Welcome to Ask Gail – a place to share questions and answers about what matters to us most: family, friends, community, health, peace, books, favorite resources, what feeds our soul… Ask Gail is also where we can create and share very important information like “Gail’s Guide to Going to the Hospital” and “Gail’s Storm Checklist.” Stay tuned for more…

Posted By Gail Ostrow on November 9th, 2013

This is the wind
that strips the trees
baring their outlines
to the coming winter.

This is the wind
that shreds the leaves
blowing branches and
garbage can lids
down the street
clanging against
cars and stoops.

This is the wind
that rips the clappers
from the wind chimes
and tears my peace flags
from the back porch
bending every growing thing
and sending all that’s left of summer
careening around the yard.

Posted in Poetry
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Posted By Gail Ostrow on September 5th, 2013

It is September, a time of harvest and a turning from summer to fall.  Vacations are mostly  over, the children are back in school, and the promise of time off and trips away fades into memories and photographs.  It is also the  month of Elul, a time of reflection and repentance, which prepares us for Rosh Ha-Shanah, Yom Kippur, and the new year.

I love this time of year: the change from hot to cooler, the fresh breezes, the changing light, the bountiful harvest from the garden.  And I always loved going back to school—I still do.  The new binder, paper, markers, books—the look and feel of possibility, of new beginnings.  I also love the heightened sense of the holidays approaching.

And yet, even as the season changes and my spirit calls me to reflect and repent, I am struck by how “stuck” I am in my old patterns of behavior, thinking, and feeling, and expectations both of myself and of others.   Still walking down the same street and falling in the same holes, and only sometimes getting out before I do too much damage.

So, once again, I prepare to let go of that which does not serve me or others but to which I am wedded, either by fear or habit or ignorance.   I think about who I have harmed this past year.   Am I truly sorry?  Is it time to make amends?  And what about forgiveness?  Am I ready to forgive myself and others for our human weaknesses?

The High Holy Days are a sacred pause—a time to make public what each of us faces every day in our interactions with others.  We hurt and are hurt.  We are all wounded.  We are all in need of forgiveness.   In the spirit of Rosh Ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur, I seek to forgive and be forgiven.   The Talmud teaches us that every minute we begin again.  Let us begin.

Posted By Gail Ostrow on September 2nd, 2013

All work should be respected and valued. There is no job too small or dirty or messy or hidden away that doesn’t deserve to be respected and valued.

Include the people who cut your grass, clean your house, tend to your elderly parents in the nursing home, work as aides in your children’s classroom, take care of your children while you are at work, mop the floors in the schools, hospitals, train stations, government buildings, sweep the streets and pick up the garbage, wash the dishes in your favorite restaurant, and work in sweatshops to make the cheap clothing we love to buy.  We/they are everywhere.

And don’t forget all the moms and dads who work at home and don’t get paid and don’t get benefits for doing the most important work of raising children.

I am the daughter and granddaughter of union workers.  I belonged to the ILGWU when I worked as a bookkeeper in the garment district.  I belonged to a teachers union when I worked in the public schools and at Housatonic Community College.  I am proud to be from and in the working class.

Posted By Gail Ostrow on September 1st, 2013
In preparation for teaching Literature of the Holocaust, I began today, the 74th anniversary of the invasion of Poland, by looking at the art of Esther Krinitz.

The soldiers came straight to Esther’s village of Mniszek. Esther watched as a German soldier pulled her grandfather off the steps of his house and cut off his beard.

There were c. 3,300,000 Jews living in Poland in 1939; 85% would be dead by 1945.  There were more than 9.5 million Jews living in all of Europe in 1939; more than 60% would be dead by 1945.

Posted in Uncategorized
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Posted By Gail Ostrow on August 17th, 2013

My mother used to tell everyone I was born reading. Didn’t everyone read under the covers with a flashlight?  Or pack a lunch and a good book and pedal to a shady tree to read the afternoon away?

I read for pleasure, for work, to lose myself, to find myself, to escape pain, and to delve deeply into other people’s pain.   I have the gifts of time, the public library, friends who pass on what they just read and must share, a cool shaded backyard, air conditioning when it is too hot or muggy to sit outside, and books. Books everywhere:  on the counter, on the tables, on the porch, sprawled on the couches, and piled up on the night stand.

What have I read?  Almost everything I started, but not quite.  If it was a struggle without a promised reward to keep going, I stopped and put it aside. Maybe another time it will be a good fit, like Cider House Rules all those years ago–couldn’t read it and then couldn’t put it down when read years later.

How grateful I am for my eyes and my mind.  So many books, so little time!


Posted in BOOKS
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Posted By Gail Ostrow on August 17th, 2013

The air smells of sweat and beer and fiddle resin and every kind of perfume sold in the county. It hints at wet kisses later in cars or on back porches for the lucky single ones. The married couples will go home to bed—to sleep.

Dogs curl under tables and next to walls keeping out of the way of the moving feet. As the music builds to what they know is the last dance, heads up, noses twitching, they seek out the moving shape of master. Muscles begin to ripple under their skin, rearranging themselves to shift from relaxed and nearly asleep to alert, frisky, playful, or just plain happy to be going home.

The lone cat remains curled up under the bar, waiting for the noise to leave so she can stretch and hunt. She can’t work while they play. “Go away, go away, go away,” she purrs.

Posted in WHO KNEW?
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Posted By Gail Ostrow on August 13th, 2013

The dove brought news
of the end of the flood, an olive leaf
in her mouth, like a man holding a letter
in his mouth as he searches for something
with both hands
or like a girl holding pins
in her mouth as she repairs her dress.

Translated from Hebrew by Bernard Horn

Posted in Poetry, WISDOM
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Posted By Gail Ostrow on April 14th, 2013

Before I went on the water,

I lived on concrete, a tree here and there,

a field of poppies behind our house that

mysteriously appeared every spring and

was burned off in summer, spreading its

musky euphoria through the neighborhood.

I understood only this about nature:

it was either day or night, raining or not.

After I went on the water,

I felt the nuance of every breeze,

how moist or dry it was, how cool or hot.

I tuned my self to the tides,

and saw how the water moved in and out and up and down.

I slept, rolling on the waves, moving in my dreams back to the womb,

feeling water all around me, holding me, soothing me,

sending me for my swim upstream into life.

Posted By Gail Ostrow on January 24th, 2013

Please check out my new guide to preparing for a storm, flood, or power outage.  Download Gail’s Storm Checklist here.  And please feel free to spread the word.

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Posted By Gail Ostrow on January 11th, 2013

Dark Charms by Dorianne Laux

Eventually the future shows up everywhere:
those burly summers and unslept nights in deep
lines and dark splotches, thinning skin.
Here’s the corner store grown to a condo,
the bike reduced to one spinning wheel,
the ghost of a dog that used to be, her trail
no longer trodden, just a dip in the weeds.
The clear water we drank as thirsty children
still runs through our veins. Stars we saw then
we still see now, only fewer, dimmer, less often.
The old tunes play and continue to move us
in spite of our learning, the wraith of romance,
lost innocence, literature, the death of the poets.
We continue to speak, if only in whispers,
to something inside us that longs to be named.
We name it the past and drag it behind us,
bag like a lung filled with shadow and song,
dreams of running, the keys to lost names

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