Thursday, December 31, 2009

Picture This! -- Part 3

Back in March 2005 and April 2005, I wrote a couple blog posts about my neglect of putting family photos in albums since my oldest son was about 18 months old. His sister came along when Avi was two years, two months and two days. And his brother came along a few years later, in March 2000. Imagine all those baby pics, sitting in photo processing envelopes, in supermarket bags, strewn in drawers, in cupboards, in crawlspaces.

Back in 2005, my husband threatened to take all the pics and put them in albums himself -- my neglect has continually been a sore point with him -- but he would have done so haphazardly, without any sequence. I panicked and was supposed to take on the project  a few years ago.

I didn't.

I am pleased to say that I FINALLY took on this photo arranging project this past week.

As I told my husband, Ron, it's the ultimate punishment, the ultimate "I TOLD YOU SO." I've been going batty, trying to find the sequences of  each child. Yes, I had actually labeled and dated some of the photos  when I got them back from the developer. But those photos in their envelopes are not sitting in any orderly fashion, according to months and years. It's somewhat of a guessing game as I plow through these moments in time.

But I am slowly making headway, and was able to help my firstborn celebrate his second b'day in pictures, then finally bring my daughter into the world and watch her in her first few months.

I stopped putting the photos in albums for now and in the meantime have just been arranging the envelopes with dates and years so that they can be in the correct sequence for when I do place their pics in the albums.

What can I say? It's definitely labor...but a labor of love, as I review our life in photos -- with cherished family members and friends...some of whom have departed this world and whom we miss enormously.

Perhaps lucky for me, my pics mainly carry me up to about 5 years ago. After that? We went digital!

I guess I can sum up my long-overdue photo archiving experience in this way, with this wonderful quote by an unknown author:

She glances at the photo, and the pilot light of memory flickers in her eyes.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I watched this movie tonight with my husband. Peter Riegert, Isabella Rossellini, Eli Wallach, Beverly D'Angelo, Rita Moreno, Eric Bogosian are just some of the stellar cast. It's a sweet, quirky film co-written and directed by Peter Riegert...the "pickle man" from CROSSING DELANCEY.

A man looking for a new purpose in his life finds one that last place he expected in this comedy. Leo Spivak (Peter Riegert) is a man slowly sinking into the quicksand of a midlife crisis. He's become increasingly unsatisfied with his career in product testing, especially now that his young assistant Ed (Jake Hoffman -- [Dustin's son]) has taken to stealing his ideas and passing them on to his boss as his own work. Leo's marriage to Rachel (Isabella Rossellini) is not what it once was, especially now that she's shifted into a constant state of near-hysteria over their daughter, Elena (Ashley Johnson), and her budding romance with an aspiring juvenile delinquent. And Leo is spending every other weekend with his aging father, Sol (Eli Wallach), who has lost his will to live but uncooperatively won't die. As Leo puzzles over his path in life, he finds some very unexpected answers when he makes the acquaintance of Evelyn Fink (Eric Bogosian), a "freelance Rabbi" with some unusual spiritual advice. King of the Corner was directed and co-written by leading man Riegert; the screenplay was adapted from stories in the collection Bad Jews by Gerald Shapiro. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Ramen Girl

I watched this movie on TV last night and although I turned it on about a half hour into the movie, it was WONDERFUL.

Please click on the title of this blog post and you will link to a trailer of the movie.

I'd only seen Brittany in fluffy kinds of movies before, but she was rather masterful in this one.

It was a sweet story, and although Brittany's character Abby is a stranger in a strange land, where things get lost in translation, she manages to overcome and prove her worth.

The characters in the film are well portrayed and I'm glad I sat up till 1:30 watching it.

I give it 4 ****.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Year in Review: A Brief Summary

What can I say?

I lost my dear father this year in early March. That set the tone for the rest of 2009.

We celebrated -- in a toned down way -- our dear daughter Adina's bat mitzvah in August.

We traveled as a family to Israel in August.

My oldest child started high school in September.

His braces came off while his friends' braces went on!

Some of my poetry was published.

I marked 16 wonderful years of marriage to my beshert.

The good mixed in with the sad. Such is life...

As 2009 nears its end later this week, I will continue to remember this year's goings-on and will look forward to a brighter 2010.

I wish each and every one of you a bright, happy and healthy 2010. May your year be filled with celebrations of every kind and good times shared with family and friends.

A Blog Oops

You may notice that the front page of my blog looks slightly different. Unintentionally, I modified the page, but in doing so, my blogroll was erased. So some of you have disappeared.

I've been trying to recall the URLs of those blogs I read/have been reading over the past five years, and am slowly remembering and listing them.

Please, if you know that I read your blog, and you don't see your blog's name on the right-hand side of the page, do me a favor and contact me to tell me. A gentle reminder is all I need.

Thanking you in advance...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Grey Gardens

Last night I sat and watched this film, starring Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore, and released this year. What a brilliant film, what brilliant acting.

Drew, who normally has quite a noticeable speech impediment, took vocal coaching to learn how to speak EXACTLY like Little Edie. Boy, did she do a super job. As did Jessica.

So super, that these women come across very spooky on the TV screen.

Apparently, much of the film was shot in Toronto -- news to me!

What was even spookier was right after the movie finished, another GREY GARDENS came on, but this time it was the actual documentary released in 1975 about Big Edie and Little Edie. I was very tired and could only stay up to watch a little of the movie, but the eeriness was in the fact that the dialogue, the scenery, the wardrobe were identical (as much as can be) to what I'd watched for two hours prior. Having seen the great similarities, I could then stress even more what fabulous acting Jessica and Drew did.

I do recommend both the documentary and the contemporary films. Perhaps rent them both and watch them in the other order than what I saw: watch the earlier movie first and see how well it was interpreted and reenacted by the 2009 crew.

Another "thinking man's film."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Condoms & Jewish History

I recently finished reading this book; perhaps it's not the type of book that I'd normally read, but I'm glad that it was recommended and sent to me by a book publicist.

Fromm's story is a fascinating one -- a blend of family, sexual mores, and business...combined with general and Jewish history -- and it left me quite sad and even angry. I might've heard stories in general about the Nazi regime and the power of the German government, but here is a story about a particular family who was robbed of so much of its personal identity.

Fromms Act was the first brand-name, top-quality condom in prewar Germany, and Julius Fromm was the man, the successful entrepreneur, who made the condom and the business behind it a business landmark in Germany.

This book tells about Julius's rise as an emigre from Russia, his work ethics and attempts in the business world, the conditions of Germany for the Jews and general public in the twenties and thirties, and his success. The conditions began to change when Nazi power came into effect, and Fromm's Act and Julius's financial state began to falter.

Julius and his family fled to London in 1939 after being forced to sell his model business for a fraction of its worth. We learn about his homes and personal effects -- and finances --being taken over by the Nazis. This man, who was proud to call himself a German Jew and had built himself up into a status entity, was cheated by the government. . . as were so many others.

The book provides an historical and social look at German Jewry between the wars, and the tragic outcome that befell the country with the onset of Hitler coming to power.

Translated by Shelley Frisch, the book was written by Gotz Aly and Michael Sontheimer, and features photos of the Fromm family and their businesses. It is put out by Other Press. .

For an insightful read about a Jewish family within an historical and business perspective, I suggest you find yourself a copy of Fromm's: How Julius Fromm's Condom Empire Fell to the Nazis.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Let's Talk Turkey

"Gobble, Gobble, Gobble."

Translation: I hope my American friends, family and readers have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Now count your many blessings and say "Amen."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

My Fourth Child

People tend to recall what made them fall in love with someone ... or something.

This is what made me fall in love with Max...enough to adopt him nearly four years ago.
He continues to be a well-loved member of the Saban household!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fitting Words

I am very slow to post pics when necessary -- it doesn't help that I don't know how to download pics from a digital camera and have to wait for my husband to do so.

For that reason, I can't yet post pics of my father's tombstone and its wording, but I can share this pasuk from Tehillim, Chapter 15, Verse 2, that I found and suggested to my brother. It received a thumb's up and appeared on the stone...very appropriate for my father because of what it says and also because he read from Tehillim daily.

הוֹלֵךְ תָּמִים, וּפֹעֵל צֶדֶק; וְדֹבֵר אֱמֶת, בִּלְבָבוֹ

He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh truth in his heart

Sunday, November 08, 2009

No Purse Snatchers Here!

I go to synagogue on a regular basis. It is an Orthodox congregation, Modern Orthodox, with some less observant people thrown in for good measure. I've gotten used to that and am pleased that some people at least make an effort to come to shul, even if they are not Shomrei Shabbos.

Among the women, there are some who come infrequently, toting shoulder bags...reasonably small purses that they string on their shoulders.

Our shul is small, held in the chapel of a Jewish day school. There have been no reports of thefts or purse snatchings in the area. That being the case, please tell me why these purse-toting women cannot put their purses under their seats, or beside them on the bench. When the time comes to stand and pray, they secure their purse straps on their shoulders!

I thought it's sort of a bubby thing to do, something I'd seen in the past...when older women attend bar and bat mitzvahs or weddings and even then often sit with their purses on their laps. Okay, so maybe they think the waitstaff might snatch the purse or its contents while it's resting on the table and they're up on the dance floor doing a Hora or the foxtrot. So that's a bit more understandable.

But it truly is ridiculous for these women in shul -- and there's a 50 year old amidst the noted few -- to sling their purses on their shoulders and join the congregation in praying, especially when they have to bend forward for certain prayers. No doubt those straps slip off the shoulder.

It's not as if all their worldly goods are inside that little pouch; perhaps a house key, (or a car key for some), a breath mint, or a tissue lay in wait. Please, ladies, if you are to bring a purse to an Orthodox shul, don't display it proudly on your shoulder as you daven. You look ridiculous and fearful..

If someone is out to get you, it won't be in shul, it'll be during the kiddush following services!

Monday, November 02, 2009


I was in the middle of a dream this a.m., just before I woke up. In the dream, I was at the Beth Jacob section of Lambton Cemetery. (where my father is buried) My mother said she didn't want to linger there, even though I wanted to "explore" the area -- I could see stone quarries way up in the distance too -- and read the headstones, and she started to lead the way out, followed by my brothers. I looked behind me and my father ( a much younger, virile version) was with us, trailing me... Then I woke up.

That dream made me sad and pensive at the same time.

We were all together -- younger versions of us -- for a brief time, and it is as if, although my father was "watching my back", he was left behind ... 'cause that's when I woke up.

Yes, he has been left behind in that cemetery in real life, just as in that dream. But contrary to the dream and the feelings it left me with, yesterday, with the unveiling, with the speeches given, with the multiple stones and blades of grass left on the headstone, with the beautiful and perfect wording on the front and rear of the headstone, and with the vast and varied crowd of people who came to honor us and honor our father's memory, I left the cemetery thinking "It's okay now. His place his marked. His murdered-by-the-Nazis family has a final resting place with him. He can now rest in true peace. Everything is truly okay."


Some other thoughts that had crossed my mind about the unveiling:

--We changed the clocks yesterday an hour back; my father died on March 8, the day we'd put our clocks ahead. I sat at my father's bedside in hospital with my brothers all through the Saturday night, watching the clock on the wall and checking my watch with its second hand, wondering that at whatever point in time my dad passes away (we knew it was a death watch), will it be deemed via "old time" or "new time."

--We randomly chose November 1 for the unveiling; November 2 was the secular date that my father's mother and sister were massacred in his hometown.

-- Last year, a week from yesterday, we held the unveiling for my mother-in-law.

I think November will forever be a memorable month for us all.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Life Cycles

In a week's time, G-d willing, Sunday, November 1st, 1:00 p.m., we will be having the unveiling for my father, Jacob Adler, z"l.

He passed away on Sunday, March 8th, 12th of Adar, and was buried a few hours later.

We began to pick up the pieces and try to carry on with our lives as best as we could. Needless to say, it's been the most difficult on my mother, who was physically and emotionally the closest to my father. He was her focal point for over 52 years, but especially for the past several years while his health deteriorated, and her days and nights revolved around him and his well-being.

With that focal point gone, the Adler home has been lonely, the routines have been dispersed.

We began to gently prod my mother in the summer to think about the unveiling and try to decide when to do it: in the summer, before the High Holidays, before the winter...? My mother kept putting off the conversation, as she was not ready to have it. A stone would make it final...too final for her, and she wasn't yet prepared.

But as the months passed by, and the seasons began to change, the topic was open to discussion once more, and we began to take the first steps: discussing when we might have the ceremony, discussing what to put on the headstone, discussing from where to order the headstone and what type of stone and design we should have.

Time. It all took time. Time to talk, time to plan, time to seek out guidance from others who might know better than us all the ins and outs of this task, time to find the right words, the right "pesukim" from holy writings that would encapsulate who my father was--as a person, as a Jew and as a family man.

We are now ready. (Is anyone ever ready, really?) An aunt will be traveling from the U.S. to be with us; a cousin from the U.S. and several of his children will be traveling to be with us. My brother and his wife will be traveling from the U.S. to be with us.

With us. With our family. With our friends. With those who are able to join us in honoring my father's memory and pure goodness.

After the unveiling, I will share with you the inscription on his headstone.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Thought for the Day

To smile with one’s eyes is a gift.
To smile with one’s heart is a blessing.
My father smiled with his eyes and his heart.
And we were gifted and blessed.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Stripes, Prints or Solids?

Walk to your linen closet, or to the cabinets under the sink in the bathroom. Open the door. Pull out a handful of bath towels. Look them over very carefully.

What do you see?

Are your bath towels solids? Are they prints? Or are they striped?

I was looking over at the towel rack in my ensuite and it hit me: so many of our towels have stripes. Depending on how the towel is hung, they can be either vertical or horizontal stripes.

Whereas vertical stripes have a thinning effect, horizontal stripes offer the opposite. So why the heck were beach and bath towels designed to be wrapped around one's body in such a way that the stripes are horizontal?!

Women wrap themselves in their horizontal striped towel, then drop the towel to get on the scale and check their weight. "Yay, I dropped those horizontal stripes and three pounds just fell away with them!"

Did the inventor of terry-cloth or plush velour or basic cotton towels decide that white towels were bland and boring, that color needed to be added, that stripes needed to be added to help enhance one's look, that the pruning of one's skin following a lengthy shower or bath just didn't cut it.

Do take a survey and let me know: are the majority of your bath towels striped?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Sweetie by Any Other Name

Taffy. Honey. Candy. Sherry.

Food and drink. Mmmm. Yummy. Sweet. Tasty.

Female names. Ewwww. Overkill.

'Nuff said.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Seen on the Scene

I am not going to public movie theaters this year because I am in my year of mourning for my father, but I do watch movies at home, on TV or on DVD, and late last night I watched much of one movie, and this morning, I watched the tail end of another.

I liked what I saw and would like to make recommendations. Throughout the day I was thinking of these films, recalling snippets of dialogue and action, character development, scenery, etc, and thus I continue to call such movies "thinking men's movies". It wasn't as if I saw them and they flitted out of my head almost immediately, as many films often do. Even though I caught the last 30 minutes of the film this morning, I was entranced and sorry I didn't get to see the complete movie.

They are not lighthearted films in the least, but heavy films. They paint a picture of a time in history, the hurdles people had to confront and how they met their challenges and created their futures.

Grab some popcorn, pull up a seat and watch these films....

The first movie is called "Black Book" or -"Zwartboek"- it is a film about a Jewish woman who becomes part of the Dutch resistance movement in WWII, and infiltrates her way into the Nazi regime. A powerful foreign film, not to be missed.

The movie that I saw a short bit of this a.m. was called "The Great Debaters" -- a drama based on the true story of Melvin B. Tolson, a professor at Wiley College Texas. In 1935, he inspired students to form the school's first debate team, which went on to challenge Harvard in the national championship. The plot touches on racism, lynch mobs, and the Depression.

If you can find the DVDs, watch the films, or if you've already seen them, do let me know what you think.

Friday, September 25, 2009

...And on Yom Kippur It Is Sealed

...may you all be inscribed in the Book of Life -- for a year filled with good health, happiness, sweetness, success.

As you become introspective and daven hard so that your tefillot will be heard and answered, think about one thing you can do to change in the coming year, to better yourself or the people and place around you.

Baby steps in making a change can equal one big step. I wish you success in taking that first step.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bejeweled Life

I'm a blogger. I'm a Facebooker. I'm linked to Twitter, but haven't tweeted yet...although my brothers used to call me a "twit" when I was a kid.

I am now addicted to some Facebook games, namely Jewel Puzzle and Bejeweled Blitz. I spend a lot of time, often in the darkened hall, late at night (such as now!), searching out the similar shapes on the screen.

In playing these two games seriously and somewhat competitively these past couple of weeks, I've come to realize that the games somewhat mirror life:

-- life can be colorful and sparkly, but can sometimes mislead you

-- things move quickly, and if you want to stay in the game, you have to learn the rules

--sometimes you don't quite know what you're doing, but if you hit a few of the right buttons, you can make things work

--patience is necessary at all times

--viewing things from a different angle helps put things in perspective

--all the jewels in the world don't always make you happy

--a competitive streak can give you a headache and tire you out rather rapidly

I challenge you to become "bejeweled" like me...and help put your own life in perspective.

The New Year Takes Healing

As I stood in shul on Shabbos and Sunday, I thought about my dad.

As I heard the chazzan sing the Hebrew for "On Rosh Hashana it is written, on Yom Kippur it is sealed" I thought of my dad. I realized that last Rosh Hashana, Hashem had written down my father's name in his book and on Yom Kippur, my father's fate was sealed.

As I heard the calls of the Shofar awakening us to doing Teshuva in the final days before the book is sealed, I thought of my dad.

At one point, I had a random flashback. I recalled my family shul, when services were over and the women would walk down the stairs from the women's gallery to the main level to find their family members. My mother and I would walk down, caught up in the clusters of womenfolk, and I would scan the lower level for my brothers and father. And when I'd reach my father, we'd exchange kisses and I'd be wished "Gut yontif. A gut yohr."

I miss that. I guess I always will.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Original New Year Greeting (sung to the familiar-to-Ontario "Tiny Talent Time" theme-- more or less)

This is the end of our year

We hope it did bring you good cheer

Now it is time to prepare

Rosh Hashanah is upon us -- beware.

Take all your acts that you've done

Review them each, one by one,

And if you don't like what you see

Improve them so that you can be...

A better Jew!

Shana Tova to each and every one of you. Have a healthy, happy, prosperous and SWEET year.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Etched in Stone

Sometime between now and February, a headstone will be going up for my father.

He passed away on March 8th, the 12th of Adar, after declining health, primarily related to head trauma and seizures.

I find it almost incredible that in some circles, the headstone goes up within the first month. How does one find the strength in them to plan, then order, then carry out such a vital part of post-burial.

My mother is having trouble thinking about even ordering a stone, much less organizing the unveiling. "It seems so final," she says.

Unfortunately, it is final. Every day without her husband/my father/our "Zaydie" in our lives makes it a finality of sorts.

I am forever seeking out passages from the Bible that I can suggest to the family be put on his stone...something that will epitomize the man that he was. A few short lines will have to suffice, but in reality, countless psukim would fit. And as a Levi, he had his place of importance in shul, which can translate to an etching of a water pitcher on his headstone. The man was never far from his Tehillim (Book of Psalms), and that can be another etching. But the words....
And some years ago, it was decided that my father's headstone would also commemorate the lives of my father's mother and two sisters who perished in the Holocaust. The wording for that is also a consideration; although mention will probably be made on the back of the headstone, do we name names, or are we vague and just say "family"; if we name names, do we write them in Hebrew or English?
There really is no right or wrong when one has to order wording for a headstone. One just hopes that the message is clear: the person was loved by someone and his/her memory is to be honored in stone in a perpetual way.
May you all have a long life!!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Wrong Again!

I just finished telling you in my last post that it's often said (especially when it comes to writing/speaking) the straight -- not circuitous -- route from A to B is the best.

Wouldn't you know it! Apparently I'm wrong.

Just finished eating breakfast and reading the newspaper. Came to the horoscopes. Here's today's "forecast" for Libra, my sign:

The shortest route from A to B is not necessarily the quickest. Often, circuitous routes prove to be the most expedient. You're on the right path, even if it seems a bit slow.

After having read this horoscope, I realize it must be me -- not the path I'm on -- that seems a bit slow!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Less Is More

I don't live a very abbreviated life. I'm very detailed, descriptive and long-winded when I speak. I drag out doing chores and other things on my T0 Do list. I simply do not get "to the point" in conversations or even in blogs. But today I will.

Over the years, I've been told over and over "LESS IS MORE" when it comes to writing. Instead of taking a circuitous route to get your piece from point A to point B, you take a direct one and say what you have to say. Your words will likely have more impact, I'm told, and will keep your reader's attention.

So here is a personal essay about this subject:
Less Is More

The end.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Please Tell Me...

why kids are so fascinated by this, why they are so gung-ho to eat hard-boiled eggs...when this object is on the table?
Think about it: it's a knife of sorts. As Wikipedia explains: An egg slicer is a food preparation utensil used to slice peeled, hard-boiled eggs quickly and evenly. An egg slicer consists of a slotted dish for holding the egg and a hinged plate of wires or blades that can be closed to slice.
My kids -- and their friends -- get very excited when I offer them hard boiled eggs. The "oohs & ahhs" are audible when the egg slicer accompanies the bowl of cooked eggs to the table. They argue about who will be the first to use the slicer, which way they should position the egg in the slicer, if they should double-slice the eggs to make them really small pieces, ie. messy crumbs aka prelude to egg salad.
I haven't yet shared a secret about the egg slicer with my kids and their friends: it can also be used for mushrooms! Shh...don't spill the beans, um, I mean the egg, um I mean the mushrooms.

A Mother's D'var Torah

Yesterday was my daughter's bat mitzvah. She gave a d'var Torah at shul after davening, and we had a kiddush for the congregation. Then our family and some of my daughter's friends came back to our house for lunch.

I gave a d'var Torah; I didn't realize that I would get choked up and would falter, having to stop a few times to reel in my emotions and gather myself. A simcha isn't 100% a simcha when some very important people in your life are missing. Memories and feelings surface even from the deep subconscious and control one's thoughts and emotions.

My daughter is twelve. Sadly enough, her Savta and Zaidy were not there in person to share her special day.

August 29, 2009.
Parshat Ki-Tetze
Speech at Adina’s bat mitzvah lunch at home:

Good Shabbos, family and friends, and thank you for joining us today.

Sixteen years ago, in 1993, I spent Shabbos Nachamu, which fell on the last day of July, at the home of who was to become my future mother-in-law, Liora, z”l. When I called home after Shabbos, my parents asked me, “Any news?” They were hinting at whether or not I’d gotten engaged over Shabbat. The answer was “No.”

Four years later, I spent Shabbos Nachamu at home, and the last 45 minutes of that Shabbos were spent at North York General Hospital, on the Maternity floor, with 20 of those 45 minutes being given over to giving birth to my second child.

When told, “It’s a girl!” my immediate reply was “I fished my wish!” And when Shabbos was out some twenty minutes later, we were able to call my parents and my mother-in-law and answer the “Any news?” question with a resounding “Yes” and “Mazel tov!”

From the time that I was a young girl, growing up with brothers, I’d always hoped that a daughter would be in my future. I’d wanted to be able to name a daughter after my father’s, z”l, cherished youngest sister, Meriam, who perished in the Holocaust.

Our own Meriam – Adina Meriam, to be exact – is equally cherished.

Finding herself between an older and a younger brother, Adina has grown up learning to be a little tough and defend herself, while at the same time, showing her delicate, sensitive, all-caring side, a true reflection of her first name. Yes, there may be bickering and hormone-related arguments regularly ensuing in our home between Adina and her brothers, but a camaraderie definitely exists and I’m hopeful this kinship will develop strongly over the years.

My daughter has the same blue eyes & freckles I have. But for the most part, our similarities are mainly physical. Growing up, I was quiet, an introvert, insecure in my surroundings. Adina, on the other hand, has proven herself to be -- from a young age -- very social. Always happy among others, laughing, sharing secrets, making others feel secure in their surroundings, and instantly becoming friends with strangers.

Her helpful, nurturing, caring side are evident in her interaction with adults, friends, young children and animals, and clearly were there in her interaction with her late Savta and Zaidy, as they are with her Bubby.

Adina loves to draw and read. It doesn’t matter how many times she’s read the same book from cover to cover, but if she’s enjoyed it, she’ll read it yet again. The Harry Potter series is just one example.

Her creativity comes through in her artwork, in her flare for fashion, and in her very detailed conversations, stories and image-filled poetry. Ah, a girl after my own heart…

We recently returned from a family trip to Israel. After so many years of not being in that wonderful country, Ron and I got to experience Israel not only from our own points of view, but from that of our children, as well, who were experiencing Israel for the first time. It is evident from Adina’s photos and conversations in Israel that she took it all in, observing fine details with her “Adina viewfinder.”

This week’s parsha, Ki Tetzei, teaches numerous mitzvot, such as: returning lost items to their rightful owners; loaning money to one's fellow Jew free from interest; what one is permitted to or prohibited from taking from another Jew as loan security, shatnez (wool and linen together); tzitzit; and dealing fairly and truthfully with one's fellow Jews in business. The Maftir aliyah of our parsha tells us collectively to remember, for all time the actions of Amalek, who attacked B'nai Yisrael when they were weak, while blotting the remembrance of Amalek from the earth. We remember the Amalek without, as well as the Amalek within; lo nishcach v'lo nislach - we won't forgive and we won't forget.

The parsha speaks about other mitzvot, such as sending a mother bird away before taking the young or the eggs, helping one's fellow Jew load and unload a burden, fencing in a roof area, and not harnessing together different species of animals on the same yoke.

In short, our parsha emphasizes the unity that evolves from collective responsibility, kindness, caring and fairness for and with each other. Among many of the taught mitzvot, compassion and protection are common themes.

Our wish -- mine, Abba’s, Avi’s, and Noam’s -- for you, Adina, is that you will continue to be, as well as, further develop the compassionate person you are, who is also passionate about certain interests and ideals…including shmirat halashon. You often make us aware of our words to you and our words about others, and for that we’re grateful. May you continue to be protective of your own words, protective of the people around you and protective of your Jewish values and ideals.

Mazel tov, Adina, on becoming a Bat Mitzvah. We love you!!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Coincidences of the Wonderful Kind

When I first visited and spent time in Israel all those years ago, I had several coincidences happen to me, mainly with running into people in special circumstances. I thought then "Only in Israel."

We had a couple incidents happen this time 'round too. And it made me once again think "Only in Israel" and "the world is very small...and seems to be getting smaller and smaller all the time!"

Between early January and mid-March 1984, I was a volunteer on Kibbutz Lavi. Not only was I a volunteer, I was the ONLY North American volunteer at the time. When I'd gone to the Mizrachi office in Israel to try and organize a volunteer stint on a religious/Kosher kibbutz, the shaliach suggested I go to her kibbutz. As long as it was close enough to a main city, I was game.

As well, the kibbutz was deemed an Anglo kibbutz, having been founded by Americans and English olim.

So on the kibbutz, I lived with the "garin." These are religious soldiers who have placement on kibbutzim and also learn in Jerusalem. I was given a host family, and became an adoptive daughter to Moshe and Tova (Toby ) Winter, former New Yorkers.

Over the years upon my return to Toronto, I did maintain some contact with the Winter family, but that dwindled and disappeared about 12 years ago or more.

On this trip, our family took a side trip with friends to the north for a couple of days: Tiberias, Tzfat, Rosh Pina, the Golan. As we were traveling on the familiar highway that passes Kibbutz Lavi, I said that if we'd have time, it would be nice to stop in there, let my kids see what a kibbutz looks like -- especially the kibbutz their mom worked on -- and maybe look up the Winter family.

We drove around the perimeters of the kibbutz and I pointed out the well-known kibbutz hotel where I worked for a time in the dining room, and then our friend pointed out a woman and said, "She looks like she's been on the kibbutz a while; let's ask her if she knows your kibbutz family and where to find them."

My husband stopped the van and our friend addressed the woman in Hebrew asking if she knows where to find "Mishpachat Winter." She replied, "Eyzeh?" (which one?) Our friend said, "Moshe." The woman then calls out to a man who's walking nearby and in Hebrew says, "Moshe, someone is looking for you!"

The man came to the car, and there stood my "adoptive" dad! I called out from the back seat , saying who I was, and that I hadn't been there in 25 years. He immediately invited us to come visit at the house with his wife.

Can you imagine that this man was davka RIGHT THERE when we were seeking him out!?

We did have a lovely reunion with his wife and I saw a couple of his sons, who were just children at the time I was there before.

Kibbutz Lavi has a hotel and also has a factory where they build synagogue furniture. A couple of the Winter sons, who still live on the kibbutz, are involved with that. And wouldn't you know it-- back in April/May, one of those sons was in Toronto to oversee the installation of some of the furniture in an addition to a Chabad shul that is a mere 7 minute walk from my house. That son stayed at a private home a street away from us!?

The reunion and the fact that Moshe Winter was right there when we asked about him certainly put a smile on my face and on the faces of our family and friends.

Only in Israel....

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Something I Copied from a Display in Yad Vashem (the photo is an image off Google, though)

"Not the bridge, not the barbed wire,
Not even the gate is the symbol of the ghetto...

The symbol of the ghetto is the pot..."

--from the notes of Yosef Zelkowicz in the Lodz Ghetto


We landed in Toronto about 6:30 a.m. on Sunday, got into our house by 8:00 a.m., and at 11 a.m. my husband and I were already back in the opposite direction suburbs (very close to the airport, as a matter of fact), to attend an unveiling of a family friend.

Following the unveiling, everyone was invited back to the house of one of the children, to drink a l'chaim and partake in some food. I asked one of the children what the house number was, and thought I remembered it.

By the time we got back to the family member's street some time later, the house number had completely left my mind. My husband and I started to drive down the not-too-long street, and look for any house that had several vehicles parked nearby, and hopefully familiar ones. We parked and began to walk.

We passed a house and a man came out. I said to my husband, "That man was at the unveiling. This must be the house." But just to be sure, as he walked down the driveway, I asked if this was the F----berg home, and he said yes.

On the balcony outside was a basin of water to wash hands after the cemetery (we'd already done so outside our car), so we assumed this was the house. We walked in....

I began to look for members of the family or friends I recognized. Not a one in sight. No family photos on the wall either to indicate thiswas indeed the F------berg home.

My husband and I decided then and there we were no doubt in the wrong house! OY, with a capital O and Y !

How does one walk in and walk out within seconds without seeming obvious? Well, my husband ended up speaking to a person who looked like a homeowner, seemingly because we had "lost puppy" and bewildered expressions on our faces, and explained the situation. She smiled, my husband expressed his condolences to her, and she gave us directions to the correct house.

When we got to the correct house, we told our story. Someone topped it by telling a story of someone who went to the wrong banquet hall for a bar mitzvah, ate appetizers there, wished the bar mitzvah kid mazel tov on camera...and then discovered that they were at a bat mitzvah, not a bar mitzvah, and at the wrong hall.

I guess the moral of the story is: May we only share simchas!!

Glimpses into the Holy Land

I just returned with my family from a two-week trip to Israel.

I haven't been to Israel in years...25 to be exact! So much has changed, so much has remained the same.

The physical landscape has changed, with new buildings and development throughout the country.

But the heart of Israel -- the Jewish nation -- remains. Every visible stripe of Jew can be found throughout. Every type of kippah and head covering adorn the heads of men and women. Tzitzit fringes flutter freely on men and boys of every size.

Jerusalem. The city of gold...and pink...and white...and blue. Magnificent, beautiful, striking and enveloping. Coddling us, as we coddle it.

People tell me that when they travel UP to Jerusalem, they are encaptured by an overwhelming rush of emotion, a pure happiness meant to sustain. I understand that myself now. A deflation of sorts happens as you drive down, out of Jerusalem, its scenery reflected in the rearview mirror.

To attend a wedding, with the backdrop of Jerusalem as the tableau, the bride and groom under the open-aired chupah, the glass being broken followed by a beautiful cantorial rendition of "Im Eshkachech Yerushalayim (If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem)" takes one's breath away. As does the country. As do the sunsets. As do the Welcome signs.

Israel...IS Real.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

RC...and I Don't Mean the Cola

Back in June 1980, just before I graduated from high school (GASP!), I, Ms. Sentimentality, passed around an autograph book to classmates and friends to sign.

One of the autographs has always stood out in my mind.

The message read:
Poil Baby:
Well it looks like the jig is up! It's been a pleasure, and I hope I bump into you some day on easy street.
Stay well,
Zei Gesundt [this was actually written in Yiddish]
Robert Cait
Now I'm not sure why I always remembered this message as opposed to most others in my autograph book -- I think it was the haimesche Yiddish sign-off that might've done it...or NOT.
In any case, the jig was never up for Robert Cait, and although I haven't run into him in the past twenty-nine years, I'd like to think that he's on easy street...or at least "easier street."
Robert Cait was a classmate of mine in my Jewish day school and eventually in the public high school I attended for my last 3 years of high school. Not only was he a classmate, but for a time, his mother was our principal! And not only was he a classmate, but he was a FUNNY classmate.
He has honed his humor over the years, honed his acting skills, developed his voice to do voice-overs (actually he's called a "voice actor") and gone on to do what he has always loved: COMEDY.
These days he often blends his humor with his Jewishness, and as a result his DVD "KOSHER, NOT KOSHER" evolved.
Here he shares some of his taste in comedy. And here. And here. And here are some more of his thoughts: "Don't cross the Jewish mafia...they'll put a sub-contract out on you." or "My mother was actually part of the Jewish mafia. But now she's in the witness overprotection program." or "Noah and the ark? Not Jewish. No Jew could travel with all of that meat and not barbeque."
And when and if you have some time, check out Luke Ford's interview with Rob. His relaying aspects of day school made me smile...
And ordering and watching Kosher, Not Kosher will no doubt make you smile too.

Monday, June 22, 2009

We're Raising a Graduate

Tomorrow night, our eldest, Avi, will be graduating from middle school -- grade 8.

In my day, we called it junior high; in my day, graduation took place at the end of grade 9. Grades 7, 8, 9 comprised junior high. These days, grades 6, 7, 8 comprise middle school.

I still remember September, 9 years ago, taking Avi to school for senior kindergarten. At the time, I was still on maternity leave, till October, with my youngest son, Noam. I would take Avi, and shlep the baby in his carrier till Avi was settled in the school yard with his friends.

It's been very interesting and wonderful to watch him grow up over the years since senior kindergarten. His general characteristics of being kind and respectful, shy, but happy-go-lucky have not changed. His love of sports -- especially baseball -- has not changed. His learning methods have not changed. His teachers' comments about him have not changed. His choice of friends has not changed.

He's a good boy, who still needs to discover the world, take it by the horns and make it his own. I'm hoping that it will come with maturity and more experiences -- perhaps high school will do the trick.

Avi, mazel tov on reaching this wonderful milestone. You are a mensch who makes us proud.
May you go m'chayil l'chayil (from strength to strength), and continue to be a happy boy, who has been known for years as "SMILEY."

We love you.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My Parents

This photo was taken one Sunday morning in late December at a cousin's bar mitzvah. My father, as a Levi, was given an aliyah, and I believe it was probably his last one.

This is my dear "Swiss Miss" mom, Lilli (she should be well), with her -- and our -- beloved Jacob (Jack).

Father's Day is coming up this Sunday. Without my father.

My parents' 53rd wedding anniversary will be coming up on June 24. Without my father.

My father's 89th birthday will be on July 4. Without my father.

"Without my father." What a sad refrain, isn't it? But it's a reality these days, and once again, I am more than thankful for the many years we had WITH MY FATHER.

Hug your parents. Tell them how much you love them. Bring honor to the family name. Make your parents proud. Realize they are simply human -- like you -- and make mistakes, as well.

And always, always keep your treasury of family memories alive.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Life in Pictures

My brother sent me this link to this wonderfully moving photojournalism essay.

Study each picture, study the words, study the facial expressions, study the love of a son for a father as depicted visually and via the written word.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Happy Birthday...Now Pay Up!

In less than an hour, my oldest son will G-d willing turn 14 years old. Fourteen years ago on June 14, 1995, I gave birth to this beautiful 9 1/2 pound son in a very short time frame and with no drugs. Okay, lots of screaming on my part but no drugs.

You know what? Come to think of it, these days, there is still lots of screaming on my part but no drugs. I guess that's par for the course of having 3 children -- one teenager, one prepubscent daughter, and a nine-year-old.

Anyhow, I was just going through emails after Shabbos and there was one from Avi's orthodontist."A REMINDER FROM DR. SHAPIRO'S OFFICE said the subject line. I suddenly thought, "Does Avi have an appointment early next week that I didn't remember?" I opened the message and it said "Happy Birthday, Avi, from Dr. Shapiro and the team!"

I smiled and then thought to myself: this is not like a $3 or $4 Hallmark or American Greetings card, this is like a $5000+ card... After all, if it weren't for Avi's braces and dental work, Dr. Shapiro wouldn't even know our family -- or the birthday boy!

And I recalled other b'day cards we receive annually...from our financial advisor. Hmmm...those cards for myself and my hubby also come at a cost. It's more like an investment, I'd say.

Isn't it interesting to note that b'day greetings often come with (hidden) price tags...?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

1000th Post aka The Men in My Life

I began this blog in late 2004...and am now at my 1000th post. Yes, the posts have slowed down over the past year or so -- not because of time restrictions, but because of not always having something to say, or to the other extreme, having TOO MUCH to say yet thinking "Who would want to read these inner-most deep feelings...maybe I should keep something to myself."

But in any case, this post is a tribute to the men in my life, for they are all good men with good hearts, generosity of spirit, and true menschlichkeit.

My father, Jacob, z"l, who passed away on March 8th, reigned supreme among these men. He led by example, he didn't practice idle gossip or slander or lies. He was a straightforward man, a decent businessman, and generous beyond his means. A loving father, a wonderful husband, he only knew how to give. Sometimes he simply reacted to circumstances, not completely thinking them through, but letting his warm self shine through.

Last night, when my husband did something really nice for me, along the same lines as my father would've done, I recalled this incident.

Some 25+ years ago, I had a summer office job, which I'd recently started. At the time there were some serious family matters going on, which often took my parents' attention. One day, around noon, I called and spoke to my mom. I then asked, "Where's Dad?" She didn't know, saying he'd just gone out with the car.

About 10 minutes later, the office door opens, and in walks my dear father...a smile on his face and a bowl in his hands. That bowl held cherries. "I washed them for you. I wanted you to have them." Now some people might think that was some kind of smothering parental tactic, but I say absolutely not. This example simply reflects who my dad was: he thought of something, wanted someone to have it, and made every effort to give that person that something. He took pleasure in others having pleasure.

I wish my father were around today to bring me another bowl of washed cherries...

Last night, I was attending my oldest son's baseball game. My husband had taken my youngest son to his game a couple hours earlier. It was very cold and I could've stood to be wearing a winter jacket and gloves while sitting on those metal benches. But not me, just a long-sleeved top, a hoodie on that and a light spring jacket.

I'd spoken to my husband and asked if he had any blanket in his car, which he could bring to me. He didn't, so I said forget it.

About 40 minutes later, I called home, wanting to know if he'd arrived home and to let him know that I was coming home for something warm. My daughter told me that Ron had already been home and left.

Not 10 minutes later, he's crossing the park field toward me with a blanket and two chair pads to sit on.

I turned to my friend alongside me and said, "That's Ron for you. And that's something my dad would've done too."

And I know that is something my two older brothers, Michael and Jerry, would have also done. They continually give of themselves, expecting nothing in return. We used to say that my brother Michael was most like my dad, but throughout my father's extended illness and hospitalizations, I realized that Jerry too was very much like my dad.

I am proud and thankful to say that my two sons, Avi and Noam, follow the Adler men in their demeanor. They are considerate, they are generous, they are sensitive to others' needs...and it all shows naturally.

May Hashem bless the men in my life to continue living life in the warm and generous way they do...just as my father did.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Someone Left His Good Manners at Home

This is just going to be a rant post.

I was at a very elegant fund-raiser dinner last night for our children's school, which celebrated its 25th anniversary. The dinner honoured the school's nine past presidents, as well as one of its benefactors who died too young, too soon.

Along with being a parent at the school, I volunteer for different programs at the school -- including being on one of the committees affiliated with this dinner. I am never a leader, but am happy to be a follower, thus I sit on committees, I don't head them.

I wouldn't be wrong to say the school population is somewhat elitist, in many ways. Just come to the parking lot and you'll see countless luxury vehicles. Check out the addresses of the students, and you'll see what I mean.

I have no interest ever in "keeping up with Cohens" but it is always clear to see how "money talks."

Last night I was standing alongside my husband as he talked to an acquaintance. A few minutes later, another school parent came hurrying over, hand outstretched to my husband's acquaintance and immediately started talking to the man.

This "young pisher" -- a good 10 years our junior -- not only interrupted my husband's conversation, he didn't even bat an eyelash to my husband, nor to me, and gave a return limp handshake to my dear husband, who stretched out is hand in a menschlich kind of way. I was shocked as I watched this other person, and I could see my husband was also taken aback by this young man's abrupt/rude behaviour.

It isn't as if we don't know him, or he doesn't know us. Our kids are in school together, often socialize together, we've sat at their Shabbos table in the past, we make it a point to be friendly whenever we see he or his wife, even if we don't move in the same circles.

I so would have liked to say something to this guy. And I can imagine him saying "I'm sorry...I didn't realize what I was doing." But I wouldn't give him the benefit of the doubt; I can imagine this scene replaying itself over and over, knowing who this person is and what his station is in life.

I recall relaying something similar in a post a few years ago; the setting primarily was the shul we attended at the time, as well as the kids' school. I think sometimes that rude stems from a feeling of entitlement.

So in the meantime, I have to air my grievances publicly on my blog, without naming this person, but truly wanting to do so.

Rudeness and bad manners simply rub me the wrong way. When a type of arrogance is enmeshed in that rudeness, I am more than peeved.

Aside from wanting to confront such people about their behaviour, more than anything, I hope they will be on the receiving end of such behaviour time and time again. Maybe they'll begin to recognize just how wrong it is....

One can only hope!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Scared Canine Gets Smart!

Our dog, Max, is rather smart...even if he cocks his head sideways sometimes as if he's clueless as to what you're saying.

Here's the perfect example from tonight:

I wanted to let him out the back door to do his thing in the yard, and he went out a couple of paws (translation: inches/yards), then headed back into the kitchen almost immediately.

At first I had no idea why he'd done that, but I heard the sound of fireworks, and that's when I saw Max run upstairs. I'd assumed he'd gone to hide out on one of the beds he enjoys sleeping on.

Nuh-uh! When I followed him upstairs, I found the dog under the computer table in the main upstairs hallway.

When had he gotten into social sciences textbooks? How had Max known that during air raids, bombs, earthquakes, and school lockdowns people are told to hide under tables and desks?

I guess to him the sound of exploding fireworks mimics that of exploding bombs, and he thinks "bomb=hiding under desk"!

Then again, maybe he figured that sooner or later I'd end up at that computer writing a blog post about how smart he is, and knew that my presence would be an added comfort.

Smart dog -- he was right!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Shoe-In

What do Dorothy and the Pope have in common?

[Cue (annoying, yet catchy) music from Jeopardy...]

She visits the Emerald City. He lives in the Vatican City.

Nope. Not the answer I was looking for.

The shoes. Those red (Prada, I'm told) shoes of his keep him grounded. Dorothy also wore red shoes.

Remember the refrain after she clicked her heels 3 times? "There's no place like home, there's no place like home, there's no place like home."

Well, I've been informed of the answer to the question "Why does the Pope wear red shoes?"

In case he needs to get back to the Vatican real quick, he clicks his heels... and says..."There's no place like Rome...there's no place like..."
Now I don't truly mean to insult his eminent Holiness, and I understand that the wearing of those red shoes have a history and a meaning, but c'mon, those shoes are so "fly" that I'd expect to see them on this website. Talk about a pair of traffic stoppers!


Thanks to good genes, I have good skin. My whole life, my face was normal to dry, so for the past 25+ years, I've used daily moisturizer, namely Pond's. A simple cream for simple needs.

The past year or so I've begun to notice a bit of sagging in the lower mouth area and a few more laugh lines round my eyes. Okay, granted, I certainly don't get enough sleep nor do I drink enough water. Lack of those two makes for these facial skin changes, I'm sure, but now I have to work with what I've got.

It's time I need a little more than what Pond's Daily Moisturizing Cream has to offer, but I don't want to spend big bucks either on beauty products. And so I've been working with some sample-size products before I make any purchases.

But I just looked over the array of samples, and I don't like what I'm seeing -- the names of these products:

Dove Pro*Age (ready to give back to your skin what it needs right now): Neck & Chest Beauty Serum

Olay Definity: Re-energizing Serum
(Night) Restorative Sleep Cream

Lise Watier L'Experience: Morning Potion
Age Spot Control Serum
Nighttime Skin Rescue Creme

L'Oreal: Advance Revitalift Deep-Set Wrinkle Repair

Ewww, the word "serum" has such medical connotations; I don't like to think I need a serum to help prevent aging.

n. serum [ˈsiərəm]
a watery fluid which is given as an injection to fight, or give immunity from, a disease

There are other options, I know, but plastic surgery isn't one of them...I'm simply not that vain enough for any mini Botox or Restylane injections.

Here is probably the best solution to my problem. But until I get to the hardware store to buy a lifetime supply of light bulbs, I'll stick to my Pond's.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Red, White and Blue

So I'm driving north on Bathurst Street (the unofficial/official Jewish thoroughfare in Toronto) late yesterday afternoon, and the farther north I got, I began to hear honking and see people waving flags out of car windows and from sun roofs -- huge flags, medium-sized ones -- and cheering.

When I reached some major intersections, cars began honking at one another in greeting, and people are waving to each other... It was as if they had a secret language, one I was not privvy to.

People at bus stops are waving at each of the cars bearing flags, and vice versa. Fists shoot up in a victorious manner.

And all the while, I'm clueless. What country are these flags from? What is the emblem on that flag over there; which country is that from?
When I reached a certain intersection, where there' s a plaza and large parking lot, I see cars assembled on the parking lot, with flags flapping madly all around.

Was there some sort of international soccer game I hadn't heard about? No doubt there had been some sporting when I reached home, I immediately went online to do my research.

Of course, Russia beat Canada in the World Hockey Championships in Bern, Switzerland.

That was the flag/emblem of Russia I was seeing; the northern neighborhood I was driving in is very Russian-oriented, and they were the people assembled and celebrating in the plaza parking lot and waving from the bus stops.
I can well imagine how many bottles of vodka people went through yesterday in celebration of this sports victory. Although immigrants to Canada, and many of them rather recently, these people still salute the Russian flag and their homegrown winning sports teams.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day to Me...

...thanks to these three wonderful children of mine. (pu, pu, pu)

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Pet Airways Commercial

Coffee, Tea, Soft Drinks...or Kibble, Anyone?

This is the logo for Pet Airways...where your pet is a "pawsenger".
Max flew to Toronto from Quebec, when we first got him, but he was no doubt in cargo. Why not let our beloved pet fly first class via this airline?
[from their website]
How Pet Airways Flies Your Pet

The Pet Airways Promise
We promise to transport your pet with lots of love, care, safety, and comfort in the main cabin.
Pet Airways is the first airline exclusively dedicated to pets - no humans please - and we take the job of providing a comfortable experience for pets very seriously.
We'll do everything in our power to make sure your pets get the best care during their journey because we're committed to taking care of our pet "pawsengers" as if they were our own.

The Pet Airways Travel Experience

1. Drop your pet off at our Pet Lounge, located at the airport. You must check in your pet no later than 2 hours before take off. If you choose, you may check in your pet up to 72 hours before the flight. We’ll be happy to board your pet at our PAWS Lodge until the flight.

2. Potty Breaks are very important to your pet. With the human airlines, your pet could be made to hold themselves for a very very long time. Pet Airways monitors the last time your pet had a potty break, and makes sure that they get regular potty breaks along the way. This means that it may take us longer to get to where we are going, but the care of our pawsengers is our first priority.

3. Pets board the plane and our Pet Attendants make sure they’re all comfortable and that they, and their pet carrier, are secure.

4. A Pet Attendant monitors and checks the comfort of all pawsengers every 15 minutes during the flight. After landing, pets will be disembarked, given a potty break, and will be available for pickup at the Pet Lounge.

5. Pick up your pet up at the Pet Lounge at your destination, knowing he or she has traveled comfortably and safely in the main cabin of our plane. If you cannot pick up your pet that day, we will be happy to board your pet overnight at the PAWS Lodge.
Each time pets move anywhere, from the Pet Lounge to the pet limo or from the pet limo to the plane, we track and record their progress, which means you can monitor your pet’s journey every step of the way online at Pet Airways Pet Tracker. Our Pet Airways Promise is that your pet will never be left alone. A pet attendant will always be within a cat's meow.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Patrimony by Philip Roth

Last night I completed reading Philip Roth's memoir, Patrimony, a story about his relationship with his father as his father was diagnosed with a brain tumor and eventually succumbed to it.

It is such a moving story, and one in which I find several familiar scenes that I can relate to.

My mother-in-law died last June of a brain tumor, having been diagnosed not even a complete six months earlier. We watched as her body began to shut down.

My own father had a brain tumor diagnosed back in 1981. He was operated on, and it was discovered to be benign. But it was the scar tissue and fluids over the years that built up, pressed on nerves and caused him grand-mal seizures, and his eventual death.

Roth examines his own thoughts and feelings as a son who has to figuratively hold his father's hand through Herman Roth's diagnosis and physical setbacks. As his father continually reviews life in New Jersey as he once knew it, Roth listens and nods again and again, the nostalgia feeding him at times while at other times making him nauseated.

As his father's disease progresses, without the tumor being operated on, save for a biopsy, Philip watches and records his father's decline. It hurts for him to record it; it hurts for us to read about it.

And in those last hours: “Dying is work and he was a worker. Dying is horrible and my father was dying. I held his hand…I stroked his forehead; and I said to him all sorts of things…”

I could've written those words...first about my mother-in-law, and then about my father.

When my mother-in-law was dying last summer, her sons, daughters-in-law and young grandchildren did those things.

My brothers and I, our spouses and dear children did exactly those things, said all the endearing words and relayed our personal messages to my father in March, watched as my dear mother had to do the same. Although our words were met by silence and closed eyes that entire week, we continued to do so. My brothers and I were there with my father, seeing him through the last night, listening to the labored breathing, and near the end, as the pattern and sounds changed. There was almost a gentleness, a calmness, an acceptance of the inevitable end. With our hands on my father’s chest, his breathing slowed, slowed and the last breath was taken. And still we continued to stroke his hands, his forehead and whisper our messages…for the soul is said to still be there to listen and understand, even if the body has ceased. Our rabbi said that we should comfort the soul before its journey. It was the week of shiva that was to comfort us….

And as Roth said: "A mystery, scarcely short of divine, the brain…” So true. The brain, with all its achievements, yet with so many deficiencies, continued to astound me as I watched my mother-in-law and father's mental/physical abilities decline.

I highly recommend reading this memoir; it allows us insight to the mind and personal life of an award-winning, longtime author. We ride along with his pain, and we smile when he does, too.

His father, Herman, was a real character and a tough man in so many ways, providing much source material for his son to write about. May he rest in peace...

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Spring Awakening

I am a notorious pack rat, saving things because I'm afraid that if I throw them out, at some point in the future I'll be sorry I did.
If all these "things" would be gathered in one place, perhaps it wouldn't be so bad, but because they're all over the house -- in an armoir, on bookshelves, in closets, in the basement, etc -- and I'm not even sure where "all over" means, it makes it difficult to even track things down.
So, for that reason, I'm trying to be a bit aggressive today, with a recycling box and a garbage bag in hand, and getting rid of stuff that I probably will not look at again.
For example, I'm blessed with three children, and I'm blessed with being able to send them to Jewish day school. The Hebrew books they use differ from what I used in my day school -- we actually had hardcover and softcover textbooks; these kids have text/workbooks. So whereas we used to keep our textbooks from my school, there is really no reason to have to save these workbooks that my kids have been using. They've written all the answers in, so they don't help anyone anymore.
Sad, just how many years it took me to figure that one out. My oldest will be graduating junior high next month, G-d willing, and I have all his workbooks going back to grade 1. Now multiply that times three kids!
I volunteered for many years with Ontario Jewish Archives, where we'd archive documents in acid-free files and classify them, etc. If there were multiples of any one form in a file, we were told to keep at least two of each, and trash the rest. Now I have to apply that to my own personal archives I've been keeping at home. For example, if I've got published poetry in newspapers, I don't need two copies of the full newspaper, and three copies of the page the poem is on. One full copy and one page copy should suffice.
Getting my house in order is certainly an extension of getting my life in order. Isn't it great to be able to hit two birds with one stone? Hmmm, but does that mean I then have to get rid of my stone collection too...?

Monday, April 20, 2009

A First Yizkor Service

On the last day of Pesach, I said the Yizkor prayer for the first time for my father.
Our rabbi says that in the first year of mourning, it is the mourner's choice whether or not they want to stay inside the sanctuary for the service. I've looked on different websites, and some say to stay in, but for the first year not recite it for the particular person whom you are mourning, and another website says that if one feels they will have their grief overpower them and will wail loudly and uncontrollably, they can leave the sanctuary.
I did neither. I stayed inside. I said Yizkor. I did not cry.
I could honor my father in this special way. I could remember the goodness that he embodied and not feel overwhelmed by grief.
I could also honor my grandparents and other family members who'd passed away and think of them as I prayed.
As I've said a number of times since my father passed away, I've not really been crying at all, but I feel his absence in my life/my family's life/my mother's life/my brothers' lives. I think about him, I talk about him, I refer to keep it all fresh for myself and others.
It's surprising to me how I have been sometimes feeling somewhat resentful of others and their over concern for me and the sympathetic faces they put on and the pacifying tones their voices take.
After the Yizkor service, one of the women I know leaned over, put on her now-familiar-to-me sympathetic face and whispered, "Hmm, your first Yizkor service. Hard, huh?" I told her it hadn't been too bad, but she sort of persisted in her comments and pacifying tone. I just retorted (to my surprise!) but in a nice but firm way, "I think the fact that I'm a mourner is harder on you than it is on me. I'm doing okay. REALLY." She then nodded and agreed. "Yes, you are. Yup, I can see that."
Perhaps I'm not as resentful at them as I am at myself simply because I am not behaving in the "expected" way of a child who has recently lost an exceptionally adored parent. I'm not taking it as hard as people believe I must be. I'm not wallowing in grief, unable to eat or talk or handle day-to-day activities. I certainly don't walk around with a long face or a continuous pensive look.
There are no giveaways hinting at the fact that I'm a mourner, except when I say Kaddish over on the women's side of the mechitzah.
I prepared for two seders in our home, aware of the absence of my father at second seder, but thankful my mother was there. I talked about things Zaidy said and did at our seders throughout the years, and told my children at the onset of the seders that Pesach seders are exactly that: a combination of traditions/customs, memory and storytelling, played out year after year. I picked up minhagim/customs from my parents, my husband picked up minhagim from his parents, we started some minhagim of our own as a married couple, and we blended them all. I told the kids that they'll walk away from our home with some of these blended minhagim too, as well as start some new ones of their own. And so the cycle continues...
And such is life.
And death.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

At Least Once a Year...'s nice to get published!

This week, the Canadian Jewish News came out with their Passover edition, and with this edition came their supplement that offers Passover greetings as well as literary pieces that deal with Jewish themes.

For the past number of years, I've submitted poetry to be considered for the literary supplement, and can thankfully say that something of mine is chosen to be used each year that I submit.

The newspaper has a wide readership: in Canada, the U.S., and points beyond, so it's always exciting for me as well as humbling to find my name and words in print.

This year I submitted four pieces -- two, fun limerick-type poems that deal with Passover, and two serious poems. I was hoping that if they chose any of my poems, it would be one of the serious ones. And yes, lucky for me, they published both!

If you can use the link that I provided above, you can search the section for my two poems on pages B14, and B36. If you have trouble with the link, I will recreate the poems here.


At sixty, one is not quite old, neither young...but somewhere in the middle.

With life lines to show,

fine wrinkles here and there,

graying hair or balding patches,

hinting age spots

and a book of photographs depicting a life.

At sixty, Israel is not quite old, neither young...but somewhere in the middle.

But in truth she is ancient -- Israel is a "she," you know -- and was reborn in May 1948.

Not everyone has the chance to be reborn. But Israel...she fought to be reborn.

She fought hard. Her supporters fought harder.

From desert sands and barren fields, she brought forth life.

From stark grayness, she brought forth greens and blues.

From a handful of devotees, she yielded multitudes of lovers.

Lovers of her country.

Lovers of her language.

Lovers of her culture.

Lovers of the blue and white of her draping flag.

Lovers of "Hatikvah."

Hope. Forever sustaining Israel.

Forever sustaining...



The walls of the ghetto encircled you.
The walls of the ghetto enclosed you.
The walls of the ghetto framed you.
Framed your life and the lives of your loved ones.
You, with your tattered yellow star marking you
Jew. Schweinhund. Part of a damned nation.
It is fear that fed you when the cupboards were bare.
It is bravery that sustained you when that fear was spent.

You fought to the bitter end --
The rat-tat-tat of machine gun artillery
echoing off the barren walls of that wasteland.
The raining of bombs all around you.
The smell of death hovering... Always hovering.

With hands up in the air, with this gesture of surrender,
of final supplication
You the boy, already a man, left your legacy.

And we remember. We always remember...

Sunday, April 05, 2009


Today will mark the shloshim (30 days since death) for my father.

Where did the month go? It goes so quickly, yet crawls so we try to pick up the pieces.

Of course, the first seven days went by in the act of sitting shiva. And then there was the getting-back-to-daily-life routine, which has included the activity of writing thank-you notes for shiva meals, sympathy cards and donations made in my father's memory.

And there has been the activity of metaphorically patting people on the hand in a "There, there, it's okay" fashion when several have called or approached me to say, "I'm sorry I couldn't make it to the funeral....I 'm sorry, I just heard about your loss....I'm sorry, I couldn't make it to the shiva. I really wanted to, but it just didn't work out."

I've repeated myself over and over to these people, "It's okay. No, it's REALLY okay." People feel the need to explain themselves (I know, I suffer from that too.), but there's truly no need to do so. They have just taken a moment to express their condolences to me verbally, even after the fact, and that is as nice a gesture.

As for sitting shiva: it's an eye opener, and for me proved to be almost a beautiful type of experience. No, I didn't hear countless nostalgic stories about my dad, which is often the case, but I saw people whom I haven't seen in YEARS.

And the phone calls that were received...? From all over the world: Israel, California, Mexico, Israel, Florida, Switzerland, New York, Vancouver. Multiple calls from many of these places -- every family member of certain families calling independent of one another, once they heard about my father's death. It was truly overwhelming (yes, I know I use that words many times in this post, but there's no other word to describe the feelings) and heartwarming.

My father has lived in Canada for 60 years, my mother for 53 years. They had friends and family visit, friends from the early years with whom their lives had drifted apart, family we rarely see. We are three kids, with two of us married locally, so we had friends, family and co-workers come out from our shuls, from our former day schools, from our universities, from our kids' schools, from our social networks, from our present jobs, from our past jobs. And people came there who had connections to our spouses too. When handfuls of people traipsed into the house from these offices together at one time, I asked if they'd closed the offices for the day? My parents' pharmacist for the past three years, who had lots of business given his way (unfortunately) at the expense of my father's medical issues, did close his shop one afternoon and came to pay a shiva call. He is not a Jewish man, but respected my father and held him in high esteem to visit. Non-Jewish neighbors came by when they saw a lull in traffic to the house, and sat there with us, wearing their Sunday best and crying tears of sadness for their good neighbor and friend, Jack.

My father treated all people equally; he showed respect to all people. They in turn respected him.

A few people I'd gone to school with, and had not even been friends with-- just classmates -- came by for morning or evening davening, or came in the middle of the day, and sat with me not just for a few minutes, but for 30 minutes or longer, where we caught up on our lives and the twisting turns they'd taken over the years. These people's appearances and words touched me in such a beautiful way.

One of the girls said, "Out of sadness can often come good things." And she was so right.

I saw a handful of people walk in at different times and there would be "six degrees of separation" going on, mini-reunions being had between people visiting for me and visiting for one of my brothers. There was so much of this going on all week, and I was so pleased.

We had such a cross section of people come through, from non-Jews, to assimilated Jews, to very Yeshivish, black hatters. One evening, a very frum couple came into the crowded room, and they didn't look familiar to me. I assumed these people were for my Toronto brother, perhaps from his shul, so I looked over to my Boston-based brother and said, "I wonder if they're here for Jerry....? Or maybe they're at the wrong shiva house! " I suggested. Turns out they were at the right house, and my mother had a Swiss connection with them, but it just goes to show that I may not have known everyone walking through that door, but they knew us, and they knew my father and wanted to honor him.

On the Wednesday and Thursday nights, the living room, hallways and family room were PACKED for evening davening, so much so that it was rather overwhelming to me and I suggested that it was time to do another house expansion!

My father would have been overwhelmed and certainly humbled. Tefilla was so important to him, and for all these men to gather together, davening in his home in the morning and in the evening would have pleased him so.

He was a quiet, refined gentleman, regarded this way by many. He didn't want to draw attention to himself in any way, but no doubt because he was so special in being his charming self, he DID draw attention to himself and in a very positive fashion.

Life works rather mysteriously too. And the six degrees of separation I mentioned above also held true on the day of my father's funeral.

I knew on the previous Thursday evening that a
classmate of mine had died and that the funeral would be on Sunday, but because my dad was so gravely ill at the time, I told the person who told me about the funeral that I might not be able to be there and the reason why.

When my father died on Sunday morning and we made plans to get him buried that same day, the funeral chapel we'd chosen told us how busy they were and it might not happen that day. But with rabbinic help, we arranged the funeral for several hours later, at 3 p.m.

Turned out that at 1:00 there was a funeral for another member of my parents' shul, someone who was my father's friend. At 2:00 was the funeral for my classmate. At 3:00 was my father's funeral.

Because it all happened so quickly and my parents' shul doesn't have a phone chain going 'cause most of the members are elderly, word didn't get out to the members about my dad's funeral. But the people from their shul who came for the 1:00 service, saw my father's name listed for the 3:00 service and came back for it. And some former classmates who came for the 2:00 service, and saw my father's name stayed for the 3:00 funeral. These three services all were perpetually linked.

We didn't know how many people would go from the chapel to the cemetery, as the cemetery is rather far out of our suburban area. But we knew that because it's so far out and confusing to get to (it's an older cemetery and many people haven't heard of it, because it's so far off the beaten path), we had to hire police escorts. Again, we were told by the chapel we weren't sure we could get any, but yes, we got confirmation there would be three. And as we rode out to the cemetery, we could see just how many people followed us, and people did take the time and make the effort to go to the cemetery. One of the nicest things is that the police escorts stop at the foot of the cemtery gates to stop traffic, and as the hearse and procession drive by, the policeman stand at attention and salute. What an honorable and respectful gesture!

And sadly, yet interestingly enough, when we got to my parents' cemetery shul section, where a grave had already been prepared for my dad's coffin, it was beside his friend, whose funeral had been two hours earlier, and on the other side of my father's gravesite was my
mother's first cousin's wife, who died two years ago from pancreatic cancer.

All such last minute notice about everything, but the chapel (I was told, didn't really see for myself) was packed. As I stood on the podium reading my eulogy, I looked out at the faces, and yes, there were many of them and I was able to single out a few, but they sort of blur into one mass -- made up of our past, our present and our future.

But that is truly what life is about, and we come full circle...

My children lost my husband's mother in June, and although she wasn't visibly conscious, we had them come to her apartment to say goodbye to their savta. She died two hours later.

Although my father lay in a hospital bed for a week, in a non-responsive state, also not visibly conscious, we had the children come after Shabbos to say goodbye to their zaidy. He died about seven hours later.

Two beloved grandparents died within nine months of each other, and the children were bereft. But I continually make reference to these grandparents so that the children will see that they can too, and I encourage them to do so if they so wish. I still talk about Savta's apartment and Bubby and Zaidy's house. When my youngest started to correct himself one day and say "Bubby and -- BUBBY'S HOUSE," I told him it's still called Bubby and Zaidy's house, even if Zaidy's physical being is no longer here.

I miss my father. I miss his smile. I miss his concern for everyone and his lovingkindness for everything. It's many years already that I knew not to take him for granted, and more than anything I'm thankful for the years we did have with him, because so many times it could've turned out differently, uglier, so much earlier in my life.

It is interesting to note that for so many years, I was continually asked, "How's your father?" Even in the past few years, it was always "How's your father?" and I'd sometimes throw in "And maybe you should ask 'How's your mother?' " because she was my father's right-hand gal, his helpmate, his eshet chayil.

These days -- finally -- people are asking "How's your mother?"

Such sad irony...

I could go on and on with these afterthoughts. The truth is that I wrote and saved a blog post earlier in the week, but didn't post it. That post was descriptive details of my father's last days, of my thoughts and feelings. Do people really want to read so much about someone's loved one? I wondered. Are my details off-putting? I wondered. But they help me to remember, and re-create the moments that flew so swiftly past. But I opted for this post instead, for some of these disjointed thoughts that delve into much of what I thought/felt shiva week.

Like any good Jew, I feel guilty. Guilty for not crying uncontrollably; in fact, for barely shedding a tear. "I can't believe how composed you were," I was told by many people who'd heard me speak at the funeral. My brothers, strong, virile men, cried, and their little sister, who can cry at a TV show's music soundtrack, didn't cry at the chapel, at the cemetery, at the shiva, in the privacy of my home. I always wondered if I'd start shrieking hysterically when my beloved father passed away, but no. I was composed. I was relieved that he was at peace, that we were with him, and that he'd had a seemingly peaceful final minutes, with our hands on his chest, over his heart, letting our finger pulses beat in time with his heartbeat.

Yes, I've had my few moments when something triggered my eyes to well up, but it didn't go beyond that. Writing helps, and the fact that for me all the goodness about my father, all the positive feelings overshadow the sadness. It's truly better this way, I believe, and hopefully this emotional strength will sustain me.

One more thought (for now): it's interesting how one day, one person can only be saying the common, congregational refrain when Kaddish is recited in shul, and the next day you know how to recite the entire Kaddish!

Thank you for listening (reading)....