The New Year

We have already stepped into the new year on Day 2. It is as full of unknowns as any other year, only it includes unsavory ingredients we’d rather not have to cook with. Yet here we go into the kitchen. The old adage is that we cannot control events, but only control how we respond to them. We certainly cannot control how others respond to them which has caused friction between family members and friends over the holidays. Plans resist fluidity and last minute adaptations which are the only sensible means of navigating our way through the turmoil caused by flight cancellations, sniffles that turned out to be COVID, or that one of the people in a proposed gathering is suddenly far more cautious than the others. Did you get tested? When? Do you trust the test?

Standing up for your beliefs around preventing the transmission of the Omicron variant can be pitted as “wrong” against a differing point of view. Feelings are hurt when you are not validated, and given the amount of disinformation and shifting timelines of valid scientific recommendations that are out there, one could pick and choose ‘proofs’ that are contradictory. “Too many cooks do not just spoil the broth”, but may inadvertently spread the virus.

What to do? The future has other unpleasant variables that cannot be ignored. The political fragility of democracy in America, the planetary crisis that is ever growing in intensity, and the deleterious ripple effects of human beings living on a constant edge with one another all contribute to a sense of overwhelm. Our personal dramas continue against the struggling world. One day I feed on the sugar of my delicious baby grandson, and the next I have no appetite because my good friend at Kendal has a 99% sure diagnosis of pancreatic cancer with perhaps some months to live. The full test results are still not in.

All of us have a tory to tell. All of us have had to cope and flex and renegotiate our priorities. I encourage everyone to find ways to share the stress with trusted people in your lives. As a natural introvert, I am learning to reach out more to others. Despite my physical limitations, it nourishes me to open my heart to listen to the complaints, worries, and struggles that fellow Kendalites are dealing with. It is a mutual human need to share. I take my own turn within my closest circle. I also will restart therapy sessions with the wonderful psychologist that works at Kendal. She and I are on similar spiritual paths and having lost Richard as my intimate partner, I know how easy it is for me to glide over the bumps in my road without paying attention. And I do want to pay attention.

I sat down to write a song for the New Year. I wrote several versions and scrapped them all until this one got baked into a satirical cake. Some of you already heard this song and I am working with a techie friend in a few weeks to be able to warble the melodies for you to hear on the blog.

New Year Waltz 2022 by Judi Bachrach

Here we are waltzing into a new year.
Do we drink champagne?
Do we cry in our beer?
It’s hard to get cheerful
or any more tearful
We’ve all heard an earful about this past year.

We can try dancing while six feet apart.
It won’t stop the beating 
of my loving heart.
Counting out 1,2,3
starts us off swimmingly.
No stepping on toes, we’re apart from the start.

Singing inside the K 95 mask.
I can’t understand you 
or tipple from my flask.
But you don’t want my spit,
Or risk us both getting sick
Keeping us healthy is quite the dry task.

Let’s waltz out the old and sing in the new.
There’s no looking back
Skip the year in review.
Moving ahead
means more zooming in bed.
So let’s waltz out the old and sing in the new.
Let’s waltz out the old and sing in the new.

I received this short prayer yesterday. (Thank you Judith G.)
In all bodies health
In all hearts, love
In all lives, joy
In all the world, peace.

Cassandra Speaks

Photo of Snow in the Woods by Rebecca Cardozo

I have been busy writing songs here and there. I include this one even though it was unpleasant to write and even harder to sing among my friends. I was trying to get inside the head of people who are dying of the Corona virus but who disbelieve it even exists. These are my fellow Americans, and many are my neighbors here in Ohio. The melody is a waltz tempo and nothing memorable, but the words of the song insisted their way into writing, so here it is.

Ballad of Karalee by Judi Bachrach 11/12/20

Karalee has died and we’ll never know why.

The doctors and nurses they lied, and they lied

Said it wasn’t pneumonia or even the flu

They said it was Covid and that can’t be true

Ch: Karalee, oh Karalee

What they did was so wrong

One day we’ll stand together

Right where we belong

When she couldn’t breathe, I knew it was cancer

Just like my old man but they gave the wrong answer

Their machine wasn’t helping, they wouldn’t let me in

This country has failed us by God, it’s a sin


I hate the blue liberals they lie every day

Now they cheated the one man who could make them all pay

It’s my right to be free, I’ll never wear a damn mask

I’ll fight for my rights it’s my God given task


Karalee don’t you worry, don’t think they have won

This war is not over its barely begun

Me and our sons are still standing by

Won’t live under these cheaters we’d all rather die


Well, I’m finished with crying it won’t help a damn

I’m tired of talking to whoever I can

I think I’ll lie down I’m so tired today

I wish all this coughing would just go away

Ch: Karalee, oh Karalee

What they did was so wrong

One day we’ll stand together

Right where we belong

To clear the air of my heartbreak while inviting my honest introspection of firmly held convictions that I hold sacred, I am offering a book that I recently read for your consideration.

Cassandra Speaks is a new book by Elizabeth Lesser. She is a well-known best-selling feminist and spiritual author. In full disclosure, she is also a friend and our paths have intertwined in many ways over the years. First as parents waiting for the school bus with our children, and later she included my story of living with MS and a child with ASD in a chapter of her book, Broken Open. She was there when my husband was in the last few days of his life, bringing a bouquet of tulips and a folder of beautiful classic poems on death. (She had recently lost her own sister to cancer which she documents in her book, Marrow: Love, Loss, and What Matters Most.) She has presented TED talks and is a leader and co-founder of the Omega Institute in upstate NY. She is one of Oprah’s top awakened 100 Soul Saver people in the world.

Her new book, subtitled, “When women are the storytellers the human history changes.”, is just as I know her to be- wise, clear, Inspiring and balanced. I was informed and moved by the way she frames the historical slant on disenfranchising women. She offers practical ways to evoke lasting change and challenged me to discover how I still inadvertently perpetuate stereotypical demands on both on myself and the men in my life. It is a refreshing and deeply needed discourse I recommend to all. I am gifting it to my daughter (not a secret, she knows) and women and men of all ages and stages in life will be moved by her beautiful words. It is an added personal gift to know her family as she references her own journey in understanding her place in the world.

Healing and hope accompany us into the new year. I am soon spending two weeks with my daughter’s family and I have only to think of my one-year-old grandson (even though at times he is as cranky as only a teething toddler can be) to know there is joy to be found in this troubled world. I will gladly return to Kendal for my two-week quarantine and who knows, living as I do in an assisted living facility, I may come home to my first Covid19 vaccination!


Diary 11/19/20

Plan: Derived from the noun Plan in Old French meaning diagram or drawing as for a garden or building. That was likely derived from the Latin adjective Planus meaning a flat, even plane.

Most of the time we are consciously or unconsciously busy making plans. What am I doing today? What am I wearing? What am I eating? Who am I interacting with? What am I doing on the weekend? We have impulses, desires, and thoughts, and then take step by step actions to bring our plans to fruition. We start with an even plane and build on top of that.

We are not used to considering that even the simplest of our plans now must be seen as a potential life or death issue. What we used to do has become interwoven with a new reality of the silent, invisible, and potentially deadly virus that is wreaking havoc on our lives. Where we got our food, where we used to buy our shoes, who cares for our children, who we used to hang out and work with, and how and where we found our relaxation and pleasures have all been charged with being directly responsible to our own health and that of others. Our planning skills are being tested over and over as the small daily decisions we make may mean having to trust others or having them trust us in order to be safe.

My family made plans to be together for Thanksgiving and for my older daughter’s baby celebrating his first birthday (and our other birthdays past and present). It seemed very safe for us even coming from three different living spaces. The Care Center where I live is constantly monitored (I just got tested for Covid for the second time in a week) and is very well protected. My older daughter and her family have been hyper vigilant since the beginning of the pandemic and were planning to be in quarantine for 2 weeks prior to driving to pick up my younger daughter in New York State, who was also in quarantine for the event. The travelers had safe houses to stay in for the long drive, would bring their own food, and had safe rest stop measures. Massive planning was coordinated to ensure we would all be as safe as possible.

Although my older daughter is not teaching this semester at Oberlin College, she regularly went into their clinic to get tested for the virus anyway. To her shock, the test she took last week came back positive for Covid! She thought of all her precautions and wondered, how was this even possible? Added to the confusion was the fact she felt fine as did my son-in-law and the baby. She realized it likely happened more than a week ago during a socially distanced and masked connection with another mother when they let their babies interact as babies do. Probably that baby passed it to my grandson who then passed it on to my daughter. Neither family shows any symptoms ten days out from the likely exposure. That is the good news. Thank goodness she had the forethought to take the test.

But- there went The Plan. Like millions of others, we obviously scotched the gathering. We always had the caveat of “it may not work out if Ohio and New York state shut down because of increased cases” but we were thinking of that coming from the outside, not from within our own carefully vigilant ranks. Letting the plan dissolve was a disappointment to us (well, not to the baby). We likely may try to gather again this spring when my daughter is finished teaching the next semester, and the warmer weather means greater outdoor connectivity.

Teaching all Americans to take on the responsibility of life and death planning is a big step, one which millions have been actively discouraged and bullied from even considering. We must go back to a flat, even plane to construct a safe life from there. In order to grapple successfully with the real promise of vaccines and more accessible and accurate testing, our nation is being asked to grow up as soon as possible. It is already too late for hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens. Somehow, we must come together to make a new plan. May we teach and be taught.

What Tomorrow May Bring

Diary 11/3/20

I had just turned seven years old the first time I remember going with my mother to vote. Our new house was a couple of miles down the road from the Wittenberg firehouse in Bearsville, NY, our assigned polling station. I was a shy little girl who had a hard time with my very social mother greeting all of our neighbors. I would bury my head in her skirts, pulling them over my face when she endeavored to introduce me. The wonder was that we were inside the building that housed two huge shiny red firetrucks. This was a place of awesome power because the fire siren went off every day at noon setting off a frenzy of barking, howling dogs up and down the mountain.

The mysterious voting booth, hidden behind the curtain operated by a huge lever, made me think of being backstage inside a puppet theater. Because my mom was a folksinger, I had been behind the scene of many local theaters and was familiar with complicated lighting boards and the big reveal of opening and then closing stage curtains. I was a little disappointed when she swiveled all of those tiny levers above my head and nothing dramatic happened at all. As we left, I helped her pull back the big lever and endured saying goodbye to yet more people lining up for their turn to vote.

Thirty years later, my husband and I built our house up the road from the same firehouse, our new polling station. Twenty plus years after that, in the 2016 election, my husband was installed in Albany Medical Center due to have an operation to biopsy and remove the largest tumor on his frontal lobe due to his just diagnosed small B cell central nervous system lymphoma. The hospital atmosphere exuded the tense nature of the election and was carried in the chatter of patients and their families from both parties. The staff was professionally silent on the subject but there was no doubt as to who we wanted to win.

As Richard was wheeled away, he moaned in cognitive confusion, “I just want to wake up in a country I can live in!” Ironically, my older daughter, suddenly called away from teaching as a professor in North Carolina to meet us in the hospital, did not have time to request an absentee ballot. Richard and I clearly were not going to make it to our local voting place that day, and our younger daughter became the only one in our family to vote- in the firehouse.

When I first moved to Kendal at Oberlin, I was happy to think of rolling down from the Care Center to the main Heiser lounge to vote using the apparatus placed there for the next presidential election. I had my newly minted Ohio ID ready to go. Of course, that is not happening in any retirement facility today. Mail-in ballots were provided to all of us in the Care Center, and they were legally filled out and safely delivered to the appropriate place en masse with plenty of time to be counted in a contentious state like Ohio. Today I feel like echoing Richard’s plaintive cry, “I just want to wake up in a country I can live in.”

Of course, I will wake up tomorrow morning living in this country no matter the outcome of this even more contentious election. I am an American citizen and will stay present on the long road to healing the painful divides and glaring inequities of the land we must learn how to actively and lovingly restore.

Blue Moon Halloween: Stop Right There


The world issues are scary enough, so I offer this piece instead. I was in my thirties when I first began to lose words as I summoned them. I was leading a movement meditation workshop in Vermont and that perfect metaphor, that evocative description of our work, began to slip away from my grasp as I taught. When the workshop was completed, I don’t think anyone but me realized that my MS had begun to develop cognitive malfunction. I tried to adapt language that did not need a master’s degree to comprehend. I pictured my brain as having tiny Swiss cheese holes growing inside. On the long drive home, I decided that I would go back solely to conducting one on one counseling sessions. I could no longer hold the stress of twenty egos in my awareness when I was struggling to keep my own intact.

Now that I have begun my seventieth year, I have joined everybody else around me in those slippages of short term and working memory loss. Euphemistically called “senior moments”, they are a normal feature of our daily interactions. As I am describing the movie that I saw just last night, the name of that actor is….?? I go into my kitchenette for….??? I am learning to stop right there and observe what happens next.

Invariably I run through a number of reactions. Frustration, anger, fear (strong one), and eventually, humor, all take their turns. I live in an assisted living area and my neighbors are in various stages of cognitive capability. My 100-year-old near neighbor is sharper than I am on many fronts. Other neighbors, in a carefully monitored area, are unable to function on their own at all and are supervised so that they don’t accidentally wander off beyond the secured doors. Dementia is very stigmatized label, and I have a healthy respect that their current condition could easily become mine or yours. At Kendal we are given so much compassionate care with appropriate stimulation tailored to every individual. Of course, millions of people are not so fortunate as those who are privileged to live here. I watched my mother die with AIDs related dementia, and my husband had brain tumors that distorted his participation in the world before he died.

What if I looked at my own forgetful blank spaces as a gift? I am stopped in my tracks to pay attention to my normal juggernaut of words and actions. Why not hold them as a teaching and not a sign of something that is being taken away from me?

What happens if I allow myself to not know” for that instant? I am offered an opportunity to pause, to breathe, to be quiet, to be still, to watch what happens next. Often, I sigh in relief when I stop pushing forward where my thoughts did not want to take me. If I am in conversation with a friend, I can simply say,” I can’t remember the actor’s name, but we liked his work in that other movie we saw together last week”. Or in the kitchenette by myself, I can simply sit on my rollator, breathe, and look around. Then I might spot the cup of tea I made an hour ago still waiting for me. If I can do this without embarrassment or hint of shame, I waste no emotional energy to reheat the tea and take it back to my desk to continue writing.

Awareness is a much more efficient space from which to direct our energies. The lack of memory retrieval can be a gift to unwrap. We can learn to treat ourselves with care, respect, compassion, and self-love, which is perhaps the hardest gift of all to accept. Humor also gives us the distance to accept our aging body/minds. My cousin’s mother use to say, “Oh, I’ll remember alright, but it’s not always the same day delivery.”

Stop Right There

That unarticulated thought

the unshed tear

the catch in your throat

that sigh

was it relief or sorrow for what is lost?

A forgotten name

an unmet appointment

pushing the wrong button

 a failed attempt

There is a way

to hold yourself

in loving acceptance

to be aware

without judgement

for always being exactly who

and what

and where you are

and still to do your best

this is my return address


Diary 6/28/20

It has been the perfect hot and humid weather for the fireflies. Most of us remember magical clouds of them appearing on summer nights when we were children. I had never seen them before on the northwest corner of my well mowed little lawn at Kendal. But Friday night, after I turned off the lights preparing for bed, I was about to lower the blind on my open window and there they were. They were not exactly blinking in a mass but there were enough to spark joy in the spectacle. I sat down on the floor beside my bed and watched their flashing dance as an invitation to meditate.

Eventually I began to grow sleepy and so lowered the blind and settled into bed. A couple of hours later I heard the growl of thunder. I rolled over to sit up and close my window in case of rain and noticed repeated flashes of light in the sky as if someone were rapidly flicking on and off a light switch. I opened my blinds to check it out and saw lightning captured within storm clouds well to our north. It was dramatic to see even with no actual zigzags of electrical discharge visible to me. In fact, the storm slowly moved away from us altogether and I saw only damp ground in the morning with a few glistening drops hanging on the leaves.

This became a metaphor for me- the microcosm of tiny lightning bugs presaging the macrocosm of lightning in a thunderstorm. The planet receives forty-four lightning strikes every second. Beyond the light of hope that I endeavor to hold within the small microcosm of my personal window on the world, there is always a concurrent release of light elsewhere in the macrocosm. This sort of light is not recorded by satellites or material instruments, but I have faith that there are millions of other small lights holding hope and taking positive action in the midst of the tragedy, destruction, injustice, ignorance, and fear that surrounds us.

I am not alone in seeing opportunity within the dark revelations that the spotlight of outrage has revealed. As frightening as the uncertainty of chaos may be, there is also an uprising of many people taking a visible stand for real change around the globe. I am well aware that the destructive ripple effects of these historical events will be with us for a long time. Substantial change may not happen in my lifetime, but then again, I also did not foresee this level of crisis due to the pandemic in my lifetime.

Because of changes in the environment, fireflies have been disappearing, but they are not gone. Addressing the losses of planetary health and freedom and justice for all people is hard and uncomfortable work. Fortunately, there is no going back to what was considered normal. The foundations for a new way forward are not gone but still there to be built upon. Meanwhile, I look towards the gradual accumulation of millions of small lights, hoping we will one day re-cover our wounded world.


Diary 3/14/20

Who knew it could be a virus that carried the powerful message of “we are all connected and that yes, you can and will need to change your behaviors on behalf of everyone’s wellbeing?” It wasn’t the messenger we were looking for. We’d rather have some strong, charismatic, aware person to lead us forward into the future with benign and realistic authority, but it is the one we have before us. The organism carries a heavy burden. It doesn’t promise safety or false hope. It is a force to be reckoned with and may help denial to take a big step back. It brings fear front and center to face person by person, state by state, and country by country as we go. Hate and false blame apparently does not work to stop the advance of the illness. Lives will continue to be lost. The ripple effect of lost income may last even longer than the peak of infection rates, as massive disruptions continue.

I think many of you have already received this poem. I have gotten it from several sources today, but I will pass it on here. Blessings to all.

–Lynn Ungar 3/11/20

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

Reaching Out

Diary 3/12/20  

            Kendal’s watchwords are: calm, proactive preparation. At our regular health forum for the entire community yesterday afternoon, Covid 19 was the only topic of discussion. The doctor who is our medical director, the head of our nursing staff, the staff infectious disease specialist, and the chief health services officer were all on hand to inform us of the changes we have established for this month though things may change daily if necessary. As they did overnight. That turned out to be our last large community gathering for a while.

The Care Center area where I live is the most affected as we house the most elderly and health compromised residents at Kendal. The breakfast venue directly across the hall from me has closed, as will the nearest dining area. Meals will be brought to our rooms. Eating together is one of the most likely ways to spread the virus- a warm open mouth is an irresistible invitation for infection. Singing together is likewise not a good idea. The rest of the Kendal community can no longer come through our halls on their way to elsewhere in the sprawling facility. Entrances to the outdoors from our end of the world are locked and the inside hallways leading to the larger facility have been closed with unlocked doors. Many nearby cottage dwellers now have a much longer way to go around to get to the main entrance of the building.

Vendors and service people will be checked at all entrances for a fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath before they receive the all clear sticker to deliver their goods and services. Staff and families coming from the outside must do the same. Our Oberlin Quaker meeting is held in another building on our campus and no one from town can now attend, nor can folks from town use the pool or use Kendal to meet for other ongoing projects. The children’s Early Learning Center down the hall is closed after tomorrow, as are all Ohio schools for early spring break or longer. In Ohio, gatherings of more than 100 people are banned, so there will be no more all community events in our own auditorium until further notice.

lf the number of cases escalate locally, which I fear is likely, we are doing our best with more intense personal handwashing hygiene entering and leaving any room-I haven’t forgotten to wipe down my cell phone and rollater handlebars. Perhaps our efforts will at least make it easier for local medical establishments to deal with a potential influx of ill people if we can slow down the spread of Covid19 on our end.

Today in the Care Center, it is very quiet. Because I have friends from the larger community who often dropped in to see me, I will now have to stay in touch via cyberspace and phone. This situation is nudging me to do more reaching out than I am used to, and since I am a little stronger, I can do this. For some of my Care Center neighbors in their 90’s and the woman down the hall who is 102, the change of routine is anxiety producing and very disorienting. They don’t have computers to Skype with and a couple of them are largely blind. Visitations and resident volunteer support will drop off and we worry about isolation for those who depended on them for contact. I will reach out to my elder neighbors more often than I have done in the past as I can no longer attend my usual meetings or lead my meditation groups.

The entire staff is on high alert and well educated as to their new duties which will undoubtedly increase as time goes on. I am slowly dealing with these adjustments. We will wait and see. The whole world is adjusting, and waiting, not just my tiny corner of Kendal in Ohio with our calm, proactive preparation. Making more of an effort to safely reach out to others is now incumbent upon all of us wherever we live.

Dancing with Life and Death


Politics and the coronavirus are doing the tango. Nothing grabs control of our emotions like a renewed threat of mortality (it is always there). For a while, the raging political scene fueled by America’s primary season was subsumed by Covid19. Inevitably, they are now entangled. Who will calm our fears? There are many of our fellow planetary citizens for whom science has supposedly taken a backseat to denial. Current leaders are aiming to control the outcomes of an unknown and unpredictable entity. As that is not yet possible, they are at least aiming to control public opinion and the economies that are being manipulated by fear. Reality will win this contest as it always does. Some countries have done better than others to react in a practical and timely manner. A strong urge towards denial may or may not be shattered as factual evidence of people you personally know are affected.

Oberlin College has just declared it is going to remote teaching as have a number of other schools. Kendal has Oberlin students volunteering here- getting partial scholarships in return for their support in various areas. This action from the college will have an immediate impact on the whole town of Oberlin as many people are employed there. Except for overseas students, the rest of the student body will return home, which will create different family dynamics. I think of seniors graduating, final concerts canceled at the Conservatory, friendships disrupted, and teachers adjusting to an entirely different way of preparation and teaching. I am not clear whether this is for the rest of the spring term or not, but it sounds as if it is.

I have both friends and family already impacted in terms of their current and future travel decisions for work and play. Because I live in a densely populated senior retirement facility, we are all aware of what might happen should the virus migrate to us from the three cases found in the neighboring county of northeast Ohio. Kendal has protocols already in place to prevent importation of the disease via staff, residents and visitors. We are in close contact with the state and local county health systems and hospitals. Kendal even has a (single) negative pressure room where the air does not circulate throughout the facility for quarantine purposes. I am told there was a bad flu season at Kendal a few years ago. It was also a rigorous handwashing, no touching, staff face mask/glove wearing, quarantine time for many residents, especially for those who were living in the Care Center as I now do. Most of this population already has compromised immune systems and it houses the most elderly among us.

Am I fearful of this virus? Well, I am less concerned for my family because they are young and basically healthy, though my friends and I are all in the same vulnerable age bracket. Max, my three-month old grandson, recently had a random fever for a few days. His parents were planning a trip to Texas which they would have abandoned if necessary. His fever was gone in time, and in fact, his immune system is stronger than ever with brand new antibodies. They flew to Austin to visit family and close friends. After hearing about the near proximity of the virus in Ohio, they are now concerned about me and thinking of what it would be like for me to live at Kendal in an emergency situation.

May it not come to that. May an early and continuing warmer than usual spring season help to slow down the progress of the viral transmission everywhere. Death and life are forever tango partners. For myself, I see that I am always dancing with death though my deliberate emphasis is on the living well side. I could envision scenarios of “what if” but do not spend much energy dwelling on them. I am slowly learning that I am able to focus my attention on loving what is right in front of me. Sometimes I remind myself when I am hard at work daydreaming, that I need to be here, wherever Here is at that moment. I am using the word “need” to focus. I need to not fall, to pay attention to what someone else is saying, to slow down and chew my food, to read the book more carefully- whatever I am doing needs me to pay attention. If I am not truly needed, perhaps I might better turn my attention to something else.

I do not know how I might react to a dire circumstance because fortunately, I am not yet facing one. Dancing with life and death needs me to be here because this is where I am.