Saturday, July 30, 2005

Sadness Speaks to Me

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Shavuah Tov, everyone. I hope those of you who observe Shabbos had a wonderful one, and those of you who don't, had a wonderful Saturday.

Many a time in my past posts, I've mentioned or hinted at my sensitivity. I have always had a very strong sense of compassion for the people around me, feeling what they were feeling: angst, melancholy, anger, sadness. But most of all, it is sadness that has always spoken to me.

I don't thrive on sad tidings, or emotional turmoil of others, but I do feel for people -- both friends or strangers -- when they are feeling low, whether they feel it for superficial reasons or for major crises. I try to let them know that I am there for them, if not in body, then in spirit. I share my thoughts and my words to help ease their personal pains; whether these words do anything at all, I don't know, but I want these people to know that I will listen, I will help if I'm able, I will offer suggestions if the person is seeking that; namely, I will be a friend or confidante if that is what they are needing.

Yes, I do take some things in my life for granted, but am trying to stray from that posture. After all, how can I do that, yet count my blessings at the same time? And believe me, I do count my blessings all the time.

In recognizing what problems, issues, family dynamics, etc. lay beyond mine, it is clear that I count my blessings even more -- thankful for family, thankful for health, thankful for a roof over our heads, thankful for a job, thankful for money in the bank, thankful for good friends and thankful for recognizing that we indeed have blessings.

It is most sad that sometimes it is only at the expense of someone else's sadness and despair that you recognize just how truly gifted and blessed you are. That someone else does not have to be a friend or someone close to you, but that someone does have a story to tell...and in reading that story, you realize that your own story doesn't amount to a hill of beans.

I've read some of those stories. I've felt my heart melt. I've cried those soulful tears. I've written those notes of compassion. I've let the people know that I, as a stranger, have been touched by their sadness, and I wish them some eventual peace of mind, peace of heart. I continue to read those stories. You should too. Then you might truly stop complaining about the small details in your life, look beyond and see that all you cherish sometimes is worth more than life itself.

Please read these stories, let your own heart melt and recognize that life and all it offers is never to be taken for granted.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

...You Don't Say...

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Recently a person whom I know from years ago, a younger sibling to a former classmate, had reason to talk to my husband in shul. She was arranging a Shabbos playdate for her daughter with mine and gladly passed her daughter off to my husband to spend lunch and the afternoon at the House of TorontoPearl.

My husband later took the little girl back to shul with him at mincha time, so that she could be reunited with her parent. Shabbos is out rather late here, and for a seven-year-old, who's had to walk a far distance to reach a new friend's house, "tired" was the word of the day.

The next day I received a phone call from the little girl's mother, thanking us profusely for hosting her daughter for so many hours. She went on to explain how she'd spotted my husband, knew he was with my daughter and that my daughter and her daughter were friends at day camp and that maybe they could get together later in the afternoon. My husband was the one to take the bull by the horns and put forth the invitation for lunch and the afternoon at our house and the suggestion of the "reunion" plans. This girl's mother said, "Your husband is very friendly. He's such a nice man."

You don't say...

I think I found my pot of gold at the end of the rainbow when I found him. When I first met him, he impressed me as friendly and genuine and warm. When friends and family met him, they considered him in the same way. When he and I were just engaged, the father-in-law of one of his bosses told me what a fine, menschlich young man I was involved with.

For people to see him the way I saw him meant a lot to me and told me a lot about him. For people to continue to see him in that way means a lot to me.

I could not have seen myself marry anyone BUT a nice and decent and warm and friendly guy like him. From his first day as a new father -- "How do I hold the baby?" -- to the seasoned father who does ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING for his wife and children and for the people around him -- I have never doubted my decision to marry this man, to give my heart to him and to grow old together with him.

In fact, I love him very much.

...You don't say...


(If TorontoPearl's husband is reading this, just remember... we got engaged on August 22, 1993 and we got married on December 19, 1993 -- don't reverse the numbers!

I can just imagine you now, Toronto Pearl's husband. You're probably replying, "...You don't say...")

Seek... and Ye Shall Find

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These recent searches might've led you to Pearlies of Wisdom:

1) words of wisdom on death of a street bum

2) Boy Vey! (I've had many of those searches, as I once critiqued (read: criticized!) a book by that title)

3) "Match Made in Manhattan" blog

4) "traveler's prayer" English translation Jewish

5) Welcome back to school messages for parents

6) tadig hints (I realized after I saw this search that I'd written about a Persian rice dish, tadig, that I'd enjoyed while in L.A. last month)

I really want to know about #1 and #5.

I've not eulogized any street bums, here or abroad.

But I could use a welcome back to school message. However, I picture it goes something like this:

"Welcome back to tuition headaches, financial strains, school supply lists, pettiness on the playground, cattiness in the classroom, hell in the hallway, parental peer pressure, lots of professional-development-days- so-you'd-better-find-a-caregiver-for-your-children-for-all-those-days-that-they're-off-and-you-and-your-husband-are-working, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.... Isn't it nice to be back? "

Adventures in Conversation -- AND "French Rabbit"

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I was flipping through a magazine late at night when an ad caught my eye. It was for a brand of wine from Australia; I couldn't care less about the product, but the ad, an interesting one, associated the wine with "Adventures in Conversation." There was a kind of road map running across a 2-page spread, a foldout page, and scattered along the road map were points of reference. They got me thinking about what we do when we hold conversations, and here are the points of reference for you to think about.


and lastly...


Okay, now talk amongst yourselves....


Today I received an e-mail ad for a new product put out by the LCBO, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, a board that was so uncontrolled, that the countless numbers of people who work there were going to go on strike...but it somehow got bypassed last evening.

Anyhow this ad was for a new wine, packaged not in a bottle or flask, but in a TETRA PACK -- those recyclable cardboard boxes that hold milk or juice.

FIrstly, I wouldn't be buying any kind of alcohol, even a good wine, in a TETRA PACK.

Secondly, I wouldn't buy a wine product that's called "French Rabbit." It sounds much too gross for me, certainly not like the name of a wine. It sounds like a cocktail --"Yes, I'll have a French Rabbit...hold the cherry." Or like a very erotic French film: "Yeah, I went with my friends to see 'French Rabbit' at the Fox Cinema in the Beaches. Truffaut knew what he was doing when he made that film. I didn't even need the subtitles; I understood pretty much of what was happening from what I saw on-screen."

"French Rabbit" -- ewwwwww.......

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Color My World

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Doctor Bean has just assisted in doing emergency surgery on my blog, patiently and wisely guiding me through a "colorotechnosis"-- helping to reinstate color into my life.

I thank you and my blog thanks you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.

In his infinite wisdom, he has also helped me discover other buttons missing from my life that could be a definite turn-on, such as "font" and "size". (excuse my tongue-in-cheekiness)

I think I will put them all to good use.

Thank you, Doctor Bean. Payment is pending...

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Shabbos Nachamu...or Life's Funny Like That

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Shabbos Nachamu holds some personal significance for me.

One summer(perhaps 1991) I was in NY's Catskill Mountains at a NY-based singles' Shabbos Nachamu weekend being held at the Concord Hotel. I'd traveled to NYC to be with a girl whom I'd become friends with the previous summer at a Niagara Falls singles' shabbaton. She'd planned ahead that we'd spend the weekend at the Concord and so she made plans through a NY-based group for the two of us, as well as for 3 or 4 of her friends that were going to be there too.

It was a fun Shabbos Nachamu weekend, even if I didn't meet the man of my dreams.

Fast forward to Shabbos Nachamu 1993. I've already been dating "the one" since December 1992 and we'd decided that some point in the summertime we'd get engaged. I spent Shabbos Nachamu 1993 at "the one's" mother's home, with "the one" being housed in a room down the hall. I recall when Shabbos was over and I called my parents to wish them a shavuah tov, my father got on the line and said "NU? So any news?" "No, Dad...don't worry, it'll happen." He told me that he remembers that back home (in Shtetlville)that people got engaged around this time. (Okay, so my father and mother, as well as I, only had to wait a few more weeks for that special moment.)

Fast forward to Shabbos Nachamu 1997. I'm married, and later in the afternoon I'm having contractions with baby # 2, so it's not really a relaxing Shabbos as the name depicts. We hope to hold out till Shabbos is over, but that doesn't happen. We have a prearranged taxi service with set fee and $ for the driver to pick up (we looked into the halachic aspects...just in case of this scenario), we go to the hospital, and baby daughter is born about 25 minutes later. Fifteen minutes after that, Shabbos Nachamu is over, and we happily get to call family members and let them know how we spent our Shabbos Nachamu.

In hindsight, perhaps we should have given our daughter the name "Nechama"/comfort, in honor of the day she was born. But even without that name, but with her other two beautiful given names, she is a continual comfort in our lives.

Thinking ahead, I hope you all have a wonderful and significant Shabbos Nachamu yourselves.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Bloggers... A Class of Their Own

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"Class, I'm TorontoPearl, and today I will be your substitute teacher."

Boos and hisses, grumbles and mumbles can be heard.

"Where's the regular teacher? Why is she missing? Did she give you a hint as to what she's up to?" calls out Rochelle Krich.

"Oh, Miss Manners is off on a holiday from blogging for this afternoon."

"Does this mean we have to listen to you?" blurts out Jackbenimble.

"Oh, Jack, be quiet!" says Stacey. "Stop behaving like the monkey you are."

"Who's talking, Shmatta Queen, ex-Clevelander? Why should I be quiet -- U2 have to be quiet!"

"Class, class. I don't have very long to teach you this lesson, so please pay attention. Pick up your notepads and start writing this stuff down."

"Can I use my Treo?" asks Doctor Bean.

And ball-and-chain, his best friend, is sitting beside him in some fabulous red leather chair that she brought from home. "I'll let Doctor Bean take notes for me," she announces.

"And I think I'll use my new pen with its vibrating tip," adds Psycho Toddler.

"Hey, guys, just listen to the nice teacher. You all sound like a bunch of noisy bees in their hives," says Treppenwitz.

"Okay, thank you --"

"Psst, Robert! Can you keep a secret?" whispers Karen in the back row.

(Robert looks over his shoulder.) "Y-yeah, I-I can," he stutters anxiously.

"I think you love me," announces Karen.

"I love you!?" blurts out Robert, suddenly realizing that everyone has heard. He feels a headache coming on.

The class breaks out in songsong: "Robert loves Karen...and he's gonna marry her... Robert and Karen, sitting in a tree, talking about movies, and the Lincoln Square shul, he's gonna marry her when they're well out of school!"

"Silence, class. As I said, I'm not here for a long time, so please show some respect. Be polite. And save your comments for after class. Now, I'd like someone to name me some tips that you need to know about being a blogger."

A young man raises his hand.

"Yes, A Simple Jew?"

He speaks quietly but firmly. "One should use fewer words to have the most impact. One should speak from the heart, and if necessary and available, use citations."

"Very good. Now that young man, over there... Neil. Please answer the same question."

"One should certainly consider his or her audience. Pretend you're a teacher relating to students or a rabbi relating to his congregants. A few jokes can't hurt, either, nor can some references to classic TV shows and books."

"And you, Mr. Rubin. Put down that CD of Matisyahu; now is not music class. So what do you offer the class?"

"Um, LIFE is what you make it."

"I'll drink to that!" pipes up Air Time. "L'chaim! Hey, if we're drinking, maybe we should be eating too. How about some barbecued kishka and steaks?"

OrthoMom, Still Wonderin' and Just Passing Through start talking amongst themselves in the corner of the classroom.

"You three are being very rude. Avoid inside jokes -- you're alienating the rest of the class. Now, Mirty...where's sweet Mirty?"

"She went to Israel," advises Stacey. "We're gonna miss her for a couple of weeks, aren't we, guys?"

"Ye...s....s..." is heard in unison.

"Does anyone else have a comment to make about today's topic of discussion?"

"Do you people like outspokeness? I like outspokeness...I like honesty...I like to rant about my parents and the people around me. I'm very tongue-in-cheek, but I think people like that, too," offers up Yettabettaboo.

"Very, very good, class. I like what you had to say. Now we will have a very quick spelling lesson, so please take notes:

"Your does NOT MEAN you are. Your is the possessive form of something belonging to you. YOU'RE means you are. Get that straight.

"Its is the possessive form of something belonging to it. IT'S means it is.

"But I think the bell just rang, so I have to stop here for now. I didn't get to ask everyone their thoughts on blogging today-- sorry, Ink As Rain, Ralphie, and as well, there were a few students, such as Sara, missing from this session. No doubt Five Years Later we'll see a new stream of students interested in blogging. And if we're lucky, perhaps RenReb will be a guest speaker at the next class. Class dismissed...!"

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Transformers ... Take on a New Life

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It came to my attention recently that Steven Spielberg, who seems to have his hand in every pie in Hollywood, will be the executive producer of an upcoming movie based on the Transformers animated TV show, and Transformers toys.

These are exactly as named: robots who, when you twist and turn their body parts, become other objects -- eg. hiding behind the belly of a large robot might be a fire engine or a driver's head in a race car. It allows for hours of fun for young children and some adults, as well.

My oldest son, now 10, has had a few of these in his possession, and once in a while when I'd be scouring in his toy collection for something else, perhaps a missing Legos piece, I'd find a small Transformer. I'd sit there -- transfixed! -- as I'd make discoveries within this toy while manipulating it.

When I read today about the upcoming movie, I couldn't help but be reminded of a post I read late last summer on Seraphic Secret. Robert Avrech had talked about hosting Shabbat guests who were there for a Shabbaton, and how they'd been attracted to Robert's Emmy Award, as well as to the collection of Transformers that Ariel's room housed. He and Karen were somehow torn, feeling the need to perhaps let one of the Shabbaton's participants take one of the toys away with him, yet wanting to maintain their precious memories of their son and the collection he was so fond of, therefore not parting with them.

When I was in L.A. last month, I asked Robert if I could see Ariel's room; he gladly showed it to me and I saw all the seforim and all the young boy's and young adult's personal interests displayed, including the beloved Transformers.

Robert and Karen's sweet, young nephew, Yoni, visiting from Israel, had played with Ariel's Transformers throughout Shabbos. He, too, had been transfixed by them and the different personas they took on.

When Shabbos was over, Havdalah was done and extended family members and I were dispersing for the night, I saw Karen ask Yoni if he'd like to have one of the Transformers, telling the boy this particular Transformer's name and letting him know that his cousin Ariel had enjoyed the toy immensely. Robert stood nearby and reiterated that Ariel had a wonderful time playing with these toys.

Yoni's face lit up with this gift, this gift that would travel with the boy from California, to New York and back to Efrat, Israel. This gift that truly had been a gift from the heart.

Transformers... They have a way of transforming people, as well.

I Need Some Color in My (Blogging) Life

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Okay, you masters of your own domains, could you please advise me on how to do something with Blogger.

When I first started my blog back in December, I had the color feature on my basic page template, alongside bf, itals, spell check, etc. I can't recall what button I hit that I shouldn't have, but I did hit something, and the color disappeared from my life.

I'd loved the color, which I could use for emphasis or creative tactics in my posts. And I've missed it ever since it went missing in action many months ago.

It's time to get that tool back. So could you please tell me how/where to place it back on my open blogger page masthead, so that I can begin to feature color in my posts?

Without that color button, I'm feeling blue, and a bit green with envy when I see other bloggers featuring color in their posts.

Help me get Technicolor (TM) back into my (blogging) life!

Shabbos: The Long & Short of It

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(cross-posted on THE JEWISH CONNECTION)

I like my Shabbos "shlufs" -- my two to three-hour afternoon naps...the time to catch up on all the sleep that I lost out on when I was at the computer late at night during the week.

Problem is: sometimes I get to nap, other times I don't.

Sometimes it's too busy in our household, with the children having guests, with my own children who have no guests needing to be entertained, with the parents having guests, with our family invited out, with our Shabbos afternoon outings to the nearby park, where the children play baseball or on the playground equipment and the adults catch up on the news of the week.

In our community, which is a bit widespread, we live at the top end, thus making it somewhat of a hike from shul to visit the TorontoPearl family. I grew up with a 25 minute walk to shul, so it's not a big stretch for me, but sometimes my two youngest children feel that they're on a walkathon...without anyone having sponsored them! It's a pleasure for them...and me...when they tote along friends from shul for lunch and for a Shabbos play date. The route home doesn't seem as long in the company of good and cherished friends.

When we adults invite friends for Shabbos lunch, we have to think long and hard over whom to invite: Will they make the walk? Will they want to stay till Shabbos is out, if they find it too long a walk back home?

I'm certainly not always in the entertaining mood (remember, I like those long Shabbos afternoon naps) but when we do host, it's such a nice thing. My husband and I work side by side in the kitchen to prepare the talked-about menu, with me often his sous-chef and he taking the lead. But this joint effort results in a lovely-set table, a delicious menu, and the feeling that "we're in this together!"

Sometimes he gets the compliments directed to him for things I made, sometimes I get the compliments for things made by him. We share the compliments, the spotlight and the company.

Today's company did make the walk even though the adults are plagued by knee joint problems and the like. These were people whom I don't see all that often, but who, when we do host them or if we end up at their Shabbos table, have a wonderful, time together. We are equally blessed that two of our sons are good friends.

Kiddush/Shabbos lunch became an afternoon stay. To hell with my nap, I thought, I'm really enjoying this conversation and the presence of these people. The afternoon stay became Seudat Shlishit, followed by the end of Shabbos. I even jokingly invited the couple and their kids to stay over for they were on such a roll.

But of course, I was being cheeky, as Sunday (it's now already Sunday as I type this) is a fast day.

Good food, friendly and down-to-earth families, hearty laughs, good conversation, lovely zmirot, and children running in and out of the make "this day of rest" what it is: a pleasure.

Friday, July 22, 2005

What's Up with AOL -- Part 2

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Hey, Randi, you got one message from me, but the second was delayed, delayed and then unable to be delivered.

Unable to deliver message to the following recipients, due to being unable to
connect successfully to the destination mail server.

Stupid AOL takes several days to try to relay a message and then throws it back in my face.

BTW, I'm still waiting for Rachel (thurbie18) to see my messages and respond.

Am I the only one who's having troubles with your e-mail addresses?

Mezuzah: The Straight and Narrow of It

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(cross-posted on The Jewish Connection)

I grew up in a household that had brass and olivewood mezuzot on its doorframes; some were old-looking, the likes of which you don't see too much anymore, others were more modern. But they were there and they sat at an angle, staring down at us, beckoning us to kiss them, or daring us not to.

Unfortunately, I wasn't always heeding the mezuzah's call for a kiss. But for sure upon traveling, I'd be reminded by my father, "Kiss the mezuzah when you leave the house." Those words were like a mantra, the action became a habit. Kiss the mezuzah before taking a trip; make extra sure to kiss it when you step back over your familiar and welcoming threshhold. Thank G-d that you were able to go in peace, and come home in peace, and be able to kiss the mezuzah once again. That was not said to me, but that was indeed the silent message.

When I married, I lived in an apartment for about a year and then we bought our first home. It was not considered a starter home, and thus was a considerable size with four levels. When the sale went through, one of my earliest thoughts was: "How many mezuzot will we need for this house?" It wasn't so much the mezuzah cover I was worried about, it was the klafs, the parchments, which can be costly once you have a number of mezuzot. That house, we decided, had twenty-one doorposts that would need to be covered, both literally and figuratively. The great debate came with the garage: Do we put one on, do we not? The "not" won out at that time.

It was a great pleasure over the years in that house to raise three children and train them in Yiddishkeit, holding them solidly in our arms as we positioned them close to the mezuzot so they could learn to kiss them. Each year the children grew taller and closer to the more ways than the obvious.

When we moved homes a couple years ago, we decided to "straighten out our lives" by changing our mezuzot from sitting on an angle to sitting straight and tall. After all, this is the Sefardic minhag, custom, and although my husband was raised very Ashkenazic, he is Sefardic, and as I married him, I too am Sefardic.

These days there is a mezuzah on both our garage doors; these days, my children take great pleasure in being able to reach and touch the home's mezuzot by themselves; these days I look at our many mezuzot and think, "Don't forget to kiss the mezuzah on the way in...or out...from anywhere."

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Concert

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I received this in an e-mail today, thought it was lovely and shared it with two very nice blogging pals of mine, who equally enjoyed the piece and let me know so. I've since decided I'll share it with the rest of you nice people out there.

Enjoy, and wishing you a Shabbat Shalom/Gut Shabbos.

The Concert

When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, the
mother returned to her seat and discovered that the child was missing.
Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive
Steinway on stage.

In horror, the mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard,
innocently picking out "Twinkle,Twinkle Little Star."

At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance, quickly moved
to the piano, and whispered in the boy's ear, "Don't quit. Keep

Then, leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began
filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around to the other
side of the child, and he added a running obbligato.

Together, the old master and the young novice transformed what could
have been a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative

The audience was so mesmerized that they couldn't recall what else the
great master played. Only the classic, " Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."

Perhaps that's the way it is with God. What we can accomplish on our
own is hardly noteworthy. We try our best, but the results aren't
always graceful flowing music. However, with the hand of the Master,
our life's work can truly be beautiful.

The next time you set out to accomplish great feats, listen carefully.
You may hear the voice of the Master, whispering in your ear, "Don't
quit. Keep playing."

May you feel His arms around you and know that His hands are there,
helping you turn your feeble attempts into true masterpieces.

Remember, God doesn't seem to call the equipped, rather, He equips the
'called.' Life is more accurately measured by the lives you touch than by
the things you acquire. So touch someone by passing this little message
along. May God bless you and be with you always. And remember, "Don't
quit. Keep playing."

"Hey, Look Me (and My Blog) Over..."

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Several blogs I visit post about the buzz words and phrases, namely the search words and phrases, that bring readers over to their blogs. I couldn't figure out how they got this information, but was too shy to ask it of anyone.

Today, I found out on my own, via my own sources. Recently, people were directed to Pearlies of Wisdom when they were in fact seeking out:

1. Tefillah HaDerech words

2. tizku l'mitzvos, definition

3. Sefardic + henna

4. gross pear body

Huh? What's that last one about, I wonder. But it makes me recall an incident that happened about 16 or 17 years ago.

I'd received an alumni newsletter from my college within the university I attended, U. of T. (University of Toronto). The newsletter included a questionnaire about what people were up to, where they were living, when they graduated, what degree/s they had, etc.

Having graduated in 1983, I decided it was time to pass along my personal info. I did, and in the next issue of the newsletter, it said: "Pear ___ graduated in 1983 with a B.A. in English & Jewish Studies from ___ College. She works as a proofreader for..."

What did this proofreader see in the copy? A TYPO. Suddenly I'd become a Pear?

So of course I had to respond, and the next issue of the newsletter saw something like: "I am not a pear, nor am I an apple... But I do proofread for a living..."

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

"Dance with My Father"

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Yesterday, David Bogner of Treppenwitz had a wonderful post that inspired lots of comments. The post was about sad and depressing song lyrics, and the commenters -- myself included -- offered up a (vocal) range of some very sad, sad lyrics, by both familiar artists and some not-so-familiar ones.

This song, by the recently deceased singer-songwriter Luther Vandross, touches a lot of nerves. It's based on his personal story, but if you listen to it, you can apply the lyrics to yourselves. Hopefully all of you have fathers who are alive and well, with whom you can interact and still be your father's son or daughter. Or perhaps some of you have fathers with whom you have little or no contact for whatever reasons or grievances you share about past personal history. At some point in your life, you'll think about your father, your relationship with him and you'll pine (if only in a small corner of your heart) for what you once had together. Or at least I hope that will be the case. I hope it's never too late for you.

I am my father's daughter, I adore and honor him, and I am more than pleased to be able to dance with him. This morning, while driving into work, I was stopped at a red light. The light was opposite a local hospital where, two years ago during the SARS crisis, my father was taken by ambulance, and was lying unconcious in the ICU ward for several days. We thought he'd never come home again. We thank G-d that he did...and that I've been able to dance with him ever since.

Thank you, Luther, for writing such a beautiful song. May you rest in peace...

Dance with My Father -- Luther Vandross

Back when I was a child, before life removed all the innocence
My father would lift me high and dance with my mother and me and then
Spin me around 'til I fell asleep
Then up the stairs he would carry me
And I knew for sure I was loved
If I could get another chance, another walk, another dance with him
I'd play a song that would never, ever end

How I'd love, love, love
To dance with my father again
When I and my mother would disagree
To get my way, I would run from her to him
He'd make me laugh just to comfort me
Then finally make me do just what my mama said
Later that night when I was asleep
He left a dollar under my sheet
Never dreamed that he would be gone from me
If I could steal one final glance, one final step, one final dance with him
I'd play a song that would never, ever end

'Cause I'd love, love, love
To dance with my father again
Sometimes I'd listen outside her door
And I'd hear how my mother cried for him
I pray for her even more than me
I pray for her even more than me
I know I'm praying for much too much
But could you send back the only man she loved
I know you don't do it usually
But dear Lord she's dying
To dance with my father again
Every night I fall asleep and this is all I ever dream

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

What's Up with AOL...or Need I Say Down?

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Most recently I've had trouble sending return messages to U.S. folks with AOL accounts. I'd send a message and a day or two later would get a "delayed" message and "no need to resend your message". Then a couple of days later, I'd get a "failed" message, that "couldn't connect to server."

So my messages have gone unread...

I even had to use someone's comments forum to ask her to send me a message, using a different e-mail address, which she did.

I am now using my own blog to appeal to cruisin-mom (Randi W.) and Rachel (thurbie18) to send me messages with a different e-mail address, if possible. I've responded to you two ladies at your aol addresses and my messages came back to me. (I don't want to use Robert's comments forum to write to you.)

Please know that I'm courteous and do respond to e-mails and comments, but aol doesn't seem to like me very much these past few days. Hopefully you two don't share the same sentiment!

Bizarro World

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Your idea of odd probably differs from my sense of odd. But this is what I saw this morning, and it struck me as belonging to a "bizarro world."

I was driving in to work and was stopped at a red light. Looking in my rearview mirror, I saw a guy in a small car behind me. His hand was hanging out the window and there was a cigarette held between his fingers. I then looked at the car alongside me and saw a guy, his hand hanging out the window, a cigarette held between his fingers.

Went back to my rearview. Guy behind me now was puffing on his cigarette. Quick glance at passenger-side window. Guy beside me was now puffing on his cigarette.

Rearview mirror. Guy behind me was holding a CoffeeTime coffee cup to his lips and sipping.

Side window. Guy beside me was holding a CoffeeTime coffee cup to his lips and sipping.

Rearview mirror. Guy removed coffee cup from his lips and it was out of sight.

Side window. Guy was just removing his coffee cup from his lips and putting cup in a holder.

Light turns green. I leave Bizarro World behind and wonder who was the great choreographer/stage director of this recent scene.

Monday, July 18, 2005

To Give Compliments Is Lovely; To Ignore Them Seems Unrefined

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I tend to be generous – and most sincere – with my compliments. After all, why not perk up someone’s day or ego a bit? Why keep my observations silent, when airing them might help put a smile on the next person’s face or give their step a lilt?

It doesn’t cost anything to say, “That looks good on you”; “I like it that you...”; “Your writing reminds me of the great writer...”

I might even say something to a stranger in a public place – “I saw what you did; it was so nice of you to...”; “I like your...where did you get them?”

A compliment can be an ice breaker, but more importantly, it is a path that’s forged from my heart to yours.

Out there in blogland, I am complimentary too. Why should a distant, faceless reader be considered any differently than a friend, family member or co-worker in my life?

I give compliments when I think they’re deserved. Doing so has even created wonderful offline correspondence for me with fellow bloggers.

Sometimes compliments are returned, but in fact don’t need to be. Life isn’t about “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.” But it is nice to at least get a thank-you or acknowledgment when a compliment has been given.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

"A Fine Romance..."

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In tribute to my last two posts, I am coining this one "A Fine Romance"-- Michael Feinstein does a lovely rendition of this (Dorothy Fields-Jerome Kern) song, and I was talking about romance novels earlier today.

I know a handful of parents who kiss their children on the lips. Such is not the case in this family. But most recently, for fun, my youngest decided, "Let's kiss on the lips." And so we made a game of it -- moving forward then N. quickly retreating as I puckered up in comical fashion. Hysterical laughter breaks out on his and my part as our game repeats itself. But finally he "moves in for the kill." Steadily...cautiously...both eyes open.

The kiss comes...followed by his loud pronouncement: "I think this means we're in love!"

Romance Is Romance Is Romance

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I copy edit romance books. Once upon a time, as a young teen, I read these same books, very happily toting home stacks upon stacks from the public library. In those days, the books were gentle, sweet love stories that featured doctor-nurse stories, or holiday romance stories, and I escaped into British operating rooms or Greek isles when reading these stories.

Nowadays these stories are not as sweet all the time -- yes, there are still those British books or the holiday stories, but in between we have intrigue, chick lit, "kick-ass" heroine stories, mysteries, historicals, fantasy, down-home America stories...and Christian romance.

For the past few years I've had to work with the Bible near at hand, checking references and Biblical quotes in both the Old and New Testaments. Aside from always checking the night table drawer at a hotel/motel for a copy of the Gideon Bible, I'd never had reasons to consult the New Testament, and I suddenly became good friends with the many books in that Bible! The four apostles and I meet on a regular basis and we're on a first name basis: John, Luke, etc., not Saint John, Saint Luke. I respect them in their belief and they respect me in my belief!

Imagine a romance book based on "tsniusdik" (modest) values: I am a censor board for what is deemed Christian and question un-Christian-like behaviors, references, comments, etc. Working on these books is a very eye-opening experience, as I realize that people truly live by the values exemplified in the stories; they talk like the characters do and they think like the characters think.

I also freelance for a U.S. based publisher and work on African-American romances. What makes African-American romances any different than any other romance? NOTHING, except the cultural references: songs and the singer/songwriters, names of fashion designers and publications, some of the regional lingo...but otherwise, these books are no different. Of course, cover art and the intended readership and marketplace sometimes differ than other mass-market media products, but when I read these books, I try to leave "color consciousness" out of my work.

It would be nice if color distinctions in the mass-market media place did not have to be made. After all, romance books should be deemed the same as "good lovin'" books and the same as "love of G-d, love of man" books.

And if you don't believe me, pick up a variety of romance books, and do some research of your own. You might just love the variety of books you read.

Tales from the Toilet

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Having just returned from Florida last week, I made this observation. I found the public bathrooms in Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure to be quite clean...but please explain something to me.

Why do so many of these bathrooms have automatic-flush toilets but non-automated sinks or hand dryers? Okay, so where's the logic? I don't have to touch a toilet handle, but I do have to touch the taps and then the paper towels. Did someone think the situation through?

I first encountered automatic flush toilets and automatic sinks way up in the Swiss Alps at some public rest room, when I was in my teens. I was fascinated by them, especially the automatic flush toilet, and thought these Swiss were on to something good...

But in general, why do these automatic flush toilets, and so many other regular ones, sound like a great rush of water is coming at you, when you flush. I've had my two youngest freak out at the sudden sound of Niagara Falls rushing up from their behind. It's powerful-sounding and frankly, scary-sounding.

My youngest child, a five-year-old, never understands why, when we're in a public place and it's only he and I, why we have to go into the washroom marked LADIES. "I'm not a gehrl," he tries to convince me in his Scottish-sounding brogue. I try to explain that as a 5-year-old boy, he can still come into a ladies' washroom, but as a 43-year-old female, I can certainly not go into a washroom marked MEN...and he can't go alone into a public washroom, either. I think he's not entirely convinced...

And now I need to take a census while I'm on the topic of toilets. How many of you women reading this -- if any -- have ever tried to bypass a long lineup leading into a women's public washroom, and gone into the men's washroom when there were no men around? Or if you haven't done so, would you consider doing it?

Flush once if the answer is yes, twice if the answer is no. Then wash your hands with soap and make sure not to touch anything on your way out!

A Finagler's Fine-Tuning

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...Okay, so Michael Feinstein and Lifestyles Magazine were meant to be a shidduch.

First things first: write a proposal letter to the Lifestyles editor. So I sat and composed an award-winning letter of who Michael was and why he should be featured in the magazine. And then I wrote a (equally award-winning) presentation of who I was, what I did and what I'd written before -- not much, anyways.

But I got a green light, and that's all that mattered!

Next thing to do was find out how to contact Michael's people to arrange for an interview with him -- it was September now and I had about a six-week lead time, enough I figured to get things arranged.

First I contacted the Toronto venue where he was to be performing and they gave me the record company name. The record company provided me with the management company in L.A., and the management company got a letter from me. (I am much better in writing than I am on the phone, and I look for every excuse to write letters or e-mails so as not to have to telephone places)I was asked to forward a sample copy of the magazine, which I did, and then got the green light from them...and a press kit and a CD sampler. I was told that closer to the time, I'd be getting a call from the record company to schedule the actual interview with Michael. I was elated; I was on a roll.

I incorporated the information from the press kit, the influence of Michael's music playing in the background, and did loads of online research at home and at the public library, finding press clippings, etc. I'd suddenly became an expert on the life and times of Michael Feinstein up until that point.

The L.A.-management company heard from me again when I requested photos to accompany the piece, and although they had a standard publicity shot or two, it was the "back home, growing up" photos I was seeking for such an in-depth piece. And so, my name and number and request was passed on to the next best person, Michael's mom, Mazie Feinstein. She contacted me one day, asked what sorts of photos I'd need and said she'd send an envelope to me but would need them back. Of course she'd need them back: there was Michael with Liza Minnelli (she'd sort of helped him with a Hollywood entree into the music scene), Michael with presidents, Michael with Ira Gershwin, Michael as a little boy with microphone in hand and singing at a family simcha back in Ohio.

So I'd done the prep work and then the week of the concert, I got a call with a place and time to meet Michael: 12 noon, Four Seasons Hotel, the day after the concert, for a 20 minute personal interview. I began to wonder: Did I bite off more than I can chew? Yes, I'd come out of left field to land a magazine article in a glossy-pseudo international prestigious magazine; I'd managed to make all the right connections to land an interview with someone whose music I adored (and whose looks weren't bad, either!);I'd prepared; knew tons about his background; had a list of questions ready; microcassette player was ready -- I should be ready. But was I really going to be ready?

Okay, the concert came and went, and I loved it so much -- Michael's talent for musical interpretation of old standards, his interjection with personal stories of great American songwriters, and his natural charisma entrance an audience of fifty or a thousand people. That in itself is a talent.

Taking the subway downtown to Michael's hotel, all I could think was: Will my tape recorder work? Will I get all the information I'm seeking? Will I come across as a total newbie at this? And lastly: What the hell did I get myself into?

I arrived at the front desk, asked for his room number and called from a house phone. He answered, I announced myself and he told me to just give him a few minutes and then come up to the room. I did as asked and then eyeing my watch a few times, decided that enough time had passed: I was ready for Michael and Michael was ready for me!

He answered the door, let me in, asked if I wanted/needed anything, to which this nervous Pearl replied jokingly, but in more of a murmur, "A stiff drink." I really wanted to say, "Could we sing a duet?" His room was a suite that had a sitting area and separate bedroom. The sitting area had a piano against the wall, where I guess he'd been practicing before the concert, and I wanted to "make beautiful music" together with Michael Feinstein!

In any case, he was very congenial, asking if I preferred to sit on the couch to ask my questions, or at the round turned into a round table discussion...and the assigned 20 minutes turned into 40 minutes (I think generally unheard-of in the realm of journalistic interviews...personal interviews often also being out of the norm). We were interrupted by a phone call, which happened to be the next appointment for Michael. I was very fortunate I'd been granted a face-to-face interview rather than a phone interview.

The interview, the concert, the idea and the following through of my idea, dealing with Michael's mother at least a couple of times (I called her again after the interview to get some more "insider information" on her son), and seeing my name and my article and the photos I'd managed to get to accompany the piece were a WONDERFUL and memorable experience for me. It didn't hurt that the particular issue the article finally appeared in had a cover story of the Lubavitcher Rebbe (he was still alive at the time), thus making it somewhat of a "keeper" issue for many more people than just myself!

More than anything, I think I was most proud of the fact that I'd had one of my offbeat ideas, had done everything possible to accomplish what I'd set out to do, and accomplished it. Yes, I was insecure in many ways about it, continually doubting the events I'd set in motion, but pleased with the final results and the more-than-personal touch I'd brought to Michael Feinstein's story.

Every now and again, I pull out that issue of Lifestyles Magazine, reread the beautiful story/interview with the late, great Rebbe Schneerson, and then turn several more pages and admire my own words, knowing that behind every story is another story just waiting to be told...

Friday, July 15, 2005

The Finagler in Me

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Whether you choose to believe it or not, I am very much an insecure person, and could stand to take assertiveness training courses.

I certainly have changed over the years and have managed to gain some assertiveness along my life's journey, but I'm still not where I should be on a scale of 1 - 10 in decisiveness and security.

HOWEVER...when something is in my personal interest, "assertive" becomes my middle name. Perhaps it goes hand in hand with my given middle name, Chaja (the old European version of Chaya), which means "living creature/beast." But I do not become a beast in how I conduct myself; I just become very resourceful...and in a sense, a finagler. I've discovered that if I can first convince myself that I can do something, then I can convince the person it involves.

Case in point: JOURNALISM. I am not a journalist; I write, but do not make my living as a writer. I didn't study creative writing in university, I studied literature. So how do I know how to be a journalist? Trial and error.

Some years ago or so, I had this mad crush on Michael Feinstein (only later discovering that he was not my type, so to speak), a pianist-singer who lived for a number of years with Ira Gershwin and his wife and worked cataloguing George and Ira Gershwin's music. Michael started as a lounge singer, but eventually began to give concerts in large concert halls and record records and tapes. (pre CD days) His piano music was the American standards; his voice was that of a crooner that lulls you in your seat and makes you sway from side to side with your eyes closed.

I'd heard that Michael was going to be giving a concert -- his first, I believe in Toronto -- and I planned to be there. After securing a friend to go with me, and buying tickets, I had a brainstorm: Maybe I could finagle an interview with Michael. Maybe I could find a magazine to pitch the story to. And then I knew the perfect publication -- a glossy, society-type, Jewish magazine that is out of Toronto, but gathers stories from the States, and elsewhere, and sends the magazine around the world. The magazine publishes bio/interviews of celebrities in the fields of media, medicine, business, politics, etc. Perhaps you've seen it: Lifestyles Magazine.

Michael Feinstein and Lifestyles Magazine were -- in my eyes -- a perfect match. But could I, a non-journalist, just a sometime-published writer/poet, convince the editor of that, as well as convince him that I could produce a top-rate article for his fancy-schmancy publication?

**** stay tuned for more in this finagler's story....

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Ask Not What Your Blog Can Do for You...

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Are you a blogging idiot like me who goes back time and time again to a favorite blog to read if there are any additional posts throughout the day, to read any additional comments on that post, and to see if your own comments to a post are acknowledged?

If you're sitting there nodding your head no, well I think you're lying. I can't be unique in that way or the only blogging idiot...can I? Many of you might be able to tell by site meters if I've continually visited your blog, and nine times out of ten, I have. I feel that with blogs I've discovered a new form of entertainment; months ago I abandoned the minimal TV watching I was doing, in favor of my computer screen. So imagine my flipping through blogs is the equivalent of channel surfing. Is there something good on at this hour? Should I "turn the channel"? Oh, maybe I'll come back to it later...

I said many posts ago that oftentimes the comments thread are even more interesting and entertaining than the accompanying posts. This is how I came to discover Dr. Bean of Kerckhoff Coffeehouse, and whom I visited in California last month -- I saw his comments on Psycho Toddler I also met PsychoToddler last month the same day I arrived home from California) and there was such a chemistry between the two men, such a unique level of wit/humor/medical knowledge, that I thought they were established friends who might've gone to med school together but were just separated by distance. That couldn't be further from the truth; they are just two guys who both happen to be doctors of internal medicine, family men, Orthodox Jews, both with great senses of humor, high intelligence and wielding the weapon of wit and eloquence!

On other blogs that I tune into, I watch the patterns of newcomers, as they announce their "newness" to the blogger and his readers, but later jump in with both feet to comment continuously and have a true online discourse throughout one or several posts. I have always been an observer of people; I've learned that I do not have to do this in person but can sit at my computer and watch total personalities unfold before my eyes; I can accurately pinpoint character traits, quirks and grievances of people way across the other side of the continent, or even across the world.

A post is a post, but sometimes the comments forum is a multilayered story, a story within a story, if you will. There might be tangents, but the underlying original message of the post will always resurface for the comments readers. Look at my favorite blog, Seraphic Secret, as Robert and Karen Avrech, through posts and comments, slowly unravel for their readers a most entertaining story of their courtship and Robert's longstanding "love from afar" for Karen Singer, who (thank G-d) in time became Karen Avrech -- oh, DOCTOR Karen Avrech!

And then there's the well-read (he is a well-read individual, and his blog is well-read by countless numbers of people) David Bogner of Treppenwitz. David has developed a wonderful style of writing that draws people in, making them want to comment. And even if David has 45 comments in one day (I check his comments throughout the day), for example, he is a most gracious blogging host. He will thank each and every one of us -- BY NAME! -- for our comments, by commenting on our comments. How nice is that?! I think (and here is where you also have to be honest) that we commenters, whether with David's posts or with someone else's, enjoy this acknowledgment. Neither the blogger's writing is in vain (as he knows he has a reading audience) nor is the commenter's writing in vain (as it is publicly acknowledged).

Admit it -- and I could name names here because I see that certain people are also frequent flyers to certain blogs; I bump into them a few times in the course of the day -- don't you like that little public pat on the head from David, or from PsychoToddler, or Robert, or from Mirty, Chaim, or Jack? I know that I do... but that is certainly not why I comment on people's posts; I comment because I have something I want to say...and sometimes our own personal soapbox just isn't the right place at the right time; sometimes we need to find another corner where we can rant, entertain, give advice and suggestions or just make our presence known.

...Ask What You Can Do For Your Blog.

You don't have to do anything; you all have managed to do it real well as far as I can tell. Keep up the good work!

This Just In, This Just In -- aka SURPRISE!

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A man standing in line at a check out counter of a grocery store was very surprised when a very attractive woman behind him said, "Hello!"

Her face was beaming.

He gave her that "who are you look," and couldn't remember ever having seen her before. Then, noticing his look, she figured she had made a mistake and apologized. "Look," she said "I'm really sorry but when I first saw you, I thought you were the father of one of my children," and walked out of the store.

The guy was dumbfounded and thought to himself, "What the hell is the world coming to? Here is an attractive woman who can't keep track of who fathers her children! " Then he got a little panicky. "I don't remember her," he thought but, MAYBE...during one of the wild parties he had been to when he was in college, perhaps he did father her child!

He ran from the store and caught her in the parking lot and asked, "Are you the girl I met at a party in college, we got really drunk and woke up the next morning in a sleazy motel?"

"No", she said with a horrified look on her face. "I'm your son's HEBREW SCHOOL TEACHER!"

Pleased with Oneself

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Very late last night I was checking out blogs (what else is new?) and then I decided to look through my own posts. After all, I'd been keeping a blog since December, and it was time to review my Pearlies of Wisdom.

I referred to the index source of titles -- "Wow," I thought to myself. "Some of these titles are great, but without reading the posts, I have no recollection what they're about." And I began to read, and my tiny bit of ego that shines through when insecurity isn't looking, said, "Hey, Pearl...that's some good writing you've got there. Why no comments for so many posts? Why aren't you a full-time writer? Why hasn't any daily publication snatched you up for your own column? Why do you take the time to write posts, but not pursue your children's picture book ideas? What are you waiting for? How did you manage that strange typo three months ago -- I thought you strove for perfection in your writing, trying to make it error-free as possible while silently mocking other people for their atrocious errors?" And ego went on and on and on...and became tiresome to listen to.

But I decided that ego's first comment was the best one of all -- insightful and encouraging. And I'd like to think that you readers agree with ego...!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Tefillat HaDerech (The Traveler's Prayer)

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I just posted this on The Jewish Connection, another blog I'm part of. Here's the link to the general site.

I didn't always say Tefillat HaDerech when I traveled at a young age; perhaps I was in my late teens or early twenties when I began to say it. I don't recall what made me start saying it, but I even remember that sometimes a Kosher airline meal would have it printed and enclosed within the sealed wrappings of the meal.

Usually I traveled with my mother, and she'd pull a card with the prayer out of her wallet, so I'd read it aloud for the two of us and she'd answer "Amen."

In later years, I got my own card that I carried everywhere. It was a brilliant idea really. A cousin, instead of printing place cards with table numbers for his wedding, had Tefillat HaDerech credit-type-like cards printed. The front had the bride/groom's names, date of wedding, my name and table number embossed on it, and the back had Tefillat HaDerech. It is useful, it is practical and it is just the right size for a wallet or shirt pocket.

The truth is that these days I'd feel lost without my Tefillat HaDerech. It is my version of the American Express card: "Never leave home without it." Whether we take Sunday drives out of town, or once-in-a-while flights somewhere, I pull out that little gray card, read it aloud for myself and my husband or family. On my recent trip to California, I knew I had it in my purse -- I'd put it in a "special place" so I'd be sure to find it when I needed it, but wouldn't you know that when I needed it, I couldn't find it. I'd noticed a modern Orthodox man, wearing a crocheted kippah, seated one row over and one seat behind me, so I turned and asked him if he had a Tefillat HaDerech that I could borrow. "In Hebrew or in English?" he asked me. He was certainly equipped, I thought then, and later I knew that I was right as he pulled out some big sefer to learn from. I was relieved when I later found my own prayer right in the special spot I'd claimed for itin my purse, so special, though, that it had gotten temporarily lost!

And on our recent drive to and from Florida, I also was the official reader of the tefillah for my family.

I'd like to think that every tefilla is heard and hopefully answered in the wished-for way. And for those people who might not believe as I do, and wouldn't say the Traveler's Prayer, I want to say, "Think about it this way. You believe it might not help...but it couldn't hurt!!!"


And as we arrived home safe and sound after our long road journey to and from Florida, and I kissed the mezuzah on my way over the front-door threshold, I thought about what my parents have always said. "It's nice to go away...but it's nicer to come home."

I chose to write this post because I can't stop thinking of the recent tragedy that befell the Milwaukee Jewish community, which I learned about on motzei Shabbos, when I started to skim through two weeks of favorite blogs that I'd missed reading. A young mother's life was tragically taken in a car accident when the family vehicle she was in collided with another vehicle. The family was en route to a simcha, a wedding, and to deposit a child and a child's friend at a camp. This mother of ten children lost her life. This woman's husband and their ten children (bli ayin hara) lost a huge chunk of their lives.

And I can't help but think that she, too, recited Tefillat HaDerech en route...

Monday, July 11, 2005

We Now Return to Our Regularly Scheduled Program: I Fell for Flo

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Okay, where was I before my Vegas/Jewish weddings post interrupted me...?

Oh, yes, a well-planned-out trip by hubby and Pearl trying to rain on his parade for several months...

In any case, that binder with its dividers worked well -- except when it came to all the Kosher food establishments that hubby had printed off the Internet for the region. Just about every place we called had a number that was no longer in service, or the number had been changed. When we called the new number, THAT was no longer in service.

One day we traveled about 45 minutes away from Universal Studios to a place where they carried Kosher groceries and frozen meats and bread. In fact, the day before, the store's proprietor had traveled 4 hours away to Miami to bring back Kosher bread to sell. We were looking to buy food for Shabbat, and we hadn't realized just how difficult it was to find Kosher "real food" in the Kissimmee region.

Of course, we'd come loaded down with tuna, peanut butter, crackers and some other canned goods, dishes, cutlery, a 2-burner stove, sandwich maker, etc., but we thought we'd have an easy time of finding Kosher groceries.

People, Kissimmee is not Miami. We did have a Kosher restaurant nearby that charged BIG BUCKS for lousy food. We ate there the first night, but after seeing the menu, the place and the service, we were tempted to walk out. But because we didn't want to impress total negativity around our young and impressionable children, we stayed and paid to the nose for our food, which was not worth a quarter of the price that five meals cost.

We hauled around sandwiches and bottled water and snacks whatever day trips we took. For once I actually wished I wasn't Kosher and didn't have to shlep all this stuff with us down South. More than anything, for two weeks I yearned for pizza from the pizza parlor down the street from where I live; okay, so in an earlier post, I condemned all the fast-food joints around me, and here I wanted a Kosher fast-food item.

In the Publix supermarkets or Super-Wal-Mart stores near our hotel we could not find Kosher hard cheese or kosher frozen products really, except for vegetarian cutlets, which we bought. Yes, there are so many more Kosher products overall in the U.S. than in Canada, but to my surprise, many were missing in action!

Perhaps for that reason regarding Kosher food being sparse in the region, I only saw a handful of obviously frum people while were in Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. I wear short sleeves, short skirts or longer shorts, so I'm not obviously frum-looking. My daughter wears shorts and tank tops, so she too does not portray obviously frum, nor do my husband or sons, as they wear the same t-shirts and shorts and baseball caps that thousands of other males wear. Their tzitzit are not always hanging out, either.

But I saw teenage girls with sleeves down to there, skirts down to there. I was "chaleshing" (feeling weak) from the heat as I was dressed; I felt it even more for these girls!

Okay, so there may not be countless obvious-looking Jews floating around these parks and other attractions we visited (besides, it was June, not December school break), but as I said earlier, there were countless other religious folks. Even if people sported tattoos and some multiple ear piercings, or nose or chin or lip piercings, they also sported crosses around their necks.

So picture this: religious, FAT people with tattoos on their backside (yes, Doctor Bean, this time I do mean "backside"), crosses around their necks, sitting at a table with a cardboard packet of fries and a juicy burger in front of them. Oh ya, many are not wearing hats, so their heads must be frying, just as mine did that one afternoon, and I begin to wonder if they're even wearing suncream...

And then it starts to rain in the park, and people act as if they've never seen rain -- okay, so it's coming down in buckets for 15-20 minutes and it is unpleasant a bit (although we preferred to call it "refreshing" in light of the heat). People run into stores to buy overpriced ponchos for $6 (we bought ours at Wal-Mart for 97 cents) or umbrellas for $15. And after the rains stop, some of these same people in these new rain ponchos of theirs go on water-based rides WEARING these ponchos, hoping not to get wet! How stupid is that?

I generally dislike amusement park rides, but I welcomed these water-based rides. They were FUN, a good outlet for playful screams, FUN, sometimes a bit scary, get the picture. I certainly did not wear a poncho on any of them. Okay, so I toted along extra clothes for my kids if they were uncomfortable walking around the park afterwards in wet or just damp clothes (more likely wet), but the heat would dry you off soon enough.


Americans are truly patriotic people--a flag in front of just about every house we passed. And on July 4th, as we stood at Universal's CityWalk area by a lagoon with thousands of people watching fireworks over the water (the display delayed by 45 minutes due to Mother Nature's own version of fireworks: thunder, lightning and rain) that were magnificent, we felt patriotic, too. I thought of American soldiers and U.S. independence, I thought of the myriad natives and tourists standing side by side watching the sky light up with tame fireworks, not bombs. And I think I understood what July 4th, President's Day (aside from great store sales!), Thanksgiving, etc. mean to the American people.


In Ontario, and perhaps in other Canadian provinces, we have laws to wear helmets while riding motorcycles. Throughout Florida and in some other states we traversed, it was obvious this law is not shared. I'm not used to seeing motorcyclists and their passengers without helmets; to me, it's the equivalent of not buckling up in a car...also a law.

I think that a helmet-wearing law should be passed in every state. After all, better safe than sorry...or STUPID!


There is lots more I could share with you about our trip, but I'll quit while I'm ahead. If any of you have questions about specific places we visited (aside from the parks, the Orlando Science Center, Gatorland, Cocoa Beach, we drove our own airboat in a swamp/creek), write to me and I'll be happy to share my knowledge with you.

I will just end with these thoughts.

Just before we left, a friend asked if each of my kids was bringing along a camera. We hadn't thought of it and rushed out to buy them disposable cameras. Yesterday, we printed the boys' film (my daughter hadn't yet finished her roll), as well as those films from my and my husband's cameras. It was fun to look at the pictures, and as parents we also kvelled to see the quality of photos that the boys took, and their unique take on some of the subjects they photographed. I bought the kids photo albums in which to display their holiday pictures, and my oldest, who went off to day camp today, happily and proudly toted along his album to show his friends his pictures of Jaws -- from the park ride -- and T-Rexs at the park, and alligators and crocodiles, flamingos and a shark we watched being caught, etc. His personal touch was imprinted on every one of his photos.

Traveling as we did -- in a van, with borrowed personal DVD player and a TV/DVD player on which my kids watched DVDs and played GameCube -- is not how I recall traveling as a child through NY state, NJ, Pennsylvania, Illinois or down to Alabama. Something (a youthful innocence, perhaps?) was definitely lost, and every now and again, we had to remind the kids to look out the window instead of at the movie screens in front of them. My five-year-old pleased me when he got the hang of it and several times shouted out to his older brother, "A., there's some scenery. Let's look at the scenery!"

I hope that the scenery that passes by your car/van windows is as beautiful as some of the scenery that passed by our van window. After all, scenery helps make up the stuff that memories are made of.

Viva Las Vegas...and Jewish Weddings

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Between my engagement in August 1993 and my marriage in December 1993, I used to say to my then-fiance: "I wish we could find a Jewish wedding chapel in Vegas, elope and start our life together already."

Apparently, these days you can do just that!

Tying the Knot While Rolling the Dice

by Leah Hochbaum

Between the drinking, the gambling and the legalized prostitution, Las Vegas just might be the most romantic spot on the planet for the biggest drunken gamble of them all: marriage. But while making your inebriated way down the aisle in this marriage mecca is as easy as pie for the average citizen, you have to look a little harder for the perfect wedding package if you’re one of the tribe.

Because while that bright-light city might set your soul on fire, it sure doesn’t make it easy to rustle up a rabbi on a moment’s notice. They tend not to cruise the strip. Slowly but surely, however, area hotels and chapels are breaking into the Jewish nuptials game.

The swanky Bellagio hotel offers the “Ani L’Dodi” (“My Beloved”) package, which includes a half-hour of chapel time, the services of a rabbi, a half-hour’s use of the bridal room pre-ceremony, a chuppah decorated with flowers and tulle, a kiddush cup, a Mazel Tov glass and lace bag by which to remember the big day, a personal wedding coordinator, a complimentary buffet for two and one bottle of Dom Perignon champagne — all for the low, low price of $6,000.

Caesars Palace offers a similar “Simchah” (“Happiness”) package that includes all the basics a Jewish wedding should have — rabbinical services, a kiddush cup, the signing of a ketubah (marriage contract) — as well as a wedding planner, champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries, a two-night stay at the hotel and online Webcasting of the actual ceremony for those relatives who couldn’t make the trip. An outdoor garden ceremony (and the musical accompaniment of either a violinist or guitarist) goes for $3,700. Use of the Palace Chapel (and a classical pianist) is $3,200.

To help put these prices into perspective, multimillionaire serial wife Britney Spears wed her childhood chum, Jason Alexander, in what she later called “a joke” that went out of control, ponying up $55 in cash for a marriage license at the famed Little White Wedding Chapel (where a pre-Ashton Demi Moore wed a pre-bald Bruce Willis back in the day) and shelling out $200 more for a package that included photos, a bouquet of pink roses and a video to commemorate a union that was annulled just 55 hours later.

For Jews on a budget — or those who, like Spears, can’t seem to pass up a bargain when they see one — there’s always the Princess Wedding Chapel, conveniently located on the strip. For only $550, their “L’Chayim” package includes the bare bones necessary for Jewish nups — wine, a kiddush cup, photos, a boutonniere, a bridal bouquet, music, a coordinator and a video. The place performs about 40 weddings total each week — two of which are generally “L’Chayims” officiated by a rabbi.

But while a holy man might be present to make sure that couples get hitched without a hitch according to Jewish law, many people who come to the Princess come for a true Vegas experience.

“We’re not dealing in traditional here,” said Renee Garduno, owner of the Princess Chapel. “We can bring Elvis.”

Yes, the King — who, according to reports, was once a Shabbos goy — can make an appearance to walk a jittery Jew down the aisle, to sing a love song or two, or to belt out “Viva Las Vegas” as the newly married couple exits into the night.

Whatever marriage method a Jewish duo decide on, once they’ve made up their minds to say “I do” in a city where, as Elvis once sang, “All you need’s a strong heart and a nerve of steel,” there’s most probably a wedding package designed for them.

But if the hotels are too pricey and the Princess is too kitschy, there’s always the Las Vegas Hilton’s Star Trek: The Experience wedding package. There may not be a rabbi or even another Jew for blocks, but hey, there’s Spock memorabilia and a makeshift bridge of the USS Enterprise upon which to conduct the ceremony. Few things feel as Jewish as a Klingon in the wedding photos.

Still, make sure that marriage is really what you want. If you regret the wedding tomorrow, Scotty can’t beam you out of this one. Only a divorce lawyer can.

This article originally appeared in the Forward, and is reprinted with permission.

Leah Hochbaum is a freelance writer living in New York.

Some More Random Ruminations

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When my husband made plans for our trip, he planned every fine detail, preparing a divided binder listing attractions, travel routes, Kosher restaurants and markets, etc. I have to admit that he deserves so much credit. I, for one, was very negative about the upcoming experience (how could we travel in the van for 22-23 hours when my kids can't even get into the van without bickering just to get from point A to point B?) and while he talked about traveling to Orlando/Kissimee since March, I was talking about traveling to California. Yes, I wanted a family holiday, but for the first family holiday we'd travel so far? I believe in starting small: a 5-hour drive to Montreal or upstate New York would have been fine for me for starters.

But Mr. TorontoPearl was pretty adamant about this trip, and after all was said and done, I do have to thank him for his planning, his resourcefulness (but it was I who got the best deal on the park tickets -- you can, too. Go to, look under theme parks and see the 2-day, get 5-day deal) and his insistence. It was a memorable trip in many ways and a fun family vacation. be continued...

Here's Lookin' At You, FLO!

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Any tried and true blogger will experience or view or hear something and think: I need to blog about this.

But said blogger must also use editorial skills because too much information can be extraneous, frilly and actually detract from the essence of a post. To that measure, I will not give you 14 days' worth of Kissimee/Orlando schedules, but will share with you some observations that were constants over the two weeks, not just random happenings.


1. When you travel, and if you're lucky, you lose sense of time. It doesn't matter what day of the week it is or what the time on your watch says. What matters is that you're living a vacationer's idea of "here and now."

I hadn't really yet recovered from my L.A. trip, arriving at 6:00 a.m. on a Tuesday and going directly to work from there, when we left after Shabbos of the same week. So I was already not quite in a normal frame of mind mode. And as we traveled through various states on our journey southward, my husband and I lost track of what state we were in at times. The "Welcome to..." signs are not overly huge, and if you miss one that says, "Wecome to South Carolina," then you begin to think that North Carolina is a mighty big state. It's not the kids asking that infamous question, but rather you turn to your spouse and repeatedly ask, "Are we there yet?" (meaning: South Carolina)

And as I mentioned in my post-return post, I'd been away from computers, Internet, blogs and blogging for two weeks. That alone is -- surprisingly -- a holiday too. I didn't feel strong urges to have to seek out computers to check in with blogs or personal messages over the two weeks. And when I finally sat down yesterday after Shabbos at the computer to review my messages alone, it was unbearingly time consuming. And then I felt the need to read some of my favorite blogs and see what I'd missed over fourteen days. That, too, took its toll, and when I finally consulted my watch, I saw that I'd been on the computer from about 11:15 p.m. until 3:30 a.m. -- not healthy in the least. (maybe it's time for another holiday!)


2. What I continue to read in the media about fat people is true. I have NEVER EVER seen so many overweight adults, teens and children as I did in Florida during our Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure, Science Centre, GatorLand, supermarket and store outings.

Men and women alike: FAT RULES!

These people apparently had no shame as they paraded in skimpy tops and short shorts or muscle shirts throughout public arenas. It was hot and I was schvitzing; I tried to imagine what these people felt like. And I imagined them getting into these little cars and boats and wagons for all the rides. NO SHAME; NO EMBARRASSMENT.

And why were there so many fat people? Was it because I was in the South and lots of fried foods are served and enjoyed in that region? Was it because there are fast-food restaurants and drive-thrus at every degree of a 360-degree circle that you make?

Once upon a time I was known for being tall and skinny. Such hasn't been the case for a while, but when I'm named "obese" because I am over the weight that my height and body structure deserve, I feel like laughing because you'd look at me and think, "You might not be skinny, but you're certainly not obese. They'd better redefine the word." And when I look at myself alongside these countless overweight people, I say, "Hey, no fair. I'm not obese; they are!"

Of course I know that medical problems, heredity, or even medications often make for overly large stature, but I don't think such was the case for the majority of people I was seeing. I think, "Fries with gravy, chicken fingers, and chocolate cake," "beer and ribs," "nachos with cheese and salsa and a margarita to go" probably helped them along to their "larger than life" statures.

To be comfortable in one's own skin is very admirable, but that's not quite the case when you see that many people must live by the motto: Let it all hang out!


3. Tattoo you. (isn't that a Stones song title or album title?) In any case, tattoos rule. Just as one sees fast-food joints everywhere you look in Florida and neighboring states, one sees tattoos everywhere you look because they really are everywhere you look. Men, women and kids have them.

I figured that many men, having been in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, might have gotten tattoos along the way during their service time, but women...and kids?

Yes, there were many henna/temporary tattoo booths set up throughout the Universal parks, but I can tell the difference between temp. and permanent and much of what I saw was permanent.

And some tattoos in obscure places -- yes, the obvious peak of the derriere for women, or at the calf, but I saw some men with them at the back of their neck, behind the knees or set as landscapes across their entire backsides. What? Did they say to the tattoo "artist": "Consider my body your canvas."


4. The water in the Kissimmee/Orlando region stinks like rotten eggs wherever you are. So much so that my kids now know the meaning of "sulphur."
So much so that en route home my five-year-old announced at one point: "I made sulphuric gas!"


5. Cleanliness is next to godliness. I was very impressed with the cleanliness of just about all the public bathrooms I visited, and if the first statement in this section is true, then it stands to reason. I noticed many many religious people along the way, wearing crosses. Or I saw roadside billboards announcing biblical passages and churches.

I am used to copy editing Christian romance books. I know that our main reading audience is in the Bible belt in the southern States; I know that I was crossing paths with many of them unwittingly...and perhaps often in these very clean public rest rooms. Because, of course, as I already said, "Cleanliness is next to godliness!"


Okay, those are probably enough personal insights for tonight. Might throw some more your way tomorrow. In the meantime, happy thoughts, happy trails...and be good to yourself (and your neighbors).

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Fire-Engine Red...(and then some)

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Thanks for the comments re. my backside -- no, it's not my posterior, although it is tough to sit for so long a drive. My upper backside got so burnt last Tuesday on our outing to Cocoa Beach. Of course, I'd warned the kids about getting sunburnt, all the grandparents had warned their kids and their grandchildren about sunburn, and this mom got so badly burnt! Yes, we were wearing our bathing suits and were all doused with suncream, but this mother did not reapply it on her backside throughout the afternoon -- the wind and the waters of the Atlantic presumably washed off the Coppertone.

Okay, better me than the kids getting burnt -- but this kid has not been burnt in years and years and she forgot what it was all about. First the skin gets red and hot to the touch, then it begins to prickle but in a painful way, then it gets itchy. This takes place over a few days, so the family had to watch me and hear me "suffer"!

Imagine someone taking an Afro pick to your backside and making continual indentations on it for about 2-3 days. Imagine that it's not just an irritation, but rather a true and painful discomfort. That's the closest I can come to describing the "pain" to you. Now also consider that a few days earlier, after my husband's hat flew off in a water ride, and he having a "shiny top," I gave him my ball cap to wear for a while. Well, that day, my head and scalp burned too, and imagine the prickling my head went through. I wondered if this prickle/itch was what it felt like to have head lice. But it, too, managed to pass after a couple of days.

Aloe vera gel is the remedy I was using over the past week, and its cooling measures helped the healing along. But this very normally pale-skinned, freckled face and body of mine learned a lesson the hard way: You're never too old to listen to your parents...warn about sunburn!

Hats off to our parents -- no, on second thought I'll keep my hat on. I already got sunburned on my head!

She's Ba...a...a...c...k -- AGAIN!

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Okay, so I know I'm back, I know I'm in Toronto, I know it's the wee hours of Sunday morning. But I don't know the date. And such was the case with my recent travels -- 2 weeks ago, Motzei Shabbos, my husband and three children and I piled in the van (loaded with clothing, pillows and blankets, activities and books, Kosher food accoutrements, beach toys, toiletries, DVD players, GameCube controllers, DVDs and lots of snacks) and headed down to Florida for our first-ever-five-member family holiday. As the miles rolled along, we lost track of what states we were going through; as we parked ourselves at our Howard Johnson's Enchanted Land Resort (no "resort"; no "enchanted land" about it!), we lost track of the days of the week, the date and often the time.

On a holiday, losing track is sometimes so therapeutic. To be out of a daily routine, aka a daily grind, refreshes the body and the soul. To be away from a computer and e-mails and Internet and blogging for two weeks surprisingly can do the same.

Of course, I will not give you a 14-day play-by-play of TorontoPearl & family's trip, but I will share with you some thoughts about this holiday. But not today...or maybe today, but later today...whatever the date is.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with this thought: Does Crayola (TM) have a color called "Fire-Engine Red"? If not, they should. I will lend them my backside, so they can copy the shading exactly right!