Friday, December 31, 2004

I'm Gonna Make a Resolution... (think Beatles, and "Revolution" tune)

Do I dare make resolutions for the New Year? Should I give a shout-out to 2005 that I'll do what I say I'll do? Or would I be lying?

I made one major one for Rosh Hashanah -- I joined a women's-only health club, planning to go at 6 a.m. 3-5 days a week when said club opens its doors. But my resolution has fizzled so far -- no 6 a.m. visits have been made, and I've only gone about 8 times since I joined 2 1/2 months ago.

Should I pick up on that resolution and re-resolve to visit the club religiously...or at least VISIT THE CLUB?

I think I'll put it on my list of things to do. But in no particular order, I should also resolve to:

* Follow through with what I set forth in motion, ie. querying publishers about picture-book manuscripts or poetry that I have written, requesting they view my work. I have been given the green light from several, but have not taken that next step. I should.

* Keep writing personal essays, poetry, children's books. I should not just list the titles and ideas I have for creative pieces, but should actually breathe live into these projects.

* Make time for me.

* Make more time for my husband and children...and parents and siblings and their families.

* Enjoy each moment to the best of my ability because time is fleeting.

* Continue to strive to be the best person that I can be.

* Continue to look for the good in the people around me, even if it's not so obvious.

* Continue to be thankful to Hashem for all that I am, all that I have and all that I can be.

Wishing you all a Good Shabbos. Wishing you a bright and beautiful 2005.

Please, and Thank You

I kept a journal for YEARS--books upon books, details upon details. The books were not just catchalls for my thoughts, but also held mementos: ticket stubs, airline boarding passes, snippets of articles, quotes I cherished, cartoons from the New Yorker, ads from New York magazine (funny, there's a trend there; I think this Torontonian wanted to take a bite out of the Big Apple), comedy material I'd written, etc.

I loved journal writing, but knew that I was doing it just for me -- nobody would share my words, nobody would have access to these sacred books that had my personal stamp all over them....

But a blog is somewhat different; it is an extension of the journal writing I did, but the personal words have become public words, the personal thoughts finding their way across vast distances that lay well beyond my computer screen.

So to that end, I must ask a favor of you pearlies of wisdom readers...if there are any. Could you please leave me a comment every now and then, just to let me know that I do have people interested in what I have to say. I have chosen to keep a public blog, not a personal diary, and to that end I need readers. It's difficult to write in a vacuum, without getting any feedback.

But I musn't be negligent and I must say thank you to those of you folks who have already left comments since I started my blog earlier this month. So thank you. Keep writing, and I will, too!

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

"I'm Excellent"?

In one of the books that I recently read for my job, there is what I consider to be a great exchange.

"How are you?"

"I'm excellent -- if things were any better, it would be unfair to everybody else."

How I wish each and every one of us could say that today -- but unfortunately we can't. There is illness, death, forces of nature at work, there are people who have lost their homes and their livelihoods; there are countless details, big and small, that hold us back from giving an answer like this when we're asked the question "How are you?"

But, oh, how I wish we could respond in unison, "I'm excellent" -- and mean it!

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Tsunami Terror

How can I sit in the comfort of my own home, amidst my loving family, and not make mention of what's going on at the other end of the world?

I heard the news on the radio, I read online the numbers of missing and dead, but until I saw the images on television news, and heard the interviews of people who were caught up in the midst of this terror, I could not begin to fathom the depth of the destruction.

A cultural face of our earth has been terrorized by nature -- isn't nature supposed to be beautiful for the most part, encouraging growth and rebirth? It isn't supposed to rob us of lives and livelihoods and homes and countrysides. But it does...

So today I must say a silent prayer for all those people whose lives were lost, all those children who were too young or too weak to fight this natural disaster, all those whose families have been torn apart. And I pray that those who are still missing might miraculously be found, alive and well, to carry on as best they can, as beacons for others.

Monday, December 27, 2004

No Two Pearls Are Alike

Did you know that no two pearls are alike? One may wear a strand of pearls and at first glance, they all look the same, but on closer regard, one sees it's true: no two pearls are alike.

I think that the same holds true for people named Pearl -- we might be similar: in our modes of dress, in behaviors, in language we use, in our sense of humor. I have a close friend named Penina, which means Pearl in Hebrew. In so many ways we're the same, but in so many others we're different. Someone can say to me, "You remind me so much of Penina"; they do not say, "You're just like Penina." I am reminiscent of her; I am not interchangeable with her.

When I was in Israel twenty years ago, I roomed on kibbutz with Israeli soldiers who, because they were frum, did kibbutz duty. They were constantly telling me,"Yesh lach jewkim barosh," translating as: You have bugs in your head, off beat ideas. Or else they used a slang expression, totally new to me: "At g'noova," translating as: You're stolen. They tried to further explain what they meant and kept convincing me that it was complimentary--I was unique, one of a kind.

In my growing-up years, until my mid-teens, I did not want to be different, I didn't want to be one of a kind; I wanted to be like everyone else and be accepted as such. But that wasn't always the case -- I had an old-fashioned name; I was a child of European-born parents; I wasn't cool; I was academically inclined; I was a bookworm-- I was considered different than my school peers. In the impressionable years, it's tough to be different. The ego rides a roller coaster, sometimes leaving its passengers behind, as they stand and watch the ride go on without them.

But somewhere along the way, I grew more comfortable in my skin, more self-assured of my abilities and my strengths, and more accepting of other people's biases and immature attitudes. It was okay to be the Pearl I was meant to be. As I would describe myself, "Conservative...but with a twist!"

Just recently I was told by a friend: "...But you are Pearl -- an original in every way, and for that I am greatly relieved."

I think I've come pretty far in my "pearldom." It's nice to know that this Pearl is definitely one of a kind and precious to many...

Saturday, December 25, 2004

It's the Little Things That Count

Well, good people, that Arctic tundra from a few days ago has lingered, but it's had a little help from snow plows and shovels and snow blowers.

Today shone bright but cold, and normally a day for me to announce, "I'm not going to shul, I'm going to relax at home." But I had no choice: we were invited out to lunch after shul.

So my husband and the two oldest bundled up in their winter finest of boots, hats, gloves, snow pants, down-filled jackets, and sub-zero-temperature heavy parkas and headed out early to make the normally-30-minute, perhaps to take a bit longer.

An hour later, I, too, bundled myself up and my youngest son, not yet five, ready to encounter the Toronto winter elements. Now, aside from the frosty air and snowy and icy surfaces, what was to make this day different for us, was that it was to be my son's literally first trek to shul. This child was accustomed to being pushed in a stroller or pulled in a wagon for 30 minutes, which normally become 35-40 as I have to stop and listen to what he's saying, or ask what he just said, or check out a bird nest he's pointed out, or have to ask a passing dog owner what the dog's name is -- the walk is usually a walk of discovery between this mother and child.

But today I knew that the stroller's wheels wouldn't manage to cut through the sidewalk's snowy surfaces without breaking off, and the wagon's wheels would probably tumble off their axis, as well. It was a day for my son to walk.

We held hands and set out, slipping and sliding along the way, climbing up and down man-made "mountains" at street corners and major intersections, discovering this winter wonderland of ours. Not once did he complain, not once did he cry for the lack of stroller to shepherd him to shul; he only asked which shul we would be going to, because we're members of two of them, one closer than the other. And today we were going to the one farther away!

My little trooper managed, and together we made the "treacherous" walk in about 40 minutes. I told him how proud I was of him, making his first walk to shul, in these particular conditions. Pleased with this compliment, he tromped into shul with his rosy cheeks, with his cherubic grin and said, "Can I take off my boots...hat...jacket...snowpants now?"

Like I named this piece, it's often the little things that count.

I hope that you, as parents, also learn to consider each baby step a giant the right direction!

To that end, here are the beautiful lyrics to Canadian singer-songwriter Amy Sky's "Ordinary Miracles." She, too, recounts in this song, which she wrote for her son, everyday accomplishments that count for so much more.



At six weeks you learned to smile
at three months you learned to laugh
at six months you cut a tooth
and at ten months you took a step

At two years you made a best friend
at three years you rode a bike
at four years you learned to skate
and at five years you learned to write

Just ordinary miracles
ordinary miracles
but all the same they're miracles to me
the days that Ill remember well
have a simple kind of wonderful
of ordinary miracles

Your silky head beneath my chin
for bedtime books and lullabies
your angel kiss upon my cheek
your teddy bear clutched to your side

How soon the bike wheels turn to car wheels
the lullabies to rock and roll
the teddy bears to pretty girls
and instead of you these thoughts I'll hold

Just ordinary miracles
ordinary miracles
but all the same they're miracles to me
the days that Ill remember well
have a simple kind of wonderful
of ordinary miracles

And I know the day will come
that you'll spread your wings and fly
but I'll treasure these moments all my life

A gentle kind of wonderful
the sweetest days are always full
of ordinary miracles
each time I hold you near
it's an ordinary miracle

Latte Music (SOCAN)/ Warner Chappell Music Canada

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Wonderland That Is My World

I woke up today to rain...freezing rain...and snow...and wind...and ice. An Arctic tundra outside my front door.

Do I dare drive to work? Do I risk my life, driving a little sedan, in this kind of winter weather? Which route will I take that's the least dangerous? From 6:00 a.m., when I woke up and got out of bed, these questions kept running through my head. I assumed that my commute, which normally is about a 40-minute drive, would take at least 1 1/2 - 2 hours, and once I'd get to work, I'd be told, "Due to the inclement weather, you can all go home." I didn't want to face that, I didn't want to be so stressed on the road and then be told I could turn around and go right home.

So I wasn't stressed on the road, but I was stressed at home. What will they think if I don't show up? People travel from greater distances to get to work, and they'll do so. Will it be considered a vacation day -- but I have no more vacation days for 2004 -- or a day without pay?

My husband kept insisting that I stay home -- "It's too dangerous. Just stay home. Do you really want to be out driving in this? You don't have to go to work today, but I do." But indecisive me agonized for more than an hour, and kept calling my work's switchboard to see if there was an automated message saying that the office would be closed. Silly, silly people. How dare they not close the office! How dare they put me in this predicament!

But eventually my husband's wise counsel and my children's excitement at their "Eema" staying home with them made the difference. I made the most of my day doing the things I don't normally get to do, being that I'm a working-outside-the-home person: I worked inside the home! Laundry, cleaning, sorting and filing odds and ends and entertaining children kept me busy.

It's now nearing 4 p.m., the winter storm is over, the sun is shining. The winter wonderland outside the window is crystalline and icy-cool but inviting nonethess. But me...? I prefer to remain snug inside my home, amidst my family, in the wonderland that is my world...

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Every Day Is a Celebration

A friend and I were recently discussing wedding anniversaries, and when I commented on the date of his upcoming anniversary, he told me that he wouldn't be celebrating... "[The] truth is every day with ____ is a celebration."

This man has the right attitude. Some twenty-plus years ago he found a spouse with whom he wanted to share his life. A married life is all-encompassing because it isn't always a road paved with gold: there are detours, there are one-way streets, there are dead ends, there are speed bumps, there are always "Men Working" signs posted along the way. Sometimes, women provide the road maps and directions, other times it's the men who do so. But this man chose the person with whom to share that front seat. They have been each other's navigator and have helped their back-seat passengers try to reach their destinations, too.

To deem each day a celebration is to recognize that marriage is not meant to be taken for granted. Family lives are enriched when each day is considered special and meaningful and treated as such.

I toast my friend with a hearty "L'Chaim" -- I am thrilled that all those years ago he found the best possible co-navigator with whom to share his life.

May you all be blessed with cherished co-navigators of your own...

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The Tote Bag

I received a package in the mail yesterday -- it came from the West Coast -- and it was a gift.

A tote bag.

For some, a tote bag is a catchall for shlepping around daily needs -- it represents reality.

For others, a tote bag, this one in particular, represents wishes and a belief in dreams.

I know I will use my tote bag to hold and carry my dreams...which, I hope in turn, can become reality.

Hope + Dreams ( + Mazel...and even hard work) = Reality.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Gifts from the Heart

In my lifetime thus far, I've come to realize and acknowledge that gifts from the heart mean so much.

A note, a poem, a photo, a joke, a child's handmade gift or card all hold special places for me.

They don't cost much to share, and the long-lasting value surpasses everything else.

I know that gifts like these have come with thought, with sentiment...and those are also the type of gifts I try to give.

I've given compliments, I've written poetry, I've composed music -- just because I could. I've smiled at people, I've volunteered my time and effort, just because. What satisfaction I get when the gift is welcomed because of the wonder it holds for some.

One of the best examples of this I can share is that many years ago someone close to me was in hospital with a very serious illness, and recovering from the follow-up surgery, which thank G-d, has helped give a gift of many more years of life...and still counting. As I visited daily, I met a wonderful elderly couple; the husband was suffering from Alzheimer's, and the wife was there to meet his daily needs. I talked with the wife regularly and with the husband when he had his moments of lucidity.

So impressed was I by the devotion and the love and the admiration evident between between these elderly people, I had to do what I know best: I wrote a poem for the couple. And the next opportunity I had, I left a copy of the poem at the hospital to be given to the wife.

Needless to say, the woman was moved to tears by my words and by the fact that I focused on her and her husband, in reality, strangers to me. She was more than thankful for this gift from the heart. And to that end...

A few weeks later, I received an envelope in the mail. I didn't recognize the return address in the corner, but I could see it was a personal piece of mail. When I opened the envelope, out slipped a card, and in that card was a scarf, a personalized scarf...with PEARL PEARL PEARL written everywhere. The note simply stated that with such a personalized poem I, too, deserved something personal.

I sometimes wear that scarf and remember Max and Milly... and the way I was able to touch their hearts, just as they touched mine.

(P.S. Oh, no...I think I'm starting to sound like John-Boy narrating offscreen about the Walton family.)

Sunday, December 19, 2004

A State of Bliss

Today was my wedding anniversary. I got past that 1st year, aka a transitional year, but smooth transitioning for my husband and I; I got past that 7th year, aka seven-year-itch --no, there was no need to scratch; I got past that 10th year -- wow, a whole decade together. And I'm well on my way to "and beyond."

I thank G-d for my bashert, a wonderful, genuine, warm, menschlich guy, who also happens to be a great husband and father... and a definite Jack of all trades. Perhaps I was single a little longer than the average Modern Orthodox female, but I defined that "in limbo" status as "good things come to those who wait" or "G-d saved the best for last."

My children are truly a blessing -- they help keep me grounded as a person as I look at them in awe. I've learned to realize just how much of a miracle children really are. Fragile, a gift, a blessing (sometimes in more disguises than others!) be thankful for, not to be taken for granted.

If I could grant each of you a wish, it would be for you to be able to hold your spouse's hand in yours, your child's hand/children's hands in yours, and to let them linger there just a little bit longer than help you achieve a state of bliss...

Tyson Pugsley

Our dog, a pug, is named Tyson Pugsley. Yes, it's a nice name, but not one I gave to him. We adopted him almost two years ago from a family who, for several reasons, had to give him up.

Never thought we'd get a dog-- I didn't grow up with one, I have three young children who keep me busy enough, I work full-time and I have a household to maintain.

But three years ago, my two youngest children were in a situation that involved a friend's dog scaring them so, that they were literally shivering with fright. Up until then, they'd always extended their hand to pet strange dogs.

I said to my husband that the only way they'd overcome the fear is if we get a dog of our own -- and so I started an online hunt to adopt one...

Well, a shidduch was made between Tyson and ourselves, and quite a nice one. Here came a dog with all the accoutrements, even with a pirate's costume -- for the owners it was a Halloween costume, for us it was a Purim costume. (that first year, my oldest child wore his Purim pirate's costume while delivering mishloach manot, and Tyson wore his. What a great sight to see!) He brought his own pillows and blankets, two beds, dog food, shampoos and brushes, toothbrush and toothpaste, toys...and lessons well learned. Instead of shaking his paw hello, we had him shaking "Good Shabbos" or "Good Yom Tov"; he also came very potty-trained and on good behavior. A definite "mechiyah" when owning a new pet.

Forgot to mention that Tyson Pugsley has such yicchus, and that's why we didn't change his name. He was almost five and came with a purebred pedigree and a large family tree that offered bizarre, yet interesting, names for his barking ancestry. I can't even trace my maternal or paternal side beyond great-grandparents, and here's my pug with a framable family tree. The Mormon Church in Utah didn't even have to do the work!

Thank G-d my children have definitely overcome their fear of dogs as they've learned to look after their pet. Tyson is a gentle, passive kind dog who wouldn't hurt anyone or anything, and therefore is a welcome member of our family.

Because he is not "little" by any means, he gets attention wherever he goes. We say that he's so ugly, he's cute. He is definitely much cuter than two other pugs who live in our neighborhood: Pugley and Brisket.

Unfortunately, with Tyson's short legs and his breathing difficulties (he snores loudly when he sleeps!), due to the breed that he is, he can't walk for long periods of time, and especially not when it's hot outside. But my little prince among canines has met with a solution: my youngest child gives up his ride in a stroller so that Tyson can sit in the carriage. Heads turn at this funny sight, and Tyson definitely gets to ride in style.

I've spoken to many frum people about the rights and wrongs of owning a dog. But we feel that it's right for us...and right for Tyson.

And as for all you other frum dog owners out there... I'm glad we're part of the same breed.

Shlemazel Mazel

Shlemazel Mazel (originally written December 12, 2004)

It was not even two days ago
That I sat down and wrote you a note
Opening with the lines: "Chag Sameach...Hope this note finds you and your family well."

I guess things were not so well, after all.
Today the famous shul automaton recorded voice could be heard on my telephone: "We regret to inform you of the passing of Mr. E-'s mother. Funeral will be held on Sunday, 2 p.m., Steeles-College Chapel. Shiva to follow at..."

What actually went on two days ago, when I sent out my message?

Today I feel cold, horribly callous for having sent out a business note at such a sensitive hour.

Of course, it was not my fault--"You could not have known." "It's an honest mistake." "I'm sure he'll understand..." is what I'm continually hearing when I tell of my untimely fault. Someone tries to cite some Rabbinic tractate to help ease my conscience.

But I still cannot help but feel that I have just been a victim of "shlemazel mazel!"

Friday, December 17, 2004

Poetry To Carry You Into the Weekend

Toronto Sunset

i look out my office window at 4:50 p.m.
the sky down there in the southwest end
of the city
is a beautiful one as it settles in
for the night --

unraveling its banded blanket of
peach, pink, orange and yellow

swaddling the cityfolk in its vast coziness.

i hug myself
and smile.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

To Know Me Is To Read Between the Lines

I think I'm a well-rounded person; a Jill of all trades, master of...only a couple.
But I HATE HATE HATE when people make assumptions about has been done much of my life.

"Oh, you're so quiet." "You're probably smart." "You must be very conservative in your thinking." These are just some of the comments I continue to hear from people.

You know what, people!? I'm not so quiet, I'm not always smart (didn't I tell you in an earlier blog that I can't refold maps?) and some of my thinking is are my impulsive actions and words at times. (but no birds get loose at those times!)

Well, I was at a work-related party this evening, and heard one of those lines from a fellow employee. "You're really going to surprise people." When I asked "Why?" I was told,"Because usually you're so nice and quiet." GRRR!!! Yes, I'm nice, but I'm not quiet...once upon a time, perhaps 25 and 30 years ago I was...but I outgrew that. I can sing with the rest of them, I can tell jokes and keep people laughing with the best of them. And it feels natural to me to do so. So, please, instead of saying that other people will be surprised, why not just say, " I didn't realize just how funny/offbeat/entertaining/etc., etc., etc. you were. Don't know why I ever assumed you were quiet."

Watch as those layers of Pearl unfold before your very eyes...

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Lost...but Eventually Found

Can't believe it--between yesterday and today, I got lost in blah, blah, blah blogland. I couldn't find my way back to my site. (and when I just created a wonderful entry for today, I tripped up again, and lost what I'd written.)

How many combinations of passwords and site names did I use? Boy, was I annoyed, frustrated that I couldn't retrace my steps back here. But a kind soul, who posted my link to his well-read blog, became my road map and I found my way back this a.m. to read what I'd written yesterday night.

And then tonight came and I wanted to post again, and couldn't find my way. Asking for technical help got me further lost, and it was just by continual trial and error -- and mazel, good luck -- that I found my way here.

I'm great with directions, don't guess otherwise, but I do have a real problem with refolding maps to their original creases. Getting lost reminded me too much of that flaw of mine. I know how to do it...I just can't!

But in any case, I'm here now. I want to thank my public comment-er for welcoming me so warmly to the land of blog, as well as my private comment-er for his. Oh-oh, I've become one of you types! (no, honestly, that just slipped out -- no pun, literary or otherwise, intended!)

I now must say: "I pledge allegiance to this blog to make it clear and concise, rather than too detail-oriented, one of my crutches and talents." I don't want to lose any readers -- hey, you still there? Hullo! Or have you gone off to peek into some other person's private life!

In any case, I want to leave you readers with this pearlie of wisdom, garnered from the wisdom of my dear parents: "Words are like birds. Once they're out, they fly away and you can't retrieve them." So please, watch what you say and who you say it to. Mean what you say and say what you mean -- and I'll try to do the same. After all, we don't want to be taking a walk one day and come across a flock of birds sitting high up in a tree, and have to wonder: "Did I let that flock loose?!"

I wish you all "Chalomot Paz"--Hebrew for "Golden Dreams."

A Reason To Blog

I have recently become caught up in the world of blogging--never before had I even used the term or sought out one to read until I learned about an onsite journal, Seraphic Secret.

I discovered a world of beautiful, but often sad, images and words. A world of fathers and sons, mothers and sons, sisters and brothers, teachers and students. A world of living ... and being, a world of dreaming ... and action, a world of loving ... and hoping ... a world of feeling ... and knowing, a world of love. .. and loss.

I discovered that there is a great void in this world, left by the untimely passing of one Ariel Chaim Avrech, an adored and devoted son and brother and Torah scholar.

In each generation there is a great Tzaddik-- a righteous person. Some are known and named, while others remain anonymous until after they have passed from this world to the next. And to the best of my knowledge, to the best of my long-distance insight, Ariel Chaim Avrech was a Tzaddik.

May his memory be for a blessing...

My Pearlies of Wisdom

Welcome to the world of all things Pearl.

As a writer, I am also an observer. And as an observer, I am able to have -- and share -- my opinion of things. I call my opinion: Pearlies of Wisdom. They are not grand, like pearls of wisdom, but are tiny insights, strunglikeanecklaceofbeads, to wear around my neck, and to place around your neck when you need advice, insight of a mother, wife and friend.

Welcome to the world of all things Pearl.