Saturday, September 30, 2006

Some Food for Thought

This lovely message was forwarded to me from Danny Bloom, a Jewish writer-journalist-blogger who lives and works in Taiwan, and whom I met in "blogland" almost two years ago.

I think this is worth sharing with the rest of you. It's definitely something to think about as many of you will stand in synagogue starting tomorrow night and pray for forgiveness, atoning for all the wrongdoings you've committed this past year, and praying to be signed and sealed in the Book of Life.

I'll pray for you that you all are...

Have an easy fast, and a g'mar chatimah tovah.

A voyaging ship was wrecked during a storm at sea and only two of the men on it were able to swim to a small, desert like island. The two survivors, not knowing what else to do, agree that they had no other recourse but to pray to God. However, to find out whose prayer was more powerful, they agreed to divide the territory between them and stay on opposite sides of the island.

The first thing they prayed for was food. The next morning, the first man saw a fruit-bearing tree on his side of the land, and he was able to eat its fruit. The other man's parcel of land remained barren.

After a week, the first man was lonely and he decided to pray for a wife. The next day, another ship was wrecked, and the only survivor was a woman who swam to his side of the land. On the other side of the island, there was nothing.

Soon the first man prayed for a house, clothes, more food. The next day, like magic, all of these were given to him. However, the second man still had nothing.

Finally, the first man prayed for a ship, so that he and his wife could leave the island. In the morning, he found a ship docked at his side of the island. The first man boarded the ship with his wife and decided to leave the second man on the island. He considered the other man unworthy to receive God's blessings, since none of his prayers had been answered.

As the ship was about to leave, the first man heard a voice from heaven booming, "Why are you leaving your companion on the island?"

"My blessings are mine alone, since I was the one who prayed for them," the first man answered. "His prayers were all unanswered and so he does not deserve anything."

"You are mistaken!" the voice rebuked him. "He had only one prayer, which I answered. If not for that, you would not have received any of my blessings."

"Tell me," the first man asked the voice, "what did he pray for that I should owe him anything?"

"He prayed that all your prayers be answered."

For all we know, our blessings are not the fruits of our prayers alone, but those of another praying for us.

Friday, September 29, 2006

My Own Pretty Woman

(I don't know who modified this photo to include that person in the tub with Julia, but it isn't my doing!)

I'm guessing that most of you remember or saw Pretty Woman, the comedy starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. It was a cute, light, feel-good "knight-in-shining-armor" story for the big screen. I'm not sure we all wanted to be like Julia Roberts, but I know we all wanted dear, dear Richard Gere in our life!

Early this week, I surprised my daughter with a visit to a record store and I bought her the James Blunt CD, "Back to Bedlam." I don't hear her listening all that much to the radio, but she seems to know all the lyrics to very current songs, so I thought I'd treat her to her favorite artist of the day.

To say she was thrilled is minimizing the story. She came home, asked if she could play the CD after she'd done all her homework and read and gotten ready for bed, etc. I told her she could listen while she did her homework. That concept hadn't even crossed her mind! But she gratefully put the CD in her personal player and sat down at her desk.

I sat down in our office down the hall from her room, and every now and again, I heard little singsong murmurings. And I smiled. A girl after my own heart. A girl who likes music.

Tonight there was a repeat performance of doing homework while listening to the CD...and me in the office overhearing her singsong. And then I had a flashback...

Do you recall the scene in "Pretty Woman" when Julia Roberts, aka Vivian, is taking a bubble bath, with a Walkman attached to her ears. She is happily immersed in bubbles, with the earphones tuning out the world and tuning Julia in to music. She is smiling, bobbing her head to the beat and we see/hear bits and pieces of songs.

THAT is my daughter. My own "pretty woman."

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

CROCs Revisited...Yet Again

The other day I posted a photo of CROCs in my vestibule. I received no comments, so I wrote my own comment.

Today I found this wonderful comment -- by Jac -- to the post.

I think that the bat mitzvah girl was very lucky to get a pair of CROCs along with the accompanying sentiments...and we're very lucky to be able to read this message. I wanted to share it with you because otherwise it would remain lost in the world of comments to earlier posts!

Here was my Crocs blessing for a Bat Mitzvah girl: "These shoes may be crocs but they are NOT a Crock. They are no hoax, for they stand for all that has delivered the Jewish people on treacherous journeys on land and sea, over mountains and through dangerous passes, These only weigh 6 oz., yet they also carry a weighty message that will help you leave vital footprints across the sands of time.
We bestow them upon you with the hopes that just like these shoes your journey will match that of the Israelites throughout our long and soulful history. As the Crocs are tough, and the Jews are tough, so may you be strengthened on your journey, As the holes allow sand and water to filter out, so may you filter out all that which is negative and deters your chosen path among your holy wandering community. As they function both well on land and sea, may you be protected wherever your life leads you. As they have a long life span so may you be blessed .
May the nonslip soles, remind you to keep your own soul intact and remain true to the values you've learned from our Torah, our history and our heritage.":)


It is customary at this time of the year to say sorry to people and to ask for forgiveness for anything you might have done to intentionally or unintentionally hurt someone.

I found this interesting question and answer that has relevance here:

Virtual Forgiveness

From: E. T. in Denver

Dear Rabbi,
Is it permissible to ask for mechila (forgiveness) over an email network rather than in person? I know it's not preferable, but many of us work in large networked environments. We considered the option of sending it receipt-requested to a specific address rather than an all-points broadcast. Thanks!

Dear E. T.
There are two components in achieving forgiveness from someone we have wronged. One is the initiative of asking for forgiveness; the other is the granting of the forgiveness. Ideally, we try for both. While doing so in person is the best way to appease someone, it is not always possible. Asking for forgiveness in a written letter, over the phone or in cyber space is also acceptable particularly when the person responds. Nevertheless, even if a person doesnt confirm his forgiveness, in the pre-Kol Nidre confession a Jew says that he forgives anyone who wronged him, and prays that Heaven will inspire others to forgive him as well.

That being the case, "I'm sorry"!

Gluckel of Hamelin

On the second day of Rosh Hashanah, I left the main sanctuary to listen to a speaker -- Paul Shaviv, headmaster of the Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto, a scholar and a blogger to boot.

Professor Shaviv gave a talk about Gluckel of Hamelin who'd been a wife, mother, merchant and Medieval Jewish diarist. She died on the 2nd day of Rosh Hashanah in 1724, thus Professor Shaviv found it fitting to speak about her.

We live in the twenty-first century. Many of us are wives and mothers. Some of us blog, while others still maintain handwritten journals. Our blogs and the pages of our journal speak about the world as we know it today.

Can you imagine reading details of family life, religious life, communal life, the life of a female -- a Jewish female -- in the late 1600s? As Paul Shaviv's handout stated, "Her diary, written in seven notebooks, covers the period 1689-1715. It is one of the most famous sources of Medieval Jewish domestic history and a unique picture of the life of a late-medieval Jewish woman."

Fascinating reading. Fascinating figurehead Gluckel was.

And lovely accent, Professor Shaviv!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A Sweet Birthday Indeed

Shana Tovah, everyone. A happy and healthy New Year to you all. Hope the holiday was filled with good food, warm family times and meaningful synagogue experiences. Hope the sound of the shofar roused you from the spiritual sleep you might've fallen into this past year.

As I said in recent posts, my 45th birthday (English calendar) fell on the first day of Rosh Hashanah this year. My birthday always seems to fall somewhere between Rosh Hashanah and the end of Sukkot every year.

I consulted the Hebrew calendar last week; September 23, 1961 was a Saturday, the 13th of Tishrei, Parshat Haazinu (which happens to be next week's parsha, and happens to be one that my daughter has to prepare a parshat hashavuah for to present to her classmates next Friday). I was born a couple days before Sukkot.

My mother told me that in 1961, when Yom Kippur was done, and the men went out to pray to the moon, her uncle (the reason she came to Toronto in the first place, from Switzerland) kept her in mind and prayed that she'd have an easy time of delivering me when the time was right. And after I was born, he walked rather far, from his home to the hospital, to visit my mother and me, the newborn, and brought the lulav and etrog to the hospital so that my mother could witness and partake in the brachot.

And apparently I was born about three weeks early. I believe that must be the only time I've ever been early for anything!

Okay, so personal birth history aside, Saturday was my birthday. My parents and family and a couple close friends had already wished me well before the holiday. My husband had told me on Friday: "You can take a nap on Shabbos afternoon, and I'll look after the kids. That's my birthday gift to you!"

I like my Shabbos naps, and after working so hard to prepare for the holiday, and having been rundown with my cold all week, it was to be a treat.

At shul on Saturday, a couple of people wished me a happy birthday -- one was a longtime friend, but it was a pleasant surprise to me that she'd remember; the other person is a shul fixture, whom I only know for a few months, and I just thought my husband must've mentioned it to him. He gave me some funny answer as to how he knew it.

So at lunchtime, I was already pretty tired and said, "Can we hurry it up. There's a bed with my name on it." Everyone insisted I go to sleep and not walk the dog as I contemplated doing before my nap. And off I went to lullaby land.

I woke up to hear a bright and loud voice downstairs. It sounded vaguely familiar to me as someone from shul, but I wondered what they were doing here. I made myself presentable then went downstairs.

Yes, I saw a couple from shul and I also saw a sweet table spread out on the dining room table. My kids were hovering around and wishing a happy birthday....and slowly, couples began trickling in, doing the same.

Apparently, a short time before Yom Tov came in, my husband contacted several couples from shul, who are good acquaintances or even better friends, to invite them for tea and to celebrate my birthday. He'd only told my two oldest kids before lunch, and they helped set up everything while I was asleep.

There were about eight couples in my home, and lovely people. My husband had picked the right people to invite -- people who have been welcoming and warm to us since we joined this particular minyan and became involved. (my husband is treasurer; and both he and I are on the setting-up-kiddush committee) People we know a little, and whom we'd like to get to know more.

I am not one for surprises (I feel very vulnerable with things out of my control) nor is he, but he chose to do this for me. It was a beautiful, subtle and low-key gesture and thus very welcome, and I felt very comfortable with the whole thing.
The surprise worked, and the happiness remained...

Thank you, TorontoPearl's husband, for once again showing just how much you care, and how much I mean to you. And thank you to my dear children for happily keeping the secret, if even for a few short hours, and helping your abba to pull it off.

One of my guests had asked me if I'd asked my husband for a particular gift. I said, "No." She continued. "Don't you have a wish list?" I said, "No." In all honesty, and maybe with the wisdom of an old(er) Jewish lady, I can say that standing in shul today, being able to hear the blowing of the shofar with my family around me, knowing that my parents and my siblings and families were in their respective shuls doing the same, is a wonderful gift.

And I hope next year that we will all be able to share the gift once more...

Friday, September 22, 2006

NU? Year.

Shanah Tovah, everyone, from the TorontoPearl clan. Best wishes for a year of good health and happiness; may your aspirations be within reach and may you reach many of them!


Thursday, September 21, 2006

CROCS (tm) 'R' Us

When my daughter had a birthday party in August, her nine friends that came to our house for a jewellery-making party wore the most popular footwear. (okay, so one of them wasn't sent the fashion bulletin, and wore plain old sandals)

These CROCS dressed up our vestibule, and I took the shoes and put them in(more of) a heap for a photo op. Above is the result.

Thus far in my family of five, we have two authentic CROCS-wearing people, one imitation-CROCS-wearing person, and one soon-to-be imitation-CROCS-wearing person. And I'll give you a hint: it ain't me!

But I have this to say about CROCS-wearing people: "They've got a lot of SOLE."

And about the photo above, I say, "Aw...what a bunch of CROC(s)!"

Menu Madness

Rosh Hashanah, along with Shabbat, starts Friday night and ends Sunday night. That means we need a Yom Tov dinner, lunch, dinner, lunch and dinner. That means food. That means a variety of food. That means putting on the thinking cap and planning menus.

My thinking cap is still somewhat askew, but I can throw out some dishes at you that I have already made, will make or am thinking of making.

Gefilte fish. (loaf)
Gefilte fish. (patties)
Moroccan fish balls
Caesar salad
Chicken soup with matzoh balls
Stir-fry, vegetables
Carrot, sweet potato soup OR Potato-leek soup
Potato kugel
Roasted potatoes
Oven-baked rice/pilaf dish
Apple-carrot kugel
Walnut bars
Sweet-and-sour meatballs
Breaded chicken
Turkey schnitzel
Butternut squash something-or-other
Zucchini-tomato something-or-other
Israeli salad

I've got lots of work ahead, so I'd better say "Ciao for now" and you'd better say,
"Bon appetit!"

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Farewell Tour

I just noticed that this is my 619th post -- I've even exceeded 613, which is the number of commandments/mitzvot.

In any case, I'm calling this post "The Farewell Tour" -- not that I'm going anywhere, mind you. But aren't you familiar with all these performing artists who launch huge marketing and press campaigns advertising a "farewell tour" concert? Where are they going? I think only to the bank, as they rake in even MORE dollars with that sales ploy. It's not a final tour. They're going to hit a stadium or concert hall stage again...maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon...

So it's not my farewell tour, and it's not for any kind of readership gimmick that I'm affixing that title to this post. It's solely 'cause I identify with the title and the patterns I've seen behind it.

When I wrote my Sunday-morning post, I was feeling cruddy already and knew Yom Tov was just teasing me from 'round the corner, so I really didn't think I'd be back at the computer, back at my blog. But there I was, later on Sunday, and again on Monday, and again now, in the wee hours of the morning (Wednesday). My excuse is "You can't keep a [good] writer down" and I'll let you be the judge of that bracketed bit.

Although I'm still bogged down with a very bad cold, and although I have a freelance deadline to contend with and a Rosh Hashana menu deadline to contend with, here I sit. Tap, tap, tapping away.

But I wanted to throw out a question with this post: When you were a child, did your mother ever have reasons to come to your school in the middle of the day, and if you spotted her, were you embarrassed or were you proud?

My mother used to come in to the school every once in a while to bring me something or visit the tuition office, and I recall when I saw her I'd feel such pride, the happiness would want to burst forth from my smiling cheeks. Girls in my class would say to her, "Hi, Mrs. A....." and after she'd leave they'd tell me, "Your mother is so pretty." And she was, and still is, all these years later.

I saw that same happiness and pride today on my children's faces. I came to their school just after noon with Max. Max was going to be an object of show-and-tell, in the schoolyard and nearby park, for my oldest son's class, for a school assignment. That son is somewhat shy, so he didn't seek the limelight as everyone gathered 'round me and Max to play with him, and pet him and ask questions. But I saw him beaming. I was happy to be able to be there, and give my son some welcome attention, and witness it from others.

But it was my other two children who spotted me, while they were out at recess, and came rushing over with their friends to give both me and the dog a wonderful reception. The happiness shone through on their faces and in their voices, and no, their happiness was not just for the dog's presence!

Here was a mother who, for most of their school years and daycare years, was not around the school setting. I was at work, and pining to be at home. And now that I'm home -- for however much longer that will be -- I can pop in at the school at the drop of a hat. And should I see my children in the hallways or schoolyard, that's a bonus for me, and if they spot me, that's a bonus for them.

I know this. Because they've told me.

As for THE FAREWELL TOUR, Pearlies of Wisdom CDs, posters and bookmarks will be sold right after the stick around. There's more coming your way....!

Monday, September 18, 2006

A Place between Your Heartbeats

While getting my regular fix of blog posts this morning, I found a beautiful turn of phrase in one of Robert Avrech's Seraphic Secret posts. I commented and asked if I could use it for some poem at some future time, and was granted permission.

Now, it is rare for me to be inspired to write poetry. The muse seldom hits me, but when it does, I can very well be on a roll and will write one or more very moving pieces, some very personal pieces, or some very quirky pieces. And then there could be a lull of several months or sometimes a year or two before I take an inspirational cue once more.

Well, once I had that turn of phrase, I couldn't let it go, and within a few short minutes, this came from my pen -- um, my keyboard:

To Find a Place…

As your day begins with the rays of the sun
The dark storminess of the night disappears –

Having been tossed and turned upon waves of sleep,
Waves of remembering,
Waves of grasping and grappling with truths
You now breathe a sense of calm.

But only for a moment.

You shudder, then grope for courage,
For the strength to shine like the rays of the sun.
To beam heavenward, as his smile forever beamed,
Forever beams…

You wrap your tallis around you,
Your cloak of beliefs
And with each word uttered in silent prayer
And with those words that come through moving lips
You find a place…a place between your heartbeats.

A place for Ariel.


I just threw right back at Robert the phrase he'd thrown out to us. Only, I dressed it up a bit.

People often ask me how I can write such personal pieces, how I can capture exactly how another person might think or feel.

Empathy. Sensitivity. Projection. Using these "gifts" of empathy and sensitivity, I put myself temporarily into the person's shoes, looking out temporarily at the world that they must look out at all the time.

I'm glad that phrase crossed my path today, and I'm glad I felt inspired instantaneously to write something. You try working that phrase into a poem or into a piece of fiction...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

More Mere Coincidence?

Okay, so I wasn't sure I'd be back to blogging this week, but here I am again, with this to share.

It is said that things happen for a reason. Here's my story:

It is rare for me to send Rosh Hashanah greeting cards-- I might send e-greetings, but I rarely send print cards. It seems like just such a "grownup" thing to do, and remember I'm just a 44-year-old kid...

Anyhow, impulsively I decided late this afternoon to write 2 Rosh Hashanah cards, because I wasn't sure I'd get the chance to call and get into conversation with the recipients and it's so rare for me to see or speak to them otherwise. Just before 5:00 p.m. I mailed the cards.

Just before 7, I took two of my kids and drove to a nearby supermarket that is primarily Kosher AND open on Sunday nights. On the way, I passed one of the people to whom I mailed the card not even two hours earlier. She was walking to the same supermarket, so I gave her a ride and caught up on her life and on ours. I told her I'd give her a ride home, too.

About fifteen minutes later, my shopping was done and I see my friend waiting in the store's vestibule for me, along with my daughter. Beside them is...the other person to whom I sent a Rosh Hashanah card!

I was shocked!! The second friend knew I was shopping here 'cause she'd stopped by my house to wish a Shanah Tovah and a happy birthday and to give me a gift from another friend, and my son had told her where I was, and she had to go shopping here anyhow.

Yes, it was so freaky to meet these two women who were the sole recipients of greetings from me. And to top that off, the gift that friend #2 dropped off was from a friend from out of town. But that out-of-town friend had been in today for a family unveiling. I was not able to make the unveiling this morning, and shortly before leaving for the supermarket, I'd emailed that friend to tell her why I couldn't make the unveiling.

Now I knew I owed her another email: a thank-you for the gift.

It's oddities of life like these that keep my head askew, keep me asking and wondering: "HUH?"


I'm feeling downright blah--a cold kicked in the last couple of days, and it's not just a little sniffles type. A full-fledged, achy body, achy chest, achy head cold. I lay around most of Shabbos day, wallowing in the yukkiness of it all. But what made me feel good was drinking a wonderful tea -- Lemon Ginger -- by Stash Teas.

But the sweetest and best medicine is when my children cautiously wander into the room in the morning and quietly ask, "Are you feeling better?" or say, "I hope you feel better," before they leave the room.

Yes, I'll feel better in a few days, no doubt. Just in time to stand in shul on Rosh Hashanah and listen to the coughing and sneezing going on all around me. This is the time of year that I usually do catch a cold, and evidently so do others!

This is also the time of the year that I'm supposedly wiser...just because I grow older. This year, with the Jewish New Year I will be a year older.

45. (but Ezzie, you can keep me at 38!) Oh, where did the years go? I don't look 45, I don't feel 45. But I know I'm turning 45.

I'm not sure if I'll have time, nor inspiration, to write in my blog any more this week so...

I wish you all the sweetest, happiest and healthiest of New Years. May you enjoy the company of family and friends. May you enjoy any new experience you may partake in (Jeremiah?). And may we continue to share the good things in our lives.

This is 44-year-old Pearl wishing you a Shanah Tovah!

45-year-old Pearl will meet you next year to check out how things have been at your end.

Found the perfect birthday card to send to myself this year! Somewhere in that link is a Rosh Hashanah/birthday card with lots of honey with my name on it.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

As Luck Would Have It

Tuesday and Wednesday evenings were Curriculum Nights at my children's school -- the teachers were giving overviews of the curriculum for the different grades and different classes.

Because there are so many teachers and classes, the event had to be spread over two nights, depending on the grades of your children (nursery through grade 8), and I had to go both nights.

It was important for me to go the first night because it was for my son in grade 6 and I felt I needed to know what was going on for the year, as I'd not experienced it before.

And it was well worth it, especially for the English studies. My son's teacher is like a stand-up comic; she had the parents cracking up -- and heckling -- and the atmosphere was so leibedik (lively). I know she creates an equally entertaining atmosphere in which to teach. How do I know that? Because said teacher was recognized a couple of years ago with a Teacher of the Year Award as voted by students throughout the Jewish day school and Jewish after-school system in Toronto and its outskirts. I think my son is in for a treat this year!

My other children, in grades 1 and 4, have familiar teachers, and my attitude was "Been there, done that!" so I thought it wasn't so imperative that I go. But my 9-year-old daughter begged me to go so that I may view her artwork in her classroom, saying it might be my only chance to see it.

And I listened to my daughter.

I was supposed to be in the classroom for 8:00 for the English studies curriculum, but probably made it there about 5 minutes late. The information evening was already in session, with parents scattered around the room in the mini desks and chairs. I moved quickly into the room and sat down at an available spot.

After settling in, and getting a handout from a person nearby, I looked down at the desk I was sitting at. And lo, and behold, on the placecard atop the desk, was written my daughter's name!

In a classroom of over twenty-four desks and chairs, set in groups of four (two side by side facing two others, side by side), I had ended up sitting at the same spot my daughter goes to every morning.

Later, I spoke to the teacher, made mention of the same thing and she, too, had noticed where I had chosen to sat.

Merely coincidence...?

Overlooked/ A Disjointed Poem

As children we need to know
that a person cares...
that they will gently guide us
which way we go.

We look to a parent, a friend, a camp counsellor
or a teacher to be our guidepost.

When we raise our hands in class and say, "Oh, oh. Pick me!"
we need to know that someone cares enough
to listen to what we have to say.

When a teacher says, "Stop antagonizing me," that comment stays for life.

Is it a sign that I care too much, need to say too much?

Is that why I'm ignored?

The silence meets me like a block of glass.
Cold. Cold. COLD.
When all I want to do is exude warmth.

Overlooked again, my words scatter into the wind.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

UMAN...Comes from HUMAN?

In my last post -- which may be continued at some point -- I was a gift giver. 'Tis better to give than to receive is the general consensus.

I "gave" A Simple Jew a trip to Uman for Rosh Hashanah and a journal and videocam with which to record his adventures.

In response, he gave me a link to a video. This video is a sneak preview of a documentary filmed by Hollywood director Paul Mazursky. I was in awe that Paul had taken on such a project. But I think he probably has a lot to say and show in his work, and I look forward to seeing it at some point in time. Just put it on the "To See" list alongside "Ushpizin" and "When Do We Eat?"

So, folks, in the meantime, you and I can both view a trailer for "Yippee"!

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Perfect Gift

I love giving gifts even more than I love to receive them. I take so much pleasure in matching what I think is the right gift for the right person.

I've noted the birthdays of two fellow bloggers who are born in November. Last year I decided to surprise each of them with "the perfect gift." In their case, their gifts were kits from Magnetic Poetry. Their kits were specific to their jobs, to their interests, and I know they were appreciated, as was the thought. Magnetic Poetry is a wonderful gift to buy for or send people; it is creative-- you make each kit unique with your choices of "creativity."

Even if you're not the creative type, but rather a serious nose-to-the-grindstone type, don't tell me you won't start shifting around those magnetic words as they sit on your refrigerator door. So don't create a poem or a nonsensical sentence, write a mini scientific theory or about a current event!

If I had to select the "perfect gift" for some of the bloggers I read, the list might look something like this:

Cruisin' Mom-- a gift certificate for a commercial-size tub of Ben & Jerry's ice cream for each month of the year...and an OPEN HOUSE invitation to her childhood home.

A Simple Jew -- a round-trip ticket to Uman for Rosh Hashanah, and a blank journal and video camera with which to record his adventures. And to have some personal genealogical puzzles solved.

Citizen of the Month -- a Victoria's Secret catalog, hand-delivered by a Victoria's Secret model, and a daily lifestyle column in the LA Times: NEILOCHKA KNOWS BEST.

NY's Funniest Rabbi -- a life-size, room-size photo of the Kotel; tickets to a reading series at the 92nd Street Y; a poetry book with his name on the copyright page and cover.

Jew Eat Yet? -- a couple of original chairs from an Art Deco movie theater in Hollywood, and some original , signed classic movie scripts to read while reclining in those chairs. And a publishing contract. And a family reunion with ALL the relatives the world over.

PsychoToddler -- a funky-looking, funky-sounding acoustic guitar, and a recording contract and the chance to work with some of the Jewish and secular world's top guitarists.

The QC Report -- a role on THE SIMPSONS, not as the child star she was, but as the businesswoman she is, hawking her baby carriers. And an animal shelter in her backyard.

That's just a partial list of bloggers, a partial list of the perfect gifts.

Perhaps you should each send me your birthdate. I can get thinking of what would be the perfect gift for you, and you never know -- there might just be a UPS delivery man at the door with a bouquet of sunflowers for you, and a box with a huge bottle of Elizabeth Arden's SUNFLOWERS to go along with that. Or maybe a box of nice Cuban cigars and a weekend getaway to Cuba to go with that.

Then again, maybe you'll just get a card saying: "Happy Belated Birthday. Sorry I missed it, and missed sending you the perfect gift. Bet you're sorry too!"

Friday, September 08, 2006

Living the High Life

Meet Suite (tm) Retreat Barbie (R). The description reads as follows:

Suite Retreat™ Barbie® doll is a sophisticated siren who oozes glamour and luxury. This sultry redhead wears a charmeuse pajama jacket with faux pearl buttons and blousy, chiffon sleeves. Her matching tap pants are trimmed in black and made of the same luscious cream. She completes the loungewear look with high-heeled black sandals and faux pearl-drop earrings.

She's looking like some 1940s glamour girl in this outfit/pose, isn't she? She looks like she's living the high life -- perhaps in an apartment hotel in NYC. Or maybe...she's living in a condominium for the new millennium. Specifically in a model suite....

Yeah, she lives in a model suite. Yeah, that's right. She lives in a model suite -- actually she COMES WITH the model suite. Yeah, that's right.

Buy a two-million-dollar condo in some sky-high tower and Barbie (tm) comes with it! What a marketing trick. What a bonus!

But really, I was thinking about condominiums yesterday. They are cropping up everywhere in this city and people are snatching them up in lieu of rentals. Some buildings are pure prestige, and even the names connote that. Here is a sampling of some alphabetically:

Aberdeen Place
Arboretum, The
Ascot Mansions
Ashley Court
Barclay Terrace
Beacon Hall
Bellair-on-the Park, The
Bentley, The
Berkshire House
Bradley Estates
Broadway Plaza
Bronte Harbour Club
Burnham Glen
Canyon Springs
Castle Terrace
Celebrity Place
Chedington, The
Colony, The
Ellington, The
Emerald Place
Empress Plaza

And of course, with names such as these, one would think the buildings are all shiny like a new penny. Not necessarily so. Many are converts -- rentals with some touch-ups and some minor facelifts that allow for the name CONDOMINIUM. And the subtitle: MONTHLY MAINTENANCE FEES.

But even if not all the condominiums are newly built, their model suites don't reflect that. For the most part, model suites can also be known as "designer suites." The furnishings, the carpets, the bedding, the artwork and accoutrements scattered around the apartment -- which should be renamed SHOWROOM -- reflect the tastes of top-of-the-line interior designers who work hand in hand with the architects to reflect the consumer market being sought for the building.

I've never gone to an open house for a condominium, but I've seen advertorials for them. And I always wonder at the elegance that is depicted in just about every photo. Seemingly this elegance comes with a hefty price tag, too, but not everyone can outfit a new condo in Bauhaus leather furniture and Agam prints and Laura Ashley bedding, and Royal Doulton tableware. It is just not a lifestyle that everyone can afford or may not even aspire to. For some people, IKEA is the way to go, for other people, it's GOODWILL; and for others it's "heimishe" (homey)

Okay, picture this: You pass a condo building -- The FRESSER -- advertising a unit you think you can afford -- "$200,000...but make me an offer I can't refuse!"

You call the Realtor and say you'd like to see the unit. "What floor is it on?"


"How many floors are in this building?"


"How could it be thirteen when the unit is on the fourteenth floor?"

"We don't believe in using thirteen in our buildings, G-d forbid, so the unit is on the 14th, but it's really the 13th. Get it?"

"Okay, so when can I see it?"

"How's about now? Are you nearby? I could be there in ten."

"So could I. See you then. Should I meet you in the lobby?"

"Oh, Miss, we don't call it a lobby anymore."

"Okay, so I'll meet you in the foyer."

"Not that either. We real estate folk call it an 'atrium.' "

"Okay, in the atrium. In ten minutes. By the elevator. Oh, will I know who you are?"

"I'll be the one wearing a button in my lapel that says, 'I'm Sam. Talk to me about finding a palace for you.' "
But first Sam takes you to see the Fresser's model suite. And a heimishe model suite is "just like home." There's a welcome mat on the outside of the front door, a mezuzah on the doorpost. And when you walk in, another mat and a sign -- "Please remove shoes at door." You do so, then move into the living room. The flowery couch and love seat are covered in thick plastic, and you dare not sit down for you know that your tuches will stick to the plastic and burn your upper legs when you get up.

You move into the kitchen, following the aroma of a freshly baked coffee cake. The table in the eat-in kitchen is set with bagels and lox and cream cheese and baby dills. "Just in case you want a little nosh as you're looking around," Sam explains. "But please use a plate and napkin."

You pass over the inviting food -- you're going to your parents for dinner and your mother would be terribly offended if you don't eat, and G-d forbid 'cause you had a nosh in a model suite.

The guest bathroom has a sign on the counter: "Tell them Sam sent you and you'll get a good seat!"

The master bedroom is a bit small, but that's because there's a queen-size bed and a day bed -- for overnight guests -- in the room, along with a dresser and a television and a mini bar fridge -- "In case you need a little nosh in the middle of the night."

The master bath is Art Deco black and white floor tiles, and the towels are bloodred ("Bought at a close-out sale," explains Sam). There is a floor scale that, when you stand on it to check your weight, calls out, "I'M NOT LYING!"

There is not enough cupboard space, you notice, and comment. "Cupboards, shmupboards," says Sam. "Put your stuff under the bed or in the bathtub and just draw the curtain to hide it...."


Okay, so maybe I took this heimishe model suite scenario just a bit too far (and believe me when I say there was not one bit of plastic covering our furniture when I grew up, so it's not a personal heimishe memory), but it started out just because I realized that not everyone's life and possessions are as attractive as the interiors of model suites. Sometimes it would just probably be nicer to be able to relate to something familiar...and yes, even in a model suite.

Maybe the bloodred towels have to go, but I think the bagels, lox and cream cheese ought to stay...don't you?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Amy Zoe Mason

Two women buy a desk in a thrift shop. In the desk they find a secret compartment. In the compartment they find a diary/journal of one Amy Zoe Mason.

These women attempt to find out exactly who Amy Zoe Mason was. She died young, a few years ago.

Their discovery of the diary and their attempts to learn about Amy Zoe Mason get turned into a manuscript.

The manuscript is picked up by Simon & Schuster, with the journal published as a piece of fiction.

This work and the women's attempts at detective work sound fascinating...and mysterious.

The book is called Journal: The Short Life and Mysterious Death of Amy Zoe Mason.

If anyone were to find my handwritten diaries and journals after I'm gone, and if the person approaches a publisher and the publisher deems the books worthy of publication, please, in the press kits, or on the book jackets, don't refer to my life as FICTION.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Sun'll Come Out TOMORROW...

...or at least, I hope it will. For tomorrow is the first day of school. Memorable for all.

In this house, the wee ones will be going into grades 1, 4 and 6. The one in grade 6 will experience "boys only" as this is the year that the boys are separated from the girls. (but believe me, they make up for that in later years!) Bodies are changing, interests are developing... Mix that in with "limudei Kodesh" (holy teachings: Torah, Mishnah, Gemara, Navi...) and it could be a problem. And so, there will now be THE BOYS vs. THE GIRLS.

My oldest isn't yet interested in girls anyhow, so he's not complaining! In fact, post kindergarten, I find that the boys and girls stick with their own kind anyhow...

Hopefully the sun will shine. We will take the traditional "first day of school" photos -- uniforms and all -- and will head off to greet the mayhem that the school parking lot and surrounding streets become.

We will escort our nervous and excited children to their respective classrooms, meet the teachers and move on to the coffee morning for parents. We will play the "What did you do this summer?/Did you go anywhere?/Where did the kids go for camp?/What class are they in?/What programs are they signed up for after school?" game.

I'm not that great at the game. I am not comfortable with small talk, nor am I comfortable with certain members of the school population.

Heck, I think I'm regressing to my eight-year-old self, aren't I, 'cause it's the first day of school.

So anyhow... What class are YOU in? What teacher do YOU have? What did YOU do this summer?

...but more importantly: DO YOU WANT TO SIT WITH ME AT LUNCH!?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

I Want To Be Your First

AHA!! So you thought the title meant something else, did you? Get your mind out of that gutter, people.

It is the Hebrew month of Elul, a time for reflection, a time for action. I'm taking those two a step further. I'm thinking that "Zreezut" (Hebrew for hastiness; quick action) is the key here. I'm thinking that I want to be the first to wish you the best for the coming new year, and so I'm dedicating a post to this topic.

Sure, give it another three weeks and you'll read posts galore about the Jewish New Year, sweetness, honey, speculation, blah, blah, blah. But I know I'll have been there first! Usually, I work on adrenaline, having become a last-minute type of gal. But this year is different....

While others are still thinking of who to send greetings to, I'll have already sent them! While others are browsing the Hallmark and American Greetings card racks for Rosh Hashanah cards to send, I'll be smiling 'cause my good deed was already done.

It's usually when I'm out in public, grocery shopping or at some function, and it's nearing the holidays, that I wish someone I know whom I meet a Happy New Year. I usually preceed the greeting with "You're the first person I'm wishing a Happy New Year to." It's always so momentous.

Last week, in response to a personal email I received on my Etty Zigler post, I wished the sender a Happy New Year, telling her she was the first for the year. She responded in kind, and told me I was the first, too.

But I now have a public domain to holler out to all of you some three weeks before the actual event: SHANAH TOVAH u'METUKAH (a happy and sweet year),a "gut gebenched yor " (a good and blessed year)!

Do me a favor everyone. When you see my husband, tell him that you already got Rosh Hashanah greetings from me. "Zreezut" is his famous "moral of the story" -- so you can tell him that I told the story just a little faster this year.

Shanah Tovah, everyone. May there be peace in your lives, in your homes, in Israel and around the world. May we continue to read and hear good things about each other...whether via blogs or personal emails.

And when talk of Rosh Hashanah greetings come around soon enough, remember: Pearl was your first!

[I think I can say about this plan of getting ahead: "SHOFAR SHO GOOD!" --groan]

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Whole World's Jewish

Driving in the car today down Toronto's "Jewish" street -- Bathurst Street -- I was with my two younger children. My youngest, who'll be entering grade 1 next week, G-d willing, is actively reading anything and everything, including signs.

Out of the blue, he announces to his sister and me, "The whole world's Jewish."

Both his sister and I say no. She explains nicely that not everyone is Jewish; people go to church and not just synagogues.

The little guy was adamant but gave in after a while. "Okay, maybe not the whole world. But all of Toronto is Jewish."

I said, "I don't think so... Yes, there are a lot of Jews here, but neither the whole world or all of Toronto is Jewish."And his sister also tried to convince him of the fact.

He relented. "Okay, but some of the people are Jewish."And with his next announcement, I understood from where this entire dialogue had materialized.

"But I saw the sign that said:"

(cross-posted on Our Kids Speak)