Supreme Court deprived me of religious liberty today

In America’s founding document, the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers stated that each of us was “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Today, the United States Supreme Court issued a deeply flawed decision that deprives American women of all three inalienable rights—by forcing unwilling pregnant individuals to carry unwanted embryos to term, violating what should be the inviolable sovereignty of the body itself—while simultaneously depriving Jewish people of their religious liberty.

This is an activist Court, wantonly sullying America’s most cherished ideals. Here’s how Justices Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Coney Barrett deprived me, today, of my right to freely exercise my Jewish religion:

According to thousands of years of Jewish understanding, a fetus is not yet a person (נפש)‎, though it holds the potential to become one. Instead, an embryo is a part of its mother’s body. Until 40 days after conception, Judaism considers the contents of the womb “like water” or “mere fluid.” Explicitly stated, abortion is not murder under Jewish law.

Jewish law actually requires that a fetus be surgically excised from the womb if a mother is imperiled during its delivery and the majority of the baby’s body is not yet delivered outside her body. There is Biblical, Talmudic, and rabbinic support for this position, though obviously individual Jews may hold different personal interpretations.

Here’s a good overview of this difficult topic from the Jewish perspective.

The highly partisan Supreme Court of 2022 is trampling on my First Amendment right to freely exercise my religion by forcing its distinctly Christian interpretation of their own poorly translated from the Hebrew and Aramaic Bible upon everyone in the U.S.A., regardless of the faith—or lack thereof—of each person affected by their decisions.

No state can be allowed to trample the religious liberty of its inhabitants. Isn’t that the promise of the U.S. Constitution? Are these justices actually so blinded by their personal faith that they’re rejecting its most basic protections? If so, these six are unfit for the job. If they’re dismantling the Constitution intentionally to promote their Christian faith, they are as traitorous as the January 6th seditionists and should be prosecuted accordingly.

I am an American, Jewish woman. I demand both personal sovereignty over my own body and freedom to practice my religion.

Only Alaska & SW want mask scofflaws off flights

According to an Associated Press article I read in the Boston Globe, most of the major U.S. airlines are welcoming mask scofflaws back with open arms. This includes American, United, and Delta airlines.Disposable surgical mask

Quoted from the piece by David Koenig:

“Airlines have banned several thousand passengers since the pandemic started for refusing to wear masks. Now they want most of those passengers back.

American, United and Delta have all indicated that they will lift the bans they imposed now that masks are optional on flights.”

Putting that another way, American, Delta, and United do not care that passengers purposefully broke the law, disobeying the direct instructions of flight attendants, and putting other passengers at risk.

American, Delta, and United are choosing the potential profits to be earned off of contemptuous criminals ahead of the safety of everyone else in their planes.Pile of money

Message received, American, Delta, and United! You don’t want my business. I believe in the rule of law and the importance of passenger adherence to the lawful instructions of highly trained aircraft crew members. American, Delta, and United do not.

I pity the employees of these airlines, working for an employer taking the first opportunity to bring back customers who have demonstrated a willingness to violate §46504 of U.S. Code.Screen shot of U.S. Code section relating to interference with flight crew

Two smaller airlines—notably those known for more customer-friendly policies overall—took a different approach. Alaska Airlines* and Southwest both announced that law-breakers who refused to follow the instructions of flight attendants remain barred from their flights.

From the same article:

Alaska Airlines said this week that banned passengers won’t be welcomed back. Southwest said a judge’s ruling that struck down the federal mandate won’t change its decision to bar an undisclosed number of passengers.

Again, I have a simple takeaway here. Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines put passenger safety first. These are companies who value the health and safety of the people who board their planes, whether as paying customers or paid employees.Tail of Alaska plane visible on tarmac through airport terminal window

I will fly with Alaska or Southwest Airlines before ever again considering those other major domestic carriers. My sympathies are with the flight attendants who had to put up with selfish jerks intentionally breaking the rules; my dollars will fund companies that don’t reward churlish boors.

* I’ve written many times before that Alaska Airlines is my favorite domestic carrier. I have maintained frequent flier status with them for many years and frequently discover new reasons for this preference.

Happy Passover 2022

Tonight, my family celebrated our freedom with a Passover seder.

Every year at this time, Jews around the world thank God for being personally liberated from slavery. It’s a biblical story, but, according to Jewish teachings, that liberation still belongs to every one of us on an individual level, now, in this moment.

That’s the guidance offered to us by our religious tradition, and I deeply appreciate the reminder of the abundant blessings of my own daily life.

Without a doubt, in 2022, my family bowed our heads with specific thanks for the wisdom shown by my father-in-law way back in the 1970’s when he brought his wife, child, and mother-in-law out of bondage from the Soviet Union to the U.S.A.

He had no idea what to expect when he got there, but he trusted in the expansive nature of the big ideas in the “great works” of European literature that he’d read (illicitly, since they were illegal in Russia) to imply that something better existed outside the narrow intellectual constraints of 20th Century Soviet communism.

I daresay he’d say he was right to follow those instincts. I’m in total agreement.

Tonight, we prayed for those who live with less freedom than we are privileged to have. We thanked God for the exodus of DH, his parents, and his grandmother from the U.S.S.R., to the U.S.A., by way of a European refugee camp.

Parallels to today’s crisis in Ukraine are not lost on us. We bow our heads to those still suffering. We look at our beautiful children and acknowledge how easily they could have been born there instead of here; in servitude instead of free.

We are warm and safe and free to worship—or not—as we choose. What a wonder! What a privilege.

Table after meal with seder plate containing maror, vegetables, charoset, egg, etcGenerous sponsors in Europe and the U.S.A. helped bring my husband and his family forth from oppression to independence many years ago. The world must take similar steps to ease the way for Ukrainians fleeing Russian aggression today.

Moses said to Pharaoh, “Let my people go.” My father-in-law said something similar, via his actions, to Brezhnev.

Now, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy is saying the same to would-be Czar Putin, the killer of children, bomber of innocents. It behooves every lover of liberty, democracy, and personal freedom to support Ukraine in this effort.

Chag sameach! Happy Holiday!

Are dreams our final visits with the dead?

Within a few days of my mother’s death, I dreamt she was was puttering about in the room where my children slept. We stayed with my father for almost a month after her passing.

“Shh… Mom!” I told her, “the kids are sleeping. Don’t wake them up.”

I was fussing helplessly, impotently, about the orbit of her flurry of productive activity, unable to deter her from her appointed rounds.

And though she finished putting away their laundry—in this dream, so keenly reflecting the fastidious, caring life my mother lived—those sleeping cherubs did not wake up… until one did.

But the sleep-confused boy, even in the dream, could not see my mother there. He reacted only to me, and with mild confusion.

“What’s the matter, Mommy?” asked my baby-almost-grown-to-manhood, before drifting back to sleep, unaware that Grandma was calmly finishing her work within an arm’s reach.

Even in my dream, the truth remained evident. My mother was gone from this mortal coil. No matter how high the heaps of unwashed clothes, nor the number of days that beds remained un-made, Grandma would not be back to re-affirm the self-defined borders of appropriateness within her last home.

We were on our own with our mess, and the loss of her. My mother was dead and gone, and I knew that…

And yet!

My Mom saw me at least once in her last living days, her sight clearing for a moment while she looked straight at me, telling me, “I love you!” She said my name. She saw me.

The fog of cancer lifted for a minute; her gaze was clear. She seemed purely coherent then, contrary to recent history. My mother said good-bye when she got the chance.

I believe that was her last full day drawing breath, but I don’t really trust my memory for the time. In my recollection, I was the little girl, the smallest in her class, headed off to Kindergarten with her Snoopy lunchbox in the white dress Mom had picked out, red-tipped, with red leather shoes to match.

That’s what I thought Mom saw.

One moment took me back that far.

She’d been mostly not-quite-present for awhile, by that point, but I knew she was fully aware when she said farewell. I believe she was knew it was time to say a final goodbye, though I resisted that knowledge in the moment.

A few days ago, my mother again visited my dreams. It’s been about two years and eight months since she died.

In the dream, Mom was driving a large SUV.

While not her favorite vehicle—that would be a powder blue, late model Chrysler New Yorker sedan dubbed Gwendolyn, by me with navy blue leather upholstery, of course!—going somewhere by automobile suits my mother perfectly. In this, she was like other Baby Boomers.

Cars were a symbol of freedom and status for her generation!

In my recent dream, Mom had her head out the window as she navigated much too closely up to the window of an imaginary fast food restaurant. The part where Mom leaned out the window is wildly out of character, while the rest fits.

Though never explicitly stated, it was pretty evident she was there for ice cream. I don’t for the life of me believe she’d venture back for a burger, but for vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce, and maybe a few sliced bananas?

“Watch your head, Mom!” I called. I was sure she’d knock herself senseless against the window boxes—standing like escarpments—surrounding the drive-up window of my dreams.

As in real life, Mom barely seemed to register my concern, carrying on according to her own plan. I’m not really joking when I describe my mother as a force of nature in her polite, petite way.

I woke up in the morning reassured by this “visit” with my mother.

A few days—maybe a week—onward, all I can say is, “my mother came to visit. She was checking in on me.”

It was probably just a dream.

There’s likely nothing more to it.

And yet…

And yet.

If you’ve lost someone, I pray that you find them again, if only in your dreams.

Brand matters when arthritic hands administer COVID tests

Until this weekend, I had only personally administered two brands of COVID-19 home tests on myself or my children. All of my earlier home testing experience was with:

I wrote a detailed review of the Cue Health product a few months ago for those who can afford a more accurate, but much more expensive home test.iPhone running Cue App next to Reader device with COVID-19 test plugged in

Both the Abbott and Cue coronavirus tests were easy for me to use, had straightforward directions, and required only moderate hand strength and dexterity. I highly recommend either of these brands to those with less-than-average manual abilities.

I say this as a person living with a diagnosis of mild, seronegative rheumatoid arthritis whose small joints do not always cooperate with my intent. Those with profound disabilities may require assistance for even these tests, and near-normal eyesight is necessary for every COVID-19 test I’ve tried.

That said, if you can still brush your own teeth effectively, you can probably manage either Abbott or Cue home COVID-19 tests.Open COVID-19 test box with post it note reminder to test twice, 72 hours apart

In our busy household of five, we keep all of our coronavirus test kits on a dedicated table at the side of the living room, stacked up in order of expiration date.

Having flown cross country in March to visit my father, I consumed several tests in quick succession upon my return, and we quickly worked through our locally purchased Abbott test kits to the more recent Roche branded ones we received free from the United States government.COVIDtests.gov offers free at home COVID-19 tests to Americans

Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order 2 sets of 4 free at-⁠home tests. Click here to order yours if you haven’t already.

We test my younger child—the one who attends high school in person—every weekend before he goes downstairs to visit his paternal grandfather. Дедушка lives downstairs in our home, but he has his own dedicated space, kitchen, and a separate entrance. Still, age and health status leaves Deda especially vulnerable to a severe case of COVID-19.

We feel grateful to have the means to protect him from an infection we might unwittingly visit upon him by going about our own public lives.

On Saturday, we used one Roche COVID-19 At-Home test kit from a box of four. Fortunately, it was conducted by my hale and hearty teen, administering his own test. I did not anticipate how difficult this test would have been for me, had I been taking one myself, and I was happy to be merely an observer and reader of directions.Roche COVID-19 test instructions, box, cartridge

Steps five and six of the Roche process would have stymied me, but my healthy child had no real issue with them or with the test in general. There’s a lot of firm pinching involved in those steps, which would be beyond my arthritic fingers.

Our older home educated teen took a test later the same day, and I asked if he wouldn’t mind trying the fourth brand in our personal arsenal: the ACON Labs FlowFlex test even though this meant using test out of expiry order.

I was curious if it would present similar issues. It did.

FlowFlex was the brand sent out by our health insurance via its preferred mail order pharmacy, Express-Scripts.8 FlowFlex COVID-19 antigen tests

We are entitled to eight “freei.e., included with our employer-provided health insurance COVID-19 tests every month for each covered member of our plan. I ordered those for the two household members going to work/school as soon as the benefit was published on the website, and they were delivered about four weeks later. In the meantime, I’d ordered a batch of tests each for the other covered members of our household.

If I order directly from the preferred prescription provider, I don’t have to wait for reimbursement. Paying nothing out of pocket seemed like the best option. Now I know better.

For our household, in the future, if I’m the one who requires testing, I should go to a local pharmacy and purchase Abbott’s BinaxNOW tests instead of accepting the option available via mail-order without any out-of pocket expense. This will be a smarter choice given my manual limitations.COVID test tube in stand awaiting insertion of swab and drop-dispensing cap

I believe it is highly probable that Abbott’s BinaxNOW, Roche’s COVID-19 At-Home test kit, and ACON’s FlowFlex have similar probabilities of correctly detecting the novel coronavirus responsible for the chaos and societal disruption of 2020-2022. That said, I doubt the ability of the latter to work for me, with my limited hand strength.

Both the Roche and the ACON FlowFlex test require a user to firmly pinch the included vial between one’s fingers for an extended period of time to get an accurate result. I doubt I could do this reliably, repeatedly, for accurate test results.Fingers squeezing plastic test tube for COVID test

I did experiment with my teen’s FlowFlex vial post-test to determine that I’m capable of dispensing the mixed drops with that product without too much discomfort, but dispensing four drops into the test cartridge is less effortful for some of us with weak phalanges than holding tight to the tube while spinning the test swab therein.Hands squeezing to dispense drop of liquid for COVID test onto cartridgeI felt compelled to compose and post this particular piece as quickly as possible to share my experience with the world. Had I only tried that first test brand, that I happened upon at my local pharmacy last fall, I would have no idea how tricky other versions of COVID-19 tests might be for those of us with more limited mobility.

It is worth reporting that, if I did not have such limitations to my dexterity, I would prefer the more compact packaging offered by Roche and ACON Labs over Abbott’s fairly bulky box, especially for travel. The Roche multi-pack uses far less packaging for four tests than two boxes containing two each of the BinaxNOW. Roche/FlowFlex’s volume will be decidedly less if packed in a suitcase.

Aside from the need to firmly grasp a plastic tube for steps five and six (Roche)/step 2 (ACON’s FlowFlex), I would not have such a distinct preference for Abbott’s BinaxNOW over the competitors. That being said, my limitations have settled in as a near constant over the past decade, and I no longer expect my own normal to return to a more median average.

From my perspective, if you require an at-home COVID-19 diagnostic test, and you have limitations to your manual dexterity, you should try to get an Abbott BinaxNOW antigen test or a molecular one from Cue Health.

If your hands are crippled by arthritis, and you must use Roche or ACON Lab’s tests, ask a fully able bodied friend for assistance, if possible.


Disclosure: The author of this post owns 51.044 shares of ABBOTT LABORATORIES (ABT) stock at the time of writing. Abbott Labs makes the BinaxNOW test kit product.

I find written directions easy to follow and actually enjoy the step-by-step process of assembling LEGO toys and IKEA furniture kits, so my experience may not reflect that of average people.