Froma Bird's Eye View

By Raven West

You’ve Got to Sweat the Small Stuff


The other night, my fourteen year old daughter and I, had a fierce argument. Nothing unusual for a teenager to disagree with a parent, however this wasn’t the usual difference of opinion about keeping her room clean, or staying out past curfew. This was about my reaction to her new tenth grade World History textbook which had, what I considered, several negative entries regarding Jews.

I’d read some of it during her back-to-school night, and wanted to have more time to study the text. I’d asked her to bring the book home so I could take a closer look at it. She became very upset and accused me of making too much of it. She told me I should leave it alone, that no one else cared, and I shouldn’t sweat the small stuff. She complained that I was embarrassing her, then she ran into her room and slammed the door.

I thought about her reaction and could see that she might have had a point. She knows from past incidents, that I can be a bit reactive on issues I believe in. A few years ago the school board approved a pamphlet on abstinence that was distributed by a Christian organization. It contained references to highly religious material and created a major confrontation between the school board and the A.D.L. Under threat of a law suit, the material was deleted and the matter was resolved. And I’d only made one phone call.

The week of Rosh Hashannah, my daughter’s band Section Leader called the house to remind her of a special rehearsal he had scheduled that Sunday, which was the second day of Rosh Hashannah. I was a bit less than diplomatic when I told him my daughter would not attend because we were going to be in services that day, and I strongly suggested that he check the calendar first before making any future rehearsal plans.

The next day, she was furious with me. She told me I scared the guy and I should not have made such a big deal about the rehearsal date. She said she wasn’t even planning on going to services anyway, and why didn’t I just mind my own business. So, when her band leader scheduled a rehearsal for the day of Yom Kippur, I didn’t say anything. Nor did I mention it to him at back-to-school night. I didn’t want to further embarrass my child, and besides, maybe she was right. None of the other Jewish parents had said anything. No one made a fuss about the band rehearsal schedule or the “mandatory” participation in the Christmas caroling in December. So, I kept quiet.

Then, I visited her World History class, and began reading through the new text book. Almost every reference to Jews appeared to have a pro-Christian bias. One particularly disturbing line stated that “Jews were despised throughout the world.” As these were new texts, the students weren’t allowed to take them home. (I tried to get a copy before the deadline for this contest, but have not had any luck.) I wondered how many parents read the school texts their children did bring home. With budget cut-backs, many schools are keeping textbooks in the classroom and parents may not have a chance to see them at all. And most, like my daughter said, probably won’t care. After all, it’s only small stuff.

A synagogue in San Francisco is victimized by arson and the entire community comes to their aid. A gunman goes on a shooting rampage at a Southern California Jewish day care center and the newscrews are on the scene almost before the ambulances arrive. Politicians make speeches, organizations raise money, and communities unite to end the hatred and violence. The big stuff is taken care of by huge organizations. Security is tightened around our Temple. They will protect us. We feel safe.

At the smaller level, things are different. Insensitivity, bordering on anti-Semitism continues to flourish, especially in December. During a holiday concert, my older child and another Jewish girl, refused to sing Silent Night because they didn’t want to say “Christ Our Savior”. I was called to the school to discuss the “problem”. It was the first time in that chorus teacher’s experience that any student had chosen not to sing due to religious reasons. She offered to include more “Jewish” songs if I provided them. I told her she missed the point. I felt religious themes songs had no place in a public school and more students had the courage to protest, perhaps the musical elections would have been more of the secular kind. She suggested that my daughter simply not sing during that song, so she didn’t and the concert went on as scheduled. After all, I’ve been told by fellow Jewish parents, there’s nothing we can do to change things. It’s all harmless. It’s all small stuff.

A few years ago, I was conducting a meeting which was attended by several parents and young girls. During the discussion, I mentioned to my team partner that the cost of one of the events was a bit high. Her response was “don’t be such a cheap Jew.” She said it loud enough for some of the girls to hear. I was shocked. She laughed at my objections. I reported the incident to the staff of the organization. We had a meeting. The woman was insulted that she had been required to attend. The staff thought the whole incident was of little importance. I told them that anyone who would use that type of stereotype language should not be in charge of a group of young children. They didn’t agree, saying I was making too much of it. The woman didn’t mean anything by it. It wasn’t a big deal. It was to me. I quit the next day.

Over the years, I’ve belonged to several organizations who have changed their “Christmas Party” to “Holiday Party” at my request. There was never any public objections, some even suggested an addition of Hanukkah music at their next function. Some of these groups never had a Jewish member, and the ones that were never voiced any opposition to the program, so they just didn’t “think” it was an issue. I thought it was.

Sensitivity on every level promotes understanding. It’s comforting to know that organizations like the A.D.L. and others exist to handle the bigger issues, but there are few groups or individuals who have the time, energy or desire to go after the smaller ones. It’s not until a major tragedy, followed by interviews of the victims family and religious leaders making speeches about tighter security, do we all sit around and ask how could this have been prevented.

If we all “sweated the small stuff”, opened communication at the lowest level, stayed aware and involved, we might be able to put an end to the hate at the very beginning, and perhaps it would never get a chance to grow into a major tragedy.

It’s not a popular stand to take, most don’t. But the slogan “Never Again” is not just about six million, and it’s most certainly not a phrase that should be used lightly. The six million Jews were not murdered all at once. The hatred that grew in Germany was not an overnight event. It began with a few minor incidents that went unnoticed. A few laws that went unchallenged, a few books that went unread because people were too busy to sweat the small stuff. But that’s where the big stuff begins to grow.

We must sweat the small stuff. We can’t afford to hide behind a false sense of security that what we see on the news can never happen to us. That somehow, in this country, there is no threat to our religious freedom, or our lives. I’m sure that’s what the congregation in San Francisco thought. I’m sure that’s what the members of the Jewish Day Care Center thought. They were both wrong. It can happen. It does happen. And, if you go onto the Internet, it is continuing to happen all around the world. This is not small stuff.

It starts with a text book, slanted just slightly, but not blatant enough to cross the line, to be accepted in a classroom. It continues with a religious pamphlet, distributed under the guise of abstinence information, and persists on a web site full of lies and hate that a lonely child might be attracted to while their parents are busy doing more “important” things.

And it ends with people taking risks and having the courage to confront schools and organizations who don’t consider small issues to be of any great significance. And it ends with parents arguing with their teenagers about the importance of sweating the small stuff and hoping that in their lifetime, the big stuff truly never happens again.

As it recently did, 20 years after this piece was written, in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


History of an Unpublished Novel


It started with a title, which became an idea, which became a story, which became a manuscript, then became a book.

Red Wine for Breakfast is the most published novel you’ve never heard of. The novel has had three agents, been optioned for a movie, has five publishers and was one of the very first print-on-demand titles to hit book store shelves.

Before M.J. Rose reached fame for her e-book on a disk, Red Wine For Breakfast was published by Book-On-Disc.Com (June 24, 1999). Before Dan Poynter made his fortune as the marketing guru in the Print-On-Demand industry, Red Wine for Breakfast was one of the first books published in that format by iUniverse, (July 2, 1999).

To say the novel has been there, did that, is an understatement and the fact that with all it had going for it, sold a mere 5,000 copies is a mystery every author has been trying to solve since the first time a pen and ink was put on paper.

But this isn’t a tale of what might have been, only what was and sharing it with all who have interest may entertain, or delight, or bore you to tears, but for better or worse, here it is;

The title was derived from a conversation I had in a bar with a good friend who mentioned that he enjoyed a glass of Beaujolais in the morning. I joked why would anyone have red wine for breakfast? Later that night wrote it in my diary that it sounded like a great title for a book.

That was 1972.

Two marriages, three daughters and 25 years later Red Wine for Breakfast did indeed become a novel. In 1996, for those of you who remember that long ago, the internet was in its infancy. Cell phones were a luxury and ebook readers were a device used by the crew of the Starship Enterprise. None of which I owned at the time. What I did own was a computer, HP laser jet printer and a WordPerfect program that would format a document in a book format.

What I also owned was a stationery store which was conveniently located next to a full service print store. The first printing of Red Wine for Breakfast was spiral bound with a red card-stock cover that cost me $10.00 per copy to print that I sold at my store for $14.95. Customers would buy the book, I’d sell out the five or so I printed, then walk over to the print store and print another five and sell them one at a time. You could say I was the original “Print-On-Demand” publisher long before the term, or the industry was ever heard of.

I did sign with an agent in Los Angeles who sent the manuscript off to several mainstream publishers, most of which are no longer in business. With each rejection, I found something positive to spin, but when Doubleday rejected the manuscript after 9 months, my agent gave up and we parted ways.

Then came the movie producers. I won’t bore you with the details; you can read the nasty tale here: A Hollywood Horror Story 

A few months later, AOL was forming a new club for aspiring writers who wanted to have their books published at very little cost. I was looking for a printer who would charge me less that $10.00 per book and also provide something called an ISBN number so my books could be sold in stores other than mine.

AOL Writer’s Club became the first publisher of Red Wine for Breakfast.  As a published author, I began going to writer’s meetings and events. I met another author who had published her books in a CD format for people who wanted to read her books on their computer. I met her published, he liked my book, so became the third publisher of Red Wine for Breakfast.

Shortly after the novel was on Amazon in CD format, I receive an offer I couldn’t refuse from a new publisher who was in the process of buying out the Writer’s Club and wanted all the titles and a new contract with all their authors. The company was iUniverse. the fourth publisher of Red Wine for Breakfast.

Because they were buying out our contracts, there was no charge for any of the authors to had iUniverse publish our books. It didn’t take very long for that promise to go the way of the “Be a published author for only $99” deal. The Print-On-Demand revolution was fading quickly. At that time another author who had also signed with the Writers Club decided to open his own publishing business and wanted me to join him as his premier author.

Lighthouse Press became publisher #5 in 2001. Red Wine for Breakfast also received a new cover and a new author; Raven West. The book did fairly well for a number of years, then another new publisher who was branching out internationally contacted me with what was a too good to be true deal and Lighthouse and I parted ways in 2009. Chalet publishers were now #6 for about five weeks.  Not unlike iUniverse way back the day, most of what they promised never materialized. I wasn’t that surprised to discover they went out of business in 2012.

Red Wine For Breakfast is now in the digital world of ebooks with Smashwords, publisher #7. I still own all the rights and occasionally when I have a few hours, will pick it up and re-read the story. As soon as I can reformat the cover, I’ve since re-published with Amazon’s Createspace and Kindle, who will be publisher #8.

I always said that overnight success takes about 20 years. I have at least another 2 to go!

The Dilemma of Daylight Savings

Every six months, by government law, we are forced to endure the out-dated practice of moving our clocks one full hour, either forward or backward. This practice has been an on-going habit since World War I, when this annoying system was adopted to conserve fuel needed to produce electric power. During World War II, our wonderful Congress passed a law which is still in effect today. It seemed like a good idea at the time, saving an hour of daylight, but no one could have predicted the amount of TIME we waste having to make the adjustment in our homes and in our lives.

Fifty years ago, only the clocks on the walls and on our wrists needed to be reset. In our modern computer aged society, this bi-annual task takes up much, if not more, the hour it was intended to save! I reset my bedside clock before I went to sleep last night, but almost forgot to re-adjust my VCR, which is programmed to tape early morning news programs. This morning, I spent the next Asaved@ hour on three VCR=s, four television sets, eight digital clocks, four battery operated clocks, the microwave, the oven, the coffee maker, the lawn sprinklers, the light timer, the answering machine, all the pagers, cell phones, and at least a half hour on three digital watches, and the clocks in all three cars. And when I go to work tomorrow, there are only six different clocks that will have to be adjusted.

On the wider scale, all the clocks in each classroom of our school must be changed, not to mention government facilities, Wall Street, ships at sea and planes in the air. Yet, like sheep, we all do it, every year, putting up with the darker days and longer nights just because no one but a few states such as Hawaii, Arizona, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the Eastern Time Zone portion of the State of Indiana dare keep their clocks and their sanity set at the same time throughout the year.

Forget social security. Forget guns and abortion. Forget all those less important issues that will fact the next Congress, or the 2020 President of the United States.   I’m voting for the  candidates  who will put an END to clock-adjusting madness once an for all!

Is anyone listening?

No? I guess they all forgot to re-set their watches and overslept!

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