Thursday, April 28, 2005

Picture This! -- Part 2

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Several posts ago, I wrote about my "little problem" with not having put photos in albums for just about eightyears.
It has been a project "assigned" to me by my husband; I am to prepare albums between Pesach and Shavuot, in some semblance of order, or else he will find someone else to do it -- namely him! But like I said before, I may have procrastinated in the project, but I'll do a damn well better job at archiving the photos than he will.

Little does he know (unless he'll happen to read this post) that there's also a problem with my children's school pictures I've bought over the years. Not too long ago, I was looking for something in a cupboard and found a package of school pictures that I'd paid good dollars for -- you know, one 8 by 10, two 5 by 7's, four 3 1/2 by 5's and a class picture. The package was pretty much intact, which means that I'd not framed the 8 by 10 for ourselves, nor had I given grandparents the 5 by 7's nor assorted aunts and uncles the wallet sized photos. How horrible could I be? Isn't a mom supposed to "kvell," supposed to proudly display her framed "kinderlach" on home walls and bookshelves?

Well, I have several beautiful frames that I've bought or received as gifts over the years, but they sit vacant, just waiting for this TorontoPearl's children to rent the space. My beautiful walls beckon to me: "I need a photo here. I need a collage there. If you don't hang something up soon, I might just crack!"

Our family room wall unit has some photos, but most of them appear to pay homage to my oldest child when he was between the ages of infancy and two (eight years ago -- yeah, that's just about how long I've neglected to put photos in albums); yes, there are a couple of my middle child here and there, but none of the youngest.

The same in my bedroom on my dresser, but I think a photo of my youngest snuck in there somewhere.

I am the youngest of three children, born in September, and in 1961 people weren't photographing as often and as freely as they do today. So, the earliest photos of me were taken in the spring of 1962, and I was already several months old. Of course, whenever I'd look at the family photo albums(my mother is the most organized "albumist"; she worked as a negative cutter in the film business, so perhaps the details related to that job carried through to her arranging of photos and negatives...?) I'd question it, assuming that I was adopted and came into the family a bit later. Such wasn't the case, but I guess it was also the "third child syndrome"-- ie. fewer photos as the list of children goes on.

In any case, I hope to report back to you in a month or more that I indeed coordinated and arranged beautiful photo albums of my family, gave out beautiful school photos of my children, and became the best photo archivist this side of Lake Ontario!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Seraphic Vision

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Seraphic Vision

As the moon crescents
in the night sky
And the stars wink
up above
Hashem’s evening majesty
is revealed.

And closer to home
you, with your dark eyes,
that familiar, warm, nut-brown shade,
remain deep in prayer, immersed in learning,
wearing your cloak of piety
wrapped lovingly around you
and worn proudly
like a family heirloom passed down through the generations.

You, with the gentle yet impassioned soul.
Proud like a lion – Ari – but humble in your manner.
With one purpose: to serve family and Hashem.

Your bright eyes are inquisitive; they also smile behind their seriousness
because they know the secrets of the angels,
the first order of angels who sit by the majestic throne of Hashem
serving his needs, coming to his aid.

You, like the seraphim, meet the needs of others.
It is you who answers the questions, but doesn’t ask them.
You, who seeks to share your knowledge, your wisdom,
ready to impart all with others.
It is you who comforts like a father
when you are but only a child.

It is you who brings meaning to life -- to Chaim.
It is you who breathes life into words, helping to shape them into tangible ideas,
ideas, that, too, will carry through the generations.

Avarechicha – and I will bless you.
V’yishmerecha – and I will keep you.


These words, this poem was written by me in January. I submitted it to the Passover literary supplement of our community Jewish newspaper, and it was accepted and published just last week.

A friend of mine loved the poem but did not know what to make of it. She thought it was a love poem I'd written for my husband. I gave the explanation to her, as I'm giving to you.

This poem was written with Ariel Chaim Avrech, z"l, in mind. I did not know this young man, I never met this young man, I'd never even heard of this young man until last October. But then I started to read about him, started to learn about all he'd possessed, all he'd represented and all he'd been capable of. And I began to know him.

You, too, can get to know Ariel. You can read his father, Robert J. Avrech's moving blog, with interjective comments from his mother, Karen. His parents keep memories of their son strong, alive, giving him chaim, not only in their hearts, but on their computer screen, for all the world to see. I hope you'll take a moment to see...and learn...and know.

Chassidic Masters Tell All

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At the second seder, the one that my husband and I hosted in our home, we distributed mainly the same Haggadot, so people would have an easy time to follow, whether they were more comfortable reading Hebrew or English. I, however, chose to be different and used an ArtScroll Mesorah Series Haggadah called Haggadah of the Chassidic Masters -- it had been a gift to me from an aunt many years ago, and is a most lovely Haggadah to use.

The book jacket says: "...This is a book to be savored at the seder and at all times of the year.... It is filled with penetrating and exciting ideas, insights, into life and destiny, stories that make one think about his mission and his role as part of a family, a town, a nation..."

In between keeping my eye on the children, keeping my eye on the children handling the crystal wine glasses, I was reading along in the Haggadah, my eyes straying every now and again to a Chassidic story written in English. This particular one drew my attention:

When Rebbe Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov passed away, Rebbe Sar Shalom of Belz sighed and said, "What a pity! We have lost an upright Jew." ("ehrlicher Yid")
"An upright Jew only?" exclaimed his wife. "He was among the greatest rebbes of our age."
"Rebbes we have in plenty," replied her husband, "but upright Jews are few and far between."

Unfortunately, there were countless upright Jews missing from family seders throughout this city and farther abroad -- tragedies and illnesses had taken them, some too fast, others too soon, some too young -- and their presence was strongly missed. In these families, when the seder called for leaning, no doubt family members leaned just a little more, leaning on and supporting each other in the shadow of their sorrow and melancholy.

It is my hope that some kind of seder -- order -- can eventually be brought back into these families' lives and that the chair that sits empty now, symbolizing the missing family member, will be looked at not just with great pain, but in time with pure reverence, because of the memories associated with the"ehrlicher Yid" it belonged to.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

One Day or Another...

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The band Blondie had song lyrics that went something like this: "One way or another, I'm gonna find you, I'm gonna get you, get you, get you..." For the sake of this post's title, I changed "way" to "day"!

The first days of Pesach were over in Toronto over three and a half hours ago. This year it was somewhat more difficult in terms of nuances of the holiday because Shabbos got in the way of Yom Tov preparation, chametz got in the way of Yom Tov preparation, and particular halachot got in the way of Yom Tov preparation. But we learned all the ins and outs, all the particulars to observe to get us to the start of Yom Tov, which took place on Saturday p.m. after Shabbos was over.

In spite of having two main holiday markers -- two seder nights -- these past few days have been somewhat of a blur for me, with one day becoming like the one before it and the one after it. I've been home from work since Wednesday, doing final preparations, although my good -- no, my wonderful husband -- had done much of the prep work himself, taking off from work a few days before me to set everything up in the kitchen. How many women are lucky enough to find men like this, who also cook and bake wonderful delicacies for a seder meal? I came home from a medical appointment on Wednesday to find that my husband alone had shlepped all our dishes and Pesach accoutrements from our basement crawlspace, took them upstairs, set everything up in the washed out kitchen cupboards, putting away the daily dishes and cutlery, setting up the counters and the stove and oven and sinks for Pesach use. A gift from G-d this husband of mine? Perhaps. I think I'll keep him!

Early last week had been beautiful, and hot, and summerlike. But the forecast for Friday through Monday (great...just what I needed for Shabbos and Yom Tov) was cool weather and rain for the four days. And this time the weather forecasters knew exactly what they were talking about. We were homebound for all of Shabbos, and after Shabbos, put on the layers of rain gear, including rain boots, slickers, ponchos, plastic covers on strollers and wagons and set out for Seder #1, a 40 minute walk from our home. Seder #2 was hosted by my husband and I at our home, so no need to go out again with the children late at night. Today, we donned the raingear once more to make a 1-hour trek to a sibling for lunch, decided not to wait till Yom Tov was out to go home, and three out of five of us, marched home after six o'clock, donned in raingear and making the one hour return trek...trying to walk between the raindrops, and failing miserably!

Yes, it's nice to spend a Shabbos or Yom Tov with family and friends. It's nice to have a "long weekend" and miss work for an extra day or two. But in circumstances, such as the past few days presented themselves, one day blurs into the next -- socialize, eat, sleep, socialize, eat, sleep...[look out the window upon awakening to check if it's raining outside]

I'm heading back to work tomorrow, with hard-boiled egg, juice box, matzoh sandwiches, fruit, salad, macaroons in hand. I know it'll be Tuesday, but I'll think it's Monday, and when the end of the week rolls around I'll be pleasantly surprised momentarily, because I'll have forgotten that we're already at week's end. But then I'll quickly be reminded because I'll know that cooking will be happening for Shabbos and Yom Tov yet again.

Shabbos. Yom Tovs. Cycles. Isn't that what life's all about?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Putting the Pieces Back Together

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Of course I have to post something Pesach-related, considering that it's almost upon us, and most of the blogs I've been reading make some mention of the holiday. So here's my contribution...

As a bright person, I often wonder if my brain is missing just a little bolt, or a little screw because I have some difficulty with doing puzzles, refolding maps and tasks like that. Sometimes my logical skills are weak, other times they shine. But around Pesach, when I'm doing a major spring cleaning, that part of the brain needs to be oiled just a touch more.

I've just finished cleaning my car's interior, saving myself a good $65-$90 in doing it myself. And when I'm transporting three young children here and there in the vehicle, it shows in the car's interior. First I pulled out all the car mats, and the rubber mats, and the child's car seat, and then I really got IN the cleaning mode: sprayed everything DOWN, vacuumed everything UP, turned everything OVER that was loose, got UNDER the seats and threw all the garbage OUT.

Now that part of the brain has to figure out which mats go where and how to put them back!

The other night, it was the two fridges that I'd cleaned -- pulling out all the drawers, all the shelves. My husband had already gone to sleep as I did my task late at night, and I knew I couldn't wake him up to help me out. From past years' experience, I knew that I'd always call, "Honey, could you come here please? I can't remember where everything goes and how to put everything back in the fridge [that's without referring to the food in the fridge!]." I was dreading that this year I'd stumble over the same stumbling block, but lo and behold, I DID IT, and without difficulty! What accounted for the smoothness of it all this time around? I didn't change my ways -- I didn't take a shelf out, wash it, and immediately replace it, which one would think is the logical way of treating this weakness of mine, ie. one step at a time; complete it; go on to next step. No, I took out all items at once, and then put them back one after another.

Okay, so something helped me along -- perhaps I had to compensate for lack of sleep by being acutely "sharp" this time. Who knows? But if you'd like to hand me that road map of California, maybe I could refold it for you...?


May your reliving of the Jews' exodus from Egypt by retelling the story of the Haggadah be most meaningful for you and your family. Hope every one of you Jewish readers can send me a post card from your seder, saying, "Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here!"

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Cheap Thrills!

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Love ya, Blogger, hate ya, Blogger... (yes, I lost my fabulous post; recover post didn't work; now I have to re-create it)

Everyone has his or her declared cheap thrills. I'm often living vicariously through family or friends who travel, so why not also through objects that travel...? is my friend. Last December I ordered a birthday/Chanukah gift for a brother of mine who lives in Boston. I was a newbie at ordering online, but once I discovered the track-your-package system, I was hooked. My order wasn't a high priority, needing second-day delivery, so I let the package have a field day, run its course, while I watched from the sidelines.

You'd think a big U.S. city has its own distribution center for books and gift items, but no...o....o. I watched as this package traveled through Tennessee and West Virginia and and about five other points before it finally reached the intended recipient.

All along I was imagining the package as it changed trucks, passed through several hands, perhaps whizzing past tourist attractions while riding along the interstate and city streets.

I recently placed another order with and have been happily watching the package trek through desert country of the West Coast en route to its final destination. I'm thinking of the parcel sweltering in the back of a transport truck as the truck weaves in and out of traffic, in and out of states.

The package should make its way to the recipient any day now...

"Hey, there's a UPS truck parked outside, and the guy is getting out and walking this way... A package for me? Wonder who it could be from..."

Fellow blogger A Simple Jew posts today about a new pair of tefillin that he got. He'd ordered them from a sofer in Jerusalem, and anxiously tracked them as the package made its way from Israel, across the ocean and to his house in the States. That truly was a holy and dear package being delivered to him, and to be able to track it was exciting.

I think that will be my friend for a while. Think of all the money I'm saving in airline fares and cross-country bus tickets while just sitting in front of a computer screen and living vicariously through a package's many stops. See how far some $9.00+ in S&H can take me...?

I guess this is what they call being "an armchair traveler"!


Not that I'll be traveling anywhere, except probably far away from my computer for the next several days -- I'll have to PASSOVER my e-mails and my blog posts.
To all my Jewish friends, Chag Samech. I wish you and yours a very Happy and Healthy Passover -- tell lots of good tales, eat lots of good food and we'll see you next week.
One more thing: "Next Year in Jerusalem!" (wonder how much that'll cost in dollars to get there...)

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Comments, Anyone?

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Is this Bloggers Anonymous?

Yes, I wanted to say that I am addicted to reading blogs and posting.

But the truth of the matter is that oftentimes I find the comments section more entertaining than the actual posts that I read or write.

People are genuinely FUNNY, or sarcastic in an amusing way.

I get comments from TuesdayWishes on my posts or I read her comments on PsychoToddler's posts -- she is quite the witty one. And speaking of Sir PsychoToddler...just go on to his site and see the antics that often go on there.

I noticed some time ago that a Doctor Bean would comment on PsychoToddler's posts, and sort of let loose, so I sought out his site. Turns out that he has a joint blog with a bunch of pals, and they post individually, some having his/her own following, and others just getting general responses. But oftentimes, pure fun permeates the air surrounding their blog and I've written to tell them so. Firstly, I tried to get Doctor Bean to have his own gig, minus the group, and just because he is so funny. But of course, being sensitive to the others, he didn't feel he could leave them behind in search of the spotlight for himself. But I've since learned that each of his Kerckhoff Coffeehouse pals can be equally funny, so they do belong together.

Yettabettaboo and Life-of-Rubin are funny bloggers/commenters, too. Perhaps not intentionally, but their deliveries are so straightforward, like a free association game, that I find them to be amusing...perhaps because they're so honest, telling it like it is -- in their own ways.

Treppenwitz has a way with words, both in blogging and in commenting. Seek him out and you won't be sorry.... (look for him coming to a blog near you: PsychoToddler's, or Jack's Shack)

Jack's Shack hits the humor trail, too, with his blog and comments. I picture Jack as the attention-seeking class clown, who can sometimes become obnoxious or hit a nerve, but nonetheless can make us laugh, make us look inwards at ourselves as we look outward to the world.

Take a look around at the more general blogs, and see if I'm not correct -- that comments are almost like a post in themselves, in that they're entertaining the readers, and often a thread of discussion follows in the comments section.

Truth be told, that once I read a blog, and I see the air has been cleared in the comments section by someone else, and a jovial remark has been made, I feel freer to let loose, too. I just hope that these cutesie/seemingly funny comments of mine are acceptable, and readers or the blog owners aren't just rolling their eyes and saying, "There's TorontoPearl again...thinking she's funny..."

By the way, did you hear the one about the guy who walks into a bar and ---

Don't Look Now...

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...but your age is showing!

And such is how my husband and I feel when we are at a school function. At ages 45 and 43 and our oldest child not yet ten, we feel like the bubbies and zaydies of the school...compared to the babies that abound. And thus our parents must feel like the great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers of the school.

When you live in an Orthodox environment, and you are a relatively late bloomer, you're most aware of the fact. And the truth is, that this "older than thou" knowledge doesn't just stay within the perimeters of the school, but we see it at our shuls, in my children's extracurricular activites when we speak to other parents, etc.

Age is only a number, and I don't feel my age, but when I'm faced with moms who are ten years my junior and have children the same age, or moms who are my age, but whose youngest child is going on ten years old, then 43 stares me in the face.

I asked a mom today at my children's swimming lessons what years she attended a particular girls' high school in Toronto -- all I had to hear what the first number 1983 and didn't even need to listen beyond that. I told her that I'd graduated UNIVERSITY in 1983.

Yes, age is my own hangup, no doubt; nobody is trying to make me feel old. And G-d willing, in spite of the gray hairs that rear their ugly head every now and again, my three young children will keep me and my husband young, as well!

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Me....ow....w.....w...... Hiss....sssss.......

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Girls, girls girls. Doesn't the blog title give it away?

Today for Shabbat I had my three kids at home, and four "extra" kids-- my older son had a friend sleep over, my youngest son had a friend come for lunch and spend the afternoon, and my middle child, my daughter, had two girlfriends come for lunch and spend the rest of the day.

I am fascinated by children, by their actions, by their priorities, by their conversations and especially by the dynamics. Yes, I was once a kid (sometimes still behave like one, too) but I was different than my children. I mostly had neighborhood children to play with, because I was quite a loner at school for many years. L'havdil, thank G-d my children are outgoing, social, involved, and athletic.

I am more than pleased to watch how they interact with their friends because at times I think I am living vicariously through them. My daughter is quite the social butterfly and I find that since kindergarten, when she started attending her school, her social life has exceeded mine-- she's only in grade two, but her calendar is rather full.

But I watch these seven- and eight-year-old girls and wonder at some of their behaviors. They are fickle, they are catty, they are petulant, there are egocentric. And many of them turn out to be just plain mean!

Of course I want to protect A. from the meanness, the bullying that I see often runs rampant in its own way among socializing skills, but I'm also sometimes at a loss as to what to say, as I'm sure my mother was at a loss to say to me on those many times I'd come home crying because kids or girls "were mean to me." I had no sisters, I was a loner for many years, so I didn't really know for the earliest years what it meant to have girlfriends -- yes, I was friendly to everyone, but I was shy, and that held me back in many ways.

Yes, I should allow behaviors to develop or change over years, but I can foresee that several of my daughter's peers will be as mean and as catty in 10 - 15 years as they are today. Many of them take after their mothers, I suppose, so their mothers might not see anything wrong in their daughters' behaviors. But I see it, and oftentimes just have to keep my mouth shut about it, or complain to my husband, or just try to have my daughter keep different company.

When A. was in SK, I was already forewarned: "Her grade -- the girls in her grade -- are a tough bunch." But sadly, "forewarned" does not necessarily mean "forearmed"...

Friday, April 15, 2005

Life Is a Mystery...

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In the world of fiction writing
few make it to the top,
but if they reach the pinnacle
they hope success won't stop.

And farther down, below on ground,
the readers stand and stare,
hoping their favorite gifted writers
will remain atop, up there.

Now one of these fine wordsmiths
likes to drop hints in all her books --
if it's mysteries that intrigue you
pick up hers and take a look.

Visit with a modern Orthodox Jewish sleuth
Molly Blume is the character's name,
she'll help you get over your BLUES IN THE NIGHT
but there might be GRAVE ENDINGS all the same.

Or perhaps you're in need of a DREAM HOUSE,
in which you can take pride,
but beware of all the dangers
which could be lurking there inside.

And then there is the Jessie Drake series
featuring several wonderful titles
and this author also has numerous stand-alone books
which have kept her fans in smiles.

It's time that I remove the veil of secrecy
and share this author's name
because with my Pearlies of Wisdom blog
I hope to bring her more fame.

Rochelle Krich would be the author you seek
her titles you'll want to buy
she's already won a Calavera Award
so why not give her books a try?

If you seek more info about this author
please visit her at her site is the place to go
whether it's morning, noon or night.

And believe it or not, she keeps a blog
just like this one on your screen
you can link to it via her web site
so you can see in fact what I mean.

Rochelle has an interesting name for her blog
which captures everything and more
"News, Views and Shmooze" is what you'll Google
then go and read it and learn what's in store...

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Haunting

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I've made an interesting personal observation with regards to blogging and visiting other blogs. I have my regular 10 - 12 sites that I like to visit, and as I've mentioned in an earlier post, I visit more them than once or twice a day. (as you'll notice in your site meters, if you care about that sort of thing.) Primarily I'm checking if there are new posts and/or comments being added to the last post.

It seems to me that those other fellow bloggers whom I like to visit have already been onto the current post I'm viewing, have already commented, and if I come back later in the day to re-visit, it's apparent they have, too, as they have left more than one comment.

It's like I belong to a benevolent society/landsmanschaft -- I might not get to all the meetings, but when I do get to one, it's already taken place! The members have come and gone, and all that's left for me to do is read the minutes of the meeting I missed!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Check Is in the Mail

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Are there any literary folks out there who read this (yes, InkAsRain, I know you do)? If so, I'd like to ask a question: Do any of you who write, as I do, and want to submit your work to competitions pay for the privilege of doing so? There are competitions that say entry fee for 1st item is $15, subsequent items are $10.

Of course, the monies collected end up being the prize winnings for the winners, but I do not like to submit my writing anywhere that I have to pay. I would like the judges to pay ME for the privilege of reading my essays or my poetry.

These aren't necessarily little-known literary magazines that request money up front, either. Some major writers' organizations and well-respected publications ask for entry fees, too. But I'm sorry -- I just can't write a check for that. I might as well throw those U.S. or Canadian dollars down the toilet...not to say that I can't win a competition, just that I don't want to sign my name on the dotted line in order to do so!

Modern-Day Mating Call

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Rose Marie. 1936. Movie starring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. He plays a Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the Canadian Rockies. Film known for its song, "The Indian Love Call," which features those lyrics, "When I'm calling you-oo-oo..." Hard to forget those angelic voices singing that song.

Lunchtime today. Mall parking lot. Going back to my car. Heading towards the vehicle, I click the remote to unlock the car door, and hear the familiar "beep, beep" reminiscent of The Road Runner. Responding deeper-sounding "BEEEEP,BEEEEP" sounds from several rows away.

Hey, I think to myself, is this the mating call of the twenty-first century? And then I mentally hear the refrains of "When I'm calling you-oo-oo..."

Reality Speaks

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Yes, blogging is a free-form expression, but oftentimes it's just so frivolous. We touch upon surfaces, never delving too deeply because either we want to maintain our secret identities or it's just too damn hard to do so -- our words that have been floating in our heads and in our hearts don't necessarily want to see the light of day. But sometimes they do...

Seraphic Sleep(less)

It is 2:30 AM, and I cannot sleep because Karen is dreaming of Ariel; she moans in her sleep from wounds that will never heal. Three times before we went to bed, Karen, with tears slipping from her eyes, said to me: "Where is he? Where is Ariel?" Of course I had no answer and Karen does not expect one, but still, I feel that I should have something to say besides, "I don't know, I just don't know."

It is 2:35 AM, and I cannot sleep because Offspring Number Three has just learned that her close, close friend who lives in NY is very ill and -- for God's sake, my child has already lost her brother. Must she endure it all over again? Every so often a well-meaning idiot will tell me that "God never gives us more than we can bear." When I hear this outrageous cliche I really feel like punching the person who says it. Where did they get such a stupid idea? In fact, HaShem gives us more than we can bear on a daily basis. Yes, we manage to live through these terrible experiences, we manage to endure, to survive, but we are never the same, and we are often diminished by the suffering, irrevocably harmed. I do not believe that suffering is noble or holy; it is just awful.

It is 2:40 AM, and I cannot sleep because Karen is preparing for Pesach and every shelf cleaned, every corner mopped, every book opened and dusted for crumbs only brings home the fact that Ariel will not be sitting at the Passover seder with us. He will not be reliving the Exodus from Egypt with us. He will not be explaining to us his sharp and penetrating insights into the Haggadah. He will not be smiling at the Passover table, enjoying this wonderful holiday. Ariel's last Pesach was in the hospital, in the ICU where he was forced to celebrate the seder behind an oxygen mask, and our Passover table was that little slab of formica on wheels that's hardly big enough for two matzos. We recited the whole Hagaddah, but it was an effort for him and at the end, he fell back into an exhausted sleep.

It is 2:45 AM, and I cannot sleep because David, Karen's brother was just here in LA with his lovely daughter Jennifer. They live in Israel and they are deeply concerned about the plan to withdraw from Gaza. David knows what anyone with half a brain knows, which is that no good can come from this withdrawl. The Arabs will see it as just the first in a series of retreats designed to destroy the state of Israel. Does no one realize that when the Arabs speak of so-called occupied territories they are not talking about Judea and Samarian, they are, in fact, talking about the entire state of Israel? I read the Arab press. They don't even bother to disguisee their genicidal plans.

It is 2:50 AM, and I cannot sleep because numerous sleazy professors at Columbia University have built a Middle Eastern Studies department on a foundation of lies, anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, and anti-Americanism. And there are still people in my shul who are paying over fifty thousand dollars a year for the priveledge of sending their children to this corrupt institution. Are Jews so starved for status that they actually see nothing wrong with paying the salaries of the children of Edward Said?

It is 2:55 AM, and I cannot sleep because I am writing two scripts under intense deadline pressure and I have not been spending as much time as I should writing the next volume of The Hebrew Kid. I'm also afraid that I will never be able to make the second book as good as the first. I wrote The Hebrew Kid and the Apache Maidedn while Ariel was still alive. He helped me. He inspired me. He made me a better writer with his criticism and insights. But now he is gone and I suspect that I'm not as good a writer anymore. Without him, my imagination stalls.

It is 3:00 AM, and I cannot sleep becasue I am sitting in the dark in my bedroom with my computer on my lap typing this blog. I am afraid to go to sleep because I dream of Ariel most every night and when I wake up my face is wet with tea

Posted by Robert J. Avrech at April 12, 2005 02:24 AM

An Eishet Chayil Diamond

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Unfortunately, earlier this evening, my husband and I had to go to a shiva house (a Jewish house of mourning) -- a friend of ours had lost his father last week, and we went to comfort the mourners and for my husband to daven.

I didn't know this friend's father nor his mother all that well. Sometimes we were together as guests at a Yom Tov or Shabbos table, but I'd only met the parents in total maybe half a dozen times in the 11 years that I know the son and daughter-in-law.

The man who passed away unfortunately had been suffering from the slowly disabilitating Parkinson's disease for the past five years or so. Little by little the symptoms showed themselves and the man started to need extra help for the little daily things we take so for granted. Help getting dressed, help bathing, help eating, help shaving, eventually help standing up and sitting down...because of the rigid stance that accompanies the disease.

This evening, however, I learned of the quality of life that this man had, thanks to his lovely wife, his true eishet chayil (woman of valor). They began to have some hired help, nurse's aides in the latter days, but all along the wife helped her husband keep to his familiar and daily routines. She announced to myself and another woman at the shiva: "I even helped him lain tefillin." The other woman asked, "You knew how to do that?" "No," was the reply. "My husband taught me...and so I did it for him all the time."

I was floored -- yes, such a familiar task to men from the time they turn thirteen years of age, a routine, although a bit difficult at first, that becomes second nature. Never did it occur to me that someone who wants to continue to lead the quality of Jewish life that he has led, who wants to follow this commandment of tefillin, but is somewhat handicapped to do so, should need the rudimentary help. For a wife to learn how to lain tefillin so her husband can continue the mitzvah is a most beautiful thing. I was deeply touched by this woman's fortitude and resolve to help her husband in such elemental ways.

She married someone with the last name Diamond, and in her earliest days of marriage after the second world war, she might have been a Diamond in the rough. But after so many years of a life together, and such a demonstrated dedication to her husband, she proved herself to be a most polished, refined diamond, complete with Clarity for what needed to be done for her husband and doing it. A true eishet chayil.

May Moishe Diamond's memory be for a blessing, and may his neshama have an aliyah. And may his dear wife continue to be strong, and healthy, and live to continue to see much naches from her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Google Thyself

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When the Internet became accessible to us at work a few years ago, I was thrilled. Of course I used Internet at home after hours, but I love to research and fact-check and just plain surf, and on company time, even better! ;)

One day my co-worker said to me: "I Googled your name." At that point in time I had no clue what Google was, as I'd been an Ask Jeeves fan, so I needed an explanation. She told me she was using the Google search engine and just plugged in people's names out of curiosity.

So I did the same. WOW, I actually found my name there in relation to an online thread I'd been part of with regards to my family genealogy. Over the years, I've Googled my name and have come up with a number of different sources that I'm linked to. Google has picked me up by my first name and maiden name; first name, maiden name and married name; first name and married name; and my blogging name.

I really don't care how fast I'm linked to references with my name, and whether or not there are countless references. But it's interesting for me to see how my name has been linked: genealogy threads, contest topic suggestions for writers' associations, reader suggestions for magazines, guest books I've visited and signed, articles I've written and have published.

Now the next time I Google myself, I might just find the link to this post!

Sunday, April 10, 2005


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Since I was a little girl, I was always impressed with people who used "big words"--they sounded intellectual, interesting, and whether or not they used their big words correctly wouldn't have mattered to me because I usually didn't know the difference.

I was a voracious reader while growing up, but was too often lazy to reach for the dictionary for words I was reading whose meaning I didn't understand, and so I just guessed the meaning in context. But in university and in my job as copy editor, I learned I really needed to use a dictionary to get the correct meaning.

It seems to me, and I was discussing this the other day with an editor, that we (he and I) use "big" words when we write, rather than when we talk. Neither he nor I could account for the difference, but it's been the pattern we've seen develop.

These days, I'm always looking to find a new word to use in my writing or in my conversations. And I came across one that sort of turned my head...

Some time ago, I yelled over to my fellow copy editor (who happens to use a lovely vocabulary) over the "walls" of our "offices," "How are you?" and heard her answer with this: "Copacetic." "What did you say?" I asked back. "Copacetic" was her reply.

I thought to myself: "Where does Val [a non-Jew] know Hebrew from?" I was impressed, got up, went around the wall, and said "How did you know to answer me in Hebrew, and correctly?"

"What Hebrew? I said c-o-p-a-c-e-t-i-c."

"Ohhhh," I said, blushing two shades of red. "It sounded to me as if you'd said 'Kol b'seder,' which means 'everything is okay'. "

I looked up the definition in Webster's and saw this for copacetic: adj. (origin unknown), very satisfactory. Okay, Hebrew speakers, tell me that "copacetic" doesn't sound a lot like "{ha}kol b'seder". With its origins being unknown, perhaps it does stem from the Hebrew language...

In any case, I hope that everything in your life is c-o-p-a-c-e-t-i-c.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

"The Thrill Is Gone...the Thrill Has Gone Away...."

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Mr. B.B. King, noted blues guitarist, made those lyrics famous quite a number of years ago. And I couldn't help but have them come to mind today in relation to blogging.

I discovered, without getting into details, that blogging and "virtual" personalities can get pretty ugly, just like in the real world. People can become very catty, downright mean for no real reason. Who am I, but a stranger forming an opinion, and having a preconception of a particular someone based on that someone's bright or smooth posts. Up until recently, it's been a positive POV I had, but lately, I just don't know what to think. I think I've had good reason to speak my mind and express some concern in a nice way, and once again it backfires...just like that grade school incident mentioned a few posts down.

I've sort of been left with a bad taste in my mouth, and like B.B. King sings, "The thrill is gone...."

Perhaps I just don't have much to say anymore -- after all, I did admit my world is pretty small -- or maybe it's just that perhaps whatever I choose to say might get shot down or attacked in an unkind way from a fellow blogger.

Up until now, my keeping a blog has reawakened my writing channels, giving me a much-needed creative exercise, opening my thought processes, as well. But today I felt pretty disillusioned because of this personal blogging incident.

Maybe it's time to sit back for a while from writing my own posts; maybe it's time I just haunt yours...

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Blogger, Get Yourself a Timex Watch, if not a Rolex!

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Among my many pet peeves with Blogger, aside from its screwing up my posts on a regular basis and sending them into oblivion, I can't understand that it doesn't know how to tell the time!

My last post was started just after 1:00 a.m., but I completed it, ready for posting, at about 1:50 -- one look at the Blogger time/date notation, and I still saw the 1:04 time. How come it doesn't want to keep time with me, and note the new hour when I finally post my message?

Has anyone noticed this problem with Blogger? Any solutions, aside from the obvious: make certain I look at the time/date BEFORE I post, just after I finished typing the message.

Okay, for interest's sake, I started this message at 1:52, but now it's 2:03! I am gonna make the change, okay?

Blogger,we can all pitch in and buy you a nice, working timepiece for your next job. Sound good...?

"In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning..."

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Carly Simon sings a beautiful version of that classic song, and I'm thinking about it now, after 1:00 a.m. as I sit at the computer typing away. Sleep has become somewhat evasive the past two nights, perhaps because of the time change and my usual late late hour of retiring for the night being thrown off; and I know that last night a horrible storm threw me off kilter as I lay in bed and listened to the howling wind and the beating of it against the window screen, wondering how many shingles would be found the next morning in the yard, having flown off the roof.

Tonight there's no real excuse for not falling readily asleep, save for my thoughts.

Thoughts are not always welcome; they invade when you don't want them to; or they flee -- as butterflies do when you try to capture them with a net.

Tonight I'm thinking a mixed bag: of conversations -- written and oral -- I had today with various people; of conflicts in my family summer plans with other family members' summer plans, and how best to resolve the situation to make both families happy; of where my writing ought to take me, but doesn't necessarily do so, perhaps because I'm not putting forth enough effort, or because it feels forced and unnatural.

I've also been thinking of former classmates and where they are today -- this for the reason that I visited my parents today and my mother gave me my class pictures from senior kindergarten to grade 6. I reviewed the photos with my husband and children, seeing if they could spot me (my five-year-old did a bang-up job with the assignment), pointing out other people familiar to them, telling them who was doing what, to the best of my current knowledge, and unfortunately acknowledging a couple of people who passed away at too young an age from tragic circumstances.

As children in these class photos that capture us from ages 5 through 11, we are bright-eyed, carefree in our life's responsibilites, perhaps temporarily squirming under the focused look of the photographer, but knowing that in a few minutes, after the "One, two, three, say 'Cheese' " has passed, we can once again relax, be the children we're supposed to be.

Many of us in those pictures have been rewarded with good careers, and a rich family life. And I knew that when my daughter pointed out one of the earliest pictures with me in it, and commented on this aspect, "I like this picture of you; it's your best smile!" I couldn't help but smile.

And although at moments like tonight, when some of my thoughts are heavier than others, seeming to weigh me down and keep me from relaxing into a sleep, I also smile because my family, my lifestyle, and my roots have made me who I am: a thinking, feeling person...who may sometimes lack a bit of sleep, but certainly does not lack in being loved by family and friends. Yes, a rich woman, indeed!

Monday, April 04, 2005

Paul Simon Has Flown the Coop...along with the Eagles

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Okay, people, no more music on my blog. Someone rightfully pointed out today that having music suddenly playing when you open my blog to read my posts might be a real intrusion in your work or home life. Like I said in an earlier post -- I respect you readers. So one comment today, and thus the music videos are no longer.

The truth was that the selection the video link offered was not so great anyway, unless you can wrap your mind around rap music, which were the majority of videos available.

You'll just have to settle for me singing from my corner of the world (too far away for you to hear me!) some Gershwin classics or some mellow music. James Taylor, anyone? "Shower the people you love with love, show them the way that you feel..." or "You've got a friend..."

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Shalom, Laya. Shalom, Penina.

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Ah, so you're surprised to see your names up in blogger lights, huh?

It's just an official public thank-you to two ladies from my neck of the woods who take the time to read my words and comment, whether privately or publicly. I appreciate you taking moments out of your busy days to tune in to my random thoughts, and then offer some of your own.

Not to say that others don't do so, too. Of course you read my words, and several of you also comment, whether privately or publicly. And I thank you for doing so.

I enjoy the handful of off-screen friendships/acquaintanceships that I have developed by blogging. Many of you display such sensitivity, insights and humor that keep me somewhat in awe. In your notes and in your own posts many of you prove how bright and in-the-know you are; yes, we each come into this world, developing our own strengths, but sometimes I fear that my strengths cannot match yours.

Yes, the world is big, but sometimes I choose to keep mine small, personal, intimate. Regardless, it's always nice to invite new people into my small corner of the world...

Reach Out and Touch...

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Since I was a little girl I was considered "a helper" -- my early report cards commented and said that I was always willing to help others; in grade 4, when a new student came from Israel to join our class, the teacher asked for some volunteers to help be a peer to this girl and be involved with English as a Second Language -- guess whose hand rose in the air? I couldn't wait to turn thirteen years old so that I could be a candy striper in a seniors' home/hospital; I volunteered with special-needs adults for several years; I worked for Jewish Chaplaincy services, visiting Jewish people in public nursing homes; I like to help causes in those areas in which I display strengths (editing, writing, promoting)

For some reason (I think it's a wonderful inherited trait from a parent) I've been blessed with a concerned and helpful nature. It's not that I necessarily go out on a limb to help people, but it's a natural outlet for me; it comes easy to me.

Sometimes, however, good intentions are misconstrued. I'll never forget in grade school when a peer fell in the schoolyard, and me being my natural wanna-help self, asked before we came in from recess, "Ari, are you okay?" I got back such a sarcastic retort: "Yes, Nurse Pearl. I'm fine!" I meant well, but it backfired at that point in time...and I sort of hurt because I'd meant well but this ten year old kid didn't want to hear it from me.

I don't know why I'm attracted to certain causes more than others, why I seek to help some people more than I do others. Something touches a heart chord, a nerve, I guess.

But I'm more than happy when I am able to offer my compassion, my interest, my time to help further a cause, to help console someone, to help bring out the best in someone else. Because when I do that, I'm also bringing out the best in me!

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Everything Old Becomes New Again

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Growing up, I've been pretty much of a classic type, when it comes to fashion and ideas. I wasn't always into trends because they're often so flighty. "Classic consciousness" seems to help when it comes to fads that pass you by; you're in for the long haul, when things go in and out the window with the passing seasons. And sometimes they haunt you again somewhere down the road.

Today my daughter asked me to say the "Hey, hey, hey -- it's Fat Albert" refrain. She knows of it from the TV commercials she'd seen advertising the movie before its release. I told her it used to be a cartoon when I was a kid.

So many things were around when I was a kid, or growing up. I was in my twenties during the disco era, and so much of the music from then is being remixed today for the airwaves or nightclubs. I find it fascinating that the young people are hearing these songs for the first time, when in fact they're passe for me....

To go to a toy store and still see Easy Bake Ovens around makes me feel happy; I remember being eight years old, and visiting my uncle, aunt and many cousins in Mexico City (my first airplane trip from Canada to Mexico), and one of my cousins had one. I was fascinated by the concept that this little light bulb could help bake a cake. Do you think they can recreate that in a massive size, like a regular oven?

If you're a classic type of person, the current Coco Chanel type of woman's suit with fringed cuffs might still be found at the back of your closet. Yes, it's the rage today, but so it was many years ago, and so you held on to it.

Okay, fashions and toys aside, I wish that some of the oldie but goodie TV shows would still be around on mainstream television. For some of them, the themes or jokes would no longer apply to our lifestyles, nor would they be understood by the younger generations, but how I wish they'd come back to haunt us. Here are some family-time shows around which many of my long-term memories are made:

I Love Lucy/The Lucy Show
The Lawrence Welk Show
The Ed Sullivan Show
The Carol Burnett Show
All in the Family
The Red Skelton Show
Tiny Talent Time
(a local talent show for kids)
Romper Room
Green Acres
CBC-Nighttime News (Canadian Broadcasting System)
CBS Evening News w/ Walter Cronkite
Truth or Consequences
Make Room for Daddy

Yes, I know that many of these shows are available on specialized cable channels, but if you don't have those channels or want to install them on your television system, you have to rely on your memories. And you have to try to recreate those memories for your children so that they can better understand where you're coming from.

So next time my daughter asks me to repeat the Fat Albert refrain, I'll tell her not just that it used to be a cartoon when I was a kid, but I'll give her details about the show and tell her why I liked it. And she'll better understand that Eema (Mom) was once a young girl like her...

Friday, April 01, 2005

The Eagles Have Left the Building

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Apparently, the Eagles have left the building. (and took my list of favorite blogs with them, those dirty rats!)

Now, for your enjoyment, we have Mr. Paul Simon.

I Asked...and Got an Answer

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I've had a Pesach-related Halachic question floating around my brain forever. Back and forth, back and forth, my husband and I have tossed the matter around over the past few years. He has his minhagim, I have mine, but we'd agreed on this minhag. However it was time to find out if it was just our family traditions ruling us, or if there was any Halachic basis to our years-old practice.

I just got off the computer (thought I was going to say "phone," didn't you?) with a religious adviser from Aside from it being a web site offering insights, I received immediate gratification with receiving an answer after my online discussion with the "agent" at the other end.

This service is run by Lubavitch, and I've used it before. It is a wonderful resource for some quick responses, if you don't want to call your own rabbi or another religious educational institution/organization.

Please go ask Moses your questions. He is online 24/6!