Archives for October 2009

A Matter of Size — Movie Review

Last night my husband and I and a friend of ours went to see A Matter of Size –in Hebrew סיפור גדול. It is an Israeli film. It was billed as a comedy, but it was so much more!

Herzl, a overweight man who lives in Ramla (a city about 20 minutes from where I live) is a member of a group that meets on a regular basis for the purpose of losing weight. Unfortunately, he is not very successful in this endeavor and suffers humiliation in that setting just as he has all his life. When he begins working at a Japanese restaurant, he notices that the Japanese workers are fascinated by Sumo wrestling and begins to think that perhaps rather than battling his weight on an ongoing basis, he could use it to his advantage as a Sumo wrestler.

The story is at once funny, touching, and bittersweet. One comes to love the characters– his friends, his mother, and the Sumo master– who act as an ensemble cast, seeming to posses real affection for each other. One imagines a cast party as a very happy, good-natured event. There are moments of laughter and moments of empathy for several of the characters. The story is well written with interesting foreshadowing. It is full of surprises.

My companions and I give it three thumbs up and recommend it to everyone, You will enjoy it!

Truths my father told me

Tonight and tomorrow mark the yahrtzeit of my father, Harry Mager. He passed away long before his time in October of 1985. Yet, the conversations he had with me feel as if they happened only yesterday. He taught me by word and example many things that have enriched my life. Today, in a sense, I am allowing him to write a guest posting through me. Here are some things I learned from him.

1. No matter what your situation, you have the ability to influence it for the better.
My father was in high school when the Depression began. His family was not doing well financially. He quit school and went to work. He worked hard and learned skills that served him later in his life. He harbored no bitterness; he did what he needed to do.

2. It’s possible to be optimistic even when times are rough.
Fortunately, my father’s life was not a difficult one. His greatest challenge was dealing with my mother, and although she was a formidable challenge, it was not as if he were fighting illness or poverty. However, as with all people, there were times that were less than perfect. Yet, he always had a positive attitude. He looked at each day as a gift.

3. Enjoy the world around you.
My father could have been a great artist. He didn’t have the opportunity to develop his art to the degree that it became commercial, but there was nothing he built, drew, sewed, designed, or sculpted that wasn’t superb. His photography was beautiful. He loved nature. He loved the seasons. When there was a huge snowfall one year and he was unable to go to work, I remember him telling me to get ready so that we could take a long walk in the snow. He loved it. So did I. He loved trees and flowers. He loved beautiful sunsets. The year he became ill, I was saddened to think that he might not see another spring. The day he was buried, the trees were clad in their autumn reds and yellows and oranges and browns, and I thought he would have loved to have seen them.

4. Be kind.
My father was a kind man. He was respectful and courteous, and gentle.

5. Treasure the time you have.
One of my earliest memories is of riding in the back of my parents’ car and hearing my father say to my mother, “Life is too short.” I think he had that awareness at all times and that he tried to fill every moment with something significant. In his store, he had not customers, but friends. People would meet him once and feel as if they had been his friend for years. His leisure time he filled with reading books that helped him self-educate. He became a big fan of Mark Twain. He read Shakespeare for pleasure. He bought and listened to classical music. All of the education he hadn’t been able to acquire as a young man, he reached for as an adult.

6. Love Learning
In addition to his reading, my father was interested in learning any way he could. He took adult education courses, he watched documentaries, and he loved to listen to other people tell their stories.

7. Love your family
One of the sweetest memories of my father is of his standard way of saying goodbye as I would be leaving their house after a visit. He would say, “Drive carefully; you have precious cargo.” He told me that I was a millionaire and told me more than once that I had five million dollars– referring to the five children. I don’t really know the story but my mother had a gold bracelet that had five diamonds on it. I like to think that that my father bought it for her as another way of acknowledging their good fortune at having five precious gems as grandchildren. I know that he adored them and I remember thinking that the day the children and I spent at Busch Gardens with him, he was the happiest I had ever seen him.

My father is not with us physically, but his influence on my life is profound, and I hope that his grandchildren and great-grandchildren will feel his influence for years to come.

Our family, September 1956

Our family, September 1956

You can’t multi-task while swimming

For the past few years, I have had a membership to our local health club. At first I enjoyed swimming. But, after a while, it became boring. I next went to the weight room where I learned to pull muscles I had never known existed. My third try was in the room with the treadmills and bicycles. The treadmill was OK until one day an instructor told me that if I was walking at a rate of 5.5 kilometers per hour, I’d just as soon be lying at home in my bed for all the good it was doing me. So next I went to the stationary bike. That seemed to be the answer: good aerobic exercise, no hard pounding of joints, and my choice of 5 television screens to watch with matching audio channels to listen to with earphones. It worked. For a while. But then they tossed out the Hallmark Channel and replaced it with boring animal videos– the type where erudite men with British accents talk about the animal’s capacity to run, maim, and devour. On another screen was a talk show, hosted by a slightly overweight, good natured woman whose guests were all selling something. Much of the show was devoted to cooking and to various types of fashion shows, frequently of women’s underwear– which was somewhat unsettling to watch in a room full of sweaty males. There was, of course, the sports channel (who could forget that?) with games that have been played within recent weeks. There was also channel 2 TV– a relatively interesting channel, but not in the afternoons when it runs programs for teens that involve such things as algebra challenge and quizzes about what city in Israel is this. So what was left to watch? Martha Stewart. Need I say more? I really tried to give her a chance. I thought I was just feeling inferior, but no, that wasn’t it. I actually didn’t feel inferior. I felt like I was living in an alternate reality. I suppose it came to a head when one day she took us into her basement where in a room larger than our entire apartment block she had thirteen thousand sets of dishes, goblets, flatware, and Xmas decorations– all stacked and marked neatly. It was after that day that I noticed how she became passionate over an embossed greeting card, a plate of paella, or a piece of costume jewelry. All that and the chiropractor who was treating my leg convinced me it was time to go back to swimming. My joints were begging for soft, gentle exercise. Please. please.

So I started swimming once more. As I did the laps I thought “one…one…one…one…one…” (about 15 times, but who’s counting) on the first lap. And then I thought “two… two … two.. two..” on the second lap. I can’t say that there was much excitement when I found myself thinking, “thirty-four… thirty-four… thirty-four…” In fact, it was boring, deadly boring. My boredom is sometimes relieved by having to swim around someone who is really slow or endure being left in the wake of a fishlike humanoid, but generally, it is boring. My daughter has a waterproof MP3 player that seems more and more sensible by the day, but would I really listen to the music or would I find it annoying?

So I swim along and think about how my joints are happy, I am getting good aerobic exercise without sweating, and “forty-eight… forty-eight… forty eight…”

Sisters 2

I wrote about sisters once before– here. I actually enjoyed rereading the post and hope you will too. But today I want to write about a specific issue in the relationship between sisters.

As anyone who is a sister or who has two daughters knows, despite coming from the same genetic pool, sisters can be very different from each other. They can look different.

Ayala (left) and Tamar (right)

Ayala (left) and Tamar (right)

Matan with Lilach (his twin) and Hadas (his older sister)

Matan with Lilach (his twin) and Hadas (his older sister)

And just as they can look very different, they can have different preferences, interests, levels of extraversion, talents, etc. But, just the same, they share so very much that they have the potential of being each others’ best friends through life.

Here’s how.
1. Understand that your sister really is different from you.
2. Understand, though, that there is such a richness in shared ties and experience that your sister can offer you a friendship unparalleled by anyone else.
3. When you have disagreements think about what is at stake.
a. Your pride (you can get over it)
b. Your health and welfare (talk to her about it)
c. Her health and welfare (talk to her about it)
4. Don’t trash your sister to others, whether inside or outside the family. (There are no secrets and this one will come back to bite both of you)
5. And most important: Forgive. Nothing is sadder for a family than being split by the hostility of two of its members.

My sister lives thousands of miles away. I don’t see her nearly as much as I would like. Anyone who met us would tell you that aside from the voices, we have almost none of the same traits. Yet we share a bond that is strong and healthy. It’s one I cherish. Here’s our song.