Monday, October 31, 2005

Me Time/We Time

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I came up with an idea this a.m. en route to work, and thought it to be a good one.

My late-August - September "free" time was taken up by two freelance projects. When I was offered these copy editing assignments, I was pleased, because it was new clientele I'd be working for and like most anyone thinks: "Maybe this gig will lead to another one..."

In any case, many of September's Sundays were beautiful days; I should have been outdoors with my children, taking them to parks and other venues. But what was I doing? Sitting at the dining room table, papers, Post-Its, reference books and red pencils spread out around me. And the excuses tumbled out one after the other: "Sorry, I can't play with you now. Sorry, it's so nice out but we can't go anywhere. SORRY, SORRY, SORRY." (the lyrics to "Cat's in the Cradle" kept running through my head as I thought of this imbalanced parent-child relationship)

After my deadlines, I said to my husband, "It was so not worth it. Even a thousand dollars for both projects would not have made it worth my while... I should have been with the kids."

So, I decided that when I get my two paychecks for these assignments, for the few hundred dollars that it will be, I will take the money and plan for a weekend or even overnight family getaway at a family-oriented hotel. The "Me" time that I spent last month will become the "We" time that it should have been.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Way You Do the Things You Do

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I know that Pearlies of Wisdom has several readers who are parents of young'uns--PsychoToddler, A Simple Jew, Doctor Bean, Stacey, Tuesday Wishes, to name a few.

Have any of you ever stopped to really look at your kids as they throw little hissy fits and full-blown temper tantrums? Have you ever stopped to wonder how it would look if we adults emulated our children when we were just a wee angry? I think about it a lot and often demonstrate for my children what they look and sound like.

Luckily, my kids don't throw themselves down on the floor or bang their heads against something when they're angry (thank G-d that's long outgrown), but they do: stare me down with daggers shooting from eyes, yelp in frustration, whine incessantly, bark out noises of disgust, stomp in their shoes or in bare feet (I call that "slap happy"-- their footfall slaps against the hardwood floors), arch their backs as they stand on tiptoe and screech for a moment or two.
Of course, when I stop them and say, "What if I would do what you're doing when I'm angry?" and proceed to demonstrate, it looks comical. But when they do it, they're in the heat of the moment and oblivious to how they look or what they sound like.

There have been times when one of them is ranting about something or other, and I hush them up, saying, "Please be quiet. I can't even hear the voices in my head." They look at me quizzically; yes, my offbeat sense of humor works on them and they lower their tone.

A child is lively; a child represents life. Yes, we all would like to have perfectly, well-behaved children, but sometimes these "sparks" that they emit are what we need as parents to remind us of why we chose to be parents. We wanted to help mold a child's life and leave our marks on the world. Okay, so in their anger, some kids prefer to leave marks on the wall or on the furniture or floors, but it isn't really anything we can't handle...right? [as she arches her back, stands on tiptoe and screeches in frustration]

"If I Could Save Time in a Bottle..."

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"If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I’d like to do
Is to save every day
Till eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you

If I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
I’d save every day like a treasure and then,
Again, I would spend them with you

But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do
Once you find them..."


Saturday, October 29, 2005

That's the Way -- Uh-Huh, Uh-Huh -- I Like It

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I was born in 1961, so I never quite know what to call myself. People say about themselves, "I'm a child of the sixties...or seventies." I guess I'm more a child of the seventies and eighties, but give me any kind of music -- the thirties, the forties, for the most part I can skip the fifties (except early Elvis), I'll rock'n'roll with the sixties, I'll boogie with the seventies, and I'll get down on the dance floor with the eighties. (In the nineties, I was listening mostly to children's songs!)

It is such a pleasure to be in the kitchen on Saturday night, cleaning up after Shabbat, the radio playing in the background. On one station I have "golden oldies" of the sixties playing; a small turn of the dial takes me to Disco Saturday Night.

If my kids are around, they get such a kick out of watching me let loose with the dance moves and the vocals. I'll lip sync for their pleasure and exaggerate facial expressions. Or I'll belt out song lyrics while sliding around the kitchen floor.

Perhaps it's sad to say that I know nearly every word of every song played from the disco era...'cause back then, on Saturday nights, I was probably in my bedroom listening to the radio when the songs were current. I'd get down, I'd boogie, and I'd shake my groove thing whenever the lyrics called for me to do so.

These days, though, when I get down, it's hard to get up; when I boogie, it's because I'm running late, and if I shake my groove thing, it's because gravity and leftover baby fat (from giving birth!) are helping.

I don't mind if "It's Raining Men"; I'll be glad to "Do the Hustle"; I know "I Will Survive" -- just give me some music, give me a dance floor and give me a spotlight.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

L.A. Revisited -- Again, and Again, and Again...

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The other night, while at the dinner Yom Tov table, I was relaying some story about my trip to California this past June. My oldest child piped up: "If you were there almost 5 months ago, why are you still talking about it?"

His reaction definitely made me think. Yes, I've talked about the trip before, but not excessively, because a few short days upon my return home, we left for a family road trip to Florida. My children had their own memories to make and their own stories to tell.

But had my son been right in his perception of why continue to talk about something if it's long past, then we could take that rationale a step further. We would just have experiences that were self-enclosed, lived for the moment and then close the book on them and shelve them for permanence, not to take the book off the shelf and skim through it from time to time. What kind of life would that be?

My son sees me telling California stories or details I might've forgotten to mention earlier, but does not realize that he himself reminisces, as well. He and his brother and sister continue to remind one another of certain rides at Universal Studios, or the day they watched a young shark being caught off a pier, or the afternoon we spent swimming in the Atlantic Ocean at Cocoa Beach, or the magnificent public fireworks we witnessed on July 4th. These children relish the moments, relish the memories, and their excitement over remembered details is still very evident.

Yes, I will relive my California trip again and least until I make a return trip there and create new memories and have new stories to tell.

Blogger Spell Check Needs Some Lessons in Judaism

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Doesn't Miss Spell Check (c) look like a nice Jewish bubby? She'll cook some chicken soup with lokshen (noodles) or knaidlech (matzah balls) for you and will sit you down at her kitchen table to eat while she goes over your work.

I use spell check in some of my work for work, in my writing of articles, etc. I don't use it for blogging (actually forgetting that it's available for use) normally, but yesterday I used it for my Simchat Torah entry when I noticed a typo once I'd already hit "publish"-- I corrected the error, then reviewed the rest of my work with the spell check service.

It is very clear to me that Blogger needs to be updated and informed re. Jewish references. Here in black is what I typed, followed in red by what was suggested to me as a change. My comments follow in brackets.

Get ready for a few potential laughs or rolling of the eyes.

simchat -- smacked (Simchat means "happy" ; "smack" can make you very happy, thus adding to the joy of Simchat Torah.)

chagim -- chasm (Boy, did the chagim this year, September-October, create a chasm at my workplace between my boss and I.)

shuls -- souls (Shuls/synagogues are filled with countless souls, some more lost than others, but all gathered together as a community in service to G-d).

shteibel -- satiable (The shnapps and herring and egg kichel found in shteibels help ease congregants' most satiable appetites for "Kiddush, kiddush!")

shul -- Saul (I guess that at least one Saul can be found in every shul.)

minyan -- Minoan (A minyan/quorum goes back centuries, but I'm not certain if all the way back to the Minoan age.)

Torahs -- Tories (Torahs and Canadian politics--what a mix!)

hagbah -- highboy (Blogger spell check misses the mark, but gets a point for trying. "High" is the commonality; hold the Torah high.)

daven -- deafen (Is this subliminal suggestion? When members daven/pray in certain congregations, it can be rather deafening, can't it?)

mechitzah -- necktie's (Are these what separate the men from the women in a shul? Blogger spell check couldn't even get the spelling right--how good a spell checker can it be?)

*aliyah -- Allah (What a bizarre suggestion as a word replacement. You know what? You keep your Allah, and we'll keep our aliyah -- to the Torah and to Israel!)


Happy Birthday to my lovely, sweet and gentle mother. Bis 120!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Simchat Torah Memories

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Rejoice with the Torah! Such is the proclamation for the holiday that finished this evening...and so mark the end of our chagim until Chanukah.

I've seen Simchat Torah in many forms, in many shuls throughout my years.My earliest memories are of the shteibel we attended till I was about eight years old. Young and old alike in the basement of a house dancing in glee and carrying that glee upstairs and out of doors onto public property...proclaiming to any and limited passing car and foot traffic that the Torah is ours and it's here to stay.

My next memories are of the family shul, also an Orthodox minyan, where I could still join the men downstairs because I was not yet bat mitzvah age. Or else I stood with my mother and the other ladies and young girls in the balcony, looking down below and watching as certain shul members overexaggerated everything, helped by a little -- or a lot of -- liquor in their systems.

There was one year that I was with friends and we were downtown (the Lower East Side area of Toronto, called Kensington Market) at a shul that just happened to be egalitarian. Now that concept was far beyond me and what I was used to. Yes, we danced outside on the shul property with the Torahs, but when someone offered to hand me the Torah to dance with, I declined. And back inside the shul, when someone offered me hagbah, and then an aliyah, I declined again. It was so foreign to me, so far removed from the environment I was accustomed to, so NOT ME.

One of my loveliest memories of the holiday is about 10 years ago -- I was married and our oldest was about 6 months old. He was wearing a beautiful white and blue plush velour sleeper and was dancing in the arms of my husband, back in a shteibel setting of the shul my husband attended when we married and where we continued to daven until we moved northward. That memory of that baby being held is likened to a Torah in its mantel being held -- lovingly, adoringly and carefully -- and displayed for all to see.

Before a move a couple years ago we attended another small Orthodox shul and the last year we were there, one of the women pseudo-begged the rabbi for the men to pass the Torah over. Reluctantly he and the menfolk agreed and this woman held and danced with the Torah, crying like a baby. She said she'd been trying for over 20 years to get to hold a Torah. She truly rejoiced as she held the Torah like it were her baby and embraced it lovingly. Yes, I finally took the Torah where it was offered to me, but it wasn't as if it were a great achievement for me. I was indifferent, but not as against holding it as I'd been almost 20 years earlier. I just remember being v...e...r...y cautious when I held it.

The shul we attended for the past two Simchat Torah celebrations is very lively -- Bnai Akiva teens come from far and wide and add to the spirit with their singing and dancing. As well, in this shul, also Orthodox, the Torah gets passed over the mechitzah to the women. Women come from far because they know this shul gives women the right to hold and dance with the Torah.

It is clear that the glee shown on the faces of these women and teenage girls as they dance with the Torah is the same glee and wondernment that shone on my face when I was a little girl in that first shteibel my family attended. Then, I stood on the outside looking in on the men; these women stand on the inside and get to look out.

There is a great joy in knowing that each of us is part of something bigger, of a community, of a people. And the Torah is our inheritance, our heritage.

May we all merit to share in the joy and dancing of Simchat Torah next year again.

(cross-posted on THE JEWISH CONNECTION)

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Roll that Film!

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I discovered a great Web site, Jewish Impact Films, that offers brief, entertaining films to help promote Jewish concepts: Shabbos, Kashrut, Sukkot, etc.

It's fun, it's insightful and it's Jewish!

Jewish Impact Films -- click on it!

Friday, October 21, 2005

I'm a Wuss for OnStar (TM)

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No, hubby and I don't own GM vehicles and so we don't have OnStar in our cars, but next best thing to having OnStar access in your vehicle, is listening to the OnStar radio spots.

I'm such a sucker when I hear these three minute ad pitches: it's like a soap opera for the airwaves -- Will the "victim" get through to the OnStar person? Will OnStar get through to the emergency services? Will OnStar be receptive to compliments following the crisis?

I like hearing the disparate accents of callers and the OnStar reps. I like knowing that usually there will be a happy ending. If not, I think the company has their advertising means a little mixed-up.

Sometimes the desperate voices pierce my heart was the case this a.m. just as I drove into the parking lot at work. In this scenario, a 48-year-old man thought he was having a heart attack, emergency personnel were contacted and by the end of the commercial, they'd arrived on the scene. But by the end of the commercial I was also suddenly weepy. I could actually hear the pain in the caller's voice, the tightness, the clenching in his chest, and I actually hoped that he, too, received a happy ending.

Need directions? Call OnStar. Need help unlocking your vehicle? Call OnStar. Car won't drive? Call OnStar. G-d forbid you need emergency medical treatment? Call OnStar.

Need a laugh? Link to BlondeStar.

Give a Book a Look

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I grew up around books: reading them, buying them, collecting them, proofreading them, copy editing them, editing them, shelving them when I worked in campus libraries, donating them when my personal collections got too vast.

I've always been interested in book cover design, typography, author bios on book covers, back cover blurbs, front cover flashes.

In almost every way, books have been appealing to me, except in one as the years went on: THE PRICE. As I got into my late teens and early twenties and I cruised bookstores, lookin' for a good read, I'd find something that I might've read about in a magazine, which sounded interesting to me, and I bought it. I could still afford to. As time went on, I began to head to the publishers' clearance tables of the bookstores, gathering up several books at a time to buy.

But even those days are long gone. Books are damn expensive to buy. Working in the industry, I know that books are damn expensive to produce, so paying the price shouldn't be such a shocker. But it still continues to be.

I always wonder how people can afford to belong to monthly bookclubs, such as my company offers, and get boxfuls of books, paying shipping and handling and state/provincial taxes. I wonder how people can go into the bookstores and buy two or three hardcovers or even paperbacks each month.

As a parent who wants to pass on a few good reads to a child (and not necessarily from a public library or even a secondhand bookstore), I'm at somewhat of a loss when I see the prices of books. Tonight I bought two thin paperbacks for my two oldest children, as a treat for them. These books that total between them less than 200 pages, ran me up a bill of $14 or so...Canadian. Maybe in the States it would have cost me $11 or so. It's still a lot for a silly and simple read, nothing notable about these books.

I, on the other hand, managed to find a softcover publishers' clearance book for myself; I paid 99 cents for the book, which was about 6 years old and a wonderful piece of fiction by a Canadian author who is fairly well-known in these parts. This book even received a wonderful review in the NY Times in its heyday. I felt lucky to have a 99 cents find for a good piece of fiction, but honestly, it hurt me that the author-publisher relationship had come to this and his book was like confetti that's left on the floor after a great party -- fun while it lasted, but a hassle to get rid of.

I adore children's books. Children's books, hardcover or soft, do not come cheap, but a parent has to make some exceptions to make some worthwhile purchases of such books that can become family keepers.

I'm only blogging about the price of books because when I came home tonight and showed the kids the books I bought for them, my daughter asked me after examining the book jacket, "How come we always have to pay more for books here than in the United States?" I had to give her a quick explanation of the American vs. the Canadian dollar, and then gave her a brief concept of book publishing costs in general.

Maybe she "got it" but I'm still wondering about it all.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A Writer's Anxiety Dream

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I have claimed elsewhere in my blog that I am not a writer: I write. But for the sake of this post, consider me a writer.

The other night I woke up from an anxiety dream; you all have them -- before important dates, before big meetings, when expenses need to be paid, etc. I think the most common one people have is that they miss a test, or get into a test and realize they don't know any of the answers or that they studied something else altogether.

My dream had to do with submissions I'd given recently to a Jewish Canadian annual literary journal for consideration for this year's edition. I haven't yet heard anything from the editor/publisher, but in my dream my two poems were published. This journal is released in conjunction with Toronto's Jewish Book Fair held every November and suddenly I was at the venue of the launch, and handed a book and told right there and then that my poems were in. Only problem: they got my name wrong!

When I know I will have something published, I often like to use my maiden and married name if possible; many people from my past would not know my married name but would remember that I was one of the "literary" ones at school if they saw my published piece with my maiden name as well. So I was supposed to have had all three names show up in the index. One poem had me listed only as Pearl, like I was some rock singer a la Jewel or Madonna/Esther. The other poem listed my names completely wrong. There was also some kind of bracketed disclaimer in the index with my poems, implying they were heavy-duty sad, or something like that. I was so angry because I was told that the literary journal had been edited, but I thought that if they got my names wrong, how could it have been edited. And I wondered that nobody would know it was me who wrote either poem with the altered/shortened names.

It is weird to have this dream: I do not yet know if my poems will be accepted this year, like last year and two years before that...but I'm guessing that with my anxiety dream, it means that I'm hoping they will be!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Sometimes No News Is Good News (or Better News)

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At shul today I was talking to a former classmate. She told me that another former classmate (someone I went to Jewish day school and a few years of public high school with) is DYING. She's apparently in 4th stage of lung cancer. I was rendered speechless. This 44-year-old woman is dying...DYING.

I was never friends-friends with this girl, but we were classmates, acquaintances, and I liked her. I have not seen her probably in 25 years, since high school graduation. She never married, never had children, and continued to live at home with her widowed mother. I think that life did not treat her the way she'd have liked to be treated, although she was cute and perky and spunky and very lively and fun.

I know where this girl/woman lives, and actually for so many years when I passed her home, I always just felt like knocking on the door and saying hi just out of the blue. But I never did. There'd have been a greater chance a few years ago, when my mother-in-law happened to befriend a woman in Florida who was this girl's mother. That would have been the perfect opportunity to check in with the girl after so many years and just catch up.

Last year I ran into a friend of that girl whom she grew up with and I said to please give her warm regards from me, that I think of her from time to time.

Now, I really feel the need to see her, to say hello (and unfortunately also maybe a goodbye), to give her a hug. It is so weird, so very akward for me... I never really had anything doing with this girl aside from just a friendliness and school history, and I want to seek her out before it's really too late to do so. It isn't about appeasing me and my conscience, though. I just have felt a curiousity about her all these years, what she's done with herself, see who she's in touch with still, to reminisce about teachers and classmates...

I have another classmate, Sharon Nechama, whom I went through Jewish day school with, and she left after grade 9 for public high school. We ran into one another 2 or 3 times throughout the years and caught up on our lives for a few minutes, but that stopped: that classmate died at the age of 27 in a car accident. I found out where she is buried and every year or two I make it a point to visit her kever. You don't necessarily have to be friends with a person to feel a strong compassion; there is just some common history, some childhood kind of bonding that serves as a basis for memory.

I will G-d willing find a way to visit this other classmate while she is still among the living. I hope that she is willing and able to still see visitors. I don't know what nechama (comfort) I can give her at this point in her life, but I can tell her how I always liked her, how she helped build up my self-esteem at an impressionable time in my life and I've always remembered her for that goodness.

Miriam/Marilyn, I hope that Hashem is watching over you and blesses you...


Update -- Sunday afternoon:

I did call my classmate around noon today; I just took the bull by the horns, looked up the number, reached her mother, who gave me my classmate's private number.

I was bothered all day yesterday, and all night yesterday after hearing the news. I couldn't sleep well at all, and between 4 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. I was on the computer looking up the definition and symptoms of 4th stage lung cancer. I needed to know what this woman was going through.

To make a long story short, she was so pleased I called her, I was pleased I called her and got to speak to her. I think we will get in touch from time to time via e-mail, and if she wants visitors, I will make it a point to go and see her. In the meantime, I wish her strength and the ability to have many pain-free days...

Friday, October 14, 2005

Reflections on Yom Kippur

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1. I turned on the computer tonight, to our home page There was a picture of Hillary Clinton addressing a Beverly Hills, California, congregation. What was she doing in a -- and I'm guessing here -- temple or a synagogue, probably not a shul or shteeble.

What was Hillary doing: headlining for the Israel Bonds drive? Appealing to congregants and annual visitors that if they plunk down their good hard-earned U.S. dollars, they will benefit the country of Israel?

To me, Yom Kippur is not Yom Kippur without a Bonds drive! I had a card sitting on my seat at shul. My eight-year-old daughter had a card on her seat. Thank G-d she didn't get ambitious and fold down the $25,000 tab or even the $1000 tab. Her (non-extistent) allowance won't pay for it!

2. I know that most people find the Kol Nidrei service very moving. After all, we are standing before G-d, repenting for our sins and appealing for another year of good and to be inscribed in the Book of Life. Yes, it is moving, as is every time I beat my chest as I list my sins.

Perhaps surprising to you is my love for the closing service of Yom Kippur -- the last-minute reminder of my requests, before the Gates of Heaven close to us, before the book is sealed. I wait for the blowing of the shofar, and not because it marks the end of my fast -- I fast well, thank G-d, and could probably carry on into the next day, if I only get to have a drink of water. That shofar marking the end of the fast is so powerful for me, such a rich sound that heralds the end of this solemn holy day, yet marks as a reminder that our requests have been heard and dealt with by G-d. When men are standing and davening an entire day for their salvation and the salvation of their congregants, and they still have the energy and mindset to blow this beautiful ram's horn is a wondrous is the sound that emits from the shofar...that last lingering note.

3. A friend kindly sent me this link. Please take a few moments to watch this film, especially that we've just had our own personal conversations with G-d in shul, in our prayers and in our thoughts.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

MEME's the Word (aka The 23rd Meme)

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I found this very interesting meme on someone else's blog, and thought I'd try it. You might like to, as well.

1. Delve into your blog archive.
2. Find your 23rd post.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.

Unfortunately I discovered that this didn't work for me--my 23rd post is only one sentence, four lines long.

Oh well, better luck next meme....

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

A Shout-Out to Blogland/Blogville/ the Blogway

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I've said it before, yet I have to say it again: I love blogging. I love writing blogs. I love reading blogs. I love commenting on blogs. I love reading comments on blogs.

It's just over a year now that I learned of blogs and began to read them, one in particular. (my blogging writing career started December 2004) But then I went to that blog's listed links and checked some of those out. A couple of them became regular reads and then I'd link to those bloggers' links...and so on and so forth. (I can't help but always think of the hair product that advertises: "I told two friends, and they told two friends and so on, and so forth.")

I have a very complete life with a beautiful family, a full-time job, a lovely home and various interests. But it is difficult for me to remember life "BB"--before blogging. It's just like some of us can't remember life "BK"--before kids, or life "BM"--before marriage. I can't remember what I was doing a year and one week ago -- it wasn't as if I watched much TV, because I didn't. It wasn't as if I was reading, because when I read all day at my job, it's difficult to read for pleasure. I think, if I recall correctly, I was just a "surfer" but not a "blogger". Very proudly I can now say that I am BOTH!

I won't start renaming blogs that I read, but let me say that my day doesn't feel complete unless I've cruised past your blog several times a day, seeking new posts, new comments, new comments on comments. There are several BRILLIANT writers out there -- BRILLIANT, as in good and articulate and enlightening; and BRILLIANT, as in extremely entertaining, causing me to crack smiles or break out in laughter. There are those BRILLIANT writers out there who with a simple turn of phrase can encapsulate what you are feeling, what you are thinking. There are those BRILLIANT writers out there who paint a canvas with a spectrum of emotions, from the black of anger and despair to the white of purity and holiness and calmness...and everything in between. The sunny yellows, golds and oranges, the drab browns and grays.

I have learned so much from many of you -- about life, about perception, about traditions, about Halacha, about current events, about human frailties and human strengths, about nature, about literature/music/art, about geography and history and social studies. And most importantly, I have also learned more about I interact on this virtual highway...and carry this knowledge with me.

I hope that the coming (blogging) year equally brings you personal fulfillment and simple joys.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Yom Kippur Celebrity Trivia

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My grade 6 English teacher told me many years later when I met her again that she was a two-day-a-year shul Jew. She claimed she walked in on Rosh Hashanah and walked out on Yom Kippur. Yes, there are countless Jews that come out of the woodwork to partake in these two solemn holidays that mark the tone of the coming year. At least they do that...

Here is an interesting piece I read in the Jewish World Review, a wonderful online source of information.

Far from religiously observant, these celebs had an affinity for Yom Kippur
By Nate Bloom

Yom Kippur, the most solemn Jewish holiday of the year, has produced a number of celebrity anecdotes.

Famous actor KIRK DOUGLAS, who became very religious in the early 1990s, recalls that for most of his life he was not observant, but he always went to synagogue on Yom Kippur. He credits this practice with keeping a spark of faith alive that was kindled in his later years.

In a lighter vein, comedian ROBERT KLEIN says that against his better judgment he once accepted a lucrative club date on Yom Kippur. He got an infected wart. Since then, Klein has not played on Yom Kippur, and he says that one club owner calls him the " SANDY KOUFAX of comedy."

The owner, of course, was referring to the decision of baseball great not to pitch in a 1965 World Series game which fell on the holiday. Other Jewish players who have sat out the day include Hall-of-Famer HANK GREENBERG, current star SHAWN GREEN, and KEN HOLTZMAN, an excellent pitcher who played for several teams in the '60s and '70s.

Holtzman, then playing for Oakland Athletics, declined to pitch in a 1973 play-off game against the Baltimore Orioles that fell on Yom Kippur. His team had no problem with his decision and the A's management said it would find a local Baltimore synagogue where Holtzman could attend services. He was, however, surprised when a limousine appeared in front of his Baltimore hotel on Yom Kippur morning. The driver told Holtzman that he was told to take the pitcher to synagogue.

As reported by the Forward newspaper, "[Holtzman] was escorted to front row center of the synagogue, where he was offered a handshake by a distinguished-looking man standing near his family. 'Ken, let me introduce myself,' the man said. 'I'm JERRY HOFFBERGER, owner of the Orioles.' For Holtzman, the moral of the story was simple: 'Jews stick together.'"

Another story concerns musical great SAMMY DAVIS, JR. , who converted to Reform Judaism in the mid-1950s. In 1959, Davis refused to work on Yom Kippur during the film production of "Porgy and Bess." Director OTTO PREMINGER, who was Jewish, but famous for his insensitivity to other people's feelings, got angry at Davis and called the film's producer, the legendary SAMUEL GOLDWYN.

Goldwyn immediately called Davis and wanted to know if it was true about his refusing to work. Sammy said that as a Jew he could not work on the Day of Atonement. There was silence for a moment, with Goldwyn no doubt noting that stopping production to accommodate Davis would cost $30,000, a large sum then. Finally, Goldwyn, who was a non-practicing Jew, said, "Bless you." Production on the film was stopped for Yom Kippur.

The final anecdote concerns the famous composer/conductor LEONARD BERNSTEIN. Bernstein came from a family of Talmudic scholars, but was only moderately observant in his adult years. However, Bernstein would hire a taxicab for Yom Kippur and go around Manhattan "shul-hopping." He did this because he loved to hear many different cantors' interpretations of the traditional prayers.

Bernstein knew, of course, that riding was forbidden on the holiday, so he would have the cab driver drop him off a block away from each synagogue so that synagogue-goers would not see the famous conductor riding on the holiday.

His son, Alexander, commented that his father would immediately intensely concentrate on the service and the cantor upon entering a synagogue. He was carried-away, his son said, in a world of his own.


May we all, celebrity or not, be inscribed in the Book of Life once again for a happy, healthy and successful year. G'mar chatimah tova.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

I Want To Go to the Zoo, Zoo, Zoo

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Did I tell you the other day about a heatwave? Well, I spoke too soon. Yesterday was cool, today was cool...and a beautiful fall day. What to do?

Of course PROJECT SUKKAH should have been #1 on the list. But for different reasons, we had to put it on hold until next weekend. (yes, I know, we're cutting it close...but we tend to live our lives that way.) I suggested a drive to the country to an outlet mall and then to go antiquing in a nearby town...but then my husband and I imagined the mall scene--having to keep a tight rein on the children -- and the antiquing scene -- "Don't touch that. It'll break. It's AN ANTIQUE! No, it's older than I am..."

Then I suggested the zoo. I have two sets of prepaid tickets (through my work's social club that gets tickets to social/sports/entertainment venues at a reduced rate) that are good until next May and next July...and I thought that today is as good a day as any.

The children got excited with the offer, a knapsack was packed with snacks, drinks and sandwiches, cameras were loaded with batteries and off we went.

Thank G-d for reduced ticket rates; otherwise, it would have cost the 5 of us about $71 just to get through the gates, and that was on top of the $8 parking.

What is lovely at the zoo is to see the same animals at different times of the year: I've been in spring, summer, winter and fall. Who'd have thought that you could snap a photo of an African elephant with a backdrop of maple leaves turning into golds and crimsons. Or polar bears lounging on the rocks in the sun, instead of hitting the cool current of the man-made lake?

Of course the orangutans and monkeys are always fun to watch as they primp and groom themselves, scratch their tushies without shame and do their acrobatics on the built-in "jungle gyms" their habitats offer.

Today, one of the prettiest exhibits we saw were free-flying butterflies in a small-scale rainforest setting. I know they're attracted to bright colors, but for some reason they liked my black sweatshirt and settled on my chest a couple of times. The colors of these creatures were magnificent and unlike the simple monarch butterfly most of us are used to seeing. Unfortunately, my children let out shrieks and shrills OF FEAR when butterflies settled on them or came too close.

We walked for miles through the regions and continents that the zoo is divided into. Sometimes I couldn't help wondering as I looked at the animals through glass dividers: "Are we looking in at them? Or are they looking out at us? Who is really the creature on display?"

I'll leave you with this from the famous 1960's film, Dr. Doolittle. We certainly "grew accustomed" to these lyrics:


If we could talk to the animals,

just imagine it,

Chattin' to a chimp in chimpanzee,

Imagine talking to a tiger,

chatting to a cheetah,

What a neat achievement it would be!

If we could talk to the animals,

learn their languages,

We could take an animal degree,

We'd study elephant and eagle, buffalo and beagle,

Alligator, guinea pig, and flea!

We would converse in polar bear and python,

And we would curse in fluent kangaroo,

If people ask us "can you speak rhinocerous?"

We'd say "of courserous! Can't you?"

If we conferred with our furry friends, man to animal,

Think of all the things we could discuss

If we could walk with animals, talk with the animals,

Grunt and squeak and squawk with the animals,

And they could talk to us!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

MEMEorize These

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Mirty so kindly invited me into the loop to respond to these:

1. Seven Celebrity Crushes

2. Seven Things I Can Do

3. Seven Things I Cannot Do

4. Seven Things That Attract Me To The Opposite Sex

5. Seven Things I Say Most Often

6. Seven Things I Plan To Do Before I Die

Okay -- here goes...

Seven Celebrity Crushes (call me wacko, but...)

1. Billy Crystal
2. Michael Feinstein (is it okay to have a crush on a gay man?)
3. Jerry Seinfeld
4. John Stossel (I don't even know if he's still a news guy on the air)
5. The guy/fellow lawyer from Ally McBeal who died off early on in the show
6. James Caan
7. Kenny G. (I think we could make beautiful music together)

Seven Things I Can Do

1. Write poetry
2. Sing soprano, sing alto
3. Spell b-a-t-h-y-s-c-a-p-h-e
4. Make up captivating bedtime stories for my children
5. Write letters that express what I can't say in person
6. Be a peacekeeper
7. Make people laugh and smile

Seven Things I Cannot Do

1. Bake cakes too well
2. Fold up a map too well
3. Make decisions too well
4. Geometry
5. Drive a stick shift
6. Sit quietly through a movie without shifting continuously in my seat
7. Relax

Seven Things That Attract Me To The Opposite Sex

1. A nice smile
2. Wittiness
3. An open, friendly look
4. Natural personality
5. An interest in what I have to say
6. Sincerity
7. Bright, clear eyes

Seven Things I Say Most Often

1. Okay
2. Whatever
3. Anyhow...anyway
4. This blogger that I read said/did/told...
5. Okay, "booba"
6. Ciao
7. Love ya

Seven Things I Plan To Do Before I Die

1. Publish a children's picture book or an anthology of poetry
2. Give some people from my past a piece of my a nice way, of course
3. Write a personalized letter to each of my children
4. Learn to be more independent, more self-sufficient
5. Put our photos in photo albums (those of you who have followed my blog will understand this comment)
6. Break down some more barriers between people
7. Tell family and friends how much I cherish them and how much they've impacted my life (and at this point I'm starting to I'll end here)

Eye Is Healed, Eye Is Healed

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Picture being in the South, at some kind of Baptist revival meeting. A faith healer is on hand and he's doing his magic on congregation members.

I, a visitor, walk up to the stage, where this minister puts his hand on my eye, says some mumbo-jumbo, removes my eye patch.

I loudly declare: "EYE IS HEALED, EYE IS HEALED!!!"

(And that, dear folks, is an update on PatchPearl's eye condition. Thought you might want to know. Thanks for your concern.)

Friday, October 07, 2005


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So I'm home today from work -- PatchPearl could not see going into work till 2:30 and trying to read manuscripts and other copy for 5 1/2 hours. Besides, it would be treacherous and torturous to drive, especially today when it's raining and foggy.

I got up this morning to prepare my kids' lunches and jackets, and help see them off to school. Then I was on the computer for a bit and then I went back to sleep for two hours. My body needed it, my mind needed it.

But of course when I woke up, I realized that things around the house needed to get done. Yes, I have tons of leftovers from Yom Tov, so there's minimal food preparation for Shabbos. But I saw that I still had to put away fancy platters and serving dishes that sat in the middle of the dining room table since Yom Tov, I had to unload the dishwasher. It was clear to me that four baskets of clean laundry had to be folded and put away. Clutter needed to be de-cluttered, and from my point of view the perfect time to do this stuff is when it's quiet, no kids around, no other great responsiblities looming over my head.

With this eye patch, my vision may be rather limited...but believe me when I say I can still see the whole picture.

I wish you all a good Shabbos and a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Better Than a Poke in the Eye with a Sharp Stick

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The title of this post refers to something my husband always says when there's a choice to make. If we decide on the first alternative instead of the second, he might say this. If things don't go as planned, he might say this.

And today I say it.

At 5:45 a.m. I was lying on my daughter's bed; sometimes she requests that I lie with her, and of course, I fall asleep. She was pulling the covers and kicking them off at the same time and I turned around to look at her and see what was going on. And then I got it: THWAP! Poked in the eye. The pain was instantaneous and my hand went to cover the eye. I ran out of the bed and ran into the master bedroom, crying from the pain and unable to catch a breath to speak. My husband who woke up kept asking, "What's wrong? What happened?" And I couldn't get the words out. Finally between large gulps and sniffles I told him and he immediately made a compress to put on my eye.

I have, thank G-d, a high threshold of pain I believe (natural childbirth 3x; no painkillers after root canals and other minor surgeries), but this pain and the pressure behind the eyeball was almost intolerable. What was worse was that exactly two weeks ago, my co-worker somehow managed to scratch her cornea with a paper towel, and I had a feeling I had done the same to myself.

For an hour I couldn't open my eye, my nose was running like what, my eyes were tearing like what. It was like I had a severe cold, sinus infection and allergies rolled into one. But I knew I had to get to work and then see what to do: try to get an appointment with my eye doctor or go to a walk-in medical clinic. I chose the former and later in the morning, managed to book an appointment for this evening.

At first the discomfort and pain were tolerable, but then throughout the day at various intervals, the nose and eyes started running again, and I was blinking incessantly. Imagine when you wake up with that gritty, sandy feeling in your eyes; now imagine an entire sandbag has been dumped in your eyes, and someone is pushing your eyeball from behind, to boot! That's the pain I was having.

Driving home was murder; the sun was glaring in the west, in the direction I had to travel. Even with my sunglasses and the sun visor down, any time the sun hit my eyes, my vision blurred up with tears and pain.

Well, I just came home from the opthomologist. And I am a Moshe Dayan wannabe with an eye patch -- flesh tone, not black, thank G-d. Yes, that THWAP! in my eye managed to cause an abrasion. The doctor put an ointment in the eye, patched it up so it wouldn't get infected with bacteria, and tomorrow will check it out.

To drive with an eye patch (at least in my eyes-- yes the pun was intended!) is rather difficult; to keep the eye closed under the eye patch is rather difficult. To type this post is somewhat difficult.

My daughter kept apologizing profusely for what she'd unknowingly and unintentionally done, and even called me on the cell this a.m. as I drove to work, giving the first apologies. (when she woke, my husband told her what happened; she'd slept through all the medical drama) When I came home from work, she gave me more apologies and countless kisses. When I got back from the eye doctor, there were more of the same. And my youngest wondered aloud if with the patch I now qualify to be "a pirate."

Yes, this was a mishap, and thank G-d it wasn't worse. Because a poke in the eye with a finger or fingernail is ... as I said when I started this post: "Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick!"

A Yom Tov Heat Wave

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"We're havin a heat wave
A tropical heat wave
The temperatures rising..."

One would think that October brings a crispness to the air, a cool breeze, the need to wear a light sweater when outdoors...

Yes, one would think. BUT NOT THIS PAST YOM TOV!

Rosh Hashana was sweltering hot -- whatever new wool suits and wool hats women bought for the chag, had to be stored for another time. The straw hats came back out, the lightweight, light-colored suits and shoes came out of storage to make appearances.

It took me 30 minutes to walk to shul. It took me 40 minutes to recuperate from that 30-minute walk.

My parents came for lunch the first day. My mother was wearing a dark pinstripe wool dress, my father was in his dark suit. I said, "Ma, just looking at you makes me hot." She and my father told me how their shul was FREEZING!!! In the winter it's freezing 'cause they cut back on the heat, during the High Holidays it's freezing 'cause they cut back on the heat...and put on the air-conditioning.

As my daughter and I walked home together yesterday from shul, we played a game. I said, "I'm sweating like a...." and she filled in the blank. We went through the roster of family members, including cousins and uncle and aunt that were expected for lunch. Interesting how all her answers seemed to have some form of the word "fire" in it. I don't sweat like fire, but I sure was hot like it!

A summer heat wave for Rosh Hashana could very well become a cold snap and a need for ski jackets when sitting in the sukkah in a couple of weeks. Maybe it won't be Marilyn Monroe singing in the background, "We're having a heat wave..."; maybe it'll be some MGM musical actress singing "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow..."

The Yummy Awards

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So...we have the Emmy Awards, the Grammy Awards, the Oscars, the Soul Train Awards, the RITA Awards...and I now declare the grand prize winner of the 2005 Yummy Awards: TorontoPearl's husband.

This past Yom Tov, we hosted ALL the meals at our home; the number of guests ranged. Five in our family plus: one guest on Monday night, four guests for Tuesday lunch, six guests for Tuesday night and eight guests for Wednesday lunch.

When you host so many guests, many of them children, you need to offer a variety of foods. We like to refer to these days as "marathon eating" days, or as I wished a fellow blogaholic, a "happy foodfest!" She was going to have 27 people at one meal, but thank G-d, it was to be a potluck meal -- 27 people at one meal can either be a grand success or a dismal failure, and I give her credit for even having so many people sit at one or two tables. If it were in my home, I think the meal would end up like a meal that I used to have in the hotels in the Catskills or Florida: some of the guests would be at the first sitting for dinner, other guests would show up for the second sitting!

In any case, let me get back to my situation, my menu and my husband, the recipient of the Yummy Award.

Mr. TorontoPearl has a knack for easily finding his way around the kitchen; while I'm still reviewing the ingredients necessary for a recipe, he's already whisking, or chopping, or pureeing those same ingredients. He is quick, he is able, and he's g...o....o....d!!!

As I'd been busy for the past several weeks with freelance projects, yet had had the "brilliant" idea to invite countless people for Yom Tov, and the holiday was nearing, something had to be done. So hubby took the bull by the horns, started to plan menus, which we debated at great length in between my tackling a manuscript on Yiddish curses, and a manuscript on Reform Jewish identities and affiliation with a particular synagogue. As we debated the menus, I threw out some of those newly learned curses, and but then decided that if hubby was going to help me prepare for the chag, maybe it wasn't such a grand idea to want to reform him or his meal suggestions.

But variety, variety, variety was to be the key. And variety means several choices. And hosting four major meals means not wanting any repetitions. And not wanting any repetitions means lots of dishes that need to be housed in the refrigerator. And two full-size refrigerators and a bar fridge means learning to stack your dishes. And stacking your dishes means labeling them first so you know what's under all that aluminum wrapping.

So in one breath I will tell you some of our -- "our" meaning mostly hubby's prepared -- menu items. Chicken soup. Chicken soup with matzoh balls. Chicken soup with homemade kreplach. Broccoli-leek soup. Ashkenazi gefilte fish. Moroccan fish balls. Middle-Eastern eggplant. Orzo salad. Green salad. Meatballs. Turkey schnitzel. Honey-mustard chicken. Turkey legs. Barbecued chicken. Sweet-sour stew. Brown rice. Roasted potatoes. Honey cake. Chocolate cake. Apple cake. Brownies.

We even came up with a food-related joke. One of our meals had several dishes that used cumin to flavor them. It was decided that Sephardic cumin is the new Ashkenazi cinnamon.

In any case, my hubby is the master chef; I'm the sous chef. He prepares many dishes. I wash many dishes. He gets the Yummy Award; I get to eat everything yummy.

And best of all, we have enough food left over to feed a small army, to sustain us through most of this month's chagim, if not at least a couple more Shabboses.

Of course, after all the chagim are over, it's probably to be the diet route for us. Hmmm...wonder what goodies hubby will think up for our menus then. Water with ice. Water with slice of lime. Or maybe our intended diet will just be "food for thought"!