Sunday, December 30, 2007

With a Nod to Carol Burnett

"I'm so glad we had this time together
Just to have a laugh or sing a song
Seems we just get started and before you know it
Comes the time we have to say 'So long.' "
So long, 2007.
Here's lookin' at you, 2008.
I'll be good to you; will you be good to me?
Fellow bloggers: may your 365 days of 2008 be filled with sunshine and sparkles, blessings and good fortune, good health and good friends.

...And Now a Word From Quinn Cummings

Being in the publishing arena for so many years, I know all about copyright laws, but I was faulty in acquiring any publishing permission from Quinn Cummings to repeat her words of wisdom about blogs in general. Forgive me, Quinn, but I found some reality in your words and want to share those words with my few readers. In fact, her post moved me to tears, and apparently it did so for some of her other readers, too. So at least, I'm not the only softie...

(What I'd really like to say -- but can't -- is that this brilliant writer "took the words out of my mouth"!)
...There is something about the
nature of a journal which makes it ideal for measuring and noting the time while
you wait for something to happen, and so many of you are writing about, and
living with, such challenging situations. My blog readers are living with
cancer, infertility, sick parents and sick children. It’s not all bad. You are
also living with new babies, new grandbabies, new marriages and new kitchens,
all of which are also carefully recorded. Some days, things are good. Some days,
they’re not. On the bad days, my readers of faith pray and write about their
comfort from that. On the bad days, my readers of less-than-faith find their
friends and their snack food of choice and write about their comfort from that.
But you blog-writers keep writing.

You write in frustration on
the days your teenage bipolar son has a bad reaction to his medication. You
write on the days they put your mother into a nursing home. You write on the
days they euthanize your beloved pet. You write in bad times, I suspect, for the
same reasons I do: because it helps you think, and while you don’t want to slip
completely under the warm water of self-pity, a few sympathetic words would feel
awfully nice. And every time I see how many people are out there, sitting in
their houses, reading the blogs of complete strangers and cheering them on, I
realize again what a strangely disconnected and oddly intimate thing a blog

So, here’s my wish for my
readers in this last blog of the year. Whatever good thing you are waiting for,
I hope you get. I hope whatever thing you have struggled with this year
improves. I hope you get your one-year chip, your remission, your baby, your
house. If your wish is for a book deal, I hope you get that, along with a few
copper-bottomed pots to scrub while you think.

Happy 2008 and peace to all
people on earth.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

New Traditions

It is almost Christmas Eve. Almost Christmas Day.

The city is festooned with decorations and lights. The stores are filled with bustling crowds doing last-minute shopping. The liquor stores and supermarkets are overflowing with harried customers who consult their lists in hand.

The holiday music has been "adorning" the airwaves for close to one month. Normally I don't mind the music and have my own "favorites"...but this year I just seemed to be more aware of it...and actually tired of the music, and of those normally middle-of-the-road, adult contemporary stations who have now been playing Xmas music, 24/7 for several weeks. How many versions of "Ava Maria" are there? How many Jewish composers and singers have been making a mint off these holiday songs?

What is the stereotype activity for Jews to do on Xmas Eve or Xmas Day?

I think that going out for Chinese food has always seemed to top the list. Where and when did that originate, I wonder?

Then, for Jewish singles, there are always singles dances and parties held on those famous dates. Or open house parties for which the whispered address spreads like wildfire.

There are movies to be seen...but don't make the mistake of trying to see a late show, because there usually aren't any on those two dates.

There is the "Let's rent a movie and order in pizza" option.

There is the "Let's go ice skating" (lucky if a public rink is open) option.

Of course, there are the MIAMI BEACH/CARIBBEAN CRUISE/MEXICO/ISRAEL/NEW YORK CITY options for those who can afford to take the time and money to do those things.

But for people like us, there is a new option; the replacement for the Chinese food/movie/singles dance/house party/video/skating/big travel plans ( "I think not!") is.......

....travelling to Niagara Falls to go for a night or two to the hotels that offer a waterpark package for families. It's rather reasonable, certainly fun, less than a 2-hour drive from Toronto, bordering the U.S. border (just in case we want to head to Buffalo and vicinity to do some power shopping. We have a pretty good and strong dollar these days).

We took this trip a couple years ago, thought it to be great fun. Apparently, many others have discovered this quick getaway too, because we know several families (10 young families from one neighborhood congregation booked off 10 rooms at one resort hotel) who are marking Niagara Falls on the GPS and are heading there tomorrow and on Monday.

If we're driving on the highway tomorrow, I'm pretty sure that I'll look over at a couple other vehicles and will know someone in them or will see a few "kippa people" heading in the same direction.

So contrary to this YouTube link that I will leave you with, I think that there is something "for a Jew to do."

Friday, December 21, 2007

Costco Observations

It is rare for me to go to Costco or any of these humongous warehouse type city stores. I'm not partial to crowds, and honestly, I don't need corporate size stacks of cleaning supplies or canned goods. I am known to be most practical, aka the coupon queen, so my spending habits in supermarkets are rather tame. But let me loose in Costco and I might go haywire!

The other night my husband and I went -- primarily to get new tires for my car and to have them put on. In the meantime, while waiting, of course we went into the store and spent several hundred (some of them unnecessary) dollars! Some were frivolous buys, others were practical. But the truth is that for some things, Costco is not a great "metziah"; any local supermarket or department store offers better sales, even on individual items that you'll buy multiples of in lieu of one bulk item. Just ask me; I know these things.

It is most interesting to enter a Costco at the start of the holiday season and see the carts filling up fast and the holiday fever in the air. I take the time to see what people are buying and imagine scenarios in which they'll share these purchases.

Gigantic bags of frozen shrimp were in many carts. As was bottled water. As was toilet paper.

Hmmm...eating too much shrimp makes you thirsty, I guess...and then you need to go to the bathroom.

I saw people with industrial size bags of frozen french fries, ketchup cans, mayonnaise bottles, bagged lettuce, and I figured they own restaurants and buy supplies here at a supposedly cheaper cost.

Italian fruit cakes, packages of chocolates, electronic gadgets, games tables, jewellery piled up in shopping carts. Someone will be most happy this Xmas.

For our family, the Kosher meat section is ideal and we're lucky to have 2 full-size stand-up freezers and two fridge freezers in which to store the chicken and beef that we bought. But in all honesty, for many of the other great Kosher items that are offered in bulk for fridge and freezer, I wouldn't be able to store all the merchandise. So I left it in the store for someone else to buy.

So, I guess the moral of this post is: shop wisely (which is not necessarily a Costco thing), and if you are at Costco, amuse yourself by observing others and imagining how they use the merchandise they buy.

Have a good Shabbos.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About PEZ (tm)...and More

I just stumbled upon this website

I can't believe what kind of PEZ culture is out there -- you want to be able to differentiate between an authentic PEZ dispenser and a fake one, check out the site; you want to know how to properly load your PEZ dispenser, check out the site; you want to buy a glass display or a wooden display case/shelf for your PEZ collection, check out the site...

I'm sure we've all had our fun with those dispensers in our childhood and youth. How many of you got your fingers caught in those little spring-loaded traps? How long could you make those little candies last? Not long, I bet. "I'll have just one more," was no doubt your popular refrain.

Check out the site... It'll make your day just that much sweeter as you walk down Nostalgia Lane.

The Brainy Detective

I was thinking about my last post and realized that my son must've thought of Peter Sellers -- not as Hrundi V. Bakshi in "The Party" but as the famous Pink Panther himself, Inspector Jacques Clouseau.

I guess the kid figures that if you've seen one mustache you've seen 'em all.

And now a great line from "The Party":

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Case of Mistaken Identity

Bli ayin hara, my kids are pretty bright -- each has his/her own strengths -- and know a little about a lot...and sometimes a lot about a lot!

So I thought that perhaps my youngest son might know who the man was in the photo that I showed him.

"Do you know who this is?"

He nodded his head from side to side.

"No? You don't know who it is? I thought you might." (naive me thinks that everyone ought to recognize Einstein)

After a brief pause, he shrugged his shoulders and stated in a questioning way, "Peter Sellers?"

That cracked me up; he doesn't know Einstein, he knows Peter Sellers. A couple days earlier he'd watched the brilliant Peter Sellers movie, "The Party."

I guess my 7-year-old son knows that Peter Sellers is a man with countless disguises. But I'm not sure that brilliant mathematician is one of them!

Thursday, December 06, 2007


Is that my telephone number?

No. It's the number of North York General Hospital.

For the past 18 months or so I've had a very close relationship with that phone number. If it shows up on our phone display without my expecting it to, my stomach clenches and I prepare myself for the caller and the news on the other end.

Earlier this year I would ask people to daven for my father, who was in hospital.
Early last year I would ask people to daven for my father, who was in hospital.
I stopped telling people in the blogosphere about my hospital knowledge.
About my knowledge of ambulances and emergency rooms.

I don't even want to say about my knowledge of other city hospitals, other hospital phone numbers over the years.

My father spent nearly 3 weeks in hospital in March 2006.
He was in hospital between December 2006 and March 2007.
He was in hospital for a few days in May 2007.
He was in hospital for 10 days in July 2007, missing his grandson's bar mitzvah and family celebration in the course of events.
He was in hospital for 10 days in August 2007.
He was in and out of emergency about three times over the course of a week a couple of weeks ago.
A few days later he was back in emergency and was admitted.
He was in hospital for a week.
He came home on a Friday afternoon.
He was back in emergency on the Monday. He was admitted on Tuesday.
My father is in hospital once again.

We have to find some humor in all of this. Someone I'd met in the emergency room in March 2006 asked if my dad was a "frequent flier" at the hospital. Not too long ago I told someone that with all my father's accumulated "airmiles" at the hospital, he could've already travelled around the world and back.

Maintain your health, be thankful if it's good, enjoy your families and friends...and be extra-nice to doctors and nurses.

I hope none of you have to know hospital phone numbers off the top of your head!

My father's name is Yaakov Arieh ben Chaya Malka.

A little bit of davening on his behalf might just be the medicine he needs.

Thank you.

From Our (Dog)House To Yours...

...Chag Sameach. Happy Chanukah!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Tagged at 8

I've been tagged by Fancy Maven...

8 passions in my life

My husband

My three kids

Our dog

My parents

My siblings




8 things to do before I die

Publish a children's book

Sing at a piano bar alongside the pianist

Tell some people what I REALLY think of them

Organize family photos

Improve my confidence level

Go back to Saint Maarten, where I honeymooned

Visit Paris and Switzerland with my daughter

Share hugs and kisses a little more frequently

8 things I often say

Love ya

You're such a schnauzer

Ciao babe

Hi booba

How many times do I have to say the same thing!

I can't find my cell phone -- it's SOMEWHERE in my purse

I'm going to tell your Abba

II'll be there in a few minutes...

8 Books I read recently

{How embarrassing that I haven't been reading recently, lately, in the not too distant past, either!}

8 songs that mean something to me

It Had to be You

A Whole New World

Aishet Chayil

Those Were the Days

Dust in the Wind

Time After Time

In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning

Papa, Can You Hear Me?

8 qualities I look for in a friend


Sense of Humor


Good sense of humor

Sense of adventure



Similar interests

8 people whom I'm passing this on to...but in case you DON'T want to do the meme, at least come up with 8 reasons why you can't or won't :)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Remembrance Day -- November 11, 2007

This is a beautiful personal essay I read in today's Toronto Star. I wanted to share it in honor of Remembrance Day, and tip my imaginary hat to all those veterans of WW1, WW2, the Korean War and the war in Afghanistan who have fought, some of them fighting "the good fight" to their ends.

Lest We Forget what Remembrance Day is really about

It's about families who still cry over namesakes they never knew ...

Nov 11, 2007 AM

Harriet Cooper

I always hated my name. Harriet. Not a name you'll find among the most popular girls names.
I never felt it was mine. It belonged to my uncle, Harry, who was killed in World War II.
I got his name for two reasons.

First, in keeping with Jewish tradition, children are named after family and friends who have died to honour their memory.

Second, although my mother and aunts wanted to save his name for a boy, they kept having girls. During her second pregnancy, my mother decided her baby – boy or girl – was going to be named after Harry.

For most of my life, I've worn the name uneasily. How could I remember somebody who died before I was born? Somebody I only knew through a bunch of medals my mother keeps in a drawer and a picture of a fresh-faced soldier, a kid really, in uniform.

My mother never talked about him and I didn't ask, too afraid to stir up painful memories. While I only knew him from a photograph, he was her adored older brother – the only boy in the family.

As I've gotten older, I've become interested in exploring my roots. Harry was one of those roots.
I wanted to know more about the man who gave his life for his country and his name to a niece he would never know.

With Remembrance Day approaching, I called my mother and asked her to tell me about him.
With tears in her voice, she spoke about a quiet, good-looking young man with a sense of humour.

A case of rheumatic fever kept him from completing high school and left him with a heart murmur.

Rather than finish school the next year, he looked for part-time work. He spent his first paycheque on a rose-coloured plate for his mother.

When World War II erupted, Harry enlisted, despite his heart problems. After training, he shipped out to England and then to Italy. My grandparents sent him care packages – cookies, chocolate, cigarettes and gum – which he shared with the civilian families who had even less than he did.

The news of his death came during the High Holidays, when Jewish families celebrate the New Year. Only for Harry, there would never be a new year.

While our conversation left us both in tears, they were tears of relief. My mother finally had a chance to talk about her brother; I had a chance to see beyond some medals and a picture to a real person.

Since then, I've thought about the ways in which my uncle and I are similar – a sense of humour and a belief in giving to others. Even more, I've thought about the ways we are different.
At 20, my biggest concern was doing well at university. His was struggling to stay alive. At 20, I had my whole life ahead of me. At 20, he had six feet of earth in a cemetery in Rimini, Italy, and a Star of David carved into his tombstone, along with the words: "At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will always remember you."

Instead of disliking my name, I'm now proud to share his name. I can only hope he'd be proud of me, too.

This year on Remembrance Day, and every day thereafter, I will honour what is written on his tombstone: I will remember Private Harry Silver of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment, killed in action at age 20, Sept. 20, 1944, in the battle of Rimini, Italy.

My uncle. My namesake.

Harriet Cooper is a Toronto writer and teacher.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Hollywood Story...about the Writers' Strike

19-Cent Cheques Leave Writers Wanting Change

Nov 04, 2007 04:30 AM
Ken Levine

Special to the Star

Why are Hollywood writers about to go on strike tomorrow? We asked Ken Levine, a Tinseltown scribe and Emmy winner with a near-peerless sitcom pedigree, having worked on Cheers, Frasier, M*A*S*H and The Simpsons. He's also the author of one of the sharper blogs in showbiz:

I got a cheque recently from American Airlines. A royalty cheque. For the past several years as part of their "inflight entertainment"American Airlines has been showing episodes of Cheers, M*A*S*H and Becker that I wrote along with episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond, Frasier and Dharma & Greg that I directed. Considering the number of flights and years I'd estimate they've shown my shows 10,000 times. My compensation for that: $0.19. That's right – 19 cents (American, so it's even less in Canada.) I figure at that rate, in 147 years I'll be able to buy one of their snack boxes.

An episode of Frasier I wrote is out on DVD. I make nothing. The script is included in a book. I make zilch. Soon you'll be able to download and watch it on your iPod or iPhone at IHOP. The only one who won't make money is "i".

Are you sensing a pattern?

The Writers Guild of America is asking the mega-corporations that own the entertainment industry in America and the galaxy to compensate its members fairly for this highly desired product they create. Just a piece, that's all. More than nothing. And without sounding greedy, more than nineteen cents.

Via-Uni-Time-Corps-Ney would rather have a strike.

I've been through three of them already. Many of the companies I struck are no longer in business. Two-thirds of the people I struck with are no longer in the guild. And unlike actors and directors, when we go out it doesn't just shut down the industry. It slows it. Hair restoration crèmes have faster results.

But as someone who has prospered and enjoyed the gains writers before me have won, I feel it's my obligation to fight the good fight for the next generation. And hopefully in 20 years, when the issue is holograms transmitted directly to the back of viewers' eyelids, WGA members will hang tough for a piece of that pie.

This acrimony between writers and management has been a proud tradition since the 1930s when scribes first rose up and had the audacity to ... well, ask for things. Warner Brothers czar Jack Warner warned that any writer who joined the union would "find themselves out of work forever." And he claimed this wasn't blacklisting because "it would all be done over the telephone." Darryl Zanuck of 20th Century Fox once shouted, "Throw that writer off the lot until I need him again!" Critic David Thomson says Hollywood writers are like divorce lawyers or private eyes. When you want them you have to have them, but later you despise them.
Is it any wonder we "schmucks with Underwoods" have an inferiority complex and assume a defensive posture? We spend our entire careers trying to protect our work from meddling studios, directors, actors, fellow writers, research gurus, networks, and girlfriends of all of the above.

Yes, we're an angry bunch, a self-righteous bunch, but we make 19 cents from American Airlines when management flies in private jets.

I teach a seminar called The Sitcom Room ( It's a fun weekend where I simulate the experience of actually being on the writing staff of a network show. Students rewrite scripts, have real actors perform their work, and learn first hand the realities of the business – little sleep, bad Chinese food, notes. But they eagerly participate, because they love the process, they have a need to express themselves, they want to be heard. Not one has said they want to be a TV writer to make money.

And when they finally do enter the industry, who knows what that industry will be? New delivery systems are emerging so rapidly that even the "unthinkable" was obsolete five minutes ago. These young writers will embrace that future, and through their vision and zeal will make it soar. All they're asking for is their fair share. MyPiece, not MySpace. iShare, not iTunes. NetWorth, not NetFlix.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

And Now a Word from the Peanut Gallery

I've mentioned this book in a previous post -- The Modern Jewish Girl's Guide to Guilt. It's a wonderful anthology of personal essays exploring various aspects of life and the Jewish woman.
It is funny, and honest, and insightful. I have picked it up, read an essay here and there, then put it down and picked it up weeks later; it's that kind of "pick-me-up" read.

Anyhow, I had the book at work to read over my lunch hour; it was sitting on my desk.

A non-Jewish co-worker passed by, spotted the book, and asked -- in a very Jewish way:

"For that you need a handbook??"

Monday, October 29, 2007

What's with the "Ugh" in Donut?

When I was working in copy editing for the trade publisher, I'd always have to change the spelling of DONUT to DOUGHNUT...adding that "UGH" whenever necessary.

So this correlation was on my mind this morning and the other day as I was driving.

On Saturday night, after 8 p.m., I was driving, came to an intersection, close to a doughnut shop, and spotted a cop car. I wondered if the cop was coming from the shop at that hour. Then I started to wonder what exactly a cop's routine is -- going from doughnut shop to doughnut shop until a call comes in over his radio? He probably leaves white powder sugar as evidence on his own police equipment!

This morning, while driving to work on a rather large and busy main street, I noticed several police cars as I neared an intersection -- three were parked on one side of the road, two were parked on another. I wondered who they'd be busting at 8:15 a.m., having a need for five police vehicles. And then I saw it: the doughnut shop!

And several officers were huddled outside its doors, standing around and talking freely.

My taxpayer's dollars hard at work...

I discovered this on a website, and thought I'd share it with you.

Why Do Cops Like Donuts?

This is a question that has plagued mankind for years. The answer is quite simple.
1. Donuts are relatively inexpensive, so they can be discarded with little guilt, in case of a hot call in the middle of a snack break.
2. In many areas, the donut shop is the only place open 24 hours.
3. Donuts have sugar and carbohydrates, which allow for quick energy. Donuts, coupled with the ever present cup of coffee, help keep the officers awake and alert.
4. Donut shops are usually located in centralized areas, which can be used as a meeting place for briefings between Officers of different agencies or shifts.
5. Donuts are TASTY! Can you think of anyone who DOESN'T like donuts?

There you have it. There is no great mystery as to why Cops and donuts go hand in hand. One word of advice. When the Police Officer asks you,"Have you been drinking? Your eyes are red." Don't reply, "Have you been eating donuts? Your eyes are glazed ."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Shlemazel Mazel Revisited...Yet Again!

The latter part of Sukkot we were hosting and were guests, but the first day lunch we were hosting, so there was much preparing for the large crowd we were having. Being a bit organized this time, I divvied up the meal-making over a few days, just leaving a couple of things to do for Erev Yom Tov, when I came home from work in the early afternoon.

One of those things was making gefilte fish.

No, I'm not such a balebusta that I buy chopped fish or the unthinkable, grind it myself, and make gefilte fish. But I do make the frozen fish loaves, doctoring them up in a flavorful way as they cook.

And I made two loaves. And when it was time to take them out of the pot, I used a couple of utensils to try to balance a loaf at each end. The first loaf didn't cooperate and fell back into the pot. S P L A S H! OUCHOUCHOUCH....! (a stronger expression actually spewed forth from my lips) The water had splashed onto the middle of my hand and on some fingers.

The pain was quite unbearable; after a minute of shock, I ran the hand under cold water and blew on the hand the way our mothers always blew on our "boo-boos" to make them feel better. Still so painful and tingling at the same time, the way skin does when you have "pins and needles" after a foot or a hand falls asleep and you get up to move.

I found some cream to put on the injury -- my domestic "war wound" -- and told my story to my husband and children as they came through the door.

The next day, the area that had been splashed was visibly red, the next day it being worse, and a couple of fingers being swollen. A doctor friend at shul declared it a first-degree burn and told me to continue to apply the Polysporin (TM) cream, which was not a burn cream, but the only one I had at home.

The hand became a conversation piece at shul and in mixed company: "WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR HAND?" I tried to put on cream and then wrap it in gauze, but I looked too much like a mummy in that area. (a "mummy mummy") So I continued to keep it exposed.

About a week ago, the skin, which had turned reddish-brown, began to flake and peel and itch like mad...hopefully a sign of true healing.

It is not a pretty sight this hand of mine, but my youngest son noticed something that gave me a bit more perspective of the matter. A couple of days ago, he looked at the area in the middle of my hand that was flaking the most and exposing a new, light pink skin beneath, and he said, "It looks like a heart."

My little boy was right! That main wound is now noticeably in the shape of a heart.

There are some people who are said to wear their heart on their sleeve. Your friend Pearl wears hers on her hand...

I'd hate to think that a large scar might remain on my left hand from this kitchen mishap, but at least I know that the gefilte fish, which was the instigator, was enjoyed by those guests at my meals.

I can imagine it now: "Where did you get that bad scar?"

"Oh...that? From gefilte fish!"

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Everything I Ever Needed to Know, I Learned...

...from the Internet!

I even learned something about myself...

Cultured pearls are simply real pearls managed in a semi-controlled environment.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

LOOK! UP IN THE SKY...'s a plane.

Indeed it is.

I love walking in the neighborhood very late at night with Max, our "three-poo," and looking up at the night sky. It's dark, but as we live in the suburbs, we can actually see stars, instead of a mulitude of high voltaged lights. (contrary to Toronto's downtown business core)

One of the neatest things I love to see is an airplane cross the sky, his headlights on as he skims the inky dark. Those headlights/high beams cut swaths of brightness across its clear or cloudy path, just as a car does while driving on a lonely stretch of road.

Truly a sight to behold...

Sunday, October 07, 2007

When I Grow Up I Want to Be...

We live in a modern, technological world. We witness advancements and progress on a daily basis.

People have different ambitions today than they might have had...say...40 years ago -- simply because the influences of media and education and society are different.

I don't believe that the ambition I'm about to share with you would have been on my "To Do" list 20 years ago. In fact, it might not have even been there a year or two ago. But it's somewhere near the top of the list these days. I don't imagine I'll actually fulfill that ambition simply because I don't tend to be a trendsetter or a leader; I'm a follower but still a doer.

Here's the wishful thinking ambition:

You know how you open up your emails on a daily basis and get jokes/videos/links to websites constantly being forwarded to you. You might get repeats of these emails from several friends and co-workers because these emails are making the rounds of the Internet.

Well, I want to write something or find something that's so attractive, so appealing, so interesting or so poignant or amusing, that I WILL START the ball rolling on a particular email. It will ORIGINATE from me and circle the globe through the forces of the Internet. It would sort of be similar to Norman Rockwell's "Gossip" -- I start off the email and eventually it finds its way back to me.

Hey, who knows...maybe it's this post that will have its fifteen minutes [or emails!] in the spotlight...!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Head Count this is how the past few weeks have been.

Erev Yom Kippur -- I went to a funeral for the husband of a woman I used to work with. The family was able to sit shiva for 1 hour.

Erev Sukkot -- my husband went to a funeral of a close friend of ours. The family was able to sit shiva for 1 hour.

Chol Hamoed Sukkot Sunday -- my husband and I went to a funeral for a shul member. The family was somewhat in limbo for several days. The shiva begins tonight, motzei Shabbos. This afternoon, a friend and I went to deliver a seudat shlishit meal for the family.

Tomorrow, Sunday -- my husband and I will go to a funeral for the mother of a shul member, who is also our friend. His family was at our home this past Thursday for lunch, but our friend wasn't; after shul he walked for over two hours to get to the hospital where his mother had been taken by ambulance just before Yom Tov began on Wednesday night. He came home late on Thursday night; his mother was in intensive care. Yesterday morning, he and his wife walked to the hospital to be with his mother. Last night his mother passed away.
Today when I went to the other family who is waiting for the official shiva to begin, our friend who'd just lost his mother last night was also there to visit. It would be his only time because tomorrow, shiva will start to be observed by his family.

To say it mildly, it has been one hell of a tough couple of weeks. Yes, we've started a New Year and the famous "Who shall live and who shall die" has been presented to us. Let us hope for a better year and a better new month, which will start toward week's end.

Shavuah tov.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

I Came, I Davened, I Ate...

...just about sums up the chagim/holidays for me.

[by the way, I have to try to recreate this post, as it got zapped before it could get published. GRRRRR!!!!]

"Food, glorious food" seemed to be the base line of the holidays. Guesting, hosting and feasting.

The question is now, do I start that intended diet after Shabbos is out this week? Do I wait for a few more weeks until the few upcoming simchas we have on our social calendar have come and gone?

Or do I just eat...and enjoy? With no guilt, no silent reminders that this is worth a few unnecessary calories and that is worth many necessary calories?

...and speaking of guilt....

I'm in the middle of reading a terrific anthology of essays entitled: The Modern Jewish Girl's Guide to Guilt. And yes, food is mentioned in several places...and yes, there is enough to say about food that makes one feel guilty!

I hope you've been enjoying your Yom Tov meals, whether you've cooked them yourself or whether you've partaken of them on others' homes. In case any of you would like to sample TorontoPearl's mediocre cooking and TorontoPearl's husband's amazing cooking (and baking), you are always welcome to join us.

Just do us a favor -- leave your guilt outside the dining room!

Moadim l'simcha and enjoy the rest of Sukkot.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Timing Is Everything

Forty-six years ago, my mother gave birth to a baby girl.

Apparently, that baby came out about three weeks early... I guess, curious to discover the world.

Why, then, is that "baby" no longer early for anything, but always running late, feeling flustered and flurried?

That "baby" should ask Bruce Springsteen, Julio Iglesias, Jason Alexander and Mickey Rooney if they also have trouble with time management. Kublai Kahn, Augustus Caesar, John Coltrane are TOO LATE to answer the question!

I hope you all had an easy and meaningful fast. May your prayers be heard, may forgiveness be bestowed upon you and may you have a healthy and happy year.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Mi Yichyeh u'Mi Yamut...*

* Who shall live and who shall die...

"These words from the liturgy of the High Holy Days testify to our insecurity. As we grow older, our youthful illusions of invulnerability begin to disappear, and the questions become ever more acute. Perhaps the most difficult transition we make as adults is the first time we catch ourselves saying, “If you have your health, you have everything,”—and we remember how completely uncomprehending we were when we, as teenagers, heard exactly those words from our great aunt, the one who had doilies covering her tables and newspapers on her freshly scrubbed floors."

(from Rabbi Robert L. Wolkoff,

Is this first paragraph not true? As young innocents, we don't think truly about the words we are saying, but as we age, we do.

I thought that perhaps I was morbid as I stood at shul over Rosh Hashanah and thought these thoughts. But in hindsight, as I think about all the things that are wrong with our world, all the people I know who are not well, or who have already been touched by grief and sadness in their lives, I think it is only right that I am aware of these words.

I looked around the shul and wondered who would be davening with us next year, who would be missing. Just like looking at a family photo album. Take out your parents' photo albums or look at your own wedding albums, if you're married. Scan the faces. You will see and say to yourself, "This one isn't here anymore; this one died a year after I married; he is in a nursing home." The list goes on.

And unfortunately, next year at shul, you will probably encounter similar losses. Familiar faces will be missing. Some families will be smaller and will need to buy fewer High Holiday tickets.

Perhaps I was most aware of the theme of this post as the kohanim went up on the bimah for "duchenin"; two of those men that were up there, whom I know, have cancer. They have been taking treatments and I believe that one of them has decided to stop his treatments. It shows in his face, in his body and in his wife's eyes as she looks at him.

As those men stood and blessed the congregants, as kohanim have done for centuries, I couldn't help but wonder if these men would be around next year to bless us again.

And moreso I thought that they are blessing us; Hashem should bless them hundredfold with strength and good health.

And how does one wish a true "refuah shlema" on someone who is so ill? Do you? Can you? Or do you wish them strength, as I do?

It is my fervent hope that we will all be inscribed in the Book of Life for the coming year; that strength, and hope, and prayer, and tradition will be part of those pages of our own Book of Life.

Gmar chatimah tovah.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Out with the Old, In with the New

As I stand on the threshhold of a new Jewish year, I stop to take stock.

I review so I can see what I've learned this past year...if anything.

I review so I can see what my next step should be.

I review so I can appreciate what I have -- and what I still have.

It has certainly been a year filled with emotional strife as I've dealt with family members with ill health and lengthy and several hospitalizations. Each of those hospitalizations also had me review the past and hope and pray for a better future.

As I do now...for my family, for your families and for all of Klal Yisroel.

May you be surrounded by those near and dear to you...whether in person or whether in memory.

May the road of life you travel down this coming year be smooth, with no sharp turns or major detours.

May the wishes you seek for yourself become reality.

May good health be your best friend.

May laughter, not tears, prevail in your life.

To all of you: SHANAH TOVAH U'METUKA. A sweet happy New Year.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Forever Young

Talk amongst yourselves... Then you can shout out your answers.

If you could be immortalized in any creative form, by someone living or dead, what form would it take and who would create it?
1. I would opt for a caricature done by Al Hirschfeld. He was a brilliant artist whose drawings I looked forward to seeing in the NY Times and elsewhere. It's interesting to watch any caricature artist at work, especially someone as talented as Hirschfeld was.
How would he depict me? Would he make my nose big? My lips big? My freckles big?
2. Also in the realm of caricature art, I would pick Norman Mingo to duplicate me.

Who the heck is Norman Mingo, you ask? Just think of Alfred E. Neuman...MAD Magazine...cover art. Also a brilliant, detailed artist who made his MAD Magazine cover people come alive.

(revelation: I didn't know his name either. I had to GOOGLE "Mad Magazine Cover Art" to find the guy whose design style I enjoyed.)
3. And last but not least, I would like James Taylor ("Sweet Baby James") to write an original, wholesome, mellow but catchy tune about Pearl.
YOUR TURN..................!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Forerunner to the State of Israel Bonds Pledge Drive?

There's a new children's book out and it features some interesting historical facts intertwined with the story.

"Myths and stories have gathered around Salomon, a slender Jewish immigrant from Poland. The stories have help up because they are good, if not entirely true." She goes onto add that while the book is "based primarily" on authoritative historical sources, "Most of my dialogue and dramatic scenes… are my contribution to engage young readers in the story." So where does the history begin and the dramatic reenactment end? Very hard to tell. Check out the scene in which Rubin tells us about the relationship between Robert Morris, a Philadelphia businessman whom George Washington appointed the minister of finance during the War, and Salomon.

The story goes that on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Haym was attending services at [Temple] Mikveh Israel. A messenger came in and asked for him. "Robert Morris sent me," the messenger said to Haym. "He needs you to sell two bills of exchange for twenty thousand dollars."Members of the congregation gasped. "For shame!" They were shocked to hear talk about money on the holiest day of the year for Jews. Haym, however, knew that at no other time would he have so many people gathered at once. He asked the rabbi for permission to speak. "Let us all help General Washington," he said. Within a few minutes, Haym raised all the necessary money, including three thousand dollars of his own.
Fact ... or fiction?
Which came first -- this scene or the Israel Bonds Pledge Drive every Yom Kippur?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Name That Spouse!

I've mentioned many times throughout blogging that I have these little neuroses/hang-ups/idiocyncracies/"jewkim barosh". Here's another one to note on that list.

I was probably twenty-one or twenty-two when a friend got married; she was my first peer to do so. Before she married, she'd talk about her fiance as "Alan this, Alan that." After she married, it was no longer, "Alan this, Alan that." It was "My husband this, my husband that."

That's when my hackles first rose.

"What??!! I know his name. Why do you have to refer to him as "my husband" all the time?" I never said this aloud to her; I just figured she was in that honeymoon stage and liked the sound of "my husband."

But she wasn't the only one who'd be so formal.

I discovered my aunt would talk about "my daughter-in-law." Now, Sara is the ONLY daughter-in-law my aunt has; why didn't she address her by name? Why did she appear to distance herself with such a generic tag?

My cousin, Sara's husband, mostly talked about Sara, but sometimes did refer to her as "my wife."

When my brother-in-law got married, he constantly talked about "my wife". Granted, he was older when he married, she was on her second marriage, so each was happy to have found the other. Did he have her on such a pedestal?

I did not like the sound of "my wife" all the time; it sounded as if he were talking about a possession, something materialistic. If I wouldn't have known her, that's something else. But I know her and I know her use it!

After witnessing him and my cousin refer to "my wife," I began to wonder if it's a Yeshivish etiquette thing that nobody had told me about. Is it a means to give kavod/honor to one's spouse...or is it just a possessive kind of thing?

Moreso, why did/does this bother me so much? I wonder.

If I ever use "my husband" in conversation, it's: 1. to someone who doesn't know him at all or 2. if I use the expression, I'll follow it with my husband's name, as an identifier or 3. i'll be cheeky to a friend in conversation and say it with great cynicism and emphasis if he's done something to irritate me.

But my husband has a name, and I make sure to use it.

I know other frum couples where the husbands refer to "my wife" and the wives refer to their husbands by name.

(it's funny, but I don't have the same problem when someone refers to "my son" or "my daughter.")

If there are any Yeshivish-type readers out there (Chaim? Ezzie? Elie?), please do tell me if there is some kind of unwritten rule among the more frum that you give one's spouse -- specifically the wife, the "eshet chayil" more honor by referring to them by their "title" rather than by "name".

My husband knows how I feel about this topic and wouldn't dare refer to me as "my wife" unless he added "Pearl" to the mix. That's why I love this guy; he respects me and my wishes.

See, people? "My husband"...Mr. TorontoPearl" ... earns respect and shows it too -- doing so on a first-name basis!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

And Now A Word from Our Sponsor

"....and last but not least, here's helpful hint # 99:

When you wear eyeglasses that have protective coating on the plastic lenses, never, NEVER open the oven door and stick your head closer to remove some hot food. That GUST of hot air has a way of damaging that eyeglass coating and eventually you see these very fine spider lines on the lenses of your glasses.

It happened to my husband and his optician explained the fine "spider veins" to him.

My husband warned me.

Wouldn't you know it! I put my head in the oven...once...another time...and another time.

My eyeglasses are new, and maybe only a month old. They are already damaged...showing very fine lines...perhaps like this 45-soon-to-be-46-year-old skin of mine!
By the way, my eyeglasses were ordered online by a Winnipeg optician; the sample frames were sent to me in Toronto. The frames came from Denmark, and the sunglass lenses came from Quebec. I'm wearing an international pair of eyeglasses.
See this link. My glasses are the exact ones shown in this post -- Model 1641, collection 5132.
I guess if I keep sticking my head in a hot oven, I will have to begin "reading between the LINES!"

Thursday, August 23, 2007


After my last post, I went grocery shopping.

I have a tendency to go late at night, within the last hour that the supermarket is open, and I like to "close up the place." ie. be one of the last, if not THE LAST, customer. Maybe it's a subconscious power thing:

"You can't close up the store until I'm all done... You can't start to count what's in your till until you've finished with me."

There are two supermarkets nearby with a large Kosher selection of just about everything. I often go first to one, and then to the other. On Thursday nights, I luck out because one of them closes at 10 p.m. but the other closes at 11 p.m. Often I see the same people I saw shop in the first store then shop in the second me.

Tonight I went to the first store, which closes at 10 p.m. and then I headed to the second store, which closes at 10 p.m. But I had about a 20-minute window to get what I needed at the second store, so off I rushed.

I was NOT the last customer, but it was about 10:07 p.m. when I was at the checkout.

As I left the store, there were two employees just outside the front doors. I said good night to them, figuring they would lock the doors after the last customer left and then go back inside to deal with the closing procedures.

I was already at my car nearby when I heard in a booming voice: "WE'RE CLOSED!!!"

I didn't look back, but figured that someone thought they might just manage to get in and attempted to do so, only to be met by the "door police." It then hit me in a funny way that these store employees were actually serving as bouncers.

And then I realized that most stores, primarily Jewish ones where customers like to bargain, sweet=talk, insist, DEMAND, rant, and KNOW BEST, could stand to use bouncers like these men. Guards. De-motivators.

I can picture a couple of burly, musclemen, with stubble on their faces, staring down a little old Jewish lady with a shopping cart.

"No, the store is closed... No, you can't just check one more thing... No, the manager has already left... No, you can't park yourself here till morning; come back at 9:30 when the store re-opens."

Before going grocery shopping, I was in another department store, looking for a gift. Over the loudspeaker, I heard, "The time is 8:45; Winners will be closing in 15 minutes. .." "The time is 8:55. Winners will be closing in 5 minutes. Kindly bring all your purchases to the cash.... "The time is 9:00. Customer service is closed. Please bring all purchases to the cash. The store will re-open at 9:30 tomorrow."

Now, wouldn't you think that after listening to that series of announcements over a 15-minute time span that I would get the hint and get my butt over to a cashier with the gift I'd found to buy?

Nah...I'm at the far side of the store, but scanning over the aisles to see if any cash registers are free.

No such luck. There are lineups at each cashier's counter.

So I continue to browse in the housewares.

"I'm's 9:00. This section is closed. The store is closing, " is what a store clerk greets me with.

So you think I'd take a hint then?

Nah... "I know, but there are lineups at the cash anyway," I explain -- and continue to browse. I see that I am not the only customer in that section seeking some last minute purchases. I even think that to myself, "Hey, if you [Winners]throw me out, you might lose out on some customer cash. Maybe I'll find something else to buy in the last minute..."

I guess that all stores where I shop might also stand to use the services of a good bouncer to...put me in place...OUTSIDE THE STORE!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

From the Sidelines, aka Some Observations....

I'm still here on the periphery of the blogging world, checking in with many or most of the blogs on my blogroll. I might be negligent about doing so equally or regularly, and I apologize for that.

Even if I don't visit often -- and post even less -- I still have a soft spot for you all, and admittedly some bloggers more than others.

Danny never ceases to amaze me with his entertainment knowledge and his journey through family history and family photos.
Neil, the funny rabbi, is always so eclectic and enlightened in his writing.
Neil, the funny non-rabbi, continually makes me smile with his wonderful wacky world and words. HE IS ADORED BY MANY, IT SEEMS.
Oriyenta brings her daughter's life -- and her own life -- to life for us.
Old Old Lady of the Hills captures spectacular photos and wonderful stories of the natural world around her...both in the Hollywood Hills and outside them.
Fancy Maven is anxious...and funny...and pretty blunt.
Shalom from Jerusalem is simply a wonderful and warm and down-to-earth person who welcomes everyone into her blog, as if it were her home.
{Cruisin' Mom...we miss you!}

Last week I ran into a professor, who was also a fairly well-known blogger in the Jewish blogging world. I asked if he's still partaking in blogs and in the conversation he said that he thought blogging, especially in the Jewish blogosphere, is not as popular as it was a couple of years ago. He thinks it peaked after a couple of years and then slowly, people pulled out.

I believe it's true, although there are always some new people jumping aboard to replace the old people.

The blog is not as "essential" to my life as it truly was between late 2004 and early 2006. I don't spend as much time or effort on my own blog. In Hebrew, I'd say that the "cheshek"/desire isn't there; in fact, it's been lost.

But I can't pull myself away completely. The blog -- mine and reading others -- has continually been a source of inspiration, emotional strength, interest, etc. I can't just go "cold turkey."

If you've been blogging for more than a year already, do you feel strengthened by your blog? Do you think your blog has developed into "a crutch" of sorts? ( mine had been one for quite some time. I'm pleased to say it no longer is.) Has your blog evolved in any way?

When I think of something to blog about, it's usually lately about my weaknesses, my fears, my flaws...and I wonder why I feel I need to share those with you. Do I have to air my laundry, just so you can gather up that laundry, fold it for me and put it in its place?

Maybe I've outgrown my blog in some ways--the dimished posts and visitors prove that--but I certainly haven't outgrown yours. So do keep writing, and I'll continue to read, and comment if moved enough.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


My middle child, Adina, celebrates her tenth birthday today. Her Hebrew birthday was on Shabbos Nachamu.

Everyone always says truthfully, "Where did the years fly?"

As I wrote her a birthday card message today, I reread my words. They sounded more appropriate for her birthday card for when she'd turn 12, bat mitzvah age. I talked about her father and I being proud of the young lady that she's proving to be, and I thought that even though "10" is not really yet equated with a "young lady," it was certainly appropriate for Adina.

She is feisty, she is loving, she is creative, she is sensitive. Simply, she is adored.

"Adina": noble, gentle, delicate.

A perfect name for an "almost-perfect"...young lady!

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart!

(Adina is my kind of girl; she read the birthday card I gave her BEFORE she opened her present!)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Keeping a Low Profile

Are you taking attendance? Have I been missing blog class?

I'm still around, just without any blog posts due to several reasons:

1. I'm now back in the workforce (since mid last week), have no access to personal use of the computer during the daytime and am pretty wiped by the time I get home (I've forgotten what that's like, with commuting and dealing with the family afterwards). Am learning many new things on the job and find it a bit overwhelming in these early days. Thus "brain drain" takes hold of me. Thus...
2. I can't think of too much to write about
3. My dad just came home on Friday after another 10-day "sojourn" in the hospital -- 10 days in July, 10 days in August. Needless to say, I was busy with that.
4. Dealing with the kids and their camp pick-up and drop-off schedules have kept me busy
5. Editing shul bulletins for the High Holidays
6. Volunteering and helping with suggestions for children's/YA book selections for the upcoming Toronto Jewish Book Fair
7. A couple of weddings to attend

So I guess you can see that I'm pretty busy with...LIFE.

But when the muse hits -- hopefully soon enough -- I'll be typing away and hitting PUBLISH !

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Leave the Porch Light Burning

Just as I've always had a "thing" for the Ner Tamid (Eternal Light found in every synagogue ), I've always had a "thing" for a porch light. Not just any porch light, really but one that's on -- a beacon in the dark. If it has a yellow bulb or yellow glass encasing the bulb, even better.
I've always felt that the yellow bulb is warmer and more welcoming.
I know my neighborhood rather well, thanks to being a dog owner who has to become a dog walker. As I pass each home, I determine if they appear to be welcoming. Sadly enough, no.
So many of the homes in the area do not even leave on outside lights, much less yellow-coated lights. They appear to be cold-looking, giving a "leave me alone and stay away from me" attitude with the lack of illumination.
There are homes that might not have a porch light on, but they have statuesque coach lights lining their walkway, beckoning the way to the front door with their bright, white light. Other houses have some feeble lighting lining their bushes and driveways, relying on the light of the sun to light up the way.
Other homes have glaring spotlights poking up from beneath bushes and greenery enhancing their front yards. Sometimes these spotlights are colorful with red, green or yellow hints of color to guide visitors to the front door.
Conservation of energy -- is that what keeps people from keeping their outside lights on? Or is it simply that if they don't illuminate the exterior of their homes, nobody will bother them after dark?

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Blur

The woman...she sat across from me in the medical center's waiting room.

I noticed...her jewelery, her tan, her shoes and then her arm.

Were those bruises? Was it dirt?

And then it hit me -- a number embedded on her delicate, tanned skin.

Embedded on the outside of the arm...for all to see.

Numbers -- not so legible, but never truly fading.

A blur.

A memory, in fact a nightmare of something too difficult to comprehend.

My heart clenched.

My heart clenches each time it sees one of these numbers, one of these blurs.

Those times are becoming much more infrequent.

She passed close by and asked me a question. I answered, then grasped her arm and told her how I was taken that number. I told her I hadn't been sure it was a number--

I was used to numbers on the inside of an arm, more hidden.

I told her it seemed like a blur.

I asked her where she'd been.

"Where everyone was -- Auschwitz."

"You must've been young."

"I was. But I lived through it and I went on with my life."

"Thank G-d for that," I told her.

That number. A blur to me. Certainly not a blur to her.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Scenes from a Marriage (TorontoPearl-Style)

My husband, who started a new job in January, is working like a dog, learning his way around this job and staying on his toes. He didn't want to totally neglect his family, so he booked off a couple of days this summer, days to tack on to an upcoming long weekend.

He booked off this coming Friday and next Tuesday...which we thought was great. The only thing is that my kids have camp on Friday and camp on Tuesday, and my oldest son's camp will have an outing to a Blue Jays baseball game on Sunday as well as a great outing on Monday, and my son doesn't want to miss either day.

What to do...?

"That's okay, honey. So we'll do something on Friday while the kids are at camp," says Pearl.

"CAN WE GO TO HOME DEPOT...? AND WAL-MART...?" says Mr. TorontoPearl.

I laughed, telling him that this excerpt was certainly worthy of a blog post.

Jewish Lego Wedding

A Lego Film: A Brilliant and Very Unique Anniversary Present

Sunday, July 29, 2007

And Now You Know

My daughter and I spent Shabbos -- Shabbos Nachamu-- at my parents. It was my daughter's Hebrew birthday (ten years ago, I was a bit busy for the last half hour of Shabbos Nachamu!) and I didn't want my parents to be alone. My husband and sons managed fine on their own.

Being Shabbos Nachamu, we truly relaxed, read, talked, played games, looked at photo albums and just lazed around.

As we were sitting around, my mother read aloud an excerpt from a book I'd given her -- Solomon Gursky Was Here by Mordecai Richler. The excerpt had to do with the origins of the word "kike." This is a derogatory word used to mean "Jew"-- although I knew that, I never stopped to think about its origins.

I just GOOGLED several sites to see if what she'd read aloud was, in fact, true. Yes... And now you too will know where the term KIKE comes from. [Don't say that my blog never taught you anything.]


There are many explanations:

* One explanation is that the word kike originates from the word "keikl", in Yiddish, which means "circle". At Ellis Island, one of the main immigration check in points, immigrants were intially grouped by religion and language in order to make it easier for them to communicate with each other and also to be identified more quickly by waiting relatives there to meet them. Christians were marked off with an 'X' which was likely really supposed to be a cross; Jews were marked with a circle which was really likely supposed to be the Star of David. It is easy to see how the staff could become sloppy at drawing these symbols as 'x' and 'o'. The word "keikl" was used by the Jews making fun of the poorly drawn star; they referred to each other as being 'circles'.

Unfortunately, from this innocent usage, the term aquired a derogatory meaning.

Robert L. Chapman's "American Slang" has a slight variation on the above. Rather than saying the circle was a mark made by the staff to symbolize the Star-of-David, the book says: "Jews who could not sign their names would make a circle." This suggests that it was Jews themselves who started using the circle- presumably to avoid the X which was reminiscent of a cross.

* According to "Our Crowd", by Stephen Birmingham, the term kike was actually coined as a putdown by assimilated American German Jews for their Eastrern-European bretheren: "Because many Russian [Jewish] names ended in 'ki', they were called 'kikes'- a German Jewish contribution to the American vernacular. (Germans are also said to have invented the term "Bohunk", referring to Jews from Bohemia.)". Following this explanation, the name kike was deliberately coined to put-down Jews- but only a certain subset of Jews. The name then proceeded to be co-opted by Gentiles and used against all Jews in general.

* Robert L. Chapman's "American Slang" also notes that the word could be a reference to "Ike", a nickname for Isaac.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Power of Persuasion

Media. Print ads. Commercials.

All have a message.

Sometimes the message is lost on me.

Other times the message is captured in the images.

Other times the images supercede the message.

I just stumbled onto a wonderful website. You can spend lots of time filtering through its messages.

Put it on your favorites list. I just have.

About twenty-plus years ago I used to go to a downtown restaurant that featured screenings of Cannes award-winning TV commercials; these commercials were international and -- for the most part -- brilliant. Each screening featured a different year's winners, and my friends and I often paid for and sat through two screenings.

I feel the same about this website...I just want to continue sitting here and scanning through it, both its print ads and its commercials.

Canada's Marshall McLuhan voiced it best: "The medium is the message."

Check out this site:

Excuses...or Reasons?

Many, many years ago, I attended and graduated from the University of Toronto. The Toronto downtown campus I attended was somewhat prestigious, and you had to submit high school marks of a minimum of 85%, if not more, to be accepted at that campus.

It was a place I always wanted to go; there were no questions about it. And my marks were more than good enough to get accepted.

But once I was on campus and a full-time student, I began to see things in a different light.

"Pearl, why'd you choose U. of T.?"

I couldn't say, "Because they have a great pre-meds program" when I wasn't taking sciences. I couldn't say, "Because my brothers went here and I wanted to go here too," ecause that's a lousy reason.

I found the most entertaining -- and seemingly honest -- response: "I'm here because of the architecture and the squirrels."

University of Toronto has a sprawling campus that exemplifies all types of architecture -- modern, cold stone buildings, and dark, gloomy Gothic buildings with turrets and stained glass windows. This blend of buildings was so appealing to me, as was the overflow of squirrels running rampant across the campus lawns and stone walls.

So was "Because of the architecture and the squirrels" an excuse or a reason? Hmmmm....

In the same way, you hear people/men mostly say "I read PLAYBOY for the articles." Uh-huh, and no doubt these same people are reading between the lines.

For many years I would "read" THE NEW YORKER. I put "read" in quotes, because even though the publication featured some wonderful short stories and fillers and tidbits, the main reason I would peruse the magazine was for the cartoons. That is what sold me on its pages. They are some of the most brilliant wordsmiths who apply themselves to those simple pen and ink lines. My journals from years past are filled with cartoons from THE NEW YORKER, cartoons that made a lasting impression on me, enough to destroy an issue of the magazine and tear something out.

There is truly a fine line between reasons and excuses.

My memberships to CURVES was up at the end of March; my husband encouraged me to rejoin (he encouraged me to join in the first place and the day that I was let go from my job and I called him en route home crying, he told me the best thing I could do was go home, get my workout stuff and go to CURVES for that 30 minute circuit -- he was SO RIGHT!), and I said I would, for sure. We are nearing the end of July and I haven't yet rejoined...for what reasons? Oh, I'll wait till after Pesach....I'll wait till the kids are finished school...I'll wait to see how my father is feeling... These are certainly not reasons, but excuses!

People find themselves in relationships -- whether they are marriages or friendships -- that are troublesome. Yet they continue to linger in these relationships, often wearing themselves down for their troubles. These people think they are giving reasons for remaining with these partners, these friends, but when these reasons are closely examined, they are often discovered to be simple excuses.

If you think about it, excuses generally relate back to "I"; they have to do with something about you -- something you're lacking (perhaps confidence?), something you're afraid of (perhaps retaliation from another person?).

Although this post was originally meant to be light-hearted -- I'd thought I'd just incorporated the reasons for my attending the University of Toronto, along with my reason for reading THE NEW YORKER -- it turned into something heavier. I want you each to examine your reasons for doing or not doing certain things. Examine them closely; decide if they are in fact excuses. Then do something about it...or at least try to.

Stop making excuses for things. Start doing. Don't wait for tomorrow or the next day to start or complete a project. Don't wait for that other person to make the first move -- you take that first step toward them.

You will be happier; you will have a sense of accomplishment; you will know that you didn't sit on your tushy, thinking up reasons --EXCUSES! -- for not doing something.
Now...let me think of a reason why I can't heed my own advice!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

It's Harry Potter Time

I am not a Harry Potter fan.

Neither of the movies, nor the books, nor all the regalia that goes with Pottermania.

But I'm probably also premature in just saying this because it's all based on assumption.

Not once did I read a Harry Potter book...not even aloud to my kids.

Not once did I see a Harry Potter movie.

"I don't like that kind of stuff. I don't like fantasy." (as if the romance book publishing industry, in which I worked for close to twenty years, is not made up of fantasy!)

I simply never gave Harry and his cohorts a chance.

Perhaps it's "my bad."

My son, who's now twelve has been reading the Potter series for several years. In anticipation of the newest book, which was released yesterday, he began rereading earlier volumes in the series. He also introduced his sister, who will turn 10 next month, to Harry, and she began reading the first book on Friday night, much of Saturday, and even taking the book to shul when she went back later in the day.

My husband preordered the latest book in hardcover for my oldest son. Of course, it was to be delived yesterday, on Shabbat. So before Shabbat, we -- I! -- had to prepare a box on our front landing, along with a note: "Courier/Postman: Please leave package in box below."

When we got home from shul around 12:30, there was no package in the box. But somewhere in the time that we ate lunch, between 1:00-2:00, it had arrived. And luckily, the book wasn't packaged in anything that had to be torn; it could just carefully be slipped out of the cardboard holder and then held and admired by my son. My husband had ordered "the adult version." My son was disappointed about that...until we found out that only the cover/jacket art was different than the standard version.

Yesterday, my oldest son was reading an earlier volume throughout all of Shabbat; today, he began to tackle the newest version.

Thanks to Harry Potter, today was what I believe to be the most peaceful day in our household -- with my daughter reading her first Harry Potter, and my older son reading his newest Harry Potter, and my youngest son lost in his Pokemon adventures on GameBoy.

And if that wasn't enough, later in the day, my oldest son watched a Harry Potter film on the computer and the other two watched one on DVD.

Harry Potter is welcome in my home anytime; not only is he a wizard, but he also makes a great baby-sitter.

You think if I gave Harry half a chance, and check him out, he might just work his magic on me, too?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Get a Leg Up

We've had Max for a year and a half, and he will turn two years old in a couple of weeks.

Although we already had a dog before Max, I'm still observing and in awe of learning about canines.

Now, if anyone out there knows, please please tell me this: Why, if Max has already peed -- with evidence -- at the onset of a walk, does he continue to lift that leg at every light post, hydrant mailbox, and bush ... ? Doesn't he know that the reservoir has dried up? What the heck is he "marking his territory with"?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Life Continues...

I guess it's time to give an update for those readers who, like me, worry...and more importantly, care.

Of course I could've written in here during the week but I did not want to read my words after; I couldn't truly convey what I was feeling, what I was hearing, what I was seeing and what I was knowing. Capturing those feelings, thoughts, sights and sounds truly hurts.

We got through our family "simcha" last weekend, but the absence of my father was heavily felt by all -- friends and family from near and far who attended the bar mitzvah or who couldn't attend but heard the news; even my brother's rabbi, who has met my father many times over the years, felt heart-heavy that he wasn't there but was lying in a hospital bed.

When I saw my father in hospital throughout the week, he was a changed man. In May, with his hospitalization, he bounced back rather quickly. This time, it wasn't evident. Confusion reigned and the comments that followed clearly showed that; when in bed, he tried to get out all the time. A night sitter was assigned to him, but it did not greatly appease the situation. My mother got phone calls at 1 a.m. and later on a few nights saying that my father was anxious and yelling and disturbing other patients.

When I saw him in the day, he was angry and upset and even delusional, accusing my mother of things, suddenly seemingly being "out of love" with her. He wanted to die, he couldn't take it anymore...the horrible comments went on and on. And there were tears -- from him. From this stoic survivor who has endured so many difficult situations and come through them over and over and over. But to look at him and listen to him this time, I could not think that he could endure yet again.

Was it the meds taking over him, was it the trauma of another seizure taking over him, was it a fall he had on Thursday taking over him? Would this be a permanent state of mind and of body?

When social workers spoke to my mother and I and asked how he'd been before coming in to the hospital last week, and we said he was almost 100%, it was hard to believe the change/the downfall that we were witnessing.

But to bring my father home was the aim.

And we were able to bring him home on Friday afternoon. When I went to see him before Shabbos, he was tired, oh so tired. Tired of his suffering, tired of his pain...perhaps tired of life? It was so difficult for me to get through Shabbos not knowing what was going on in their home; I was continually afraid I'd receive a phone call on Friday night or Saturday. But thank G-d things were not so so bad. Yes, he was tired; yes, he was weak...but once again, he tried to follow his little routines. Perhaps too much, too soon...but he tried. And for that we're grateful.

I don't know what the immediate or distant future holds for my family -- but as my father always says, "One day at a time."

If you can, please continue to daven for a refuah shlema for Yaakov Arieh ben Chaya Malka.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Life Is What Happens...

...when you're busy making other plans.

My father and mother had their 51st wedding anniversary on June 24.

My father had his 87th birthday on July 4.

He called me in the morning that day and told me to come over for lunch. After lunch, he said, "Thanks for coming over." I said, "Thanks for having a birthday."

I meant that in every way because of the medical difficulties and hospitalizations my father has endured in the past number of years. Bli ayin hara, he is able to continue celebrating.

This weekend our family has a celebration: my nephew's bar mitzvah. It's my brother's youngest son who will be called up to the Torah tomorrow to lain his parsha. My sister-in-law has a large family and relatives are coming from far and wide to join in the simcha; our family is not so large, but we also have relatives coming from far and wide to help celebrate the day and be with our family.

For out-of-town guests, there is a dinner tonight at the shul; tomorrow is a luncheon following services; my first cousin will be speaking for shalosh seudos back at the shul and some guests will be at my brother's house for shalosh seudos. Sunday morning is a brunch at my brother's house.

It has been something to look forward to, and moreso because of the trying times our family has been going through with my dad. Silently I kept thanking G-d and thought we'll have to say a "Shehecheyanu" at shul on my father's behalf.

My mother has told me over the past few weeks that my father keeps saying that he wishes the weekend were over -- it's not because he doesn't want to have some joy in his life, but because he wants to know that he's reached yet another milestone and gotten through it. I kept thinking that the weekend and the simcha itself would just be overwhelming for my dad because of the emotional rollercoaster he will ride with all these close family members around.

As I said in the title, life is what happens when you make other plans. We have been planning for this simcha but my father is now in the hospital. My mother called me around 12:30 in the afternoon yesterday to say that she'd called the ambulance because something was terribly wrong with my father -- he was confused about many things, was so impatient and also suddenly couldn't open a hand. The ambulance took him to a hospital that is good with stroke victims because it's possible that's what he had. He was in emergency all day and was finally admitted last night to a room. For certain, there have been more mini seizures, not necessarily strokes, and for certain my father is in a hospital bed, partially lucid, partially confused, constantly wanting to get out of the bed.

My father will not be at his grandson's simcha. I feel so bad...not fso much for me, but for my mother, my father, my brother and his family and my nephew. We thank G-d that my father is alive to reach this date, yet he is not able to reach the shul. It puts a damper on the whole simcha. I said to my husband, "I'll be there, but my heart won't be in it." He agreed.

When my kids came home from day camp yesterday, I told them that "Zaydie is in the hospital again." My daughter exclaimed, "WHAT? The day after his birthday?"

What a sad irony to life...

Who knows how things will turn out, and why they turn out the way they do, but we have to believe it's all for a GREATER reason.

My father's name is Yaakov Arieh ben Chaya Malka.

Good Shabbos.