Archives for March 2008


Here’s what I want from a shopping experience:

I walk into a store. I wander around. I look at things. If there’s something that catches my eye, I think about whether I need it. If I do, then I look to see the price. If I like it enough that the price seems good. I buy it.

Here is what I do not want from a shopping experience:

I walk into a store. Someone attaches herself to my heels watching my every step (NOTE: I have never, ever in my entire life shoplifted. Why does she think that this will be my first attempt? Do I have shifty eyes?). I walk through the store ignoring said person and her nose ring, her eyebrow rings and that pesky one in her tongue which causes her to lisp, drool, and spit as she says, “What are you looking for?”
I tell her “I am not looking for anything in particular.”
She says, “We have some beautiful navel rings and they are on sale this week only…”
I tell her, “No thanks.”
She says, “Well how much do you want to spend?”
I say, “I am not sure I want to buy anything at all.”
She continues to follow me.
I foolishly let my eyes wander toward a pink fur lamp.
Quick on the draw she says, “That also comes in fuschia, chartreuse, and ebony.”

I leave.

The gravity of it all

We live in a building that has 3 stories. On each side there is a two story apartment and then on top of each of those there is a one story apartment. We have one of the two story apartments with a garden around three sides. About two years ago, we bought the small apartment that is above us. I hope to someday cut through a staircase and expand our home up while also leaving it possible to close it off for short-term rental.

The reason why it is “someday” is that along with the apartment we bought Grizelda (not her name.) Grizelda is a woman of about 70 who immigrated from an eastern European country that may no longer exist– or maybe from one that didn’t exist when she immigrated from it, or maybe one that only decided to come into existence because she had finally left and the average IQ skyrocketed.

Grizelda was a tenant at the time we bought the apartment. She immediately asked, “Do you want me to move out?” Before I had a chance to say “You betchem!” my husband said, “Of course not.” I forgot. I am married to a man who feels that every encounter is an opportunity for charity. “Of course you can stay! and at the same [ridiculously low] rent.”

So she is still here.

Now aside from some annoying habits like ringing our doorbell to say “Isn’t it sunny out!” and “Do you think that turning off the faucet might stop the water from running,” Grizelda does things that drive me crazy like repeatedly taking shopping carts from the supermarket and leaving them outside the door tothe building (I have issues with larceny) and leaving cases of water bottles in our lobby (thereby enticing the neighborhood hooligans).

But the thing that bothers me the most is that Grizelda does not understand the concept of gravity.

For years, Grizelda has been placing flowerpots and planters tottering on the edges of her balconies. At least once or twice a week, I would pick up the pots from my garden and place them at the entrance of the building to return them. She never quite got it. Her floor rags drying on the ledge of her balcony would often show up in the garden. That sponge one uses in the vegetable drawer showed up. Old sukkah decorations came tumbling down. Then there was the year that she decided to leave her sukkah up with a heavy plastic covering over the roof. And after a few rains, there was a sudden crash onto the glass roof of our sunroom. The water came down with such force that it actually bent the frame of the roof and sprayed onto our furniture. The roof was not damaged longterm, but she was getting on my last nerve.

Then we went away on a trip. When we returned, in our garden, lying on its side, was a wooden dog house. It is about two feet square with a roof that peaks at about 2 feet. I immediately realized that we were very very lucky. Had someone been in the garden when the dog house came down, that person could have been killed. I did not return the dog house. She has not asked for it. After that, all flower pots have become gifts to me.

Last week, my grandchildren were over. On the roof of our sun room was a pot with a plant in it. My grandson Daniel asked, “What is that doing there?” I gave him my stock answer, “Grizelda is experimenting to see if gravity still works.”

A new blacklist?

I just can’t seem to keep out of trouble.

A couple of years ago, I noticed that my laptop was running very slowly and very hot. I took it in to the trusty guys who fix laptops (names concealed for reasons that later will become obvious) and they fixed it. They told me that three things can go wrong to make a laptop overheat and all three had gone wrong on mine. They cleaned it and moved the fan that had become displaced and they replaced a piece of filtering-type material (by now you can tell why I stick to doing therapy and leading tours– a techie I am not!) A few months later when the laptop was again running slow, I had a local person look at it and he found that the automatic windows updates were hanging it up. He turned them off and the computer ran fine.

But a couple of months ago, the laptop once more started running slow. By this time I had gone out and bought an external hard drive and between that and some DVDs I burned, I backed up pretty much everything of value.

So on Sunday I took the laptop in for servicing to the laptop experts (not their real name.) Computer Whiz (not his name) told me that he would let me know what the story was within a day.

Last evening I called him and he told me that he was with a client and would call me back. Meanwhile we took friends of ours out to eat at a nice restaurant here in Modi’in. It’s the kind of place that has home baked laffot (they’re like huge pitot and taste heavenly) and they bring to every table a selection of salads (about 12), a vegetable salad, rice, french fries, humus, and whatever meat you order. We all decided on skewers of “pargiot” which are very tender pieces of chicken. I had taken my first taste of a piece of a laffa (the bread) when the phone rang.

It was the Wizard. He said he had three things to tell me. The first was that my laptop was terminally ill. It seems that from the color of the monitor when it boots up, he can tell that the monitor will soon die. Replacing the monitor on an almost 5 year old laptop is probably not worth it. I knew that all of my data and pictures and writings were backed up, but I suddenly realized that I would have to download the abominable printer driver once again. I was barely absorbing this crushing blow when he got to the second item on his list. He told me that he could run the spyware check, but that he thought it was unnecessary given that I could do it myself. “OK,” I thought, “now for the reason I brought in the computer…”

At this point, his generally kind voice turned into that of a very frustrated drill sergeant trying to explain to the new recruit for the 1000th time not to point the loaded weapon at his buddy.

He said, “I know that I am younger than you are, but I have to reprimand you.”

“OK,” I said.

“You eat at the computer.”

“Yes, I do.”

“Your computer was filthy.”


“No, NOT OK; your computer was filthy. There were crumbs and dirt everywhere.”

“OK, I understand.”

“No, you don’t. I had to use a shovel to get all of the dirt out.”

“OK” (at this point I was beginning to think that he was just a bit over-the-top)

“NO, It’s NOT OK. You can’t eat at the computer.”

“Yes, I understand.”

“Did I tell you I needed a shovel to get all of the dirt out of your computer?”

“I think you mentioned that.”

“So you had better not eat over the computer.”

Now here is where I made my mistake… I think he was winding down and I almost was finished with my reprimand when I somehow decided to offer:

“I actually went out and bought a silicon keyboard that I attach to the laptop. It’s washable.” (I didn’t add that you can even submerge it in water.)

He was not pleased. He didn’t think that I was showing sufficient respect for my laptop. He said:

“You still need not to eat at your computer.”


“Did I mention that I needed a shovel to get all of the dirt out of it?”

“I think you did.”

So here’s the question: Do you think the Wizard has put me on the laptop blacklist? When the monitor dies, will I be able to buy a laptop anywhere in Israel?

Stay tuned.

Blacklisted no more

I started dancing when I was 4. There was a woman named Florence Cowanova who was a friend of Anna Pavlova and settled in Philadelphia to teach girls who in many cases became well-known ballerinas. My mother enrolled me in her school and i remember with only joy the dancing lessons where I wore an aqua organdy tutu and danced with other girls my age on the vast hardwood floor gleaming with the reflection of the light coming in through the floor-to-ceiling wall of windows. I loved listening to the piano accompaniment to our exercises- always beautiful music that fit the steps we were learning. The mothers sat and took notes so that at home they could remind us of 4th position and of plies and tour jetes.

Most of the time, we danced in ballet slippers, but around February of the year I turned 4, my mother took me out to buy me toe shoes. They were beautiful. They were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. They were pink satin and had wide pink satin ribbons to fasten them around my feet and legs. In the toes, there was a special soft cotton that my toes would rest on when I stood upon them. In those shoes, I felt beautiful.

When my mother would mention to others that I was already dancing on my toes, they would respond with surprise and tell her that usually they don’t recommend toe shoes until age 8 or 10. But my dancing teacher was an expert and so we trusted her.

I never had very beautiful feet. Actually, my feet were rather ugly. But I can’t help thinking that the early exposure to toe shoes might have had something to do with my bunions and hammer toes, both of which are the result of the big toe being pushed toward the center of the foot.

I only bring this up because I am about to tell you the saga of the bunion blacklist. (Anyone who is not into this is excused. I promise my next posting will have nothing to do with bunions.)

Several years ago (in 1999) I went to an orthopedist because I was having problems with my feet. He looked at my feet and said, “you would do well to consider surgery.” He ordered some xrays and gave me a referral to a colleague of his in Lod (a city about twenty minutes from here.) He gave me a referral to a hospital for another doctor to examine me and determine whether I needed surgery. After a few weeks, the day of my appointment at the hospital came and I arrived with all of my xrays and paperwork. After a long wait, I was finally called into the office of the doctor. I put down my paperwork and he asked me to sit on the examining table. He never looked at my chart. He never opened my xrays. He didn’t even ask me to take off my shoes. He said, “Well, do you want surgery?” I said, “Aren’t you supposed to determine whether I need it?” He said, “If you want the surgery we’ll do it.” I really wasn’t understanding the whole point of this appointment. He said, “Well? Do you?” I asked how long it would be from the time of my decision to the surgery and he said about a year. I said, “Well, I guess in that case, I could say yes and then decide later whether I want to go through with it.”

It was as if the full moon had risen and the doctor became a werewolf. “No!” he shouted, “You cannot do that!!! If you make an appointment for surgery, you must have surgery! If you cancel the appointment, you will NEVER have surgery on your bunions in this country!”

Well, that was a while back. I did make the appointment and I did cancel it about 2 months before the projected surgery– mainly because at the time I was having issues with my shoulder. But it was with full knowledge that I might just have doomed myself to being on that infamous Israeli “bunion blacklist.”

A few weeks ago, the lower joint of my second toe on my left foot having grown to epic proportions, I once again went to see an orthopedist. He is an English speaker. He said, “The only answer is surgery.” He told me that he operates at the very same hospital where I canceled my surgery. I told him the story. He looked at me incredulously and said. “[expletive deleted]” (meaning “that’s nonsense”)

I spoke to him yesterday and we have begun the march, so to speak, toward the correction of the damage done so very long ago.

And now we return to topics that are less earthy…..

I’m repeating myself

I know it. I have said this before– probably a few times before. But who goes to look at what I said a year or two or three ago?

It’s about appreciation.

We all learn to appreciate good health just about the time that our noses are running and coughing has become an Olympic sport.

We appreciate good weather when it’s pouring rain and we have errands to do.

We appreciate home cooking whe we’ve eaten out and the spices were not to our liking.

We appreciate those we love when they are far away.

Appreciation is what most people want from their spouses and family members. We all like hearing “thank you” and “I love you” and “I’m happy to see you.” We all like knowing that others value us. And yet, it seems that many people forget to let those they love know how much they are appreciated.

My mother was the kind of person who had so many issues of her own that she could not appreciate the people who were closest to her. For her, famiy members were only worthwhile in that they were available to meet her needs. If we didn’t meet her needs, we were useless. Sometimes her need was to show off. “Look how pretty/smart my daughter is!” and then we would be appreciated for a moment. Shows of affection were only given on camp visiting day– a hug and a kiss. No, scratch that, a kiss and then some motion of her fingers on my face either trying to wipe a blemish away or flick off a loose eyelash. I was never OK. I always needed some fixing up. Praise? No. Not even when I accomplished something noteworthy.

Did I grow up OK? I think I made it through. I needed to do a lot in terms of “being my own mother”– transforming her negative messages to me into healthier messages about trying and working hard and accepting even second best after a serious effort.

But our kids shouldn’t have to just “make it through” nor should our marriage. Appreciation costs us very little. It means we have to open our eyes and see what is in front of us and to take note of the kindness, the goodness, the sweetness, the devotion of the people around us and to let them know that we appreciate them.

Did you forget something?

The family all made it here. And a fine bunch they were! Lots of fabulous costumes, excellent food gifts, and lots of fun.

I always worry that people will forget things that they brought. Today when I checked, it turned out pretty well. We had some extra mishlochei manot and one extra chumash– not bad.

But then the doorbell rang and there she was standing at the entrance to our apartment talking to me about someone she saw and not knowing who the person was and trying to have a conversation and not understanding… and I could barely understand her. She was confused and lost and I realized she was all alone with no one to take care of her. And finally, she wished me a happy Purim and then my neighbor went to her apartment…

And no, there were no forgotten children left here.

p.s. The computer ate my last posting… probably because I talked about excessive amounts of food… I’m sorry, computer. From now on I will leave out the food parts (yeah, like that’s gonna happen on a blog written by a Jewish grandmother)

A word about Tibet

I will admit it. I am not an expert on Tibet. However, I have studied about Tibet and spent a few days there this past spring. Here is what I know about the situation there:

Lhasa, capital of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, is experiencing a renaissance. When we were there last spring, the streets were clean, there was bustling traffic, people moved about freely. As we drove through the streets, we saw Buddhist pilgrims who were coming on foot to the main temple from places that were so far away that the treks took close to a year. We saw monks walking on the streets and in the many temples and monasteries. Religious items were on sale and prayer wheels lined the streets that surrounded the largest of the temples in Lhasa. People walking around the temple would spin them as they went by, thereby repeating a prayer said earlier in the day.

In addition to its airport, Lhasa has recently been linked to the rest of China by a fabulous railway that travels 1110 kilometers (over 600 miles) between Qinghai and Lhasa, crossing the frozen tundra at enormous altitudes while preserving the wildlife.

While in Lhasa we went to a monastery where there were tens and maybe over a hundred young monks dressed in their crimson robes outside in the shade of trees debating and trying to understand the holy ideas- one questioning the other in pairs of two or three. It was like nothing so much as an active yeshiva where the men were studying with their “chevrusa.”

In a tiny village outside of Lhasa, we asked a local family to allow us to come into their home. Outside in the courtyard of the U-shaped home, the woman was boiling water using a solar reflector. Inside was a fairly primitive kitchen with a large water container and with preserved meat and cheeses hanging from the ceiling, a few sleeping rooms, and a living room with a large screen TV and a DVD. And yes, there was a satellite dish outside. There was no bathroom in the house, entertainment having won the battle of priorities…

In Lhasa, there are luxury hotels. Our hotel was exquisite. Our hallway was decorated with highly polished woods and there were showcases with local artifacts in them. As we walked down the hallway, the lights would increase in intensity in front of us and dim behind us. Every room had a computer and free 24 hour internet access. When the computer in my room gave me trouble, they simply replaced it.

The man at the hotel who we interfaced with about the cooking and set-up was a very young man who had been trained in the hotel business and did all he could to please us going so far as to put plastic wrap over each of the 27 placemats we used at each meal! He had grown up in Lhasa, but was looking forward to going to Shanghai and learning more about the hotel business and then returning to Lhasa to manage one of the luxury hotels. He spoke of hope and a bright future.

Was every Tibetan we saw happy? I don’t know. I do know that they smiled and were friendly and did not seem to be suffering. Economically, they have never been in better shape. How many of them really want the Dalai Lama to come back to be not just the spiritual leader but also the political leader of Tibet is completely unclear to me.

The Chinese have taken pains to allow people to worship as they wish. They have created a magnificent Tibetan Museum in Lhasa.

And now that the Tibetan monks have started rioting, the people of the world have a knee-jerk response “the Chinese need to give Tibet its independence.”” The Dalai Lama refuses to tell his people to stop rioting, but he fears a bloodbath and “cultural genocide.” Were the Chinese to leave Tibet, would the people be better off? I seriously doubt it. Now they are enjoying the fruits of Chinese prosperity. They have limited ability to provide food for themselves because of their harsh winters and short growing season.

I don’t know what is right, but I do know that a lot of people who know less than I do are very sure. Just as they are sure that Israel should just give up its land because the Arabs are rioting and lobbing rockets into our civilian populations. They are so sure. They can’t find Israel on a map. They have no idea of the size of our country or the population. They don’t know that ceding land here is not possible when those who would take it are bent on killing our population.

It’s so easy to know what’s right when you are ignorant.

It was great!

Despite all of my worries about the sleeping arrangements for this past shabbat, it all worked out. Friends were kind enough to host two children and other friends hosted a couple and three of their children, leaving us with a mere 17 people sleeping at our house. Amazingly, everyone was able to sleep! The children finally quieted down at about 11:30 p.m. and we didn’t hear from them again until after 7 a.m.

Friday night dinner was a real treat as I looked around the room and realized that all of those people were my family. Each and every one of the precious grandchildren was such a special treat. They are growing up so nicely and two are already in their teens!

Of course the most important part of the shabbat was the brit of our newest grandson, son of my daughter Rachel and her husband Ohad. The baby is beautiful and the synagogue on shabbat morning was filled with not only our usual shabbat morning people and those who came because of the brit, but also the women in the community who show up at special times since this was shabbat zachor.

So in this mass of people, our newest grandson was brought into the covenant of Avraham Avinu (our father Abraham) with tears and happiness, and given the name Yirmiyahu Yaakov (in English translation, Jeremiah Jacob). His parents will be calling him “Yirmi” which is a sweet sound in Hebrew.

As I looked at him and heard people wishing “L’torah, l’chupah, u’l’maasim tovim” wishing him to grow up to learn Torah, to marry, and to do kind deeds, I realized how much I want to be here to see all of that and to cherish all of the moments in between with his parents, his siblings, and with him.

Welcome to the world, Yirmi!

There were ten in the bed and the little one said…

We are looking forward to a fabulous shabbat! The little boy (AKA “he who has no name”) will be the star of the show as family and friends gather to welcome him into the community of Israel.

And I am thrilled.

And also shell-shocked.

For my blessings have caught up with me.

Because on this shabbat, in addition to our youngest daughter who lives a 10 minute walk away from here with her husband and baby and our older daughter, who lives an 8 minute walk away from here with her husband and 6 children (one of them being the selfsame “he who has no name”), we will be enjoying shabbat with our son from Rechovot and his 6 children, our son and his wife from Alon Shevut and their 6 children, and our son and his wife from Givat Shmuel and their 5 children.

Now the meals are no problem (well, they are not MY problem…. my daughter and her husband are taking are of them) but where to sleep? Since the majority of my friends and acquaintances are sane, it was highly unlikely that any one family could be sent to anyone else’s house to sleep… so it appears that we will be able to have a total of 7 people accomodated at 2 locations offsite and the rest of the visitors will be here with us. That means that something like 17 people will be sleeping at our house.

“Let’s face it,” I said to my husband, “there’s no way we will be sleeping Friday night.”

but it will be wonderful having everyone here together for such a happy occasion….


This week (as much as I can remember of it…)

Monday: out to Alon Shevut to visit our 6 grandchildren there and most specifically boy/girl twins, Yael and Menachem, who had recently had birthdays… accompanied by Barbie and Thomas the Tank Engine. Home via Malcha Mall in Jerusalem where we had burgers.

Tuesday: To a home wig sale (didn’t buy but am still considering) and then to Jerusalem with Hadas (14 year old oldest granddaughter) for her interview at an amazing school. Out to lunch with her at (you guessed it) the Malcha Mall Food court (this time, dairy) then to Petach Tikvah for a meeting of the Shai Bar Ilan Tour Guides to China.

Wednesday: who remembers?

Thursday: Went with our friends on a beautiful hike to see the blue lupin that are blossoming now. On the hill were also wild mustard and a profusion of poppies and cyclamens.

When we got back, my younger daughter, Leah, called and asked me to meet her and her baby Kinneret at the nearby coffee shop. While there, my husband called to tell me that my youngest son his wife, and their 5 children were dropping by. We took them out to pizza at a nearby place that has outdoor equipment for little children and so their children were pretty content which made the parents and grandparents pretty content too!

Friday: Had to get to the shopping center extra early before all of the parking places were taken (here everybody has shabbat!) Did this with our daughter Rachel’s youngest daughter, tow-headed Nomi in tow… Rachel was off to the hospital in Jerusalem at 1 week, 6 days beyond her due date, hoping to be induced. Home to unload groceries and then out again to the fruit and veggie store where they have special “otsar haaretz” products (because this is the shmitta year– and if you don’t understand this, good luck on google) and to the special bakery for four large challot because we were preparing for our oldest son and his 6 children to spend shabbat with us. Meanwhile, the hospital told my daughter to go home and rest because there was no possibility of an induction on Friday and they only induce on Saturdays for medical necessity. In the end, for dinner, we had a small crowd with our son, his 6 children and 4 of my older daughter’s children.

Shabbat (Saturday) All of us were up and getting ready to go to the synagogue when we heard a knock at the door. My grandson said, “Mommy went to the hospital and I have a baby brother!”

Screams and hugs followed.

Saturday night: Went to Jerusalem to visit the mom and babe. He’s a beautiful little blondie!

Sunday morning: After having been traumatized by a cleaning person who used the entire Sea of Galilee to clean my floors about 5 years ago, I haven’t had one here since. Finally last week I saw a notice put on the Modi’in email list about a reliable cleaner. I called her and arranged for her to come this morning. I’ll admit, she didn’t sound very clever. She had trouble understanding where to get off the bus even though we live down the block from the first bus stop there is when you enter the city from her direction. I spent no less than 10 minutes getting that clarified after she repeatedly told me that she was taking the 150 bus and not the 443 and I repeatedly told her that yes, 150 is the number of the bus and 443 was the number of the road that the bus travels on. I’m not sure she understood. Anyway, we settled on 8 a.m. today, but I really was having second thoughts. It all worked out well- she didn’t show up and I am happy.

But at about 10 a.m., I got a call from my oldest daughter telling me that she and the baby and the family are fine, but that something horrible had happened. It turns out that the science teacher at the 11 year old twins’ school was killed in an auto accident on Friday. the twins were understandably upset so off I went to pick them up…

And so it goes.

But in the end, we accomplished something wonderful this week– we saw all of our children and grandchildren, and we welcomed a very adorable new baby into the family!

* For you youngsters: TW3 was a TV show that originally was produced in Great Britain and then the format came to the US and it stood for “That was the week that was”– it was a parody of the news.