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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

A Follow-up to "And the New Year Begins"

Updated: Jan 11, 2022

I am happy to share a few responses that I received from you regarding things that made you happy during 2021.

I am so enthusiastic about hearing your thoughts on what brings you happiness and satisfaction: what makes you laugh, what ignites you! I hope that you will send me your thoughts. Just the exercise of sitting with your thoughts for a few moments and really thinking about these things can be eye opening. I hope to post more of these as I receive them, but here are three of the reflective pieces that I received....Thank you, Sarah Marie, Berta and Ellen!

Sarah Marie Aliberti Jette

This was written by Sarah Marie Aliberti Jette. Sarah is a teacher, a wife and mother, happy cat owner and an exercise enthusiast. She was a semi-finalist for teacher of the year in Massachusetts this past year. She is a published author of a young adult book called

What the Wind Can Tell You and she is working on her next book.

*** ** ***

Vaccinations!!!!! My kids are fully vaccinated and it gives me some relief. My middle child also just got her HPV vaccine. I'm so grateful for science!

Though the last year was hard, I am very grateful for the time I've had with my family. My kids are all very different, and they do argue from time to time. But, they are also good friends and they love each other. I worried so much last year.

My middle child received reading support, but when schools shut down in March of 2020, it stopped. Last night, I checked on her many times. Each time, she was snuggled up in her blankets, reading. I think she finally shut off her light at 10. She is such a strong reader. For the past year, I'd search the book store for any book that was at her level (usually ones about animals.) Now she's ready four or five hundred page books and filling me in on all the details. I love it!

My youngest has 13 best friends. I'm friends with 3 of their moms (her 3 closest best friends). They're from Korea, Japan, and China. When the weather was warmer, we'd sit and have tea while the girls attended their dance class. They liked to practice their English with me. Frida was fully remote for most of kindergarten. She's grateful for the chance to play with other kids at recess now. She's compassionate, caring, and very inclusive. She's got a big heart.

My eldest now walks or bikes to school. Sometimes with his best friend. Sometimes on his own. In October, he came home to an empty house for the first time. My mom was doing something, my husband went into the office. I had a union meeting. S called me on his watch phone to say he made it to the door. Then, I drove to my meeting. On my way, I missed 2 calls from him. (His watch phone isn't very reliable.) I listened to one of the messages he left and he was crying. I called him right back and he told me that everything was ok. - He voice was still shaking as he told me what happened: his key got jammed in the lock. The door wouldn't open. But, he noticed that one of my mom's windows was open a crack, so he pulled it open and climbed into the house. He then went to the door, opened it, and got the key out. Best of all, no cats escaped.

Had I picked up the phone when his key got stuck, I would have talked him through a bunch of steps. Instead, he problem solved and succeeded, and also grew up a little bit. It was a win for is both.

Returning to in person teaching has been an adjustment. Last year was incredibly hard, but there was a tight bond between my students, their families, and myself. I miss that bond a lot. My Teacher of the Year nomination is something I'll treasure forever.

And, lastly, a big highlight/moment has been exercising. I've exercised almost every day since the first of July. It's my new "me time." Once, this summer, I was biking with my kids and my youngest couldn't make it up a steep hill. I parked my bike at the top, and then met her at the bottom. Then, I pushed her on her bike up the hill. That level of fitness is something I couldn't have done a year ago. I just felt that I was a mom of three kids. I was in my 40s. I couldn't be fit if I hadn't exercised in a while. I'm grateful for my body. It is forgiving. I neglected it for far too long.

My girls had cross country skiing lessons today. C had a great time, but threw up after going down the hill. F had a less fun time. Somehow, she fell and she bonked her eye with the tip of her ski. It was cut and puffy. She rode home with a bag of peas over her eye.

This first moment of the new year reminds me that not everything works out as planned. There's still joy to be had. And, as a mom, there's always a million things to worry about!!!

Berta Gershkowitz

Berta lives in Miami. She is currently writing a memoir about her son Daniel, who passed away twenty years ago from leukemia at the age of fourteen.

I opened the door and stepped right into the yard. No elevators, no security guards, no eighteen floors between me and the ground. Overgrown foliage covered the boulevards creating tunnels that shaded all streets from the brilliant sun.

“Good morning Hon,” I had heard my husband say earlier that morning, as I looked around the unfamiliar bedroom of our new and very old home. We had moved just the day before. “Ready for our morning walk?” he asked.

We had left behind our high-rise in the crowded streets of the financial district near downtown Miami. It had been a good time pretending to be young—until masks became part of our lives. Just to walk the dog felt like a dangerous mission. We boarded overcrowded elevators where masks hung fashionably from young necks pretending to comply.

Once we reached the streets, it wasn’t much better. Crowds filled every stool at the river-side bar. Sounds blasted the air with notes, considered music by some. Yachts sailed slowly bye, carrying bikinied girls twerking in provocative low squats. They temporarily captured all eyes. Joggers zig-zagged around cell-immersed walkers playing with their dogs, no mind. No good mornings were the recognized city etiquette. And no masks in sight.

I could almost see spheres of bright red spikes floating all around town.

But now, it was all behind.

We walked pass every old house. Two life-size pink flamingos guarded our neighbor’s site. Roosters strolled about, leaving their chicks carelessly behind. A pompous peacock wandered around displaying with no shame of his desires.

“Good morning my friends,” said an ageless man, every day, as we crossed the small bridge to the island nearby. His smile and bright teeth would light up our paths and I am almost sure his glow helped far away ships navigate about.

“Sit down inside Julius!” my husband would order, concerned about this ninety-six-year-old man. “Why do you stand in the sun and the heat when you can manage the gate from the air-conditioned comfort of the guardhouse?”

“I can’t,” he would say. “I need to say hi.”


Ellen Krueger

Ellen is a baker, a grandmother, mother, wife and enthusiastic dancer and an accomplished baker. She writes a blog called,

and is the author of The Fonzie Books!

What brings me joy? Connections. We were forced to be apart from almost everyone who mattered to us during the past two years. Our children and grandchildren are in NY. Our friends are everywhere. Even the ones in town were on their own lockdowns. And so whenever we were able to make connections, that gave me great joy. My granddaughter, 9 years old, had started calling on Friday nights for a shabbat shalom time. That became much more important. And we did pretty well at doing it every week. In the last few months, the 4 year old started taking part in the call. Even if the telephone didn’t quite make sense to him. Now, since we’ve been able to visit a couple of times, he knows us and is excited to be talking to us. Gwamma and Gwampa are a real part of his life now.

My son and daughter in law did a FaceTime every week. Way more than before we were being kept apart. It has become a welcome part of our week. Though not the same as being able to be there in person, it is, at least, a connection.

I started Zooming with three college friends, with whom I sort of kept in touch. We were gathering monthly to check in and try to make each other feel better by being together. The years fall away when you are with your true friends, no matter when you’ve seen them last.

This happened with local friends, as well. We’d make a point to gather together, again, to check in, and to prop each other up. There were always laughs, even with dire concerns. It wasn’t lunch or a cuppa Dunkin’ in the store, but we were touching each other.

Cousins got together. It was great to see them. Although I started looking at the different zoom boxes and wondering who all those old people were. We didn’t always have a lot to say, but we made that connection that we needed to get through.

So, personal contact and connections is a great source of joy for me. And it continues to be, as we inch our way back to person to person meetings. We are social animals and we need our pack, our flock, our troop. Without the ability to connect, I would have been totally lost.

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