About Me

Washington, DC, United States
Heather Capell Bramble is mother of two kaleidoscoping kids, Jonah and Vera. She has a magical kaleidoscope, often in her back pocket, and it usually helps her turn her normally chaotic life into something beautiful. Her goal is to have as much fun and try to be as happy as they can while on the uncharted journey of motherhood. This means doing lots of arts and crafts, going on crazy adventures, and celebrating all kinds of holidays - and yes, trying to laugh along the way!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

2018... To Life, To Life, L'Chaim

A few weeks ago, we flipped the page on our calendars and now the year is two thousand and eighteen… Eighteen.  The clock ticked down on December 31, 2017 - 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… 

I remember thinking, wow, two thousand and eighteen… lucky eighteen.  For goodness sake, we all need some luck about now…

As with many religions and cultures, Jews believe in superstitions and luck. The number 18 is lucky. Really lucky.  Why? 

Because in Hebrew each letter also has a numeric value. The Hebrew letter Chet is equal to 8.  The Hebrew letter Yud is equal to 10. 

When you put the Chet next to the Yud, you get the numeric value of 18 for those two letters.

You also spell the word Chai – which means LIFE.

When Jews toast and clink glasses, they also say L’Chaim or To Life – as in we are always wishing Life to our friends and loved ones – Life – a lucky life for us all. 

The last time I wrote here it was January 2017.  I was still processing the 2016 US Presidential election and waiting with anxious apprehension for what was to come… the Inauguration, the Women’s March, and then who knows what… Now it is more than one year later…

Our New Life Reality
The world and my life has changed dramatically and yet somehow so many things are familiar.  Especially this blog.

In the past year, the world has witnessed much pain and trauma.  Much of it coming in tweets and on social media - but also in real life and death situations.  Every day it becomes clearer that the US Presidential election was interfered with (if not hacked) by the Russians.  Our government is dysfunctional and ridiculous. And hashtag trends happen in but an instant and create whole movements within our society.  I am living in this world, yet I am confused, frightened, and angry at it.  I am constantly asking myself how did we get here – even though I know deep in my heart the answer - so much hate of the other, the unknown, and the different.  This is how we got here.

Last year I committed to remaining vigilant.  And I have.  I can do better.  But in small ways I continue to be vigilant to keep my sanity and protect as much as I can against all this hate. It is everywhere, and it is here all the time… I have only done a small bit, but I remain steadfast in my commitment to remain vigilant.

Just as 2017 began, there was the big Women’s March in Washington DC and we hosted a “Resistance Shabbot” and friends from all over came and stayed at our house. It was awesome, but then that night I got terribly ill and my little crew did not go to the March… we watched it on TV for hours…

Throughout the year, I attended different events for important causes (Lawyers For Good Government, LGBT, People of Color, Ayuda, etc.) and gave money and time to causes, movements, and candidates. Jocelyn and I religiously watched Rachel Maddow each night, often in despair and disbelief – this was our new world. During the day, I continued to spend time trying to protect consumers from unsafe products as a government lawyer at the CPSC.

At the same time, we were living our little lives, doing our usual baseball practice, gymnastics, and piano lessons. In February, kids switched from doing karate to starting jujitsu at a local dojo (JTR Jujitsu) run by the dad of one of Jonah’s class mates from school. We loved our old dojo (Kicks Karate) but it was farther away, and the times did not work with our schedule. The switch has been awesome, and the new school is wonderful and is a real community – a special place of inclusion and diversity that is comforting and supportive beyond jujitsu.

In April, Jocelyn started a new job working for District of Columbia.  She has lots of responsibility and has been learning the nuances of being a senior executive government attorney.  I am so proud of the work she is doing and how she does it.

This past year, I started looking for a new position.  My position for the past four years was a political appointment. I knew that as of October 2017, I was on borrowed time and that by October 2018 I would no longer have a job – so I was in serious job search mode.

Despite the craziness in the world, we focused on being vigilant, compassionate, inclusive, and empathetic as much as possible and tried to create as much positive energy in the world as possible.  

Here is a summary of how we tried to do this in 2017:
2017 MLK Weekend in Florida with Nana and Pop: Eating, swimming, reading and playing Glow In the Dark golf *Inclusion Welcome Poster on Inauguration Day * Resistance Shabbot *Women’s March* Celebrating Granny Daisy’s 90th birthday in Antigua (despite losing our passports and my phone and then Jonah getting really sick!!!) *Ending Kicks Karate and Starting JTR Jujitsu * Planting Parsley for TuBshevat * Saw Lego Batman at special opening * Saw the amazing movie Hidden Figures! + Celebrated Valentine’s Day! * Fun but Cold trip to NYC for President’s Day Weekend (Attended a rally, a show, and lots of time in Central Park, museums, and Harlem Globetrotters!) * Heather went to Orlando for work conference * Celebrating Dr Seuss’s birthday * Celebrating Heather’s & Jocelyn’s 10th Wedding Anniversary * Celebrating the Day Without Women – Wearing Red * Heather went to Seattle for job interview *Celebrating a Hidden Figures themed Purim and our the Adat Shalom Purim Carnival * Lots of Monopoly * Celebrating St Patrick’s Day * Celebrating Vera’s 6th birthday (Friends’ Gymnastics Party with her BFF Anjani) * Jonah’s awesome Black History Project * Celebrating Vera’s 6th and Mama’s 43rd Troll Themed Family Birthday Party * Celebrating Jonah and Nana’s Reverse Birthdays! (70 and 7) * Celebrating Passover and visiting Frederick Douglas’ house * Vera started Spring Season Soccer! * Grandma joy Visited Jonah for Math Day * Jonah had Spring Baseball Season with his favorite pals on The Presidents! * Cherry Blossom Festival with JTR Jujitsu * Celebrating Passover * Seeing my BFF from Highschool in WDC * Celebrating Uncle Rudy’s bday! * JTR JuJitsu Community Festival * Going to Nats games! * JTR Jujitsu Belt Tests! * Celebrating Israel’s birthday! * Celebrating Lag Bomer * Lots of haircuts and hair braiding! * The Super Hero Run! * Going to an Os games with our cousins! * Celebrating Shavuot * Celebrating Jonah’s 8th Baseball Themed Birthday (family party and friend party) * Celebrating Cousin Logan’s Eagle Scout ceremony * Celebrating Faith’s Bat Mitzvah *Celebrating Father’s Day with Pop * Fun at Barrie Camp and Overnights * Dutch Wonderland with Bramble Cousins * Baltimore 5K and Fun Run with Bramble Cousins * Heather’s work trip to Israel * Loving laser tag with lots of friends! * Lots of DC Pool fun * Blackberry picking with best buddies * Annual pool dates Gaithersburg, MD and Arlington, VA * Going to a Frederick Keys Baseball Game * Friend’s Airplane bday party * Gymnastics Performance * Celebrating Logan’s Bar Mitzvah * Traveling to Antigua with Grandma and with Bramble Cousins * Homerun Baseball Camp * Pom Pom Camp * Nana Camp! *Rehoboth Beach Vacay & Camp JRF Family Camp * Geocaching * First Day of 2017/2018 School Year at Sela PCS * Celebrating Labor Day with NYC friends * Celebrating and Apple Picking for Rosh Hashanah * Celebrating Pop’s 70th Bday with the Yankees! * Celebrating Tashlich * JTR Jujitsu Arts Night Performance * Fall 2017 Baseball with the Presidents * Fall 2017 Teal Soccer *Celebrating Sukkot * Visiting Binghamton Univ for Homecoming and Alumni Weekend * Heather’s work trip to Arizona * SToPP5K at Gaucher College * Celebrating Emma’s 20th Bday * Celebrating Halloween * Celebrating Heather’s 47th Bday! *Celebrating Marc’s Bar Mitzvah in San Diego & visiting friends in LA * Jonah’s & Vera’s Piano Recital * Seeing Charlotte’ Web * Celebrating Thanksgiving * Everything But the Turkey Volunteering at the DCJCC * Going to Wizards games! * Learning to ice skate * Celebrating Heather’s last day at the CPSC * Celebrating Chanukah * Sela’s Winter Wonderland * Celebrating Christmas *Winter trip to Florida to visit Nana and Pop * Winter Trip to NYC * Celebrating Sara;s Bat Mitzvah * Celebrating New Year’s Eve * Trip to Punta Cana DR for MLK Weekend 2018!

What is the World Telling Us?
So here is the thing, in an isolated hour, day, or moment – I can focus on us, our little family, community, baseball team, school, or playdate, but then after a few minutes – all of it comes crashing in.  Like when Jonah and his baseball pals “took a knee” at the National’s game because as Jonah told me, “black people are being shot by the police.” Or when we are in a restaurant in Harlem and Vera sees President Obama’s picture on the wall and she tells me, “I miss Obama and his family mommy, I am really sad Hillary didn’t win, President Trump is just so mean to everyone and making everything really bad for everyone…”  And when Jonah asks me while driving to jujitsu, “what is going on with the FBI and the Russians… are they going to put Trump in jail – mommy, he cheated mommy!” 

In those moments, my heart breaks – because Jonah and Vera are right.  It is not O.K. what is happening right now.  Even though I can post almost 250 pictures of my smiling family experiencing fun and greatness this past year – this is not O.K.  Jocelyn and I are often talking about the repeal of health care, the tax bill, DACA & immigration, the budget, or the latest “crazy tweet” and the kids will hear us and then we talk about it to the kids – they are mad about all of this too.  That is just regular everyday unbelievable stuff…  This is not OK.

Then we have truly horrible moments like Charlottesville and #MeToo.  We had to explain to our black Jewish kids what happened in Charlottesville – that white supremacist Nazis were marching, chanting, holding torches, and saying terrible thing about blacks and Jews in America – and someone died protesting this.  This is not OK.

Jonah and Vera know all about sexual assault and violence.  About how recently people have come forward to report people who have done dreadful things to people and that is not OK for people to do such those things.  They are in 1st and 3rd grade.  This is not OK.

There is so much.  So much that is not OK.  We haven’t even talked about gun violence and all the people and kids killed by guns this past year. This is not OK.

And then there are the natural disasters.  The fires. The hurricanes. The earthquakes. The cold. And the how the US has not responded appropriately or enough to many of these disasters. This is not OK.

But it is all happening.  One thing after another.  Every day. All this past year. None of it OK.  The feeling of support, inclusion, and safety in our national community is gone.  It is not OK.

How do we move forward?
I have no answers.  I am worried. I may be losing hope and energy.  But when the year changed to 2018, I realized how necessary it is to commit TO LIFE.  Those of us who are so worried, scared, anxious, tired, and mad need to commit again TO LIFE.  We must believe that in this year, in 2018, luck will be on our side.  The kind of luck that only comes from committing TO LIFE.  So that is where I am now – I am committing TO LIFE.  TO THE LIFE of my family. TO THE LIFE of my country.  TO THE LIVES of humans.  I am committing to continue to work each day to try to make things a little bit better, brighter, easier, and safer for us.

Tomorrow, I start my new job. (I am thankful for this new professional adventure – more on that another time). If I had thought better, I would have started on January 18… but sometimes you have to create your own luck.  So if you add the month (1) plus the date (17) you get “18” and the year also ends in “18” – and there you have it double “18” for me or double Chai. This is my mantra.

Make our own luck and take the opportunities we have and use them for good and goodness. 

I am committed to try and committed TO LIFE.  Those midterm 2018 elections are just around the corner. Let’s do this.

To life, To life, L’chaim.  #ToLife #ResistPersistInsist #StillVigilant #StrongerTogether #GOTV2018

I leave you with the lyrics from Fiddler on the Roof’s song “To Life, To Life, L'Chaim.”
L'chaim, l'chaim, to life.
Here's to the father I tried to be!
Here's to my bride to be!
Drink, l'chaim, to life!
To life, to life, l'chaim.
L'chaim, l'chaim, to life.
Life has a way of confusing us,
Blessing and bruising us.
Drink, l'chaim, to life!
God would like us to be joyful,
Even when our hearts lie panting on the floor.
But how much more can we be joyful
When there's really something to be joyful for?
To life, to life, l'chaim.
To Tzeitel, my daughter.
My wife.
It gives you something to think about,
Something to drink about.
Drink, l'chaim, to life.
(Reb Mordcha!
Reb Lazar!
Drinks for everyone!
What's the occasion?
I'm picking myself a bride!
Who's it to be?
Tevye's daughter Tzietel!)
To Lazar Wulf! To Tevye!
To Tzeitel, your daughter!
My wife!
May all your futures be pleasant ones,
Not like our present ones!
Drink, l'chaim, to life!
To life, to life, l'chaim!
L'chaim, l'chaim, to life!
It takes a wedding to make us say,
"Let's live another day."
Drink, l'chaim, to life!
We'll raise a glass and sip a drop of schnapps
In honor of the great good luck that favors you.
We know that when good fortune favors two such men,
It stands to reason we deserve it, too!
To us and our good fortune.
Be happy! Be healthy! Long life!
And if our good fortune never comes,

Here's to whatever comes.
Drink l'chaim, to life!
Za va, shas da rovia, Heaven bless you both! Nasdrovia!
To your health , and may we live together in peace.
Za va, shas da rovia, heaven bless you both, Nasdrovia!
To your health, and may we live together in peace.
May you both be favored with the future of your choice!
May you live to see a thousand reasons to rejoice!
Za va, shas da rovia, heaven bless you both. Nasdrovia!
To your health, and may we live together in peace!
We'll raise a glass and sip a drop of schnapps
In honor of the great good luck that favors you.
We know that when good fortune favors two such men,
It stands to reason we deserve it, too!
To us and our good fortune.
Be happy! Be healthy! Long life!
And if our good fortune never comes,
Here's to whatever comes.
Drink, l'chaim, to life

Drink L'chaim...to life!

Here is a glimpse of our year in pictures!