Biology and Chemistry got me into Medical School but the Arts made me a better doctor

Poignant post from my friend Judy Washington.

A Family Doctor's Reflection

I am an avid watcher of Public TV. My senior year in HS, my English teacher was such a brilliant man.  We were reading Shakespeare’s plays.  One assignment was King Lear.  I so enjoyed the play but it came to life for me when the PBS Great Performances series aired the play with James Earl Jones as King Lear, Ellen Holly as Reagan, Rosalind Cash as Goneril and as Cordelia.  It was my first to experience an all-Black cast performing Shakespeare.  I was mesmerized.  PBS has provided many memorable experiences for me such as Dance in America: Martha Graham Dance Company, Brideshead Revisited, and The Six Wives of Henry VIII.   I watched Upstairs, Downstairs and even Poldark I. Who could forget How Green Was My Valley and Madame Bovary?

Public TV has always been part of my life. I watched those early cooking shows with Julia…

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Letter to Congressman Lance: Protect the ACA

This past week President Trump released his budget that basically eliminates aid to the poor and elderly, and federal support of the arts and sciences. He insulted another world leader and ally, Angela Merkel of Germany, and accused the UK of spying on him. He continues to maintain that President Obama wiretapped his phones, and rants and raves and tweets about anything not going his way. He fired 46 US attorneys and defends all in his realm who hobnob with the Russians.

Here’s my letter this week to my congressman, Leonard Lance. (NJ 7th). I receive automatic email replies. I figure one day I’ll march into his office with all my letters and ask why he hasn’t answered my concerns.

Dear Representative Lance:

The House Republican plan to overhaul the Affordable Care Act will affect the citizens of New Jersey, including your constituents. As one of them, I have yet to hear you express your concern about the loss of coverage that will occur under the GOP plan, particularly to low-income adults and children. Either you believe that people have no right to health care, or you’re a complete coward and won’t stand up to a president who doesn’t care about the nation’s people.

We went to New Orleans for a few days to visit our daughter. We took a kayak swamp tour outside of the city. The guide talked about how the swamp won’t be there in 50-60 years as the salt water mixing with the fresh is killing off the vegetation. Drilling for oil trumped environmental concerns.



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Politics & Purim

This week, I called my congressman, Leonard Lance, (NJ 7th) to urge him to vote against the repeal of the ACA. Then I heard WNYC, my local public radio affiliate, report on a fundraising letter he sent supporters where he claimed that protesters at his town meetings were paid by a Hillary Clinton Super PAC.

Granted, Lance was one of the few  NJ GOP congressmen who scheduled and attended town meetings, and had previously stated: “”I believe those in the audience were constituents,” Lance told reporters. “I don’t think they were paid. I think they came here in a matter of public spiritedness.”

What turned him around? Not sure. However, I’m not the only one who finds his words insulting and another example of craven, complicit behavior that seems pervasive among GOP lawmakers.

Here’s the letter I sent to him and to many newspapers:

Dear Representative Lance:

As a constituent in our Congressional district, I am surprised to hear and read your remarks condemning New Jersey citizens.

     You said without any evidence that the New Jersey voters who attended your town hall meetings protesting your vote to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and your support of President Trump’s executive order discriminating against religion are paid by a Hillary Clinton Super PAC. 

    Such a dishonest accusation belies the integrity you swore to uphold as an elected representative. Such dishonest behavior on your part misrepresents your constituents.

    As Abraham Lincoln, the greatest elected official of the Republican Party, your party, said: “You can fool all the people some of the time and you can fool some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all of the time.”

    Here’s hoping you may take Lincoln to heart and apologize for taking your constituents for granted. 

Today is Purim, the holiday that celebrates a time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination. King Achasverosh announces a contest to find a new bride and summons all the eligible women to the palace. He selects Esther, who lives with her Uncle Mordecai. Esther doesn’t tell the king that she’s Jewish. Meanwhile, Haman, the king’s evil advisor, convinces the king to annihilate the Jews because they don’t follow all the laws of the kingdom. He’s particularly mad at Mordecai who refused to bow down to him in public.  When Esther hears of Haman’s plan, she appeals to the king on behalf of the Jewish people, putting her own life at risk.  Achasverosh listens and orders Haman hanged.

The holiday includes plays and costumes, and food, particularly hamentaschen, a triangular filled cookie that represents Haman’s three-cornered hat. This year I used canned poppy seeds and made my own prune and raisin filling. Both were a huge hit at a pre-Purim dinner with friends.

The story, called the spiel, is often rewritten to music and to include current events.

I had  written a spiel in verse two years ago for a family party, including a chorus for the yet non-reading grandkids. This year, I updated it a bit. Here’s the addition. My friends enjoyed it, and granted me poetic license for my small exaggerations.

Then one November day in 2016
Donald Trump was elected, vile and mean

He’s like a king, a ruler Russian
Intolerant, cruel and villain

With speed he used his executive pen
To close the door on foreign women and men

He retreats to his resort to golf and eat steak
While claiming to make America great

Bored with his guests he called for his wife
An immigrant, no less, who sought a new life

“Melania,” Trump called, “Come here now!”
The former porn star, rushed in and bowed.

“What is it dear Donald, my king?
I came as soon as I heard the bell ding.”

“Strip for my friends!” the King ordered.
“You know I only disrobe for you,” she retorted.

“How dare you embarrass and disobey?
I’ll move to DC and in Trump Tower you’ll stay!

Alone in the White House, Trump tweets and tweets
Blaming reporters and judges for security leaks

Like Haman before him, Bannon advises ill-will
And craven Republicans concave on Capitol Hill

What can we do? What can we do?
Say Muslims, Christians, and Jews?

Like Esther we’ll march and make ourselves heard
We won’t let this tyrant have the last word!


By the end of the week, it’s St. Patrick’s Day. I’m boiling cabbage now and will cook a corned beef tomorrow as we’re out of town on Friday. For me, most holidays are about the food.

Keep the protests going.

Happy Purim & Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


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While Trump Tweets, Congress Acts

While Trump continues to distract us with his horrific behavior and lies,  Members of Congress are busy following his edicts and submitting bills that promise to destroy the nation as we know it. This list is circulating social media; I used it as my letter this week to my congressman. It speaks for itself in its range of damage.

Dear Rep. Lance:

Please vote NO on the following bills:

  1. HR 861 Terminate the Environmental Protection Agency
  2. HR 610 Vouchers for Public Education
    3. HR 899 Terminate the Department of Education
    4. HJR 69 Repeal Rule Protecting Wildlife
    5. HR 370 Repeal Affordable Care Act
    6. HR 354 Defund Planned Parenthood
    7. HR 785 National Right to Work (this one ends unions)
    8. HR 83 Mobilizing Against Sanctuary Cities Bill
    9. HR 147 Criminalizing Abortion (“Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act”)
    10. HR 808 Sanctions against Iran
    11. HR 622 Removing federal policing from National Parks turning over to local authorities.

There’s no one more important than the other; however the education bills remind me of my years teaching.   The schools I’ve taught in serve students breakfast and lunch. My sister’s school sends students home with bags of food every Friday.

Being fed, so one can be  productive at work and at school, shouldn’t be a privilege for the rich.

Call, write, and visit your representatives. Track their voting.

Student portrait of me reading Amanda at Bat at Madeline's school

Student portrait of me reading Amanda at Bat at Madeline’s school





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Immigration Control Fiascos

The day after the election, some of my sister’s students came to her, worried they or their families would be deported. As an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher outside Washington, DC, her students range from gardeners’ to ambassadors’ kids. That fear hasn’t abated.

My husband’s tennis coach, a US citizen from the Dominican Republic, shared that friends  one night had forgotten they’d ordered a pizza. When the knock came on the door, they froze, expecting ICE agents to barge in.

A friend returning home from a trip abroad was asked about her husband’s last name. Her husband, Polish born, arrived in the US when he was 10; his father was a Holocaust survivor.

Border control agents detained a former high school classmate of my eldest son for two hours. You’ve heard of her. An Olympic medal winning fencer, Ibtihaj Muhammad, was targeted because she wears a hijab and is Muslim.

And recently, American boxer great Muhammad Ali’s son, Muhammad Ali Jr. was detained at customs for two hours, for his Muslim name.

These are horrific, cruel and frightening scenarios. We probably all can share personal stories.

The one that really gets me is Mem Fox’s ordeal. Fox, 70, a renowned Australian children’s author, was held for two hours (seems to be the limit of customs patrol attention span), when she tried to enter the US to attend a conference. Fox, whose books like Time for Bed and Possum Magic delight millions of children worldwide, is also a strong proponent of children’s literature in schools and resource for educators. So derailed by her inquisition, she said she cried “like a baby” and vowed never to visit the US again.

This is a huge loss to US educators and children.

These actions are an affront to all religious ideals, democracy and basic kindness.

Let’s continue to stand up and speak out.

My letter to my congressman this week focused on Freedom of the Press:

Dear Rep. Lance:

The White House’s exclusion of major news organizations to its press briefing last Friday is a clear violation of the First Amendment. President Trump continues to call the press “an enemy of the people.”

However, I have not read or heard any statement from you about these actions and statements.

By remaining silent, you exhibit craven attitudes that democracy isn’t important to you and that you welcome a dictatorship.

Remember the words of President Thomas Jefferson in 1787:

“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

When will you stand up and speak out against regime intent to destroy our democracy?







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Time to Investigate Trump & Putin

Growing up in the early 1960’s I heard about the Russians. I heard about the space race and Sputnik, and remember seeing Khrushchev on television. I remember hearing how we were supposed to be afraid of the Russians, though I had no idea why. In my politically left-leaning family, Communism wasn’t considered a danger. My elementary schools had fall out shelters, left from the Cold War when we feared being bombed by the Russians. I knew it was a huge country far away but had no personal reason to fear it.

As I got older, I followed the news of famous people defecting from the then Soviet Union, seeking the freedom offered by the United States. There was ballet dancer  Mikhail Baryshnikov  in 1974 and tennis champion Martina Navratilova  in 1975 among many others. I read about the imprisonment and eventual release of writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and dissident Natan Sharansky.

Then in 1989, the Berlin Wall came down, crumbling the Soviet Union, and opening borders. My brother studied Russian and went to work in Moscow, where he met his wife. A cousin lived and worked in Moscow for years and I visited her a few years ago. We toured Moscow and St. Petersburg, enjoying great food, music, dance, and art.

Now jump ahead nearly 30 years, and the Russians have hacked our election, interfered with our democracy and compromised our national security.

President Obama in a CNN interview said, “Vladimir Putin is not on our team.” This story gives more detail of Putin’s influence in the US.

I sent this letter to my congressman, Leonard Lance, this week. Feel free to borrow or share.

Dear Rep. Lance:

Events of the past two weeks show that it is no longer speculation that Russian President Vladimir Putin condoned interference in the 2016 election.

However I have yet to hear or read any statement from you about this vile infringement on our democracy.

Why aren’t you concerned about the risk to our national security created by Trump’s affiliation with Russia?

Why haven’t you insisted Trump release his personal and business tax returns to prove, as he maintains, he has no business interests with Russia?

Why aren’t you defending the emoluments clause in the US Constitution, enacted by the Founding Fathers to protect us from the dangers of foreign influence and corruption?

You owe it to your constituents to answer these questions.





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Trump’s Vocabulary

As a child, I discovered the thesaurus and loved finding synonyms for words. My parents had the old-fashioned kind, organized conceptually instead of alphabetically, and I spent hours making word lists. As a writer, I love the thesaurus.

As a teacher, I stressed vocabulary. I pushed students to learn more words, telling them a strong vocabulary would help  in reading and writing. I created lists from class readings and from news articles.  I let students find words from their own reading and I’d use their selections to create a class list. For fun, we’d open a page in the dictionary and pick several words from the page and the next.

A list of between 10-20 words would last about 10 days. Students would look up the definitions and the parts of speech and write sentences using the words. They’d share their sentences on the board. They’d write stories with the words and create quizzes for peers, swapping with a classmate, and returning the quizzes to be corrected by the writer. We’d play vocabulary bingo and have spelling bees. All to increase their familiarity with more and more words.

As a grandmother, I love sharing children’s literature with my grandkids. When there’s a word they don’t know, we discuss its meaning. They learn, and sometimes these words creep into their conversations.

So along comes our president with his limited vocabulary. I remember watching one of the debates and counting the number of times I heard “huge” or “fantastic” or “great.” And I’m not the only one noticing.

As writer Philip Roth wrote in The New Yorker, referring to Trump “…wielding a vocabulary of seventy-seven words that is better called Jerkish than English.”

Yet this lack of vocabulary apparently isn’t a sign of lack of intelligence. As this article says, Trump’s ability to use repetition with his limited vocabulary proved an effective tool to garner support.

However let’s remember he lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes. I’m willing to bet most voters would prefer a president with a larger vocabulary than who we have in office and someone who could use his words in ways that don’t insult foreign leaders, members of the judiciary, members of the press, and citizens.



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