Monday, April 30, 2007

Mind over Matter

Sometimes you have those "Kodak Moments" and you have to grasp them in your memory just because you don't have a camera in hand. Today I witnessed one of those moments.

I haven't talked about my father very much since he came home from hospital. In a way, there's too much to say about him, and in other ways there's not enough to say. Progress has been very slow and there have been some setbacks, too. Let me put it to you this way: it is not easy on him, it is not easy at all on my mother. And it is not easy for his children to see the diminishment in capabilities and cognition. It seems as if the decline is faster than it was before, and no doubt it is, brought on by such stark medical traumas to his body and his mind.

The memory falters rather frequently, even in the midst of normal conversations. Weakness permeates his bones and his person. "What is happening to me?" has been a popular refrain, my mother tells me. And I've been witness to "Ich hab nisht kein koyach mer." (I no longer have any strength.) It doesn't help that my father, and mother, are battling very bad upper respiratory viruses/flus right now, either.

But every day is a new day. And every day that my father wakes up, is able to daven and say "Thank G-d," is a true gift -- for him and for us.

Today I saw a bit of my "old father." Not the old, old man he's suddenly become, regardless of his advanced years, but my father "of old."

We were talking about his hometown, Tarnogrod, and I was telling him that I'd been contacted by someone from JewishGen, who informed me that marriage/death/birth records from certain pre-World War 2 years were now available...for a fee. I also told him that I'd been on the official gov't site for the town and saw a photo of a large synagogue that was now a library. (see top right photo in official town link)

He began to tell me the history of the town, who founded it and when, and suddenly he started saying something in Polish. Although I don't speak or understand the language at all, I could tell that he was reciting something like a poem. He had regained a twinkle in his eye -- which I really have not seen in WEEKS!!!!!!!!! And he had a smile, or rather more of a slanted grin...almost like a "cat who ate the canary" look on his face as he recited. He was showing off! My father was showing off something he remembered from the past, from a long-ago past. And when he finished his recitation, he said to my mother and I, "I learned that in grade three." Imagine, sometimes he doesn't know what day of the week it is, and doesn't know the month we're in, but he happily and proudly recited something he'd learned all those years ago -- and we're talking close to eighty years ago!

For that sparkle in his eyes, I wish I'd had a camera.

For that lopsided grin and that look he threw my mother and I, as in " memory works just fine," I wish I'd had a camera.

For a glimpse at the schoolboy in him reciting an ancient Polish historical poem, I wish I'd had a camera.

No, I didn't have a camera, but those moments will no doubt linger in my heart.

778...and Counting

This post refers to the fact that I've just passed blog post 777. Who'd have guessed that I had so much to say since December 2004!?

Anyhow, this post has to do with a Y & R character, or perhaps he's an ex-character. I'm not a fan of soaps and rarely did I take the time to watch them over the years. Once in a while I'd sit, flip channels if I was home early from school and stop at the YOUNG & THE RESTLESS. I liked a couple of characters, but not enough to follow them through the ups and downs of their lives and loves over the years.

But I was reading an article in the Canadian Jewish News, which drew my interest. It's about Jerry Douglas who plays/played? John Abbott on the show. But what was more interesting to me is that Jerry was born Gerald Rubinstein....

Read on -- if you're a Y & R fan.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Five Questions

The other day I was reading some of my favorite blogs -- you know who you are! -- and came across Five Questions asked of "the old old lady of the hills". She said that if we wanted to be "tagged," we should drop her a line and she'd send us some interview questions that we should answer. Here are her random questions to me, and my answers.

1. If you could go back and change one thing about the path you have taken in your life, what would that one thing be?

Although I struggled in school with "the sciences," I probably should not have dropped them after grade 10. I should have pursued sciences and gone on to study clinical psychology or psychiatry.
Other than that, I wish I could have been bolder while growing up. I had to wait to become an adult to "find my voice."

2. Swimming Or Skiing?

I've never been on skis, and I'm a lousy swimmer.

3. You have been given the opportunity of having dinner with any 5 "living" celebrities of your choice. Who would they be and why?

Robin Williams -- to keep me laughing as I'm trying to digest my food.

Barbra Streisand -- I wouldn't mind singing a couple of duets with her... We'd "sing for our supper.

Elie Wiesel -- he'd bring a dose of reality to everything we talked about at the table.

Shirley Temple -- I'd like to learn more about her childhood in Hollywood, and her adulthood in politics.

Oprah Winfrey -- she's risen far in her personal and business life, and I'd like to interview her over coffee and dessert!

4. Imagine that you were not born into the religion that you were, and you can choose any other religion than that one---What religion would you choose, and why?

I'm really not well-versed about other religions, but I guess I'd choose Catholicism -- stringent beliefs, strong family values and Catholic school would help define me as a person.

5. The Zoo has said that you may take home any one animal. What would you choose and why?

A penguin. They're adorable in how they waddle around, and besides, a penguin would already be formally dressed for that celebrity dinner (see above)!

If you're interested to answer some questions:

1. Leave me a comment saying "Interview me."

2. I will respond by asking you five questions. I get to pick the questions.

3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.

4., You will include the explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.

5. When others comment, asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Like Mother, Like Daughter

I went to visit my parents today.

I was wearing a long-sleeve, blue-and-white striped top, and a jean skirt.

My mother was wearing the exact same long-sleeve, blue-and-white striped top (she'd bought one for her and one for me way back when), and a jean skirt.

Great minds think alike...

Sunday, April 22, 2007

"Ehfoh Avi?"

My son came to me this evening and said, "I know a story you can write about for your blog... Write about what happened today in the Beaches."

"What happened today in the Beaches?" I tried to recall.

"You know, the man who spoke Hebrew..."

"That won't interest anyone; that sort of stuff happens all the time..."

And yet I still find myself writing this at my son's earlier request...

The Beaches is at the southernmost point of Toronto, bordering Lake Ontario. It is a beautiful community with the most wonderful architecture -- which happens to be rather expensive real estate -- and is in high demand. There is a boardwalk alongside the beach, and nearby is the main street with funky shops, cafes, salons, restaurants, pet shops and bookstores.

People patrol up and down the main street, Queen Street east, many of them with dogs in tow, or carriages and toddlers. There are nearby parks and pools and gardens for visitors and natives to enjoy.

Today was a glorious Toronto day, a summer day, not an April 22nd type of day. Towards the end of the afternoon, we packed up the kids and dog, and headed to the Beaches, first doing our stroll on the avenue before heading to the boardwalk and beach area itself.

I was with my two sons in front of a pet store, where I was trying to get Max to take a drink from a water bowl outside the store. He was more interested in sniffing out the other pooches at the watering hole than the water itself.

Suddenly I heard Hebrew being spoken. I turned around to look and saw two fifty-something couples conversing. I'm the type of person to pipe up when I hear Hebrew in a very public place and I often throw in a word or two to startle the speaker. This time I held back.

My oldest son heard the Hebrew and pointed it out to me. I nodded, implying that I know.

I then called him by name and told him to come.

The next thing I heard was one of the Hebrew-speaking men say, "Ehfoh Avi?" (where's Avi?)

I turned, and with a big smile said, "Hu shum"! (he's there)

I think my son was surprised by this brief exchange. If he'd only know what kind of in-depth conversations I've had with strangers when I hear them speak Hebrew in least-expected places in Toronto and elsewhere.

I smiled at my son as we walked away and told him that in our case, English AND Hebrew are universal languages.


Friday, April 20, 2007

His Roots are in Yiddish Theater...

Sidney Lumet has a colorful past...that started in the Yiddish theater.

He's been married several times: one wife was Gloria Vanderbilt. Another wife made him Lena Horne's son-in-law.

One of his personal quotes is a brilliant one: "There's no such thing as a small part. There are just small actors."

Just a brief look at Sidney Lumet.

Shabbat Shalom...with the stress on shalom/peace.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

What Will They Think of Next?

At three minutes and four seconds after 2 AM on the 6th of May this year, the time and date will be 02:03:04 05/06/07. This will never happen again!

Do Our Personalities Change...or Just Develop?

I was at my parents' house the other day and my mother handed me a pile of envelopes, some manila ones, others business-size.

"What are these?" I asked.

"Your report cards. You can store them now."

My mother, who is well-known for her organization and archival skills, had done her share of keeping my day school, junior high and high school report card all these years; she wanted to "clean up" a bit.

As I sat in the driveway of my childhood home, I opened up the envelopes and began to read...and remember...and think: Do our personalities change...or just develop? Some of the comments that appeared on those reports would be the same comments that someone would write about me today:

Kindergarten: 1966-67 -- Winter Term: "I am pleased with Pearl's progress. She has a good attitude towards learning and towards people."

Grade 1: 1967-68 -- 1st Term: "Pearl is a very pleasant child...Sometimes, Pearl does not think for herself and would rather other children think for her."

2nd Term: "...She is not as sure of her arithmetic as her reading."

Grade 2: 1968-69: 1st Term: "She is a very co-operative and courteous girl, willing to help others..."

2nd Term: "Pearl is anxious to please and is co-operative with others and myself at all times."

Hebrew report card: 1st Term: "Pearl is a well-behaved and friendly child. She ...tries her best at all times. She is anxious to please but has difficulty in retaining vocabulary."

Grade 3: 1969-70: 2nd Term: "Pearl continues to do good work in writing and spelling. She has a good understanding of sentence and paragraph construction."

Grade 4: 1970-71: 3rd Term: "Conscientious--hard worker--seems to be more relaxed and at ease with school work and her peers."

Grade 5: 1971-72: 1st Term: "Pearl's appreciation of literature helps her contribute stimulating and interesting ideas to theses lessons. Her own creative writing is well organized and mature for her age."

Grade 6: 1972-73: 2nd Term: "Pearl has generally kept up her good work habits this term although, on occasion, she has to be "checked" for talking to her neighbours."

These are just some samples from the primary day school reports; as I reviewed them, I noted that teachers repeated phrases -- my math was always a weakness, my reading and writing were always my strengths; in some of the latter grades, my map skills were weak; one year it was noted that I didn't participate and offer up my ideas in the classroom, in subsequent years I was complimented on my ability to participate; in a couple of years, I had to be reminded not to talk to my "neighbors" while in class.

Overall, my report cards were always good -- my secular studies and my Hebrew/Jewish studies generally were good, with just some individual weakness: sciences/maths/map skills and sometimes socialization. My language and literature -- reading and writing -- skills were always noted as being well-developed or advanced. (If that's the case, how come I'm simply a blog writer, a writer of poetry, but not a journalist or novelist?!)

As I've reviewed my report cards, I can't help but think that my daughter is a lot like me in a number of academic areas with her weaknesses being/were my weaknesses; her strengths being/were my strengths. The main difference is the social area: I was a shy and reasonably quiet child. She is absolutely the opposite...thank G-d!
I guess I'll just have to hang on to her report cards, as my mother did with mine, and in some thirty-plus years, she can review them and see how much/if she's changed.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

On a High

No. This post is not about drugs. It's not about being extremely happy. This post is about R.I.C.E.

I'm sure many of you have heard of or use Near East products -- grains and rice dishes in a box that are flavorful and easy to prepare.

Well, after Pesach I bought their Rice Pilaf: Curry product. I pulled it out just now off the shelf, intending to prepare it for this evening's dinner, and looked on the side of the box at the directions. There are Microwave Directions, Range Top Directions, Low Fat Directions and... [the reason behind this post!] HIGH ALTITUDE PREPARATION!

So...if I'm flying in my personal Learjet and preparing dinner, or am using my timeshare apartment in the Swiss Alps for a couple of weeks, or -- even better! -- am visiting an ashram in the mountains of Nepal, it is the directions for HIGH ALTITUDE PREPARATION that I must follow!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Quotable Mention

I'd like to share these lovely words from my blogging friend, Rabbi Neil Fleischmann, over at NY's Funniest Rabbi.

Writing is like life: we think we control it but we don't, everyone else's seems better, and there's ambivalent yet abundant hope that with enough time we'll get it right.

A Survivor's Moment

[I wrote this poem a number of years ago. It is a scene out of my life. That Holocaust survivor is my father. This poem is dedicated to my father's mother, Chaja Malka Adler, who perished in the Holocaust, alongside her fifteen-year-old daughter, Marjam.]

A Survivor’s Moment

His eyes look directly into mine.
Not playful this time –
More like pleading.

“I don’t even have a picture
of my mother,” he says,
and walks out –
leaving me bewildered,
and apologetic.

Ani Ma'amin -

Let us remember...

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Road Less Traveled

I got this in an email today:

Go to Google Maps ( and click on “Get Directions.”

Type in “New York, NY” as your starting point and “Paris, France” as your destination.

Once it computes your directions, scroll down to #23.

Question of the Day

Does Israeli salad REALLY taste better if the cucumbers and tomatoes are cut smaller ?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Thinking Out Loud

...Sometimes I wonder "What the heck was I doing in my spare time before I began living the blog culture -- reading blogs, writing posts?"

Don't many of you wonder the same about yourselves?

A Special Birthday Boy

Because tonight starts the latter days of Passover, I will not be online, and therefore will not be able to post tomorrow, Monday, April 9.

Tomorrow is my husband's 47th birthday.

I'm not sure where the time has flown for him for most of these 47 years, but I know where and how it's flown since December 1992, when we had our first date...and December 1993, when we got married...and June 1995, when we had our first child...and August 1997, when we had our second child...and March 2000, when we had our third child.

I wish Mr. TorontoPearl a happy and healthy birthday and a most wonderful year.

And I will borrow these beautiful song lyrics to help celebrate my husband and his special day...


What are you doing the rest of your life?
North and south and east and west of your
have only one request of your life
That you spend it all with me.

All the seasons and the times of your days.
All the nickels and the
dimes of your days.
Let the
reasons and the rhymes of your
All begin and end with

I want to see your face,
In every kind of light,
fields of gold and
Forests of the night;

And when you stand before
The candles on a cake.
Oh let
me be the one to hear
The silent wish you make.

Those tomorrows
waiting deep in your eyes
In the world of love you keep in your eyes,
I'll awaken what's asleep in your eyes,
It may take a kiss or two...

Through all of my life...
Summer, winter, spring and fall of my
All I ever will recall of my life
Is all of my life with


Chag Sameach to you all.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Interviewer aka The Liar

I've been formally unemployed for one year now. I was handed my walking papers last year, Tuesday, April 4, 2006. It was somewhat mutual -- I wanted out, they knew I wanted out, I gave them some reason to show me the way out.

Have I been happy this past year?

Yes, and no.

I've still had trouble learning how to use this newfound freedom that is part of my day, as opposed to the regular 9-5 routine that was so much a part of my life for so many years.

But I've been more than happy to get reacquainted with my husband, my children, our dog and our home.

I've been job hunting over these past months and have come to realize that I was insulated for too many years in the same job, doing the same thing. The publishing world has grown, but I have least not in my skill set. I am lacking, and should do something about acquiring the publishing computer program skills that so many companies seem to be seeking.

Nonetheless, I've managed to have a handful of job interviews. Even interviews are something new for me, as I've not had to "undergo" one for many years. There is an etiquette to learn about interviews -- the right questions to ask and the right question NOT TO ASK. I'm still learning what not to ask! (in the past, all my jobs have been the result of one interview; I forget these days, at least two interviews is the norm)

In any case, I think that the interviewer has to learn an etiquette of his/her own. At least on two occasions, I was told, "We'll be in touch."

Okay, so I'm still waiting....

It's like going out on a date and having the guy tell you at the end of the date, "I'll call you." And you wait by the phone, hoping and wondering...and waiting...and waiting...and realizing it was just a line he served you.

These interviewers don't just feed you a line. They outright LIE. I'm a mature 45-year-old. Why not call me, or email me, and say, "Thanks for coming in, but we're looking at some other candidates. Thank you for your time. Good luck with the job hunt."

I had two editors at a world-renowned educational/children's publisher interview me for one of two positions, and as one of them led me out the door, she said, "I'll be in touch." Ten days later, all I could say was "Liar, liar, pants on fire..."

And a few weeks ago, a smaller publisher's main editor interviewed me, and said, "I'll look at your tests and will be in touch within the next couple of weeks." LIKE HELL you were.

C'mon, people. Being an interviewer might be nerve-wracking; being an interviewee is worse. Being lied to is even worse than that. It's totally unprofessional. Okay, so don't call me, but follow up even several weeks later with a note from your HR department to me.

Don't leave me hanging. I'm worth more than that!

And if you hire me, I'll even prove it to you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Memories of Pesachs Past

Pesach and the sedarim are one of those Jewish holidays that we remember best from our childhood. A gathering of family -- and often, friends -- a multitude of tasty dishes, laughter and conversation abound.

I'm sure that each and every one of you recall the Pesachs of your past as you sit at your current sedarim, whether they are held in your own home or in the home of another.

And even before we reach the point of sedarim, and we're scurrying around the house, preparing it for Pesach mode, we remember...

This year, as I prepped the house I recalled helping my parents shlep up the boxes from the basement and down from the top closed cabinets in the kitchen, opening up and looking through the supplies as if we expected to find surprises. I recall my mother kashering cutlery with hot water, pots and stones. I recall buying tins of macaroons and fruity sugar candies with my father. I recall polishing the silver candlesticks and kiddush cups till they shone and laying out the white linen tablecloths (no plastic coverings for my family!) and the eclectic collection of Haggadot.

I recall the sedarim themselves-- my family on their own, never accepting an invitation to spend the seder elsewhere. My father explained it as I got older: "I was a guest for so many years at someone else's home. Now I have my own home, my own family, and I want to enjoy them." I, the singer and the youngest, had a fun time with all the songs and showing off my "Ma Nishtanah" every year. By the time we'd reach "Chad Gadya" my brothers and I would be punch-drunk, due to the lateness of the hour, and we'd be silly, as we sang with a limbo/salsa beat. And each year we'd end with "May we all be together next year again to celebrate."

When you come into a marriage, you acquire new minhagim, traditions, or you meld new ones with existing ones...finding a happy medium. My husband gave in to serving potatoes this year, along with the celery, for dipping in salt water. I reluctantly gave in when he, the born Sephardi, decided that he wanted to have rice for the first time on Pesach...

Just the thought of doing so felt WRONG for me, the Ashkenazi through and through. We've been married over thirteen years, and for the last number of years, debated the issue of rice at our Pesach table. But our marriage is a bridge of our cultures, our rich traditions, and those we pass on to our children. And so, rice was FINALLY served at our seder!

I looked at my children around the table, at the interest they take in the seder, at their facility with reading Hebrew when called upon to read from the Haggadah. Even our son, in grade one, read beautifully. I don't know if other kids in his class read Hebrew as he did, or if he surpasses them at that too (his English reading level is that of a nine or ten year old, pu, pu, pu), but it was a pleasure to listen to him sound out the difficult words and smile at the end of his reading contributions.

My daughter is a little Pearl -- I saw my young self in her. "When is it going to be my turn to read?" she continually asked. She sang the loudest, and seems to take the greatest interest in what she reads and how she presented her d'var Torah.

I hope and pray that we will continue to make Pesach memories...for ourselves, for our children...and "May we all be together again next year to celebrate."

Monday, April 02, 2007

A Little Pesach Poem -- Chametz-Free

'Twas the day of Erev Pesach
And all through the house
Everyone was scurrying
busy like a mouse.

The chicken soup was boiling
Atop the stove in a pot
The brownies just out of the oven
Were nice and piping hot.

The seder plate was anxious
to be placed nicely on the table
"Okay, okay, I'll do it
in a little while, when I'm able."

The silver was nice and shiny
lined up all in a row
As I hurried to set the table
I foolishly stubbed my toe.

These are the familiar scenes
In every house and home
I thought I'd capture their essence
And put it together in a little poem.

Although I wrote it quickly
And really just off the cuff
I think I'd better stop here
I still have to get busy enough.

To get the preparations finished
For this Yom Tov that starts tonight
To you and your cherished families
May your Pesach be wonderful and bright.

A very happy, Kosher Pesach to you and all those gathered 'round your tables!

Sunday, April 01, 2007