Tuesday, December 30, 2008

T Minus 35 Hours

... in this case the "T" stands for Talent.
You can tell we are getting close to our annual talent night because Eric is dashing around buying sheet music and juggling rehearsal times so that nobody finds out what anybody else is doing... Of course he, as "house pianist" knows everybody's act - well, at least everybody that has a musical component to their act. [and that HAS an act already.... Joey reassures me that he is at his creative best under pressure....]
I'm not giving mine away but I will say that I gave Eric an awesome challenge this year - to find me an act I could do with Avram (cuts the "embarrassment factor" in half - last year we did the famous Abbot and Costello "Who's on First" routine) that is musical in nature (why should the men have all the fun?) but that I don't have to sing for.... tough, no? Well.... he came through.... and that's the only clue I'm giving you.... hey maybe if you guess I can use your ideas for next year ;)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Eighth Night, Eighth Light - The Wrapup

There's always a sense of wistfulness as we come upon the end of a Yom Tov.
It's been a wonderful week and we are all sorry to see it go.
For those of you who didn't "make the pilgrimage" and want to reminisce or simply enjoy our style of "pirsumei nisa", I'm posting a photo of the final lighting of this year for you, along with a clip of the choir singing Maoz Tzur.

You Like Me..... You Really LIKE Me....!!!

I am completely channeling Sally Field at the 1985 Oscars right now....

The Babysitter has given out blog awards and she has linked me.
Don't we all write in part for validation like this?

Tag - You're It

I guess I should stop whining before I even start and consider myself lucky that I have managed to duck being tagged in a meme for the nearly two years that this blog has been in existence.
And in addition, the meme that Mike in Midwood has tagged me in is a BOOK meme, and we all know what an avid reader I am.

Here are the rules: reach for the nearest book and write the 5th sentence, plus the next two to five, on page 56. Tag five people to do the same (by linking them on your post and commenting on their blog) and don't forget to link the person who tagged you.  

Oh, and of course you've got to list the requisite seven random and/or wierd facts about yourself.

WARNING:  The rules of the meme clearly state not to go hunting for a book you think will "work well" but rather the nearest book. Therefore, I apologize... I have a rather eclectic taste in books and you may all be left scratching your heads.... 

Page 56 of Atul Gawande's Better: A surgeon's notes on performance: (Nearest book because I finally finished it and it's in the "return to the library" pile...)

"Urban police forces began using Kevlar vests in the early 1980's. American troops had them during the Persian Gulf War.  A sixteen-pound Kevlar flak vest will protect a person's "body core" - the heart, the lungs, and the abdominal organs - from blasts, blunt force trauma, and penetrating injuries.  But researchers examining wound registries from the Persial Gulf War found that wounded soldiers had been coming in to medical facilities without their Kevlar on. They hadn't been wearing their vests. So orders were handed down holding commanders responsible for ensuring that their soldiers always wore the vests - however much they might complain about how hot or heavy or uncomfortable the vests were.  Once the soldiers began wearing them more consistently, the percentage killed on the battlefield dropped instantly."
{I know I know that was SIX additional sentences, but I wanted you to hear the whole point of the thought. Now pardon me while I RETURN the book to the pile and avoid any more overdue fines....}

With that out of the way I go on to the seven random facts:
  1. I'm a pretty slow eater.  The only food I eat faster than any member of my family is artichokes.
  2. Some may attribute this to my Germanic heritage but I am obsessively "ordered". The birth of my children even follow a 'pattern'. Boy-girl-boy-girl. Four consecutive hebrew months - the boys on Yud, the girls on Yud Tes. The boys on Taanesim (yes, one was "nidcha").
  3. I used to do research on chickens. I still love all things medical/biological.
  4. I like to refer to myself as hashkafically "middle of the road".  You know what happens when you stand in the middle of the road, don't you?  You get run over from BOTH directions.
  5. I'm sometimes frustrated that I remember so little of my childhood.  Though I still remember the brown Timex watch I got for my tenth birthday.
  6. I carry a camera in my pocketbook at all times.
  7. My family is the most important thing in my life.
Now I see you all ducking and running for cover - - - I tag frumcollegegirl, Daughters in the Parsha, In the Pink, Just Stam and Ricki's Mom ...

Friday, December 26, 2008

Classy Kitsch?

This post has been tumbling around in the vast wasteland that is the deepest recesses of my brain since last  chanukah already. I've wanted to blog about my affection for what could be termed Chanukah Kitsch, but I hesitated because those words conjure up visions of garish magen davids, superhero menorahs and blinky lights, which is definitely NOT where my passions lie.

I'm talking about the handpainted silk chanukah challah cover that I bought Avram a couple of years ago and the nice menorah pin with swarovski crystal flames (OK, and maybe the silver dangle menorah earrings too... but never at the same time....).  Which is why, for the purpose of this post, I'm going to call it Classy Kitsch....

I suppose that is what prompts me to "decorate" the way I do too.... Classy Kitsch simply makes everything more festive.  Which brings me to my newest acquisition.  In honor of Shabbos Chanukah we always prepare some special delicacies for the Friday night meal.  When I was a child it was always a goose or a duck, but frankly, I find both of them too fatty with not enough meat on them.  But I digress..... My point is that delicacies are no fun unless you have people to share them with, and since both my married children had other time sensitive plans, we invited friends over.  Knowing my penchant for "CK Chanukah", they presented us as a hostess gift a lovely set of menorah napkin rings, which actually look a whole lot like Avram's real life menorah :) .
Don't they look pretty?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

All Clued In

I have a (sheepish) confession to make.
In juxtapostion to my recent post, I have to admit that I think I like the new Clue is better than the old one.
We finally played the game we had been bashing for two nights and I will tell you that it plays very much like the old game, but there are added "intrigue" cards that allow for unusual twists and turns and gameplay by giving individual players one time "powers" to be used at any time at their discretion.
Joey and I are highly competitive, as opposed to Avram, who needs to be woken each time his turn comes around ;)
We enjoyed foiling each other at every turn and gleaning information off one another's efforts.
Joey won (by a hair {and with the help of an intrigue card power I might add....}) and a great time was had by all.
So although I sure wish they still had the Billiard Room, I really like the added interest of the new game.  DEFINITELY *not* dumbed down! If anything, it's more complicated.
Two thumbs up!
Now can somebody please get Joey to stop saying "J'accuse" every time he takes a guess......?

Latkes Revisited

Tonight we will host the second "latke party" of this Chanukah in our home.
Monday night was "family" - tonight will be "friends", though we have been known to blur the lines...

A little known benefit of being the Chief Cook and Entertainer is the prerogative of nibbling on the latkes as they are just emerging from the pan - when they are at the peak their sizzling best.  Of course that spoils the rest of them for me because I know just how good they can taste!

I have been jokingly saying that since we are getting each night's doughnuts from a different locale, I'll be able to announce the winner of "best doughnut" by the end of the chag. The problem is, NONE OF THEM has wowed me yet. Maybe I just don't like doughnuts all that much....

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

No More Lead Pipe in the Conservatory!?!!?

Although Chanukah is definitely about much more than presents, I am not averse to giving my children a gift or two at a time when the family is gathered together and able to appreciate it.
We bought Jennifer the classic board game "Clue" this week, but let me tell you - the classic has been completely revamped for the times!
I guess the manufacturer thought that most kids wouldn't know what a conservatory was anyway and wouldn't want to hang out in a ballroom or a lounge - so they now have a spa, a patio and a guest house.  Joseph was most disturbed to find out there is no more lead pipe and no more wrench!! {I could hear him moaning to himself,  "No more wrench? No wrench??"  for a good ten minutes last night} They have added such items as poison and an axe.
The names are thankfully the same (I think no self respecting parent would sit down to this game if they changed the names!) but they've eliminated the titles in favor of first names.
So it seems the Billiard Room has gone the way of Crayola's "Flesh", "Indian red", "Maize" and "Raw umber" colors.....
Never again will Colonel Mustard be caught in the library with the revolver..........
I feel so old...................

Chanukah In Germany Circa 1930

I found this picture of my father (right) and my uncle playing dreidel in their hometown of Mannheim.
It's nice to see that even though the war robbed them of a lot, they did have some semblance of a childhood before the horrors took over.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

First Night - First Light - First Report

Tonight was relatively low key, seeing as I am still getting over a nasty bout of something (food poisoning? stomach virus?) and I'm not quite ready to tolerate latkes yet (that will be tomorrow night when all the kids come in).
Tonight is the first of two (this year) "Sunday Nights" of Chanukah, which for some reason are marked by a bit of a pilgrimage for a sizable contingent of non-locals to my shul. Granted, our shul is large, with a very large menorah requiring 3 steps to climb up to it (in a previous chazzon's case, 4 steps....) and in the days of Chazzan Frankel z"l, it was quite an experience. It has become such an event that Joey has always said he wanted to sell T-shirts outside of shul. "I attended Chanukah '08 at _____ shul". This year was a bit calmer, due in part, in my opinion, to the weather, coupled with the fact that there's always next Sunday (more candles, more show). I think we need to post an additional sign in our shul's lobby that reads "Welcome to our shul. No flash photography please". Don't these people realize that the constant flashing during the lighting is very disturbing and on top ot that, in a sanctuary the size of ours, IT DOESN'T EVEN WORK??
Oh, and following the tradition that Chanukah is a festival of both lights and miracles, we had a bit of a Chanukah miracle right in our own shul. Half the 18 burned out (for over a year!) light bulbs were replaced this morning (there go my posts discussing "How many Shul House Committee members does it take to change a light bulb?" and our upcoming "if any more bulbs blow - candlelight maariv service"). Let's hope these lightbulbs last MORE than eight days.....

Happy Chanukah

Jennifer Made Pretty Even Prettier

Jennifer made a Chanukah suncatcher today that is the perfect addition to our decorations :)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For....

The gaunlet has been officially thrown down, in the form of a comment by Citizen of Brooklyn North:

December 14, 2008 9:41 AM
citizen of brooklyn north said...
totally off topic, but isn't it time to put up a picture of chanuka cookies hanging from your chandelier??

I have never been one to refuse a challenge.

Now truthfully, up until now, the front door of our home always got decorated with the traditional paper dreidels that I made the year Michael was at home in playgroup [is it now 21 years ago???], but the chandelier has been the sole territory of Purim's Haman men and nothing else (see sidebar). CoBN got me thinking....

What's the verdict? I kind of like it :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Shameless Plug

The new translation of the Hirsch Chumash is complete.
Rav Hirsch's peirushim have been described as "a symphony" and "timeless" and the new translation makes them far more accessible to all.
A very worthwhile purchase along with this.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Keitzad Merakdim?

Heshy over at FrumSatire shared his very amusing experiences at his father's wedding this week. (When my mother recently got remarried, I wasn't even invited, but from the looks of things, I have a feeling her Bnei Brak affair went quite differently {grin})

He also posted additional wedding pics on Facebook - one of which leads me to a rant all my own. Whatever happened to Keitzad Merakdim? What ever happened to fulfilling the mitzvah of being mesameach chosson v'kallah? This infraction seems to manifest itself in different ways as it spans the spectrum of Jewish culture and hashkofos but it no one expression is less egregious than another.

(Interesting that both men are at the same table and accoding to Heshy, in this position the entire time - photo reposted with permission)

If you honestly believe that your learning is MORE important than the previously mentioned mitzvah, then perhaps it would be better for you to decline the invitation and remain in the beis medrash where your kavanah will not be disturbed by the band. Or do you honestly feel that your presence is of such magnitude that merely being seen will enhance everyone's simcha?? When all is said and done, it is a form of hubris. I've seen people stand in the FRONT row at chuppahs with seforim open and it's plain RUDE. The gedolim of yesteryear were apparently tremendous "amei ha'aretz", since this is a relatively new phenomenon.

And don't think the Blackberry Boys are any better! Rude, childish, hubristic - a veritable trifecta. Kindly take it outside (no issur of Blackberries in the bathroom to my knowledge) and please refrain or excuse yourself during video shiurim as well... the glow is quite distracting and we all already know how "important" you are.

That said, I'm going to briefly step over to the other side for a moment by saying that baalei simcha should attempt to make weddings that are small enough to be considered "simchos" as opposed to "conventions" so that their guests will all feel welcome and an integral part in adding to the joy of the day. Addtionally, weddings should run on time out of respect for the guests as well so that they can all get back to their learning and their blackberries as quickly as possible.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Insomnia Chronicles Continued

At the risk of horrifying those who think I disclose entire too much personal information as it is, I think it is no secret that I've been having a lot of trouble getting a good night's rest lately.
Although stress may be high on the list of contributing factors, as well as being unable to get used to the colder temperatures in the apartment at night as winter approaches, Avram and I are once again on the hunt for the "perfect pillow".
Believe me when I tell you that we've tried them all (or nearly all) with no success. We tried synthetic, we tried down, we tried the expensive tempurpedic (bricks!) from Sharper Image (I must say that they honor their return guarantee without a fuss....) and we even ordered the fancy down pillows my sister in law raves about that they use in the Avenue Plaza hotel in Boro Park. We were duly unimpressed with every last one.
So now we have discovered something new. The Waterbase Pillow. You heard me right. A sort of waterbed for your head....
It guzzled four quarts of water and now weighs a ton.
The big question is: Will it provide me with sufficient comfort that I sleep better tonight, or will I actually lose sleep worrying that it will rupture around 3 am?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Joey Factoid # 29,371

This one came up at dinner last night and I really liked it.
It's a two part question.
Since the first part you either know or you don't know (or you "google" or "wiki", but that's not the point of this exercise...) I'm going to reveal the answer at the end of this post.
But since it is possible to deduce answer to the the second part of the question, I'm going to wait a day or two and then post the answer in the comments section if nobody else beats me to it. Please only post your answer if you come up with it on your own.... no googling or wiki-ing.
So the question is what is the stock symbol for Steinway & Sons and why?




It's not SSP..........It's not STN.....



Are you ready?

OK. It's LVB
Points for getting why :)
Have I mentioned I really like this one :) :) :)

Update: Spoiler Alert!! We have a winner in the comments section {Anonymous! You just know how much I love that }.... I should have told you guys to email me for posting later.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Only My Manicurist Knows For Sure

It's not just hairdressers, apparently....
File this one under, "With so little command of the English language, how do you even know this stuff??"
As I settled myself into the manicurist's chair this afternoon, she pre-empted her usual heavily accented questions of either "So did you cook a lot?" or "So are you finished cooking?" and proudly announced, "So I hear Shirley is coming to you for dinner tonight!".
I love "small community" living but this is getting ridiculous.....

Hang in There.... Shabbos is Coming...

I don't know what in my nature causes me to pick the shortest possible Friday to experiment with menus, but I've had a craving for stuffed mushroom caps for weeks now and this is finally going to be the weekend, so I've been busy...
Shirley and Eric are coming this week so dinner should be pleasant and the acid reflux quotient of every course will be duly calculated ;)
I'm hoping to catch up on some reading as well because several volumes in my mile high stack of books are in imminent danger of becoming overdue (Esther was fascinating last Friday night when she dropped by after dinner and told us about her trip to Berlin but when she left at 11, I was in no shape for reading...) and sometimes I think I single handedly support the public library system with my overdue fines, though I have a suspicion that material maidel might be giving me a helping hand on that score.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Newsies - Two Thumbs Up

Last night we went to see YCDS (Yeshiva College Dramatic Society) perform Newsies.
I must tell you I was blown away! The singing, the choreography, the acting, far exceeded my expectations.
I'm happy to say they played to sold out audiences all week long.
They certainly did justice to the original!

I wonder why they never thought to do this play before.... how much better can you get? Historical fiction that is heart warming and an ALL MALE CAST. I know it's been a while since they've done a musical but it was well worth the extra effort.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Blog Etiquette

With the rapid growth of the blogosphere, I think it's time for Emily Post to issue a new book. I have not been shy in the past about my feelings regarding anonymous postings, but truthfully, there are so many MORE etiquette questions:

  • Is it OK to blog about people and situations when those you refer to (albeit anonymously) are not aware that you have a blog?

  • I for one am very pleased when somebody discovers my blog by chance and then comes and tells me what they think - but my blog isn't so anonymous. If somebody has an "Anonymous" blog and you recognize them anyway, do you tell them?

  • What if you want to post a comment on their blog?

  • If somebody blogrolls you, are you required to blogroll them back?

This is only the tip of the iceberg....

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Funniest Thing.....(well... MILDLY funny)

...so I was reading the online edition of the Yiddish Forward yesterday {ok, you see, that comment THERE should already have you rolling in the aisles, because if you know me, you know I don't read the Forward and I don't read Yiddish!! But that's not the funniest thing, so pull yourselves together and pay attention!} because a friend of mine was written up and wanted me to see her name in print and "kvell".

She said her name was in the third paragraph from the bottom.... but when I went to scroll down the page, there was no scroll bar - - - until I remembered ... the scroll bar is on the LEFT of the page!

I don't know why I think it's so amusing, considering all "hebrew" pages are like that, but truthfully, I don't read them much so it was startling.....

Gripe Time: Outsourcing to India

Ok, Ok, I know I'm not the first person to gripe about companies outsourcing their customer service to India, and I have resisted the urge to jump on the grrr-fest until today.

I have made FIVE calls to India over the past several weeks, and I am continuously patronized with scripted lines that may or may not have any bearing on the problem at hand.
I had an "oh so lovely" online "chat" with Rajesh today.

It quickly became apparent that he was unable to help me so I bullied insisted that he connect me with an AMERICAN agent. Would you believe it? There was an agent from California visiting Hyderabad to help out with their holiday season rush. We had a very nice chat and she too was unable to fix (yet) my problem, but she was very amusing and I thought I'd share a portion of my chat transcript with you....

Jennifer: I understand what you mean. Please continue to hold for a few more minutes.
G6: ok
Jennifer: Sorry for the long wait.
G6: I'm used to it by now
G6: this is my fifth try....
Jennifer: Things don't look too good.
Jennifer: I have to tell you the truth.
G6: why is this so complicated?
Jennifer: That is exactly my question to marketing.

[Several more boring minutes of unsuccessful conversation....then when it became apparent that the necessary offices in California were still sleeping, we got friendly.....]

G6: well, frankly, outsourcing to India is a BAD idea
G6: i personally know a lot of people who have left your company because of it
G6: and i see why
Jennifer: Do you want me to be frank . . . outsourcing to India is not the problem with this situation.
Jennifer: I know people feel that way, but really this is a corporate issue. Our marketing department can't do a simple thing like this though we have asked them on behalf of customers numerous times.

[Several more minutes of quality bonding chat....]

G6: You're the FIRST person, you should know, that I actually believe has a SHOT at fixing this... :)
Jennifer: Hopefully I can. You're giving me confidence in my own abilities ; )
Jennifer: If I can't help you, I have a plan of asking you to write directly to a memeber of Marketing.
Jennifer: If you convinced me, I'm sure you can convice him!
G6: lol
G6: I haven't been too successful THIS far
G6: but if you get me to the appropriate department, I have a better shot
G6: I'll tell the computer geek that he'd better EARN his pocket protector, lol
Jennifer: They aren't geeks. Geeks fix problems. Marketing people ignore them.
Jennifer: Ouch!
Jennifer: Sorry. I had to vent.
{Oooooh look at Jen! Getting all sassy and venting.... I think I was a bad influence on her...}
G6: so why cant we talk to the GEEKS :)
G6: do you have a number for the geeks?
Jennifer: The geeks in this situation work for another company, so I don't have access to them.
G6: oh boy
G6: wow
G6: that's frustrating
Jennifer: The geeks who work at our company are very helpful.
G6: maybe they meet the other company's geeks at their holiday party and can talk about this ;)

Jennifer: Yes. That might finally get this resolved. Geeks getting drunk together. This chat is making Rajesh laugh by the way.

So................. in conclusion.... my problem had YET to be resolved, but I DID manage to make Rajesh laugh.......

Monday, December 8, 2008

Son In Law 101

Actually, this post should be entitled "Husband 101" but since I'm writing as the mother-in-law, I'll let it stand as is....
As I mentioned earlier, Moshe flew to London last week to be with his family following the death of his grandfather. Erica joined us for Shabbos so that she wouldn't be alone. Moshe is an amazingly caring husband. He managed to make sure that Shabbos flowers were delivered to his wife this Friday, in our home.
It chokes up a mother-in-law....
He should give lessons!

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Early Signs are Encouraging....

Invitations for our now annual Open Mike / Talent Nite at the G6 household have gone out well in advance, giving anybody who plans to attend the shindig no room for excuses this year. "The dog ate my act", just won't fly.....

Following Michael's performance of Di Provenza last year in the original Italian, with Eric accompanying on the piano, I thought we were done with international fare. But believe it or not, I've heard some buzz that Fig wants to sing "Das Wandern ist des Muellers Lust" {oooh I hope it's in costume!}

RebD asked for a chalkboard.... that's intriguing {and when did I become prop-meister and stagehand??}

Aviv is only half joking when he says he wants to lip synch "Y'hey Y'hey". I told him that the day he gets Eric to play The Chevra, is the day he'd get ME to sing......

Now this really should be a separate post, but there's a whole psychological component to how and when people respond to Evites.... What's WITH you people who have to wait and watch to see how and what everybody else responds before RSVPing?!?!? Can't you think for yourselves?
...and for those of you who still don't know you're invited, because you "don't do email", to quote Aviv yet again, "Do you also wash your clothes on a board in the river?"

And for the last time, no, you cannot "instant message" me your RSVP because "Fred Unthinking" there is checking the Evite responses daily and waiting to see your answer, before he can make up his own mind.......

Hot Sauce and Peanut Butter Brownies

Two good things... not so great together. Thankfully the hot sauce is in the chulent this week and the brownies are Chana's contribution to dessert. As it turns out, both married kids will be in for the weekend, but sadly, without Moshe, who is in England following the death of his grandfather.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Celestial Summit Meeting

To quote the Hayden Planetarium, "Every once in a while, something will appear in the night sky that will attract the attention of even those who normally don't bother looking up". Yesterday evening was just such an evening. A slender crescent Moon, just 15% illuminated, hung in our evening sky in very close proximity to Venus and Jupiter.

I must say I'm pretty impressed with my photograph. These things are very hard to capture and it was much more impressive in real life, but you get the idea....

Additionally, if you enlarge my photo, I have successfully captured another phenomenon called Earthshine, Earthshine was first recognized by Leonardo da Vinci. The full globe of the moon is visible, its darkened portion glowing bluish-gray interposed betweent the sunlit crescent and the not much darker sky.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Hamokom Yenachem - Hamokom Yerachem

Words do not come as I sit down to express my grief at the tragic loss of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka .

I did not know them.

And yet I knew them.

For upon dissection, aren't we all the same? They were young frum Jews, trying to raise a family and trying to serve Hashem in whatever way they could. Their house was full of guests passing through. They will be remembered fondly by many - those who had the zechus of knowing them personally, if only for a short visit, and those that didn't.

They were brutally murdered for no fathomable reason.
I feel confusion. I feel grief. I have no words..... only tears.....and prayers......

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Life's Conundrum #613

Because this is Thanksgiving week, my local supermarket has all sorts of wonderful sales:

Kosher Turkeys $1.99/lb
Sweet Potatoes $.49/lb
Fresh Mushrooms $.99/box
Oil $7.99/gallon
....... just to list a few.....

Now why is it, that when the non-Jews have a "holiday", their prices go DOWN, and when we Jews have a holiday, our prices go UP??!??!

Random Things I'm Thankful For - Both Big and Small

In no particular order:

  • I'm thankful for my family (There's a BIG one right off the bat)
  • I'm thankful for good health (another biggie)
  • I'm thankful for the amazing colors in nature
  • I'm thankful for religious freedom
  • I'm thankful for seashells washed ashore
  • I'm thankful for music
  • I'm thankful for extra long straws that stick out of 20 oz. soda bottles
  • I'm thankful I live in a place that has seasons
  • I'm thankful for good smelling soaps and scented candles
  • I'm thankful that insects are small and the Alps are large
  • I'm thankful for antibiotics (based on a book I'm reading)
  • I'm thankful I can reserve library books online
  • I'm thankful for the guy who had the guts to figure out how to prepare & eat artichokes
  • I'm thankful for Picasa
  • I'm thankful for YOU

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

History - our vast early warning system

I was prompted by ProfK's post, which I consider almost a cautionary tale, to air my views on the way history is taught today.
I would love to see the implementation of an integrated curriculum for General and Jewish History in Yeshivos.
Our history did not occur in a vacuum. What was going on in the rest of the world at the time of Rashi? The Rambam? How did seemingly unrelated world events shape our Jewish History? Not only do I believe that it provides important perspective but it would also make history more palatable for those who find it difficult to swallow.
Just my two cents..... stepping off my soapbox now......

Monday, November 24, 2008

U/D on Thanksgiving - Great Minds Think Alike

I thank Elliott Resnick over at the Jewish Press for linking my blog in his recent (re)post on Thanksgiving.
I'm heartened by the fact that there are other people out there of like mind.
{Of course, I now feel kinda bad that I sorta made a little fun of his prestigious publication ;) . He did do a lovely article this past week on Leah Larson - so kudos for that}.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

On Hakoras Hatov (Thanksgiving)

It is a disturbing trend that being patriotic has fallen out of fashion with the Yeshivish set.

We aren't allowed to Pledge Allegiance anymore, to say nothing of singing our National Anthem.

And celebrate Thanksgiving??!?! Why, in some circles, buying a turkey is looked upon as something akin to installing a Norway Spruce in your living room....

Please forgive me, but I'm not sure why this is.

It seems to me that our country has done a lot for us - especially since we are in Golus and some of us take far more liberties than we have rights to.

It also seems to me that the segment of the population that is most vociferous in railing against celebrating our national holiday of thanks, are the same ones that have no compunction in availing themselves of the services and programs that our wonderful country offers. In my humble opinion, if you are on Medicaid, Food Stamps, Welfare, collect Social Security and/or Section 8, you should have MORE to give thanks for this week rather than less!

And don't give me that tired old response, "In Judaism, every day is Thanksgiving (or Mother's Day, etc.). I'll give you my favorite response, "In Judaism, we are also required to remember Yetziyas Mitzrayim every day of our lives, and yet...Hashem still gives us a special holiday (Pesach) to commemorate it". If our country sets aside a specific day to give thanks, it is a TREMENDOUS chillul Hashem for us to davka ignore it. And please don't quote me as saying you must have Thanksgiving Dinner.... just taking a little notice of the day would suffice.

I wonder if part of the problem isn't the "Es Kumpt Mir" generation. Those that don't work and are used to getting everything handed to them on a silver platter, do not feel that they need to give thanks.... worse than that, they do everything in their power to get out of giving our country it's due ("so how much is it if I pay cash?").

I for one, have no difficulty saying a proud "THANK YOU" to my country this week. If not for this country, my family would have died out in the holocaust. This country has bent over backwards to provide for my religious freedom, so much so that when my dear brethern get themselves arrested or worse, they are given kosher food, minyonim and mikvo'os......

I thank you, I thank you and I deeply apologize to my country for any of my own that don't feel the need to do the same.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I'm Not Great With Change

Have I mentioned this before?
So yesterday, in the middle of the day, I notice my Gmail account looking a little bit different. OK, I'm a big girl, I can deal with this, right? Sure! (one more time with feeling please....)
Let me just tell you that it distracted me all day.
If that wasn't enough though, when I logged on at home last night, I discovered that I now have options for my Gmail "theme"....
Of course I could revert back to the "classic" version if I'd like, but now that I know I have choices, I sort of feel obliged to try them out....
So for those of you who are interested, I've decided to give the "Planets" theme a try. (but I'm still distracted.....)
Anybody else out there dipping there toes in the theme water?

Hang in there... SHABBOS is coming!!!


Thursday, November 20, 2008

And Now A Word From A Universal Recipient

I recall vividly when I was a little girl and my father would come home from a hard day's work sporting that little round red button which read, "Be nice to me..... I gave blood today". Remember them? Those were the days where all you got for your precious pint was that button, a feeling of satisfaction in doing a good deed, and the unwavering admiration from a daughter who thought her father hung the moon.

Nowadays we've gotten t-shirts (Sloane Kettering), coupons for ice cream and this coming Monday night in my neighborhood they'll be offering Starbucks gift cards. I guess lately people need more of a push to be altruistic.

But whatever your motivation, giving blood is a tremendous mitzvah and I encourage everybody to donate in their neighborhood (call your local Red Cross if you don't know where).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Gingko is Falling, the Gingko is Falling

Don't you just love this time of year?

The temperature dips, the air is crisp, the sky is blue, and in my neighborhood, the GINGKO BERRIES begin to fall......

For those of you who have never had the pleasure of meeting up with a female gingko tree this time of year, let me enlighten you. The stench emanating from the ruptured berries has alternately been described as dog excrement, rancid butter or vomit. Frankly, I think they smell like dog excrement, smeared with rancid butter that was vomited upon.

Isn't it heartwarming to know that just a few steps away from the front of my shul grows such a tree? This way the maximum number of people can step on gingko berries that litter the sidewalk on their way to daven and track the lovely aroma into shul.

Year after year I wonder why they don't just cut the trees down!!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Lesson in Linguistics

Our friend Eric just came back from a trip to Germany. He said something so interesting. He said that you can tell a lot about a culture by the words in its lexicon..... What does it say about a language that has a word for Schadenfreude - something it takes FIVE words to describe in our language (deriving pleasure from another's pain)?

Another good example would be the fact that we Jews have a word for Mechutanim... something not 100% translatable into English.... ("in-laws" would be the closest match but not 100%).

But that got me thinking about the German language in general. They have the craziest LOOOOONGEST words you've every imagined. Some guy way back when must have lived with the credo "Why say 6 or 7 separate words, when you can combine it into one awesomely long word?".

Don't believe me?

Try these on for size....

Herzkreislaufwiederbelebung (heart-circle-run-again-enlivenment) = C.P.R.

Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung = speed limit

Geschwindigkeitsüberschreitung = speeding (noun)

Hoechsgeschwindigkeitsbegrenzung = maximum speed limit

Gepäckaufbewahrungsschein (luggage-up-hold-certificate) = luggage check ticket

Hubschrauberlandeplatz = helicopter landing pad

Oooooh and let's not forget the 1999 German Word of the Year, (you can't make this stuff up folks....) Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz = beef labeling regulation & delegation of supervision law

So I suppose English isn't such a bad language after all... if we can only get people to USE IT more. Don't get me started again on the corruption of our language.... I get overly excited and it's too early in the morning (Have I mentioned that Joey has started using the word (if you can call it that) "B-T-W" conversationally...grrr.... oh, and I really need a separate post on the fact that he's trying to introduce his own new word into the English language and uses it every chance he gets - "funsies" {insert eye roll here}).

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mazal Tov Leah!!!!

Thanks to all those people who took the time to vote for Leah Larson in the Wells Fargo Someday Stories contest.

Leah Larson has won the $100,000 grand prize, which will allow her to expand her wonderful Yaldah Magazine.

You wouldn't believe me anyway, so why even try...

I've been thinking for two days now as to how to describe our Friday night dinner this week. We had lots of company, lots of dishes and lots of fun. But if I told you all of it you won't believe me. It's not even worth it trying.

We'd have to begin by reviewing my post on the many colored crayons. Then I'd have to remind you how when you were a kid and you had a lot of crayon stubs left over, you would melt them all together in a muffin tin and you got a crazy sort of rainbow crayon that looked like this:

Meet Peter A.'s crayon... ;)
Now mix that with all the other varying hues of crayons present this weekend at our table and you have our Friday night dinner.

I would tell you that Peter A. has an imaginary girlfriend (by his own admission), but you might not believe me.

I could tell you that said imaginary friend has succeeded in waking Peter A. for minyan six out of the last seven days, but you definitely wouldn't believe me.

Perhaps I should just give up and leave you with a quote I once read:

"The imaginary friends I had as a kid dropped me because their friends thought I didn't exist"

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What's Your "Order"?

To varying degrees (probably stemming from your ancestor's country of origin) everybody has specific "order"s to things in their life.
For instance, I eat my pizza the same way every time - crust first.... followed by the rest of the pizza from the tip upwards. This may sound obsessive to you, but at least I don't use a knife and fork, as is Avram's preference....
But I digress.
The pizza was only an "opener".
What I really want to know how everybody reads the Jewish Press. Yeah right, I know, you don't read it. You don't get it. It's tarfus. (Frankly, Dr. Yael is getting fairly pornographic even to my mind... what's up with that?). I'm thoroughly snowed ahem, convinced. But HYPOTHETICALLY, if you did get it (if you or your children weren't "in the parsha" {wink}), would you read it from front to back, or would you have a set order, like almost everybody I know?
I'm not asking IF you have an order, but rather which comes first? Agunah Chronicles or IY"H by You? Do you even bother with Arnold Fine and/or do you still check every once in a while if "The Nice Jewish Boy Who Kills Bugs" still advertises in the classifieds?
C'mon, you know you want to share...... :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

On Being Anonymous

This post is loooong overdue.

Did you ever notice that the commenters on blogs who request or divulge the most information from or about the blog owner are the Anonymous ones?

Now don't go picketing my front door people - I love ALL YOUR COMMENTS, really I do - please keep them coming! And I understand full well that many of you are all motivated by the fear that either you or your children will not find shidduchim if you are yourself, because after all, as Groucho Marx once said, "I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member". {Heaven forbid we should be OURSELVES when we approach shidduchim}

But for Pete's sake:
a) Give yourself a "handle" and stick with it so that when you post repeatedly I can follow your {trust me on this!} sometimes scattered trains of thought. ( I promise not to tell the shadchan who Herr Aufshnit really is.....).
b) Although my blog is far from anonymous, kindly refrain from using my full name in your comments if you don't have the inclination to do the same.
c) Just stop and consider for a moment, if you are unable to do both a) and b), what does that say about the content of what you have to offer?

The Insomnia Chronicles - Chapter 1

  • The house is actually noisier than you would expect at 3:30 am. The steam hisses in the pipes, the refrigerator motor can at times sound like a Mac truck and various electrical appliances emit strange beeps and blips that are inaudible with the usual "family noises" to drown them out.
  • Studies show that adults change their sleeping position 11-13 times per night. My observations lead me to believe that these studies are flawed and that the actual number is two to three times higher.
  • The internet never sleeps... there's always somebody awake somewhere in the world to converse with.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Only Thing I Dislike MORE Than Boro Park...

.... is Boro Parker's that have escaped their enclave and wreak havoc on other neighborhoods by behaving the way they do at home.
I posted recently on the fact that I truly dislike Boro Park (see how I've mellowed?).
But in that post I didn't mention the inhabitants at all.
Now mind you, I don't usually complain about them when I go there, because it is their "home" and I am a guest (sort of). So I can deal with the rudenes, the pushing, the shoving, the sense of absolute entitlement (with no realization that we are in golus at all) and the fact that when my kids were small and I travelled with them in strollers by subway, the ONLY station where nobody EVER offered me assistance on the stairs, was in Boro Park.
But when they venture into MY neck of the woods, and behave badly, the average Joe on the street doesn't say, "Oh gosh... there goes that Boro Parker again" - he says, "There goes that Jew again" and that makes me mad.
Today we were robbed by a Boro Park lady. Suffice it to say, she "borrowed" something (small) from my husband because hey, a guy in a yarmulke HAS TO lend her anything she asks for and with promises to be right back, she ran off and never returned it. I told my husband he should stay with her until she returned it, but he said, "She's a frum lady. She'll be right back". Oh, how I wish I had his faith in humanity....

Friday, November 7, 2008

Marking The Passage of Time On the Linen Closet Door

Where have all the treasured baseball cards gone?

When was the last time there was a sheet doubling as the walls of a secret clubhouse slung across a framework fashioned from building blocks?

When did our medicine cabinet supply revert back to flesh colored band aids instead of cutesy characters?

Time marches on. With happy tears, they grow up fast.

And yet, a record remains. Memories written on the pages of my mind, captured in photographs and videos....and then.....there's the inside door of my linen closet.......

We moved into our current apartment just shy of twenty years ago. Joey was attempting his first tentative steps and Jennifer was still an angelic soul waiting to join our fold. Michael and Erica were walking hand in hand wearing matching black and white saddle shoes.

It was that very first year, on the first of January, that I began marking time on the inside of my linen closet door. The children lined up in stocking feet as I painstakingly measured each one and drew a pencil line with their name and the date beside it. Every New Years Day thereafter, until such time when I grudgingly had to admit that a particular child had indeed reached adulthood, I drew those lines - sometimes with little footnotes for posterity. As the children grew, we allowed them to measure US, so there was a record of each one as they inevitably climbed higher than their parents.
Every so often I would find a childish scrawl in crayon on the inside of that door where a child particularly proud of his progress that year would leave an autograph.
When guests have attained "like family" status, we measured them one time as well.
I've always said that if we move out of our current apartment that door comes with me; where I would put it or what I would do with it, I have not yet figured out.
We were discussing over Shabbos how it is time to add Kayla to the door.
This New Years we will iy"H begin to mark the growth of a THIRD GENERATION. Time cycles on... I can't wait to stock princess band-aids in my medicine cabinet again.....

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hang In There...Shabbos is Coming

To those of you who asked for more (OK, newer) table pics, you're getting your wish.

As you can see, we've got a full house tonight. Erica, Moshe and Kayla are coming. Jen has a friend sleeping over and my non-stop accosting of new faces in shul has yielded me two new girls this week ;) . (Don't tell them that along with the peanut butter mousse for dessert, I'll be serving leftover cookies from the Chosson Bereishis kiddush)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"It`s not easy to cut through a human head with a hacksaw."

So begins the autobiography of one of my favorite authors.
I pride myself on discovering authors BEFORE they become popular and commercialized. In fact, I tend to get a bit miffed when my admired authors do gain any wide acclaim, because the quality of their work tends to spiral downwards shortly thereafter and/or I lose the joy of the "well-kept" secret (I gave my son a copy of Harry Potter to read when the "average Joe" on the street would have said J.K. Who??).
Long before the television show ER, long before Jurrassic Park- the movie, I was stealthily sneaking my father's well worn copy of The Andromeda Strain off his night table and reading it under the covers.
Michael Crichton died today at the age of 66, after a very private battle with cancer.
If you haven't read any of his books, I highly recommend (almost) ALL of them. {I see you non-scientific history buffs ducking for cover.... try Timeline....}

Bonus Michael Crichton quotes of the day:

“If you don't know [your family's] history, then you don't know anything. You are a leaf that doesn't know it is part of a tree”

"In the information society, nobody thinks. We expect to banish paper, but we actually banish thought"

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Stop In and Say "Hi"

Starbucks is offernig a free large coffee to anybody who votes today.

My office happens to be located on the same premises as a polling place.
I'll go one better.
If you stop in to my office today to say "Hi" and tell me you voted, I'll give you your choice of coffee, tea, juice or milk! (I might even be convinced to throw in some cookies) :)
And please don't ask me why in a country this large these are the best two candidates we could come up with, because frankly, I can't figure that one out either........

Who Thinks This Stuff Up???

Sometimes I wish I could get into people's brains so I could follow their thought processes.

Jen's school has instituted a new program entitled "Bas Melech", designed to teach the girls tznius in a comprehensive way, not only in dress but in action as well - - - what it truly means to be the daughter of a King. It is an exciting endeavor, being taught in a fun and interesting manner and those who conceived and executed it should be commended. (Please bear that in mind when I digress a bit and poke some fun...)

Now obviously somebody thought that "Team Tznius" could use a mascot. Doesn't every team rally around a good mascot?
What was chosen to be the ICON of the Bas Melech program, you ask? The symbol plastered along the walls of the school building, on notebooks, flyers, etc. and recreated in three dimensional effigy to continually inspire our girls?
Mr. Potato Head. {I kid you not}
Would somebody please explain to me why a NAKED MALE POTATO is the most fitting available representation of a Bas Melech?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Held Over One More Day

For all those following Joey's story, he was held over today and will be taping only tomorrow. It was very nice for him to discover that he was with another frum contestant all day! They will both be taping only tomorrow.
Keep sending those good thoughts his way!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I Got a Flu Shot Yesterday

I never realized before how often I tend to absent-mindedly open elevator doors with my shoulder and upper arm {ouch......}.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Why Can't Queens College's School Color be Navy?

Or perhaps a nice hunter green?
Joey is working on his TV Debut outfit.
Now while the *official rules* state "business casual" as the required attire, leave it to my son to get permission to wear his school sweatshirt and his *signature* navy and orange boats (ahem) sneakers , because they "make a good story"........
Ok, I thought, I'm already used to him wearing those clown shoes, and how long will his feet be on camera anyway? Little did I know that the official school color for Queens College is BRIGHT RED.... my son is going on national television dressed like a giant TOMATO!!!!
Yep, that's my boy.......
(He did inform me that he'll be wearing a jacket and dress shirt if he gets held over for a second day though.....one more reason to hope he wins big.....)

UPDATE: Looks like Hashem loves Joey's Mom a bit also.... He just got an email from the producers of the show telling him that he may not wear the sweatshirt (logos, yada, yada...). OK everybody - EXHALE AND SMILE :)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Memories of Chazzan Frankel

Today was the levayo for Chazzan Frankel.

As is our custom, since no tachanun is said today, there was no hesped (eulogy) given at his funeral. I thought I'd just share a few "personal" remembrances and thougths here:

  • Chazzan Frankel attended my parents-in-laws' wedding. He sang "Shir Hamaalos", as only he could, at Avram and my wedding. Every since Erica was a little girl, he would say to her, "Hurry up. I'm getting older and I want to sing Shir Hamaalos at your wedding". When Erica got engaged, he was one of the first people she called. He not only sang at HER wedding, but he also sang at Michael's wedding eight months later.

  • Chazzan Frankel never forgot a friend's birthday. This was probably the first year in my husband's adult memory that Chazzan Frankel did NOT take him out to lunch on his birthday.

  • Chanzzan Frankel had a TERRIFIC sense of humor!

And now for my thoughts/frustrations.....

Jen had a lot of questions last night, and the hardest ones for me to deal with were the ones that stemmed from what I feel is an overly extreme way of teaching certain ideals to our children in the yeshiva system, ESPECIALLY around yomim noro'im time....

She was beside herself that had she said more tehillim, he would still be alive. She felt a terrible personal responsibility for his death.

She also has been somehow taught by her teachers that only those COMPLETELY FREE OF SIN attain the best of Olam Habah and the "beinonim" hover somewhere else that has obviously not been painted too attractively by her teachers... a bitter pill to swallow for a little girl old enough to realize that none of us are perfect. I did my best to explain to her that Hashem is merciful and he creates us as imperfect creatures and he is far LESS judgemental than Acheinu Bnei Yisroel.

{Stepping off my soapbox now}

An interesting lesson to be learned from a story Chazzan Frankel told about his life:

Chazzan Frankel never ate at a public kiddush on Shabbos morning. Why? Because of something somebody said to him when he was about three years old. Something that tore at him for the next EIGHTY SIX years.

Chazzan Frankel lost his father when he was two years old. His mother, left with very limited means, opened a boarding house so that her family could stay afloat. CF went with his brother when he was about 3 or 4 to a kiddush on Shabbos morning and somebody looked down on him and said, "I know why you need to eat here... you don't get fed at home". CF never ate another thing at a kiddush. Regardless of that man's motiviation, it behooves us to realize that even the smallest of comments have the ability to stay with a person for the rest of his life.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Heavens Cried Today....

Torrents and buckets of heavenly tears rained down today, mingling with the tears of friends and neighbors as the soul of our dear Chazzan Robert (Bob) R. Frankel, returned to its Maker.
Chazzan Frankel was beloved by many - young AND old. He died just short of his 90th birthday and left behind a legacy of davening before the omud in our shul for OVER SIXTY YEARS, most recently on this past Shabbos Shuva.
My men came home from shul devastated and still crying. Jen came to me, tears welling up in her eyes, and asked me, "Is Daddy going to be OK?". I explained to her that Hashem gave us the capacity to FEEL and tears for a reason and only if her Daddy weren't crying, should she be worried if he was OK...

Boruch Dayan HaEmes....

Friday, October 24, 2008

Thanks for the Good Wishes Juggling Frogs!

Juggling frogs just added a post entitled The Making of a Millionaire, about our Joey.
She has a writing style that is so enjoyable - tying up all loose ends as she formulates every post.
It might be interesting to note that we are very lucky to live in a society, even though we are in golus, that is understanding to the requirements of an Orthodox Jew.
Joey was speaking to his producer yesterday, prepping her among other things, to the fact that he is unable to have any physical contact with Meredith Vierra, the hostess of the show, and the producer told him that she herself is Jewish and has a cousin who is orthodox, so she understands him completely. She even had the sensitivity to offer him if he would be more comfortable, to switch to a male producer. He told her that this was unnecessary, but it was very thoughtful of her nonetheless.

Avram Wants to Read My Blog...

Here's an ironic thought. A public blog is a very personal thing.
My family knows about my blog but they seldom read it (probably because they feel they have to listen to me enough AS IT IS... why would they willingly seek out more discourse?!?!?)
I kind of prefer it this way. I can speak my mind - even about them :)
Avram has expressed interest in reading my blog. It makes me nervous because I really want him to like it. What if he thinks it's stupid and inane? (Joey actually came to me recently and told me he read my post about what I've learned from him and he was flattered... that made me happy).
We worry the most about what the people we love think.
So I told him to read it but to *be gentle*......

Monday, October 20, 2008

Cold Bodies - Warm Hearts

We spent the Shabbos at fellow blogger Foxtrot Charlie Glove's house.
Though the temperature may have dipped to levels that might be considered chilly for meals in the sukkah, we hardly noticed because the warmth in the household was so overwhelming.
The nicest thing I can say about Foxtrot's family is that her house feels "like home".
It was so nice to be the guest for once. No Julie McCoy for me this weekend - I got to ride the Love Boat!
I did learn one valuable lesson from Mother Fox, though. I too, am guily of "overapologizing" to my guests (the kitchen's a mess, this and that isn't quite right).... I'm seeing the other view as a guest that they don't even notice a quarter of the stuff we hostesses apologize for until we point it out to them!!! So let's all stop apologizing. Our houses are HOMES and that's just the way it should be.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

An Apple a Day....

Look back at my old meal plans from previous years and for some "strange" reason, you'll see a preponderance of apple dishes appearing on Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah.
Why is that, you ask?
Must be because we always seem to go APPLE PICKING on chol hamoed.
Well, today was no exception and 3/4 of a bushel later (that's three pecks folks!) I'm dragging out the recipe cards for cranberry apple crisp (warm and toasty for the sukkah!), apple pie, apple fritters, apple tart, apple sauce.....
{sigh....} I'm beginning to wish we'd gone blueberry picking.......

Friday, October 17, 2008

About as frequently as most people check their mezuzos....

.... I put down my spatula and we go away for Shabbos.
It doesn't happen often, but when it does, I really look forward to it.
(and considering that we live in an area that does not have an eruv and our sukkah is 1 1/2 blocks from our home - it's the perfect weekend!)
So am I spending the afternoon luxuriating in a tub of bubbles?
Not quite.
I'm using this time to brace myself and prepare for the "last days invasion". Michael and Chana will be back. Erica, Moshe and baby K will be returning from Toronto. Binyomin (a.k.a. Joseph 2.0) will be moving in as well. Lots 'n lots of food.... (sing in Dorie's "Finding Nemo" voice, "Just keep cooking, just keep cooking....").
Oh, and let's not forget the Simchas Torah party for 250 people. Those of you who have not located your melon ballers, you have until Monday to find them and show up and 90 Bennet to help out.

Lessons I'm Learning From My Son

We all know that children learn from their parents.
It's humbling to know that parents also learn from their children.
Joey has taught me to reach for the "unattainable" - to say "I think I can" and then see out and do whatever it takes to do just that.
When Joey was back in High School, Snapple was running a promotion whereby you collect their caps and you redeem them for prizes.... baseball caps, t-shirts and the like. Not my Joey. He noticed that for 3,000 caps you could win a ping pong table. Joey set out to do just that - not for himself, mind you - but for the boys' high school (mesivta) building (did I mention that my Joey is also very community minded? I like to think that is something that *he* learned from his parents {wink}). Now bear in mind, that our immediate family, except his grandmother, does not drink Snapple. We all told him it couldn't be done. Joey was not easily deterred. He was sure that if he explained to people that he wanted to do this wonderful thing for his school, people would participate and forfeit their own gratification to donate to the "greater good". And do you know what? HE DID! He actually collected over 3,000 bottle caps (how he got them shipped to the company for redemption is a whole other post.....) and installed a ping pong table in the mesivta building.
Joey has always said he was going to be on a national trivia game show (Jeopardy!, Who Wants to be a Millionaire....). And he set out to do just that, in a very constructive manner. He studied, he applied himself and he took charge and now he's getting to do that too.
Joey's winnings will iy"H go to law school, something I was never quite sure he was all that serious about. I'm learning though........ ;) When Joey sets his mind to something - WATCH OUT!
I like to think Joey succeeds because he believes in himself. I hope he never stops. He's an inspiration.

Monday, October 13, 2008

He's Gotta Go Late to Kansas City......

Gotta Love Joey.....
He just came out of his room with a long face on and says to me, "I'm gonna have to go late to Kansas City". Hmmmm, disappointing.... Joey's got a newspaper editor's convention in Kansas City at the end of this month that he's been very much looking forward to.
"How come?", I ask, in my most solicitous motherly voice.
"Umm, because I'M GONNA BE ON MILLIONAIRE that day!!!!!!!!".
Woooo Hoooooooo.
He deserves this - after two "calls" for yom tov dates - Hashem didn't let him down and he got and unprecedented third "call" to begin living his dream.
Stay tuned.......
Depending on how much money he wins, he's either gonna send his parents to Chicago or Israel.
The rest of the winnings after maaser will go to law school.

For those of you new to the story you can catch up on the entire saga here, here and here.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Home Stretch....

I can't keep my eyes open anymore.
I MUST sleep tonight or I will miss out on half the fun of my *favorite* yom tov!
The meats are done. The soup is done. The kugels and quiches are cooling and a colorful array of produce in season is washed and just waiting to be sliced, diced and arranged into eye pleasing salads.
The guests are all lined up (and a few are still knocking at the door ;) ).
Since we city dwellers travel a short distance to our Sukkah , everything needs to be packed up and carted over in advance. Extra shnapps cups for drop-ins (Oh please do drop in! We love it!!), tons of cakes and the like for all the guys going to the various minyanim and bringing along friends for a healthy gooey and delicious breakfast kiddush, drinks of all shapes and sizes to drown a small country, challah boards, wine glasses (thanks Jenine for replacing our corkscrew!!!), gravy boats (yes, Avram is polishing it now....), bentchers and much much more. This year we get to drag down baby gear as well {three grins for Kayla!}. The only thing I want to shlep on yom tov is the hot food itself and then it's all hands on deck.
You know you guys with the sukkah right off the kitchen? In some ways I think you're missing out on some of the FUN... No "camping experience". No bragging rights for "burn your tongue" soup a full half hour after you've arrived at the sukkah. No singing in rounds (and sometimes dancing) with all the other people at the neighboring tables in the public sukkah. {no tittering at the 5 foot doggie that Gabriel sleeps with}. Sometimes doing things the hard way is really wonderful.
Chag Sameach to everybody.
And if you know where to find us, stop on by... (Thursday there'll be *surprise* birthday cake around 7:30pm)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Anybody have some steel wool - my pots are CRUSTED!!!

I didn't plan on posting today, but you know I'm a sucker for a "guest/entertaining" reference...
Anybody who hasn't checked out Treppenwitz's reprisal post dealing with Yom Kippur, is highly recommended to do so.
I'll be thinking about it a LOT tomorrow.
Gmar Tov again everybody.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Sometimes I Kick Myself...

I used to be the kind of person who was obsessive about reading manuals before installing new appliances/electronics. Neurotically so. I even read the electrical warnings.
Well, as old age mellowed me or hubris set in, I have become markedly more lax in this regard. I'm still not sure how to properly use all the features of my new washer and air conditioner (yes, it was an expensive summer).
Today I was installing some new phones. Now I've installed many new phones in my day. How different could this little puny (read cheap) phone be? Well, I hooked it up and though it worked for calls and call waiting (oh one day I must write a diatribe post about my feelings regarding THAT lovely feature....), the caller ID didn't function. Did I do the SENSIBLE thing and consult the manual? NO! Not I! I can figure this out all by myself. So I wasted 10 minutes fiddling with the various settings, then another 15 minutes on the phone with tech support, arguing with her that my phone line did indeed have enough voltage to supply caller ID to all my phones and not just all but this new one, and telling her that I had no intention of unplugging all my other devices that were working perfectly well, just to try to get this one errant phone to behave. Only while listening to this overly polite yet completely ridiculous tech person, did I, in my boredom begin flipping through the manual. It is then that I realized, this little phone needs BATTERIES for the caller ID function to work. Now, my first instinct was to be annoyed that the tech person wasn't smart enough to tell me that from the get go, but then I remembered that I wasn't smart enough to look at the manual. Kind of humbling actually {sheepish grin}.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Gmar Chasima Tova

May all of us have our decrees sealed for a Healthy, Happy and Prosperous new year that allows us to use all our bountiful blessings for good things.

On a lighter note: I thought I'd share my two favorite yom kippur quotes with you, both from the same year. It was the year I gave birth to Joey. Firstly, my ob/gyn comes in and thanks me for getting him out of his Rabbi's boring sermon (no he isn't Orthodox...) and following the birth he chuckled at me and bantered that NOW I had to fast. I informed him that in fact, I did not, having just given birth. He asked tongue in cheek, "Oh, does that dispensation carry over to the delivering physician as well?".

But a naive young intern's comments to me that day were even more amusing. As I was walking the halls to get things 'moving' a bit more quickly, we passed a worried looking intern who stopped me and said, "Pardon me, but isn't today your Holy Day?". When I responded in the affirmative, he continued, "But how can you give birth on your Holy Day???!?!?", to which I laughingly responded, "You're the doctor! Do you know how to stop it?" :)

I will say, it made for the most unusual kavannah during a neilah prayer I've ever experienced... One is usually solemn and pleading. All I could think of was - thank you thank you thank you thank you.

Here's wishing us all a year of only thank you thank you thank yous.................

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Sometimes it takes a newcomer....

Everybody is welcome at our table. You don't have to daven in our shul - you don't have to agree with our hashkafah - (though a bit of guest etiquette is always appreciated). But unless you out and out disrespect us or otherwise set a supremely bad example for our children, you are always welcome in our home.

As a hostess though, I am often feeling my "inner Julie" (OK, if you are under "ahem" years of age you won't get the Julie McCoy, cruise director extraordinaire, reference... just wiki or google "Love Boat" and suffice it to say she was responsible for everybody's good time) and when the conversations get a bit controversial, I'm not very good at defending my position to some of our guests as strongly as I would like to.

You see, the shul we are proud members of strives to keep its traditions and minhagim alive by adhering to customs, practices and nusach that have survived many generations. It does set us apart from many of the other shuls around, that sort of "evolve" with the preferences of their members and don't adhere to any one set of minhagim. This Yom Tov, on second night, we had two lovely young guests at our table. One is a new member of our proud congregation and the other is a staunch supporter of one of the other neighborhood shuls. This second woman was saying how our shul was so closed minded because we try to adhere to these minhagim of old and she did not at all accept the concepts of newcomers to the shul following "minhag hamokom" or the concept that is brought down of "Al tifrosh min hatzibbur" (don't set yourself apart from the group). She kept insisting that heterogeneous was the way to be accepting, and that kindly and gently offering a newcomer the opportunity to "fit in" to our homogenous group (for instance by offering a tallis which is the minhag of all men in shul single or married...) is a manifestation of our "intolerance of differences" as she sees it. (Now in truth, you must know, that our shul's welcoming committee only offers visitors the opportunity to fit in... nothing is forced down anybody's throat, though a certain dress code is required for an aliyah, there is none for davening alone)

Well, our new member proudly said, "It doesn't sound like YOU are being very accepting! You want everybody to be like YOU (i.e. heterogeneous) and YOU are the one who is being closed-minded by not allowing us to be homogeneous in our own shul!". I thought about that and it was a "hmmmmm" moment for me. She was right! Why did it bother this other woman that we were not "heterogeneous just like her"? Doesn't that exhibit a form of homogeneity (in their heterogeneity) and isn't that EXACTLY what she was accusing us of?

Breaking News - Joey Update

The nice gentleman on Millionaire offered Joey a spot on..... drumroll.... you guessed it..... Shemini Atzeres......
Poor guy can't catch a break.
The nice gentleman said he would scrounge around for a "kosher" taping date, but it doesn't look hopeful people.......

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Joey's Kiddush Hashem - the sequel

OK, you're not gonna believe this....
After yom tov was over, Joey turns on his cellphone to find a voicemail from the Millionaire people. We might have another taping spot for you... call us back by 5pm tomorrow or forfeit your chance. Voicemail left when folks? You guessed it .... FIRST day yom tov.... sheesh.... poor guy....... he can't seem to catch a break.
He's gonna plead his case tomorrow morning but we're not hopeful.

Monday, September 29, 2008