Tuesday, August 30, 2005

My Son the "Crack Dancer"

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We had a family simcha this past weekend; it was a niece's bat mitzvah party...celebrated Moroccan-style. That means fabulous Sephardi music with lots of drums and nasal voices, a colorful spectrum of caftans and fez hats parading through the social hall, rose water sprinkled around, a procession of family members holding above their heads trays with sweets, nuts, coins and jewelery for the bat-mitzvah girl. The piece de resistance was when my niece was carried out on a litter, not unlike Cleopatra being carried by slaves on a canopy covered sofa. My niece was wearing a white caftan with a beautiful jeweled headpiece on her forehead, and marched around the room in circles high above the shoulders of uncles and cousins. It was like something from a MGM film from the fifties. Later, women were invited to receive henna on their palms.

I watched in wonder, thinking that technically my daughter should celebrate in the same way because I am married to a Sephardic man. Only difference...he was raised very Ashkenazic...and although these Morrocan traditions might be in his roots, it's not part of his cultural awareness and upbringing. (his brother, on the other hand, although raised the same way, is married to a Morrocan-born girl who thrives on the culture and traditions, and so, he is immersed in that style of living)

Well, while all this great music was playing, with some very upbeat tempos, my five-year-old was suddenly on the floor, lying on his back, spinning around and doing some great moves. I looked at my husband in surprise: "How does he know how to do this, how to dance like this?" He shrugged, and was equally amused.

It isn't as if my son watches American Bandstand (is that even on still, I wonder?) or Soul Train, two favorite shows of mine, while growing up. But he kept smiling and spinning and showing us and everybody "what he's got"!

When he was finally finished, I asked him how he knew how to break dance. He smiled and shrugged with an "I dunno" look. But he did know to correct me...because according to him, he wasn't break dancing, he was "crack dancing"!

Monday, August 29, 2005

72.129.110.# Where Are You?

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When I was just a babe in arms, there used to be a TV show called "Car 54, Where Are You?"

My post is entitled "72.129.110.# Where Are You?"

Somewhere out there in blogland is someone who has this number/server number (don't know the technical term) allocated to them. All I know is that the location is United States, and they link to me via www.seraphicpress.com. Whoever this is seems to spend time reading my posts... Which is good, in my eyes.

I'm curious to know who this is...or perhaps I already know them. If that is your "secret number," please do write and let me know.

(I once put out the same appeal on a post. Someone with the "address" of www.nbc.com had linked to me and I was curious who. A celebrity? A behind the scenes person? Of course that appeal went unanswered. Maybe I'll do better with this one.)

You Don't Bring Me Flowers...Anymore (again!)

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MCAryeh, firstly I must apologize if that other photo from the original post was misleading. It wasn't meant to be. It just caught my eye. I'm sure there's a story behind it, but it isn't mine.

This image caught my eye, too. Nobody can really top THE THREE STOOGES and their attempt to woo me...except for my husband, and this post is about him.

When I was newly married, my husband used to bring me a bouquet of flowers for every Shabbos. Yes, the vase enhanced the dining room table or the coffee table -- the only two places I had to display the flowers -- but after several weeks, my practicality won out. I told my husband that although I appreciated the thoughtfulness, we should save our money and he could buy me flowers on certain Yom Tovs and birthdays and anniversaries. So yes, I'd see flowers on Pesach, Shavuot, Rosh Hashana and Sukkot usually, as well as on a special day in September and a special day in December. That was enough for me, especially since I'm lacking a green thumb and flowers never last too long under my "watchful" eye.

My husband is rather private and not one for public displays -- so why is his wife keeping a blog? He might not be too outward in his affections, but he definitely shares them.

He believes in the theory of "whenever"-- whenever the mood strikes, he might give me a gift or a bouquet or a single rose. These "just because" gifts mean so much to me and to him. Here are 2 wonderful examples:

1. Several months after we married, we were walking and window shopping in the Toronto Beaches area, a trendy neighborhood at the lakeside, with a boardwalk, and funky shops at street level. I noticed a wonderful serving tray in the window of a store, we looked at it briefly on the shelf and then left.

A day later I came home from work to find a wrapped gift on the kitchen table. It was that serving tray. He'd seen how much I'd liked it and made it a point to take a co-worker during lunch hour (extended, in this case!) to help him maneuver his way to that end of the city, and retracing his steps to find that store.

2. I was at a sprawling mall and noticed a beautiful wrought-iron bench that I thought would look perfect in our entrance hallway. It was rather expensive, as was the separate pillow, so I walked away from it. But that night I told my husband all about the bench.

Several weeks later I came home on my birthday to find that wrought iron bench, with pillow, in our hallway, wrapped with a red ribbon. He'd searched out that store in that mall with the described bench, and had bought it and schlepped it home in preparations for my homecoming.

It's these "just because" gifts that speak to my heart because they show that my heart was speaking to him and he was listening at the time.

So, too, when it comes to words. I am the evident wordsmith in this family, but it's as if my husband stores up deep-felt feelings and thoughts for birthday cards, anniversary cards, Mother's Day cards, Mazel Tov on baby cards. No gift in the world can surpass the gift of his words -- the beauty and boldness of them or their impact. Those few lines encapture a deep, abiding love, and it's not because I need to read them that he writes them; it's because those feelings are clearly there.

I don't need flowers, or jewelery or big-ticket items from my husband. It's just so nice to know I always get a gift from the heart, whether it's in words, whether it's in a finely detailed and thought-out or spontaneous action. And this, my friends, speaks volumes above all.

Yes, I'll accept these flowers from THE THREE STOOGES, but Mr. TorontoPearl...? No need to
order a dozen red roses with baby's breath, because you, your words and your actions continue to take my breath away!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

20 Ways To Bring Out the Best in Your Children

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Rabbi Zelig Pliskin has these wise words to share. I read them, they make sense, and they are a wonderful road map to follow when parenting. I'm on that road, and am still trying to be the best navigator I can be.

Here is the road map to keep in your glove box:

1) Love your children unconditionally -- irrespective of whether they "behave nicely," clean up their room, and do their homework. Your love must go beyond this. Your children will feel it.

2) Each day tell your children that you love them. All you have to say is three words, "I love you." If this is difficult for you, that is a sign you really need to say it.

3) Speak and act in ways that gives your children a positive self-image. Believe in your child. Believe in his abilities and potential. Say explicitly, "I believe in you." How do you know when you are successful at this? When your child says, "I see that you believe in me."

4) Be a role model for the traits and qualities that you want your children to possess. Share your day with your kids so they know what you do and can learn from you and your experiences.

5) Clarify the main positive qualities you want your child to develop. Keep praising those qualities. Reinforce each quality when your child speaks or acts in ways consistent with that quality.

6) Each child is unique and different. Understand each child's uniqueness and take it into consideration when a challenge arises. Don't take the "cookie cutter" approach. A method of disciple that inspires one child may discourage another.

7) Word your comments positively. Focus on the outcome you want. Say: "By developing this quality (for example, taking action right away), you will be more successful in life." (Rather than saying the negative.)

8) Keep asking yourself, What is the wisest thing to say to my child right now? Especially say this when your child has messed up.

9) Read great books to your children.

10) When you come across a story that has an important positive lesson for your child, relate it. Look for stories that teach lessons. Ask people for stories that had a positive influence on their lives.

11) Create a calm, loving, anger-free atmosphere in your home. Consistently speak in a calm and loving tone of voice. See, hear, and feel yourself being a calm person who has mastered the ability to maintain an emotional and mental state that is centered, focused and flowing.

12) Master patience. Life is a seminar in character development. Your children are your partners in helping you become a more patient person. Even when challenges arise, speak in a tone of voice that is balanced.

13) If you make a mistake when interacting with your children, apologize. Ultimately they will respect you more than if you try to deny the mistake.

14) Watch other parents interact with their children. Notice what you like. Apply the positive patterns.

15) In watching other parents, also notice what you don't like. Think about ways that you might be doing the same. Resolve not to speak and act that way.

16) Keep asking people you know and meet, "What did you like about what your parents said and did?"

17) Every day, express gratitude in front of your children. Ask them regularly, "What are you grateful for?"

18) Become a master at evaluating events, situations and occurrences in a realistic positive way. Frequently ask your children, "What would be a positive way of looking at this?", or "How can we grow from this?"

19) When your children make mistakes, help them learn from those mistakes.

20) Each and every day, ask yourself, "What can I say and do to be an even better parent?"

You Don't Bring Me Flowers...Anymore

I'd sat and written a beautiful post with this header in the wee hours of the morning-- somehow the screen froze, the post was lost and unable to be recovered. I'm hoping with some time on my hands, I can recreate the post as best as I can. In the meantime I'll leave you with this photo.


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I like this name. Gerolsteiner. Gerol-steiner. Ger-ol-steiner.

It is the name of a mineral water from Germany. I'd never before heard of it, but made its acquaintance this past summer at a Shabbos table. The host kept saying, "Could you please pass the Gerolsteiner?"

I decided this mineral water deserved a taste test. I tasted it. It was not really different than any other designer water I've had...in spite of its label. And that label kept reminding me of something, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Until... The host asked again, "Could you please pass the Gerolsteiner?"

Then one of his guests reached for the bottle and said, "Ohhhh, you mean the 'Nazi vasser.' "

Keeping Up with the Cohens*

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* For the sake of this post, it has been determined that my last name is COHEN.

I mentioned at some point, long ago in my blogging history, that I resisted moving to this area of the city we live in because I don't believe in "keeping up with the Cohens" (years ago, I came up with a list of imaginary Jewish TV shows; that was the name of a sit-com I'd conjured up). It is common knowledge in this community that money talks -- in a school setting, in a shul setting, in a social setting. Children are being raised with fewer values and more materialism on the brain, and frankly, it disgusts me. Our children understand the value of a dollar and understand that we might look to be like everyone else but we're not and prefer not to be.

We have some friends -- they used to be friends in our old neighborhood, preceeded us to the new neighborhood -- or rather, they're only acquaintances now, but used to be friends. In spite of our proximity to them geographically, and the fact that our sons are good friends, we're grown distant.

It appears to my husband and I that these people have issues of envy/jealousy. (perhaps not the wife, but certainly the husband) We bought a FoozeBall table, they soon had one. We bought a new van 'cause we needed one, they saw it, made a comment and had a new van shortly after. They found out that my son was taking an extra-curricular course; they had to sign their son up too. I mentioned that I had been in L.A. and we were then going at the end of that June week to Florida's Universal Studios, and immediately the husband said "Yeah, we're probably going away too." My husband, who has seen this "copycat" pattern, piped up, "Does your wife know?" Well, they just came back from a week in L.A. and Universal Studios there.

Their son is a spitting image of his father. When I drove him to school this past year for a few months, he'd get into the car, not say hello to my son or I, but immediately pipe up: "My dad is gonna get me..." or "My dad bought me..." I cannot stand braggarts, even if they're young kids. I was thankful that my son never reacted positively to his friend; he knows bragging is the wrong thing to do, and I'm thankful that my children don't do that. They also understand financial limitations are financial limitations, and they don't need to have all the same things that some of their friends have.

It is not just mere coincidence that these people ended up with things that we had or did. They saw these things; they wanted these things, too; they bought or did these things. Once upon a time, the husband asked my husband his salary: that spoke volumes...especially when my husband told him it's none of his business.

Not too long ago, my husband sarcastically told that guy, "We're gonna buy a boat...are you planning on buying one, too?" Of course we're not buying a boat, but I'm pretty sure that if they did see a boat trailing our van, that family would soon be setting sail, as well.

There is a wonderful children's book by Canadian children's author, Robert Munsch. It's called "Stephanie's Ponytail" and is about Stephanie who wears her ponytail differently each day. The kids at school call out "Ugly, ugly...very ugly." But of course, the next day, they're wearing their hair exactly as Stephanie wore it the day before. This pattern repeats and then one day Stephanie announces, "When I come to school tomorrow, I'll have shaved off my hair!" And the next day, she comes to school, ponytail intact, while everyone else has indeed shaved off their hair.

Keeping up with the Cohens... indeed a tough act to follow!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Musically Tagged

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I've been tagged for this, but don't worry, I won't tag anyone else...not everyone, I understand, appreciates these things.

Here's my mission:

The Rules: List five songs that you are currently digging - it doesn't matter what genre they are from, whether they have words, or even if they're not any good, but they must be songs you're really enjoying right now. Post these instructions and the five songs (with artist) in your blog. Then tag five people to see what they're listening to.

1. This song has been running through my head constantly for about 3 weeks...the chorus is just that catchy.

Breathe (2 a.m.) by Anna Nalick.

2. I heard this last week while driving, turned the car radio up full blast, and reminisced about the eighties.

Bad Girls by Donna Summer.

3. Any Ella Fitzgerald/Louis Armstrong duet

4. Hotel California by the Eagles

5. Since seeing Madagascar with the family in June, I can't get this soundtrack song out of my head: "I like to move it, move it, you like to move it, move it..."

Okay... and there are my 5 songs.

Stop Interfering in My Life!

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I just wanted a catchy title to pull you in. This post has absolutely nothing to do with that title, but now that you're here, why not stay for the rest of the show. Turn up the volume on your computer speaker and listen to "Sounds of Silence" by Simon & Garfunkel.

This brief post is just about one of my observations about blogging (again?) and commenting (again?). I have noticed that one never knows which posts will incite a mad rush of comments and which won't. As I peruse my favorite blogs, I see great posts that receive nada, zip, "efes" (zero) comments, and I wonder why. Then I read other posts that, like much of Seinfeld's routine, are about "nothing" -- and 30 comments follow.

Apparently there is sometimes absolutely no rhyme nor reason as to why certain posts get comments while others don't.

Someone I know has nearly 45 (at last count) comments on a very powerful post. That is the number of online comments; he told me he has over 100 post-related comments to read and respond to. Apparently that particular post struck a match in peoples' psyche, and very clearly that subject matter deserves not just a post, but a BLOG, of its own.

I've looked to my own blog to see if there's any kind of trend when I might get more comments than others.

Here's what I've figured out: 1.) when I do a lot of name dropping of fellow bloggers with links to their blogs, and 2) when I question out loud whether or not I should continue blogging. That's when the comments come.

(I'M WAITING..... tap, tap, tapping my foot!)

A Colorful World

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This was sent to me this morning. It is a beautiful piece that I wanted to share with all of you.

Keep smiling, and stay colorful.


Yiddish, Yuddish and Yoodish

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When I was a kid, and I'd ask my father, "Are you speaking German or Yiddish?" he'd always answer, "I'm speaking Yiddish, Yuddish and Yoodish."

I never learned Yiddish formally but often heard my dad speak it with family and friends; I heard my mother and father speak German, too, between themselves and sometimes I was able to differentiate between the two languages...usually based on the accompanying body language.

My ear tuned itself to the language and if given the opportunity, I'd sometimes throw around a sentence or two.

Although some might think Yiddish to be guttural and archaic, I've always loved hearing the "mamaloshen", whether it was a Litvischer Yiddish or a Polnyisher Yiddish. The language embodies so much of Ashkenazic Jewish cultural history and has a richness all its own that transcends time.

I was recently asked about my knowledge of Yiddish because a business contact of mine knows of a freelance copy editing job -- work on a humorous book featuring Yiddish curses and expressions. Oh, that would be a great and fun challenge for me. And think of all the new curses I might come away with and be able to embody in a post or two...

So if I get this gig, great! If I don't, it's "nisht geferlech." (not the worst)

In the meantime, everyone, "zei gesundt!" (be well/healthy!)

Monday, August 22, 2005

Oh My Goodness -- I'm a (Kosher) Blog Hog!

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Oh my goodness; today I noticed that I display a rather nasty tendency in the blogging world: I'm a "blog hog"!

I don't know if that phrase exists already, but if not, consider it mine. It means that I'm hogging comment cyberspace. Not that I do it all the time, not that I do it on every blog that I read and choose to comment on, but certainly I've found that I make some comment that has its own way of directing its spotlight on me, rather than exclusively on the blogger's post.

One would think that I don't have my own soapbox on which to stand and recite or rant or display or point out, when in fact I do. But sometimes I'm moved to make a comment elsewhere that relates to the post at hand, but suddenly takes on a life of its own as I put myself and my experiences into the comment. Am I taking something away from the blogger, or am I enhancing what he/she has said? I wonder.

I really don't like this quality and dislike that it's reared its ugly head; I've talked before about not being egotistical and disliking egoistes...so why does it appear that I've seemingly joined that group?

Maybe you'll comment and say that a comments forum is for opinions and speaking your mind; comment threads often take tangents and eventually steer themselves back to the original topic. But like anything else in life, there's a wrong way and a right way to do things. Perhaps I've taken the wrong way...?

Sunday, August 21, 2005

I REALLY Do Thank G-d for My Blessings

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Growing up, I didn't light Shabbos candles unless my parents were on holiday and I was the only female in the house. But all the years I was used to watching my mother light the Shabbos candles and make the bracha silently. I don't recall her lingering over the candles.

When I was in my twenties and staying over for Shabbos at single girlfriends' who were living on their own, I'd watch them light the candles, make the bracha and linger, eyes closed, hands covering them. Once I politely asked what sort of thoughts were running through my girlfriend's head, ie. why she hesitated so long. She explained that she was thinking her private thoughts, among them that G-d should help her find an appropriate husband. I lit the candles at that friend's place, but did not linger over the candles. I figured that when the time was right, I'd have my appropriate match. [ooo...in rereading this, I noticed the unintentional pun: candles/match]

And when that appropriate match did arrive, and I did marry, and I did light two candles every week and every Yom Tov in my own home, I did linger there, eyes closed, hands covering them. In the first couple of years, I thanked G-d for my husband; then we added a candlestick and I added my son's name to that list; then we added a candlestick and I added my daughter's name to that list; then we added a candlestick and I added my other son's name to that list. Then I added every family member -- parents, siblings, in-laws, nieces and nephews -- to that mental list of thanks, and the names of friends or family members that needed their own brachot.

This ritual is my personal way of saying a bracha [over Shabbos/Yom Tov candles] while at the same time thanking G-d for the brachot he has granted me. My children have not yet questioned why I linger at the candlesticks for a few moments longer...but if they do, I'll know what to answer...

...because SHOW & TELL is as much a part of my life as it is to a preschooler. And as it has been said, "Everything I ever needed to know I learned in kindergarten."

Emotionally Saturated

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If I were a sponge that you were to squeeze just about now, tears would be falling endlessly from that sponge.

It has been a tough and trying weekend.

Friday's weather that I blogged about started that deluge; the very close friend that I mentioned in my last post who popped in during the storm to use our telephone, lost his mother within a couple hours after he came here. When he stopped here, he'd been trying to make his way to his mother's to give her a painkiller because she was suffering the pain of end stages of cancer -- it was coming fast and strong.

He did eventually make it to his mother with his wife and son, and about 1/2 hour before Shabbos came in she took her last heavy breath. He'd sang "Shalom Aleichem" for her and "Aishet Chayil" and kissed her Gut Shabbos, and within minutes she was gone. Everybody has their own memorable version of Shabbos Nachamu; unfortunately, this was my friend's version.

We had my friend's son over Shabbos and much of the day today, until after the funeral. This little 4 1/2 year old boy had been told by his mother that his "Savta was now with Hashem" but we didn't know just how much he understood of that. And when the little boy said, "My savta and sabah live beside your savta," my youngest piped up: "NO, YOUR SAVTA'S DEAD!!" There was a long pause as my husband and I turned to each other, wondering what to say, but the little boy said it for us: "She's with Hashem now." And when my little one asked, "Why?" the boy said, "'Cause she's dead!"

I'm physically, mentally and emotionally sapped after a weekend of dealing with the ins and outs of curbing discussions around a curious child who'd lost his grandmother but didn't quite "get" what that meant; after dealing with all the mitzvot my family could do to help our friends prepare for shiva; after contacting back and forth other friends and acquaintances re. funeral preparations, shiva preparations, childcare preparations.

Today we tried to hit two birds with one stone: we wanted to fulfill the mitzva of "Bikur Cholim" (visiting the sick) and visited a sister-in-law's father, but he wasn't in his hospital room at the time and we couldn't find him on the premises of the nursing home/hospital. And then an hour later we went to a cemetery for a graveside service, and then to a shiva house.

Really, who should I be to complain? I thank G-d for my blessings, and will try to help my friend and his family as much as I and my family can. It is lovely to do mitzvot, but yes, they can and often do take their toll on people...

May we all share in simchas!

"...Cold Black Waters, Keep on Rollin'..."

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On Friday afternoon I thought Judgement Day had arrived. The heavens opened, and the rain fell...and fell...and fell.... Pounding the roof, pounding the pavement, slapping against the windows.

I thanked G-d that I was already home because it would have been hellish to be out of doors in that weather.

Hailstones fell from the sky, landing on our balcony, on our deck, pinging heavily against the front door and windows. The lights flickered several times...went out along with all power systems...came on a few seconds later. After readjusting the clock and resetting my stove and oven (I hadn't yet cooked for Shabbat), a few moments later the power went off again.

My children were rather distressed; they'd heard me only a short while earlier listen to the news and repeat after the announcer, "Tornado warning in effect for the Greater Toronto area..." My little one panicked and said, "Are we going to be picked up and land somewhere else?" Oldest son comforted him by piping up, "This isn't THE WIZARD OF OZ." The problem was that at Universal Studios in June, my kids had been at a "reality" display of the Spielberg film "Twister" and thus knew what could happen. I appeased them and said it wasn't supposed to be in our immediate area and not to worry. But it didn't help that I was telling them this with the lights out, with the pounding rain and hailstones, and with the storm sewer in front of our house backed up halfway up our driveway and halfway up the street.

We watched as cars tried to maneuver the neighborhood streets and couldn't because the waters were rushing and knee-deep. A friend stopped at our house; he'd been out and couldn't get through many of the streets, his cell phone wasn't getting reception and he needed to use our land line.

Yes, eventually the waters receded, the sun weakly poked its head through the clouds and the storm was gone. (but it left many basements with water damage and some severe flooding)
My husband opened the front door and brightly announced: "Yup...just saw a dove fly by with an olive branch in its mouth." I interjected: "And there was no ark at the curbside...?"

Thursday, August 18, 2005

M.'s Words Are Powerful

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Please link to Ink as Rain, M's beautiful and eloquent blog. Her latest post will definitely move you.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

From Riches to Shmattas

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Here's another piece I wrote many, many, many years ago, and just dug up. I haven't read it in years, and will be reading as I type it. Hope the humor is still fresh.

From Riches to Shmattas
By: A. Shmatta

Wipe, wipe, wipe. Shine, shine, shine. Polish, polish, polish.

Oh, I'm so tired. Please let me rest awhile. Mrs. Baumgarten continues to rub me over her silver wine cups. Oooo, I'm so black and streaked. How will I ever get white again?

Mrs. Baumgarten tosses me onto the counter the moment the phone rings. She rushes to answer it. "Hullo? Ida Kaplan, how are you? How's Morris? How're the grandchildren?" She rattles on and on, finally giving me a chance to rest. She didn't place me in a very comfortable position however, so I'm lying her all scrunched up.

These days, my home is in the cupboard underneath the kitchen sink (where I can at least stay warm while hanging over the hot water pipes), and I only get washed about once a month. But you should know that not long ago, I was something. I was important! I was a white, cotton, fleece-lined sweatshirt and belonged to Selma, the youngest Baumgarten daughter. And not just any old white, cotton, fleece-lined sweatshirt either; I was a Camp Beverly Hills sweatshirt.

Was I ever thankful when three years ago, someone came into the boutique, ruffled through the rainbow-colored sweatshirts, and salvaged me from the bottom of the pile. Mmm, I don't look so bad, just a bit rumpled, I thought to myself as the teenager unfolded me and held me up against her chest as she looked in the mirror. The body contact felt good -- I'd lacked contact for a few weeks since that lady had finished sewing me in the factory. Was I thrilled when the girl told the saleslady, "Okay, charge this white one to my dad. Here's his credit card."

I was very popular in those days and got lots of compliments from Selma's crowd. "Wow, what a great sweatshirt. Selma, do you think I could borrow your 'sweat' sometime?"

Selma and I became bosom buddies. She took me nearly everywhere she went and I got to see a lot of sights -- the high school gym, the school library, some good movies, and even the back seat of an old, beat-up '69 Chevy. Spain last summer was great and California during spring break was even wilder. Some unpleasant places I came into contact with and dreaded were cluttered gym lockers and the dirty clothes hamper.

I also lived for a while with Brian Green, one of Selma's many boyfriends. He gave her a gold bracelet, and she in turn gave him her favorite sweatshirt -- that's me! Life with Brian wasn't so splendid. I often had to tag along to football games and be left alone on the bleachers. Once in a while, Muffy, Brian's terrier, started up with me. We'd get into some pretty heavy arm wrestling. She thought it was a ball. I didn't!

Lucky for me, the relationship lasted only a couple of months. Brian and Selma broke up and returned each other's love tokens. So, back I was with Selma, a little out of shape and showing a few more wrinkles, but still in style nonetheless.

At first, Selma was excited to have me back, but it soon became evident that there was competition in my life.

On a shopping outing one day, Selma, with me hugging her shoulders, stepped into the same boutique where we had first become acquainted (ie. where she had picked me up). She wasn't looking for anything in particular, but that didn't matter. No sooner were we in the store, than Selma spotted a neon banana-yellow sweatshirt. "Oh, how chic!" she exclaimed. "I just have to buy this Fiorucci. It'll add so much color to my wardrobe."

I hung there, peeking over Selma's shoulder and silently pleading, No, no. You don't want a Fiorucci. Fiorucci isn't in style. Camp Beverly Hills garb is!

Selma voiced her opinion to the saleslady as she pulled out her father's infamous credit card. "I'm going to be the first one in my crowd with a 'Fio' sweatshirt. If the girls see that I have one, they'll all want one too."

The next thing I knew, I was being stuffed into the Boutique La Moda bag, while the Fiorucci sweatshirt took its place around Selma's shoulders. Was I angry and jealous! Selma walked home, swinging the bag freely in her hand, so I was feeling pretty claustrophobic and nauseated within my plastic prison by the time we got home.

Selma laid me and my archrival side by side on her bed and went to call her friends to tell them of her latest purchase. The Fiorucci tried to make conversation with me, but I was in no mood to try to break through the language and cultural barrier.

Selma would still take me with her when she'd go out, but less frequently and to fewer places. I'd sit and wait anxiously in Selma's top dresser drawer for her to choose me, but more often she chose to take "the little bambina who ain't from Pasadena." There was no doubt that Camp Beverly Hills was out and Fiorucci was in!

One day, Selma came into the room, opened the drawer,took me lovingly into her arms and said aloud, "Well, the jig is up. You've just about had it with me. I think I'll donate you to the Hadassah rummage sale. Someone might still be able to make use out of you."

What was I hearing?! Selma, you can't mean it! After all those good times we've had together, you're getting rid of me?

There was no time to plead my case aloud 'cause Selma took me into the kitchen, tossed me over to Mrs. Baumgarten and said, "Here, Ma. You can take this along with your other old clothes to the rummage sale next week," and walked out.

Mrs. Baumgarten turned me over in her hands, examining me closely and said aloud, "Bazaar, shmazaar. They'll have enough stuff to sell. I'm keeping this. It'll be good to use as a shmatta for polishing silver."

Oh, no! How can she do this to me? How can Selma do this to me...?

So...that's the story of my life -- "A sweatshirt today, a shmatta tomorrow."

Confessions of a Barbie Doll

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I dug up this piece I'd written over 20 years ago. At the time I'd hoped to publish it, and after some snail mail back-and-forth correspondence with Mattel to use the Barbie and Mattel trademarks, permission was denied. Guess you can see why...

BTW, I shared the piece with a newfound friend and she said, "Your Barbie sounds just like Paris Hilton!!!"


Hi, I'm Barbie. Actually, that's not my full name, but that's what my friends call me. Ken, Skipper, Madge, Farrah, Brooke, and Mr. T. all know me as Barbie. And if they really want to get my attention, they call, "Hey, Barbie Doll!" That's sure to make my head turn.

I lead what I think is a pretty exciting life for a young person, and I have lots of friends. Ken has been my steady boyfriend for quite a number of years now. We've talked about marriage, but have decided that we're not yet ready or mature enough for it. (Besides, Mattel has not yet designed a wedding chapel.)

Before I met Ken, I had a thing going with a soldier -- a G.I. His name was Joe; I never did find out what his last name was. But it didn't really matter -- I like men in uniform and I was very attracted to his army fatigues. We met on a blind date that Madge had arranged and we began dating after that.

The relationship didn't last too long because Joe always had to leave town for overseas missions and we began to drift apart. I had suggested that he try to get a job at NASA, but too many people had the same idea, and no more applications for astronauts were being accepted. Joe decided that he was meant to be a G.I. rather than just a suburban type and we broke up. I also had to give him back his dog tags, which he had let me wear as long as we were dating.

And then there was Ken. He was everything I'd ever wanted in a man: he was tall, handsome, wealthy, athletic and cultured. He reminds me, even to this day, of Oliver Barrett, the character that Ryan O'Neal played in the movie Love Story.

Like I mentioned before, I lead a pretty exciting life. I LOVE shopping for clothes and have a wardrobe like you wouldn't believe. My problem is that I can't bear to throw anything out. I got closets-full of clothes that I might've worn for one season and never again. But now, that might change because some of the styles are back in. I'm so glad that I can wear my patent leather shoes and purses again and not stand out in a crowd. The same goes for my plaid skirts, my leather bomber jackets, my fun furs and my ear muffs.

As for my hairstyle, well, that's changed with the times as well I've had it long, short, crimped, curly, braids a la Bo Derek and a fluffy hairdo like my friend Farrah. Maybe I should have taken a hint from my friend Madge, who believes that her pageboy style will never be out of fashion.

Most people think I'm pretty. I guess I am. Sometimes I'm even considered glamorous. People are pretty envious of my peaches-and-cream complexion, my natural blonde hair and my proportioned figure. But I've worked hard to look that way and my lifestyle is regimented by beauty tips and nutrition tips that I read about in Vogue, Glamour and Mademoiselle magazines each month. Even while growing up, I had subscriptions to Young Miss, Co-Ed, Teen, and later, Seventeen magazine.

Mom's friends told me to try my hand at modelling and I took a few course at Barbizon's modelling school in the city. My picture got into some catalogues for which I modelled clothing and accessories, and I was popular for a few years. I started losing contracts and realized that a look like mine is needed in the business for only a short while. It's okay -- I learned to handle it and took a few sessions with a psychotherapist who taught me how to deal with the rejection. There were a couple of chances for a comeback last year, but I declined the offers.

These days, my purpose in life is to fill the pages of my appointment book. I sty physically, socially, and mentally active. Every afternoon, I go to aerobics classes and then work out on the Nautilus equipment with my friends Mr. T. and The Incredible Hulk. Other than aerobics and Nautilus, I swim, surf, rollerskate, skateboard, cycle and dance. When I'm not physically or socially active, I like to read. Believe it or not, I like Harlequin stories, Kahlil Gibran's works, the New York Times, do-it-yourself, and also self-improvement books. I had once considered taking up journalism, but at the end, opted against it. I figured that a journalist's job is part of a dog-eat-dog world, and I hate violence.

I haven't worked in the last few years, anyways, not since I was modelling. When I was a teen, I worked after school in a Burger King and made pocket money. But ten years ago, Grand-Daddy passed on and left his billion-dollar fortune to our family. Dad divided the money equally among us and then helped me make some wise investments with my portion. I've lived off the interest ever since from my purchases, and my real estate properties. I also bought a motor home, a dune buggy, a show-dog Afghan, and became a partner in an ice-cream shop. Three years ago, I bought a home and decorated it myself. It has even been featured in Metropolitan Home and Architectural Digest magazines. I've had some tempting offers from people who want to buy it, but I've got no intention to sell it at the moment.

Not long ago, I celebrated my twenty-fifth birthday. It was a blast. Daddy rented out a beach house with its own private beach and flew me and twenty of my closest friends there for the weekend. A mini-bus picked us up at the airport and drove us along the coast to Malibu, where we partied all weekend long. The weather was perfect, the view was fantastic and the company was just great...especially Ken. I couldn't have asked for anything more.

My gifts were pretty special, too. Ken gave me a beautiful sterling silver hairbrush, comb and mirrow set, and to top that off, he also gave me a diamond bracelet which read: BARBIE--25. He says that next year he'll give me a diamond ring for my birthday. Mom and Dad bought me a large share in that famous toy company Mattel, and an Italian sports car.

Now I think I'm all set for at least another twenty-five years, don't you?

You Can't Retract Your Words Even If You Try To Retrace Your Steps

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I was just "blog surfing" and came across such a stark rant that a child had for a parent. It was ugly; it was detailed; it was ANGER SPEAKING OUT.

Call me naive, but even if a person has been truly hurt, physically and emotionally, by a parent, is a blog the right path to take for venting? EVERYTHING you ever say in blogland "can and will be held against you." Even if you keep your identity secret, there is always something in a post that will give it away. Google archives hold you and your words captive for a very long time!

If it isn't a personal counselor/analyst you choose to speak to, then write a letter detailing your thoughts, but certainly do not post them. Those words are coarse, and ugly, and I really don't know how cathartic they are for you. I do know that I, as an innocent bystander, am more than embarrassed to read them...especially from a fellow Jew.

You rant in one post, and in the next post, you want to retract your words and announce your apology for venting so publicly, so loudly.

Your pain is palpable, but you can never retract those uttered words... Google's gotten hold of them and just won't let them go without a struggle.

Walk before you run. Look before you leap. Think before you speak.

Sometimes you just have to use those same lessons that a nasty parent might have taught you.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

R.S.V.P. ...not!

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Thought I was inviting you to some simcha, some gathering, some blogger festivities, huh? Sorry, nuh-uh... But I am inviting you to your opinions.

I'm in my 40's; I'm not in my late teens or twenties or thirties.

My parents are in their seventies and eighties, not in their fifties and sixties.

So, why, then, pray tell, do we continue to get wedding invitations that invite us to Kabbalat Panim, Chupah...and Simchat Chatan v'Kallah some five hours later?

Oh, yes, it's lovely to have a simcha, and want to share it with people, and of course, you can't invite everyone to partake in the festivities, but please...enough already.

I am a borderline acquaintance to you; you do not need to invite me; you might need the monetary gift for your children and this invitation/appeal is the cost of a postage stamp, or even better, a hand-delivered invitation. But the truth of the matter is that when you're married, with children who need babysitters, you're not gonna run home from work, get dressed for a chupah, rush to the shul or social hall, stay for a chupah and plan to go back in a few hours...to hand over the check.

My parents have friends from yesteryear who still have them in their address book. These friends' grandchildren get married, and the friends say, "Send an invitation to Mr. & Mrs. ____ for the chupah and simchat chatan v'kallah at 10:00." Yeah, like my parents really appreciate this nicety.

Over Shabbat lunch with friends we've had opportunity to discuss this matter and we're all voting the same: if you cannot afford to invite us forty- and fifty-somethings, don't, (can't talk for the twenty and thirty-somethings) but don't send a shout-out invite for the in-and-out celebrating. It just ain't worth it to us...!

Yes, we wish you a hearty mazel tov, and yes, we might send a gift when we hear that you're making a simcha, whether we're invited or not, but please...take us off the guest list...UNLESS IT'S FOR DINNER.

(and should we choose to attend your simcha, with the revolving door entry/exit, and give you a gift, find it in your heart -- and address book -- to send us a thank-you note...a nicety, just like the invitation was!)


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...invitation to follow soon

"I'd Like To..."

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I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing

I'd like to build the world a home
And furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees (take note, David Bogner)
and snow-white turtle doves

I'd like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I'd like to hold it in my arms
and keep it company

I'd like to see the world for once
All standing hand in hand
And hear them echo through the hills "Ah, peace throughout the land"
(That's the song I hear)

I'd like to teach the world to sing (that the world sings today)
In perfect harmony(Lead singer and background singers singing simultaneously)
I'd like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony

I'd like to build the world a home
And furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees
and snow-white turtle doves

Monday, August 15, 2005

Hula Hooping Her Way To Eight

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Tomorrow, August 16, my middle child, my daughter, turns eight. She is my Shabbos Nachamu baby who "disrupted" what was supposed to be a restful, peaceful Shabbos eight years ago. But the disruption was a welcome one, and when she was born about 20 minutes before Shabbos was out, I piped up, "I fished my wish."

Since I was a child, and the only girl in a family with two older brothers, I'd always hoped for a daughter. I'd also especially wanted a little girl so that I could give her the name of a cherished younger sister of my father who was a victim of the Holocaust.

My husband and I were blessed with this daughter of mine.

From a young age, she was beautiful but feisty. Her luring kitten-blue eyes could entice you or could shoot sparks of fire your way. At the tender age of about 2 1/2, she stood on playground equipment and announced to grade 1 schoolgirls, "You no go on slide; A--- go on slide." She stood her ground, and I could just picture her in a leather jacket, collar up, a cigarette dangling from the side of her mouth, the leader of a girl gang from the fifties.

But she is indeed anything but. She is a gentle, loving and generous friend, daughter and sister, always looking out for other people -- she is attracted to children of all ages, and people of all ages are attracted to her. Her feistiness shines through every now and again with family members, and we are helping to direct her to recognize that there is a time and place for feistiness.

I love to watch her when she's not looking my way, and I sit in awe of this wondrous (poo, poo, poo) beauty; she has this "je ne sais quoi" about her -- this childlike elfin quality with the coyness of a grown woman; only, she doesn't use this coyness wittingly; it is just a part of who she is.

She does not like attention, nor praise, nor compliments -- a true Aishet Chayil in training. She does not want to draw attention to herself -- unless she's telling a story. Then it's details galore that rush out of her mouth, such as the retelling of her nighttime dreams, details and all, almost sounding as if they're miniseries that she's making up as she goes along.

This evening she was showing me how to Hoola Hoop. This little child was encouraging me, telling me, "You can do it...I'll show you an easy way." And she beamed when I spun that Hoola Hoop around my waist....ONCE. "Yay, you did it!" This from a kid who could shimmy that hoop from her shoulders to her ankles for endless minutes. This child beamed for and praised her mother just as a mother would praise her child.

Together we laughed in delight as we enjoyed our silly venture in a fad of days gone by...one I'd never mastered, but that she certainly has.

I wish this sweet daughter of mine continued good health, happiness and a peaceful world to grow up in. May she continue on the course of being an Aishet Chayil, may she maintain her feistiness, her charm, her beauty and her natural curiosity about the world around her...because the world around her is certainly curious about her.

May she continue to represent her first and middle names well, because they are very much a part of who and what she is to us and those around her.

Happy Birthday, "Motek"!

A Lovely Compliment

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Received an e-mail today; embedded in it was a lovely compliment.

By the way, I come to your blog all the time, whenever I need a dose of nice. It is a refreshing upbeat look at the world through jewish-colored glasses.

What a great bonus for me and my writing!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Music On My Mind

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As I've noted before, I'm forever singing, have always known lyrics to countless songs, I can often "name that tune in 3 notes", etc. Music has always and will always be part of who and what I am.

This night I've been thinking of some of the wonderful musicians & concerts I've seen over the years. These include:

*Tito Puente -- the venue was a restaurant, so it wasn't so large a place that I couldn't see him well. He was well into his senior years when I saw him, and his daughter performed as well. It was more than difficult to sit still in my seat with that wonderful rhythm of the bongos and the horns pounding out the music of Brazil and Cuba and other hot-blooded countries.

* George Benson -- I was about 17 when I went to see George with my two brothers and a friend of my oldest brother. The ride down to the concert venue was exciting in itself; my brother's friend owned a Porsche Targa with a sunroof. The roof was off and we were either standing with our head out of the roof, or the George Benson music was already blaring on the car stereo. The concert itself was memorable as Mr. Benson made that guitar playing look so easy and he became one with his guitar.

* Billy Joel -- I saw this concert when I was university and had amazing close-up seats, thanks to a friend. All around me, people were smoking up, pretty much first time I was plunked right into such a setting. I'd never smoked up, nor have I ever, but (now laugh all you want!) I came out of that concert, stinking like a joint, and I remember sniffing my sleeve, wondering if I could get high off of it!

* Michael Feinstein -- This great cabaret singer/pianist kept me smiling with his music that night. The next day, noon, I was lucky enough to have had a scheduled one-on-one interview with him for 45 minutes...that kept me smiling that night, and the next night, and the next night....

* Janis Ian -- I saw her at an outdoor, lakeside venue when I was in my late teens. "At Seventeen" had spoken to me when it was released; all of Janis's music spoke to me that night at the concert.

* Itzhak Perlman -- I take every opportunity I can to see this great master violinist in concert. I've seen him both conduct the Toronto Symphony and be its star performer on the same billing, a wonderful feat for anyone.

* BB King -- Another master guitarist whose guitar strings "sing the blues". The sweat pours off BB's forehead as he nimbly plucks away and makes his guitar sing.

There have been many other musical performers and concerts I've seen over the years, and perhaps I'll tackle some more at a later date, on another blog post.

I Learned a New Word Today

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First there was Orthodox. Then there was Conservative. Then there was Conservadox.

Today I learned a new word; I like this word; it rolls off the tongue very easily.
Everyone, practice saying it with me...on the count of three. One, two, three...


Say it again: CONFUSADOX.

Meaning: the nebulous state between Conservadox and Modern Orthodox.

Vive La Air France!

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Not that I travel much, but once upon a time I signed up to get a weekly mailing from Air Canada, noting their seat sales and their weekend seat sales...just in case I wanted to travel somewhere, just in case I could manage it.

This week I got my regular mailing from Air Canada.

This week I also got a mailing from Air France.

Hey, they're looking for customers; they're offering seat sales; they're in need of polishing up their recently tarnished reputation, due to the major crash of one of their fleet that took place a couple of weeks ago at Toronto's airport.

Book your flights for this Fall now, and fly to France
for as low as $ 618
Our return fares departing from Montreal and Toronto:
Book before August 18 and take advantage of our promotional fares:
Paris, Nice, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Marseille, ... All France is offered at very low prices:
Departure dates :
Sep. 12 - Oct. 9, 2005
Oct. 10 - Dec. 8, 2005
Return fares to France:
$ 788
$ 618

Sounds magnifique, sounds inviting, sounds decadent...to just pick up the phone and reserve a flight to la belle pays France -- but this beautiful country, in spite of its fine wines, gourmet meals and lovely sights has a pretty major drawback these days. It's called l'antisemitism/antisemitism.

So, do I really want to go on an airline that just got worldwide coverage to a country that slowly is getting day by day worldwide coverage. Miracles happened on a Toronto runway, in spite of great, snaking flames. But in France, there have been great snaking flames in Jewish areas...and no miracles.

A Mournful Kind of Day

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I am not in shul. I am not listening in on any lectures.

It is gray, gloomy and rainy outside. My head is pounding, as both yesterday and today I've been nursing another one of those sinus headaches . I feel gross and wish that someone would take apart my head, nose and eyes, then put them back together -- pain free.

The newscasts tell us: plane crash in Greece, shootings here and there...and the Gush Katif forced evacuation looming on the immediate horizon.

It is indeed a mournful kind of day. May we all merit to see the coming of the Mashiach and the rebuilding of the temple "bimheyra b'yamaynu".

Friday, August 12, 2005

Help! I've Been Outed!

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Okay, so I have a blog. I have a signing name of TorontoPearl. I write about my family life, my social life, my community life. I might give some revealing details, but I do not name names. I try not to represent Lashon Harah, although, if need be, I could excel at it! I am not the only Pearl in this city, nor the only Pearl who matches up with several of those revealing details.

But I've been outed.

A couple nights ago, I was talking to a fellow school mother and she mentioned the upcoming Yidstock music festival being held at Monticello Racetrack in the Catskill Mountains. I told her I knew about it, having read about the festival on a blog, and then I asked if she knows what a blog is (many people are like I was a year ago; I'd never heard or used the term) and then mentioned I have one.

"I know...I've been on it."

WHAT!!?? I silently screamed. HOW COULD YOU KNOW ABOUT IT?

She went on, as if she'd read my thoughts: "I can't remember how I know about it, but I know about it..."

I felt as if my fig leaf had been ripped away, my protective cover stripped away.

How could that be? you wonder. A blog might be a personal online journal, but it is ONLINE, and thus public.

I do have friends I've mentioned to that I keep a blog, but aside from one who found it on her own many months ago through a link, nobody has asked for the URL and that's been more than fine for me.

How do I explain it to them, or to myself even, that it seems okay to let a bunch of strangers worldwide read my words and think, "Hey, she's just some gal overseas/in the Great White North, who has some interesting things to say." They are exactly that: a bunch of strangers. I've met some of the strangers already or have corresponded offline with several of them, and all is fine with that and even that they associate the offline Pearl with the online Pearl. But somehow I can't get around the fact that some people who might know me are reading these words, and now know me even more. It's as if I still want to keep this part of my life a secret, a private part...away from my regular circle of friends and acquaintances, away from school and shul people. If I wanted them to know so much about me, well I wouldn't keep it a secret, would I?

It's difficult to explain that near-fear and dismay that clutched at me when this person told me she'd read my blog. It wasn't her per se I didn't want reading it, it's "them."

You are you, and they are "them." Subtle difference, but a difference nonetheless.

The question now is: Should I toss my head and say, "To hell with THEM!" and keep on writing, or should I take my writing underground and say, "To hell with blogging!"

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Ga-Ga-Ga-Goo..gle Me

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Here's a round-up of some recent searches that led you to me. Yeah, you're not alone in your "huh?" look.

1) Twilight Zone theme song

2) "merriam-webster" + dictionary + haredi

3) traveler's prayer

4) andy rooney's telemarketer

5) musical version of tefilat haderech

6) sneak into universal studios from citywalk, bathroom

7) "jewish men" "sex drive"

8) Hilary Duff caught skinny dipping

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Hints of Fall = Memories of Summer

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It's almost mid-August; my children's day camp finishes next Wednesday; school supplies have to be bought; uniform blouses, shirts and pants have to be clean; dentist and doctor appointments have to be made.

Yes, there are still shul soccer games to be played by both my sons; yes, there are still our shuls bringing Shabbos in early on Friday nights; there is still yardwork to be done; bike riding to be had; and basketball nets to reach for.

But hints of fall are already under way -- school supply lists and admit-to-class cards in the mail; back-to-school flyers in the newspapers; free-standing signs advertising High Holiday seating tickets; the sun sets earlier; the evening cools down; the car windows have to be wiped down in the morning because of the dew. Fall is just around the corner, and so I think about this past summer.

* My parents celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary; my father celebrated his 85th birthday; my son celebrated his 10th birthday; my daughter will, G-d willing, celebrate her 8th birthday

Celebrating is good. Celebrating is a bracha.

* I had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people who, until this summer, had mainly been a name or a pseudonym to me. I recognized that these people, aka bloggers, are as welcoming, warm and wise as their words on-screen and off-screen.

The pleasure was all mine.

* Our pug, Tyson Pugsley, died in June, on a Shabbos, the day before Father's Day. Nobody was home at the time. He left this world just as he lived in it: quietly.

We miss Tyson -- his comical face and body; his wiggling tushy; his hovering, waiting underfoot for someone to drop a crumb; his ability to make people stop and pet him because he was so "cutely ugly"; his snoring.

* Our first family holiday. A packed van full of kids, DVDs, clothing and kosher food and snacks -- and maps!

I took a solo holiday before the family holiday. I could have stood to use another solo holiday AFTER the family holiday.

* An observation I made on this family holiday: the U.S. is plentiful with travelers who own RV's -- not just simple Winnebago-type homes on wheels, but extended, magnificent-looking family chariots. These are personalized vehicles that stand out on the highway because of their size and their elegant designs. They are all rather rich-looking.

Many of these RV's tow vehicles behind them; just like the RV's, most of the vehicles are designer cars and SUVs. Often the exterior of these cars match the exterior of the RV towing it!

* I have watched as my children's sport skills improve -- basketball, soccer, baseball. Boys against the girl; girl and friend against the boys.

My sons' knowledge of baseball has also improved -- thanks to TV sports channels, Game Cube games, the radio and the newspaper. Oh, no, hockey season is just around the corner...

* My blog writing/reading/commenting has intensified over the summer. I thought that with the extended time away from the computer because of the out-of-town trips, my interest would diminish; unfortunately, it's accentuated -- and more hours are spent at my computer.

I do have a life outside of the blogging world, and a very lovely life it is, but this writing has brought me much pleasure, has helped keep the writing muse active and carrying over into other personal writing, has let me captivate an audience, and has been good for the soul.

"Summertime....and the living is easy...."

A Secret Admirer

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I received an e-mail today; the subject line said "A Secret Admirer" so I was hemming and hawing whether or not I should open the mail. I was afraid it might be a virus. But curious me did open it and was most happy that I did.

It was a lovely message from a New York woman who told me that she's been reading and enjoying my blog since day 1 -- over seven months ago. I have never seen a comment on my posts from this person, so she is indeed a secret admirer.

She introduced herself by name and asked if it was familiar to me. In my early months of reading blogs, I used to read her comments on another well-read and very popular blog. She and her husband even received a honorable post on that blog, and it stands out very clearly in my mind. I could even put a face to the name because there had been accompanying photos with the post.

She went on to compliment my writing and praise me as a person, and I was clearly moved. Not to discount any of your warm sentiments in online or offline comments... Yes, I appreciate and truly enjoy any and every comment/compliment I might get about my posts, but receiving a warm letter like this has true merit for me. It was as if I was a pretty new author with only a couple published books to my name, and she was a reader-fan who came out of the woodwork and took the time to write and say what kind of reader she was and what kind of writer I was.

It is clear that I did not forget who she was since I first learned about her. It is clearer that having read my words over these past few months, she has gotten a sense of who -- and what -- I am.

And to this woman, I once again write, "Thank you...for I am deeply moved by your words...and your experiences."

Signed: "Your Secret Admirer."

Too Much Information

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I'm always told I give too much information. Too many details. Too much too soon.
So I won't...THIS TIME. (or maybe I just did!?)

Monday, August 08, 2005


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When I began reading Rabbi Neil Fleischmann's blog, I became more aware of the "haiku" poetry form. I would sometimes comment on his posts in copycat haiku form, which did not come too easily for me; perhaps that form comes easily to him.

But haiku opened my mind and got my creative juices flowing.

Just today, on my desk at work, under a pile of papers I found some haiku I'd written in May/June of this year. This is not ordinary haiku; rather, it's haiku with a twist...a Jewish twist. Thus it's called Jewku.

--written May 18:

In May of this year
I discovered Jewish verse
"Jewku" I call it.

Familiar haiku
with some Jewish content (sales)
for you a bargain.

Wholesale poetry
All new, not used, metziahs.

--written May 19:

Sunday morning brunch.
a schmear of cream cheese and lox
on toasted bagel.

--written June 1:

Tribal laws decree
you are Jewish if Mom is.
Your dad does not count.


Good cooks run rampant
amidst my family's men--
tastefully good men.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Three Most Important Words

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A couple of weeks ago, I received an e-mail from www.aish.com -- it was a short film about the three most important words in a relationship. Those words are not I LOVE YOU -- what you might most expect them to be.

Follow this link and see for yourself what those words are.

I sent the link to my husband that day after glancing quickly at the movie, just 'cause I thought the movie was cute.

Here is what he wrote back:

for all my past mistakes I would like to say to you -- I WAS WRONG

for all my future mistakes I would like to say to you -- I WILL BE WRONG


"If I Had a Million Dollars...I'd Be Rich" [or not]

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I came home this evening to a telephone message from a friend saying that a mutual friend's father passed away this afternoon. The mutual friend is from Toronto but has lived in the U.S. for a number of years with her husband and children. Her mother passed away many years ago, and only her ailing father and two siblings who have no connection to her or her father remained.

My friend was in Toronto for the past week because she'd been told that her dad wasn't doing too well. Thank G-d there'd been quite an improvement in his health and he was to be transfered next week from a hospital to a nursing home for convalescing. My friend was planning to return to the States with her family because of family and work obligations.

Now her father is niftar, but I think they will sit shiva in the States because of the family situation.

Yes, she is a good daughter who kept traveling here to check on her father, who was in and out of hospitals for the past few years. Yes, it took somewhat of a mental, emotional and physical toll on her each time she came and left. And yes, there will be a noticeable absence in her life hereonafter.

I do know that this friend has now inherited millions of dollars, and that all along her father has been providing her with funds for day school, funds for buying a large home, funds for traveling, etc.

But who really cares how many millions this friend is now worth. Why? Because 1) she has lost a parent, and 2) this friend has M.S., and has had it for over 6 years.

Perhaps the money will fund medications for her, will have her be able to be on the receiving end of every new M.S. drug trial out there. But this M.S. has slowly been robbing her of her fine quality of life--her strength, her concentration, her physical mobility, her comfort levels, her family life.

At the end, what is she left with? A few million... But when you're an "avel" or a sick person, the money certainly doesn't make you rich. You're truly a millionaire when you have your family by your side and good health in your back pocket. All the rest can wait...

"What a Pain in the...Head!"

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I know many egocentric people. I encounter them every day -- at work, in my private life, in my blogging world. Those are the people who like the spotlight turned "just so" to shine on them and whatever it is they are doing to think they deserve recognition.

Perhaps blogging itself is an egocentrism of sorts...maybe not so much when you write about political stances and current events and information that is already out there, but more when you write about yourself, your thoughts, your past, your present and your future. But in my mind that is called a personal blog. It reflects who and what you are. Like a raconteur, or a comedian, it's all "in the delivery."

I try not to be egocentric in any areas of my life; I've always dislike braggarts and extremely self-assured people, perhaps because I never was one. But there is one area where I am...and probably will always be... egocentric. And that is when I don't feel well, as happened today.

Although they developed later in life, I suffer quite frequently from sinus headaches/cluster headaches. This morning, I woke up with one of those headaches. It went from an awareness of a sinus headache, to a full-blown HEADACHE that bordered on migraine and nausea and sensitivity to smell and sound...and it lasted for HOURS.

Usually I go to shul with my youngest child midmorning. I did not go to shul, I barely got up out of bed, I ate no breakfast and leerily ate lunch. My day for the most part passed by while I was in bed, the shades pulled low to create darkness.

I got up around 10 a.m., deciding that maybe sitting outside on the kitchen deck, the warm breeze on my face, might do the trick. I'd already taken nasal spray and 2 extra-strength Tylenol. Sometimes the Tylenol kick in quickly, but not today. Yes, the setting out-of-doors was pleasant, but somehow I felt sicker, and went back to bed....and slept.

My daughter came in a couple of times to stroke my arm and say she hoped I felt better and to lie beside me and keep me company. She announced at 1:00 p.m. that it really was lunchtime, so I got up to prepare the table. Of course, after lunch, I went back to bed, to sleep, still wondering at my severe headache, but knowing I could not yet take another pill.

The day was sunny outside and beckoning me, but I could not get up out of that bed. I felt sorry for my children and husband that today they only had each other's company, and not Eema's. As I was sleeping, dreaming, waking, sleeping, dreaming, waking, they were being children without me.

Again, throughout the afternoon, my daughter came to check on my and lie with me and try to regale me with stories in order to comfort me. I told her I was sorry that I did not feel well, and as I kept apologizing to her, I thought: "G-d forbid, if I was a mother that truly had some long-term disabilitating, serious disease, how my children would suffer because I'd always have to excuse my inability to interact with them."

Thankfully by the time my husband left for shul in the evening, I felt that the meds had finally taken effect and that I was able to be there, with my children, downstairs, to give them shalosh seudos and be company for them till Shabbos would be over and my husband would return home.

I was rather sad that such a glorious day passed me by without me partaking of it. Yes, Shabbos is a day of rest, but today is certainly not what I had in mind for myself when I knew Shabbos was coming this week. And I'm sorry that my egocentrism reared its ugly head...but thankfully, my family understood and respected it. I hope that tomorrow when the sun shines, I'll be right there with my family, "shining" back at it.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

You Ought To Cry, You Ought To Laugh, You Ought To Sign My Autograph...Book

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In 1972, when I was 11 years old, I got my first autograph book. Even at that young age, I was somewhat of a sentimental fool, wanting to "capture" moments in time by having people sign my book with personal messages.

Of course my peers weren't sentimental fools like me, and for the most part wrote silly rhymes and messages. My teachers, on the other hand, and other school administrators whom I approached for their words of wisdom wrote more meaningful lines.

Mrs. Rose, for example, my grade 5 General Studies teacher, wrote: "Dear Pearl/ Always question, always keep an open mind./Never accept something merely because someone has said it./ Be convinced of the validity of the thoughts before you accept them."

Or my grade 6 General Studies teacher, Judy Smithen, wrote: "Dear Pearl/ Good, better, best./Never let it rest/Until the good is better/And the better is best."

A few years later, my grade 8 English teacher, wrote: "To thine own self be true, and it must follow as the night the day; thou canst not then be false to any man."

As you can see, the teachers were always teaching, even in their messages to me.

I get a real kick out of those teachers, specifically those who taught me literature/creative writing, who, through their messages in my autograph book, declared that I had writing talent and they hoped I'd pursue it. I don't think writing a blog is what they really had in mind for me when they said I should pursue my writing!

It is interesting to look back though some of the messages and wonder about the people who wrote them; several are no longer with us, having died untimely deaths; some have married and divorced or remained single since they scrawled their names in my autograph book; some have gone on to powerful positions in the workplace or raised families. And others...well, my path has never crossed with theirs again since we parted ways in day school or high school.

Yes, I have three small autograph books that carried me from grade 5 through grade 13. As well, I have a beautiful scrapbook that doubled as sort of an autograph book when I was in high school. I shared it with those friends who were talented in the arts: they drew pictures for me amidst the pages, or wrote poetry, or song lyrics. Just as some of these people whom I no longer see or speak to must wonder if Pearl continued with her interest in writing, so I, too, wonder if they pursued the arts, in which they showed immense talent.

I think when I got my first autograph book, I was trying to emulate my mother. My mother had been given a beautiful embroidered blank-paged journal as a bat-mitzvah gift in 1943...and its pages, used as an autograph book/memory book, carried her through teenhood and young adulthood. This book is a work of art, a real collectible; it is rare to see an autograph book like that today.

The fountain pen curlicued script, the b & w or sepia-toned photos, the beautifully drawn cartoons and sketches, the embossed and stylish stickers, and the messages from the pens and pencils of friends and family capture a time period, a lifestyle and a youthfulness which helped define my mother and those around her.

I do know of another book her book reminds me of: Anne Frank's autograph book, which I saw in a special exhibition this past spring in Toronto. Of course, Anne and her sister Margot, were born just a few years earlier than my mother and her sister. But the parallels ran great: the books look the same, the family photographs look the same, some of the experiences are the same. The main differences are that my mother came from an Orthodox Jewish family living in Switzerland; Anne came from an assimilated family who'd moved from Germany to Holland. My mother and her family lived in a neutral country and survived the war. Anne Frank and her sister and mother did not survive.

The pages of my mother's autograph book depict a young girl's life as she comes of age and matures into a young adult amidst war and liberation, amidst the birth of the Jewish homeland, amidst higher education and a move into the work force.

Even if I can't understand everything I'm reading in the book, I could sit and look at it for hours at a time. Why? Because the language of love and friendship comes through in the look of the book, set on every one of its pages -- a universal language, it does not need any kind of translation.

I will share with you this poem that I'd copied onto the inside cover of one my autograph books. It captured for me what that autograph book was all about.

"Growing up means...
more than going from childhood to adulthood.

It is understanding life...
and knowing...YOURSELF
and trying to understand

And I will leave you with this applicable quote that I'd copied into the cover of another of one of my autograph books:

"Like a kite
Cut from the string
Lightly the soul of my youth
Has taken flight."

Jewish Superheroes for Our Time

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I came across this wondrous site this morning. Wow... some mighty fine superheroes we have representing us.

And to think that all these years (since the "age of disco"), every Pesach I've been singing my own superhero song: "Matzah Man" to the tune of "Macho Man" by the Village People. Little did I know that other Jewish superheroes prevailed.

The Oyster Police

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Please give a nice welcome to the Oyster Police, who have decided to work this blog with me.


Wednesday, August 03, 2005

A Patchwork of Blogger Snippets

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I've just written this free-form poem, a composite of lines and phrases that I've extracted from my e-mail messages to fellow bloggers, and their e-mail messages to me. Each phrase is a different color, and I've just thrown them together to make some kind of (weird in its own way) sense.

Online with Bloggers

My chair was biting into my back and the pain was radiating into my skull.
A very surreal experience -- sequined shirt and all!
Sweet dreams.

Keep up your writing, don't give up! Good things almost always come from good people.
It's almost like a secret society - we are understated in some ways and have a secret story life inside us, wanting to share it, but only when it's 'right'. Sometimes in spite of words of wisdom from others.
How many people is it worth writing for?
Is the content so strong (which I suspect that it is) that the form is intrinsically compelling?
Anyway, I haven't quite figured out what I think about the form...

I have a tendency to repeat phrases that work.
I have a tendency to repeat phrases that work.
I have a tendency to repeat phrases that work.

Kind regards.

Poetry in Motion

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The following are poems that I had published last year in Parchment, an annual Canadian-Jewish literary journal. It is an honor to be included in this journal, as well as being given the opportunity to read my work at the book's launch, held in conjunction with Toronto's Jewish Book Fair.

This journal attracts well-known Canadian Jewish authors, poets, playwrights and essayists, and to find my name and work among theirs is a "kavod" for me.

To top that, I have been in the company of a special poet in this book, both last year and two years earlier, when both our poetry was included and we were both asked to read at the launch. This special poet is my now-nineteen-year-old niece, my brother's daughter. When her work was included in the book in 2002, she was the youngest ever to submit and be included in the book. Last year, she was away for the reading, and her maternal grandmother read my niece's poem. Both the delivery and the piece were very beautiful.

Yesterday I submitted to Parchment a couple of poems I wrote earlier this year. I hope that a few months from now, I can share them with you as being "published" poems.

In the meantime, read these; they are glances into the Israel I remember from my stay between October 1983-March 1984.

Remembered Vignettes


a stroke of ice-blue eye shadow here,
another stroke there.
sweep that pale peach blush up,
then draw it down.
light pink across the lower lover’s lips –
dab a cotton puff.
and another.

herzliya sunset over a windswept beach.


atop a girls’ religious seminary
high in the land of Sefad
a sign proclaims:

inside the cold stone building
girls are huddled in a central hall,
grouped around an ancient-looking black telephone,
giggling, talking excitedly among themselves.
one girl holds the receiver to her ear,
waiting and listening.

“she’s on hold for a blessing from the rebbe,”
is explained to me when i cast a curious look.

suddenly a motion of hands waving. a hush.
“amen. thank you. goodbye.”
a collective smile.

“i got a blessing! i got a blessing!
the rebbe gave his blessings for a good shidduch!”
an impromptu hora is danced.
these future brides without their grooms.


such bare walls.
an old, chipped wooden wardrobe.
two single cots.
negelwasser basins wait patiently below each.

a naked bulb hangs low overhead.
accentuating, illuminating –
forgot to turn off the light before sundown.

no shabbos goys here.

i sleep a restless sleep.


climbing the darkened stairway
up to the fifth floor
on a friday night
i ponder the situation.
i, an outsider, have been invited
to be a guest at this stranger’s apartment.
perhaps not a stranger…?
perhaps, rather, a peer from days gone by,
i’ve been told.

i enter the apartment and blink with the
sudden brightness.
the room comes into focus.
a shabbos table
bedecked with white linen cloth, silverware
and fine china.
at one end sit two large round challahs
and a wine bottle
accompanied by a platter of gefilte fish and
dish of pink horseradish.

am i the shabbos queen, after all?


i look from where this booming voice has come
and see a robust man
seated at the other end of the table.
black beard blending with black jacket
and black hat askew on his head.

that face i don’t recognize,
but that voice i know.

and i am once again in a crowded,
fifth-grade schoolyard during recess…

“can i have some of your fritos?” you ask.

Play It Again, Pearl

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I've been blogging since early December, and once in a while, I think a replay of an earlier post is in order. Because I posted about my youngest child just before this post, I'll keep with that theme and present you (latecomers perhaps to Pearlies of Wisdom) with this post from last December.

Sit back, relax, put up your feet and start reading.

And if there's any way for you to track down and hear the referenced song (perhaps by going to Amy Sky's Web page), do so. The lyrics, as well as Amy's beautiful, mournful singing, stir the soul.


Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Games, Grins & Giggles

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My little guy is an avid game player, whether it be sports, a board game, GameCube or Foozball.

He is not only a game player; he is a game winner! This kidlet, who's been around since 2000, has mastered the art of winning...and laughing deviously and demonically as he is declared "the winner!"

Yesterday we were playing a Pop-o-Matic game, circa 1970-- you know, Trouble, Headache, Frustration...and the less renowned Cross Over the Bridge. These board games are housed at my parents' from when I was a child living there. Mr. TorontoPearl, Jr., was my partner in Cross Over the Bridge. I did let him get away with stuff, which I probably wouldn't let a peer in my age group get away with, and he was a winner -- not once, not twice, but three times. The glee that broke out on his face made it all worthwhile.

He is a master controller when he plays GameCube with his older brother, and he learns from the games, too. Not just "bad things", but he can name countless baseball players and baseball teams from playing an online baseball game. He is thrilled to announce to me in the kitchen, "I'm winning...sixteen to nothing."

This evening we played Foozball. Perhaps it's that hand-eye masterful coordination he's acquired from his playing GameCube, but whatever the reason, he rightfully won each time we played...and we played several times. He shrieked with joy and giggled in abundance knowing that he "beat Eema."

As I'm wearing egg on my face from having been beaten (ooh...I saw that inintentional pun AFTER I typed this) by a five-year-old, that five-year-old is wearing a big grin from having beaten his mother.

And seeing that grin on that winner's face makes me realize something. Some years ago I rolled the dice, moved a few spaces ahead in life, rolled the dice again, acquired some prime real estate, rolled the dice again, and got some pieces to call my own.

I think I'm the biggest winner ... in THE GAME OF LIFE.