Sunday, April 26, 2015


Fearless, Carol Aust (acrylic on wood)
After our Seder, recalling the events leading up to the Israelites being led by God out of Egypt, we were lounging around on the couch and started wondering more about what happened next. Why did the Israelites wander around in the desert for 40 years? Of course, Susan uses this as an excuse not to go camping. “Jews don’t camp!” she says. “We wandered the desert for 40 years, why would I want to go camping now?” Plus, I am unable to sufficiently dispel her concerns about all the hazards of camping, both large (bears) and small (ticks), and so we pretty much don’t camp.  
Back to the Israelites. Why did they wander the desert 40 years? Were they lost? Certainly they didn’t have GPS then, but – really? Forty years? Even I am not that bad, and as we all know, my proficiency in getting lost is epic. (See blog post #4, Getting Lost & Getting Found, published October 20, 2014). Were they just lost? Perhaps not physically, but spiritually. 
Our curiosity piqued, we went in search of the answer. Google, of course. What happened after the Israelites left Egypt, where the Passover story ends? God was taking them to a land of milk and honey. Minor detail that He finally shared with them, of course only after they had already left Egypt, is that this land was already occupied by the Midianites, a bunch of big, strong, fierce giants (not a bit unlike the Seattle Seahawks), and they would have to be removed first. But, God said, hey, trust me, I’m on your side. 
What stopped the Israelites? Fear. The thing that holds us all back from our promised lands. They still couldn’t believe, even after having witnessed miracle after miracle, the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea. They just couldn’t quite see the possibility of yet another miracle. Escaping Egypt was not enough. God apparently doesn’t like to be doubted, and so that’s why he made them wait forty years, at least according to Google.  
This raises the question: Which was worse? Being prisoners enslaved to the Egyptians? Or, being held prisoner of their own fears? As always, it is a fundamental question of confidence, faith, and trust – in oneself, others, and God. To borrow a quote from The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt  (who could be a long-lost, albeit fictional, cousin of mine), “Escaping is not the same as making it.”
Driving home from work Friday night, I saw a car on Route 2 with the bumper sticker: “I live in fear.” I couldn’t believe it. I felt so sorry for that driver. Of course, as I was drawing closer, to try get a better view, and make sure it really said what I thought it did, I probably just further added to their fears. What did they mean by that?  

As it has been said, many times and many ways, courage is not the absence of fear, but going forward even when one is afraid, acting “fearlessly” – courageously – in the face of our fears. 

“I learned that courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."
                                                                                                                      Nelson Mandela
"Courage is being afraid, but going on anyhow."
                                                                                                                      Dan Rather

This was just a natural follow-on to the prior blog post about miracles and believing. So excited to have picked up the painting, titled “Fearless,” by Carol Aust, from the Left Bank Gallery in Wellfleet. I saw the painting last September and found it so inspirational, I would have bought it on the spot, but I was afraid of adding another large ticket item to my credit card bill (I know, pretty ironic right?), and so I have been quietly, patiently paying for it on layaway over the long winter. Happy to see a good chunk of wall space devoted to Carol Aust’s work at the Left Bank Gallery for the 2015 season.

Post Script
We continue to celebrate all the miracles of spring, with new life, leaves budding out on trees, and babies being born or on the way. Another miracle, we finally put our humidifiers away, so it no longer sounds like we’re living in an aquarium. And, my Dad is planting asparagus again this spring!

I’ve added a few more books to the pile on my nightstand:

-       Images of America: Tiffin, by Keith Elchert and Laura Weston-Elchert. Congrats to Keith and Laura on the publication of their book this year!

-       Mudhouse Sabbath and Wearing God, by Lauren Winner. I attended her talk Sunday April 12, 2015, at Trinity Church, and found her journey fascinating, from being born and raised Jewish, to converting to Christianity and recently being ordained an Episcopal priest.

-       The Real-Life MBA, by Jack and Suzy Welch.

Coming Next
I will give my take on the talk, “Business & Baseball,” held Wednesday night, April 22, 2015, at the Seaport Hotel, essentially an interview with two local Boston business icons, Jack Welch (former CEO of GE) and John Henry (owner of The Boston Globe, Boston Red Sox, and the Liverpool Football Club, and by “football” I mean soccer), moderated by Globe Editor, Brian McGrory. An edited version of the talk was aired on NESN Saturday, April 25, 2015, and yes, that was my question at the very end, for anyone who happened to catch it. More to come.

And then back to the rugby vs. football thing, and maybe another one of my Dad’s letters.

© 2015 Rosemary A. Schmidt
Rose Schmidt is the author of “Go Forward, Support! The Rugby of Life.” Use of individual quotes with proper citation and attribution, within the limits of fair use, is permitted. If you would like to request permission to use or reprint any of the content on the site, please contact me.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Asparagus and Other Everyday Miracles

I still hold a grudge against asparagus. It’s a childhood thing. Let me explain. One day, my Dad comes inside the house all excited and says, “Hey, Rosie, do you want to come see an octopus?” And I say, “Sure!” So, I follow my Dad outside, and we make our way to the garden, where I am expecting to see some large, gray, squishy, tentacled marine animal. Instead, my Dad holds up a gangly plant, with soil clods hanging from it. I was still waiting for my octopus. “Here it is, Rosie, I got some asparagus plantings. See all the stalks of asparagus? Just like an octopus!”

Thus, at an early age, I was introduced to the difference between simile and metaphor, between what is, and what is “just like.” What a letdown. I got excited to see something that was an actual octopus, not some plant that might in some ways resemble an octopus. Welcome to life.

This reminds me of another more recent experience in our condo community. One of our neighbors from across the way, an older woman, originally from Italy, started telling us about some broken steps on the stairs to her back deck. I can hear my partner, Susan, in the background saying there was another unit that had some broken steps, and so the property management company had called our contractor, Steve, to come out and take a look at them. (Susan has been on the condo board for years now, an utterly thankless position, but that’s a whole other story.) In any event, I follow our neighbor over to her house, and through her unit, to the other side to see her back deck. She opens the door, looks out, and lo and behold, the broken steps have been completely replaced and repaired, good as new. Our neighbor exclaims, “It’s a miracle! Thank you Jesus!” I say, “Well, I think it was actually Steve…” But she would hear none of that. My explanation landed on deaf ears. It was a miracle, period, end of story, thank you to Jesus, not Steve or the condo board. He must have picked up some carpentry skills along the way from his stepdad, Joseph. I smile, and think – what a great way to go through life, experiencing miracles in ordinary everyday things. Slightly delusional, perhaps, yes, but reality has always been over-rated in my book, anyway.
How much happier could we all be, to be so child-like, in awe, wide-eyed, seeing miracles where others see carpentry; octopus in asparagus. Choosing the power of metaphor over the pale comparisons of simile. And what if we think about the big miracles – the parting of the sea, manna in the desert, water to wine, people rising from the dead, the Red Sox 2013 season. There are things that have happened in our lifetimes, in recent history, and we don’t know for sure what really happened. Were there weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Was there fried chicken in the club house? We may never know. The big miracles happened thousands of years ago. How are we to know what really happened today? There are many mysteries.
When my Mom died, and we met with her parish priest to plan her funeral mass, and he asked which readings we’d like, I blurted out: the story of Lazarus. I hadn’t thought of it in years, but simply recalled that Jesus wept at the death of his friend and brought him back to life. Now, note, I called it “the story” of Lazarus. We don’t really know – maybe Lazarus wasn’t really dead, but just in a coma, and Jesus woke him up. Even the Catholic scholars and theologians debate whether or not Jesus really physically came back to life, or if he re-appeared to his followers in some way as if he had risen from the dead, in a more spiritual form. Sort of like the asparagus again; the difference between metaphor and simile, a physical or apparitional presence.  
This may sound like blasphemy, but there really is a continuum of belief. I recall running into a woman we know in town who lost her son two years ago, and we got to talking about whether the dead could communicate from the spirit world. She is very Catholic, and very much against the idea of psychics who claim they can communicate with the deceased. On the other hand, she heartily believes that butterflies are a sign from her son. She asked me if I believed in any of that. My reply: I don’t not believe.
At an early age, I briefly contemplated becoming a priest, but the prognosis looked pretty poor back then in the 1970s, and even worse when I came out a decade later, never mind the whole celibacy thing, plus my fuzzy pluralistic belief system. Now in a “multi-faith” marriage, we celebrate both the Catholic and Jewish holidays. We celebrate everything. In a conversation with a devout Christian several years ago, I was questioned about my faith. My answer: “I’m not being asked to believe in anything less.” I’m not sure I’d say I believe in everything. World created in seven days? That might be a little bit of poetic license. People rising form the dead? Communicating with spirits? Fate? Karma? Again: I don’t not believe. I believe in the possibility of everything. Did God lead Moses and the Israelites out of Egypt? Was Muhammad also a messenger from God? Did Jesus really rise from the dead? All, yes, surely, possibly. Maybe the world would be a better place if more of us could see the octopus in the asparagus, Jesus in their stair steps, and yes, even believe in another Red Sox World Series run in 2015. Play ball!

Happy Easter! Good Passover!

I wrote this almost a year ago, but thought the concept of everyday miracles would resonate with the dual holidays of Passover and Easter, so I saved it for now. A time when we need miracles more than ever. Can we imagine a world where people do not kill one another in the name of religion? My heart goes out to all who are grieving the lost and wounded in last week’s massacre at Garissa University College in Kenya.
Post Script
We enjoyed a lovely Passover dinner from Inna’s in Newton Friday night, everything wonderfully prepared. Especially the horseradish. Must have been made from a spring root, extra spicy! Which led to an observation that we could create a new saying to describe someone who is extra spicy or interesting, by saying they are like a spring horseradish!

And we will be trying out Royal, a new restaurant in Watertown, today for their Easter Brunch.
Women & STEM – Just after posting the last blog, observing that making changes in corporate America may be difficult as it’s happening too late, too far downstream, I found this article in The Wall Street Journal: “Men Enlist in Fight for Gender Equality,” by Joann S. Lublin, citing real statistically significant improvements in the number of female executives, after men became engaged in promoting gender equality, including putting the brakes on old-boy dynamics and educating staff on simple, fundamental differences in how men and women process information and make decisions (shocker: women think more before jumping in).  So, maybe there is hope.

Lastly, for an asparagus recipe, visit:

Coming Next
Part 2 – Our Pesach Haggadah (Passover Story)
And then back to the rugby vs. football thing, and maybe another one of my Dad’s letters.

Lublin, Joann S., 2015. Men Enlist in Fight for Gender Equality. The Wall Street Journal. March 11, 2015, p. B7.
© 2015 Rosemary A. Schmidt
Rose Schmidt is the author of “Go Forward, Support! The Rugby of Life.” Use of individual quotes with proper citation and attribution, within the limits of fair use, is permitted. If you would like to request permission to use or reprint any of the content on the site, please contact me.