Tag: 2021 October Group Writing

Surprises, Start to Finish


Country Western Music Clipart ImageIt may come as a surprise to some of you (but perhaps not to others), that I — a high-toned Brit raised in West Africa — have a serious weakness for American music of the sort that used to be known as country and western. (My affection doesn’t extend much beyond that, and certainly not to the over-amped, multitrack, increasingly woke pap and purveyors of such that have infected the modern oeuvre.)

No: I’ll take Patsy. The Carters. Hank. Loretta. Johnny. Tammy. Willie. Kitty. Dolly. Randy. June. Tom T. Cal. And so on. I suggest you don’t test me. I can prose on for hours. I also realize that some of my heroes cross musical boundaries. And that’s fine. I’m not a purist, other than in my search for some sort of authenticity in the sound and the sentiment.

By extension, I ♥ Bluegrass. The rawer, the better. One of my favorite tapes (and it is a tape; I should probably digitize it in case it breaks one day) is one that a friend of Mr. She gave us many years ago, a montage of his favorite performances from some local bluegrass festivals he and his wife had attended over the years. I have no idea who many of these lads and lasses (some in their dotage, and many of them, I’m sure, dead by now) are, but they’re awesome!

Group Writing: Surprising Wedding Vows


When I was young and imagined myself being married, I didn’t stop to think about the kind of vows my beloved and I would recite. As a rule, people didn’t write their own vows; they relied on the officiant to recite the ceremony and for the couple to reply with simple, “I dos.” Even today I wouldn’t want to write my own vows; it makes me nervous just thinking about it, and I’m a public speaker! But I have three situations where wedding vows were involved, and all of them had a significant impact on me.

The first situation must have been 50 years ago when a family friend who was about my age and Jewish married a Catholic man. Back then, intermarriage was beginning to increase, and since her family was not very religious, I don’t remember there being a big deal made of it. At the ceremony, however, I was surprised and stunned to hear them recite their vows. I didn’t know exactly how they were going to make their vows to each other, given their two religions, but I heard both of them take their vows “in the name of Jesus Christ.” They had a minister perform the ceremony and he had agreed to offer two different sets of vows, but he fell into his usual wedding pattern—and forgot his promise. Oh well. I don’t know how many people heard it or cared, but as a teenager, I was already conflicted due to the mixed marriage and felt chagrined and embarrassed by his error. I’m sure he felt uncomfortable, too.

The next time I was faced with the question of wedding vows was when I was engaged to my current husband, who was raised Catholic but wasn’t practicing. I knew my parents wouldn’t be thrilled with my marrying a gentile, but he was a wonderful man and I wanted to marry him. I had heard nice things about a Conservative Jewish rabbi and thought I would ask him if he would marry us. When I told him our situation, it wasn’t enough for him to politely say “no”; he was outraged that I would even ask him. I guess I was pretty naïve, at least not anticipating that he might say “no;” I didn’t expect him to take it as a personal affront. Naturally, I was once again embarrassed and wondering what to do next.

Group Writing: Seriously?!


Would you be my partner in this project?

 Those were the words that @iwe expressed in an email he sent to me almost three years ago, inviting me to co-write a book about Judaism. To say I was shocked, thrilled, and terrified at the prospect of working on this kind of project would be an understatement. In all fairness to you, the reader, I have to give you some background.

Several years ago, I decided to completely leave Zen Buddhism, which I had practiced for 20 years. I’d remained a Jew, but had never been religious, and never felt a strong affinity for my faith. Ironically, the more I meditated within the Zen framework, the more I felt a deep connection with G-d. (Zen doesn’t address G-d in its practice.)