly and that is fine.
In the music part of our life Mitch has really, REALLY gotten into the whole rock in roll ideal. Since Covid and all his lessons online and hundreds of hours of practice, he has REALLY, REALLY gotten to be an amazing lead guitarist and his talent is inspiring as well as entertaining. Our band has made countless changes in lineup in the last twelve months and our newest incarnation promises to be the best yet, so stay tuned… I believe we are forming a new band with another existing band and as one great musician has made famous… “the best is yet to come”……hint.. casinos pay big bucks. this could be fun.
Thirdly, I am opening my first restaurant (pictures coming soon) in less than a month and things are crazy. I am running from day till night to get everything I think I should be doing and learning there are a hundred more things not on my radar that I should be doing. Oh my GOODNESS. At some point I will blog about Mac.bid. This place has been an absolute blessing to us. With the items I have won auctions to for the restaurant and the musical equipment Mitch has won at really good prices, we are truly filling our needed holes with amazing merchandise at great costs. YES, most everything has needed repaired and thank goodness Mitch is super handy, but this site has been a lifesaver!
With the tasks of all the new insurances, therapy calls which are supposed to be consulting calls with the SBDC of Duquesne University for funding ideas, business licenses, the buying of new and as much used equipment that I can find, the learning about all the vendors who I can buy ingredients from, the idea of finding help in this environment when no one seems to want to work, I am literally having a nervous breakdown. Then last night, something new happened.
As much as I am ashamed to mention this, I will admit that a couple days a week when I absolutely NEED to sleep, I kick our dying cat Butterscotch outside with his two brothers, Blue Kitty (Peanut) and Bobo- Beauregard. Those other two are usually outside but Scotch likes to howl all night and drives me BANANAS. We have a condo and water outside and Bubba sleeps on the porch so he can MEOW at HIGH decibels outside ALL NIGHT LONG and it bothers none of them, but mama can get her sleep.
Last night was one of those nights, but at 4:48 (I know this because I am a light sleeper and always look) Bubba barked and wanted inside. So, since we all know from blogs of the past, Mitch is hearing impaired, I got out of bed and let Bubba in. I came back to bed. A minute later, Blu kitty who was inside wanted out so I left the bed again to let him out and this time Bandit, our full-time dog, and I will explain this sometime, got up THIS time and instead of stepping over him as he slept, he tripped me and I fell into the door of my closet and whacked the heck out of my head. He freaked, I freaked, I let Peanut out and then went into the bathroom and was sure I was going to throw up. I lay on the bathroom floor and tried to collect myself. What was going through my mind was Bob Saget, Natasha Richardson, Sonny Bono, the catering I had to do today, my restaurant and then the rest of my life. Notice the order of that thinking. Look where my priorities are…. Ugh……
After I did my yoga breathing and the urge to vomit went away, I decided to go back up to bed and continue trying to calm myself upstairs by putting on a podcast that I could listen to. I didn’t want to sleep. Then I gingerly felt my head where the impact happened and I felt wetness. In the dark, I brought it up to my nose and smelled the warm blood. That was it. I freaked again and was sure I was going to hurl right there in my bed and die.
I was ashamed to do it but I woke up Mitch and told him, I knocked the hell out of my head and if I die tonight, know I love you. He heard me but was in quasi sleep-mode and quickly went back to dreamland. Despite my desires, I did fall back asleep and ended up having the most horrid two hours of nightmares about this conceived brain injury and my impending entire failure of the restaurant. This included Mitch leaving me because I was a vegetable mentally and my attempt to cheat on a final that I had not been to class all semester……. I woke up at 7:15 a complete basket case but GRATEFUL to be alive and carried on with my day. I did feel better as the day wore on but the first hour was ROUGH.
What to learn from this whole thing? Life changes on a dime, change is constant, you must rely upon yourself mostly to solve issues and when you have help, gratefully accept it. Life is a wild journey. Who knows what the next minute brings, but buckle up and be ready. Whew. I am hoping for a good, peaceful and injury free night. I NEED IT.
When I decided to have a business and design business cards, the first thing I wanted under my name was Chicken Mama. When I hand those cards to everyone from fellow shoppers in the grocery store, to pretty much everyone I meet, they always comment on the chicken mama thing and laugh.
I do love my chickens and over 5 years of caring for them, I have learned lots. I have seen their fun ways of scooping up worms from the soil, to doing their little scratch dance and poking sideways in the ground with their beaks to scavenge insects. They come running when anything gets scattered and hits the ground. I love to see them roosting at night under their lamps and poised in the laying boxes extruding the miracle of a perfect egg.
I was alarmed to see their relaxed pose of laying pretty much on their sides in the sun where they look ill and possibly dead, but in fact they are sunning. Dirt baths are incredibly fun to watch. Seemingly, much like our bees, chickens really don’t need much from us humans. I steal the bees’ honey and the chickens’ eggs, but trade for food and shelter! I think it is a fair trade.
The chickens take care of insect infestations by spreading that dry dusty dirt in between their feathers on their skin and rolling in the dust. They drink out of puddles and can find food. They really are pretty self-sufficient and have an entire hierarchy and society that they understand the rules of. It is truly amazing. I do think they appreciate the help I provide and daily feed and treats. We live well together.
The books I read to prepare myself to have chickens left out a whole bunch of stuff which I had to learn by trial by error, googling and asking other people who have chickens for advice. Some of the lesser fun things I experienced have been mites, molting and other things that make their beautiful feathers fall off and scatter to the winds. I have also witnessed their murders by varmints and completely selfish and heartless acts of menace they inflict against injured or sick animals, and this is what I am going to write about today.
Last year we had a chicken who was a good egg layer, but she injured her foot somehow. Ellie never healed all the way and has a pretty significant limp. When I saw that she was getting picked on by her sisters, and it was getting relentless like they were trying to kill her (Darwin anyone and survival of the fittest), I intervened and moved her outside our house to an old dog cage that I propped up a few feet off the ground. I put cardboard and bedding down, gave her food and water and placed her in there. Quickly, she started healing up and when her lacerations healed and her feathers grew back, she wanted to roam about so I took her out of the cage and made her a bin that she could relax in at ground level and she spent her days roaming short distances, eating bugs and seemingly enjoyed her life. By dark she would put herself back in her cage. I used to shut it at night but honestly, nothing is going to jump that high to get her, so she roosted in the doorway most nights.
As the weather turned colder, I came up with a plan to keep her warm. I wrapped her cage with a porch furniture covering to protect her from wind and rain and snow, put a heating pad in under the cardboard that I could program for 12-hour increments and added a heat lamp. Ellie had a whole condo now that she loved. Occasionally, one of the other girls came down and would eat with her but no one was bothering her. The girls up the hill seemed to understand momma would not tolerate mean girl behavior.
About 7 weeks ago, Emma, who was my little sister’s chicken and the oldest of my bunch started acting strange. She was no longer the one in charge, was not spending time knocking Mitch’s tools off his workbench and she wasn’t coming for morning yogurt, corn and scraps. When I saw her sitting in the rain looking completely forlorn, I knew I had to do something.
Ellie and laying beside her is Emma
I thought maybe Ellie would like some company. Emma was getting older and had lived a good life, but she was definitely on her way to the henhouse in the sky. We were not going to end her as we have done in the past (thank you Mitch) and since we now had a hospital, we could relocate her to the condo.
I picked her up which she was always good about and deposited her to Ellie’s cage and she settled right under the heat lamp and took a nap.
When she woke up. I gave her some corn and yogurt and Ellie got a bowl too. They dined and clucked.
There are days that Emma doesn’t seem to feel well at all and sleeps most of the day, but she always enjoys mealtime and both girls appear to like having a roommate. We now jokingly call the condo a hospice as Emma certainly doesn’t have long to live, but she has lived 7 weeks so far and doesn’t seem to be getting any worse.
Every morning when I take out breakfast, I fear Emma will be feet up in the air, cold and stiff. I do wonder if Ellie will miss her when that happens. They cluck and talk together and I see them cuddle up for warmth and possible comfort. They really aren’t that different from us humans with their basic needs.
So, my chicken hospice is currently thriving. One day there will be no more chickens on our back lower deck but for now, chicken mama is doting and happy that the spring has brought some bugs out for them to eat and warm breezes to enjoy. #ilovemychickens #birdsofafeather #chickenmama
Someone once said, the only thing constant in life is change. I mean life can change at a drop of a hat. Look at what the last two plus years have brought with this pandemic. So many things are different now. Are they better? Probably not for most unless you are a mask, plexiglass or hand sanitizing manufacturer. I would add the exercise gear company Peloton too, but apparently, things have turned dramatically for them as of late. Bottom line, it seems businesses as a whole have greatly suffered.
Supply chain issues abound, new variants of Covid-19 are mutating, and repercussions are being felt across every industry. Staffing issues are horrendous and the list goes on and on. We have been waiting for a week now to get a propane delivery. It was totally our fault we let the tank get so low, but it took me 5 attempts to actually get a person to answer the call and figure out scheduling. We have a heat pump for the main heating, but propane is my cooking fuel, so I am making our Valentine’s dinner in an electric skillet and a toaster oven. No worries. I can make do.
We all need to be more patient these days. Things are taking longer, are costing more money and I am pleasantly surprised when I get a friendly, enthusiastic person to help me in any kind of retail experience. I am also trying to be SUPER nice to everyone working anywhere these days. I appreciate their working in the store and honestly can’t believe I could get a job at Burger King today for $15 an hour and get paid TOMORROW. What is going on???
A few months ago, a friend who I don’t see often who works at Meadowcroft Village and is an amazing Historian asked me to meet her for coffee at Poor Johnny’s in West Middletown. I asked, where is there a coffee shop in West Middletown? Google maps took me 4.4 miles down the road and is changing my life.
I had driven through this tiny town that you blink, and you miss it, DOZENS of times and always was enamored and disappointed. The town had obviously been amazing. In less than a mile and a half, there are about a dozen 200 + year old structures lined RIGHT up to the road and there are some BEAUTIFUL houses, but most of the buildings have been crumbling for a century or more. Mitch and I would drive through and think, this place must have been so cool. Someone should do something here.
When I got to the really funky antique and unique store, I was met with an amazing aroma of freshly ground coffee and a charming and beautiful woman named Andrea. She and her beau John are the proprietors. These “kids” dove into the deep end here and have taken on multiple projects to bring West Middletown back. They were looking for helpers.
After being incredibly impressed with their plans and attitude, I went home and got Mitch.
I am going to be 54 years old by month end, an age where most people, certainly women were not so long ago considered completely over the hill and less than desirable to hire, but I do think today’s 50s are the new 30s. If that is the case, I am still DECADES away from actually retiring, right?
So, for the past several months, I have been quietly shopping for and buying up used restaurant equipment and organizing my GIGANTIC collection of recipes and cataloging them in categories to open Marsha Cassel’s Kitchen on Main. It will be called The Kitchen for short, and I could not be more excited. A large part of what I need and am purchasing will come from my synagogue as they are selling the building. I am filled with great pride that their dishware and flatware and linens and such will have a new home with me. My grandparents would be so proud.
I am researching all kinds of things like home equity loans, liability insurance, POS equipment, and preparing menus, talking with my friends who have opened many restaurants and collecting tea pots from every thrift store around. I am going to have an amazing selection of healing herbs to make individual pots of tea blends made especially for YOU. Got a headache? I can make you a soothing tea to help.
My dad has shined up all those teapots and is working on some of the decor pieces that I have picked up at thrift stores and making them display ready.
Finances are certainly not what I had hoped they would be in 2022 and many of you know exactly what that means, but who cares? No one I know has a bankroll of dough in the bank just waiting for a new opportunity. Besides a lottery win, there would never be a comfortable financial time and place to do such a thing without risk of complete and epic failure. And I am ok with that. Mitch is being 100% supportive. I love him SO much!
Andrea’s father, Rick, who is an amazing craftsman and lives in Minnesota, is right now over there reconstructing a small restaurant from an 1820’s little 2 story house. He can do an incredible amount of work in a short amount of time and spends a few days here and there and sometimes a week or two getting this place together. The daily progress in simply mind blowing.
Yes, there will be a bathtub in the restroom! See previous blog to understand that one.
The plan is for the place to be ready for me to move in and start decorating during June, schedule inspections, hire help and be open for business July 1st. Of course, 1000 things need to go right to make this happen, but I am an optimistic person. I will still be marshawillcookforyou but now you are going to have to come to ME. I am excited and equally panicked. I always have a hard time sleeping and now with the thoughts of the added amount of work that needs done and the accompanying stress, I am really exhausted and the old dreams of being in college and not prepared for exams or taking enough credits to graduate have reared their ugly heads. I am atrociously worried and fretting but also positively imagining EVERYTHING. In my mind I can picture it all. It is going to be really neat.
Personally, I am worried the dogs, cats and Mitch will miss me and the house will get really messy. I worry I am going to overdo completely and end up in traction. I have been major injury-free a few months now and really trying to be careful.
I am going to have to change the dogs’ daily hike time and rearrange a large part of the efforts I put in at the house, farm and cabin to the restaurant and hire some HELP. There is a new concept. HELP. YES, I have a neighbor who I have posted about who is going to help me with the watering, harvesting, chicken work and such so I can do this. I can find more assistance. I plan on getting up earlier to I can get my exercise in, and Mitch and I will still play pickleball early mornings with a cool group of people who are so excited for me. They promise to come and eat and bring friends!! Every person who has been through this town has recognized the possibilities and seem giddy that we are going to be involved in the resurrection of West Middletown.
Jaya will be helping of course, and Mitch will do some meat smoking for me and playing acoustic music on the deck. I am planning on having cooking classes, book club meetings, there will be a reading and old-fashioned game corner…. the ideas to make this a destination are numbering into the dozens and the food is going to be fabulous!!!! Farm to table WILL be a reality.
Mitch will come to the restaurant which really is only an 8-minute drive from our farm and eat dinner with me instead of me cooking when I get home. I will take two days off a week to not lose my sanity and resupply the ingredients. I plan to be open for lunch and dinner and probably closed for an hour or two in between to ready. We will see. I have owned a brick-and-mortar store before, but it was a completely different animal. I THINK I know what I am getting into. We shall see. We may never take another vacation or have another party at the farm. I really have no idea!
The town is having its bicentennial in 2023 and I am chairing the committee for this year long event. There is so much to do!!!! So, maybe I’m crazy!
I have been thinking about how to announce this. Blogging seemed right. I got to outline some hopes and fears here. Heck, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right???? At the very least, writing this blog was a good therapy session so THANK YOU for your time and attention.
Will you come and see what fun I create? Stay tuned!!! #liveyourdreams #gocrazyandopenarestaurantduringapandemic #eatrealfood #pittsburghfoodie #allhomemade #farmtotable
I have been thinking about writing this blog for YEARS, even before I blogged.
And I realize that anyone reading this who was born after 1980 or so is going to think that I am a curmudgeon, and it is entirely possible. I am a proud Gen X-er who is approaching fifty-four, grew up in the 70s and 80s and have been adulting for several decades.
When I was in grade school, shoppers could lay away five items of clothing at Hills Department Store for $5 for back-to-school shopping. When you paid off the balance after however many payments it took, you THEN took the clothing home. My parents and honestly no one I knew had a credit card. I am not sure there even were credit cards back then. People paid with cash or by check.
I remember being 5 years old and my gramma Feinstein taking me to the beauty parlor. The beautician had me sit on about five giant Yellow Page books so I could fit under the hairdryer with gramma next to me leafing through a magazine. This nice woman washed, curled and teased my hair and gave me an amazing coif! Because it was raining when we left, gramma put one of those plastic babushkas on my head that you unrolled and tied under your chin so my hair would not wilt. I believe we went to the Maple Restaurant for lunch afterwards.
Gramma also applied bright red lipstick to my lips and taught me how to rub my lips together, kiss a tissue to blot and she painted my tiny fingernails bright red too. Va va va voom!!! To this day, that is one of the best memories of my entire life! I still remember the gold metal container that she twirled in front of me to reveal inches of red loveliness. The smell and taste of the thick waxy paste made me feel grown up. I LOVED it.
Sadly, my gramma died shortly after that. She was only 74 years old. In my twenties, I bought a bottle of Jergen’s lotion and as soon as I opened it, I smelled GRAMMA. That cherry almond scent is like getting a warm hug. I keep a bottle in my purse.
I never got my nails done again till after I graduated from college and had a real job. No one was going to pay for me to have that kind of extravagance.
As soon as I turned sixteen, I worked after school, weekends and all summer and holiday breaks. I paid for anything that I needed beyond necessities, and I bought groceries and paid rent. I walked to school and work and did not get a car till I could buy a used 1981 Buick Skylark for $1900 in 1991. I was 23 years old. Until then, the bus and my 10-speed bike and I were terrific friends.
AS SOON AS I DROVE IT AWAY from the previous owner, the rack and pinion steering went. I had a heck of a time driving it to the mechanic. Larry worked for cash and helped us poor folks. God bless Larry! He was truly a Godsend.
I understand this is a new generation and we are living in a much different world than the one that I grew up experiencing. Each generation presumably wants better for their progeny than they had, and I get that. I do not have children, but if you read in my blogs about Jaya, trust me, I am understanding about giving to youth. I enjoy giving new experiences, items of mine and shopping for Jaya. It brings me great joy.
Jaya really APPRECIATES each and every thing I do for or give to her. She does not expect things from me. Jaya works hard for what she has and goes without if she cannot afford it. She practically asked as a birthday gift for help buying tires for her car rather than wanting an extravagant gift. She LOVES going thrifting with me and we have pulled things off the side of the road to paint and repurpose and use. That “headboard” behind her in the photograph above is one of our terrific finds. Jaya appreciates the value of a dollar and the hard work it takes to make those dollars. I will never have to worry about Jaya living beyond her means.
When Mitch was a boy like many kids, he would set his alarm for EARLY, get up without his parents telling him to or making him breakfast, deliver papers, ring the doorbells of his customers yelling “collecting”, figure out the money and took care of the whole job by himself. He tells stories of those 4 am wakeups for Sunday paper delivery and he and his buddy helping each other.
He also mowed lawns around the neighborhood and at age 11 started working on a tobacco farm doing HARD work. As a child he learned to save up for purchases and learned responsibility. There was also a little money-making scheme that got him into trouble by selling M80s to his classmates. He and one of his buddies, who is a twice retired corporate executive living in Vail Colorado, cooked up this endeavor and have many colorful stories about their youthful exploits to regale. Those boys now all in their early sixties get together annually at their Boy Scout camp (Mitch and several of his pals are Eagle Scouts), pitch tents, do some community service and then relive their childhoods, talk about their lives, share the news of their families, build and tend to a big fire, consume beer and possibly a bit of whiskey. How blessed they are to still have each other and this annual pilgrimage back home.
Anyway, Mitch’s mother being a travelling school nurse in the district would hear about her son’s misdeeds within minutes and disciplined appropriately at home and let the school handle things as they needed. These days, that kind of discipline is illegal, but I dare say, when the boys at my school were sent to the principal’s office to get paddled, they got the message.
Am I to understand that today a child can threaten a parent with calling in authorities if they are spanked? My generation of kids were respectful and followed rules or there WERE consequences. Building character is important and learning to follow rules and behave was part of that.
We opened doors for others, respected our elders, was quiet and let adults speak, could entertain ourselves, shared the one telephone and television with the family, ate what mom cooked and we did not earn participation trophies.
We also paid for our college loans. I took ten years to pay mine off of which is an accomplishment that I am still proud.
I was born a Jew but I didn’t know growing up if I was REALLY Jewish or if it was something my parents exposed me to. My paternal grandparents were Jewish and they adopted my father. There was a culture of not talking about that apparently and my father never knew anything about his birth parents nor found any records. There was a lot of rumor and innuendo about my grandfather’s businesses. He was a well-respected pharmacist in the little town of Ambridge, PA. He was involved in the Rotary, President of the Lion’s Club and probably others. Apparently, my grandma was a member of Eastern Star. My dad tells me he heard my grandfather carried illegal alcohol in his pharmacy wagon during prohibition, ran “numbers” and may have helped unwed Jewish women find homes for their babies in the 1940s and 50s. My dad could have been one of those babies. Apparently, my grandparents were unable to conceive children. Whether or not my grandpa paid a Jewish woman $10,000 for my dad will never be known, but it is an interesting thought.
My dad was raised Jewish and he married my mother who was also raised somewhat Jewish but was not officially in the faith so she went through the conversion process which is pretty intense. My parents married in a civil ceremony but when my mother’s conversion took place, a Jewish wedding was held at the synagogue and I was cooking in my mother’s belly at that time so….. according to Jewish law, born of a Jewish woman, I’m a Jew.
My first 6 years were spent in Ambridge, PA, a little town along the Ohio River. My mother and I moved to Squirrel hill in 1974 when my parents divorced. I spent half of first grade through 5th grade with lots of Jews. At that time, Squirrel Hill was definitely “Jew Town,”, MY words and I honestly seem to remember that Mineo’s pizza was actually closed during Passover when Jews are to abstain from flour.
Before 6th grade started for me, we moved back to Ambridge and I began school in a 99.8% Christian filled school system. In fact, there was only one other Jew in town. As there once was a thriving Jewish community in Ambridge, when the economy started to tank in Beaver County, I think all the Jews moved to Pittsburgh or Florida. It wasn’t I don’t believe, anything about discrimination or anything, but I honestly have no idea what led that mass exodus. So, Jews were very scarce around me and I felt very much ill at ease as I grew, admitting to the fact that I was Jewish. I think being any kind of minority, if you are perceived as “different” expect some bumps in the road. Not, that I could do much hiding as my name was Feinstein, but being very insecure, I definitely kept my nose down and was not even the hint of the woman that I am now full on OUT and proud.
Did I get bullied in school? Yes. Did I keep a low profile so as not to stand out? YES. But my name screamed JEW so there it was. I pretty much lived my youth as quietly as possible impatiently waiting to make a break for it in 1986 and head back to Pittsburgh and attend Pitt. In college, I ran into lots of fellow Jews from my elementary school days at John Minadeo and there was a very diverse community of people, religions, cultures and more.
Everywhere I moved during my 20s, 30s,40s and now in my 50s, I carefully looked around for other Jews near me. When I co-owned the hardware store with my ex-husband in Sarver PA, I was told there is a KKK group there so to lay low and don’t wear my Star of David. I would NEVER want to jeopardize our business or alienate our customer base, so I was quiet. One day I was helping a customer with something in the lawn and garden department and this man said something to me about “Jewing him down.” I literally walked away and asked one of my employees to help him. I wonder what he thought. I am betting he didn’t even realize what he said.
Years later, Mitch and I bought our cabin up hear Pymatuning and I met a neighbor who introduced himself as Gene Benkovitz (not his real name) . I immediately filled with excitement and said, I’m a Jew too to which he replied, I’m not a Jew. My stomach dropped and my first thought was WOW, you look like a Jew and second, I blew my WASP cover as a Cassel and we hadn’t even moved in yet. I was a bit worried. Seriously, there are hate crimes everywhere against all sorts of people. I felt embarrassed. I can tell you in my heart after reading countless books on the Holocaust and seeing so many documentaries, if we checked his DNA, that man was a Jew but a hidden one for generations back. After Hitler came to power in Germany, being a Jew was dangerous and caused many people to change names, religions…… Jews went into hiding and many never came out.
So, speaking of DNA, when 23 and Me came about, I asked my dad if he wanted to do it so we can maybe find some blood relatives and learn about family medical history etc. He was up for it so we sent in both our saliva samples and guess what we found? Despite us both being blond haired and blue eyes (the ARYAN DREAM combo) it came to be that dad was 50% ASHKENAZI Jew. I told him, dad, you are OLD school Jew like related to Noah and stuff. We had a good laugh at that.
We did find out who either his mother or father were. We were lucky to find a really close relative who did a ton of genealogy work. We figured either his great aunt or uncle were my dad’s mother or father. Neither one ever married or had any children that anyone knew of and they were alienated from the family so there wasn’t much there except pictures and names. They are all long gone now but we have about 1100 cousins running around the world. Some I have connected with on FB and it is great fun to see their families all over the planet, speaking many languages and all Jews! I finally have some paternal family!
I am an avid listener to the Howard Stern Show on Sirius/XM radio. He’s a Jew and I just love his interviewing style and his profuse use of the F word. I enjoy swearing too. I apologize to those readers who get offended by curse words, but I do like to cuss and when I am around my friends, I let it fly!!!! Check out the Netflix series on the History of Curse Words with Nicolas Cage. It is hilarious and educational!!!!!
Anyway, recently Howard was interviewing Sarah Silverman, one of my favorite comediennes who is Jewish and also likes to swear. She talked about being typecast as an actress and only getting roles as the annoying literary agent or the (really bad word) girlfriend, or sassy friend of the main character and other stereotypical roles. She also said roles about Jews are mostly played by non-Jews, RBG and Mrs. Maisel. Winona Rider in her 50s is actually playing a Jewess on a really interesting HBO series now. The plot is set in WWII and Charles Lindbergh is a powerful politician and a big time Anti-Semite which apparently has factual basis. Sarah remarked with a well-placed F-bomb that Winona would never have gotten the role in Age of Innocence and other great roles in her youth if she had she been Winona Horowitz. I kind of agree.
This blog isn’t about discrimination though. It is more about ignorance or lack of interest in anything non-Christian. I will end with a funny story that illustrates that point from the event that actually inspired this blog.
I am having a Passover Seder this Saturday night. Traditionally, Jews have this meal and ceremonial retelling of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt on the first two nights of this long holiday.
I was shopping at Giant Eagle for some Jew supplies, Kosher for Passover Matzo and Matzo meal, and saw this big display of Maxwell House coffee with Passover Haggadah’s. If you bought a Maxwell House product you could get one FREE Haggadah. Maxwell House started doing this almost 80 years ago but I hadn’t seen this in action for decades.
I thought, I needed new Haggadah’s and wanted one for each of my guests so I asked at customer service if I could have 12 copies. I showed her the booklet and she asked what it was. I explained. Blink blink was the response. So, I asked if she had ever seen the Ten Commandments. “Let me get a manager,” she said. GOOD. Now we are getting somewhere.
The manager comes out and I start again with my request and this time I explain that there are probably 5 Jews in Washington including me and they will most likely toss those out in less than 2 weeks so giving me a dozen, won’t even be noticeable. She asked me to show her the display. There were a plethora of copies and she said, take what you want. So, I bought one Maxwell House product and took a dozen Haggadah’s and now each of my guests will have their very own without having to share.
I am 100% sure neither one of these ladies know what Passover is, what one might do on Passover, eat or talk about yet I and probably every other American Jew knows about Easter and not just about Easter bunnies and chocolates. The world population of Jews is now only .2%. That is staggeringly low so no wonder there isn’t a lot of general world knowledge about Jewish holidays and customs. Jews know about the core beliefs of Christians and WHY they celebrate. I am not complaining, but merely bringing up a point that if we take an interest in our differences, maybe we can all learn to appreciate what makes us similar too. There is much more that brings us together than divides us.
Looking forward to my Passover Seder and introducing my “daughter,” Jaya to all things Matzo and her first Jewish holiday.
Happy Spring peeps and wishing you all the joys, delicious foods, new growth and holidays coming to your world. #passover2021 #covidseder #weareallhuman