Friday, March 30, 2007

The Shabbos Queen...Revisited

Last year I wrote a poem and posted it on my blog.

Last month I submitted that poem for consideration to the Annual Passover Literary Supplement of the Canadian Jewish News.

The Shabbos Queen has now made her presence known, and appears this week in the literary a center spread, noch!

I am rather pleased to be published again...just because it doesn't happen all that often!

I've already had a couple of people tell me that they saw and read the poem and that it's lovely. My mother reminded me of a cousin's wife who would look specifically for my name in the supplement each year.

Unfortunately, we buried that woman just over two weeks ago. She was sixty-two years young. Pancreatic cancer was the culprit, but our cousin fought with all her might and survived for nearly two and a half years with the raging disease.

At the funeral, aside from the rabbi speaking, the woman's two children spoke beautifully. Then her husband, my mother's first cousin, got up to do his own hesped...composed in spite of the difficulty of doing so.

He spoke of his wife's love for Shabbos, how each week was punctuated by preparing for Shabbos and hosting Shabbos. His wife died on a Friday afternoon, before she could welcome the Shabbos Queen again. He said that Shabbos would never be quite the same in their home.

I now dedicate my poem The Shabbos Queen to our cousin Rochelle Muller, a Shabbos Queen in her own right.


Wishing everyone a warm and wonderful Shabbat Ha-Gadol.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Easter Hunt of My Own

First I talk about Pesach; a breath later, I talk about Easter. What's up with that?

Well, I have a pretty serious grievance about this holiday that falls around the same time as Pesach. Nothing to do with bunnies, nothing to do with eggs...but lots to do with clothes!

It's somewhat of a minhag to have a new outfit for a major Yom Tov, or at least new shoes or accessories. If not for me, I like to find something new for the kids to wear...whether they truly need something or not.

How many suits and shirts does my oldest son have for shul...but always chooses to wear the same pants, shirts and vests?

And my younger son is happiest with plain slacks and white dress shirt or his navy blue Shabbos suit.

And my daughter, Ms. Fashionista, is pretty finicky because I still buy most of her clothes, bring them home and hope/beg/bribe that she'll wear them. And if not, I'm a notorious merchandise returner at stores!

Okay, so for the last while, I've been keeping my eyes open for a new dress or outfit for my daughter for Pesach. I do not shop at chi-chi children's boutiques or in shops set up in suburban basements, but rather, in department stores. And knowing that Easter is a pretty major holiday, and formal with its church services and family dinners and egg hunts, I'm pretty sure I'll find something for my child.

Some department store flyers came into the house last week. Great, maybe I'll spot something for A, I thought.

What did I spot for girls? Cap sleeve dresses, sleeveless dresses, spaghetti-strap dresses, fancy tulle-pouffed creations that would suit a child in a wedding party, not a child going to church or synagogue for a prayer service.

Do these designers think that we all live bordering the Pacific Ocean, in the warm climes of Hawaii or California, or in the desert areas of Arizona or Nevada? It is about to be APRIL, designer people. Just a hint of spring is in the air in most of North America. What good will a thin-strapped, sleeveless dress do my Modern Orthodox daughter in shul?

I'm not exaggerating...just about everything I've seen being offered for Easter is what I deem summerwear!

Think about it: the Easter Bunny still wears a fur coat... Don't designers read into that and figure, "Hey, it must still be a little chilly. Perhaps we should design a dress with a matching sweater or a matching coat...and yes, even for girls." But they must think that as long as you've got your Easter bonnet on, you're fully dressed.

I think it might be time, after all, for me to expand the shopping horizons when it comes to buying shul outfits for my daughter. You know, actually, I realize, I've already done that. Last summer, while in Buffalo, NY, I bought her a dress that she wore for the fall Yom Tovs and again for an afternoon wedding in November.

I think I might just find out where the Easter Bunny shops. SHE is very cute-looking however she's dressed. Maybe the Easter Bunny knows something I don't...especially since that particular bunny has got "mass appeal!"

(Hey, have I set my own personal record for most posts in one day? I think I made up for last week's lull... Didn't I?)

Ode to Pesach

Ode to Pesach

The pantry is empty, devoid of its stuff
Pesach is coming, enough is enough
The chametz got sold to our rabbi, you know
It was time to get rid of it, time to let go

I bought my Pesachdik groceries, paid more than I thought
I kept buying and buying; I bought and I bought
But don’t Pesach prices always get out of hand
For one week out of the year, we just don’t understand.

We feel the need to buy up the store
To prepare seders and meals and have nosh galore
And after the week is done and we’ve put on some weight
We avoid our scale, those numbers we hate!

We might lose some pounds as we meticulously “spring clean”
Making “seder” in our homes, on that we are keen
At least once a year we do this overhaul
And then we rest for a moment before the cooking calls.

Let’s plan some “healthy” dishes that use lots of eggs and oil
And matzah meal and matzah, over menus we will toil
We have to please our family and friends who join us for a meal
Several variations on matzah can have some “mass appeal.”

There’s always prune juice and compote for you who gets “stopped up”
Or pour yourself hot water with lemon juice and sip it from a cup.
As for me, I love matzah farfel and lots of macaroons
And soup mandlen and matzah balls, I have no use for prunes.

I took a moment to stop my cleaning and write this little ditty
I hope you find it whimsical, I hope you deem it witty.
“Have a good Pesach” is my wish for you out there
May you enjoy your family and friends, together celebrate and share.

The J.A.P. Show

I just discovered this show that will be playing in NYC, off-Broadway. It's my kind of show...

Couldn't it play just a little bit closer to home, dammit!?

The J.A.P. Show

Did Jew Know...?

You will notice the last entry on my blogroll, Yeshiva World. I discovered that site a few months back and go on from time to time to learn what's going on the frum world, primarily in rather Orthodox communities.

Unfortunately, the website seems to have a field day with writing about tragedies that happen worldwide to members of the Jewish community. Many commenters appear to have trouble with that; they don't know how to respond and are plain tired of reading about sad news items, they claim. Other commenters just want to have reason to throw around lots of Yeshivish lingo and expressions that could stand to be translated for the typical reader (MO) like me who isn't even familiar with all the expressions.

A recent entry and its follow-up comments ended up like a barroom brawl. The topic: Kosher for Passover Coca-Cola. Look at this entry and the follow-up responses, and watch how the theory about having three Jews and ten opinions really holds true! Yelling across cyberspace. Jews pointing fingers at Jews. How unmenschlich is that?!

There should be a sister site to The Yeshiva World called "Having Derech Eretz in Blogland." Before commenting on The Yeshiva World entries, readers have to visit the other site first and learn a few "Netiquette" details.

I am not part of the Yeshivish world, but I am curious about it and interested in it. I visit this site to learn something interesting and new. If I want to see Jews argue and make nasty comments, I could sit in on a private school tuition board meeting!

Write from the Heart

On Shabbat afternoon, my nine-year-old daughter entertained herself by pulling my high school yearbooks off the shelf and perusing through them.
This is the type of thing I used to do: go through old class pictures, autograph books, yearbooks, checking out the past or trying to recreate it in my mind.
I was in the kitchen and my daughter kept yelling out to me, "Listen to this, Eema." And she proceeded to read some poem...that I'd written. And then another poem. And another.
As I listened to the poems, I couldn't help but think, "I wrote THAT?" But then I realized that I had, and I even remembered the circumstances around writing a particular poem. Many of them had the same themes: unrequited love/invisibility/trying too hard. Such is the world of teenage angst. Such was the world of my poetry.
My daughter was clearly fascinated by the fact that my name and poems appeared several times in these yearbooks. She also wondered why I didn't appear in photos of clubs or school bands or random people-in-the-hallway photos. I guess I was too busy writing poetry, I told her. That was my "thing." I wasn't involved in much else, I explained.
I remember many times sending my poems off to Seventeen magazine or Teen magazine from a very young age. Hey, I thought, they'll publish this. Of course everyone can relate to this/that poem. I'm the spokesperson for others like me, the ones Janis Ian sang about in "At Seventeen" -- the non-popular, nice ones.
Did my name appear in these nationwide magazines? Nah... I had to wait a few years more to start publishing outside of school yearbooks -- Holocaust poetry, Jewish-themed poetry primarily. I guess I'd "graduated" from those teen identity poems. Yet I still wrote about what I knew.
Every now and again, I pull out my "poetry books" -- blank journals and business ledgers whose pages I covered in ink and words from the heart. Every now and again, I pull out tear sheets that offer my published words and my name. Every now and again, I go through my posts from this 2 1/2 year-old blog.
And so many times, while looking at so many words, I think to myself or even aloud, "I wrote THAT?!"

Friday, March 16, 2007

A Special Day (a long story made long!)

(this is an image that I found online... it is not my parents' home)

A year ago, March 2006, my father was taken to hospital (damn, but he has too many "frequent flyer points" with hospitals) and was seriously ill, having suffered several seizures and the doctors thinking the worst -- that he was going to remain in a vegetative state.

I had to cancel a trip to California to attend a friend's daughter's wedding, and to meet a number of L.A.-based bloggers. Even a blog commenter was going to travel from Las Vegas to meet me and the others. I was disappointed to have to cancel, and then learn that the bloggers were not going to meet if I was not there. (okay, so that fact also stroked my ego)

Fellow bloggers helped me keep the faith, warming me and my family with constant prayers and encouraging words. And thank G-d, my father proved yet again that miracles and prayer and mind over matter work.

It's a year ago today, Friday, March 17th, that my father walked out of the hospital and went home. Yes, weaker indeed, and albeit with the use (occasional) of a cane, but still very much his own person with his mind and body rather intact. He and my mother's much-aniticipated 50th wedding anniversary was celebrated in June, along with special birthdays and family Yom Tov meals.

Almost three months ago, my father was taken to the emergency room with chest pains. After overnight observation and tests, his heart proved to be fine, but he began to suffer from multiple seizures, seizures that truly debilitated him both mentally and physically. He was over-medicated in order to control the seizures, but both that and the seizures themselves took their toll. Improvement was not noticeable for a while, as it had been last year.

He was moved from department to department, still observed for both his heart and his head. Finally, when a bed became available, he was taken to the rehab wing, and we were told that he'd have to go to a long-term rehab care facility to help serve his needs. We were told that patients either went home, to a home or to a rehab facility. And of course, the one he was accepted to was at the end of the city, and we dreaded the day that he would be transferred there. There would be no signs of Jewish life for him, no Kosher food probably, no Jewish chaplain if needed, and traveling time to get there would take forever.

As it was, my dear mother has been spending an average of 10-12 hours a day by my father's side, being his right hand, so to speak. Everyone -- including us -- tell her to look after herself or she will get sick too. But dedication is dedication. My father would put my mother before him; my mother puts my father before her!

A couple of weeks ago, my mother told me that my father's assigned doctor began to change his tune, saying that my father didn't really need the rehab long-term care any longer; substantial improvement ( my father had to learn to walk again and do little daily things; his mind had to be cleared and made lucid too when the drugs were minimized) was evident. We were thrilled to hear this, but were fearful of bringing him home and the changes this medical setback would carry into family life -- caregivers, special equipment, further loss of independence, etc.

Plans are in action to get my father what he needs and to help him adapt to the changes. But my father is a stubborn man; he wants to go home without help there, wants to just be in his own bed and away from the hospital environment. Only after settling in, will he decide what is best for him.

My father is anxious to go home; he began to tell the staff he wants to go. A team of social workers, doctors, occupational therapists and physical therapists met with my parents, assessed the situation and gave my father the green light.

Today, Friday, March 16, 2007, after spending nearly three months in a hospital bed, my father is G-d willing going his own his comfort zone.

My husband wanted to arrange for a medical transfer service to bring him home instead of my mother and I. I thanked my husband but told him: "My father is anxious to be home. He's made great progress in these three months. His great pleasure will be kissing the mezuzah as he WALKS through his front door. That is his achievement. He does not want to go into his house while lying on a gurney; he's been taken out of his house several times while lying on a gurney."

And my husband completely understood.

Yes, we are all scared of the life changes due to his still-weakened medical state, his many medications and their side effects, the mental/emotional/physical toll this all takes on my mother and on my father, and the lifestyle changes. But I know my father, I know his strengths.
One of his greatest strengths is that his stubborness has always helped him achieve success, if only on a low-key level. Whether that success is emotional happiness, financial contentment or breaking down barriers and leaping over hurdles, my father is the man to get things done...his way. He made great strides in his mental and physical capabilities these past several weeks, not because of any professional therapy given to him, but because he is his own therapist; he knows what he needs to do to improve and works hard to do it.
My father has two grandsons' bar mitzvahs to look forward to -- this summer, and next, G-d willing. My oldest brother turns 50, G-d willing, at the end of this year. And every day is a reason to celebrate, my father says, if you wake up reasonably healthy.
Although I stopped writing about my father's medical situation quite a while ago, I would still get emails from people, asking after my father's status. I thank you all once again for traveling this road with me and my family since mid-December. Your continued support, even from great distances, means a lot to me. A lot to us.
I hope to be able to share with you many more special days celebrated with both my parents, my siblings and their families, my husband and my children.
A special day indeed...!
L'chaim! To life!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Click on post title to see a great link that a friend sent me. (thanks, Sharon!)

And while you're on the link, check out Billy Ray Sheets' other "hits." Some funny stuff.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Pesach Cleaning

Like I said in the last post, "Pesach, here we come!"

The Passover OY Factor!

I realized tonight after 9 p.m. that I needed bread for the kids' lunches tomorrow. Hoping that Sobeys, the nearby supermarket that houses supposedly the largest inventory of Kosher food products in North America, with in-house Kosher bakery, fish department and meat department, as well as frozen foods, fresh foods and regular groceries, would be open still, I called. Yes, till 10 p.m. I was told it would remain open.

So I hopped into the van and took the five minute drive over.

Normally when you walk into the store, you're greeted with the bakery department -- aisles of breads and cakes and buns and cookies...before you even reach the counter to get served! Tonight I walked into the store and was greeted with a wall of Kosher for Passover pop and chips and canned tomatoes and grape juice and, and, and....

I almost hyperventilated.

And I imagined that for a month before Pesach, a Hatzolah unit should be set up inside Sobeys and any other large supermarket with a Kosher section, for women like me who feel the need to faint or hyperventilate when overwhelmed by the Passover shopping mania. Medical personnel would be on hand to immediately help with any emergency situations that might arise.

Because of course, in this case, Pesach means shopping. Shopping means menus. Menus mean cooking. Cooking means guests. Guests mean cleaning. Cleaning means time and effort. Time and effort mean TIME and EFFORT.

The truth is, it -- our anxiety -- all heralds back to Purim. At Purim, that brown shelf paper comes out, and those shelves and aisles that normally hold basic Kosher products are gussied up. First it's party time -- with Purim goods. Then it's work time -- with Pesach needs.
Some of the stores just tease us a bit, giving us a sneak preview of what they really have "in store." And then, the minute that Purim is passe, these stores mean action. And it is clear to see when countless staff, and perhaps extra staff at this time (equivalent to extra salesclerks in department stores during the Xmas holiday season), are busy emptying shelves of the regular Kosher stuff and restocking shelves with the Kosher for Passover products. They are like a small army getting a battlefield ready.
Yes, it is a battlefield of sorts -- bedlam will soon prevail, they are told, and all plans must be in action.
But I manage to slip through the stores unnoticed for a couple of weeks after Purim; I plainly ignore the hints of Passover, and they try not to bother me too much. But eventually we have to make real eye contact...and I'm forced to take the first step.
In Sobeys tonight, one of the displays of Kosher for Passover dish brushes and labeling stickers had the header: ARE YOU READY? Oy, some more Jewish guilt being tossed at me. As if my own conscience doesn't send some my way.
Along with the display of paper goods for sale was yellow caution tape for sale, similar to police-issued tape. It said something like DO NOT CROSS THIS LINE: PASSOVER READY.
There were a few brave types, filling their shopping carts with Passover items. And then there was me, filling my shopping cart with loaves of bread. I mean, I have to stock up still; it will soon be rationed off in the store. As it is, they're trying to play Hide the Bread from the customers, making sure confusion reigns, when we search for it in the regular spot.
I know I soon have to get myself Passover battle-ready too. Right now, I'm still wearing that suit of armor to protect me from potential injuries and scars. But within the next ten days or so, I'll have to whip off that armor, show my true colors and get out there among the other brave souls.
I'll be filling my shopping cart with Passover foods, contending with the long checkout lines....and the long shopping lists, hoping I haven't forgotten anything.
And on that wavelength, why do we always stockpile a season's worth of food for the first two days of Yom Tov alone? Do we think the Pesachdik cows will no longer produce milk or butter or cheese? Do we think that the produce section will disappear from under us? Do we think grape juice and wine vats will dry up? Do we think that we will really see hundreds of people passing through our doors -- perhaps along with the prophet Elijah -- for a seder or for a lunch meal or for tea and dessert over those first two days?
We're still eating our way through our Purim Mishloach Manot surplus. That should keep us busy for another several days, I think. After that, it's TorontoPearl's family meets Pesach it or not. we come!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My Favorite Show

My seven-year-old asked me today, "Eema, can you guess what my favorite TV show is?"

I went through a brief roster of what I know he watches and likes, and then I suggested, "Tom & Jerry?"

I was met with a big smile. "How did you know?"

"I guessed." And then I went on to tell him that the show was popular when I was a kid, too, and that I used to watch the show as well.

But I didn't want to tell him the truth that is circulating these days.

Robert Avrech posted about this last week and I was peeved then upon reading the entry. Dare I tell my child what some (crazy) people believe?

Shlemazel Mazel Revisited*

* Revisited...because I know I've used this title before in my blogging career!

Talk about shlemazel mazel.

I was at the hospital the other day to visit my dad. I was wearing new boots that don't have much of a rubber grip on the sole. I was walking on a fancy, slippery, f tiled floor and felt my heel slip up and I go down.

Talk about shlemazel mazel. I fell in the corridor right in front of the hospital administrator's office. It was right in front of the pharmacy. Hospital volunteers who saw me go down came to help me up and make sure I was okay.

I was.

But I guess if I have to fall -- and perhaps hurt myself -- inside a hospital is the best place to do it.


Okay, I might've been a shlemazel that day, but I did remember to turn my clocks ahead for today.

Did you????

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Quirks & Meshugas

I'd like to find out if I'm the only person with these quirky (don't want to use anything harsher, or perhaps more apt a description) ideas:

1. When I'm driving behind or beside an extended tractor-trailer that is hauling automobiles to a dealership, I have this great fear that the automotive cargo will somehow become free and the vehicles will start rolling backwards and straight into my car.

Am I the only one with such a meshugas?

2. I'm not so aware of this anymore, but all the while that I grew up and lived in my parents' home, whenever a salad bowl was sitting in front of me and the salad tossers were right in front of me, sitting on "my side" of the bowl, I always had to shift the tossers to the other side of the bowl. Somehow with them "in my face," I always felt unnerved.

Am I the only one with such a meshugas?

3. When I used to take subways and buses to work and went a particular route, I either could opt to wait for the last bus of the route that would take me 3 short stops to right in front of my office building, or I could walk for five minutes and get there just the same.
Why, when I chose to walk, would I still look back every couple of minutes to see if a bus was coming? I could only take that bus from the first stop, so it never made sense to me that I'd even bother to look back, seeing as I would not take the bus anyhow.

4. Why do I still practice signing my name constantly? I'm not planning to autograph any books anytime soon...

5. Why do I continually repeat myself to my husband and children, even though I'm aware I've said the same thing before?

6. Why do I continually like to reveal my "weaknesses" and faults to blog readers, virtual strangers?

Shrek Karaoke Dance Party Music Video

While we're on the karaoke craze, I thought you might like this to help bring in Shabbat. It certainly puts a smile on MY face.
Have a good Shabbos, everyone.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Can't Make Tou Love Me - Bonnie Raitt

(I can't fix the Tou in the title and make it You)

I love this song.

I love to sing.

I love the idea of Karaoke.

Imagine a Pearlies of Wisdom rendition of this beautiful Bonnie Raitt song.

Bonnie Raitt..i cant make you love me

This is the real McCoy... Enjoy.

Sung more or less to THE BRADY BUNCH theme

It's the story
of a blogger named Neil
who was living with his ex in Redondo Beach
He kept us all informed
of his comings and goings
'cause we're not all within his physical reach.

It's the story
of Neilochka Kramer
who was celebrating something special
on this March date
but if you tune in
to the tributes sometime next week
you'll be a few days much too late!

So we wish you, Neil,
a very happy birthday
you're one hell of a special kind of guy
you have the gift to make us laugh or scream hysterically
some of us have been even known to cry

That's Neil Kra-mer, that's Neil Kra-mer
Our favorite "Citizen of the Month"...

Happy Birthday, Neil. Sending you warm wishes from Toronto..........................

Monday, March 05, 2007

Crossing Delancey

I love this film. I love Amy Irving. I love Peter Riegert. I love "Bubby." I DON'T LOVE THE MATCHMAKER.

But Sylvia Miles, who plays matchmaker Hannah Mandelbaum, has this wonderful line in the film: "Ya look, ya meet, ya try, ya see."

It applies to just about everything in life and is worthy of being remembered.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Citizen of the Month's Special Birthday Surprise

I've been reading Neil Kramer's blog, Citizen of the Month, for about eighteen months or more. I think I found him via Jack's Shack's comments section, and after finding Neil, I also found Danny Miller's wonderful blog.

Let me put it to you this way: these blogs have put smiles on my face, and continue to do so. I'm so happy that they made their way into my life, and I make room for them in my life.

Anyhow, so Neil's thirtysomething birthday is March 7. His wife, Sophia, contacted Neil's list of blogger friends about two and a half weeks ago and said she wanted to surprise him for his birthday and that we could send notes, cards, gifts, anything if we so chose, to Neil c/o Danny Miller's address. They were going to be traveling around his b'day so everything should try to arrive by March 1st.

I got on the case. I wanted to celebrate Neil on his birthday, and so I wrote limericks all about him. I also ordered a ball cap with KRAMER UNIVERSITY written on it -- I like personalized gifts, if possible, and these certainly were personalized.

Neil got his birthday surprises yesterday when he went for a pre-birthday celebration to Danny Miller's place. Of course he's overwhelmed. Sophia and Danny managed to keep the secret, as did so many bloggers worldwide.

Neil truly was clueless, and thus the surprise factor was a wonderful one.

I'm happy I could partake to help make Neil's birthday a memorable one.

Happy Birthday, Citizen of the Month! "Bis 120"!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Purim, Shabbos, and all that Stuff

Tonight is Shabbos. Tomorrow night is Purim and megillah reading. Sunday is megillah reading and later, the Purim seudah (at my house for 15-17 people...pot luck). Sunday also means driving around and delivering Mishloach Manot packages. Monday is Shushan Purim...and my youngest's 7th birthday.

Life is busy. Life is good. Life MARCHes on.

Good Shabbos. Have a freiliche Purim.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

An Affair To Remember

This story just takes...the (wedding) cake:

Approximately 50,000 people attended the Chasunah [wedding] of the oldest grandson of the Gerrer Rebbe on Tuesday evening. The Chupa was set up on a high roof near Rechov Bar-Ilan, which was completely closed to traffic.

The Rebbe used this opportunity to convey a message, (albeit without words) to his Chassidim: Cut costs for the weddings of your children and grandchildren.

This has been a major issue in the Frum communities for a while, with Gur instructing families to limit invitees to a total of 400. Although the Rebbe couldn’t be expected to adhere to such limits, the Rebbe did set a strict budget.

Unlike the weddings for his own children, the Rebbe decided to invite the public only to the Chupa. Only a few hundred guests were invited to the Seudah, while the rest made do with light refreshments.

( This story is credited to I like to go on this site several times a week...and pick up new -- to me, anyhow -- Yeshivish idiomatic expressions, as well as interesting news from around the world.)