Monday, December 29, 2008

One Year

I started this blog a year ago today, and all I can say is that I am so glad that I did. It has been quite the year (but aren't they all?), and I'm grateful that I've had this outlet to record my thoughts and hear your comments. My little piece of the internet has proven to be much more beneficial than I ever imagined, as it has turned out to be a wonderful tool for not only sounding off (natch!) but also making new acquaintances and keeping in touch with old ones.

So here's to the past year, and I'm looking forward to seeing what this next year will bring in my e-universe.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Chanukah!

My greetings are a tad late, I know, given that most people actually issue greetings on the first day of a holiday. What can I say? It's been really hectic this week, and not just with stuffing my pie-hole with latkes, doughnuts and other goodies. In case anybody was wondering, no I have not yet found the time to make those everything-free baked doughnuts I mentioned in one of my Sunday posts. I finally conceded defeat last night and put the recipe, which had been sitting on my kitchen counter since Sunday in anticipation of my baking, away.

In any case, not matter how you spell it (Chanukah, Chanukkah, Hanukah, Hanuka, etc.), what topping you put on your latke (SOUR CREAM), or how well you can spin a dreidel, Chanukah is a darn happy holiday. And so I'm wishing everyone a most joyous Chanukah, and may we remember the lessons learned from the Maccabees and continuously merit miracles in the name of being Hashem's people.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Gift

This week I'm off from work, but I arranged a side project for fun- I'm helping a friend assemble her book of poetry so that it can be presented to a publisher.

When she first asked me, I was thrilled, because she has done so much for me and I was looking forward to the opportunity to return the favour. But it was not to be. Instead, she insisted on compensating me, no matter how hard I tried to persuade her to let me do something for her.

I remember reading on numerous occasions that love requires the ability to both give and receive. Yet, when it comes to chesed, which is related to love, the ultimate is to be like my friend, and only give.

After the car accident, as my husband and I found ourselves stranded in podunk-ville New York on the eve of Chanuka, we made the acquaintance of the then Rabbi and Rebbetzin of the town. They showered us with whatever we needed, and our every effort subsequently to do for them was rewarded with their turning around and giving again. No matter how much you gave to them, their only response was to continue to give.

I think it's beautiful to be on such a madregah, and I found them inspiring, much as I am inspired by my friend the poetess. In the end, their behaviour serves as a welcome reminder that we are all interconnected, and that by performing kindness to others, you are in fact being kind to yourself, as well as the world. And ultimately, that's what a Toradik life is all about.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Notes on a Sunday

Since yesterday turned out to be a 21-hour day for me- I went to bed at 7 PM Friday night, and consequently got up at 5:45 AM Saturday morning- I wound up sleeping in this morning. B'H', I managed to daven by chatzot, which I'm so very grateful is clocking in at almost noon these days.

While in the past half hour the day has suddenly turned glorious outside, I've been dashing about the apartment all day doing my "first Sunday off" errands in-house. All you women know exactly what I'm referring to- hand-washing, cooking for the week, renewing library books that I still have not managed to get through, etc.

I then tackled the menorah, which managed to have a lot more wax remaining on it than I remembered when putting it away last year. I took me a good half-hour of scrubbing it with steel wool to get all the little rivulets off, and then an additional one to inspect the candles for broken ones and set up tonight's candles. So finally I've arrived at the fun part: I scoured the internet for yeast-free baked vegan doughnuts. Yes, yes, I know. But I happen to have gotten into the habit of vegan baking when eggs were so expensive over the summer, and have found vegan baking very convenient for those "What do I have in the house" moments. As for yeast-free, despite having been at ShopRite last night, along with all of Boro Park, did I remember to buy yeast? You know the answer.

Having actually found a recipe, which I really more hoping to find versus expecting to find , I spent the last 15 minutes figuring out a workaround for not having a non-stick doughnut pan. I decided I could simply shape the doughnuts into rounds and then use a small glass to cut out the center. I will of course let everyone know how they turn out.

And with that, you will excuse me, but there are several people that I have neglected to call back during this past week, what with all the work craziness. Time to hop to it!

For Those Wondering What We Can Do

I happened upon a page on the site where you can donate a mitzvah in memory of the Holzbergs. Since I know that many of us have been wondering what we can do to help the klal in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, and have been seeking an outlet where they can make a difference, I wanted to take a moment to share the page with you.

May our donating mitzvahs not only help elevate the neshamah of the Holzbergs even higher in Gan Eden, but may they merit a meaningful life for their son Moshe, as well as ensure that all of Bnai Yisroel remain under Hashem's watchful protection, always.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Made it- I hope

After working 12 hours today, and otherwise being subjected to the normal antics of my office, I am now officially on break. At least, I sure hope so. Because I can't shake this nagging feeling that they're going to call me tomorrow morning in an attempt to drain a few more hours of work out of me. Should prove interesting.

In short, when cleaning the bathroom as I just did seems like almost a pleasure in comparison to your place of work, there's pretty much nothing left to say on the topic.

And with that, here's to a few days of freedom.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Family of Blue Jays

Yesterday I looked out my window in the middle of the snowfall and saw the craziest sight. There, in the tree that abuts my landlord's yard was an entire flock of blue jays in addition to the usual Brooklyn sparrows.

I got the strangest feeling when I saw those birds, let me tell you. After getting over my initial shock- I have never seen a single blue jay since moving to the US, and now here's a half-dozen on the tree in my back yard while it's snowing????- I couldn't shake the feeling that this sighting was supposed to mean something. As much as I try not to put stock in "signs", I felt deep down within me that Hashem was trying to send me a message. Especially since one bird in the group looked straight at me. Repeatedly.

As for what it all could potentially mean, the jury is still out. But one thing I did learn from it already is how very homesick I seem to be. I actually teared up because I saw something so distinctly "from home" if you will. And I suppose if I can have a reaction like that, it demonstrates how strongly I remain connected to the Great White North. What can I tell you? Life is very strange indeed.

The Roar That Shook My Apartment

This morning I reached the end of my patience. Since I had been told yesterday that I would receive a new assignment today, and knowing that at the earliest I would receive it mid-morning, I decided to wait until 10:30 to send an email to the Content Manager. I politely asked when she might be sending the said assignment, since I wanted to work around when she would send it to me. In other words, will you please let me plan my day already?

In typical fashion, I received no reply, and decided an hour ago to give her a call. She told me that she needed me to be patient because she still had to put together the assignment and so today would be a "down day" for me. That's when I said, Enough! and informed her that, no problem, I would just bill for the time. And I decided that going forward that will just have to be my policy. I'm tired of literally having to eat the cost of not being able to work because they can't seem to get their act together, to the cost to me of several thousand dollars less in income over the course of this past contract. Maybe after seeing "Waiting on next assignment" often enough in the timekeeping system, they'll start getting their act in order faster.

In the meantime, I expect to get paid. And on that note, I'm going out to find myself a pair of winter boots. Hm, paid shopping! Gotta love it. :=)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Finish Line

In just a few days, I'll be off "work" until the new year. I say "work", because as everyone is already well aware, my current job stretches beyond the normal boundaries of career woes into the absurd. My term of the week for it happens to be slavery. Seriously- what else do you call a contract where you are expected to be available 24/7. B'H' for Shabbos is all I can say.

Yesterday we had a meeting called for 9:30 AM. Being perennially an optimist, which by-the-by is not all it's cracked up to be, I thought that we would receive our latest assignments within a couple of hours after the meeting. But no. Turns out that despite having sent us all emails indicating how many hours we were allotted this week, they hadn't gotten their act in order enough to actually provide us our assignments before the evening. Beautiful.

So I decided the heck with it. I called up my friend and we were all set to run a few errands together and otherwise have a nice, relaxing afternoon. As I was literally walking out the door at 1:15 the phone rang. I deliberated whether to check the caller ID, because I had been playing telephone tag with one individual for 5 days already. That was the deciding factor and I sprinted to the phone. It was work. Naturally. Oh, could I do yet another rush job by 6 PM?

For the first time at this job, I laid down the law, and said that I had already made appointments for the afternoon, since we had been informed that there would be no work until early evening. After a brief discussion (my friend buzzed me from downstairs), I ended up cutting the afternoon out short and went home to do the assignment. A compromise, if you will. Hey, you gotta eat...

Despite my having already booked up my entire time off, I am very much looking forward to the upcoming break from my current mayhem. Hopefully come the new year and next phase of the contract, I'll be able to lay down some boundaries in such a way that I can have a life while still getting in enough hours. I can dream people. Stop laughing! :=)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Shabbos Thought

I was really wanting to go to sleep abysmally early last night, but felt embarrassed to be going to be at 6:30 PM at my age. So I forced myself to slog through the rest of my learning, and even cracked open a new sefer. While Hashem did reward my efforts with granting me a chiddish, I subsequently failed to remember it past this morning. So I suppose it's good nobody asked me to give a brief word at the lunch table. All that said, here is my feeble attempt to reconstruct my little thought.

When referring to Yaacov's bowing to the shechina versus Esav, Rav Dessler stresses that as opposed to the strategy of the secular yid, whose sole focus is seeking Esav's approval, Yaacov exemplifies the Toradik focus that one should maintain during galus. In a similar vein, Maharal relates the story of how the question was once asked why "the Chosen People" should be so fractured. Where's the national unity? Maharal recounts that galus requires this dissolution of unity, since it is this lack that is a critical component of the dispersion. Mental dispersion was required, and the end result was diverse outlooks that purposely interfered with brotherhood.

Indeed, this fracturing is appropriate given the reason that the second temple was destroyed, as again given over by Maharal. Unlike the first temple, the shechinah did not reside in the second temple. Rather, the second temple served as a sign of national unity; it was where the klal congregated as a people, and in that merit, stood until the people became divided. Thus Yaacov's bowing to the shechinah versus to Esav underscores how the klal, in galus, must remain focussed on a Toradik perspective, not pander and strive to placate the other nations. By doing so, we can remain in a mindset that enables us to create achdus in the community, and ultimately reunite as a people. In turn, by begetting a positive mindset, we can be zocher to once again have the shechinah dwell openly amongst us.

Good voch!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Gossip Girl Moment

When thinking about the song a la my Little Bo Peep post, it occurs to me that I have had a Gossip Girl moment not once, but twice this week. For the uninitiated, the show centres around a bunch of frenemies, who text message a lot and follow their group's going-ons courtesy of the blog run by an anonymous insider, Gossip Girl. So what made my moments GG-worthy?

First, I had been unclear as to what a frenemy is until this week. Conceptually speaking, I understood that it's someone with whom you have an on-again, off-again relationship. Much like the one summed up so succinctly in the Katy Perry song. But this week, it occurred to me that I am unfortunately well-versed in "friends"' who are back-stabbing Bs one minute, then sweet as pie in a heart-beat when they need something. Guess I was in just plain in denial. (Having become enlightened however, I make sure to mentally label the stated parties appropriately going forward...)

Next, I officially turned back the clock and re-entered teenage-dom. No, I did not find an elixir to rid my wrinkles or rejuvenate my ever-increasing crop of greying hair. What was the undeniable indicator of the cross-over? I actually uttered "OMG". OUT. LOUD.

In short, people, I think I'm long overdue for a vacation...In case that wasn't blatantly obvious already...

The Anniversary

It's the anniversary of the car accident. I contemplated whether I even wanted to waste a brain cell commemorating the event. No point in dwelling on past events, unless you haven't learned from them yet, that is.

I decided though that I should mark the day. After all, it is a reminder that Hashem saved us for some purpose, which has as of yet to be revealed. So, a show of gratitude is certainly in order.

Todah Hashem, for preserving our lives, and let us remain here in this world so that we can not only achieve our spiritual missions, but do adequate teshuvah for past wrongs.

Little Bo Peep

I logged in before to listen to one of the songs I included in a post on December 4, only to find the whole post gone. After a half hour of checking all over my dashboard and Blogger Help, I figured that due to some technical snafu on the blogging platform, the said post has fallen off the face of the planet. So let's pause and bid it a fond farewell.

Isn't technology grand?

On the plus side, here's the theme song I had included, which categorically summarizes the ****iness of my wonderful office and was the general gist of my now RIP post.

Katy Perry: Hot N Cold

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Continuously Traumatized

Last night I read a new post by one of my favourite bloggers, SubWife. You can find the post, which was about the media's portrayal of the Mumbai attacks here.

All I can report is that everything I have read about the attacks has caused me to bawl like a baby. What is so odd is that I was never cold to such attacks previously, yet somehow Mumbai resonated with me on a level I have never experienced before. Perhaps it was the level of methodical disrespect for human life that the attacks demonstrated. Or perhaps it was a reaction to the media's portrayal of the incident in neutral terms, as a countermeasure to their emotionless reporting.

Whatever the cause, it was somewhat of a relief to see that one of the top MSN searches for several days following the attacks was for Moshe Holzberg, or specifically "Son of Dead Rabbi". As horrible as the search title is, I found solace in the fact that people cared enough to conduct searches on that specific part of the attacks. I was personally hoping to learn more about the nanny, who demonstrated with her actions a total appreciation for life that the terrorists lacked.

What else can I say? There are no words that can express the outpouring of emotion that the attacks has unleashed world-wide. Only tefillah, teshuvah, tzedakkah and chesed can begin to reestablish the correct balance in the world- one where the innate goodness in people wins out over the innate evil.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Aha Moment

Yesterday I was reading the parshah, and I hit upon a commentary that bowled me over.

Having spent my time down south amongst chassidim (Chabad and Breslov mainly), I'm well-versed in the whole "always be b'simchah" mentality. Or at least, so I thought. But when I saw that Hashem didn't appear to Yaacov a second time until after the mourning for Devorah and Rachel ceased, that made a big impression on me. Specifically, when I learned that the shechinah doesn't rest where there's sorrow, suddenly, a key concept banged me over the head.

If you think about it, our entire lives are supposed to be about enhancing our relationship with our Creator, thereby improving not only ourselves, but the state of our community, our fellow yiddin world wide, and indeed, all of creation. But if we are closed off from Hashem because our frame of mind prevents it, then that purpose remains out of reach. We can easily understand when people comment that to be sad, depressed, or angry cuts us off from Hashem on an intellectual level, and can even relate to feeling cut off at such times. Certainly when in the throes of negative emotion, it is simple to lower ourselves to a base level. That's why psychobabble loves to categorize various negative emotions as "primal", because they debase us to the level that we relinquish our free will. And that's why so much mussar material tries to get us to focus our attention on getting closer to Hashem, to help us overcome the always waiting road to negativity.

Yet if we contemplate this lesson from the parshah, one can also recognize that there are several components to it. First, one needs to remember that negativity renders us animalistic and denies the free will that Hashem gave only us amongst the species. Next, one needs to find a method to help overcome negative thinking. It is this step where I find many books to be lacking, since I find that most of their strategies simply don't work for me. Regardless, if one knows oneself, one can hit upon a strategy that could work, test it out, and fine tune or repeat the process until they find themselves improving. Finally, one needs to recognize that in order to rise higher both in this world and the next, one needs to always remain focussed on one's relationship with Hashem. A tall order, indeed, and one I've touched upon in my previous postings. But the beautiful phrasing of the parshah really rammed home that nugget of truth in such a way that it tied all the loose ends of wisdom/advice ("Everything is always for the best", "Being angry separates you from Hashem", "What's the use of being depressed? This world is so fleeting and you being depressed does nothing to change your lot, so...", etc.) into a useful bow.

In short, by banishing negativity in one's mind, one's heart becomes unfettered and open to Hashem. In turn, one can improve spiritually, and also have one's heart open to help one's family, one's community, even the world.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Just Pick One, Will You?

As I've mentioned previously, I live in the quintessential Brooklyn apartment: hellish in summer and freezing in winter. But perhaps my favourite feature is the non-stop draft. Fresh air is one thing, but for the past few weeks I've had the blinds banging furiously in all rooms due to the worn-away insulation. Every Sunday night since I've had the same epiphany- DUH. I forgot to plastic wrap the windows. Again.

Since I've been waiting for my freshly laundered blanket to be dry before heading off to bed, and the said draftiness has basically offset the blankie's readiness before, uhm, Tuesday at this point (you would think it have been blown dry by the wind, no?), I figured why don't I check the weather forecast?

Suffice it to say that I got a nice laugh once I got a look at this week's forecast. Tonight, it's -13 C. That's almost Canadian cold, people. But what got the laugh was Wednesday's high: 14 C. So in 72 hours we go from winter to spring. You gotta love New York.

Until Wednesday though, I guess I'll be lugging my mini-heater from room to room. Like now, for instance. Here's to wishing you all a good night. :=)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Happy Birthday Wishes

I wanted to take brief break (yes, I'm busy working) to wish my husband and father-in-law a Happy Birthday. Yes, they share a birthday. Freaky, no?

So, A and Abba S- here's to wishing you only the best, both for your birthday and the whole year...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Theme Songs

First, I need to give credit where it's due. So kudos to Barb Chansky of Barb's World who found the perfect adjective to describe me: quirky.

I have always happily described myself as unique because in my family, we're all a bunch of characters who, while frum, don't quite fit the generic frummie mold. But I'm sure you've figured ***that*** one out already. Case in point, since my mother was heavily involved in music, we were encouraged to pursue the arts- not something you'll find in your typical Brooklyn home. While music and art might be appreciated by some, they are certainly not viewed as important to a child's development. Yet I would suggest that it was my constant exposure to the arts that helped me develop certain skills. It's a proven fact, for example, that children who learn music are more adept at tasks that require sequencing, if not full-out mathematical logic.

Upon becoming more frum, I was faced with a conundrum. What do I do about my music? Suffice it to say that music went to the back burner. Nobody wants to hear me sing, which I completely understand from a tznius perspective. And yet for someone who was constantly singing up until recently, including performing and touring as part of an ensemble, to have to turn off that part of yourself is difficult. In fact, it's a tad stifling, albeit for the ultimate cause. More difficult to navigate in a way was my music collection. Obviously all the standard choral music is of a liturgical bent, so that's definitely ix-nay. As for my hard rock collection, I don't think 99% of my neighbours want to hear anything beyond "JPop". I mean, I have a couple of Jewish music albums (sorry- what do the kids call albums these days? I miss vinyl...), and even those I only bought because of the lyrics, not the music. Which is not to knock the Jewish music scene. There are some phenomenally gifted performers out there, especially amongst the young boy singers.

Lately, as I mentioned a few posts ago, I've allowed myself to get back to listening to mainstream music. If I hit a song that's untznius, I either skip it or switch the radio off. I was shocked to discover a "racy" song even on my favourite Dinah Washington album. You can imagine how quickly I hit the >> button on that one, although a tad sadly. She was such a marvelous talent.

Which brings me to theme songs. I don't know about you, but I find that I've had theme songs for given years of my life. Indeed, when I hear certain songs (and my arsenal of such songs easily surpasses the 3 dozen mark), I am actually transported back to that given point in time. So far this month I've got 4 theme songs. Yes, 4- when you have as much going on as I do right now, you tend to be a bit schizoid and require more than one theme song. And, for the record, that's exactly the same reason why I've been tending to abandon theme songs at a bi-weekly rate. What's interesting to note, and probably qualifies as a caveat, is that none of these songs belongs to the styles of music I typically listen to. I guess that means that either my tastes have returned to their eclectic roots (I used to say I'll listen to anything except hair metal and country. Even that no longer holds true. ), or I really am going over the deep end. :P

Anyway, here they are, in order of how often I hit replay. I'm loving Santagold's lyrics; you'll see what I mean. Feel free to weigh in or even share your own.

  1. Santogold- Shove It
  2. Rihanna-Umbrella
  3. Lady Gaga- Paparazzi
  4. TATU- How Soon is Now?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Things got interesting on the job front today. During our weekly team meeting, they mentioned that they had gotten verbal confirmation that the contract with our client would be extended through the next phase, i.e. for the next three months. So after some downtime, those who are continuing with the project will resume work sometime in January.

Problem is, they aren't certain that they can keep the whole team into the next phase. In short, I'm in the same boat, in terms of knowing whether or not I'll have a job come mid-December. I assume that the matter will resolve in the coming week. At least, one would hope.

Since I don't know what's happening with my current project, I've been trying to apply elsewhere. Unfortunately, there aren't too many jobs out there right now. The end of year is typically slow for a job search, and coupled with yesterday's headlines (USA OFFICIALLY IN A RECESSION THAT BEGAN IN DECEMBER 2007), let's just say that the situation is less than ideal.

One ray of hope came via my voicemail late yesterday. The HR Manager at one company wanted to have a brief chat to discuss my profile prior to an official phone screen sometime next week. As time is of the essence in this economic climate, I figured that despite my supreme lack of sleep and extremely stressful workday (this project is a killer), I had better respond to her inquiry. Today. So I sent her an email asking when she was available for the stated brief chat. She said 4 PM. No problem.

So I called at 4, and lo! The brief chat turned out to be a full-blown HR phone interview clocking in at the 45 minutes mark. I felt like an idiot. I should've realized that this would a bona fide interview, but since I've had very preliminary chats in the past with HR reps, I thought this would be par for the course.

You can imagine that, as a Yekki, I always come to an interview prepared. I surmised that her light touch was a deliberate tactic to have me interview on-the-fly, thereby gaining some insight into my true character, communication style, etc. See how I think on my feet, as they say. While I felt misled, the lesson was instructive- prepare for every interaction with a potential employer as if it was an interview. I mean, I generally do prepare, but this was an extreme example of why one should never take time with the client for granted.

Anyhow the outcome of it all is in Hashem's hands now. Here's to hoping that it's basheret.

Monday, December 1, 2008


As I have mentioned previously, I love to bake whenever I'm stressed out. Maybe it's pounding the dough thin or something, but I find it really gets rid of the stress. Then again, who doesn't enjoy the wonderful smell of cookies permeating their flat?

Lately I've been baking variations on a vegan cookie recipe that I found online. So far I've made:
  • Chocolate chip
  • Double chocolate chip
  • Cinnamon
  • Honey sunflower seed
The problem is that not only are these cookies incredibly healthy and easy (they only contain sugar, whole wheat flour, olive oil, water and spices for the base recipe), they are hands-down the best cookies I have ever made. And I've been baking a long time. So I can't stop making them...and eating them!

Normally I am a three cookie eater. Believe me, I would love to be someone who could limit myself to a single cookie; a most admirable trait. True, I suppose I should count myself lucky that I'm not prone to eating entire rows of Oreos and the like. Still, with these batches, I find myself stretching beyond my usual three.

If anyone has any strategies to avoid scarfing down these cookies - aside from not baking that is; it's been very stressful around here these past few days? weeks? years? oops, sorry!- please share! And, for the record, don't bother with the "freeze them" suggestion. I adore cookies straight from the freezer! Especially chocolate chip. Which reminds me...just kidding...

Silly Habit

I often find myself up early into the morning, exhausted but unable to sleep. Over the past few years, I've hit upon a strategy that inevitably causes me to get to sleep at a more reasonable hour: I take an online IQ test.

As a caveat, I don't believe that IQ tests mean anything. I knew roofers who scored below average yet had brilliant people skills, and geniuses with incredibly high scores (as in there are only 1 in 1 billion people who score like them) who could barely function socially. In short, who do you think did better in life, including their careers? Enough said.

One aspect of this ridiculous habit that I find so intriguing is that despite my invariably testing at say 2 AM on 3 hours sleep, my score is within 2-3 points of my daytime score. However, I believe that such scoring demonstrates not that one's IQ score remains static over one's lifetime, but rather that how one chooses to applying themselves mentally is based on their given comfort zones. We will tend, it seems, to always approach the same test the same way. That's why, even if you've taken the test a gazillion times, your score won't significantly improve unless you change how you apply yourself to it.

Interestingly, my main fascination with taking the test is due to having perceived over time that depending on the given day, I will excel in two of the given logic testing areas:
  • numeric, e.g. how much is___ or what is the missing number in the sequence
  • spatial-visual, e.g. what is the next item in the sequence or how many 4 dimensional items are there in the graphic
  • verbal, e.g. unscrambling words or discerning the best match to a given meaning
  • deductive, e.g. if Xs are all Ys and Ys are all Zs, is it true that all Zs are Xs?
What is so hysterically funny is that I will excel in opposing areas, either in numeric and spatial-visual or in verbal and deductive. You would think that I would be strong in two interrelated areas (verbal and spatial-visual, numeric and deductive). But no! Instead my silly brain excels in opposing combinations. Weird, weird, weird.

Anyhow, feel free to comment- and share your IQ scores and/or thoughts on such testing.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

OMG- Fake Kosher Radio Caller

(I almost deleted this post, because the events of this past week have magnified the need for kindness and solidarity versus divisiveness. But the more I thought about what I had written, the more I realized that the mentality illustrated in the story is precisely the mentality that condones the Mumbai attacks. And so I'm posting it anyway, and I hope nobody gets offended by the initially "fluffy" nature of the story. Given that I have spent the last 72 hours in a somber mood contemplating the dire state of the world, perhaps a pulse-check of the insidious lines of logic that create an environment ripe for precisely such attacks, chasve shalom, is in order.)

I was listening to the radio Friday morning while I was cleaning and waiting for my non-existent next assignment to materialize in my inbox. I generally am not a fan of radio DJs and call-in shows, since I tend to enjoy less didactic, self-aggrandizing radio. As in, just give me the music, please and cut the chit-chat. But when I tuned in to my regular station, I caught the following, and remained transfixed in horror.

As I tuned in, good ol' Elizabeth was busy telling the abysmal saga of how she had fooled her family by getting takeout from Boston Market and passing it off as her own. I was busy trying to give her the benefit of the doubt in terms of why she might have tried to mislead her extended family about her cooking, when she dropped in a most self-satisfying tone the following shocker: "And the best part is that they keep kosher!". As caller after caller told her that what she had done was deceptive and wrong, she kept saying "I just don't see what the big deal is".

Since I don't see how, living in New York of all places, she could be so put out by stopping off for 5 minutes to get kosher takeout post-Boston Market, her decision to not offer any kosher food to her guests suggests a general hostility towards religion. Perhaps she had issues with organized religion prior to getting married. Or maybe she and her in-laws don't get along. (Given her personality, I could see why that might be.) In any event, the woman definitely has issues with her husband and/or his family, and decided to address things in a most passive-aggressive manner.

Anyhow, I found myself pondering this radio roadkill. And what I found particularly disturbing was the following.

First, dear Elizabeth seems to misunderstand the basics of respect. When you get married, you need to nurture respect for both your spouse and your spouse's family. I mean, that's just a given, lady. I'm sure she would understand what the big deal would be if she served meat to a vegetarian. And, I hate to refer to Emily Post, but general etiquette does dictate that one find out if one's guests has dietary preferences and then offer a few dishes to meet those requirements. Unfortunately, it would seem that Elizabeth missed the boat completely as far as standard good graces are concerned.

Okay, so the woman has issues with etiquette. Many people in this generation do, so she gets a free pass on that one. But even if she couldn't see the problem with not catering to dietary preferences, as in the case of the vegetarian above, let's think about the sitaution from a different angle. How might she react if say, having made a choice in her life, her family consciously attempted to subvert her choice? Would she not feel as if her trust had been betrayed? That their lack of faith in her choice was condescending and/or disrespectful? But I suppose that's the point- she is obviously self-absorbed and doesn't give a flying fatouey about anyone but herself.

So the real shame is that this woman seems to believe that life is only about her and her "needs". When you get married, you're supposed to understand that you're going to have make some concessions in order to build a relationship with your spouse and their family. But the Thanksgiving episode- and who knows if this is the first such antic she has pulled?- will not only end up alienating her in-laws, but her husband and their children while she's at it. Although, to be frank, she probably would continue to shirk her role in the disintegration of respect and trust that is the foundation of any healthy relationship. Repeat after me everyone: "I don't see what the big deal is"...

As for the duped in-laws, where to begin? No matter what level of kosher they keep, the reality is that they have wanted to keep in contact with their son and consequently agreed to participate in Thanksgiving with him and his non-Jewish wife (I say non-Jewish, because even if this woman converted, she obviously did so insincerely). Imagine their dismay when, having put their trust in their daughter-in-law they learn the truth about her disgraceful behaviour. Because, let's be honest- if you're brazen enough to go on the radio to maliciously gloat about putting one over your entire family, you just know that word will somehow get back to the family. I expect Elisabeth is desperate to get caught. As for why that may be so, I'll leave that to everyone else's imagination. My concern is her moral vacancy.

How does all of this tie into the Mumbai attacks? First, Elizabeth is unequivocally an anti-semite, as demonstrated by her blatant disrespect for Jewish "traditions". Secondly, call it a stretch, but the same intolerance for anything but one's own ideology is at the heart of all extremism. By disrespecting other people's way of life, Elizabeth is perpetuating intolerance. And it is precisely such intolerance that finds a way of targeting minorities, such as us Jews. For those of you who don't believe Jews are minorities by the way, you'll have to wait for a future post; suffice it to say though that all you need to do is google countries by population and demographics, then do some rudimentary math, and you'll see that, all the propaganda to the contrary, Jews remain a minority.

What else can I say? In a perverse way, her call was fitting given the events of last week. It helped explain why, in the aftermath of Mumbai, the media coverage minimized the terrorist link by referring to the terrorists as "hostage-takers", "external links", "Pakistani Militants", etc. In a world where a Chabad family and their guests gave their lives in order to provide kosher food for people who might or might not have otherwise kept kosher, this woman's joyous celebration of mocking her in-laws traditions is a sad, chilling reminder that we only exist due to Hashem's protection and Divine Mercy.

May His Protection and Mercy never wain.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Baruch Dayan Emet

My husband just called me from work to inform me that Rabbi and Rebbetzin Holtzberg perished in their Chabad House in Mumbai. He did not have any details, which will hopefully come to light in the next few hours or days.

To all those who knew Rabbi and Rebbetzin Holtzberg, I offer my hearfelt condolences. They seemed to be a fine example of people who accomplished much during their tragically short time in this world. We can all learn from them. As for their young son, may he grow up to continue in their footsteps and make them proud.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hostages in Mumbai

Unfortunately, these are the times in which we live.

I received two emails today from friends of mine in Florida, who are Chabad shluchim, and know the Chabad Rabbi in Mumbai, Rabbi Holtzberg. Sadly, the Rabbi's family, as well as potentially 5 other Jewish families, are being held in the Chabad House in a hostage situation. I heard that their son, Moshe Tzvi, has by all accounts been released from the hostage situation, but his parents remain unconscious, and the state of the other families in the Chabad House is currently unknown.

I ask everyone to please daven or do mitzvahs in the merit of the yiddin in Mumbai who have been impacted by yesterday's terrorist attacks, including those remaining hostage in the Chabad House. The names of Rabbi and Rebbetzin Holtzberg are as follows:
  • Gavriel Noach ben Freida Bluma
  • Rivka bat Yehudit
May Hashem merit a blessed, peaceful and swift end to this situation.

And the verdict is in

I picked up my sheitel!

Hashem decided to throw a bone my way; the "spa" took it upon themselves to set the sheitel despite my having requested only a colouring. I must say though that I would definitely consider using this place as backup in case my regular woman is unavailable. They made the sheitel look stylishly modern- and I'm not someone who feels that following fashion is wrong, in case you're wondering. The only snafu was that the receptionist is far over on the rude side. What can you do? Life is about navigating compromises.

But back to the sheitel. :=)

I keep picking up the head and looking at it from all angles. If I hadn't dropped off my "Shabbos" sheitel to be washed today, I would probably have avoided wearing this one on Shabbos in an attempt to revel in its beauty a while longer. They managed to make the back fall straight and even, despite being layered. Quite the feat. The main reason why I *love* my current woman, aside from the fact that I happen to find her a hoot and like her immensely as a person, is the fact that she has thus far been the only person who has been able to keep my sheitel from looking matronly. So if any of you need a reference for a good place here in Flatbush, just let me know.

As for the colour! While I had been wanting something in a light brunette, and this is definitely a medium dark blond, the colour is a warm caramel with hints of strawberry. Beautiful. I mean, I seriously would *eat* it if I could; it actually looks that appealing.

Now that I have two "good" sheitels though, I find myself begging the question: do I bite the bullet and get myself a winter coat with a hood? I notice that on Shabbos, none of the ladies wear a hood over their sheitel, so I am wondering how wrecked one's sheitel becomes from being exposed to snow. Of course, on the warmth front, I must admit that a hood is an asset in New York weather, especially since it does tend towards precipitation around these parts. Nothing like winter sleet! Feel free to post your suggestions on the matter.

As for me, I think I need to go look at my sheitel one more time before I shove it on my head and go out the door for some dinner with my husband. That is, if I can bear mussing up the coiff. ;=)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I managed to sleep in until 9:30 this morning, despite the daily din of the downstairs children and the blast of sunshine that shone through my bedroom window. I knew however that my supervisor wouldn't be sending our next assignments before 9:30, so I figured I was still in decent shape. I quickly davened (sorry Hashem), and then logged on to see what awaited it.

Turns out not a heck of a lot. After about 3 hours or so of work, suddenly the place was shutting down for Thanskgiving. They may be sending some work my way Friday morning, which carries with it the usual set of problems, but it would seem that between now and then, I'm pretty much off-duty. I say pretty much because there does seem to be a slight chance that the Senior Manager may be sending some work to me at some point this afternoon. One thing about my current job, which seems to be slowly but surely winding down- they tend to keep you hanging over assignments, since they are dependent on the client, and the client is kind of indecisive. It's trickle down economics at its best.

The day is whizzing by for some unknown reason, possibly because I'm so exhausted these days that most days either drag on or pass with lightening speed. But I find myself beginning to decompress a bit with the happy thought that for the next 36 hours, I'm basically a free agent. I have a gazillion errands that I'm running tomorrow, mainly because it feels like a special treat to be able to do them on a "regular" weekday, although businesses will be either closed or closing early. The one item on my "To Do" list is to pick up my sheitel from the salon. I am *so* excited to see how it came out, and I'm telling myself to remember when I see it that I still need to take it to my sheitelmacher to have her set it, i.e., I should reserve judgment until I see the final creation in all its glory.

Until then (in case I don't feel inspired to blog tomorrow), to everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving, Happy Turkey Day! I hope everyone's cranberry sauce turns out...

Monday, November 24, 2008

That's ridiculous...

It's a funny thing. If you contrast our lives in this generation to life even 3 generations ago, you would be forced to admit how luxurious life nowadays is. Only the very poor go without heat, air conditioning, hot water. Foods from around the world are readily available in most supermarkets. Clothing is cheaper to buy in shops than to sew. Many families have multiple cars, computers, cell phones. The list goes on and on.

Contrast that to my youth, when my Aunt did most of her laundry by hand in either her tub or her sink, when we lived without air conditioning (and I'm sorry guys, but it gets very hot and humid in Canada in the summer, all stereotypes to the contrary), when we got a replacement car (every 15 years) only once the thing conked out, when we wore third-generation hand-me-downs, when getting a toaster oven was a **major** event years in the get my point.

In my 20s, I lived overseas in a developing country. There, laundry machines were a luxury most people did without, and even when you located a machine, it was so wonky that it hopped around like a kangaroo and ripped your clothes. I was consequently introduced to doing laundry on a washboard, which was quite the eye-opener. I can honestly say that since then, I learned that undoubtedly the cleanest laundry is the laundry done by hand on a washboard. Is it a pain? Definitely, but believe me, you'll have a new understanding of the term "clean clothes".

What brought these thoughts (and this post) to mind? For the last 6 months I have avoided going to the laundromat down the block by hand-washing everything. And I mean everything, including sheets and towels. My strategy started out innocently enough: it was summer, the laundromat is narrow, crammed, dirty and without air conditioning, the machines do only a fair job on a good day, and I didn't have the patience in such an environment to deal with the jockeying for a machine and/or guarding my clothes from people who seem incapable of waiting for my spin cycle to end before dumping my stuff and starting their load? Why torture myself?, I decided. I'll just hand wash stuff until after the summer. But then I started appreciating the convenience of doing laundry whenever I need, not to mention being able to perceptibly discern the difference between items washed at the laundromat versus by hand- the latter were unquestionably spotless.

Yet whenever I inform anyone of this latest tactic of mine, while they can understand my logic, they undoubtedly utter the same phrase when I mention that I launder my sheets by hand: "That's ridiculous", "That's crazy", etc. etc. But I remember back to my Aunt, to that washboard overseas, and I wonder which is more ridiculous- to deal with sub-par laundering or take matters literally into my own hands and do things the "old-fashioned" way. Regardless, it being winter, even I may draw the line at laundering my mattress cover and blankets by hand. Because while my tolerance for the ways of yesteryear seems much higher than most, sometimes you've just got to give in to a little modern convenience. Besides, when you schlep your laundry to the laundromat in the winter and open those doors after being out in the cold, that blast of heat can be oddly welcoming.

In any event that's the current plan. Whatever works, as they say...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tale of Two Sheitels

Up until I lived in one community down south, I always covered my hair with a hat or tichel. That's what my matriarchs wore, and that was good enough for me. More to the point though, my preference aligned with the various rebbeim I had come into contact with over the years, whose preference is for women to cover their hair with a snood, tichel, hat, and so forth. If you must wear a sheitel- and they recognize that many women have an emotional need to wear sheitel in order to feel adequately feminine- then a synthetic is the primary choice. Look attractive, but not too attractive; look like you have hair, but let it still be obvious to the trained eye that your hair is covered.

But then I moved to the said community, where every woman but me wore a sheitel- even the young Israeli girls. Suddenly I found myself sticking out like a sore thumb- exactly the opposite of the meaning of tznius. So I bit the bullet, sucked it up, and drove an hour and a half out to the mall to buy a synthetic sheitel. Suddenly not only was I adequately tznius, but I was more readily accepted; I started getting invited to this shir, that coffee hour, etc.

Around here, the head covering of choice is the human hair sheitel. After I got engaged to my current husband, my Rav informed me that I had to return to covering my hair. I consequently started to trot out my two synthetics. However, one of my dearest friends here in Flatbush happens to be in the sheitel business, and she was *horrified* by my head coverings, although to her credit, she didn't let on the degree of her loathing. Anyhow, not only did her shop arrange for me to get a short sheitel as a kallah gift, but she gave me a second short blonde sheitel that she rarely wore to tide me over in the interim. As I have previously stated, it's good to have friends like mine! I am so very blessed...

Despite having the two human hair sheitels, I continue to wear primarily hats or tichels during the week, and I have been keeping at least one synthetic sheitel in my collection for weekdays. I just find them more practical, since I can wash them myself and I don't have to worry about them getting wrecked due to rain, snow, or my shoving them on my head layil Shabbos while my hair is sopping wet. Overall, very good to have for day-to-day. But the main downside that I have been experiencing with them is that they tend to only last a few months. So when all else is said and done, you're spending a good $100 minimum each year just for synthetics.

I came to the conclusion last week, when I saw the sad state of my current synthetic and went to find a replacment, that it might actually be more economical if I just wear my human hair sheitels for the time being. Since I'm paying to maintain them as it is, why not just make use of them? Given the frequency with which I wear my sheitels, synthetic or otherwise, the extra amount I would pay to have my sheitels maintained would probably run roughly equal to the costs associated with getting new synthetics. The main problem facing me, after I made my very Yekki decision, was that the blonde sheitel is not the right shade of blonde for me. I need something warmer, less ashy. What if I dye the sheitel, I figured? Wouldn't that make the sheitel "new" for me?

I called around, and found a place right near me that came highly recommended. After ruling out my usual sheitelmachers (my friend was kind enough to imply in her tone when she quoted the price that she understood it was a lot of money, and my usual sheitelmacher said she doesn't do blonde sheitels because they never turn out like the client expects), I trotted over today to drop off the sheitel and hit upon an appropriate colour.

When I walked into the place I was shocked. The place was nothing extraordinary- great lighting, a vaguely clinical look similar to what you would find at the Clinique counter in your local department store, perfectly placed racks of products - and yet something about it screamed "decadent". I was entranced. Given that dying the sheitel is the most extravagant thing that I've done for myself in the last ten years (seriously), I was thrilled that I had a hit upon a place where I felt pampered just by entering their doors. The feeling continued as I was lead to the back and consulted with the colourist. He was amazing. He barely looked at me, but understood immediately that the sheitel had too many green tones for me, and that I needed something warmer but not excessively golden. We settled upon a medium caramel shade. I left with a goodie bag full of brochures for spa treatments, and a sense of relaxation simply from having spent five minutes in the shop.

Suffice it to say, I can't wait until Thursday when I go pick it up. If my regular sheitelmacher is available, I'm going to drop it off with her so that she can set it in time for Shabbos. While I'm not a girlie girl by nature, my penchant for eyeshadow and 3 inch heels aside, I must admit that I am very excited by the whole thing. If it turns out really well, I may just have to post a picture of me on this blog. Then again, that might be quite some time in the future, given that I loathe having my picture taken. In any event, wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Stuck in the Middle

Last month I had a wonderful surprise. Almost three-quarters of the way through the month, I received a letter from my COBRA Third-Party Vendor notifying me that my ex-employer had changed plans, effective October 1st. So suddenly there I found myself without coverage until my elections were processed. To add insult to injury though, I went from a Class A PPO plan for $430/mo (not bad by NY standards) to a Class B HMO plan for (brace yourselves) $584/mo. So not only was I now dealing with being sans coverage, but I was paying a lot more for an HMO. Drat.

Fine, I figured, I have no choice. I called the TPV to confirm which forms I had to complete and return, wrote the painful cheques to cover the difference for October and the full November premium, and sent them off with my completed election form. Weeks went by and no word. Then suddenly I got a call from the Benefits Administrator from my old company. Turns out the COBRA TPV had messed up and there were additional forms that were required. It took until last week for my enrollment to process and display in the new provider's system. Unbelievable.

Since I do primarily contract work- not because that's my preference but rather that's what's available for my line of work- I find myself in this situation frequently. I mean, this is the fourth time in 2 years that my provider has changed, and so during that time I had effectively paid for 6 months of coverage during which I couldn't use my insurance because forms were being processed. I decided to try and improve my lot, and sought the counsel of my good friend, who works as a lawyer in the medical field. She told me that I should try to find an association to join in order to obtain group coverage.

I took the advice to heart and spent the last couple of weeks researching potential associations to join. Unfortunately for me though, these associations only offer group insurance if you are a 1099 or small business owner. For poor sobs like myself, the only option seems to remain only COBRA or individual health insurance, neither of which is a really decent option. Sigh.

What brought this to mind? I went downstairs earlier to collect the mail and lo! there was my premium notice waiting for my next cheque. Sometimes you've just got to wonder why there isn't a better way...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Canadian Secret Services???

So, tonight I got treated to the new James Bond flick. Since I **adored** Daniel Craig in Casino Royale, I have been officially in countdown mode leading up to this weekend. I was a tad worried however, since the early reviews were mixed and only gave the film 2.5 stars. But more to the point, I figured that since the only two actors I consider watching as Bond include Sean Connery (duh) and Daniel Craig, I was probably setting my expectations neck-breakingly high. Whatever.

Some black licorice, a bottle of water, and the last two seats left in the whole theatre and I found myself watching the film on opening weekend. While the credits and theme song were boring (who could've believed that Alicia Keys would produce such a snoozer of tune, or even chosen to continue to associate herself with it once she heard the master?), and I found many of the key chase scenes edited too fast (I like to actually see a bit of what is going on versus only feeling the chase if you will), I felt the critics were unfairly harsh. Yes, if you hadn't seen Casino Royale, you would probably be muttering "What the heck is going on"? But I felt the film was long enough (versus Casino Royale, which should have ran at least an extra 15 minutes), and I personally liked having a pair of Bond girls. To the reviewer who said that actress Olga Kurylenko slept-walked her way through the film, recognize that at least her character was given a back story and a mission of her own. And *hello*- all Bond got from her in the end was a kiss. The woman has backbone. You gotta respect that. Despite Gemma Atherton's character barely appearing onscreen long-enough to count as a Bond girl at all, I appreciated that she managed to create an endearing character, not to mention the homage to Goldfinger with her method of demise. Very au courant, albeit terrible to contemplate.

Speaking of girls, I had to tip my hat to the jab they made at the end to my fair country. In the final scene, the female character is a member of Canadian Secret Services. As she scurries out, she makes sure to give a quick "Thank you" to Bond. Always polite, us Canadians, LOL. I say, give her some credit though- she was smart enough to believe Bond whereas some other woman would've been stupid enough to "believe in her love". Sometimes the most important thing, after all, is to recognize the truth of the situation and act accordingly.

So while I think Casino Royale deserved its 4 star rating, and while the current film is more of a sequel to its prequel, I did enjoy the film very much. Which means nobody should be surprised when I go for a repeat showing again this month. :=) As a footnote worth noting, as we exited the theatre, a bochur came over and asked if we had seen the James Bond film and what we thought of it. Only in Brooklyn could you find a theatre packed with Yeshivish types all trying to get in to see James Bond opening weekend. Sometimes I've got to admit it: Brooklyn can rock!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Gestapo Officer's Girlfriend

First, I apologize for not posting this on the anniversary of Kristallnacht proper. However, given the importance of Kristallnacht to my family, I figured that a belated post was in order.

In any event, this week marked the 70th anniversary of the night that really marked the "beginning of the end" for not only German, but all European Jews. For my family, Kristallnacht was the event that precipitated their fleeing first to other countries in Europe before being smuggled into Canada. Yes, smuggled, since Canada had its "One Jew is Too Many" policy. To be precise, the story goes that a Gestapo officer's girlfriend, who was fond of my grandfather, convinced him after Kristallnacht that things were going to get very bad for the Jews. After being briefly detained by the Nazis, he caught up with his wife and children, as well as the brothers and their children who chose to leave. Of the remaining brothers and their families, only one cousin survived the camps. She joined the family that was already in Canada after the war.

So, here is a tip of the hat to that girlfriend, who saved countless generations through her kind-heartedness. And here is a moment of silence for those unfortunate enough to have believed in their native lands and lost their lives as a result. As we say "Never Again" for yet another year, the lessons that can be learned from our fallen brethren should remain in the forefront of our minds.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Post-Flood World

I'm a little behind on my learning, partially because I decided that this year I would finish each parshah's notes, etc. before moving on to the next week's. So my thought is actually from parshah Noach. Better late than never, I figure.

The pre-flood world was one that provided an easy existence: the climate was temperate year-round, food had to be accumulated only once every 40 years, and people were imbued with tremendous strength and fortitude. The end result though was that people took their cushy existence for granted and felt little gratitude towards Hashem. To prevent man from making the same mistake in the post-flood world, Hashem decided to make life much more difficult.

Yet in a sense, the post-flood world is no better at showing gratitude to Hashem or to keeping its focus on the Creator. Instead, while we are forced to acknowledge that we are utterly dependent on Hashem, we choose to stray by rationalizing our over-emphasis on material matters as necessary. Because we now have to exert ourselves tremendously in business, at home and otherwise in order to survive, we feel justified in putting Hashem on the "back burner" in order to devote our time and energy to material pursuits. To be frank, most of us, if deciding between spending 5 minutes on Torah matters versus 5 minutes on material matters, find it easier to focus on the latter.

However, by recognizing that our current preoccupations are as inherently flawed as those of the pre-flood generations, perhaps we can begin to shift our focus. That is, by turning our attention to what we choose to focus on and deciding to move Hashem up from the background to the foreground throughout our day, we can learn to prevent ourselves from following down the path that our pre-flood ancestors walked.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

An Important Note from Our Sponsor

This weekend I'm on strike. Well, except for the half hour I spent this evening checking my work email and downloading some documents for my next assignments, seriously- it's the first weekend since I started when I will not be working. Being Yekki, my striking is kind of revolutionary. I finally realized though that because I'm so crispy-fried, if I don't devote this weekend to trying to unwind, I won't be physically able to put in yet another 50 hours come Monday. So I actually have a few minutes to blog. :=) (And search for a teapot. Seems like Brooklyn only contains tea kettles, which begs the question: What do all the communities who drink tea do when their teapot breaks? Someone please fill me in on the mystery...)

It occurred to me today as I was talking to my friend that as much as I have what to say about living in Brooklyn, and much of it is of the "WTH"-kind, perhaps the problem actually lies with ME. I mean listen, I wasn't born and raised here, so I don't find life here to be remotely normal. But for 90% of my neighbours, Flatbush and/or Boro Park is all that they have known. This is LIFE for them, the only one they can fathom living, and just because my life lies in stark contrast to theirs doesn't mean that the problem is them or Brooklyn for that matter. Rather, the problem seems to lie with me and having to adjust to an existence that flies in the face of all I have previously known and cared about. In other words, their life is normal for them, and that's 100% valid. I consequently either have to learn to suck it up or move elsewhere.

While I may not love Flatbush then, not to mention some (ok, a lot) of the stuff that goes on here, since I choose to live here, that's my problem, not anyone else's.

Good Voch.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote 2008

Voting day!

Back in Canada I used to be so happy on Election Day, and why wouldn't I be? During any given election you're deciding between candidates from a dozen parties, so you're generally able to find a niche that precisely reflects your given political bent. More to the point though, since one often winds up with a minority government, you generally have a good chance of having your view actually represented in Ottawa. So it pays to vote, so to speak.

Since moving to the US, my voting experiences have been a mixed bag. I have generally found it to be more challenging, since there really are only two viable parties, and I cannot stand firmly behind either. The end result is that I generally cast my vote based on which candidate is most aligned with my beliefs, i.e., I take a "lesser of two evils" approach. Not that my vote has counted for much: in the first election after my arrival, I wasn't registered because I hadn't gotten an American driver's license yet. Then, in the second election, after 4 hours and a dent inflicted to my car in the polling station parking lot, my vote was discarded due to a clerical error- as reported to me a few months later via post.

To set the record straight and ensure success this time around, I awoke bright and early this morning to grant myself enough time to put in a full work day and get to the polls before they closed. When I arrived at the polling station, I was pleasantly surprised by how quiet and orderly the place was. Row upon well-marked row faced me, and it took less than a minute to locate my row, have them find my name and sign, and then escort me to the booth. I was very thankful when the proctor asked if it was my first time voting. I was taken aback for a second, since nobody had ever asked me that question before, even when it was indeed my first time voting at the tender age of 18. But then I figured that's their way of asking if you're familiar with their polling system. So I said it was the first time I was voting in New York, and she told me to come with her.

Boy, was I glad that I replied like I did, because when she pulled back that curtain, I was so surprised by the old-school machine. Every other time I've voted, it was either on a paper ballot (yeah, I'm that old) or a touch screen. Yet there I was, facing this huge wall of levers. She explained that I had to pull the handle to the right, then turn the lever that correlated to my selection to the left, and when I was done, to return the handle back to the left to record my answers. Then she went out, and I found myself mesmerized by the wall of levers. I began to clue in that the same candidates were reiterated across parties, so I could choose them for one party over another; I had never seen that before. I also noted that while I could make up to 8 selections for Senate, there were only 10 candidates in total, so what was the point of that?

Anyhow, I was almost done when my proctor called over the curtain whether I needed help because there was a time limit. Time limit????? Believe me, you can't tell a Yekki that there is a time limit and not have him/her panic. Thankfully I was almost done, and just had Proposition 1 to finish. After quickly deciphering Proposition 1 I became vaguely alarmed; how is it that a proposed amendment that impacts disabled veterans didn't make it into 10 seconds of the news during the entire campaign? I mean, here I was voting on a bill that could change the lives of those who fought to defend the rights, freedoms, and safety of Americans and paid with their health as a result, yet nobody had bothered to educate the public about the bill! Thinking about how important Remembrance Day was in my youth, I couldn't shake the feeling that I must be really old-school, because I was bothered by the lack of media coverage. When did people stop caring about those who took duty seriously? I cast my selection, flung open the curtain (hey, people were waiting), and exited the booth.

And felt a wave of happiness that I had fulfilled my civic duty, a feeling that I haven't experienced in a very long time.

This morning during davening, I asked Hashem to please elect the candidate who would be best for yiddin both here and world-wide. I then asked that if that candidate should not end up being elected, that Hashem should please protect us from persecution, discrimination and any of the other items on the long laundry list of measures that have been implemented against yiddin throughout history- or any newly devised plans/measures...

It should only be so, bli ayin hara!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Sheva Berachos

I have been so crazy busy with work this week that I literally did not exit the house for days at a time-- even to take out the garbage, which as you all know, if my "critical mass" point. Anyway, when I am in the house, I have my cell phone shut off for several reasons, not the least of which being that my lovely CPP (which shall remain nameless) is unable to provide me with sufficient coverage in my 70 sq meters of heaven, i.e. dropped call, dropped call, and dropped call. So, unless I am expecting someone to call me, I don't bother to check my messages.

Yesterday I got a call from my lawyer about the lawsuit, but she didn't leave a message or send me an email, so I figured I should check the cell phone. Sure enough, she had left a message there, and that's how stumbled upon the multiple messages left by my very-stressed-out Kallah friend (see Notes on a Wedding). Turned out there were going to be sheva berachos three hours later in Flatbush, and I had better hop to it. So hop to it I did, and practically ran my way over there. Listen, when you're Yekki, being late is tantamount to a cardinal sin.

Suffice it to say that while I may have arrived horrendously late by Yekkish standards (read 10 minutes), the Chattan and Kallah were on Sephardi time; the shindig got underway around 8:15 or so. I was sort of undressed, having forgotten that everything in Flatbush is an opportunity to be fancy; at my Sheva Berachos, people wore jeans! But, B'H', at least I had some make up and a sheitel on, not to mention a pretty necklace my husband bought me last year to mark the anniversary of the car accident- or specifically, our having pulled through it, with much gratitude to Hashem! The table were all beautifully set, the hosts' children were cute like anything, and the caterer very accommodating and cheerful.

I had arrived at the same time as another couple, and for the longest time it was us, a second couple who arrived about 20 minutes after us, and the host family. They seated myself and I staked out a seat. Noting the Chattan and Kallah's chairs, I decided to take an end seat at an adjacent table. The end result was that I was on a diagonal from the other guests, basically seating at the polar opposite end of the room. I entertained myself by speaking to the children, who were a hoot, and when the hostess came down, endured her awkward attempts to take my coat and chit chat me across the room to join the two couples. I politely sidestepped her "good" graces, retained my coat, and remained where I was.

There is nothing that I abhor more than polite chit chat, particularly because it is generally a thinly veiled attempt to be polite without any real interest in getting to know the other person. I prefer to be ignored and/or left alone to enduring the obligatory twittering over weather, schools, families in common and so forth. Yet, and perhaps I am being delusional, I do find myself be out-going. Rather my issue is that if I am going to converse, I want it to be with someone with whom I can hold an actual, friendly conversation. Divulging of intimate secrets is not required, simply a bit of warmth and good will. And, while I understand that chit chat is most often people's attempt to break the ice, the end result is typically that you exchange a few lines, smile a polite smile, and move on- a cold exchange indeed.

I was consequently most pleased when my table wound up consisting of the teenage girls and the hostess's mother. I have found, due to my preference for honesty, that I like the company of senior citizens and persons of school age, and I was not disappointed. The matriarch was a fascinating woman, and her grand-daughters and their friends were very warm and charming. When the Chattan and Kallah finally arrived, I was already having a grand time, which I subsequently punctuated with trips to the Kallah's table in order to dish a bit. All in all, it was a really nice time, as evidenced by the fact that it lasted much later than I expected, and despite my having a pile of work waiting for me at home, I didn't care. Then again, at such events, since kind attracts kind, chances are that you're going to enjoy the crowd.

The Chattan and Kallah are going out of town for Shabbos to have Sheva Berachos in the Chattan's hometown. I hope they enjoy themselves, and that when they return home and are finally able to enter into their peaceful life together, Hashem will only bestow blessing upon them.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Notes on a Wedding

I had the good fortune of seeing a dear friend of mine married off yesterday afternoon. I know her from back when I was single; she belonged to a crowd that I used to hang out with, and we spent many long hours in conversation. In short, I'm a big fan.

I wanted to record just two things that came to mind at the wedding, since I am officially at the point in my life where if I don't write something down, it's gone for-E-vah, as they say around these parts...

First of all, in true testimony to her endlessly giving nature, the kallah was only concerned with her guests: she worried about the hall, the caterer; she came down from the kallah chair to greet those who had difficulty walking; she fretted that people would be offended if she missed them during dancing, and consequently made a point of breaking out of the circle to dance where all of those who would not or could not participate were. I could only marvel at her tremendous generosity, that on "her night" she chose to make it everyone's night. It was a beautiful spectacle indeed, much like the kallah herself.

Next, it was amazing to see all that had changed in the few short years since I had seen everyone. People who were newlyweds when I last saw them were now parents a couple of times over, married women were divorced, parents were grandparents, singles were engaged. Life had moved on, and it was a bittersweet moment as I drank in all of the changes. One nice aspect of being back with everyone for an evening though was returning, albeit briefly, to the Me I was before I got married. I was free to be me, if you will, because they knew me from when it was just me, and there was something refreshing about seeing myself through their eyes for a little while. It was nice to get back in touch with my former, pre-accident self.

Anyhow, a tip of the hat to my dear friend and her Chosson. They should only live and be well, knowing only Hashem's abundant blessings, bli ayin hara. And, for those times when Hashem may throw a temporary curve ball, hopefully the wine glasses I got them will come in handy, LOL.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Finally, a moment to blog. Like just about every other frum lady within a gazillion mile radius, the chagim are over, the laundry is done, and we had a Shabbos to, well, rest. While I was working up until the very last second before benchlicht, I spent a blissful Shabbos sleeping in, davening leisurely, eating low-key meals, and catching up on some much-needed learning. Sure, I ate way too much cake, but it was a really nice day. I even treated myself to havdalah over apple juice, since grape juice just doesn't seem to agree with me lately.

As previously noted, Simchat Torah is my runner-up favourite holiday, and this year did not disappoint. First, while it isn't my minhag, I very much enjoyed eating in the sukkah over Shemini Atzeret, and it felt bittersweet when I bid the sukkah farewell for the year. All things have their time and season, I know, but despite the cool weather (and yes, everyone found it riotously funny that I wore my lighter winter coat for every meal), the company was first-rate, the food was delish, and somehow, the mitzvah seemed especially meaningful.

The first lunch, I had the pleasure of meeting up with an old friend of mine, a fellow blogger, and I literally jumped out my seat in excitement when I saw her. It's been too long, and I really enjoyed catching up with her. She is a most kindred spirit, and I always love being in her company; I leave feeling recharged. Our hosts for that meal were old friends whom I have not had the pleasure of eating by for quite some time. So it was lovely to be back in their fantastic presence. And finally, maybe the nicest surprise of the chag was that I got to hang out with our vegetarian friends, who I mentioned a few posts back. The wife and I had several long conversations until the wee hours of the morning over some excellent tea...if any of you get a chance, I recommend that you try the Rose Chai Wizzotsky puts out. Very yummy. So, not that I hadn't previously felt close to her or otherwise considered her a friend, bu this chag truly solidified the bond. At least on my end... :-)

Hakofos is always wonderful, as is watching all the men/boys get aliyahs. I went by our local shtiebel in the evening, where my husband davens. It was really nice to see all of our mutual friends together, and the emotional aspect of the evening was very gratifying. People were in high spirits, drunk if you will with Torah. And that's a beautiful thing. During the day, I went to my usual shul, toute seule, and maybe it was having said yizkor the day before or being alone, but I really noted how Simchat Torah is about family. Part of what I love about Simchat Torah is the memory of being a little girl watching the absolute splendour as the shul's many Torahs made a regal circuit around the shul. Such pomp! Such beauty! And, most of all, I remember how I would wave my little flag with its apple perched on top (apples are the local fall harvest in my native area, and I suppose apples also somehow allude back to Rosh Hashana) furiously whenever my Dad would go by me in the procession. And so I especially appreciated this year how the children seemed to drink it all in. That's the point: to instill in the next generations the beauty and glory of Torah by expressing joy over it.

Anyhow, now comes the long stretch between Simchat Torah and Pesach. Sure, there's Chanukkah and Purim. But it will be interesting to see how well we do in keeping the momentum up. Today in my davening, I tried to instill a bit of the fervour I had on Rosh Hashana into things. Hopefully, with Hashem's help, I can continue to do so going forward, ad infinitum.

Gut voch.