a quiet normal life

That’s the title of a Warren Zevon greatest hits album, I am not sure why but that has been sticking with me the past few weeks     What is a quiet normal life?  Does anyone really want one? If they do are they happy with it?   Or are they really happy with it?  and has the definition of normal changed over the years?  I think of this as some people who read this know that I mostly thought I had such a thing until the last year or so.  Kids were successful, not too boring, even little edgy was the youngest but really never gave us any problems.  And then we were hit with the “I am not who you thought I was” by one of them.  Wow, now what?  And does it matter?  Maybe a little, maybe a lot?

We get disrupted by life a lot, I have found even at my ripe young age of 54.   Shouldn’t we accept that.  Don’t we welcome differences.  I don’t think we do, at least not as much as people like to say or even worse like to say they do.   When I got divorced, most of the people I knew walked away.  When I had life and parent and work issues at the same time, people were cautious or non existent.    People don’t like change, they don’t like no matter what they say, differences.   So your kid is gay?  Trans?  Some other form of sexual identity?  Depressed?   I hope you feel better and let me know what I can do.  But usually they can’t.  Kid doing great, we are all in.

So what do we do, and I am not sure even what I am trying to say here.  But what I have found is that like people need each other.  While we try and be empathetic(or sympathetic I always get these mixed up) how much do people really care if they cannot identify first hand.   I recently met someone who life though a little far away, so closely mirrors mine it is downright weird.  Gender issues and sexuality issues with her kids, jewish, smart but a little confused by life, and I fin myself for the first time in 14  long months really being able to genuinely laugh and look at life from a accepting view point that this is what it is.  No one really has a quiet normal life so why not try and embrace that?  But also accept that even if people try to become your weirdness into their world, don’t be upset when you know they really cannot.

It is like the saying opposites attract.  Do they really?

 

 

Policy versus personality

I had an interesting discussion the other day, with whom is not really relevant, but it was a social setting not a work one.  The issue that came up was that maybe our President, and I hate to even type his name, is despicable and not what we would hold out as a model for much of anything, but that it is policy that matters.  That we overlook the human flaws because the end game, policies that can be supported ( not many by me) are what matters.

I found this to be somewhat scary.   While I know I can look at these things through rose colored glasses, believing that process matters long term more than short term, it made me think about what is politics?  What does it seek to accomplish?  Are we part of a country with long term goals, and long term goals of being a country that others aspire to follow, or more that we are a country, becoming more isolated daily, that all that matters is our end game, the end of reason or the end of objectives.     Believing this means we overlook personality,  that we over look not just flaws, but fatal flaws that we would pray our children don’t have, or that we would not want to associate with on a daily basis.  I can’t support this, I believe that as a country we should aspire to more. Policies will come and go, as they always have. What may work today will be looked back on 50 years from now as absurd, short sighted or maybe brilliant.  But the reality is we are here for along time, and that personality, and more than that inherent traits of our leaders should in fact matter.

We want our leaders to be people we respect, so they can in fact lead us, guide us and act in our best interest, not just in the best interest of people they like, which is what we have now.  As a country, we must drive for better and it makes me a little sad, if not just effected, that we no longer want our leaders to be better than us.  We just want them to make us feel good about ourselves.

A sad state of times, no matter what side you are on.

 

 

Times passes-things change-Scott Sitner

Those are words that Don Henley of the Eagles said in an interview in around 1976, when he was about 27 years old.  He meant it in the sense that they are getting older, that success changes people, but the sentiment remains the same in a whole bunch of different ways.  For me, as I have had a modicum of success, some failures and a whole bunch of stuff in the middle, I see it in the ways most people see it, with kids, with family, work, a golf game that is up and down and middle aged rock and roll fantasies.

I had the chance to go visit my daughter in her college town on the east coast two weeks ago.  While she was certainly mature and great when she went to college, there was a palpable change in two months, which she will only know if she reads this….It was not her hair color, which I swear is darker, she seemed taller, but i know that is not true, but there was a sense of maturity in the way she walked and talked and how she interacted with people  It was something only a parent could tell, to most she will seem like herself, but it was amazing to me that time had passed, all of two months and the change in her was beyond noticeable.

I see it in my son, a senior at a small midwestern college, which one i obviously if anyone reads these.  He is more distant but not in a bad way, more of an independent way, that he is able to act on his own, start making some decisions on his own for his future with only a modicum of input from his parents.  I saw it when I took him grocery shopping (of course I still paid) but that he was not buying cookies, crackers and snack food.  He and his roommates had meals planned, like adults, he bought two bottles of wine, and one case of fancy beer, but the rest was like what adults do.  He also likes duck confit and craft cocktails….not cheap for dad, but cute.

I see it in parents who are getting older and the residual issues that go with that although thankfully for now not catastrophic.  I see it more though in myself, now living basically alone, with two lonely cats who are still getting used to an empty house.  It’s very quiet, and after I purged the garbage in both kids’ rooms it just feels like a house where the kids used to live.  I thought I would change habits, but except for having literally no food in the house, I have offend that while things change, some change has to be forced a little.  A conscious effort to read a book,go play in a bar, take a trip, or become stagnant, I can see how empty nesters who are not married can get bogged down in morass of depression or loneliness.  21 years of habits, of going to events, or just checking in and seeing when they will be home crafts a history that can’t be a future.

So we force change, force those new habits, get a part time job, make some more money, who knows, but otherwise I can see becoming something that no one would be happy with.  As time passes, and things change, the real issue than is, do we?

Scott Sitner

2017

The last graduation

I guess it is hard to say it is the last graduation as there as only one more before it, so it may be a little over dramatic saying the last, or you could be my mother who laments that her next one is 11 years away and whether she will or won’t be there(as in dead not whether she will be invited).  Mari’s mom and I had a discussion with her at breakfast before graduation yesterday, and the issue was why is this a big deal?  Are we sad, depressed, happy, some combination of all three or ten emotions.  We agreed that we were not at all sad as this is what was supposed to happen.  I mean god, what if she wasn’t graduating, then we would be sad, or mad, or beyond mad.  But she is, and in three months will be functionally gone, as will Alex, although at 150 miles away, somewhat more accessible.
So what we explained was we are emotional.  We are happy for her, thrilled she is going to a great school in her chosen field, and already is best friend with her roommate.  But for us, there is a huge life change, that anyone who reads this will know and understand.  Even if in the past few years she has been driving and out on saturday and dinners are fewer and farther between.  But she was still there.  Her room has her stuff, the car is in the driveway, old thai food and BWW(good god) remains in the fridge longer.  More importantly the is there, a presence that even if not seen pervades our lives.  how is school, does she need anything, money, food, advice, ha.  But she comes home after school, comes home at night, chats and is a part of our lives.  While they always will be, once she leaves in August, it will never be like it was, it will be what it should be, but not like it has been.
So while we can be happy for her, and not unhappy for us, both kids are great, we can recognize the shift in our own lives, the next stage, and how we can now structure our lives in a wholly different way for the next hopefully 30 plus years.  So are we sad no, but we are emotional recognizing that really 21 years of raising kids is somewhat over and former changed.  Anyone who has been through this is I am sure laughing, but for those of us new at it…..
Have a great summer……

COLLEGE ACTING AND THEATRE ADMISSIONS-A PARENT’S PRIMER

APPLYING AND GETTING ACCEPTED TO COLLEGE ACTING AND MUSICAL THEATRE PROGRAMS

 

This is mostly being written for parents of kids who are seniors in high school and applying to college BFA programs in musical theatre or acting or in some cases just the four-year similar degrees. My daughter, who shall remain nameless here, spent the large part of the last 9 months preparing, applying and auditioning for college BFA programs.   Much of the information her mom and I got was from our daughter, without vetting or investigating. Having been through just a regular college admission process with our son, easy, we wished someone had prepared us for this journey.

 

Suffice it to say, there are drips and drabs of information on the Internet. Acting coaches and teachers profess to know some, and they do, but they each have different thoughts and opinions, and much of what we are told was shades of grey as opposed to great information.   We wish that some of this had been there, that we had filled in the blanks and places where our daughter missed some things and maybe could have had this easier.   Hopefully this will help some of the parent who are out there or at least be somewhat entertained in the meantime.

 

THEATRE VERSUS JUST COLLEGE

 

There is no comparison. Our son was a very successful high school student, destined for liberal arts and Starbucks. But he had great grades, very good test scores and lots of the other stuff. Wile maybe not Columbia material, he was going to get into a number of good schools and have choices. And he did, landing at his parents alma mater Kalamazoo College and is by all counts happy and found his place. This is a different animal.

 

We first learned this during a college east coast tour after her junior year. Se told us grades don’t matter, test scores don’t matter, it’s all talent. Tell that to two parents who went to law school. From Carnegie Mellon: We get around 1600 applicants, we generally have a class of 12 boys and 12 girls. Grades mean little or nothing. They accept maybe 40 kids.   Mom and I looked at each other; our daughter smirked being proven right. Four other schools told the same tale. This is in fact all about perceived talent and fit. Yes, they have to get academically admitted and for a few schools that may be challenging. But most of these kids only wants theatre, getting academically admitted was akin to being told they can take extra physics classes in high school.

 

The flip side is that grades and test scores do matter for financial aid. In hindsight we should have had her take the SAT again as it might have made a difference in merit scholarships. But for the theatre programs themselves, and I will discuss more later, it’s all about talent.

 

 

APPLICATIONS

 

We let ours do all this without much input or actually any, on essays or the videos or applications. I think each kid is different, some need guidance and some don’t. We found ours did not. But what we did not push was timing. And like with our son, deadlines came up and were pressured to getting things done. One of the mistakes we made was trusting our daughter on dates. Most of the time she was in fact correct. On a few, she simply miss read things or did not understand the language or what certain things meant. This led to a few rushes on some applications. We tried but did not keep up a spreadsheet. I would encourage that. Every school has different dates and times things are due, and for these programs, the kids apply to 15-20 schools, really, due to the low acceptance rates. Don’t miss deadlines because that then leads to missed audition schedules and lost opportunities.

 

She applied to 19 schools, this was about the number we were advised to do. When the schools accept five to ten percent of the applicants you have to hedge your bets. Just accept this, it seems crazy if your other applied to six, but it’s necessary. It’s also expensive. Each school is 30-60 dollars or more, plus transcript fees, plus SAT scores, plus most schools charge a fee for the required audition or video.   We probably spent a thousand dollars on applications. Just accept it.

 

You then wait. And even if you get accepted it means nothing because what matters is acceptance into the BFA or similar program. My kid never even told us of many of the schools she got accepted to because it was irrelevant, she was only going if the got into the program she wants. Again, just accept it. Even offering congratulations was met with blank stares and “who cares”.

 

FINANCIAL AID.

 

Fill out the FAFSA form like everyone says, just do it. Then make sue that the schools don’t need more information, especially if you are divorced. Do not allow your kid to tell what needs to be done or what is or is not required. They are wrong, a lot. Or they ignore e mails, or they just don’t care. It’s costly, push and follow up, even if they hate you. It is April, we just learned of things we missed because we were lax in following up. It likely cost us thousands of dollars. Enough said.

 

AUDUTIONS AND UNIFIEDS

 

This is where it all gets fun. You get to travel, go to fun cities, and some not so much fun. Watch your kid get three minutes to prove to some school they deserve one out of 40 spots out of 1500 applicants. Joy. It isn’t. Most auditions we did were at unified. We did a couple on site for reasons I don’t even remember, as almost all schools go to unifieds. We did five days in Chicago, four in NY, another weekend in Pittsburgh, a weekend in Chicago aside from Unifieds and Dayton and Ada Ohio.   Others did more, we were lucky being in Michigan as travel was not awful. But these are not vacations.

 

First, this is all expensive, no matter how you cut it, and there are no subsidies. Even traveling cheaply to NYC was two plane fares, airport transfers, three nights in a midtown hotel, one show, meals, etc etc. And it is not a vacation. But one piece of advice is get out of the hotel. I heard too many stories of kids who went to auditions, never left the hotel and were beyond stressed. Take a walk, have a decent dinner, see a show, do something. There is huge downtime, waiting makes it worse.   I still remember the Palmer House in Chicago and scores of kids and parents who looked as though they had all been told something bad. The stress was cut with a knife thick. One thought, don’t stay at the host hotel. Avoid all that negative and nervous energy, it perpetuates itself. I was so glad in Chicago we stayed two blocks away.

 

The other thing, and this was my mistake, don’t get wrapped up in the other kids. It is too easy to see, especially with girls, ones that looks different, taller, dressed “better” the comparisons are too easy to make and too wrong on every level.   Yes, some of these kids are going to be better than yours, in looking at bulletin boards there were a number who got into almost all of their schools. Good for them, but most of these kids are talented and none of us really know what they are looking for with each kid. Every school looks for different things. The stunningly tall actress who looks like a model may fit at one school but not even be remotely what another wants.

 

Let your kid be your kid. They have been doing this for years, they know what their strong qualities are, and their weak ones. Once we start meddling in clothing choices, song or monologue choices, we compromise their artistic integrity and comfort level, they know if we question it, that we are questioning them, and that can only linger. Just trust their choices, let’s face it, we really don’t often know what’s best.

 

Go with or not to the auditions? First, there is nothing you can do to help. For some kids maybe they need or want mommy or daddy there. But the bottom line is they are going off to college soon, they have to learn to be on their own, and what good is it to sit for two hours in some waiting room playing on the phone.   Plus I spoke to a few, yes just a few, of the teachers there and they uniformly expressed skepticism at parents who hover. If a kid cannot audition on their own, how will they be able to survive at college? Go take a walk, have lunch, check in, go finish your walk. This is not correct for everyone, but really, why are you there?

 

No one knows how they did. Leave it at that.

 

THE WAITING

 

I write this on April 11. We are still waiting on three schools and one waitlist. The schools will not return calls or e-mails, we have no way of knowing when or if she will ever hear. It makes it impossible to plan anything.   This stinks, and while intellectually I somehow get it, it is somewhat rude. I am not sure why they cannot just send the remaining kid a note that says “you will know in ten days” but they don’t. So you will wait, and wait, and get mail (most mail is bad, e mails and phone calls are good.

 

Your kid is going to get rejected. Your brilliant, tony award winning, acting and singing phenomenon, is going to get flat out turned down. They are, trust me. It stinks. We all think our kids are the most talented kids there are, how on earth can you reject them. But then you accept the fact that other kids are in fact better, or better fits, or your kid had a bad three minutes. It’s a very harsh reality when grandparent’s compliments don’t turn into acceptances.   From experience, we have been shocked, and have heard the same But for the most part, your kid will get in somewhere, maybe not first choice, but they will get in. but you have to again accept that you and your kid are going to suffer more rejection than you ever thought. All of these kids are talented, some of them are utterly amazing, and everyone wants those 50 kids. So don’t get crazy, offer condolences and move on.

 

 

 

 

Frozen shoulder-a primer

I am writing this as there is a dearth of first hand information about there about “Frozen Shoulder”. Take all at face value, I am not a doctor, although I have a doctor in the family. Hopefully someone can get some idea of what to expect and to follow progress and maybe not just feel alone or as I do sometimes, just fell silly saying what I have. I can tell even my father who is a doctor, thinks I am making something up. Any questions, feel free to make a comment here or to e mail me at scottsitner@gmail.com.

This all started in mid january 2017. I had spent weeks in europe, no issues and a few weeks at home with no problem. About the middle of the month I had what for me was a tell take sign. When I tried to reach quickly for something it was beyond painful. grabbing something that was going to fall off the passenger seat, reaching to turn on a light over my head during the night, trying to play guitar while sitting down, acoustic, were all excruciating. I was doing some traveling with my daughter and a few ties she noticed I was in essentially agony. It was not constant, I think the pain is a little more constant now, three months later, but rarely has it been totally life limiting. Reaching, leaning on it to get up from a couch, and pain during the night, although I can still sleep, just not great.

I assumed this was nothing major, and decided for the first month to even travel and I took a golf trip. I played three times in four days I could play, a driver at full bore was impossible. The pain after the swing, and I could swing, was unbearable. But I was and am able to swing with irons and woods, just slower and I don’t follow through. But a month later it was no better and I had a tournament to play in, so I saw an ortho. I got a shot, of no help, he did an ultrasound which showed really nothing and PT was prescribed. because of approvals and such that was three weeks later.

For better or worse I did play in the tournament, it was doable but very limiting. I am an 8 handicap so I do play and with a 35 MPH wind each day it was very hard and painful. Warming up helped, but yardage was 3/4 at best and certain shows like sand shots, wow. So I came home and it was my PT who said what I had. He said if I had a tear, it would be unbearable, and it was clear what I had because of the limitations of lifting my right arm behind my back from butt up to back(the worst) and similar stretches. We have embraced on a series of stuff twice a week. What I have found is that it gives me relief that day but nothing long term, I am walking and doing things at home, but will probably stop the PT after another week.

Interestingly I can lift things with no issue, including suitcases and heavy bags as long as I keep the motion simple. Quick movements are very painful. Laying down hurts, but sitting up is better. Advil helps, but not much. The one thing I have been told, and another trip to Florida is next week, is that this is all pain tolerance and ROM tolerance My PT said swing as hard ad I want if I can absorb the pain.(can’t) but I can’t make it worse. I do notice ebbs and flows, some days I have nothing but ROM issues, other days, like today, shooting pains, although the weather doesn’t help. Typing a lot makes it slightly worse, but doable.

I will update every month or so, but hopefully this helps some people who have no where to turn and who get odd looks of disbelief……

A middle age visit to Europe By: Scott Sitner Winter 2016

I am writing this for lots of reasons and no reasons.  I have not been to Europe since the Christmas season of 1986, when  was a high school senior going to visit my girlfriend, someday to become wife in Belgium.  It is a little sad but not a lot that our prevailing memory of that is asking for waffles in Brussels on the street, something I can still taste, and the fresh fish in dover, caught feet from where we sat.  Made all the more amusing as we had just enduring a frightful trip on the water from Antwerp, so many nationalities, so many people violetly ill.

Flash forward 30 years, almost to the day.  No longer married but we have a son in Bonn Germany and  daughter about to graduate high school, so what better way to spend Xmas(with apologies to parents in Florida) than to run to Europe for the traditional family trip.  Mom, her husband, dad, and kids.  Thankfully we are all on the same page and get along so no issues.  We even got permission form our son to come visit and he does not even seem annoyed.  I am going to spend the first three days with just hm, then a a few days together, the I get three days alone in paris, kids join me then we will all finish in Berlin where a truck just drive through a market.  That hit home.

This is being written for family and friends and anyone who is over 45 or 50 and who has not been to Europe ever or in decades.  This is not designed to set your budget, or some crazy tales of things that only happen in Las Vegas,but just normal tales, hints, suggestions and whatever comes to mind.  It’s not high literature, but hopefully not low brown either.

Pictures can be seen at https://www.icloud.com/sharedalbum/#B0gJtdOXmG6fdoB

Day One-The Flight

I don’t check bags, I mean, why?  I had to check a bag.  70 people inline, three people checking in, thanks Delta.  just under an hour, no issue at security time to buy snacks.  Smart.  Yes Delta serves dinner and a “breakfast” on the plane. No I am still not sure what I was given was chicken.  Surprisingly the three piece shrimp cocktail was true bien.  as was the brownie.  Thanks to Zingermans for the tomatoe and mozzarella sandwich.  Flight was easy, nice skinny man next to me, funny middle aged guy from Hanover in front of me so we chatted.  Flight was 75 minutes early.  Amsterdam airport very cool, even at 5 am.  I went through customs for what I guess is all of Europe at the airport. No sure he even looked at my passport.

A 25 minute flight to Dusseldorf.  No one hear naturally speaks english, what’s up with that?  Doesn’t anyone know who we elected as President?  What was disconcerting was simple stuff.  How do you use a machine to buy a train ticket when the machine peaks only german?  WTF?  Thankfully a nice lady saw my ignorance and bought my ticket.  I got on the right train, hailed a taxi, who drive me easily to my hotel in Bonn.  No one told me that a tip is small here.  No wonder he seems so grateful for three euros.  Saying at Bonn Hilton.  yes it is charmless.  However it is user friendly and I am tired.  they speak english, the rooms are big and I don’t feel stupid.

My son Alex wanders over at 4.  he looks older, which I guess technically he is.  haven’t seen him in 4 months and only one Skype call.  I think he has grown.  We go wander Bonn which is charming.  It feels like I am in a foreign country which I guess I am.  he buildings are old and not huge and have character.  The streets are brick and cobblestone.  There are century old churches in the middle of the town.   Everything feels authentic, which it rarely does at home, even it can be charming or pretty.  We eat at a bar he likes, I had fried pork.  I know its weinerschneitzel.  But really, it’s breaded and fried pork.  Alex ordered and drank a beer.  He’s not 21.  Oh well.  We wandered the City, it really is very cool,  save for the pizza hut the mcdonalds and the few stores that I go to at Somerset.  We walk along the Rhein which is outside the hotel and I sent him home, at some point three hours of sleep in 48 hours will catch up.

Day 2.

I slept. Stayed awake until 11, up at 630  Like being at home.  I cannot for the life of me figure out the room thermostat.  TV is fine, but except for CNN, no real english tv, it’s all news. Dubai tv is fascinating, I think.  Unless they are calling for my death, in which case, never mind.

I ate breakfast.  Except for the chocolate chip granola, it was breakfast.  They had a butter machine. how cool is that.  Of course I was sitting at a table overlooking the Rhein, which is better than sitting at home eating Lucky Charms.  The time difference is odd, I keep looking at e mail for work until I realize that it is 3 am and most people are not working.  Took a walk, then rested some until Alex came.  We then marked on a walk.

Observation:  no one is overweight.  I mean some, maybe a little, but really no one.  I don’t mean to shame but it i a huge change from home.  Everyone seems heathy, everyone  is walking, riding bikes, smoking too, which is odd.  But Alex just says he walks everywhere.  we did a few mils though the City, saw the University’s botanical gardens, some very cool, homes and areas where you can feel the history.  If you look at pics you will see a church form 1670.  Beat that Virginia and DC.   There are also no free refills on drinks and I have not seen anyone walking around with a 32 ounce coke you know has been refilled 4 times that day.

Pizza for lunch.  Big pizza. For one. Alex ate all of his, I am old, I ate half.  I can order but he still has to ask for the check.  Maybe he can pay one day.

I went to TJ Maxx.  I needed shorts for sleeping.  My debit card worked.  Not sure why that fascinates me so much.  It does.  The Xmas market was not as impressive the third time.  Lots of crap, some cute, nothing that better than art fairs at home.  Still, a fun festive atmosphere.  even with the smoke.  We walked for a bit, I had to acquire for someone a Bonn starbucks mug, done.  Some german dummies from the Hairbo store, one place everyone speaks english.  Now home. resting.  jet lag not so bad, but tired, more worn then sleepy.

The sun rose at 8:32 today, it is setting now, at 4:30, short short day.  wow.

Dinner his choice, looks like Indian.  Cure

 

 

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Freedom of religion in election year 2016

THE CONUMDRUM OF THE NON CHRISTIAN VOTER
I write this not because I feel persecuted, I don’t. I write this not because I think that the professions of faith of so many of the republican candidates mean they Jews.(Clearly, I’m Jewish). I write this as a reflection as to why so many of us, who in other circumstances might vote republican, and may support certain some if not even many fundamental issues of the Republican party. I write this as someone who is having trouble separating the professions of faith from the policies. And who wonders that if professing your allegiance to not just God and religion and a higher power, but to Jesus Christ, and that your central value system and beliefs are those tenants can you represent me when your advertisements advertise that that is who you are?
When JFK “came out” as a roman catholic, admittedly five years before my time, people were concerned. But the central difference between the two is he never made his religion the central and defining part of either his campaign or his presidency. It may have been central to his beliefs, central to his character(some of the commandments notwithstanding), he made it clear that he would govern for all. That each of us would get an equal billing in his administration. I don’t see that today.
Religion can ground people. As a reform Jew, I see that, especially in times of trouble(Thanks Paul Simon). But one thing that cannot happen, when you are wanting to govern 300 plus million people, is say that your central tenants of belief and governing are guided by a god that so many of us either do not believe in or do not follow. At no point have I heard any of those candidates, after their professions of faith and allegiance, which is what they were, then come out and say, they would look objectively at issues where faith and law, or faith and policy may contradict. How can any of the candidates who follow and are strictly guided by Jesus Christof their own admission, truly look objectively at the middle east. Or truly take guidance and advice from someone who not only opposes them but makes their advice from policy and law and not from the bible, which will often contradict each other.
I again, do not think these candidates hate people of other faiths well, except the ones they all but say they do and having run for office I understand pandering as much as anyone. But when you are running to become president of a United States that prides itself on diversity and tolerance, following strictly the rules of your church and telling people that your election means that is how you will govern, simply are incompatible with those ideals. Religion should be personal, I know it is for me, my family and friends. Let it advise, let it comfort, but don’t let it rule. In our society, it can’t.

Scott Sitner

Birmingham MI 48009

scottsitner@gmail.com

Pet peeves of eating out-Scott Sitner

I have mulled over this for years, sometimes even complaining to food writers, friends, lovers and anyone else who would listen. But yet again, tonight, something happened at a “fast casual” place in Clawson Michigan and I just thought, man am I sick of this, basic things, just do them. So if anyone cares, here is my list of crap that restaurants do that just bother me a lot…

1.Don’t put my cold salad in the same bag as my daughter’s steaming lasagna in a plastic grocery bag. First the heat from the styrofoam container wilts the salad. Second, the plastic bag just makes it worse. Like maybe let mayo sit out for a few hours on the beach and eat that? Please separate warm and cold.
2. Following that, maybe out the freshly cooked chicken in a sport container from the salad? I mean you know I am going home and you know that the hot chicken is going to ruin the lettuce, I mean don’t you?

3. There is a chain of bagel shops around the country, the bagels are actually ok, which of course rules out Einsteins(come one, we all know) and when you ask for cream cheese, they put it on one side of the bagel. So when you take it apart to eat it, one side has a ton of cream cheese, the other, well, none. Really?

4. And following that….put the cream cheese on AFTER you toast the bagel Doing the other is like boiling mayo, just wrong, like really wrong.

5. If I order it without ketchup, I kind of mean that? Not to demand fast food workers, it is a crappy job, but if you have the job, read the orders, for $15.00 an hour, please give me what I want.

6. Soup is an appetizer, as is the side caesar salad. Don’t bring em all at once, even if this is Dennys or a simple coney island. Please bring me my soup or salad before my main course that is going to get cold fast.

7. Don’t fudge that you know your wine, please. yes, I am a snob, I know that, and sometimes it is ok to deviate from the “rules” but a resiling with a steak may be what you want, fundamentally, it really doesn’t work. And while the most expensive glass on the list may be great, you earn points by not suggesting it and suggesting the quirky wine that you just happen to really like.

8. This actually happened to me. On a second date when big reveals were about to happen. The server pulled out the plates for your table from under her arm. I mean what can you even say……so I won’t.

9. If I am spending like $500 on a meal, start by treating me like I am spending $500 on dinner. Likely I will give you a sign very quickly that we can all have fun and I am a fun customer and a really good tipper. but don’t presume it. Trust me. Some of us like the show, even if we know it is pretentious pandering.

10. Offer a less costly alternative if it exists, we will remember it. happened at the Pancake house last week, the three dollars she saved me went into her 50 percent tip. It was a cool thing she did.

11. Don’t disappear unless we make it clear we want privacy. It’s happy hour, if ou leave for 25 minutes and then tell me it’s too late the computer won’t allow the happy hour menu, I’m gonna be a little pissed.

12. If my girlfriend and I are fighting, and trust me you’ll know, I probably don’t want to order another appetizer, I promise I will let you know.

Just some thoughts, I’m a nobody, just the guy having a meal. If anyone actually reads this, well, share it and take it in good stead.

Scott Sitner

Birmingham MI

a jewish kids view of the christmas season

A CHILD’S REFLECTION ON THE SEASON

My daughter hates Christmas. I wish there was a better way of saying it, maybe something more pleasant, less controversial or more politically correct, but there really is not. It is not the weather, the sleeping Santa at Wal-Mart or not getting the 16 gigabyte Ipod so she can watch Lost under her covers at night (every nine year olds dream). But rather a very interesting look into the divide between Christians and other religious groups, the prevalence of non religious Christmas symbols that really are religious, even if somewhat innocuous, and how a little girl who is Jewish sees the world as Christian and feels left out of the party.

It really started as a somewhat innocent comment, along the lines of why are there so many Christmas trees and no trees for Hanukah or Kwanza? Why is there Santa Claus on every corner and why is Target putting up decorations before Halloween, and most importantly why are there aisles of decorations for Christmas and one shelf for Hanukah? It was not enough to explain simply that there were more christians then jews, or that stores needed to market to their larger customers which, for better or worse are in fact Christmas shoppers, or that well, this was just the way it was and we should celebrate our own faith. To her it was a slight, a recognition that she was a minority and that her faith, reform, or conservative, was irrelevant.

Try as her mom and I did, we have been unsuccessful in explaining to her how the season works and why we see Christmas everywhere and only small mentions of other faiths and their celebrations this time of year. What has been the most interesting is to see how a nine year old, perhaps a little precocious, deals with her version of perceived prejudice. Target is not out to get her or slight Judiasm, however it may seem those who want crèches on city property by legal mandate do not hate other faiths, they just seemingly prefer their own. But to her, it is prejudice, it is a slight, it is a lack of recognition of other faiths and that in and of itself demeans hers, religiously and culturally.

But this got me to thinking about prejudice and about being in a minority that is really not persecuted and in dealing with my daughter’s conceptions of being in a minority and what lessons we, and hopefully others can take from it. First, she through this she has taught me to recognize that her feelings of being in a minority are real, and that our first attempts to laugh them off in essence reinforced her feelings, basically saying that this is just the way it is, and deal with it, rather then address what was really bothering her and how we could make her feel better about herself.

Which is the next point. To me, it seemed, this was effecting her self esteem, that society was making her feel less like a person because she did not celebrate Christmas. This should have given her mom and me an opening to discuss her faith and how it impacts her life, and how it differs from Christianty, but how both are important, and different, and despite a few evangelicals to the contrary, important to how we exist, a lesson I wish I had learned at 9, instead of 41. We make efforts, even divorced, to have an occasional Shabbat dinner, attend family Temple events, high holiday services and reinforce who we are and some of the values of our faith . But what we did not do was explain to her why we have faith, how it can play a role in our everyday lives and why and how we can address the issues of being a minority without having it make us feel bad or left out, especially at this important time of year for all religions so that she does not express sadness at feeling left out, which then becomes anger, which then becomes disenchantment and being disengaged from religion, which happened to me and which I hope does not happen to her and her brother.

Finally, it got me to thinking about those that want to enact laws that force a government to recognize one religion over another. It is all well and good to say that this is not the case, that it is simply recognizing our heritage as a Judeo Christian nation, or that they are simply reinforcing the values that made our country great. But that’s a lie, maybe not a conscious lie, but a lie. Those values, as honorable as they may be, are based in one religion, the placing of religious symbols on government land, as ordered by law, violates what we are about. As an admitted liberal, mostly, it does not bother me if a government throws 20 symbols on their front lawn, frankly it’s pretty laughable and makes it look like a farce. But when citizens band together to say that a government must place the religious symbols of one religion, on government property such as city hall or a police station, well, it’s gotta make people think, like it did my daughter who may not have completely understood why she feels like she does, but that she does, and is this the message we want to pass on to our kids.

Take the time this season to explain whatever your religion is, what values it may teach and how it impacts our lives and more importantly, how all religions fit together, whether through love or hatred, through peace or violence or simply through “being”, and how we need to take these values to our kids and both teach them and learn through them.

And an occasional Ipod does not hurt either.