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 aback...by 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: http://adsoftheworld.com/

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.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Baby Loves

Baby Loves. Written by Michael Lawrence, illustrated by Adrian Reynolds. Published by DK Publishing.

This is the cover of the book that I gave Ezzie when I met him in Toronto some time ago. His sweetie-pie Elianna was just a few months old at the time, but I figured it would be a story that she could grow into. And apparently she has -- it's a favorite book of hers.

We also own a copy and it was a favorite of my kids over the past few years, and... Psst... I'm nearing age 46 and it's a favorite book of mine too!

Although I can't scan the pages for the colorful art, I will copy the text for you. You just have to use your imagination for the fanciful artwork.

Baby loves MOMMY AND DADDY more than anything in the world. Except...

[turn page]


Baby loves breakfast more than anything in the world except...

[turn page]


Baby loves Teddy more than anything in the world except...

[turn page]


Baby loves KItty more than anything in the world except...

[turn page]


Baby loves slippers more than anything in the world except...

[turn page -- I can imagine you people are saying, "We get it, we get it...you don't have to write `turn page.' " Nevertheless...)


Baby loves flowers more than anything in the world except...

[turn page]


Baby loves Granny more than anything in the world except...

[turn page]


Baby loves hat more than anything in the world except...

[turn page]


Baby loves sunshine more than anything in the world except...

[turn page]


Baby loves rain more than anything in the world except...

[turn page]


Baby loves drum more than anything in the world except...

[turn page]


Baby loves Duckie more than anything in the world except...

[turn page]


Baby loves bathtime more than anything in the world except...

[turn page]


And Mommy and Daddy love Baby more than anything in the world except...

[turn page]


Mommy and Daddy love BABY more than anything in the world...

[turn page]

For Ezzie's sake, I want to make an amendment to the story, just to be in sync with SerandEz.
Baby loves bathtime more than anything in the world except...
Baby loves The Cleveland CAVS more than anything in the world except...
Baby loves blogging more than anything in the world except...
Baby loves blogging more than anything in the world...

Tag -- I'm IT!

You know, how as a little kid, when you sometimes watch other kids play a game in a schoolyard... And you hope they'll ask you to play too, but you're not really sure you want to...?
Well, that's how I feel about the EIGHT MEME.

I've seen the meme floating around the blogosphere for a few weeks and thought it looked kind of neat. I sort of wanted to do it, but my name never appeared on a "you're tagged" list. And in those instances when the bloggers say they won't tag people but whoever wants to do it can, well I thought it looked kind of lame if I take it upon myself to do the meme that I wasn't tagged for.

But today, July 4, 2007, I am playing that game called EIGHT MEME, thanks to Elie of Elie's Expositions.

Here are the rules:

Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed.
At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

I must admit, though. I will not tag anyone. Many people have done this while others don't like to be put in the position to do a tag. So, if you'd like, you can follow suit with your own list of eight. Don't be the wuss like me, who waited to be "called upon."

1. I am forever singing...especially in our ensuite shower that has amazing acoustics.

2. This is a quirk of mine: I cannot have a large salad bowl in front of me, with the servers on this side of the bowl. I need to put the servers on the far side of the bowl. Somehow I feel they're in my space bubble, if I don't -- like they're crowding me.

3. Even though I studied piano for years and years, I cannot complete any one song by memory.

4. Give me pasta, give me cheese and I am very very pleased!

5. Sometimes I like knowing that I have the power to move people enough with my words or personal messages to make them cry.

6. I don't know how to have a good argument...so I often back down from one.

7. My childish social hangups often still make an appearance in public settings.

8. I'm often disappointed when I make assumptions and expect too much of people.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Julie Andrews Sings Yiddish

Who'd have guessed that Mary Poppins and Maria from The Sound of Music would sing a beautiful Yiddish "niggun"!

(Also see Mary Tyler Moore in this scene from Thoroughly Modern Millie)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Spielberg, Eat Your Heart Out

I was just reviewing old emails and and came across one that mentioned a link with which I'd had a lot of fun.

I think you will too!

Try it. You never know: you might just be a really good filmmaker.


All My Loved Ones

My eyes are still damp from a movie I finished watching about twenty minutes ago: "All My Loved Ones."

It's another foreign film -- Czech -- but with no traces of quirkiness, only a sense of seriousness and a slight heaviness, as we know this film mirrors life...as it was for Czech and other Jews of Eastern and Western Europe and other countries with the onset of World War 2.

I cried because even though this is a film, it is a recreation of history, a recreation of family life before and during the war. I'm not saying "after the war" because in my cases, there was no recreation of family life, sadly enough.

Perhaps the acting is not supreme and maybe some of the details of the film lack a certain "je ne sais quoi," but I do recommend the film for its sense of realism.

The film is directed by Metej Minac, who is the son of a child who was on the kindertransport, and is based on his mother's recollections.

The copy on the movie cover says: "To save his life, they had to say goodbye."

Just think of how many parents had to say goodbye....