Monday, January 30, 2006

The Journeys We Take

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Me: "I think I understand why that carrier is called SAMSON; it would have to be mighty strong to hold all those pieces of luggage."

Porter: "That's right, ma'am. That SAMSON does its job real well, just as I do mine. Now which suitcase did you say is yours?"

Me: "Um...that blue trunk on the right near the top, and that red suitcase at the top in the middle. Do you think it'll be a problem to get them for me?"

Porter: "Not at all, ma'am. You ever heard of the domino effect? I'll just reach for this red one on the bottom right, will pull it out, and just like Jericho's walls came a-tumblin' down, so will those suitcases. It'll then be a snap to get yours!"

I chose this image 'cause I thought it was fun; I created this scenario 'cause I thought it was fun. But when I thought of writing this post, I was a bit more serious, a bit more pensive...

How many times have you driven past houses or apartment buildings and seen the garbage cans and bags sitting curbside, sometimes along with household odds and ends, furniture, appliances, and SUITCASES?

Have you ever noticed those suitcases? Really noticed them?

Have you stopped to think about the journeys those bags have taken, the stories they could tell?

Many of them are in perfectly good shape -- not torn, not broken, just old and outdated. A beautiful heavy plastic Samsonite trio of suitcases might be tossed aside in favour of a cloth, oversized carryon with wheels. A wooden steamer trunk might have made the trek across a couple of continents and the ocean, later to go into storage, then to come out of storage and become someone's end table, then to get tossed aside, now an outdated eyesore.

I love vintage luggage. I love going into my parents' basement and seeing the beautiful pieces that my family traveled with in the 1960's and 1970's, and the big brown leather suitcases that my father traveled with in the 1940's and 1950's.

His suitcases have a history. Those pieces have journeyed -- not necessarily traveled, but journeyed. And there is a difference.

No, his suitcases don't have those old-fashioned stickers adorning them; he wasn't in Naples, or Paris, or Geneva, or Salt Lake City, or the Grand Canyon. But their interiors hold secrets, secrets whispered quietly when nobody can hear.

I went a few years ago to a content sale down my street; the homeowner who was a widow was downsizing and moving from her house into a condominium. There was nothing she was offering that I needed. But there was something that I wanted. It was a wooden trunk--it was not in good and serviceable condition, I didn't know what I would do with it, but I felt that I ought to have it because I felt that it represented her journey no doubt across the ocean from Eastern Europe to Canada. I couldn't understand why she'd want to part with it, whether it was in good condition or not.

My husband hemmed and hawed with me about the purchase and then we jointly decided against it. "Where would we put it? What would we do with it? It really does look broken and junky. And how do we know it was the homeowner's trunk and not just something she picked up once she settled here?" Why did I seem so adamant about taking on what I imagined to be part of her personal history? It was exactly that -- HER history, not mine.

There is a book that I know of, Hana's Suitcase, which was written a few years ago by a Torontonian. The book is based on the story of the suitcase of a girl who was taken to, and died in, Auschwitz. Her suitcase represents a young girl who died too young, but whose story has been told in many different languages all around the world.

Yes, Hanna and her suitcase took a journey. Her suitcase survived. Hanna didn't.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Max Speaks

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I've been asked by Max the shih-poo to keep this short and sweet, because it's way past his bedtime and he needs his beauty sleep, and doesn't really have much time to concentrate on contributing to a "blodge".

"Max, that's blog, not blodge. Neil Kramer's mother talks about blodges. But it's blog. B-L-O-G. You know, Max. Blog. Rhymes with dog. D-O-G."

Anyhow, so here's the long and short of it.

Family dog dies in June. Family very sad. Family doesn't think they'll get another dog. Family begins to think about getting another dog. Family begins to think about adopting another dog.

Hubby looks online. Hubby and wife spot Max/Snoopy online. Snoopy lives very far away, will need to travel to us via modern transportation. Family adopts dog. Arrangements are made online with dog shadchan (matchmaker).

Children do not know family has adopted dog. Children see picture of Snoopy on home computer screensaver. "Who is this dog?" "Just a dog whose picture we liked." "N, do you like this dog?" "Yes." "What do you think is a good name for a dog?" "Max." Hubby and wife like this name. Decide to change it.

Dog is supposed to arrive by van. Bad weather ensues. Trip put off for another week. Dog is supposed to arrive by van. Van trouble. Trip delayed. Agreed that dog will come via airplane; hubby and wife will not pay extra because of problems at the other end.

Wife begins to laugh to self. She pictures hubby going to the airport to the Arrivals, holding up a big sign with "Snoopy", and Snoopy coming through automated door, pulling his own online luggage with the strap in his teeth. In truth, dog comes via cargo. Very scared; shaking like a vibrator for quite some time. Warms up to hubby and wife. Children in bed; do not see dog.

In morning, children discover there is a new dog. Children come downstairs, with an expression of being awestruck -- the same expression when mother brought new babies home from the hospital. Youngest child explains to the other two, "This is Max. He's the dog from the computer. HE'S FAMOUS!!!"

Children elated; parents elated; puppy elated.

No pets were hurt for the re-telling of this story.

Max asked me to share with you his new motto in life: PEEING IS BELIEVING.

Max also told me to tell you people that my friend Randi is very funny (read her blog and you will see what I mean). When sent a photo of Max that is different (in which Max's fur is a little wilder looking) than the one in the last post, Randi said, "He's adorable. If you put a stick in him, you could use him as a mop!" Max thought this was a very funny line, and came up with this retort: "If Pearl's hubby would've have gotten a chihuahua as he suggested they get, he could've put a stick in the chihuahua and used him as a squeegee!"

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Dog Formerly Known As Snoopy

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Just as that purple-rained Prince changed his name, so did this dog. Or at least, so did his new owners.

This dog is hereby to be recognized as "MAX, formerly known as Snoopy."

Okay, I know...that's a mouthful of a name -- for a dog, or even for a person, were that to be the case. So I guess the dog's owners will let you shorten his name to simply "MAX."

I'd been talking with the new owners when they were trying to decide on a name and they came up with some lengthy list, let me tell you. Yes, Max topped the list, but Einstein wasn't too far behind. And it was some five-year-old Einstein of a kid who came up with the name Max!

I think that kid knows a Max when he sees one...

Max has an interesting tail of his own to tell you, but he asked me to tell you that right now he's getting a comb-over at the groomer, along with a nice bubble bath...followed by a not-so-nice visit to a veterinarian. He will have to get back to you with his story.

In the meantime, maybe the blogging community can give Max and his new owners a "Muzzle Tov" and together dance a "Canine-a-hora"!

My [Blogging] Neighborhood Revisited

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Okay, and now for the serious part of the show, folks.

Yes, I wrote that cutesie post before this one, but my original plan for that post had been to make it a serious one, another one of my introspections, if you may. But I guess the humorous side wanted to make an appearance before the serious side did.

So going back to that neighborhood...

I often wonder how the heck I end up corresponding with several bloggers time and again, with some of them more often. What is it that draws us together?

I'm not stupid. I realize that if I in fact did live in a real-to-life community amongst all the bloggers I named in the previous post, I probably wouldn't be friends with many of you, and vice versa. What do we truly have in common?

So many of us are ages apart; I have young children, you have young-adult children or married children , as well as grandchildren. So many of us are at different stages in our lives; some are settled in their cities and in their jobs, while others are still out there, searching for whatever it is they are searching for.

On the religious totem pole we vary; as a result of that variation, I wouldn't even be able to eat in some of your homes; you wouldn't necessarily want to visit me on a Friday night or Saturday, either.

So what is it that draws us together? We're not so anonymous anymore and we've shared inside secrets. Are we just the equivalent of speakers and listeners in this blogosphere? Does that spatial distance in the cyber world work as a shield, allowing us this free contact. Would we normally tell each other these things out there in the real world, do you think?

I continue to be fascinated by questions such as these. And I invite you to ponder them with me.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Zen Judaism

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Zen Judaism:The Jewish Approach to Zen

If there is no self, whose arthritis is this?

Be here now.
Be someplace else later.
Is that so complicated?

Drink tea and nourish life.
With the first sip... joy.
With the second... satisfaction.
With the third, peace.
With the fourth, a danish.

Wherever you go, there you are.
Your luggage is another story.

Accept misfortune as a blessing.
Do not wish for perfect health or a life without problems.
What would you talk about?

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single "oy."

There is no escaping karma.

In a previous life, you never called, you never wrote, you never visited. And whose fault was that?

Zen is not easy.
It takes effort to attain nothingness.
And then what do you have?

The Tao does not speak.
The Tao does not blame.
The Tao does not take sides.
The Tao has no expectations.
The Tao demands nothing of others.
The Tao is not Jewish.

Breathe in.
Breathe out.
Breathe in.
Breathe out.
Forget this and attaining Enlightenment will be the least of your problems.

Let your mind be as a floating cloud.
Let your stillness be as the wooded glen.
And sit up straight. You'll never meet the Buddha with such rounded shoulders.

Be patient and achieve all things.
Be impatient and achieve all things faster.

To Find the Buddha, look within.
Deep inside you are ten thousand flowers.
Each flower blossoms ten thousand times.
Each blossom has ten thousand petals.
You might want to see a specialist.

To practice Zen and the art of Jewish motorcycle maintenance, do the following: get rid of the motorcycle.
What were you thinking?

Be aware of your body.
Be aware of your perceptions.
Keep in mind that not every physical sensation is a symptom of a terminal illness.

The Torah says," Love thy neighbor as thyself."
The Buddha says there is no "self."
So, maybe you are off the hook.

The Buddha taught that one should practice lovingkindness to all sentient beings.
Still, would it kill you to find a nice sentient being who happens to be Jewish?

Though only your skin, sinews, and bones remain,
though your blood and flesh dry up and wither away,
yet shall you meditate and not stir until you have attained full Enlightenment.
But, first, a little nosh.

TMI Syndrome

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Oh. My. Gosh. I discovered recently that this ailment/syndrome that I suffer from has a name: TMI Syndrome.

I know I'm not alone in my suffering; there are countless others afflicted with this ailment, some of whom admit it, others who prefer to look the other way.

All my life I recognized the symptoms, but did not put a formal name to them. If given a symptoms checklist, I'd probably have to tick off YES for almost every question.

Does your stomach clench oftentimes for no apparent reason? YES.

Does your brain sometimes feel like it's working in overdrive, like a computer that just wants to spew out a lot? YES.

Do your cheeks flush at these times? YES.

Do you tend to be impatient at times? YES.

Do you sometimes stumble over your words as you're speaking? YES.

Do you sometimes suffer from feelings of guilt and regret? YES.

Do you seek attention? N/A

Do other people enjoy your company? N/A

Okay, the stupid checklist goes on and on and sometimes gets just a tad too personal -- asking me questions I prefer not to answer, giving me statistics I didn't ask for!

But yes, I suffer from the TMI Syndrome, the Too Much Information Syndrome.

Shall I tell you how it began...? No?

Shall I tell you why I think I suffer from it...? No?

Shall I tell you when the syndrome seems to peak? No?

Shall I tell you anything? No?

So why the heck are you here visiting me? you saw the header and you liked that...and then you liked the cartoon that I posted...and you needed somewhere to hang out for the afternoon...and you thought I might provide some good recipes for low-fat snacks...and you were hoping that you might catch a sexual innuendo comment from some weirdo type...and you like the name of my blog...

Um, you know, my lunch break is over. I really have to go now. Yeah, okay, sure you can tell me about your family some other time.


By the way, I've met some others also suffering from the syndrome, and we've given ourselves nicknames. I had to choose from Chatty Cathy (TM), Princess Loquaciousness, STREAMOFCONSCIOUSNESS, Detailz, Miss Talk-a-Lot. I opted for none of the above, and just went with Pearl. That's really how I'm known best.

Lost in Translation

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I was just thinking -- at 12:45 a.m. thereabouts -- that words and expressions sound so different, have a different impact, if you say them in English or if you say them in Yiddish or Hebrew.

I'm used to saying, "Thank G-d", yet I know countless others who say, "Baruch Ha-Shem."

I'm used to saying, "G-d willing" while others say, "Im yirtze Ha-Shem."

These expressions sound vastly different when spoken by me; they mean the same thing in either language, so why does my version not sound as holy?

Sometimes there is just no way to properly translate an expression; just think of all the Yiddish curses that exist. They just don't have the same impact on the ear witness when spewed in English.

Another case: when I was about 8 years old, I helped name our neighbor's cat. I suggested "Chatul," which simply enough means "cat" in Hebrew. Sure, I wouldn't have dared suggest naming the striped orange tabby "Cat"--that would have sounded too much like something out of an early days grade-school reader featuring Dick, Jane, Cat , Dog. But "Chatul"--that had a certain je ne sais quoi to it....and it worked until the cat ingested rat poison in a nearby plaza parking lot. Then the cat was dead, finis, mort, muerto, niftar in any language!

If you can think of several other common Jewish expressions that are used, throw them out. If you know some and don't share them, it would be a shame...a shande. Hmmm, shande is too impactful there. I'll settle for "a shame"!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Girls Will Be Girls...and That Sometimes Means Cruel

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I've blogged before about watching girls behave like their mothers-- catty, snooty, cliqueish. But those were little girls I was talking about. Seven-year-old girls who behave that way from kindergarten onwards, as I've witnessed.

Today I saw grade 8 girls in action. There was a girls' shabbaton being hosted at my shul for seudat shlishit. These were girls from my children's school, so I've seen some of them over the years I've been affiliated with the school, watched them grow up in the past 6 years.

True, some of these 13 and 14 year olds look like my eight-year-old daughter, ie. that petite, small in body and just little-girl-like. Others look like well-developed young women of 17 or 18 with a flare for fashion and hairstyles.

I watched how they grouped together, most of them in threes and fours, as they sat in shul for mincha and maariv. Yet there was one lone girl, intent on her davening, and pretending, I'm sure, to ignore the fact that nobody was sitting with her. I HURT FOR THIS GIRL. I HURT BADLY FOR THIS GIRL.

I know she is one of the very bright ones in the school, and yes, her brains will carry her far in life. But socialization is rather important, too, and it's hard to have one without the other.

It was so clear to me who were the nice kids in this group, who were the snooty kids in this group and who were the hot-cold kids in this group. And then it was so clear to me who was the ostracized ONE in this group.

I had flashbacks to my school years, to the bright kid, quiet kid, friendly kid, who was a loner, and not necessarily by choice. To the kid who sometimes was afraid to raise her hand in class and answer because then she might be taunted as "teacher's pet" or "browner".

But that same kid was made stronger in a way because of her "position" in the school's totem pole, somewhere at the bottom. And that same former kid is proud that her daughter is sociable and happy and well-liked. Yet that former kid makes it a point to teach said daughter that those attributes are not enough; foremost, she must be everyone.

I hope that in 5 years, G-d willing, when my daughter is in grade 8 at a shabbaton, there will be mothers looking around the room of girls and assessing this assembly of females. They will notice my daughter in the group, will think to themselves, "She looks like a nice girl" and many of them will be able to add, "Not only does she look like a nice girl, I know she is a nice girl!"

Such is a mother's wish.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Shabbos Queen

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A few weeks ago, Mirty posted a picture -- that has sat at the back of my mind ever since. It inspired this poem, which I just wrote in the past hour.

Wishing you all a good Shabbos.

The Shabbos Queen

She shakes out the
crisp, cream linen,
placing it on the cherrywood tabletop.

Unfurling and spreading its edges
and smoothing out
its fine wrinkles,
she steps back to admire
her handiwork.

A set of silver salt-and-pepper shakers
come next --
a wedding gift from
years ago.

Silver, yet tarnished,
it’s difficult to make out
the filigreed S and P.

Perhaps this Shabbos, like an earlier one,
a little pepper will mistakenly do a dance with a little salt –
the Lambada, the “forbidden dance” --
atop our challah slices.

The olivewood challah board
with its jagged-ridged knife
have their place in the right-hand corner
of this table --
two sesame-seed-sprinkled challah buns
warm from the oven
soon to take their place
atop the board.

The bottle of grape juice

holds center court,

surrounded by little silver soldiers all lined up.

And nearby, on a smooth melamine-wooded surface

sits an elongated tray, a modern piece of art that doubles as a wedding gift.

Atop that tray, standing tall and proud,
are Shabbos candlesticks: the parents and the children.
The parents, a wedding gift from the man of the house,
bought in New York’s Brooklyn,
where the silver is grand.

The children, a smaller set,
identical twins to the parents,
bought in Toronto,
where the silver is elegant sterling.
The smaller set, a gift from the man of the house,
upon the birth of a second child.

These four candlesticks and another lone candlestick
warm to the sights and sounds of Shabbos,
each one glowing happily.

Reflected in their flames is the holiness --
the transformation of everyday to special day.

The Shabbos Queen sits back, admires the scene and smiles.

Her blessings are bountiful.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

What's My Name?

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Not that my posts always have anything worth repeating, but I'm curious: if it ever comes up that you read something I wrote and you like it very much and you think it bears repeating to family and friends, how do you bring up the blog?

Do you say, "I read something today on Pearlies of Wisdom, a blog...."?

Do you say, "TorontoPearl wrote something about..."?

Do you say, "This blogger from Canada..."?

Do you say, "Pearl said..."

I try not to talk too much about fellow bloggers, but if I do, I use a descriptive tag such as "______, the doctor blogger from Milwaukee" or "__________, the one in California with the parrot" or "_____________, this very funny blogger who's related to __________ in Toronto."

For over a year, my kids have heard me blog-name drop and already know whom I'm speaking about when I bring up the name.

I don't exclusively want to be known for my blog's name or my signing name. To have walked into a room several months ago, introduced myself and a short while later hear a person exclaim in recognition, "Oh, so YOU'RE TorontoPearl...!" meant something for me then: it meant that I was being read and identified with my blog.

But these days, I'd much rather just be known for "Pearl said..."

"Who's Pearl?"

"Someone who writes rather well..."

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

WEATHER or Not You Like It

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Today is January 18... Supposed to be the middle of winter, right? I live in Canada, right? One would expect snow, right? One would expect to have to shovel his/her sidewalk and driveway, and then salt or sand it for good measure, right?

One would expect to wear snow boots, and parka, and scarf and hat and mitts, right? One would expect to go outdoor skating, sledding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, downhill skiing, snowboarding, snowtubing, right?

Did anyone tell Mother Nature that?

Oh, yeah? And she didn't want to listen for the last few weeks?

Christmas/Chanukah was raining. New Year's was raining. The last few days were raining. People walked with open umbrellas, preventing the rain from dousing them. Today I saw a most weird sight: a child being walked to school by a parent, the child in a ski jacket and snowpants and boots, and holding open an umbrella. Nope, I did not see any snow that would require that attire, but I did see rain...and lots of it.

But then, I think Mother Nature has finally taken the hint. I hear the wind howling through the eaves of the house, whipping tree branches around, and I see snow...coming rapidly down, as if to make up for lost time. "I've been missing winter, I've been missing winter. I must hurry now, and I must compensate for not being here earlier," says Winter silently.

Mother Nature just grins her quirky grin and thinks to herself:

"Today a winter snowstorm. Tomorrow...SOME RAIN!"

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Anatomy of an Acronym

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A few months ago, if my memory serves me correct (and PLEASE correct me if I'm wrong and it wasn't him), PsychoToddler decided that his commenters should make phrases from the letters they need to copy from word verification in order to leave comments.

It was a wonderful idea...albeit a short-lived one. At the time, the commenters, myself included, left phrases that had to do with the topic of the particular post. They were spontaneous, they were funny, they were almost a bonus to the post and to its comments.

Maybe I can resurrect that practice here. "If you will it, it is no dream." (Okay, so I'm a day late in quoting that...)

So please, if you may, spell out a phrase with the verification letters you see whenever commenting, and the wackier the better. Perhaps in time an entire post will be devoted to THE PEOPLES' FAMOUS PHRASES.

I'll start, so check out the comments section.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Edited Out...or Gotta Wipe That Egg Off My Face

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Last month I posted about having been contacted by a writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer who was interested in my comments/thoughts about after-hour services, ie. salons, because of an article she was writing. She had stumbled across a post of mine from earlier in the year in which I stated that after-hours services in every realm should be available.

Okay, I prepped you, I prepped me...and I forgot about the article and when it would be in print. I got into work today, saw the note I'd left for myself with the January 15th date and went over to the newspaper's Web site, expecting to see my name, Web site name and comments somewhere within the article.

No, no and no. I did not make an appearance after all. Perhaps the journalist took a different path to write her piece, perhaps my cameos were edited out.

But it's somewhat of another lesson for me in DON'T SPEAK BEFORE IT HAPPENS. My parents tried to train me in that area when I was young -- "Don't tell anyone we're going away, 'cause we might not"; "Don't tell anyone we're getting a new car" -- and I've tried to train myself of that as I grew up. It's difficult to curb enthusiasm at times and that's why we let things slip.

When a children's picture book manuscript of mine was accepted for publication a few years ago, I was THRILLED and knew that people would be equally thrilled, so I told several. I got congratulatory e-mails and cards and....THEN NOTHING. The publisher ran into financial difficulties, and sadly (for them and I), had to drop my project. Yes, it was beyond my control; yes, the absence of my appearance in the Philly Inquirer article was beyond my control; yes, not ending up going on a particular trip when I was young was beyond my control. Many things are beyond are control, so...perhaps it's just better to announce, to explain and to talk AFTER the fact.

So I thank you for all your previous enthusiasm and mini applause when I excitedly told you about my forthcoming appearance in the Philadelphia newspaper, but next time I'll just let you hold that applause till AFTER the performance. In that way, "Brava, brava" and "Encore, encore" will mean so much more.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

"Calendar Girl" by Neil Sedaka...and "One Week" by The Barenaked Ladies

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I was thinking the other day of usual...and thought about how many song titles feature names of the months or days of the week in the titles. Here is a selection for you, and if you could supply any song titles for the missing months, that'd be great!

January -- still up for grabs
February -- "February Stars" by the Foo Fighters
March -- still up for grabs
April -- "April Love" by Pat Boone
May -- still up for grabs
June -- "June Is Bustin' Out All Over" from "Carousel"
July -- "Cold Day in July" by the Dixie Chicks
August -- "August 7, 4:15" by Jon Bon Jovi
September -- "September" by Earth, Wind and Fire
October -- "When October Comes" by Barry Manilow
November -- "November Rain" by Guns 'n Roses
December -- "December 1963" by The Four Seasons


Monday -- "Manic Monday" by The Bangles
Tuesday -- "Tuesday Afternoon" by The Moody Blues
Wednesday -- "Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M." by Simon & Garfunkel
Thursday -- "Thursday" by Jim Croce
Friday -- "Thank G-d It's Friday" by Love & Kisses
Saturday -- "Another Saturday Night" by Sam Cooke/Cat Stevens
Sunday -- "Pleasant Valley Sunday" by The Monkees

Saturday, January 14, 2006

"Hey, Look Me Over..."

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Some of the more recent and interesting searches that brought you here:

* bodek bugs Jewish law lettuce [Just a lot of roughage -- um, I mean rubbish!]

* girl wisdom tooth removal age [Huh? Do we girls differ in this area, too?]

* new grandparents and annoyed son-in-law [I don't doubt it...I think we experienced some of that too, in its time!]

* mid-life crisis inspirations [I should Google that myself and see what inspires me.]

* wisdom about lies [Does that mean that liars are smart people?]

* naches high school [What about naches preschool? I think of that every Friday when my little senior kindergarten kid brings home his work and art projects from the week.]

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Talking in Numbers

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I am not a numbers kind of gal. I never was.

Give me letters, give me words. And I'm happy.

Math was NEVER my forte--in fact, I'd wanted to drop math in my later years of school, because I was just passing the subject. But thanks to parents who took an interest and told me I should perservere, thanks to my switch to public school for my last few years of high school, where I could take general, advanced or enriched math and work better at my level of comprehension (can you guess which level I pursued), I stuck with it.

Oh, I don't do anything with the math I learned; I can add, subtract, multiply, divide and do math basics as fast or faster than any of you can, but get into weird nitty-gritty things, and I'll have to call Stacey or Doctor Bean to help me out.

Okay, Pearl and numbers don't mix. So why did I end up marrying an accountant? Okay, definitely not a boring accountant -- perhaps that's the reason why...

So anyhow, as I stated, numbers don't normally do anything for me, and I avoid them if I can. So why am I taking such great pleasure in such a simple thing as reading the number of comments for my last couple of posts?! I think it's because the numbers have gone from the average 0 or 2 to a way-up-there 11 and 12...and not even all of them my comments adding to the total!

I've said it countless times I'm sure in my blogging tenure: why is it that when I write good, heartfelt creative pieces, there are 0 comments, but the minute I write something even a touch fluffy, that number speedily changes?

I really don't care how many "hits" I get a day that will help put me over the total 12 or 15,000 mark; I really don't care how many votes I may have gotten or not gotten in the JIBs (as a matter of fact, I'm checking in now and again to those other blogs I voted for and seeing their stats, their numbers); I really don't care about numbers on their own.

But I do care about comments...the number of comments I get.

Who'd have ever thought that Pearl's love of words and Mr. Abacus's (a Sephardic Jew, no doubt!) love of numbers would have finally come meet on the same page!?

You may now choose to make a comment, thus a way to leave your number at the same time! All comments will be read, and numbers will be tabulated at the end of the day. Thank you.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Biting Off MoreThan I Can Chew

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As little Ms. Britney Spears would sing, "Oops I did it again..." I bit off perhaps more than I can chew.

How many times have you done that -- offered your services or your home or a kind shoulder for someone to cry on and then realized "Akkk, what have I gotten myself into! I thought this was going to be easy, but it ain't. Why did I go and have to open my big mouth?

I'm pretty guilty of often biting off more than I can chew. I'm a rather generous person, which isn't a bad thing necessarily, but once I open my mouth and make an offer or a suggestion, I can't really take it back. I'm locked into servitude. As one of The Three Stooges always said to another (after maybe also slapping him on the back of the head) "Aw... Now what did you have to go and do something like that for...?"

When I realize that I've taken on more than I can handle, I move from generous mode to high-alert, panicky mode. That might happen with freelance manuscripts I take on, with articles I choose to write, with offers to host parties -- you name it, I've panicked over it!

But surprisingly enough, I manage to overcome. I do not want to appear to have failed in my mission, so I sometimes seem to overcompensate to get through it. Whether that means working extra hours and not charging a client for them, whether that means gritting my teeth and pushing myself the extra mile, or whether that means realizing that I will do my best, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's the best.

I often have brilliant but quirky ideas that I'd like to see put into action. Once I verbalize them, they can get thrown back into my face and I'm told to take the first step. That being the case, I now have to get to my parents' house, peruse the photo albums, find a photo of me circa age 10, track down a scanner...and post that pic on my blog or send it elsewhere.

You know, it would be kinda neat to have your readers post their photos from circa age 10 on their blogs, as well. Something different, but eye opening.
Or you have readers submit their photos, you mix them up, supply names and have readers guess "who's who"...but then again, there goes our anonymity out the window.
Posted by:
Pearl at January 10, 2006 06:11 PM

Okay. Great idea.
You first.
Who's next? Cruisin Mom? Lance? Jake? Oh Jake, Your pic with Ten Reasons Why You Should Not Have Posted the Picture.
Posted by:
Robert J. Avrech at January 10, 2006 07:02 PM

And when I've accomplished my "mission," here's hoping you'll be smiling and saying, "Here's looking at you, kid..."

Monday, January 09, 2006

JIBs Are Just Instant Badges

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Yeah, yeah, everyone's been on the campaign trail for the past couple of weeks, reminding people to nominate Jewish/Israeli blogs and now reminding people to vote.

One of my blogging friends was kind enough to nominate me, warning me he would. I was most flattered. A year ago I was a novice at this thing called blogging, and suddenly I was in the running for a title of Best Personal Blog.

But I realized that's all it was -- a nomination for a title. I do not feel that I needed to post the JIBs nominee banner on my blog -- you want to read me, you'll read me. You don't want to read me, you won't. A banner won't make the difference. A campaign post won't make the difference.

If I haven't already left some kind of indelible mark on you out there with my words, with my attempt at humor, with my attempt at creativity, with my giving you a peek at my world, no JIB banner, nor even a winning title will do it.

Yes, I mosied over to the awards site today to vote. No, I absolutely did not vote for myself; I never intended to. Instead, I voted for the personal blogs that have moved me--with their attempts at humor, at creativity, giving us a precious peek at their world. They have managed to make an indelible mark on me with their words.

We are all winners without these banners or badges. We sit at our computers each day or every few days and post our lives onto the World Wide Web -- we find something genuine in ourselves to share. Blogging is really about giving, sharing, enlightening...and about responding, understanding, relating.

It's not about whether you've been nominated for an award, or whether you win one. Just think about countless actors, actresses, directors who've done stellar work but never even made the nominations for Academy Awards. Do you stop paying money to watch them perform in movies, or do you turn the TV channel when one of their early movies is on the air? No! Why? Because regardless that they're not award winners, they're still winners in your eyes.

That's all that counts.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

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Would all you parents out there of young or grown children please explain something to me: Why is it that our best sleep of the night is usually when we're putting our young'uns to bed, they ask us to lay on their bed, we say, "Okay, for a couple of minutes" -- and the next thing you know our spouse is gently rousing us with "Come to bed. It's 11:30."

"What?? But it was just 8:30..."

I've spoken to several parents who are familiar with this scenario. Kids want a book read to them to help them fall asleep; we fall asleep while reading the book (kid stays awake!). Kid wants you to make up a story to tell them; you like the story so much, you just keep on tickin'...and so does the kid.

When my oldest child had me lying on his bed as he settled in, I would fight Mr. Sandman, but he'd get me just about every time.

Middle child and I lie in bed and listen to classical music to lull her--and sometimes me--to sleep.

Youngest child always wants me to tell him a story -- we seem to go through the alphabet with an animal theme, eg. Alvin the Alligator, Benjy the Bear, Chris the Cobra... It isn't always easy to make up a story as I go, but it's rewarding as I generally try to lend the story a moral. And it's also rewarding when I've sometimes retold stories over and over and continue to get my child/children's interest with these made-up tales, enough that I've tried to put these stories down on paper as children's picture book manuscripts. Granted, I have yet to do something with these stories for children other than my own!

Nightime rituals can lend themselves to a kind of inner peace, both for the child and his/her parent. We are always seeking inner peace, aren't we? So I guess you won't mind if I end my post here and go lie down with child #2.....

Songs They Should've Sung

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1. Mary Poppins should've sung R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly...I Believe I Can Touch the Sky."

2. Tevye should've sung "Up on the Roof" by James Taylor

3. Henry Fonda & Lucille Ball in "Yours, Mine & Ours" should've sung "We Are Family" by Sister Sledge

4. Phileas Fogg in "Around the World in Eighty Days" should've sung "Up, Up & Away" (in My Beautiful Balloon) by the Fifth Dimension

Okay, I've run out of ideas here, this late at night/this early in the morning.

I'm guessing you've caught my drift here; maybe you have some suggestions for "Songs They Should've Sung"...

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Everyday People

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"...He stepped into my life -- or perhaps I stepped into his -- even if briefly, and left a lasting impression on me."

My last post about Canadian poet Irving Layton featured this line. And after rereading it, I decided that I liked it -- a lot! It seems to encapsulate the people who move in and out of our lives.

When we're kids we just want to have fun -- we don't try too hard to make friends; usually they just happen. You go to the same school, you go to the same shul, you share extra-curricular activities, or you might even be relatives. But something clicks and you play together, and as you're older, you hang out together.

I was at shul today and saw a former friend and classmate of mine. We drifted apart many many years ago, so it's not uncomfortable to see and speak to her. Granted, we don't have too much in common anymore, no common denominator or point of reference that's current. I asked her if she and her husband are in touch with anyone from high school. She quickly responded with "Nope...I guess what we thought were true friends were really not."

I've been thinking about that comment and applying it to myself and my circle of friends. It's a beautiful thing if you have a lifelong friend or even friends who sees you from childhood through to adulthood and even seniorhood; it's probably even more beautiful because it can be somewhat rare.

Yes, I have one friend who I've known since I was five years old -- our first encounter was us sitting on her back steps and blowing soap bubbles together. That was almost forty years ago. She's my oldest friend, but I can't say she's my closest friend. More often than not, we did a "surface dance" around each other, just skimming the surface of friendship, but not getting in too deep with our true, heartfelt thoughts and emotions. And that's been okay, because it seems to be a mutual understanding of how this friendship has been meant to be.

Sometimes we are so close to people, think we have sooooo much in common for sooooo many years and then the link is broken. We might be peeved, we might be confused, we might feel guilty about this breach. But we must remember that yes, we did have good times with that friend...while it lasted. We did grow as people and perhaps helped each other grow as well.

Man/woman cannot really live alone. It's not a way to thrive as a person. So for that reason, people step in and out of our lives. Sometimes they step in at just the right moment when we need a kind of person like that around us. This is a form of "bashert," I guess. A destiny.

For some reason, we are destined to have our paths cross with one another at a particular time. Hopefully the reason turns out to be a good one. Friendships do not have to be formed; a minimal alliance might be all it is (eg. information from a librarian, a customer service representative, a teacher, a rabbi or even a dentists).

Perhaps some of my blogging buddies might feel the same. Our blogging paths have crossed for some reason or another. There are hundreds of blogs out there -- why do I choose to read yours? Why do you choose to read mine? Why do we sometimes write a note or two to each other offline?

I hope that, as I said in my opening lines, certain people leave lasting impressions on you as you step in and out, as you dance in and out, of each others' lives.

(and on a less serious note, here I have to add this: Jack & Stacey: nobody in blogville knows what your mysterious connection is, but no doubt, Jack, Stacey left some impression on you continually refer to her in your posts.)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Rest in Peace, "Oiving"

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I found out this afternoon that Canadian poet Irving Layton passed away yesterday at the age of 93 in Montreal. For the past number of years, he was suffering from Alzheimer's and living at the Maimonides Jewish Home.
Irving was a character, if ever there was one. He made friends -- Leonard Cohen; and he made enemies. He wrote poetry about life and sexuality, love and family, Judaism and God. Anyone who hovered on the literary threshold in this country knew the name Irving Layton.
I had the privilege to meet him and talk with him several times. He was writer-in-residence at the University of Toronto when I was a student, and I had a private session in which he assessed my poetry and other writing; I went to public readings of his; I even corresponded with his last wife on a couple of occasions. He stepped into my life -- or perhaps I stepped into his -- even if briefly, and left a lasting impression on me.
I wrote a slew of Irving-inspired poems back in the early to mid 1980s, and was fortunate to have one published a few years ago in Parchment ("For Irving Layton #2"), a Canadian Jewish literary journal.
He will be missed by countless students, countless critics and countless kindred spirits.
Irving Layton, rest in peace.
For Irving Layton #1

We are graced
the old man’s presence.

His eyes –
they gleam

His brow –
it furrows
and twitches

His hair –
white and
filigreed with
highlights of silver –
a dishevelled mass.

His voice –
clear, loud,
letting the words
string along
and flow from
his mouth
in a perpetual manner.

This man –
a shell
and a soul.
Indeed a fusion of
myth and reality.

It is to this person
that we look longingly
for a spark of
truth, knowledge and faith.
And it is he who
grants it to us –
via his words
of wisdom.

The old man –
a diviner in disguise.

For Irving Layton # 2

You speak to me of resonance
claiming that’s what my poetry lacks.
I sit there before you
and nod dumbly.

You speak to me of imagery
claiming that’s what my poetry emits.
I sit there before you
and smile weakly.

But then. . .
You speak to me of style
claiming that my poetry only manages
to denote what you consider to be
“a slice of life.”

You argue that it is not enough
to take events and throw them onto paper.
You tell me that I must blend
and shape them.
I sit there before you
and sulk quietly.

You speak to me of merit
claiming that’s what my gift
of a poem to you has.
I sit there before you
and laugh hysterically.

“What a liar!”

I get up and leave the room.

"...and I Can't Get It Out of My Head..."

Blogroll Me! You gotta love or you hate it. Sometimes you can't wait to hear a song; other times you can't wait for the music to stop.

Since I was a young girl, I've had one song play over and over and OVER AND OVER in my head. I can't seem to shake it, yet I don't really like it either.

Won't someone "please release me" from this song?

Brand-New Key by Melanie

I rode my bicycle past your window last night
I roller skated to your door at daylight
It almost seems like you're avoiding me
I'm okay alone, but you got something I need

Well, I got a brand new pair of roller skates
You got a brand new key
I think that we should get together and try them out you see
I been looking around awhile
You got something for me
Oh! I got a brand new pair of roller skates
You got a brand new key

I ride my bike, I roller skate, don't drive no car
Don't go too fast, but I go pretty far
For somebody who don't drive
I been all around the world
Some people say, I done all right for a girl

Well, I got a brand new pair of roller skates
You got a brand new key
I think that we should get together and try them out you see
I been looking around awhile
You got something for me
Oh! I got a brand new pair of roller skates
You got a brand new key

I asked your mother if you were at home
She said, yes .. but you weren't alone
Oh, sometimes I think that you're avoiding me
I'm okay alone, but you've got something I need

Well, I got a brand new pair of roller skates
You got a brand new key
I think that we should get together and try them out to see
La la la la la la la la, la la la la la la
Oh! I got a brand new pair of roller skates
You got a brand new key

Okay, so this song was resurrected for the Boogie Nights soundtrack, but that's not how it stuck in my head. From its earliest days of airplay on AM radio, I was ensnared.

Are there any songs that won't truly leave you?

Bonus points if you know where the post's title derives from, as well as the "please release me" in the third paragrah.

Hey, if I'm lucky, maybe this post will stick "Brand New Key" in your head too, and we'll be in the same boat from now until forever!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


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Thank you, Air Time, 4 tagging me 4 the "4 Meme"!

So without further delay, let's go 4ward and see
what I can come up with.

And just 4 the record, I'm 44!

Four jobs I've had in my life: Copy editor; proofreader; administrative assistant in a Jewish day school; drama/music specialist (summer camp).

Four movies I could watch over and over: Fiddler on the Roof; any and all Marx Bros. films; any and all Three Stooges films; Mary Poppins

Four places I've lived - Toronto; Israel 4 six months; Toronto; Toronto

Four TV Shows I love to watch - I really don't watch TV anymore, (not for religious reasons, but for blogging reasons!) but I used to love to watch: Will & Grace; Seinfeld; Whose Line Is It Anyway?; The Price Is Right

Four places I've been on vacation - Switzerland; Israel; Florida; Mexico

Four websites I visit daily - Seraphic Secret; Cruisin-mom; A Simple Jew; Citizen of the Month

Four of my favorite foods - pasta; feta cheese; Caesar salad; pineapple

Four places I'd rather be - sitting in front of a roaring fire in a cottage in the woods; sitting on the dock of a bay with my feet dangling in the cool lake water; visiting a zoo; hanging out with my husband and kids at a neighborhood park

Four books I'll read over and over again - Night by Elie Wiesel; The Book of Ariel; I Love You, StinkyFace; my journals

This is as far as the original meme went, but I'm inclined to add a few categories.

Four things I'm fairly good at doing - writing; singing; being a friend; seeing both sides

Four things that I could improve on - patience; organizational skills; knowledge of politics and current events; time I devote to sleeping

Four songs that have some significance for me - "A Whole New World" (theme song from "Aladdin"); "It Had To Be You"; "Hello Dolly"; "Maoz Tsur"

Four people I will tag with this meme (if they want to do it -- no pressure) - Randi; Rabbi Neil Fleischmann; MCAryeh; Elie

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Shrill of the Moment

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Call me placid, call me a peacekeeper, call me a true Libran who likes balance and harmony. As I've mentioned before, I do not like to make waves, I do not like to be argumentative or confrontational. I like to discuss, but sometimes discussions just go by the wayside and I REACT instead.

From the time our children are about two and a half, we continually tell them, "Use your words." That is another way of saying, "Don't hit/pinch/shove/pull/slap." or "Don't whine/stomp your feet/have a major meltdown."

Well, I haven't been two and a half for many many years, so you'd think that I'd have learned something by now. But ever so often, I just LOSE IT! Today was one of those days. I REACTED.

Frustration and fear were the key behind my unbelievable, award-winning performance. Unfortunately, my children were the other players in this scene. Why was I frustrated and fearful you might ask? My husband had left this a.m., forgetting his cell phone (I didn't realize this for at least 2 hours), people were trying to reach him at the place where he was supposed to be and he wasn't picking up his cell and he wasn't where he was supposed to be. Had he gotten in an accident? Had he made a stop somewhere and been held up at knifepoint? Had we just spent our last Chanukah together? My mind was running off countless horrible possibilities as to what might have happened to him, and I wondered how long do I wait until I have to report a missing person. I was extremely agitated, especially since I didn't understand why he wasn't at least answering his cell phone. I was the worrier, as was his mother, which is the place he was supposed to be.

At some point, my kids and a friend of theirs were just getting antsy and my youngest REACTED to my middle child, had hurt her and she was bawling. Unfortunately, I just thought it was my oldest who'd made my daughter cry and I just started shrieking and shrilling at him. I clearly lost it at that moment and I could hear myself, my tone, my volume of voice. I knew that my emotions of fear and worry for my husband had just spilled out onto this juvenile audience. I was deeply ashamed, and sat my children down and their friend and soulfully apologized and explained about REACTING, rather than simply verbalizing.

When my husband finally called two hours after he'd left the house, I tried to curb my REACTING mode and made sure to ask if he was okay and if anything had happened. No, he'd simply erred when he realized he didn't have his phone with him, he'd made a stop and didn't realize how long it would take and he admitted he should have stopped at a pay phone to call both his mother and me. Of course he apologized profusely for putting me through unnecessary worry and envisioning of worst-case scenarios.

It truly took me several hours to have relief and calm ebb through my body. I had been so wound up with that tension, and I was so upset with myself for having displayed such despicable behavior towards my children, and truthfully, I was a touch scared that I had the capacity to react in such a manner.

And let me tell you...the shrill of the moment was certainly not a thrill of the moment.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Touched by an Angel

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I had a knock on the door this afternoon. I answered it, expecting the person on the other side of the door would be a friend who was coming to reclaim a scarf left behind last night after our Chanukah/New Year's gathering.

It was not that friend. It was a teacher from my children's school--a former teacher and well-liked one of my older two children--coming to return two books I'd lent her a few months ago.

I am generally leery to lend out favorite books, especially because I've sometimes had them returned to me not in the same condition as they were given out; sometimes they haven't been returned even. But I made a conscious decision to break my own rule and pass along these books. I knew that this teacher was an avid reader; I knew that she had an appreciation for fine writing; and I knew that perhaps she could learn something from these books to share with her students.

I had lent her my personalized copy of THE HEBREW KID AND THE APACHE MAIDEN, as well as THE BOOK OF ARIEL. Over the few months that the teacher had these copies in her possession, at times I'd wanted to reach for them on a Shabbat afternoon and peruse through them -- and they weren't in my armoire. Other times I'd talk to guests about how I came to blog, what blogs I read, the friends I'd made, the resulting trip I'd taken to L.A. in June -- and wanted to show these books to the friends. Then I remembered I didn't have them in my possession currently.

So to say I was relieved to answer the door and find the teacher, reaching out to give back my books is the truth. But I was more than relieved when I asked her if she'd gotten through the two of them and she answered something like, "Oh, yes. They were both so wonderful.... Did you listen to the CD? I kept playing the CD (A SONG FOR ARIEL) over and over and over while reading the pages of THE BOOK OF ARIEL and tears would run down my cheeks. So moved was I... An incredible book, an incredible person..."

Dare I repeat what I and countless others have said over time: a person does not have to have known Ariel Chaim Avrech personally to claim, "I've been touched by an angel."

The Best Is Yet To Come

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So many bloggers review their posts from days gone by, sometimes shtupping them in our faces to remind us -- of what...? To read them? To convince us they're worthy of being reread and remembered? To comment on them now 'cause we didn't do so the first time around?

In spite of sometimes being in a snarky mood after I read a post that has an "in-your-face" reminder attitude, I thought I might do a recap for you of what I thought were some of my best posts from the past year. I was going to peruse my posts month by month and pick just one that meant something special to me...for a total of twelve posts.

And then I thought "NO!"

"Why not?" you might ask.

"'Cause I believe the best is yet to come...and it'll only need me once to tell you to read it. It'll be your choice to read it again and again, and seek it out again months later on your own."

(one can always hope, can't they...?)

And Now...for a Look Back at 2005

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...and that's the way it was -- for 2005.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!